The MLB Trade Deadline is just under three weeks away, and this season, there are no do-overs. Major League Baseball did away with the August waiver trade deadline this season, and now July 31st will serve as the only trade deadline, forcing teams to make decisions whether to buy or sell earlier. And with 24 of the 30 teams within 7.0 games of a playoff spot as of the All-Star Break, this year’s trade deadline could be nuts.
So using the newly-minted Baseball Trade Simulator, founded and edited by John Bitzer (h/t to FanGraph’s Effectively Wild), I put together one trade every MLB team could make at this year’s Trade Deadline. Not every trade is completely realistic, but everyone was validated by the trade simulator’s algorithm, as something realistic enough to be accepted. So let’s get to it, starting with the American League East.
New York Yankees
With Luis Severino still on the mend, the Yankees need starting pitching. But even if Severino comes back fully-healthy, certainly not a guarantee, New York doesn’t have the rotation to match up with the Astros and Dodgers. Brian Cashman said he’ll target starting pitching at the deadline, but reportedly, the Yankees don’t want to give up their top prospects for a rental. So what about Matthew Boyd? The Tigers’ starter has three more years of arbitration and is Top 5 in the MLB in K-BB%.
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay made a splash at the trade deadline in each of the past few years, and are rumored to be one of the more aggressive teams at this year’s deadline. While this may not be a “splash”, the Rays were reportedly in on Craig Kimbrel and are targeting a number of different bullpen arms, according to Marc Tompkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Boston Red Sox
With a 4.62 ERA and 4.13 FIP, the Red Sox need help more pitching if they want to have any shot at defending their title. However, with a depleted farm system, Boston doesn’t have the prospect capital to acquire some of the top starters on the market. After trading for Andrew Cashner, the Red Sox can target one or two middle-tier relievers, like the Giants’ Sam Dyson, who shouldn’t most too much to acquire.
Toronto Blue Jays
While the Blue Jays could hold onto Marcus Stroman for another year, a whole lot of teams will come calling at the deadline. Reportedly, a number of teams have already reached out, including the Yankees, who the Blue Jays dealt J.A. Happ to at last year’s deadline. While the Blue Jays might not want to trade Stroman in the division, that familiarity could also help foster another trade between the two sides.
The Orioles don’t have many valuable pieces to trade at the deadline, and they might be reluctant to trade arguably their most valuable piece in Trey Mancini. But Mancini is also exactly the type of player that a team like the Cleveland Indians, who are in desperate need of an outfield bat, could target. Mancini might be the Orioles’ only trade chip that’d bring back a decent haul, whereas Mychal Givens won’t yield much in return.
A year after missing the playoffs, Minnesota has one of the most potent offenses in the MLB, but needs to add some pitching if they want to pull away in the AL Central. Three of the Twins’ top prospects are reportedly off-limits, however, that shouldn’t prevent them from acquiring the best starter and reliever on the market. Bumgarner and Smith, while both rentals, would do wonders for both the Twins’ rotation and bullpen as Minnesota attempts to win its first AL Central title since 2010.
Depending on the next two weeks play out, the Indians will either continue their hot streak and buy at the deadline, or they could fall out of contention and trade Trevor Bauer and/or Brad Hand. Most likely though, the Indians will make a series of smaller moves to bolster their lineup and bullpen. In need on an impact bat, a rental like Nicholas Castellanos is someone the Indians could fit under their payroll and wouldn’t have to give up too much prospect capital for.
Chicago White Sox
If Chicago doesn’t want to trade Jose Abreu, who’ll be a free agent at season’s end, Alex Colome is the White Sox only real trade chip. But teams always need bullpen help at the deadline, and none more than the Washington Nationals. With another year of team control for Colome, Chicago should be able to get a decent prospect or two back, here getting the Nationals’ 5th and 10th best prospects according to MLB Pipeline.
