Best Player Each MLB Buyer Can Add Before the Trade Deadline
As we speed toward summer and the July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline, talk of swaps will heat up.
Here, then, is a look at the best player each presumed buyer could acquire before the deadline. A couple of things to keep in mind:
- We'll focus on each team's specific needs and trade chips, meaning the best player could be the best player at a given position and price range rather than the best player overall.
- We're focusing on perceived buyers, with the caveat that hot streaks and cold spells can alter the calculus. For perceived sellers, we'll note the prospects they'd net in return.
Arizona Diamondbacks: SS Manny Machado
The Arizona Diamondbacks are trying to build on last season's top wild-card finish and snag supremacy in the National League West.
The Baltimore Orioles are mired in last place in the American League East and likely to unload franchise star Manny Machado.
The D-backs could use offense, as they rank in the bottom third in baseball with a .705 OPS. Nick Ahmed tops Arizona's shortstop depth chart and is hitting .221. If the Snakes want to win their second championship in franchise history, here's their play.
The seller's return: The Orioles will rightly demand a lot for Machado, who has 18 homers and a .945 OPS. The Diamondbacks would need to part with right-hander and top prospect (per MLB.com) Jon Duplantier and ancillary pieces.
Atlanta Braves: 3B Mike Moustakas
The young, hungry Atlanta Braves are blossoming ahead of schedule and are surprise contenders in the National League East. They could use a boost at the hot corner, where Johan Camargo and his .221 average top the depth chart.
The Braves could make a move for Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who was an All-Star in 2015 and 2017, has cracked 13 homers for K.C. and is signed to an affordable short-term contract that includes a mutual $15 million option for 2019.
The seller's return: The Braves won't give up any of their top young players such as outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. but could dip into a deep farm system and offer the Royals an enticing chip such as right-hander Ian Anderson, who has struck out 62 in 53 innings in High-A.
Boston Red Sox: 2B Jed Lowrie
The Boston Red Sox have slashed a collective .235/.298/.373 against left-handed pitching this season. They also have a hole at second base in the absence of the injured Dustin Pedroia.
The Oakland Athletics' Jed Lowrie is hitting .305 against lefties and plays second base. He also spent the first four years of his career with Boston. This is a natural fit for a team trying to maintain supremacy in the AL East and fend off the burgeoning New York Yankees.
The seller's return: Lowrie would be a rental, so the Red Sox wouldn't have to mortgage the farm. A high-upside lottery ticket such as hard-throwing 21-year-old left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez would be a good start.
Chicago Cubs: RHP Jake Odorizzi
The Chicago Cubs have the second-best ERA in baseball (3.19) but have questions in the rotation because of the underperformance and injury woes of expensive offseason acquisition Yu Darvish.
Chicago doesn't have the MiLB chips to make a massive trade splash, but it could angle for a solid mid-rotation arm such as the Minnesota Twins' Jake Odorizzi.
Odorizzi's 4.38 ERA doesn't turn heads, but he's struck out 77 in 78 innings and would give the Cubs insurance in case Darvish never bounces back.
The seller's return: The Twins were a surprise wild-card team last season but are mired six games under .500 and appear unlikely to compete in the top-heavy Junior Circuit. If they could pry a bat-missing arm such as that of the 23-year-old Oscar De La Cruz from the Cubs, they should pounce.
Cleveland Indians: RHP Kyle Barraclough
The Cleveland Indians rank 28th in baseball with a 5.38 bullpen ERA. What once was a strength for the reigning American League Central champions is now an Achilles' heel.
The Tribe could deal for Miami Marlins right-hander Kyle Barraclough, who has fanned 33 in 31.1 innings and boasts a 1.15 ERA for a team that is selling assets like it's going out of style.
The Indians are trying to bust baseball's longest championship drought. The Fish want to trade. We've got ourselves a match.
The seller's return: Barraclough is controlled through 2021, but Cleveland should be able to keep possible catcher of the future Francisco Mejia in the fold. Projectable third baseman and No. 5 prospect Nolan Jones (eight homers and a .395 on-base percentage in Single-A) should be enough to start a dialogue with Miami.
