Best and Worst Landing Spots for Each Star MLB Trade Deadline Target
Not every player on the trading block fits perfectly onto every MLB team.
Ahead we take a close look at some of the top guys expected to be available this summer and name the best and worst landing spot for each of them.
Current roster makeup, ballpark factors, postseason experience and future contract situation, among other things, all played a part in deciding a player's best and worst fits.
Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard (NYM), Raisel Iglesias and Scooter Gennett (CIN) and Brad Hand (SD) were excluded from this list due to questions about their actual level of availability.
Buster Olney of ESPN.com wrote: "No matter who has the dominant voice in the Mets front office, sources say the Mets are indicating they would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to trade either deGrom or Syndergaard, and a deal is highly unlikely."
Meanwhile, the Reds showed no interest in shopping Iglesias and Gennett last season under similar circumstances, while the Padres made a three-year, $19.8 million commitment to Hand during the offseason and will likely hang onto their relief ace as they continue to push toward contention.
Let's focus on the guys who look like a safe bet to be moved.
RP Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
2018 Stats: 34 G, 16 HLD, 0.79 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 41/9 K/BB, 34.0 IP, 1.7 WAR
If you don't think Kirby Yates is a star, you haven't been paying attention.
Since the San Diego Padres claimed him off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on April 26 of last season, he's posted a 2.61 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 12.8 K/9 with 36 holds in 95 appearances.
The 31-year-old is making $1.1 million this season in his first year of arbitration and carries team control through 2020. He's one of a handful of Padres relievers drawing trade interest, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Best Landing Spot: Philadelphia Phillies
With Hector Neris (10/13 SV, 6.90 ERA) flopping in the closer's role, the Phillies have turned to 23-year-old rookie Seranthony Dominguez (7/8 SV, 1.98 ERA) to nail down saves.
If they're still in the playoff hunt a month from now, they might be looking for some veteran reinforcements at the back of the bullpen.
Yates would give them a controllable arm who could potentially pitch his way into the closer's role down the stretch and for the next few seasons.
That also bodes well for Yates, as the archaic arbitration process still rewards save total and he'd stand to benefit financially from an opportunity to close games.
Worst Landing Spot: Boston Red Sox
If the Red Sox are going to swing a trade for a bullpen piece, it would make the most sense to go after a left-hander.
Brian Johnson (23 G, 4.28 ERA) has been the lone southpaw in the bullpen for most of the season, and he's recently rejoined the starting rotation with Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz both on the disabled list.
It's a small sample size, but it's also worth noting that Yates as a 14.40 ERA in six career appearances at Fenway Park.
3B Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
2018 Stats: 117 OPS+, .261/.317/.477, 34 XBH (16 HR), 53 RBI, 37 R, 1.9 WAR
After a disappointing foray into free agency, Mike Moustakas wound up re-signing with the Kansas City Royals on a one-year, $6.5 million deal—a salary that pales in comparison to the $17.4 million qualifying offer he rejected at the start of the offseason.
The 29-year-old hit a franchise record 38 home runs last season, but his middling on-base skills and mediocre defense resulted in a dearth of interest on the open market.
He has a $15 million mutual option for next season and could be enticed to exercise his if he finds himself in a favorable position post-deadline.
Having already traded closer Kelvin Herrera, the Royals have shifted their focus to finding a taker for Moustakas, according to Jon Heyman of FRS Sports.
Best Landing Spot: Los Angeles Angels
With news breaking last week that Zack Cozart will need season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, the Los Angeles Angels now find themselves in the market for a short-term addition at third base.
Cozart signed a three-year, $38 million deal this past winter, and he'll presumably be ready for the start of next season, so Moustakas fits the bill as a stop-gap solution.
He'd also add a welcome lefty presence to a lineup that features Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, Ian Kinsler, Albert Pujols and Martin Maldonado all hitting from the right side.
Worst Landing Spot: Boston Red Sox
According to RotoGrinders.com, Fenway Park has been one of the toughest parks to homer in this season for left-handed hitters.
For a player like Moustakas who generates most of his value with his over-the-fence production, that would be a less-than-ideal situation as he looks to boost his stock ahead of another dip into the free-agent pool.
