Deal or No Deal: MLB Trade Predictions 2 Weeks from the Deadline
Anything could happen in these last couple of weeks before Major League Baseball's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
As for what will happen, we have a few ideas.
What follows is one trade-deadline prediction for each of MLB's 30 teams. These are strictly speculative, but nonetheless based on reported rumors and the general realities of each squad.
We'll go in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Eduardo Escobar Will Be Their Plan B
As they seek their first National League West title since 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks have their sights set on Manny Machado.
According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Arizona has already made the Baltimore Orioles an offer that supposedly ranks second among the ones they've received for the slugging shortstop.
The field is a crowded one, however, and the D-backs are disadvantaged in a bidding war. They're short on top prospects, and the best of theirs (RHP Jon Duplantier) was recently shut down with biceps tendinitis.
The Diamondbacks will need an impact bat even if they miss out on Machado. The best pivot they could make would be to a different rental infielder: breakout Minnesota Twins star Eduardo Escobar. He's racked up an .844 OPS and 51 extra-base hits while playing shortstop and third base.
Call it a hunch, but they'll ultimately make that pivot.
Atlanta Braves: They'll Reach out and Grab Brad Hand
If the Atlanta Braves want to outlast the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals to win the NL East, they must address their bullpen.
Atlanta's pen has come undone with a 5.38 ERA over the last 30 days. Although there's nothing it doesn't need, a tried-and-true relief ace is the best it can shoot for.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Braves' focus is on relievers who are controlled beyond 2018. Among the players on that list, none suits them better than Brad Hand.
The two-time All-Star owns a 2.63 ERA and a rate of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings since 2015. He's also signed for cheap through 2021.
Of course, the San Diego Padres will need a serious offer in order to give up Hand. The Braves, however, have plenty of prospects. It wouldn't be shocking if they gave up a few to get a guy who would stabilize their bullpen for this year and beyond.
Baltimore Orioles: They'll Have to Sell Low on Zach Britton
The Orioles are going to find a taker for Machado. They should for other rentals too, such as Adam Jones and Brad Brach.
Moving fellow rental Zach Britton, however, will be more difficult than they probably anticipated.
Britton isn't far removed from being the most dominant relief pitcher in baseball. Between 2014 and 2016, he racked up a 1.38 ERA and permitted just a .493 OPS. He was subsequently limited to 38 appearances in 2017, and a ruptured Achilles tendon kept him out until June 12 this year.
Throw in a $12 million salary, and Britton's value is basically kaput. If the Orioles can't attach him to a Machado deal, they probably won't do much better than a salary-dump trade when they move him.
Boston Red Sox: They'll Pluck Drew Steckenrider from the Marlins Bullpen
With Christian Vazquez set to miss 6-to-8 weeks with a broken pinky, the Boston Red Sox may want to pursue a catcher on the trade market. Somebody like, say, Miami Marlins All-Star J.T. Realmuto.
In reality, the Red Sox are likely to settle for one of Miami's relievers: Drew Steckenrider.
The Red Sox have been in contact with the Marlins about their late-inning relievers, according to Morosi. Kyle Barraclough is the best of the bunch, but his price tag is likely too steep for Boston.
Steckenrider, 27, is a lesser option on the surface, but he has a skill the Red Sox could covet. He's owned right-handed batters to the tune of a .465 OPS. Thus, he would be a major postseason weapon against the right-handed sluggers of the New York Yankees and Houston Astros.
As a bonus, the Red Sox would control him through 2023.
Chicago Cubs: They'll Let the Deadline Come and Go
The Chicago Cubs should look to buy at the trade deadline.
Their immediate goal is to catch the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, after all, and they're not without their needs. The biggest is in their rotation, which is missing Yu Darvish and is being held back by Tyler Chatwood.
And yet, the Cubs' plus-105 run differential hints at the team's upside for the second half. And if Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana start pitching up to their track records, suddenly their rotation needs won't look as dire.
