(Reuters) - Now that the dust has settled after a frenzied flurry of Major League Baseball deadline deals, it is game on for playoff drives.
Division leaders Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros showed they were all in by adding critical pieces, while contenders including the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets made bold improvements for the last two months of the regular season.
Thirty-nine trades were made in the deadline period, including 16 on Friday’s final day, with big talents such as David Price, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, Troy Tulowitzki, Yoenis Cespedes and Jonathan Papelbon changing uniforms.
Kansas City (61-41), who reached the World Series last year as a wild card team, lead the AL Central by eight games but showed their determination to win it all by adding ace starter Cueto and versatile hitter Ben Zobrist.
The Dodgers (58-45) plunged into the swaps market in a 13-player, three-team deal that brought them starters Alex Wood and Mat Latos to slot behind their vaunted one-two pitching punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the NL West.
The surprising Astros (58-46), who lost a woeful 416 games in their four previous seasons, dealt for lefty starter Scott Kazmir and dynamic outfielder Carlos Gomez to firm up their quest for a playoff berth in the AL West.
Teams just off the pace also were aggressive.
Toronto (53-51), six back of the Yankees in the AL East but only one game out of an AL wild card berth, fueled hopes of ending MLB’s longest playoff drought dating back to 1993 by scooping up two of the biggest prizes in Price and Tulowitzki.
The pitching-rich Mets (53-50) added slugger Cespedes after earlier picking up veteran bats in Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson and reliever Tyler Clippard for their chase after NL East-leading Washington Nationals (54-47).
Washington did not stand still either, dealing for closer Papelbon.
The Texas Rangers (50-52), three games out of a wild card berth, swung a deal for left-hander Hamels.
Unusually quiet were the historically spendthrift New York Yankees (58-44), who lead the AL East by six games.
The Bronx Bombers, led this season by rejuvenated sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, chose not to offer top prospects for pitching help and instead are calling up their own promising Luis Severino to replace injured Michael Pineda in the rotation.
Editing by Gene Cherry