Young slugger Rafael Devers is hitting .251/.294/.447 with a 0.2 WAR on the year, leading to some rumblings that the Red Sox might search for an upgrade as they push for a title in 2018. The right-handed hitting Adrian Beltre looks like a better fit if the Red Sox decide to go that route.
SP Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres
2018 Stats: 5-5, 3.32 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 90/35 K/BB, 95.0 IP, 1.4 WAR
After missing the bulk of the 2016 season recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome, Tyson Ross signed a one-year, $6 million with the Texas Rangers last season in hopes of rebuilding his stock.
Instead, he struggled to a 7.71 ERA and 1.84 WHIP over 49 innings, and he had to settle for a minor league deal from the San Diego Padres this offseason.
Back to full health, the 31-year-old is looking like his pre-injury self, albeit with a fastball that is down in velocity from where it was in 2015 (93.9 to 91.7 mph). Strong peripherals should be enough for a contender to bite, especially with his team-friendly $1.8 million salary.
The veteran is aware of his standing as a trade chip, telling Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune: "I’ve been in this position before. In ’15, I was one of the bigger names being thrown around as a trade piece. [GM] A.J. [Preller] held on to me. He didn’t get his return on that. If he wants to make a move at some point, that’s the game. For him, it would be a great investment — buy low, sell high."
Best Landing Spot: Atlanta Braves
While many of his peripheral numbers have bounced back, Ross has been more susceptible to the long ball this season, allowing 10 homers in 95 innings (0.9 HR/9). Compare that to the 22 home runs he surrendered in 391.2 innings between 2014 and 2015 (0.5 HR/9), and it's clear he'd benefit from pitching in a flyball friendly ballpark.
Atlanta's SunTrust Park has been 29th in the majors in home run frequency this season, according to ESPN.com's Park Factors.
The Braves could use a veteran presence in their young rotation, especially if Anibal Sanchez regresses toward his peripherals (2.68 ERA, 4.04 FIP) and Brandon McCarthy (knee tendinitis) is unable to stay healthy.
Who knows, Ross might even be able to parlay it into a more long-term fit with a team on the rise.
Worst Landing Spot: New York Yankees
If the New York Yankees wind up acquiring Ross, it would likely mean they had to settle for Plan C or Plan D on their trade target wish list.
While his ultra-low salary would help them stay below the luxury tax threshold, Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ both look like more impactful additions to a rotation that is lacking a second top-tier starter alongside Luis Severino.
A rising home run rate is also a red flag for Ross in the launching pad that is Yankee Stadium.
C Wilson Ramos, Tampa Bay Rays
2018 Stats: 123 OPS+, .291/.338/.461, 21 XBH (11 HR), 43 RBI, 24 R, 1.8 WAR
It looked like Wilson Ramos was headed for a hefty payday in 2016 when he hit .307/.354/.496 with 25 doubles, 22 home runs and 80 RBI en route to 3.2 WAR in his contract season.
However, he suffered a torn ACL on Sept. 26 and ended up settling for a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. After spending much of last season recovering—he played in just 64 games and posted a 98 OPS+ over 224 plate appearances—he has once again been an impact player.
Of the 21 catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, he ranks among the leaders in OPS+ (123, fourth), hits (74, T-first), home runs (11, T-third), RBI (43, first) and WAR (1.8, fourth).
The Rays bought low on Ramos and now it makes perfect sense for them to sell high as he approaches free agency.
Best Landing Spot: Washington Nationals
The catcher position has produced a brutal .191/.287/.268 line with three home runs and 20 RBI for the Washington Nationals this season.
Matt Wieters has been sidelined since May 20 with a hamstring injury and there's still no timetable for his return, leaving the light-hitting duo of Pedro Severino (181 PA, 35 OPS+) and Spencer Kieboom (47 PA, 53 OPS+) to man the position.
Ramos is well acquainted with the Nationals, having spent parts of seven seasons with the organization, and that level of familiarity makes him a perfect fit for a team with title hopes.
Worst Landing Spot: Seattle Mariners
How many more chances will Mike Zunino get?