There are also practical matters to consider. The Cubs are limited in both prospects and luxury-tax wiggle room. By virtue of these things, they're going to have trouble making impact trades even if they want to.
So when the time comes, it won't be surprising to see the Cubs stand pat.
Chicago White Sox: Joakim Soria Will Be Their Only Notable Departure
The Chicago White Sox don't have many valuable trade chips to begin with. And some of the ones they do have will be tough to move.
Start with James Shields. He's been better in 2018 than he was in 2016 and 2017, but he's still past his prime and owed a decent amount of money.
Then there's Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu. The former is once again on the DL with a strained hamstring, and the latter is mired in a prolonged slump. Since both are controlled through 2019, the White Sox don't need to rush to trade either.
Ultimately, this leaves Joakim Soria as Chicago's most marketable trade chip. His $9 million salary isn't cheap, but it's far from outrageous for a veteran reliever with a 2.83 ERA and 11.1 K/9.
Expect the White Sox to move him and hold everyone else.
Cincinnati Reds: Matt Harvey Will Be Their Only Notable Departure
The Cincinnati Reds have shrugged off a slow start to go 38-37 under interim manager Jim Riggleman, and it sounds like they're going to do what they must to keep riding the wave into 2019.
"We do believe that we're creating a good core to invest around," president of baseball operations Dick Williams told Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "For the first time in a couple of years, I firmly believe we'll have a raised payroll."
This is bad news for teams that would like to trade for Scooter Gennett, Raisel Iglesias, Adam Duvall or Billy Hamilton. Each is under Cincinnati's control beyond 2018.
The one pending free agent the Reds do have, however, should be available: Matt Harvey.
His velocity has been on the upswing since he joined Cincinnati in May, and his production has gone with it. The Reds are all but certain to get something for him on the trade market.
Cleveland Indians: They'll Make a Deal with the Orioles (But Not for Machado)
It's hard to see him actually going to Cleveland, however.
Per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Orioles would like to get top catcher prospect Francisco Mejia in a deal for Machado. That's likely a nonstarter for the Indians. And even if they were willing to go through with that, they could be scared off by how Machado doesn't sound interested in moving off shortstop. The last thing they want is a disgruntled star playing next to Francisco Lindor.
And yet, the Indians and Orioles do match up well in other areas.
If not Machado, the Indians could reach for Britton or Brach for their bullpen or Jones for their outfield. If the Indians fancy some one-stop shopping, they might go for some combination of the three.
Colorado Rockies: They'll Add Lance Lynn to a Battered Starting Staff
Now that the Colorado Rockies have played their way back into the NL West race, they need to round up enough pitching to take them the rest of the way.
According to Thomas Harding of MLB.com, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich is open to adding a veteran pitcher in a trade. Given that the team already has plenty invested in its bullpen, chances are said veteran would be added to the rotation.
The ideal starter for them to pursue is one whose style would translate well to Coors Field. That is, a guy who doesn't rely too heavily on off-speed pitches and who can get ground balls.
So, here's a shot in the dark: Lance Lynn.
He lives off his fastballs, and he's remade himself as a ground-ball pitcher with the Minnesota Twins. And at this point, they may be happy if they can so much as unload the remainder of his $12 million contract.
Detroit Tigers: Michael Fulmer and Nicholas Castellanos Will Stay Put
As the trade deadline draws near, the Detroit Tigers are bound to get hits on pending free agents like Francisco Liriano and Jose Iglesias.
Their two best trade chips, however, are right-hander Michael Fulmer and right fielder Nicholas Castellanos.
Per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers' stance on those two has been unchanged for a while now: "They are available, though at a premium price." Fulmer, 25, has been a Rookie of the Year and an All-Star, and he's controlled through 2022. Castellanos, 26, is working on a career-best .881 OPS and is controlled through 2019.