Colorado Rockies: 1B Jose Abreu
The Colorado Rockies are in fourth place in the NL West one season after making the playoffs. They could use some thump at first base to supplant Ian Desmond and his .697 OPS. Since he plays home games at Coors Field, that's atrocious.
If the Rockies are serious about another October run, they should set their sights on Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, whose .843 OPS would undoubtedly enjoy a mile-high bump.
The seller's return: Abreu is under team control through 2019, meaning the ChiSox will expect a rich reward for the Cuban masher. The Rockies should resist any demand that includes top prospect and infielder Brendan Rodgers, but they could build a package around No. 2 prospect Colton Welker, a third baseman with an advanced hit tool.
Houston Astros: LHP Brad Hand
The Houston Astros rank fourth in MLB with a 2.78 bullpen ERA. Aside from Tony Sipp, however, the defending champions don't have any left-handed options.
They could remedy that by acquiring southpaw closer Brad Hand (2.25 ERA, 21 SV, 13.3 K/9) from the San Diego Padres.
It'd be gilding the lily, and the cost would be steep, as Hand is inked to an affordable deal that runs through 2021 with a team option. It would also be worth it as Houston tries to repeat.
The seller's return: If the Pads trade Hand to the 'Stros, they could rightly demand a package headlined by Yordan Alvarez, the Astros' No. 4 prospect. The power-hitting Cuban boasts a .938 OPS in Double-A.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP Tyson Ross
Two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani's balky elbow pumped the brakes on a promising season for the Los Angeles Angels.
The Halos remain in the American League playoff mix but may need reinforcements in the rotation.
After disastrous campaigns in 2016 and 2017, Tyson Ross is enjoying a nice comeback season for the Padres. Through 14 starts, Ross has struck out 82 in 82 innings and owns a 3.51 ERA.
He'd be a rental but a solid one for a team trying to get superstar Mike Trout back to the postseason.
The seller's return: The Pads can't expect the moon and the stars for Ross given his recent struggles and impending free agency, but they could get an enticing piece such as athletic 20-year-old outfielder Brandon Marsh from an improved Angels system.
Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP Zach Britton
The Los Angeles Dodgers are making their move in the NL West despite injuries to ace Clayton Kershaw (back) and shortstop Corey Seager (season-ending Tommy John surgery).
L.A. could make a play for Machado. But it would cost several of the club's top prospects, and that hasn't been executive Andrew Friedman's M.O. since he took the reins.
Instead, the Dodgers might bolster a solid but unspectacular bullpen with the addition of Orioles closer Zach Britton.
Before last season's deadline, Los Angeles toyed with the idea. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen termed it "awesome" at the time, per FRS Sports' Jon Heyman.
Britton returned last week from a ruptured Achilles tendon and has thrown three scoreless frames with three strikeouts.
The seller's return: Britton would be a rental. His injury is a red flag, even with positive early comeback results. The Dodgers shouldn't surrender outfielder and top prospect Alex Verdugo. Toolsy outfielder Yusniel Diaz should pique the O's interest, however, and the Dodgers shouldn't be hesitant to improve their roster given their 29-year title drought.
Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Jacob deGrom
The Milwaukee Brewers have a shot at winning the National League Central. But they're in a dogfight with the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
Jacob deGrom to the rescue?
The New York Mets ace would cost the Brew Crew dearly, assuming New York is selling at all. But add deGrom and his MLB-leading 1.55 ERA to the Milwaukee rotation, and the team's chances of being a playoff factor go from decent to excellent.
The seller's return: DeGrom is a Cy Young Award contender who's under team control through 2020. The Mets' ask (again, assuming they're listening) would begin with second baseman and No. 1 Brewers prospect Keston Hiura and go from there.
New York Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ
The Yankees have a strong offense, deep bullpen and suspect rotation. Jordan Montgomery is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Masahiro Tanaka is on the disabled list with injuries to both hamstrings. Sonny Gray owns a 4.98 ERA.
