2018 MLB Trade Deadline Big Board: Ranking the Top 25 Remaining Players
Hello and welcome to the final days before Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, which is 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Plenty of good players are still available, so let's rank the best of the best.
Ahead is a countdown of the top 25 players remaining on the trade market. Only players who are on the disabled list—e.g., Noah Syndergaard, Michael Fulmer and Wilson Ramos—were barred from consideration. Otherwise, we focused on trade appeal based on talent, age and contract status.
Let's take it away.
25. Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
If the New York Mets are going to trade a starting pitcher, chances are it's going to be Zack Wheeler.
On the surface, his 4.44 ERA is merely the latest instance of him failing to live up to his former status as an elite pitching prospect. Altogether, he owns a modest 4.02 ERA in four major league seasons.
Look a little closer, however, and Wheeler has been pitching well with a 3.63 ERA over his last 11 starts. His fastball is sitting at a career-high 95.6 mph. And the more sliders he throws, the lower his contact rate goes.
Since Wheeler is controlled through 2019, he'd be an upside play for both this year and next for any contender that can satisfy the Mets in negotiations. To boot, he's only pulling in a $1.9 million salary.
24. Joakim Soria, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Joakim Soria is not only still going strong, but he's better than he's been in years.
In 39 games for the Chicago White Sox, the 34-year-old has put up a 2.63 ERA and 48-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37.2 innings. He's especially dominated right-handed batters, holding them to just a .481 OPS.
Granted, Soria's fastball velocity is down relative to 2016 and 2017. But he's avoiding contact better than ever. That's a testament to his high-low approach with his heater and changeup. Factor in all the strikes he throws, and he's about as solid as they come in the late innings.
The not-so-bright side is that Soria's $9 million salary is heavy for a reliever. It's not too heavy, though, and he wouldn't necessarily be a rental. He and his new team could be comfortable exercising his $10 million mutual option for 2019.
23. Matt Harvey, SP, Cincinnati Reds
According to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cincinnati Reds are already aiming to increase their payroll in 2019. That could preclude them from dealing any of their controllable players.
To that end, Matt Harvey is the only exception.
Harvey was broken every which way when the Reds acquired him from the New York Mets in May. He's since been rebuilt, mainly through improved fastball velocity and sharper control. Up until his Sunday dud against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he had a solid 3.64 ERA in 12 starts as a Red.
To be sure, the 29-year-old is a far cry from the overpowering force he was in 2013 and 2015. Serious injuries to his arm and shoulder have seen to that.
Nonetheless, it's not for nothing that Harvey is back to being an effective starter. Plenty of contenders could use one, and his $5.6 million salary shouldn't scare them off.
22. Tyson Ross, SP, San Diego Padres
Also in the realm of effective rental starters is another one-time All-Star who's rejuvenated his career in 2018: Tyson Ross.
The right-hander was quietly one of the better pitchers in the National League in 2013, 2014 and 2015, but trouble with his shoulder (including thoracic outlet surgery) limited him to 13 unspectacular appearances in 2016 and 2017. He was a reclamation project when he reunited with the San Diego Padres.
Ross, 31, has since been reclaimed with a 4.29 ERA over 20 starts. He doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but he shows three distinct movements on his four-seamer, sinker and cutter, and he still has a quality slider. Among the benefits are 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a steady diet of soft contact.
Harvey and Ross are a push in terms of quality. But since Ross is earning just $1.8 million, he has a slight edge in appeal.
21. Cole Hamels, SP, Texas Rangers
Whereas Harvey's and Ross' contracts aren't big hurdles standing in the way of trades, Cole Hamels is making $22.5 million with at least a $6 million buyout due after the season. He also has a no-trade clause that covers two-thirds of MLB.
To boot, the Texas Rangers' 34-year-old is trending in the wrong direction. He started with a 3.38 ERA through his first 10 starts, but he's put up a 6.14 ERA over his last 10.
And yet, there are silver linings. One is that Hamels has regained some fastball velocity as time has gone on. Another is that his contact rate has dipped back below the MLB average after shooting above it for the first time in his career in 2017.
Contenders can also covet Hamels' postseason experience. He owns a solid 3.48 ERA in 16 career playoff starts. Any more of that, and he could easily justify a deadline-day trade.
20. Nathan Eovaldi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
As rental starters go, Nathan Eovaldi seems to be flying under the radar. Perhaps it's because he's coming off Tommy John surgery. Or perhaps it's because he wasn't great even prior to Tommy John.
Whatever the case, the Tampa Bay Rays righty is more appealing than his 4.26 ERA lets on.