And yet, the Tigers will have a hard time getting a premium price for either of them. Fulmer's value isn't sky-high, as he's following elbow surgery with a modest 4.11 ERA. Castellanos is a poor defender, and not many contenders have glaring needs in right field anyway.
So, expect both to still be with Detroit on August 1.
Kansas City Royals: Mike Moustakas Will Be Their Only Notable Departure
Kelvin Herrera has already been traded. Now all the Kansas City Royals have to do is field offers for Mike Moustakas, Lucas Duda, Danny Duffy and Whit Merrifield.
There seems to be the most interest in Merrifield, who's showing with an .803 OPS and 2.8 wins above replacement that last year's breakout was no fluke. He's also controlled through 2022.
Since Merrifield is also 29 years old, however, there may be a gap between how the Royals value him and how contenders value him. If the Royals are offered anything less than a haul, they may say, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Among Kansas City's other top trade chips, Duda plays a position where there isn't much demand, and Duffy has hurt his trade value with a disappointing season. There may only be a viable market for Moustakas, who can offer good power at either third base or first base.
Houston Astros: They'll Be the Ones Who Land Britton
The Astros tried and failed to land Zach Britton ahead of the 2017 trade deadline, but that may not stop them from trying again this year.
According to Nick Cafardo, the Astros still had interest in Britton as of the middle of June. Although he's turned himself into a buy-low candidate since then, the Astros are the kind of team that should buy low on him.
Houston's bullpen has a 2.80 ERA, so it's not in crisis mode. It does need a setup man, though. Ken Giles was supposed to handle that job after getting demoted from the closer's role. Instead, he compiled a 4.99 ERA, cursed out his manager and got sent to the minors Wednesday.
This is a good excuse for the Astros to bring Britton in and see if they can work his magic on them. If they could at least get his ground-ball rate, he and the team's infield would be a perfect match.
Los Angeles Angels: They'll Choose to Sell, but It Will Be for Naught
Although the Los Angeles Angels have yet to indicate that they're ready to sell, it should be just a matter of time.
They started out fine, but a 10-18 stretch since June 10 has dropped them well behind the Astros, Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics in the AL West race. Their chances of returning to the postseason are out the window.
The bright side should be that the Angels have plenty of pending free agents to put on the market, including hard-throwing righty Garrett Richards.
Alas, he's added yet another arm injury to his record, and none of their other pending free agents (e.g. Ian Kinsler, Martin Maldonado and Jim Johnson) leap off the page in terms of appeal.
With plenty of other places for contenders to shop, the Angels are going to have a tough time attracting business.
Los Angeles Dodgers: They'll Make Exactly *Zero* Blockbusters
Yeah, that's right. Not one blockbuster.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been hogging space on MLB Trade Rumors of late. Numerous reports have linked them to Machado. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, they're also in on Fulmer. Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Gennett and Brian Dozier are also on their radar.
Despite all this, the Dodgers haven't acted like a classic powerhouse team under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. They've kept a tight grip on their prospects, and one of their goals this year is to stay under the luxury tax.
There's also the question of whether the Dodgers need to make moves. They probably should, but they can afford not to. After all, they're 34-16 since May 17 and seemingly getting stronger every day.
So, here's going out on a limb: The Dodgers will continue to kick tires, but they ultimately won't follow through on anything.
Miami Marlins: Nobody Will Overwhelm Them for J.T. Realmuto
The Miami Marlins are playing it cool ahead of the trade deadline. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, they aren't "actively shopping" any of their players.
The Marlins have already cut plenty of payroll. And of the salaries they can still cut, the biggest belong to two players (Wei-Yin Chen and Martin Prado) who don't have any trade value. Elsewhere on their roster, they're rich with controllable players who darn well should have expensive price tags.
Of that latter group, All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto is certainly the biggest standout. He's also all but certain to stick around in Miami beyond July 31.