Kansas City Royals
While Whit Merrifield is reportedly available, with four more years left on his contract, the Royals would need a massive haul to trade him. Instead, Kansas City is more likely to trade a pair of relievers in Jake Diekman and Ian Kennedy. Neither will net too much of return, especially with Kennedy’s remaining salary, but Diekman could yield a mid-level prospect or a reclamation project such as Nick Williams.
The Tigers have among the most coveted pieces on the market in Matthew Boyd. But with three more seasons of team control, Detroit might not only be reluctant to trade him, but their asking price is going to be sky high. Instead, RPs Shane Greene and Joe Jimenez are more likely to be traded, each bringing back a decent return.
Without much behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in the Astros’ rotation, Houston figures to try to add a starter at the deadline. And with Cole a free agent at season’s end, the Astros are reportedly “big-game hunting” for the likes of Trevor Bauer, Matthew Boyd and Noah Syndergaard. The Astros have been reluctant to part with Kyle Tucker, but to acquire Syndergaard, they’re going to have to pony up and then some.
If the Athletics want to keep pace with the Red Sox, Indians and Rangers, they’re going to have to add another bat. Oakland’s offense has been just above average with a 103 wRC+, and the Athletics could look to add an outfielder at the deadline. David Peralta and the Athletics have already been linked in a few rumors, and while the Diamondbacks might not be sellers just yet, it might be their best option in a crowded National League.
The Rangers haven’t ruled out a Mike Minor trade, but just 2.0 games out of the second wild card, it’s going to be hard for Texas to justify selling unless things go south. If the Rangers remain in contention, they’re most likely to make some moves at the margins, shoring up their bench and/or bullpen, or adding a starter behind Minor and Lance Lynn. Someone like Mike Leake or Jason Vargas, who the Rangers wouldn’t have to give up much to acquire, could make a lot of sense.
Los Angeles Angels
With the fourth-worst starters’ ERA in baseball, the Angels will need to add a starter if they want to remain in the Wild Card hunt. A free agent at season’s end, Tanner Roark may still be traded, even with the Cincinnati Reds in the thick of the NL Central and Wild Card races, especially if they can get a couple decent prospects back.
Jerry DiPoto could make a dozen trades between now and the deadline, but just one piece Seattle could move is Roenis Elias. Under contract for another two years, Elias is a cheap, left-handed reliever teams covet. A team like the Chicago Cubs could especially be interested, considering Elias’ salary is just over $900K. DiPoto won’t receive much in return, but it still might be worth it with Seattle entering a long rebuild.
Even after signing Dallas Keuchel, the Braves still need to upgrade a starting rotation that boasts a 4.49 ERA and 4.47 FIP. Atlanta is another team that could target Matthew Boyd, especially as GM Alex Anthopoulos drafted Boyd in Toronto. The Braves have the prospect capital to work out a deal, and if the price gets too high, Atlanta could look at a number of other potential options, including Zach Wheeler and Marcus Stroman.
For a while, it looked the Nationals might be sellers, potentially trading Anthony Rendon. But since June 1, Washington has gone 25-9, vaulting themselves into the NL Wild Card race. And if the Nationals want to remain in contention, they have to improve a bullpen that remains among the worst in the majors with a 5.95 ERA (4.66 FIP). A trade where the Nationals could add a pair of relievers for relatively cheap would make a lot of sense.
The Phillies were one of the biggest spenders this offseason, and though Philadelphia hasn’t reached the postseason since 2011, the Phillies are reportedly not going to be too aggressive. Even if they’re not going to go all-in for a starter like Mike Minor or Madison Bumgarner, Philadelphia could still use an arm or two. Jordan Lyles shouldn’t cost too much, but might be an improvement over Nick Pivetta and Jerad Eickhoff.
New York Mets
An absolute mess, what the Mets probably should do at the deadline is trade away Noah Syndergaard and Edwin Diaz, beginning a much-needed rebuild. But what the Mets probably will do is trade their pending free agents in Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas and Zach Wheeler for minor pieces, hoping to contend with this same core in 2020.