Eovaldi, 28, is still working in the upper 90s with his fastball. The difference is he's working higher in the zone with his heat, which helps to explain why his pop-up rate has rocketed through the roof.
All told, Eovaldi is looking like a solid mid-rotation rental. And he's only pulling in $2 million.
19. Leonys Martin, CF, Detroit Tigers
Adam Jones may be the biggest name out there, but any contender in need of a center fielder should consider Leonys Martin first.
He's long been known for his defense, and everything is A-OK in that department. Whether it's defensive runs saved, ultimate zone rating or outs above average, the metrics approve of Martin's glove work.
The Detroit Tigers are paying Martin just $1.8 million, and he must go through arbitration one more time before entering free agency after 2019. As such, he wouldn't just be a temporary solution.
18. Justin Smoak, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays don't necessarily have to enter a full-on rebuild, so they may have their hearts set on holding on to Justin Smoak. They're paying him only $4.1 million this year, and they hold what should only be an $8 million team option for 2019.
But as trade chips go, he may be too valuable not to cash in.
Smoak was a perennial disappointment right up until 2017, when he went off with an All-Star breakout that included an .883 OPS and 38 long balls. The 31-year-old has taken a step back in 2018 but only to an .844 OPS and 16 homers. Per the metrics, he's also played a solid first base.
The catch is that not many contenders have glaring needs at first base. For those that do, though, Smoak would be a fix for both this year and next.
17. Keone Kela, RHP, Texas Rangers
Any contender that covets Keone Kela had better be prepared to make a good offer for him. The Rangers control the right-hander through 2021, so there's no pressure on them to deal him.
He is, however, very much worth a good offer.
Kela has experienced ups and downs—including a demotion of his own making in 2017—in his four-year major league career, but strikeouts have been a constant. He's whiffed 11.0 batters per nine innings in his 178 appearances.
So it goes with a 10.9 K/9 rate in 2018. He's throwing a lot harder now than he was at the start of the year, and he still has a beautiful 12-to-6 curveball. Those weapons are particularly tough on righty batters, who've mustered only a .368 OPS against him.
At best, Kela is an ace closer. At worst, he's a shutdown specialist.
16. Kirby Yates, RHP, San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres have already subtracted Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from their bullpen. Kirby Yates may be next.
The 31-year-old came into 2018 with just a 4.78 ERA in 160 major league appearances. All of a sudden, he boasts a 1.40 ERA in 40 appearances, complete with 50 strikeouts and only 11 walks.
Behind this late bloomer's rise is one of the nastiest split-finger fastballs in existence. It's a dandy, and Yates is using it more frequently in tandem with his mid-90s fastball. That's helped keep his contact rate low while all but eliminating his home run problem.
There's also this: Yates is holding righty batters to a .213 OPS, the lowest of any qualified (minimum 50 batters faced) righty pitcher.
As a bonus, Yates is controlled through 2020. It'll cost a pretty penny, but whichever team trades for him will get to keep him for a while.
15. Kyle Barraclough, RHP, Miami Marlins
Kyle Barraclough gave up five runs and recorded only two outs the last time he took the mound.
Nevertheless, he still has a 2.45 ERA in 46 appearances as well as a 2.78 ERA across 212 career appearances in the majors. And his stuff is not to be trifled with.
Like most relievers, Barraclough works off a hard fastball that sits at 93.6 mph. Unlike most relievers, he has two secondary offerings he can rely on: a pretty good slider and a pretty good changeup. Thus he can be a weapon regardless of whether he has the platoon advantage:
- vs. RHB: .536 OPS
- vs. LHB: .572 OPS
Moreover, the 28-year-old is making just $1.1 million, and he won't be a free agent until after 2021. Whichever team pries him from the Miami Marlins stands to get good value for years on end.
14. Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins
After posting an .871 OPS and slamming 76 dingers across 2016 and 2017, Brian Dozier has regressed with a .717 OPS and 16 homers in 2018.
The Minnesota Twins' 31-year-old has also settled in as a below-average defender. Moreover, he might fail to reach double digits in stolen bases for the first time since his rookie year in 2012.
Don't give up on Dozier's bat, however.
He tends to accumulate the bulk of his production amid epic hot streaks. One of those may be beginning now, as Dozier is rocking an .838 OPS and five homers thus far in July. He's also more of a second-half hitter.
Dozier is making $9 million in the final year of a four-year contract. His remaining salary plus a prospect or two may not sound like a small price now, but it could prove to be a huge discount if he goes supernova.
13. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B, New York Mets
Now that the Mets have traded Familia, their next move must be to trade Asdrubal Cabrera.