The Washington Nationals are one possibility for Realmuto, but GM Mike Rizzo stated publicly on MLB Network Radio that Realmuto's cost is simply too high. If he won't pay it, chances are nobody else will. There just aren't enough contenders who need a catcher, much less the pieces to trade for one as good as Realmuto.
Milwaukee Brewers: They'll Win the Manny Machado Sweepstakes
There are plenty of teams in the mix for Machado, but it sounds like it's really down to the Dodgers and Brewers. According to Rosenthal, they're the two most serious suitors for the 26-year-old superstar.
Although their farm system probably isn't as strong as the Dodgers', the Brewers have shown a greater willingness to dip into theirs in trades. They bought a few pieces (e.g. Anthony Swarzak and Jeremy Jeffress) last July and pulled off a blockbuster for Christian Yelich last winter.
And the Brewers don't just have prospects to offer. They also have spare major league talents, such as Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana.
Altogether, they're the ideal trading partner for the Orioles. Something will get done, and an NL Central title will become that much more realistic for the Brewers.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer Will Be Spared from the Fire Sale
Although the Minnesota Twins have played .500 baseball (19-19) since June 1, that's not going to be good enough to get them back in the thick of the AL Central race.
It's also not going to stop them from retooling for 2019. According to Morosi, the Twins are prepared to shop their pending free agents, a group that includes Escobar, Lynn, Dozier and Joe Mauer.
Of the bunch, it's beyond a safe bet that Mauer will be spared from a trade.
For one thing, he's not an easy guy to trade. Even if the Twins located a willing partner, there would be two major hurdles to get over: Mauer's $23 million salary and his full no-trade clause.
For another thing, there may not be a willing taker for Mauer out there. Most contenders are set at first base. The ones that aren't probably aren't too enthused about a 35-year-old with a mere .718 OPS.
New York Mets: Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard Will Stay Put
Full disclosure: This is a recycled prediction.
That's because it's at least as valid now as it was then, if not more so.
According to Rosenthal, the New York Mets are still willing to deal Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard if the price is right. But "the price" in this case is a major complication. Both deGrom and Syndergaard are controlled for several more years beyond 2018. The former may be the best pitcher in baseball. The latter may be the best pitching talent in baseball.
The field of teams that can trade for either of these two is extremely slim. Of those, maybe the only practical suitor is the New York Yankees. And like the Dodgers, they're in a new era with a greater emphasis on hoarding prospects and saving money.
Instead, the Mets will have to trade other assets (e.g. Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera) and retool for 2019.
New York Yankees: They'll Stop at J.A. Happ
It would be easier to list all the stars that the Yankees haven't been linked to in trade rumors. So why does it feel like they're only going to trade for J.A. Happ?
For starters, because they like him. According to Heyman, the veteran left-hander is "near the top of their realistic rotation trade options." That may sound like a bit much for a guy with a 4.44 ERA, but Happ is an All-Star who was rocking a 3.62 ERA as recently as June 25.
The other key word there is "realistic." Targets such as deGrom, Syndergaard and Machado have exorbitant price tags. And due to recent and pending promotions, the list of prospects that the Yankees can actually spare has grown shorter as 2018 has moved along. They also have the luxury tax to avoid.
Plus, the Yankees are on pace to win 106 games as is. Happ would represent "good enough" for an already great team.
Oakland Athletics: They'll Let It Ride
When the A's were merely a fringe contender earlier in the year, it was easy to imagine them trading guys like Blake Treinen and Jed Lowrie at the deadline.
But suddenly, the A's are 18-5 in their last 23 games and just six games behind the Mariners for the AL's second wild-card spot. They're simply too good to strip themselves of assets in preparation for 2019.
There are things the A's could use to continue their comeback in the AL West. At the top of the list are starters who could put an end to the revolving door they've had in their rotation.
But if 2012 is any indication, Billy Beane and Oakland's front office will hold off. That was the last time the A's approached July 31 as a surprise contender, and their strategy then was to wait until August to scrape together helpful players.