The 27-year-old has continued to show plus power (12 HR) and strong defensive skills (5 DRS, 40 percent CS and 2.7 Framing RAA), but he's hitting just .191/.251/.412 and striking out at a 39.8 percent clip.
While swinging a deal for Ramos would provide an offensive upgrade, it might come at the cost of stability and comfort with the pitching staff.
Something is working if a rotation of James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc ranks seventh in the AL with a 4.04 starters' ERA. The Mariners' best course of action would be to acquire a competent backup and call it a day.
SP Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers
2018 Stats: 4-6, 3.61 ERA, 5.23 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 97/37 K/BB, 97.1 IP, 1.9 WAR
The Texas Rangers gave up a wealth of prospect talent to acquire Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline in 2015.
While the team made the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, Hamels was not the missing piece to a title contender they hoped he'd be, and now they appear to be headed for a deadline sell-off.
He's not going to bring the same significant prospect haul he did three years ago, but he's still capable of being a big addition to a World Series hopeful.
A Hamels trade might come sooner than later, with Jon Morosi of MLB Network reporting that it is "increasingly possible" he's moved before the All-Star break.
Best Landing Spot: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have leaned heavily on injury-prone James Paxton and the unheralded duo of Marco Gonzales and Wade LeBlanc this season in the starting rotation.
That trio has been excellent to this point, but all three pitchers are on pace to blow past their previous career-highs for innings. They have a combined six innings of postseason experience among them—all of which belong to Gonzales, who worked in relief for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014. Felix Hernandez has also never appeared in the playoffs.
That makes Cole Hamels the perfect trade target.
The 34-year-old has 98.1 career playoff innings under his belt, and he's been excellent when the lights shine brightest, posting a 3.48 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while taking home NLCS and World Series MVP honors in 2008.
The Mariners don't have the deepest farm system, but agreeing to pick up the remainder of his $23.5 million salary for this season and his 2019 obligation—a $20 million team option with a $6 million buyout—would presumably lower his acquisition cost.
Worst Landing Spot: Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers have plenty of starting pitching.
What they need is a legitimate top-of-the-rotation ace, and asking Hamels to fill that role might be wishful thinking.
While his surface-level numbers have been solid, his 5.22 FIP speaks to some regression to come, and he's already allowed 20 home runs in 97.1 innings of work.
In fact, his 1.9 HR/9 is the third-highest mark among qualified starters, and moving from one hitter-friendly park in Arlington to another in Milwaukee doesn't seem like the best fit.
At this point in his career, Hamels slots best as a No. 3/4 starter on a contender. The Brewers would be asking him to be more than that.
SP J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays
2018 Stats: 10-3, 3.62 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 1.06 WHIP, 106/27 K/BB, 97.0 IP, 1.8 WAR
A stellar finish to the 2015 season earned J.A. Happ a three-year, $36 million from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Since the start of that contract, he's been nothing short of excellent, as he's near the top of the leaderboard in wins (40, T-sixth), ERA (3.40, 11th), ERA+ (129, T-ninth), WHIP (1.19, 16th) and WAR (9.9, 10th) among pitchers with at least 400 innings of work during that span.
He's the best pure rental option on the market this summer for teams looking to upgrade the rotation, and that should make him a hot commodity. With the Blue Jays already slipping out of the AL East race, he's a lock to be moved.
Best Landing Spot: New York Yankees
With a current payroll of $175,779,208, the New York Yankees are closing in on the luxury tax threshold, and that's something that will factor into their trade deadline decisions.
J.A. Happ is making a reasonable $13 million this season. That's a whopping $10.5 million less than Cole Hamels—the other quality rotation option expected to be available.
Hamels also comes with a $20 million team option for next year that carries a $6 million buyout, while Happ would be a straight rental and have no payroll impact for next season.
Given his peripheral numbers and recent performance, Happ might be the safest option for the Yankees to bolster their starting staff.
The left-hander is 4-1 with a 3.94 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in eight career starts at Yankee Stadium.
Worst Landing Spot: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been hit hard by injuries this season, particularly in the starting rotation, as they've been forced to use 11 different starters already.
