Shocking Names Who Could Be Available at the 2018 MLB Trade Deadline
Nobody should be shocked to hear that stars like Manny Machado, Cole Hamels, J.T. Realmuto and even Jacob deGrom could be available ahead of Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline.
Now that that's out of the way, let's discuss eight players whose availability would be surprising.
This list is strictly speculative and comprised exclusively of players whose teams are in no way obligated to trade this summer. But given the circumstances surrounding these names, it's possible that none will be kept off the table.
Going roughly in order from longest long shot to shortest long shot, let's get to it.
Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs aren't in a position to do anything drastic ahead of the trade deadline.
For one thing, their plus-100 run differential bodes well for their odds of catching the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central race. For another, their roster has depth and firepower from top to bottom.
But on the off chance the Cubs deem it necessary to make a splash, maybe they'll dangle Addison Russell.
The 24-year-old has already been mentioned as a possible sacrifice in a deal for Machado. That's unlikely to happen, but the mere notion of it does hint at two realities: Russell is expendable, and the Cubs don't have much else to trade.
Their farm system was short on trade chips even before top prospect Adbert Alzolay was lost for the rest of 2018 with a lat injury. And while Russell is a quality everyday shortstop who's under team control through 2021, the Cubs could respond to his absence by shifting Javier Baez to shortstop and playing Ben Zobrist and/or Ian Happ at second base.
So even if they don't make a play for Machado, the Cubs' trading Russell can't be ruled out completely.
Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics are technically in the American League wild-card race. But because of their recent poor play and the unexpected rise of the Seattle Mariners, what hope they have is fading fast.
They're thus on a path to sell at the trade deadline. One guy they'll have no choice but to listen on is slugging designated hitter Khris Davis.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis wants to stay in Oakland for the long haul. However, Jon Heyman of FRS Sports reported Davis rejected a deal that would have covered his final arbitration-eligible season in 2019. Until an extension comes, it's clear he means to bet on himself.
As well he should be. Following back-to-back 40-homer seasons in 2016 and 2017, Davis is pulling down $10.5 million this season. And with 20 homers through 63 games, he's well on his way to another raise.
Most teams would be fine with this, but these are the A's we're talking about. They always need to worry about keeping their costs down, so it's not out of the question they'll deal Davis this summer if the right offer comes along.
Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
Remember when Maikel Franco was the Philadelphia Phillies' third baseman of the future?
So much for that. The 25-year-old has struggled since his promising breakthrough in 2015, and he's being phased out in deference to J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery.
"I understand what's happening right now," Franco said June 10, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. "I understand what the manager is trying to do with everybody. I know the situation."
The Phillies can't be blamed for this. Franco owns just a .697 OPS since the start of 2017, and he hasn't even enjoyed a platoon advantage against left-handers. To boot, defensive metrics have rated him as a well-below-average third baseman.
But while the most likely next outcome involves the Phillies shifting Franco from their bench to the minors, a trade could just as easily be his ticket out of town.
Though his value is down, he still has youth and is controlled through 2021. If nothing else, this could make him an ideal guy to offer in a salary dump trade. By way of their absurdly low (by their standards) $95.3 million payroll, the Phillies are perfectly positioned to make such a swap.
Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates
Among others, this includes Francisco Cervelli.
From the outside looking in, it's reasonable to expect the Pirates to play hard to get with the veteran catcher. He was always a solid defensive presence, and now he's rocking an All-Star-worthy .880 OPS with a career-high nine home runs.
Cervelli is also signed through 2019. If the Pirates mean to try to contend again next year, it would behoove them to keep him in Pittsburgh.
But just like the A's, the Buccos can never not be worried about their finances. This concerns Cervelli above all their players. His $10.5 million salary is the highest on their payroll this year, and it's due to increase to $11.5 million next season.
In light of his breakout, the Pirates may never get a better chance to shed Cervelli's contract and get a haul of young talent in return. Even if it hurts to see him go, they may have to bite the bullet if somebody makes a good offer.
Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh Pirates
Corey Dickerson, meanwhile, may be one Pirates veteran who's as good as gone.
Following his designation for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays, there's plenty to like about what Dickerson is doing in his first season as a Pirate. The 29-year-old has all but stopped striking out en route to a solid .806 OPS. Per the metrics, he's also improved dramatically as a left fielder.
In all, good stuff for a guy who's making $6.0 million. And the Pirates control him for one more year after 2018.
Dickerson, however, has also continued a pattern of running hot and cold at the plate. So if the Pirates are going to cash him in, they had better do so before a prolonged cold streak wipes out the goodwill he's earned.
The Pirates also have another incentive to move him: They need as many excuses as they can get to further integrate rookie outfielder Austin Meadows. If they were to trade Dickerson, Meadows could slide right in as an everyday outfielder next to Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.
Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays
Assuming the Toronto Blue Jays can accept that it's not going to happen for them this year, they'll have something for pretty much everyone in the coming weeks.
At the least, their list of wares will include their top pending free agents: Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Curtis Granderson, Marco Estrada, Steve Pearce, Aaron Loup and Tyler Clippard. Justin Smoak, who has a club option for 2019, could also go.
But if the Blue Jays want to blow it up, they may be willing to deal Aaron Sanchez as well.
On account of his 4.35 ERA and ugly rate of five walks per nine innings, the 25-year-old's value isn't exactly sky-high. But unlike fellow young righty Marcus Stroman, he's at least healthy following a 2017 season lost to blisters. Plus, his contact rate allowed and ground-ball percentage are proof his stuff still works.
Of course, the Blue Jays could just as easily decide to try to return to contention in 2019 with the help of top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. If they do, Sanchez is bound to stay for at least another year and perhaps even through the end of his club control in 2020.
Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays
Kevin Pillar, on the other hand, might not be safe even if the Blue Jays commit to trying to contend in 2019.
There isn't a ticking clock that will compel them to trade the veteran center fielder this summer. Like Sanchez and Stroman, he's controlled through 2020.
What could motivate Toronto to trade Pillar, however, is that it may not be much longer before his value is kaput.
Pillar's power is on the rise, but the benefit of that is being canceled out by his declining on-base percentage. In the meantime, the usual metrics suggest his defense is no longer elite. Lest anyone suspect a fluke, Statcast's outs above average metric suggests the same thing.
This would be alarming even if Pillar were in the thick of his prime years. But at 29 years old, he's likely on the precipice of exiting his prime. From here, things could go further downhill for both his offense and his defense.
Rather than wait for that to happen, it wouldn't be the worst idea for the Blue Jays to move Pillar while his reputation as a solid two-way center fielder still holds water.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
Elsewhere in the American League East, the Baltimore Orioles are in pretty much the same boat as the Blue Jays.
With their playoff hopes already long dead, the Orioles are sure to shop their rentals. That includes not just Machado but also Zach Britton, Adam Jones, Brad Brach, Danny Valencia, Pedro Alvarez and Craig Gentry.
The question is whether the Orioles want to lean even further into a rebuild by trading some of their controlled stars. Even if they're so much as willing to entertain the idea, expect a line to form behind Dylan Bundy.
Bundy is only 25 and controlled through 2021, so there's no hurry for the O's to move him. Instead, the idea would be to sell high on him. Beyond his youth and controllability, he also has a 3.81 ERA and a 3.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2018. One horrid bomb aside, he's pitched like an ace.