It worked that year. It could work again this year.
Philadelphia Phillies: They'll Settle for Mike Moustakas
The Phillies have risen to first place in the NL East, yet holes remain up and down their roster.
Matt Gelb of The Athletic identified third base and right field as "target areas" for the Phillies. Given how well they've been hitting of late, Maikel Franco and Nick Williams might beg to differ.
Franco, however, isn't known for his consistency. And in general, the entire Phillies lineup has a shortage of postseason experience. This makes third base a good spot for the Phillies to pursue a veteran.
Moustakas is as good of an option as they could ask for, so it's no wonder they've already held trade talks with the Royals, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports. He would get the bulk of the starts at third base, with Franco playing as needed against left-handers.
To boot, Moustakas wouldn't cost the Phillies nearly as much as, say, Machado. That's important in light of a farm system that's not as deep as it once was.
Pittsburgh Pirates: They'll Open for Business and Nothing Will Happen
The Pittsburgh Pirates were contenders once, but a 17-32 stretch since May 18 has changed their outlook.
"Sometimes, reality sets in," GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Jerry DiPaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The optimism has turned to realism."
However, this isn't a doomed team that needs to completely tear down its roster and go into a rebuild. The Pirates are built on a foundation of exciting young talent that merely needs to be retooled.
That typically requires shopping pending free agents, but the Pirates have only two of those: Jordy Mercer and Sean Rodriguez. There likely won't be robust markets for either.
Given that none is having a great year, the same may be true of Ivan Nova and David Freese. Meanwhile, Josh Harrison's value is down, Francisco Cervelli is coming off his latest concussion, and Corey Dickerson has limited appeal.
It all points to a quiet deadline for the Buccos.
San Diego Padres: They'll Be Left Holding Tyson Ross
The stars are aligning quite well for the Padres to get a haul for Hand. After him, though, they don't actually have much to trade.
Tyson Ross should be an exception to that rule, but perhaps it's telling that there hasn't been any trade chatter about him since May.
Ross looked like an ideal rental for a while there. After signing a minor league contract that guaranteed him just $1.75 million in salary if he made the majors, he was bouncing back from two injury-plagued years with a 3.32 ERA through his first 16 starts.
Between this and his injury history, pitching-needy contenders wouldn't be foolish to give Ross a wide berth.
San Francisco Giants: Their Hands Will Be Too Tied to Do Anything
The San Francisco Giants should be looking to buy, and it sure seems like they want to.
The Giants didn't get much out of a trade that sent Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin to the Texas Rangers on July 8. Unless, of course, you count payroll relief. And that's of utmost importance to the Giants, because every penny counts as far as their luxury-tax status is concerned.
However, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle isn't alone in speculating if the Giants can actually steer clear of the $197 million threshold without dumping more payroll. And even if they do, we're likely talking a few million bucks' worth of space rather than tens of millions.
Such limited financial flexibility would restrict their options on the trade market. Restricting their options even further, meanwhile, would be their lack of impact prospects to deal.
So while it may not be their intent, the Giants are careening toward a quiet deadline.
Seattle Mariners: They'll Take a Chance on Nathan Eovaldi
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto hasn't made a trade since he acquired Alex Colome and Denard Span from the Tampa Bay Rays in May, but don't worry. He's due for another.
"I think if there is an opportunity for us to expand or augment our pitching group, wherever that is, then we're going to be attentive to that," Dipoto recently told reporters, including MLB.com's Greg Johns.
Who might Dipoto target? It's anyone's guess, but his history suggests that he'll go back to the Tampa Bay well. And it so happens they have just the guy for him in Nathan Eovaldi.
As highlighted by FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan, the hard-throwing righty has remade himself in his return from Tommy John surgery and benefited with a 3.35 ERA over eight starts. He's also earning just $2 million in a walk year.
All told, Eovaldi would fit perfectly in a Mariners rotation that could use some upside.
