Blockbuster MLB Trade Ideas Based on the Biggest Pre-Deadline Rumors
This summer's biggest blockbuster was already released.
No, not Avengers: Infinity War. The Los Angeles Dodgers took a step toward assembling a superteam by acquiring All-Star Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles on July 18. Unless the New York Mets move Jacob deGrom, no trade will come close to matching that Hollywood spectacle before MLB's July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Yet there are still plenty of alluring players on the market. Some of these ideas may not expand beyond the realm of theorizing, since three highlighted starting pitchers won't have the ability to sign elsewhere this offseason—though trades may still happen.
The chatter attached to impending free agents mostly passes the sniff test. These players should get swapped before they can skip town, and they're attached to teams with an accompanying need and available assets in line with that player's value.
Let's use MLB's latest pre-deadline rumors as inspiration for hypothetical trades.
Kevin Gausman to Atlanta Braves
The Orioles already had a busy July. Less than a week after trading Machado, they sent Zach Britton to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night, as reported by Fancred's Jon Heyman.
Yet there's no such urgency to move Kevin Gausman. The 27-year-old starter has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility before he can enter free agency following the 2020 campaign.
The Orioles also view him as "a front-end of the rotation type of starter" according to ESPN's Buster Olney, which would pose a huge roadblock if the last-place squad makes him available. Its top starter by default carries a middling 4.23 career ERA, so Gausman won't go anywhere if the Orioles want a return befitting of an ace.
If they have grown tired of his inconsistency, though, they could net a respectable package in a trade market devoid of young, cost-controlled talent.
The Colorado Rockies are scouting Gausman, as The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported, in addition to teammate Dylan Bundy. While they possess enough prospects to bring one of those starters to Coors Field, they can't match another suitor's stacked farm.
It's a poor time to move Bundy, who has surrendered 16 runs in three starts since returning from the disabled list July 6 after an ankle injury. For all his volatility, Gausman would still help the Atlanta rotation.
The Trade Return: LHP Kolby Allard, RHP Touki Toussaint and 2B/OF Travis Demeritte
Kolby Allard is as safe as a 20-year-old pitching prospect gets. Boasting a 2.80 ERA in Triple-A with a refined three-pitch arsenal, he'd stabilize one spot in a disastrous Orioles rotation within the next two years.
Touki Toussaint, a 22-year-old with a high-90s heater, would inject the package with upside. A No. 51 overall midseason ranking from FanGraphs' Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel positions him as this deal's top attraction.
The third prospective piece in this deal has already struck out 100 times in 93 games, but Travis Demeritte possesses a large supply of power. He'd fit right in with the Orioles.
Brian Dozier to Milwaukee Brewers
Sitting 13 games from another AL wild-card berth, the Minnesota Twins have little reason to retain Brian Dozier through the rest of his expiring contract. Even if they sell low on the slumping star, they'd get a better package in trade than if they made him a qualifying offer and he walked for draft picks.
The 31-year-old remains a desirable commodity despite batting .223 with the lowest weighted on-base average (.311) since his 2012 rookie campaign. No second baseman belted more home runs than Dozier's 104 from 2015 to 2017, and only reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve accrued more WAR than his 14.3.
July 31's non-waiver deadline is also the perfect time to acquire a notorious second-half surger who has played his best baseball in August (.377 wOBA). And there happens to be a perfect fit on the table.
Dozier's struggles and rental status also means he won't come at a cost of top pitching prospect Corbin Burnes—who looks poised to help their playoff push from the bullpen—and future second baseman Keston Hiura. Milwaukee, however, will have to offer Minnesota some decent prospects.
The Trade Return: LHP Kolby Allard, RHP Touki Toussaint and 2B/OF Travis Demeritte
A crowded outfield leaves little space for Brett Phillips, who has struck out 10 times in 23 plate appearances after a more encouraging 2017 arrival (.338 wOBA). While those contact woes are unlikely to vanish, the 24-year-old provides power, speed and a strong arm.
Marcos Diplan, Milwaukee's No. 11 prospect on MLB.com, is a high-upside arm who could make a major mark if he ever fosters a working relationship with the strike zone.
Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN said another unidentified team has expressed "stronger interest" than the Brewers in Dozier. The Rockies, Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox could each benefit from a second base upgrade, though they haven't yet been named as suitors.
If the Brewers lose the sweepstakes or decline to pay for a short-term rental, general manager David Stearns can once again call the Mets—who sent Neil Walker to Milwaukee last August—for Asdrubal Cabrera.
Maybe he can even fill two needs in one deal, which we'll explore next.
Zack Wheeler and Asdrubal Cabrera to Milwaukee Brewers
Olney also linked the Brewers—as well as the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians—to Cabrera. Hitting .276/.327/.478 with 17 homers in his contract year, he's a sensible short-term fix. Given the Mets' trade history dating back to last season, the playoff hopefuls could attain him for one or two 25-year-old bullpen prospects with limited command.
That would solve one problem for Milwaukee, but the rotation is a bigger need after Brent Suter tore his UCL. The Mets can also help alleviate that.
Let's not waste time fantasizing about deGrom or the quarantined Noah Syndergaard's (hand, foot and mouth disease) escape from the Wilpon family. While those aces are almost certainly staying put, Zack Wheeler could change places by Tuesday.
Heyman described Wheeler as the Mets starter most likely to get dealt, adding around six teams have expressed interest. Mike Puma of the New York Post put the probability of a Wheeler trade at "greater than 50-50."
While Wheeler still wields a 4.33 ERA, he has made impressive strides. Increased velocity has enabled the righty to compile 109 strikeouts in 114.1 innings—his first time surpassing 100 frames since 2014. He sports a 3.68 fielding independent pitching (FIP) this season and a 3.50 ERA since the start of June.
The Trade Return: RHP Luis Ortiz and 2B/SS Mauricio Dubon
The 28-year-old will remain under team control through the 2019 season, so let's assume the Mets manage to pry more than organizational depth from Milwaukee. While Luis Ortiz is in danger of recording an ERA above 4.00 for the second straight season in Double-A, he has maintained high prospect standing by repairing his strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.4). A hamstring ailment was the latest injury to stall his progress earlier this season, but it's hardly a serious impediment to a deal.
Speaking of injuries, Mauricio Dubon is recovering from a torn ACL. Before suffering the season-ending injury in May, the 24-year-old middle infielder was batting .343/.348/.574 in 27 Triple-A games. By accepting such risk, the Mets could land Cabrera's replacement.
For a twinge of poetic closure, perhaps the Brewers could acquire Wilmer Flores instead of Cabrera. Three years ago, the Mets nearly sent Wheeler and Flores—who teared up on the field when hearing of the deal—to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. With the roles of buyer and seller reversed, they are again in position to help each other.
Matt Harvey to Seattle Mariners
Matt Harvey may no longer qualify as a blockbuster trade candidate, though he still carries some name value. The Mets jettisoned him to the Cincinnati Reds in May, and the former ace damaged some of the good will he since established by relinquishing eight runs (four homers) to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
Yet the market is light on enticing starters. Even after his latest setback, Harvey has posted a 4.50 ERA, 51 strikeouts and 15 walks in 13 starts (68 innings) since joining Cincinnati. Per Brooks Baseball, his average fastball velocity has settled back into the 94-96 mph range after averaging below 92.5 mph in three April outings.
The Reds got what they wanted: a relatively successful reclamation project they can flip for a prospect or two who are far better than they could have obtained for Devin Mesoraco, the man they traded for Harvey.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick cited the Brewers and Seattle Mariners as two clubs interested in the 29-year-old righty. Since Wheeler has already been hypothetically shipped to Milwaukee, let's focus on Seattle.
Marco Gonzales has never handled a season-long MLB workload, and Wade LeBlanc should soon reach 100 innings for the first time since 2010. Saddled with a 5.14 ERA, Felix Hernandez is a detriment to Seattle's hopes of snapping a 16-season playoff drought.