The Yanks could angle for any of the top starters on the market but are unlikely to part with their best prospects.
That makes the Toronto Blue Jays' J.A. Happ an excellent option.
Happ is 35 years old and in the last year of his contract. He's also fanned 94 in 82.2 innings to go with a 3.48 ERA and would slot nicely near the top of the starting staff.
The seller's return: Again, general manager Brian Cashman and the Yankees almost certainly won't part with a glistening star such as infielder Gleyber Torres. However, Toronto might bite on a talent-laden project such as 24-year-old triple digits-tossing right-hander Domingo Acevedo.
San Francisco Giants: RHP Ivan Nova
Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija are working their way back from injuries. Ace Madison Bumgarner is rounding into form after missing more than two months with a broken pinkie finger suffered in spring training.
The rest of the San Francisco Giants rotation is a muddled mix of unproven youngsters and underperforming veterans.
Yet, San Francisco is hanging around in the NL West. Another starting pitcher would aid its cause.
The Giants have a history of dealing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Most recently, they acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen from the Bucs.
Pittsburgh has a solid starter in right-hander Ivan Nova, who has posted a 1.54 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11.2 June innings and wouldn't cost San Francisco any top-tier prospects from a weak system it is finally beginning to rebuild.
The seller's return: Nova sports a 4.42 ERA overall, so the Giants could probably land him for a name like outfielder Austin Slater, who isn't a blue-chip prospect but is hitting .333 in Triple-A and has tasted the majors.
Seattle Mariners: RHP Chris Archer
At 46-26, the Seattle Mariners are playoff contenders in the AL as they try to end their 16-year postseason drought.
Their starting rotation, meanwhile, owns a middling 3.99 ERA.
Guys like Happ and Nova are options for Seattle. A bolder, if riskier, move? Go after the Tampa Bay Rays' Chris Archer.
It would be contingent on Archer's return from an abdominal strain that's limited him to 13 starts. So, there's downside for the M's.
There's also upside. Archer is a two-time All-Star who's signed to a reasonable contract through 2021 with two team options.
The seller's return: The Mariners would probably have to part with outfielder and top prospect Kyle Lewis plus more. For a team that hasn't climbed onto the October stage in nearly two decades, it'd be worth the gamble.
St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Josh Donaldson
The Cardinals could be in on the Machado sweepstakes. Or they could aim for another AL East third baseman.
That'd be the Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson, who has a sore calf, is on the DL and is hitting only .234. Cue collective wincing in Cards nation.
But Donaldson hit 33 homers last season and was the AL MVP in 2015. He's a star among stars when he's right. If he came to the Cardinals and performed to his pedigree, he'd buttress their chances in the NL Central.
The seller's return: The Cardinals would need assurances that Donaldson is healthy and would consider signing an extension. If said assurances are provided, the Jays could ask for a strong arm from the Cardinals' perennially deep farm—such as right-hander Dakota Hudson.
Washington Nationals: LHP Cole Hamels
The Washington Nationals are trying to make a title run in what is likely Bryce Harper's final D.C. season. They acquired lights-out reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Royals on Monday for three prospects, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi.
Their starting rotation has been hit by injuries, most notably to right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who has a shoulder issue.
They've got ace Max Scherzer, but they're a club in unambiguous win-now mode.
They could therefore make a move for Texas Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels, who's enjoyed a resurgent season in which he's struck out 85 in 85.1 innings. Plus, Hamels is intimately familiar with the NL East from his days with the Phillies.
Another fact worth noting: The Nats are not on Hamels' 20-team no-trade list, per Morosi.
The seller's return: Hamels is coming off a down year in which he posted a 4.20 ERA. He has a $20 million team option or $6 million buyout for 2019. Considering his extensive track record and positive recent results, he could net the Rangers a package headlined by shortstop Carter Kieboom, Washington's No. 3 prospect.
All statistics and contract information accurate through Sunday and courtesy of Baseball Reference.