MLB Teams That Could Get Swindled at the Trade Deadline
MLB teams can find themselves desperate prior to the non-waiver trade deadline for numerous reasons.
Perhaps a contending team is in the midst of a slump and needs someone to fill a gap. Or maybe a rebuilding team must trade coveted players to the highest bidders before the clock strikes 4 p.m. ET on July 31.
A third category relates to keeping up with the Joneses: For example, National League teams may be more pressed to make a move with former Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado now a Los Angeles Dodger.
All three groups are represented on the following list of six teams.
After a 1-8 stretch capped by an 11-2 home loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers' season is on the brink. Granted, the Brew Crew occupy one of the two National League wild-card spots, but that could change quickly.
First, the NL is jam-packed. Through Sunday, eight teams were within 5.5 games of each other for the league's two play-in berths.
Second, the Brewers' schedule is brutal from late July through mid-August, starting with an eight-game West Coast swing to the first-place Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, who are 31-19 at home.
Milwaukee also has road series versus the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs, both of whom are in the thick of the playoff race.
The Brewers need to make a move if they want to stay afloat. Of note, Milwaukee may want to upgrade at second base: Four Brewers have played at least 12 games there this year, and none of them are managing better than a .693 OPS (per Baseball Prospectus, the average OPS at second base is .715).
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and The Athletic connected the Brewers with the Minnesota Twins' Brian Dozier (16 home runs, .724 OPS), and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported they are in on the New York Mets' Asdrubal Cabrera (17 home runs, .820 OPS). Either player would add pop to the lineup.
The question is which players the Brewers could make available in a deal for a veteran. Per Brad Ford of Brew Crew Ball, a group of second-tier prospects are "most likely to headline a trade for any plus rental or mid-grade player with control. Prospects falling into this category include Lucas Erceg, Luis Ortiz, Brett Phillips, Tristen Lutz, Corey Ray and Jacob Nottingham."
Dozier and Cabrera would be rentals (both are free agents after this season), and Minnesota or New York could get a great return if a few of the prospects in that aforementioned group are made available. Of note, third baseman Erceg is the third-ranked prospect in the Brewers' system, per MLB.com, and has a stellar 70 arm grade. Ortiz is a 22-year-old right-hander with 58 strikeouts in 57 innings in Double-A, and the 19-year-old Lutz has a .763 OPS in Single-A.
New York Yankees
It may seem odd to place the New York Yankees here, especially considering they had the game's second-best win-loss record entering Monday.
However, the Boston Red Sox reside in the same division, and they've won 14 of their last 16 games and 42 of their last 59 for a majors-best 70-31 mark. The Sox don't look like they will slow down any time soon.
That leaves the Yankees in a bind, as it's conceivable an excellent regular season will result in a one-game wild-card playoff. New York wants to avoid that situation, but if the Yanks can't find any starting pitching at the deadline, it seems inevitable.
Luis Severino has been the only consistent Yankees starter this year. CC Sabathia has a 3.51 ERA, but FanGraphs notes he has a 4.52 xFIP, which means regression could be on the way.
Promising southpaw Jordan Montgomery is out for the season after Tommy John surgery, Domingo German was sent back to Triple-A after struggling, Masahiro Tanaka is giving up too many home runs (18 in 83.1 innings), and Sonny Gray simply hasn't gotten it done (5.34 ERA in 19 starts).
Those aforementioned pitchers can be lights-out if they're in top form, but that hasn't been the case for anyone listed minus Severino. Simply put, the Yankees need to add a starter to shore up the rotation.
While Jack Curry of YES Network reported New York's elite prospects (e.g., left-handed starting pitcher Justus Sheffield and outfielder Clint Frazier) are untouchable, its farm system is stacked with talent. Other teams could tap into that depth.
Of note, 15 of the Yankees' 20 top prospects are right-handed pitchers, so perhaps they will be willing to part with some of that talent to obtain a major league-ready starter.
Right-handed pitcher Chance Adams is arguably the best of the bunch. He has a plus fastball and slider and ranks as the fourth-best prospect in the Yankees' system, per MLB.com. Though his 4.89 ERA in Triple-A isn't ideal, he's struck out 87 batters in 84.2 innings. Outfielder Billy McKinney, who has a .796 OPS in Triple-A, could also be involved in a trade.
New York Mets
Though the New York Mets aren't the worst team in baseball, they may be in the worst spot.