There's no question Happ would provide some solid insurance to the starting staff. However, he could also wind up being an unnecessary addition if the walking wounded can get healthy and stay that way.
Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Walker Buehler comprise a perfectly formidable postseason rotation, while Ross Stripling is having a brilliant season in something of a swingman role.
That could also prove detrimental to Happ, as a limited role down the stretch would do little to boost his free-agent stock in a contract year.
SS Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
2018 Stats: 157 OPS+, .308/.376/.556, 37 XBH (20 HR), 57 RBI, 40 R, 1.6 WAR
It will take a significant package of young, controllable talent to acquire Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles.
That said, any team that trades for him will be getting just two months and a potential playoff run from the upcoming free agent, so expecting a franchise-altering return would be wishful thinking by the Baltimore front office.
And while he's once again raking at the plate, his return to shortstop has yielded horrendous defensive metrics (-19 DRS, -14.6 UZR/150) and a return to the hot corner might be part of any deadline movement.
Best Landing Spot: Los Angeles Dodgers
Losing Corey Seager for the season to Tommy John surgery created an obvious hole at the shortstop position for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Chris Taylor has been solid defensively since moving in from center to take his place, but it's clear this Dodgers team could use another run producer in the middle of the lineup as it continues to chase a title.
There's enough depth in the Dodgers system that they might even be able to land Machado without parting with top prospect Alex Verdugo.
A package built around catcher Keibert Ruiz and a couple of their intriguing pitching prospects might be enough for the O's to bite.
Worst Landing Spot: Chicago Cubs
Machado is not the missing piece for the Cubs.
Despite middling offensive production, incumbent shortstop Addison Russell is still a 2.4 WAR player this season on the strength of his glovework, and the Cubs have the highest-scoring offense in the National League at 5.05 runs per game.
A case can actually be made that swapping out Machado would be a downgrade for the North Siders, who value infield defense as much as any team in the league.
C J.T. Realmuto, Miami Marlins
2018 Stats: 152 OPS+, .306/.364/.543, 32 XBH (10 HR), 35 RBI, 39 R, 3.3 WAR
J.T. Realmuto has been the best catcher in baseball this season.
He's hit .287/.341/.479 while averaging 25 doubles, 14 home runs, 56 RBI and 3.5 WAR the past two seasons, but he's taken his game to another level this year.
The 27-year-old is hitting for more power (.173 to .237 ISO), making more hard contact (33.3 to 43.5 percent) and he's graded out much better defensively (-5 to 2 DRS).
With a bargain salary of $2.9 million this season and team control through 2020, he's far and away the most valuable asset on the Miami roster.
Realmuto requested a trade during the offseason, according to Craig Mish of SiriusXM, and the Marlins have struggled as expected. It's unlikely he's changed his stance on wanting out, so don't be surprised if he's a popular name on the rumor mill.
Best Landing Spot: Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers are currently using Manny Pina (31 years old) and Erik Kratz (38 years old) at the catcher position.
Pina is a solid defender and Kratz has hit well in limited action, but neither is a long-term solution, and the farm system is lacking an heir as well.
Upgrading the starting rotation might be the most pressing need, but swinging a deal for Realmuto would be a significant upgrade now and for the future.
With a young pitching staff that is still settling into roles, Realmuto would bring some welcome stability and provide a significant boost to the lineup.
The Marlins also already have a good feel for the Milwaukee farm system after the offseason blockbuster that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers, so putting together another trade package should be smooth.
Worst Landing Spot: Washington Nationals
The Nationals kicked the tires on Realmuto during the offseason and they checked in again last month, according to Jon Heyman of FRS Sports, but the asking price hasn't changed.
Trade talks continue to center around Victor Robles and Juan Soto, with the Marlins intent on acquiring one of those high-ceiling outfielders in any deal that involves their star catcher.
Moving either prospect would be a mistake by the Nationals, especially as they get ready to move into the post-Bryce Harper era.
So while moving to a contender would be great for Realmuto, swinging that deal would be a mistake for the Nationals, unless they can find a way to build a package around Carter Kieboom instead.