If the Marlins want to bring back a haul at this year’s trade deadline, they ought to look at trading one of their young, controllable starters. Miami has plenty of starting pitching, but what the Marlins need are some bats. A young, controllable starter like Caleb Smith should bring a nice piece or two back at the deadline.
The Cubs could go after a starter or a couple bullpen arms at the deadline, but with a huge hole at second base, Theo Epstein could also target one of the best hitters on the market in Whit Merrifield. Under contract for another four seasons, Merrifield would require a massive haul, but he’d give the Cubs an inexpensive, top-of-the-order hitter they could pair with Javy Baez for the considerable future.
Brandon Woodruff has been a revelation for the Brewers, but behind him, Milwaukee needs some upgrades in their starting rotation. And while the Brewers might have the prospect capital to bring back a controllable starter such as Matthew Boyd or Marcus Stroman, more likely, Milwaukee will target a rental such as Zach Wheeler or Madison Bumgarner. According to Marc Craig of The Athletic, the Brewers are enamored with Wheeler’s upside.
St. Louis Cardinals
Just a few games out of the division and Wild Card, the Cardinals may make a few minor moves at the deadline, hoping their lineup can improve enough to jump the few teams in front of them. One such move would be to improve their bullpen, targeting Will Smith or Ken Giles to replace Jordan Hicks, who underwent Tommy John surgery.
Whether or not the Pirates remain in the hunt, trading away Corey Dickerson, a free agent at season’s end, is the type of move that could net Pittsburgh a prospect or two. Plenty of teams could use an outfield bat, and Dickerson is hitting right around league average (97 wRC+, 103 wRC+ projected ROS), while playing decent defense in left (1 DRS).
Just 6.0 games behind the Cubs, and 4.0 games out of the Wild Card, the Reds, according to The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans plan to be buyers at the deadline, even with a bunch of tradable rentals including Tanner Roark and Yasiel Puig. If the Reds are going to add, one area they could look to improve is their outfield, allowing them to shift Nick Senzel to second to replace the injured and struggling Scooter Gennett.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Though the Dodgers have been connected to Felipe Vazquez, Brad Hand, Trevor Bauer and Matthew Boyd, Los Angeles would have to give up at least one of its top prospects to acquire any of the four, something reportedly Andrew Friedman does not want to do. Instead, the Dodgers could target a few relievers and shore up their bullpen in front on Kenley Jansen, without having to give up any of their top prospects.
The Diamondbacks are 12.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West, but just a 1.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot. But with a number of pending free agents, the D-Backs could look to get value back for Robbie Ray and Greg Holland before they can leave in free agency. The Yankees have long been rumored to be interested in Ray, and are in need of a starting pitcher, with plenty of prospects to send back to Arizona.
The Rockies, like the D-backs, are on the outskirts of the NL West but are right in the thick of the NL Wild Card race, just 2.0 games out of the second Wild Card. If Colorado wants to make it back to the postseason though, they’ll need to shore up their rotation. Jon Gray and German Marquez give the Rockies a pretty good 1-2, but behind them, Kyle Freeland hasn’t found his form and Antonio Senzatela has really struggled. While just a rental, Roark would give the Rockies a reliable, cheap starter for the stretch run.
San Diego Padres
Though the Padres are right in the thick of the NL Wild Card race, chances are San Diego is a year away from really contending. With Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Franmil Reyes, among others, the Padres have the makings of a terrific offense. What the Padres really need a front-of-the-line starter. The Padres were connected to Trevor Bauer all offseason, and the Indians and Padres needs matchup well to make a deal.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants are about to enter a rebuild and have a number of trade chips available at this year’s deadline. Madison Bumgarner, Tony Watson, Will Smith and Sam Dyson should all be moved, as well as potentially Reyes Moronta, Mark Melancon, Pablo Sandoval and Kevin Pillar. A combination of Bumgarner and Smith should bring back the biggest haul, giving a contender such as the Brewers, Twins or Yankees a playoff-proven starter and left-handed reliever for the final two to three months of the season.