July is a busy month on the baseball calendar and this season is no different. The last week has seen the Futures Game, the MLB Draft, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game. With all of those festivities behind us, it is time to focus on the next big thing on the baseball calendar, the trade deadline.
The trade deadline looks to be a bit busier than usual as multiple large market clubs are looking to bolster their rosters down the stretch. The larger clubs being in the mix means there are players with larger contracts that may be in play. I will be very surprised if the Mets, Dodgers, and Yankees don’t make some sort of notable transaction before the July 30th non-waiver trade deadline. The deadline this year has an added layer of intrigue as the Chicago Cubs figure to be the primary seller. Baseball can’t be too upset when New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are featured prominently when deals are about to go down.
There are some interesting clubs as we approach the deadline. The Angels, Mariners, Cardinals, and A’s can go either way. They all will need to make a major acquisition if they are to end up going where they want to go, and this speaks nothing about advancing in the playoffs in the event they can get there. The addition of the wild card teams before the deadline can muddy the waters quite a bit for the other contenders due to their potential willingness to pay over the odds in terms of prospects being dealt for an established player. For example, I would not be surprised at all to see the Oakland A’s go hard after a guy like Trevor Story fills the hole at their shortstop position. A deal like this would have the knock-on effect of keeping Story away from the Chicago White Sox, who have been looking for infield help since their second baseman, Nick Madrigal, was lost for the season with a hamstring injury.
When discussing the bad team All-Stars last week I mentioned a few prominent trade candidates, so I won’t go over them again in great depth. Joey Gallo could be leaving Texas, Trevor Story has been mentioned as possibly on his way out of Colorado, Adam Frazier can be pried out of Pittsburgh if the price is right, and the days of Eduardo Escobar in the Arizona desert may be numbered. So now let’s look at some other players who may be plying their trade in a new ZIP code in the coming weeks.
The Chicago Cubs contingent. Kris Bryant is the big one. The former National League MVP stands to be one of the more prominent names to go. His $19.5M salary might scare off some of the more parsimonious ballclubs. His .268/.349/.497 are around his career norms, but his overall numbers have trended downward after his first three seasons. The 128 WRC+ combined with the newfound defensive versatility will make him an attractive option for a contender. Craig Kimbrel has been lights out for the North Siders. 0.53 ERA, 15.51 K/9, while closing out 21 games on the season will come in handy for any team looking to shore up the back of their bullpen. He is out pitching his FIP by just over a full run, so some regression may be around the corner, but that merely moves him into the elite category from the video game numbers he is currently putting up. I can see Kyle Hendricks also garnering a bit of attention. He is league average and cost-controlled on a reasonable deal, so he may have more value to a contender than to a club in rebuild mode. The Cubs will listen to offers on just about anyone on the roster.
The Texas Rangers posse. Kyle Gibson has a 2.29 ERA over his 17 starts is among the best in baseball, although he is outperforming his FIP of 3.47. The HR/FB% of 9.6% is not sustainable and is due to catch up to his career norms. Stranding 84.3% of runners is not going to last either. 0.71 HR/9 is lower than his previous work. All of this to me means caveat emptor. The aforementioned Joey Gallo should be packing his apartment right about now. Ian Kennedy has gone through this before. A 2.67 ERA fronting a 3.90 FIP means a team that acquires him needs to hope relief pitcher volatility benefits them in a good way. Leaving 92.0% of runners on base is not going to continue, so this is someone enjoying a purple patch.
The Detroit Tigers riding out of Motor City. Jonathan Schoop is doing his usual bad team damage. .284/.325/.476 and under contract for an affordable $4.5M puts him on the radar of a club that misses out on a couple of the other guys in the market. I might rate Matthew Boyd more than most. He has posted a 3.44 ERA with a 3.75 FIP, so he hasn’t been unusually lucky outside of the home run rate, although the 6.8% HR/FB makes me concerned his numbers are waiting for the Doomsday Clock to strike midnight. Gregory Soto was in Denver last week as the Tigers all-star representative. He is another pitcher riding the low home run rate to solid numbers. 2.92 ERA with a 3.60 FIP seems useful, but I question the 9.4% HR/FB. On the plus side, he is left-handed and there is always a market for them.
Colorado Rockies Escaping the Mile High City. Trevor Story will likely be the first name from this club to find his way closer to sea level. Jon Gray could be another name on the radar of teams in looking for rotation help. A 3.68 ERA and 3.99 FIP look even better considering the numbers are coming from Denver. The 12.0% HR/FB can only stand to improve in a more neutral hitting environment. He has been good in odd-numbered years, with 2017 and 2019 being solid seasons for Gray before this one.
These Minnesota Twins won’t be dressed the same anymore. Jose Berrios is a pipe dream unless he is attached to a questionable contract. Speaking of questionable contracts, the Twins are listening to offers for Josh Donaldson. He is 35; slashing .252/.354/.487; he is owed $51.5M after this season. This is the quintessential bad trade for someone. The Twins might add Byron Buxton to this list if he declines their offer of a contract extension. Kenta Maeda is another name to keep an eye on.
Arizona Diamondbacks looking to shed their skin. Eduardo Escobar has been mentioned here already, but him leaving the desert is more likely than not. Asdrubal Cabrera is a solid veteran bench bat who is attracting attention. Slashing .240/.332/.385 won’t set the baseball world ablaze, but at $1.75M, any production is valuable.
Pittsburgh Pirates who could walk the plank. Adam Frazier is mentally prepared to go. Richard Rodriguez has been a competent reliever this year. A 2.65 ERA and a 2.61 FIP shows he is what he is supposed to be. The 3.4% HR/FB shows there is a bit of a mirage lurking in his numbers. Lefty Tyler Anderson hasn’t been great, but he makes his starts and comes cheap.
Baltimore Orioles leaving the nest. Trey Mancini will be an intriguing bat for a club looking for right-handed power. If a club wants a low-key difference-maker, then John Means could be the guy. His 4.20 FIP shows his 2.28 ERA is not completely real, but I put him in the same camp as Matthew Boyd from Detroit. Means’ contract is super cheap, so it may be cost-prohibitive to acquire him.
These are some of the guys who will be discussed over the coming ten days. There are situational relievers who go, but that market usually picks up in August. This is a buyers’ market this year, and the available talent may increase depending on how teams like the Reds, Nationals, and Braves perform over the rest of the month. Teams are about to start looking a lot different.