5 Impact Trades That Can Still Be Made After MLB Trade Deadline
Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, with big names such as Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish going from sub-.500 teams to contenders who hope they can help push them toward the postseason and beyond. They get the chance to be in a pennant race and possibly play for a World Series title, while others who didn't get traded are stuck playing out the string.
Or are they?
Trades can still happen this month, just with a few added hurdles. Instead of being able to deal players without any restrictions before August 31, teams must first put those players through waivers to allow all other teams to make a claim. If a team makes a claim, the trading club has the option to work out a deal, release the player or pull them back, while players who clear waivers can then be traded anywhere.
Last August there were 21 trades after the non-waiver deadline, and while most didn't involve big names, a few had an impact on the postseason. The most notable was outfielder Coco Crisp, whom Cleveland picked up from Oakland on August 31, and he ended up hitting .333 for the Indians in the World Series.
One such player who figured to be in play for a waiver trade was San Francisco pitcher Johnny Cueto, but a potential injury on Monday night may have scrapped that possibility. Cueto, who is on the disabled list with a blister issue, left his minor league rehab start with forearm tightness, according to CSN Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic.
Who are some of the other significant players who could still be dealt this month? We've got a few ideas.
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
With dependable relief pitchers often in such high demand, it was a bit surprising that Baltimore didn't pull the trigger on a deal for Zach Britton, their closer the last three-plus seasons. Maybe potential buyers want to see a little more from a player who has had two stints this year on the disabled list.
Britton was shelved both times because of a left forearm strain, but since returning on July 5, he has looked a lot like the player who recorded 120 saves from 2014-16, including an MLB-best 47 last season. For the year, he's 1-0 (picking up the win in Monday's 2-1 victory over Kansas City) with a 3.15 ERA and eight saves in 20 appearances.
At 52-54, the Orioles aren't out of it, trailing KC by just 3.5 games for the final American League wild-card spot. If they can stay close, then it wouldn't make sense in dealing Britton, who has converted 57 consecutive save chances with his last blown opportunity coming in September 2015, but if they fall further back, the chance to get at least some return for what Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal called a player who will "likely will earn $14 million in arbitration next season while closing again for a likely non-contender."
Potential suitors: Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros
The Los Angeles Dodgers seemed to be the most interested in adding Britton before the trade deadline, but they ended up making Texas starter Yu Darvish their priority and added two lesser-regarded lefty relievers in Cincinnati's Tony Cingrani and Pittsburgh's Tony Watson. That leaves a pair of AL clubs who had been pursuing a deal for Britton last month.
Rosenthal tweeted Monday that Houston was "serious" about getting Britton, who would possibly supplant Astros closer Ken Giles in that role. Cleveland, which on Monday was considered a "long shot" to pick up Britton, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale, would probably end up using him as another Andrew Miller-type who could come in at any point in the game while leaving Cody Allen in the closer's spot.
Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays
He's just 4-7 with a 5.19 ERA, but Marco Estrada is coming off one of his best starts of the season, allowing a run on four hits over seven innings on Monday. This came only hours after his name didn't get included among the last-second deadline trades as many had speculated it would.
Such a performance could work well for Toronto if it still wants to trade him or plan to keep him beyond this season. The 34-year-old right-hander will be a free agent after finishing up a two-year, $26 million contract that pays him $14.5 million this season.
"We're in the business of making this organization better, and if a deal doesn’t present itself to do so, then we're happy to keep Marco Estrada a Toronto Blue Jay,” general manager Ross Atkins said, per Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.
In that same article Estrada expressed his desire to remain with Toronto, where he's pitched since 2015, but if the team gets the sense he might be too expensive, then getting something for him this month must be considered.
Potential suitor: Kansas City Royals
Kansas City traded for a starter in July, getting Trevor Cahill from San Diego along with two relievers, but Cahill didn't foster confidence that he's the answer in his Royals debut. He allowed five runs in four innings Saturday in Boston.
The Royals and Blue Jays have reportedly had numerous talks about sending a starter south of the border, with Estrada being the most commonly mentioned name, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale and the New York Post's Joel Sherman. K.C. holds the second American League wild-card slot, but that lead is tenuous at best.
Brandon Phillips, Atlanta Braves
When Atlanta picked up Brandon Phillips from Cincinnati in February, taking on only a fraction of his $14 million salary, the move was described by Connor Byrne of MLB Trade Rumors as a stopgap measure before the Braves eventually promoted top prospect Ozzie Albies. And now that Albies is in the big leagues, Phillips' spot as a placeholder at second base is coming to an end.
Albies went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in his debut Tuesday, while Phillips singled as a pinch hitter. Phillips is hitting .292 with eight home runs and 38 RBI this season, his power numbers on the way down, but his runs created per game (4.9) is his highest rate in six years.
An everyday player throughout his career, the 36-year-old doesn't have much experience coming off the bench, but he might be willing to take on such a role if it means getting a shot at just his fourth trip to the postseason (the last coming in 2013).