He's not a perfect trade chip, as he looks the part of a 32-year-old with a lot of miles on his legs when he's on defense. He's rarely rated well throughout his career, and now his minus-17 defensive runs saved are far and away the worst of any second baseman.
On the plus side, the dude can hit.
After putting up a solid .780 OPS from 2015 to 2017, Cabrera has taken things a step further with an .809 OPS and 17 home runs this year. He's taken his good feel for hitting and tacked on a penchant for frequently hitting the ball hard.
Despite his defensive issues, the $8.3 million Cabrera's making in the final year of his contract isn't too steep. Contenders shouldn't be afraid to rent him for the stretch run.
12. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Unfortunately for the Kansas City Royals, Mike Moustakas has gone cold at the plate after a red-hot start. That's not doing his trade value any favors.
Contenders have a few things they can latch on to, however.
Moustakas still owns a solid .770 OPS and 19 home runs, and the ingredients for continued power production are there. The 29-year-old's fly-ball, pull and hard-hit rates are all in good shape.
After he posted below-average metrics in 2017, Moustakas' defense is also in good shape. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he's going to rate as an above-average third baseman for the third time in the last four years.
Plus, Moustakas' salary will only escalate to $7.7 million by the end of the year. That's not bad for a solid two-way third baseman. For that matter, even his $15 million mutual option for 2019 would constitute a fair deal.
11. Eduardo Escobar, SS, Minnesota Twins
After carving out a niche as a capable utility player from 2014 to 2017, Eduardo Escobar has emerged as an All-Star-caliber talent in 2018.
Through 94 games with the Twins, the 29-year-old boasts an .847 OPS and as many extra-base hits (53) as J.D. Martinez, Alex Bregman and Ozzie Albies. That's what you get when you combine an elevated fly-ball rate and an elevated hard-hit rate.
Interested parties may be just as enthused with Escobar's defensive versatility. He's primarily played shortstop and third base in his career, but he can also play second base and left field. That broadens his field of potential fits.
Throw in a $4.9 million salary in his final year before free agency, and Escobar checks all the boxes of a worthwhile rental.
10. J.A. Happ, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
J.A. Happ is making it all too easy to wonder if the trade rumors are getting to him.
Following a strong start, Toronto's 35-year-old lefty has regressed with a 6.03 ERA over his last six starts. That's not even counting the four unearned runs that scored on Mookie Betts' dramatic grand slam off Happ on July 12.
However, what came before all that makes it easy to give Happ a pass. Go back to when he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015, and he has a 3.34 ERA over his last 88 starts. Along the way, he's become a capable strikeout artist who's suppressed hard contact and collected soft contact.
If Happ gets back on track after all the rumors finally lead to something, he should easily be worth the remainder of his $13 million salary before he heads into free agency.
9. Derek Dietrich, LF, Miami Marlins
How best to sum up Derek Dietrich? Picture Escobar except with more club control.
Albeit in a platoon role against right-handed pitching, the Marlins' 29-year-old has racked up a .792 OPS since 2015. Though he's swinging too often for his own good this year, his power and ability to spray the ball around the field are helping him make up for it.
On the other hand, Dietrich's defense hasn't rated well at any one position. His versatility is nonetheless commendable. He's mostly been needed in left field in 2018. Before that, he logged significant time at third base and second base. He can also play first base.
Dietrich is making just $2.9 million with two more trips through arbitration due up in 2019 and 2020. It'll take a good offer to get him, but he stands to be a vital complementary piece for a contender.
8. Whit Merrifield, 2B, Kansas City Royals
Whit Merrifield didn't become a major league regular until he was 28. That's not how the typical recipe for a successful career starts.
And yet, Merrifield broke out with a .784 OPS, 19 homers and an American League-high 34 steals in 2017. His power has declined in 2018, but he's still rocking a .790 OPS with 18 steals. To boot, he's done so while splitting time at second base, center field, right field and first base.
Since Merrifield, now 29, is controlled through 2022, the Royals will need some convincing that moving him is in their best interests.
They can't dig their heels in too deep, however. Merrifield has bloomed too late for them to be counting on him as a long-term building block. Even if it's less than a king's ransom, they'll have to consider moving him to a contender with a greater need for him in the short term.
7. Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays don't have to trade Chris Archer. They're a halfway decent team with more than a halfway decent future, and he's under contract for cheap through 2021.
So, this comes down to whether they'll cave to the "significant interest" in Archer, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Still, Archer's arm is a treasure in its own right. And for all the nits that can be picked, he still excels at avoiding contact and not walking guys. These are strong indications that he's not a lost cause as an ace. With the right adjustments, he might pitch like a No. 1 again.
6. Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles effectively transitioned into a rebuilding phase when they traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. If they really want to lean into it, they'll field offers for their controllable youngsters.
Kevin Gausman is one. But between his relatively advanced age (27) and declining effectiveness, he doesn't have the same appeal as fellow right-hander Dylan Bundy.
Though the 25-year-old owns a pedestrian 4.25 ERA in four major league seasons, there's plenty to like about his progression as a pitcher. He's a capable strike-thrower who's pushing his contact rate ever southward. At work there is a low-90s fastball, a tight slider and a pretty good changeup.
Bundy is making only $1.6 million this year, and his club control carries through 2021. He won't come cheap in a trade, but he's worth going after as a guy with No. 1 potential.
5. Nicholas Castellanos, RF, Detroit Tigers
In some ways, Nicholas Castellanos is to this summer's market what J.D. Martinez was to last summer's market.
There's one way in which that is a bad thing. Just as Martinez was a bat-only asset, Castellanos is in the same boat. He rated terribly as a third baseman, and his move to right field hasn't been a cure.
But then there's the good thing: Castellanos is becoming an elite hitter.
After posting an .817 OPS across 2016 and 2017, the 26-year-old has an .861 OPS and 48 extra-base hits this season. Not unlike Martinez, he excels at keeping the ball off the ground and hitting it hard. He also has good power to the opposite field.
Castellanos is making $6.1 million in his penultimate year before free agency. Even if it means living with poor defense, it will be worth the trouble both this year and next to acquire his bat.
4. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
Once again, the Reds don't seem inclined to trade their controllable players. That may go double in the case of Scooter Gennett.
"Just from the talks that I've had with the guys in control of all those things, I feel like they want me here. I feel like, just from what I've been told, they want me here for the long term," Gennett said, per Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.
This isn't going to stop contenders from asking about Gennett, however. And one of them might just blow the Reds away with an offer.
After breaking out with an .874 OPS and 27 homers in 2017, Gennett has kept it up with an .876 OPS and 16 homers in 2018. And while he's not a great second baseman, he holds his own.
Throw in the modest $5.7 million salary Gennett is making in his second-to-last year before free agency, and he's a heck of a trade chip.
3. Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Since his seven-year, $27 million contract runs through 2020, the Reds have even more incentive to hold on to Raisel Iglesias than they do Gennett.
Unless, of course, somebody knocks their socks off with an offer.
It isn't just Iglesias' contract that makes him worth it. He's established himself as one of MLB's most electric relievers with a 2.46 ERA and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings across 140 appearances over the last three seasons. And his contact rate is only getting lower.
Iglesias, 28, works off a 95.1 mph fastball, and he can beat hitters with both a slider and a changeup. In theory, a new team could see his repertoire as an excuse to transition him into a starting role after 2018.
In the meantime, contenders on the lookout for a shutdown relief ace can't do any better than Iglesias.
2. J.T. Realmuto, C, Miami Marlins
Never mind Machado. The best position player on the trade market has been and still is J.T. Realmuto.
Mind you, there's a limit to how "on the trade market" he is. He's making only $2.9 million and he's not due for free agency until after 2020. Per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Marlins won't move him for anything less than an "astronomical" package.
He'd be worth it, though.
Realmuto always had as many skills as any catcher in baseball. Now he's putting them to use amid an All-Star breakout punctuated by an .877 OPS, 12 home runs and well-rounded defense. His 3.6 wins above replacement lead all catchers, according to Baseball Reference.
Since he's 27 years old, this may just be the beginning of Realmuto's reign.
1. Jacob deGrom, SP, New York Mets
The hard part will be convincing the Mets to part with Jacob deGrom. They control him through 2020 and, as covered by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, their ownership doesn't want to rebuild.
All the same, deGrom is this summer's biggest possible prize.
Beyond controllability, the 30-year-old boasts lots and lots of talent. He broke in as the NL Rookie of the Year in 2014, and all he's done is rack up a 2.77 ERA in 127 career starts.
So far in 2018, deGrom is working on an MLB-best 1.71 ERA with 159 strikeouts and only 32 walks in 131.1 innings. His fastball is at a career-high 95.5 mph, and it's just one pitch that's contributing to his lowest-ever contact rate. He has an excellent slider-changeup combination plus a curveball.
In short, deGrom is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. As long as they're rich in prospects, he should be on every contender's wish list.
Stats accurate through play Monday and courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball. Contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts. Special thanks to Rob Friedman for pitch GIFs.