Unlike more than half of MLB's 30 teams, they aren't within striking distance of the postseason. If their farm system was stacked with top talent and the team was a few years from contending, that would be fine, but that isn't the case. Of note, Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com ranked the Mets' farm system 26th prior to the season.
It also doesn't help that the Mets reside in a city with a media market that will treat you like a king if you're great but kick you when you're down. Also, the fanbase has become somewhat apathetic, as the team ranks ninth out of the 15 NL teams in average attendance.
The Mets are desperate in the sense that it seems like they have to do something given the circumstances. The trade of closer Jeurys Familia to the Oakland Athletics seems like a move the Mets felt they had to make, and the A's pulled off a heist.
Familia is a proven closer with 17 saves and a 2.74 ERA this year. In return, New York received Will Toffey, a 23-year-old third baseman who is hitting .244 in High-A, and Bobby Wahl, a 26-year-old reliever who has made just seven relief appearances in the bigs (4.70 ERA in 2017). Oakland also gave the Mets international bonus pool money.
Toffey and Wahl could be late bloomers who play key roles for the Mets someday, but on the surface, the A's won the deal. Could another team take New York for a ride? That seems like a possibility given the Familia return, and it wouldn't be surprising if another team offered less-than-equal value in exchange for another Mets veteran.
The Orioles' season has been a disaster, as the team sports an MLB-worst 28-72 record. The Machado deal kicked off a rebuild, and the O's aren't done.
Baltimore needs to trade anyone it can before the deadline. Contending teams are desperate for arms and position players, so the window is now for the Orioles to restock their farm system.
They should be able to do so based on recent reports. For example, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com noted at least seven teams are in the mix for left-handed reliever Zach Britton. He also noted the Orioles want to increase the pace of the talks.
Elsewhere, Rosenthal reported the Colorado Rockies are looking into Orioles starters Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, and Roch Kubatko of MASN said those pitchers plus second baseman Jonathan Schoop are coveted by at least a couple of teams.
Furthermore, Britton will be a free agent this offseason, so the Orioles would risk losing him for nothing if they don't deal him now. Baltimore needs to act fast to secure the best packages.
A fire sale seems inevitable, but the issue is the Orioles may not have a ton of leverage outside a potential Britton deal. Teams aren't knocking down the door for Baltimore's other free agents-to-be (e.g., Adam Jones, Brad Brach), and the clock is ticking toward the deadline, so the O's may be forced to sell for less value than they desire.
Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are lumped together because they are in similar situations.
With Machado a Dodger, L.A. is the clear favorite to win the National League West. FanGraphs gives the Dodgers an 84.5 percent chance to win the division, with the D-backs (9.7 percent) and Rockies (4.3 percent) far behind.
All three teams are within two games, but L.A. is in the midst of a 39-18 stretch. Arizona and Colorado need to make moves if they are to have a shot at the division (or even the wild card).
The Diamondbacks are 23rd in team OPS (.704), and that's the worst mark of any team with a winning record. They need more pop to contend down the stretch, which is why they are reportedly after Cabrera, per Feinsand.
The Rockies need bullpen help, as they rank third-worst with a 5.17 relievers' ERA. As noted before, Britton is the most sought-after reliever on the trade market. A lot of teams are inquiring about him, including the Rockies, per Jon Heyman of Fancred, so Colorado may have to go over the top in a Britton deal.
The Diamondbacks and Rockies can't afford to stand pat, which is why they may make splashes prior to July 31.
Jason Catania of MLB.com noted Arizona prospect Jon Duplantier, a 24-year-old right-hander ranked 59th on MLB.com's top 100 prospects list, could be on the move. He missed nearly two months with biceps tendinitis but made his return Sunday, throwing three shutout innings with five strikeouts in the Arizona League.
When healthy, Duplantier has excelled to the tune of a 2.52 ERA in seven starts in Double-A. Jon Morosi of MLB Network and Fox Sports reported the O's were interested in Duplantier, and that could be a starting point in a Britton deal.
As for the Rockies, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post explained why this could be a crucial deadline for the team in a mailbag: "I've believed since early this month that general manager Jeff Bridich has no choice except to be a buyer at the trade deadline, because this could be the last best chance to get [four-time All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado] to the playoffs and have any chance to convince him Colorado is the place he wants to play long term."
The 27-year-old Arenado, who has 25 home runs, 72 RBI and a .985 OPS, will be a free agent in 2020. If Colorado doesn't position itself as a playoff-contending team this year, it may give its star an incentive to find a better chance to win.