Potential suitors: Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians
Arizona made two deadline moves on Monday, including the addition of shortstop Adam Rosales from Oakland. The Diamondbacks are in desperate need of middle infield help, with both Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings on the 60-day disabled list, the latter after breaking a finger on his right hand over the weekend.
Owings also started 15 games at second, where Brandon Drury has been the primary starter but has been struggling since the All-Star break. Phillips is the kind of veteran bat who, like the July trade for outfielder J.D. Martinez from Detroit, could further solidify the D-backs lineup.
In Cleveland's case, Jason Kipnis should be back soon from the DL (hamstring) but he's hitting a career-low .232. Jose Ramirez has bounced back and forth between second and third of late, but he's best served on the corner, so bringing back Phillips—he played with the Tribe from 2002 to '05 before hitting his stride with Cincinnati—might make a lot of sense.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
One of the best sluggers in the game, Giancarlo Stanton has yet to appear in the postseason. And unless Miami suddenly becomes a juggernaut once under new ownership, he's not likely to be in the playoffs anytime soon since he's under contract with the Marlins through 2027.
But never say never, since being able to get $295 million worth of future obligations off the books might clear up a lot of issues with getting the team sold. And since outgoing owner Jeffrey Loria has become infamous for salary dumps in the past, why not one more big one for old times' sake?
Stanton, making $14.5 million this season, jumps up to $25 million next year and is owed at least $77 million before having the chance to opt out of his 13-year, $325 million deal after 2020. And it's not like he's anywhere close to the downside of his career, as the 27-year-old leads the National League with 33 home runs and he still has one of the best right-field arms in the game.
Potential suitors: Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers
Since Miami isn't about to agree to any deal that has it paying any of Stanton's outstanding salary, the list of teams that could afford to take on his contract are few (and even fewer among legitimate World Series contenders, who are the only teams that would consider such a deal in August). And most of them have a pretty good right fielder already.
The New York Yankees have Aaron Judge, Boston has Mookie Betts and Washington has Bryce Harper, none of whom are going to become platoon players. That leaves the reigning world champions and the team with the best record in baseball, each of which could stand to upgrade that position and have more than enough revenue to cover Stanton's salary.
For the Cubs, it would mean relegating Jason Heyward into an eight-year, $184 million reserve after signing in December 2015. For the Dodgers, it would signal the end of the tumultuous Yasiel Puig era, even though his 19 home runs this season are tied for his career high.
Puig would make for a pretty darn good trade piece with the Marlins, since the 26-year-old Cuban would likely become an instant favorite of the sizable Cuban community in south Florida.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Social media has a lot of negatives, but it's also provided an outlet for players involved in the craziness of baseball's trade deadline to have some fun. Monday saw two starting pitchers who were regularly mentioned in trade rumors, Texas' Yu Darvish and Detroit's Justin Verlander, tweet out pictures of themselves in their team's clubhouses just minutes before the deadline.
Only Verlander was still there at the end of the night, as Darvish was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the last minute. And while he made it past the July 31 deadline without having to change uniforms, Verlander isn't out of the water.
The 34-year-old right-hander is 6-7 with a 4.29 this season, with his 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings down significantly from the 10.0 in 2016, when he finished second in the American League Cy Young voting. He's on an uptick, though, having lowered his ERA in each of his last five starts, and in his last outing, he held Houston scoreless over six frames.
A full no-trade clause only complicates a trade scenario that would also be difficult because Verlander is owed $56 million for 2018-19 (and has a $22 million vesting option for 2020 if he's a top-five Cy Young finisher in 2019). Detroit isn't apt to want to keep much of that salary unless it gets really good prospects in return, though it stands to reason the return on a trade would have been better before the deadline.
Verlander is a career Tiger, but if he gets the sense that franchise is headed for a prolonged lull—this will be three straight years missing the playoffs after making it from 2011-14—then he may end up asking the team to see if someone wants him for this October.
Potential suitor: Houston Astros
Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors listed a whopping 13 teams as potential landing spots for Verlander in a July 23 article, though only a few of those are realistic. And while the Chicago Cubs might be so hell-bent on keeping their World Series high going that they'd pull the trigger, the best option is Houston.
The Astros were very much in the market for a starting pitcher before the deadline and they got one, but while lefty Francisco Liriano was a nice pickup (albeit one that's more likely to serve as a bullpen addition) he doesn't have the same sizzle as Verlander. They wanted Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish but saw those starters end up with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively.
Verlander would become Houston's highest-paid player by a wide margin, as Carlos Beltran's $16 million salary is tops on the club. The Astros have been building toward this season as the one in which they go for it all, and while they've done most of that work with homegrown talent, the time might come for a hired gun to be brought in.
There's also the fact Houston's starting rotation is in flux, with Lance McCullers Jr. going on the disabled list on Monday with a back injury and Dallas Keuchel only a few days removed from being out nearly two months with a neck injury.