The Trade Return: RHPs Seth Elledge and Jack Anderson
In this scenario, the Reds would make a solid profit by acquiring a couple of young bullpen arms. Flaunting a 1.17 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 38.1 Single-A frames, Seth Elledge could develop into a viable late-inning option in 2020. A 24-year-old reliever registering a 3.12 ERA in Single-A, Jack Anderson is the type of low-level lottery ticket the Mets might have happily accepted straight up for Harvey.
Chris Archer to New York Yankees
Death, taxes, using the "death, taxes..." setup to illustrate another constant, and Chris Archer trade speculation.
Will this be the week the Tampa Bay Rays move their talented right-hander? Probably not. A source told Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan that he would be "completely stunned" if a deal happened before the deadline.
Passan added the 51-50 Rays are exploring both buying and selling opportunities. And amid another tumultuous season, Archer is still drawing "significant" trade interest, as Rosenthal relayed.
Adding another layer of improbability, Crasnick cited the Yankees' interest in Archer. It seems outlandish that the Rays would send him to an AL East rival, but what if the contender most in need of rotation help offered a premium package for someone with a 4.09 ERA since the start of 2016?
If the Rays are reasonable, they'll at least listen.
The Trade Return: OF Estevan Florial, RHPs Luis Medina and Giovanny Gallegos, and INF Tyler Wade
The Yankees may feel just as uneasy about sending Estevan Florial to a division foe. While a wrist injury sapped his power and rising stock this season, the 20-year-old outfielder would give the Rays another potential future star.
A 19-year-old who has issued 22 walks in 15.1 rookie-ball innings, Luis Medina is still a raw talent. The Dominican Republic native is nevertheless opening eyes with a triple-digit heater and promising secondary offerings. There's a low floor but sky-high ceiling.
Giovanny Gallegos' range of outcomes is more condensed, but the 26-year-old would quickly secure a spot in Tampa Bay's less competitive bullpen. Shifted back and forth from New York to Triple-A, he has garnered 32 strikeouts and a 4.75 ERA in 30.1 big league innings.
Tyler Wade can also seize a fresh start in a new location. He has hit a disappointing .170/.225/.268 in 120 plate appearances with the Yankees, who have deployed him intermittently in a utility role. Only a year removed from batting .310/.382/.460 with 26 steals in Triple-A, the post-hype prospect is worth a try for Tampa Bay.
Cole Hamels to Washington Nationals
Before Opening Day, few onlookers would have expected the Washington Nationals to have to seek a late-July rotation upgrade.
The preseason NL East favorites continue to lose ground on the Braves and Phillies in the division and wild-card hunt. Stephen Strasburg's return from a shoulder injury may not be enough to remedy a starting staff with a collective 4.05 ERA. Not while Gio Gonzalez holds a 1.48 WHIP and Tanner Roark sports a 7.38 ERA since the start of June.
The proposed target is not quite firing on all cylinders, either. According to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, the Nationals are engaging in talks with the Texas Rangers to bring Cole Hamels back to the division. The 34-year-old southpaw has surrendered a 4.72 ERA and 5.19 FIP this season after allowing 29 runs (25 earned) over his last 22 frames.
As Morosi noted, the veteran is still due more than $7 million in 2018, and next year's $20 million club option will require a $6 million buyout. And there's also the whole "allowing seven runs in three of his past four outings" thing.
Washington should be wary of clearing its minor league cupboard during Bryce Harper's contract year, but Hamels should not cost much talent if ownership pays most or all of his remaining salary. Having coughed up a .313/.366/.562 slash line the third time through the batting order, Hamels might improve if given a shorter leash.
The Trade Return: RHP Brigham Hill
Nationals fans won't lose much sleep over dealing Brigham Hill, who has compiled 25 strikeouts and 19 walks in 37.2 innings. Yet the organization saw enough in the 5'11" righty, now the team's No. 18-rated prospect on MLB.com, to select him in the fifth round last year. A plus changeup makes him a solid prospect for Texas' diminished farm system.
After getting shellacked again (5 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 HR) Monday night, Hamels may need to dazzle in his next turn for Washington (or anyone) to take him. Yet a bloated contract also makes him a reasonable August trade candidate.
Note: All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.