St. Louis Cardinals: They'll Take Their Chances with What They Have
Even the man in charge of the St. Louis Cardinals isn't sure what to make of them.
"[This team] hasn’t been the easiest team to sort of think through, in terms of how to get better, or what to do, or what changes need to be made," said president of baseball operations John Mozeliak in a podcast with Dan McLaughlin of Fox Sports Midwest, via Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors.
The Cardinals have the individual pieces of a contender, but it's been two steps forward, two steps back for most of the year. And it's getting worse, as they've gone 11-16 in their last 27 games and fallen seven games off the pace in the NL Central.
This isn't a position from which the Cardinals should go all-in. And while the least they could do is address their bullpen, they can wait and see if Luke Gregerson and Tyler Lyons returning to health can do that.
Thus, a wild guess: The Cardinals will stand pat and take their chances.
Tampa Bay Rays: No, They're Not Trading Blake Snell
The notion of the Rays moving Blake Snell in a super-duper trade is an intriguing one to think about. And according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic, the Yankees have at least expressed interest in the idea.
Too bad it's about as likely as pigs flying over a frozen-over hell.
"To suggest the Rays would trade Blake Snell is fictional garbage," one NL executive told Peter Gammons of The Athletic. "We called. No chance. And we could have put together a big package."
In Snell, the Rays have a should-be All-Star with a 2.09 ERA, second-best in the AL. He's also just 25 years old and under their control all the way through 2022. Even for a team that can never say no to trade overtures, he must be considered untouchable.
So, yeah. Expect Snell to still be on the Rays after July 31 passes.
Texas Rangers: They'll Be Stuck with Cole Hamels
If it feels like trade rumors involving Cole Hamels have slowed to a trickle, there's a reason for that.
The veteran lefty had a 3.38 ERA through his first 10 starts. In his last eight, it's up to 5.48. In his last three, it's 11.81.
Like with Tyson Ross, there are also some underlying concerns at play with Hamels. His fastball velocity is still nowhere near what it was in his last great season in 2016. Elsewhere, his contact rate has spiked after starting out low.
Other hurdles standing in the way of the Rangers trading Hamels include his $22.5 million salary, his upcoming $6 million buyout and his 20-team no-trade list.
It all adds up to sunken trade value, not to mention limited appeal. The Rangers may have to wait until August to move him.
Toronto Blue Jays: They'll Be Left Holding Josh Donaldson
This is probably a layup, but Josh Donaldson will be exempt from the Blue Jays' upcoming flurry of trades.
Happ is certainly the Blue Jays' biggest trade chip, but he's hardly their only rental to offer. Curtis Granderson, Marco Estrada, Tyler Clippard, John Axford and Aaron Loup are several more. Donaldson will be yet another if he shows he's healthy and effective before the deadline.
That's a long shot, however. The 2015 AL MVP hasn't played since May 28 due to tightness in his calf and, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, he's only now running without symptoms. He may need more work before going on a rehab assignment, which would put his return close to July 31.
The Blue Jays will be in a position where they either take what they can get for Donaldson, or hold on to him and hope he recoups some value with a red-hot August. The latter is the wiser play.
Washington Nationals: They'll Reunite with Wilson Ramos
If the Nationals are going to climb out of the hole they've dug for themselves in the NL East, the least they can do is upgrade their catching corps.
According to FanGraphs, Nationals catchers own the lowest wins above replacement totals for each of the last two seasons. Since Matt Wieters has been one of the primary perpetrators, his return off of the disabled list has the potential to be subtraction by addition.
Hence the team's interest in old friend Wilson Ramos, according to Cafardo. Ramos was an All-Star in the last of seven seasons with Washington in 2016. He just made his second All-Star squad on the strength of an .819 OPS with the Rays.
Ramos is also earning just $10.5 million in the final year of his contract. All together, he's a much more practical target for the Nationals than Realmuto.