1 Trade Prediction for Each MLB Team as 2019 Season Starts Up
The 2019 MLB regular season technically kicked off March 20, when the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners met at the Tokyo Dome in Japan to send Ichiro Suzuki out in style. The other 28 squads will play their first meaningful games Thursday.
That said, it's not too early to gaze ahead at possible trades every club could make during the '19 campaign.
Obviously, at this point, we're engaging in crystal-ball conjecture. Injuries and the performance of various players and teams will undoubtedly shift the calculus.
But, for the purposes of this exercise, we identified 15 speculative non-waiver trade-deadline buyers and 15 sellers and looked for logical matches based on potential needs and any recent credible rumors.
Arizona Diamondbacks Trade Zack Greinke to Milwaukee Brewers
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in a state of limbo after trading franchise star Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Are they rebuilding? Retooling? Or some combination of the two?
If the answer is rebuilding, they should try their best to trade right-hander Zack Greinke and a portion of the $104.5 million remaining on his contract, which runs through 2021.
No team will swallow the whole deal, but Greinke is a decorated veteran who posted a 3.21 ERA in 207.1 innings last season.
He'd be an excellent fit for the Milwaukee Brewers, who marched to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in 2018 but could use a proven ace with postseason experience.
The Brew Crew gave up a gaudy package headlined by outfielder Lorenzo Cain to acquire Greinke from the Kansas City Royals in December 2010. He went 11-0 with a 3.31 ERA at Miller Park that season, and Milwaukee advanced to the National League Championship Series. But the Brewers dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels the following year.
Now, Cain is a Brewer. In a neat bit of symmetry, Milwaukee ought to be able to bring back Greinke for a couple of midtier prospects, provided the team eats a meaningful hunk of his salary.
Atlanta Braves Acquire Madison Bumgarner from San Francisco Giants
The up-and-coming Atlanta Braves blossomed ahead of schedule in 2018 and won the NL East. If they want to repeat the feat, they may need reinforcements.
They play in a stacked division featuring four teams that could plausibly claim first place. Their rotation, like Milwaukee's, lacks an October-proven ace.
The San Francisco Giants held on to Madison Bumgarner this winter and are at least ostensibly trying to contend. But they made no major additions to a roster that lost 89 games last season.
Bumgarner is in his contract year. He has Southern roots in Hickory, North Carolina. He's one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time.
The Giants, meanwhile, have a ho-hum farm system, while the Braves are flush with MiLB blue chips. This feels like a marriage that's meant to be—and one that should be consummated if the Giants have faded from contention by July and the Braves are locked in a tight divisional battle.
Baltimore Orioles Trade Mychal Givens to Boston Red Sox
The Baltimore Orioles are rebuilding after a disastrous 115-loss season. They don't have many marquee trade assets left on their roster, but they should jettison what little they have.
The Boston Red Sox have a so-so farm system but need help in the bullpen, assuming they let still-unsigned closer Craig Kimbrel walk via free agency.
Orioles right-hander Mychal Givens has coughed up nine earned runs in 5.2 innings this spring (not a great look), but he was an effective late-inning arm in 2018.
The 28-year-old nailed down nine saves and struck out 79 in 76.2 innings. He's not among the game's elite relievers, meaning the Sox could snag him while hanging on to their few high-level prospects, including infielder Michael Chavis.
Chicago Cubs Acquire Joakim Soria from Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics won 97 games in 2018. Clearly, they plan to compete this season.
On the other hand, the small-market A's are always looking to flip assets and acquire cost-controlled talent. Unless the team is in a strong playoff position in July, executive Billy Beane and Co. will be willing to listen to offers for anyone.
That includes reliever Joakim Soria, who posted a 3.12 ERA with 16 saves and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings last season and signed a two-year, $15 million deal with Oakland this winter.
Again, if the A's are seriously contending, Soria will stay put. But if they've faded to the fringes, the 34-year-old right-hander could fetch a decent return from a contender such as the Chicago Cubs.
Closer Brandon Morrow is still working his way back from a right-arm bone bruise, and the Cubs bullpen features its share of questions.
Chicago isn't loaded with top prospects, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Beane could put their heads together and reach a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Chicago White Sox Trade Jose Abreu to Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays won 90 games last season and are a sneaky American League contender, even in the top-heavy AL East.
They may not challenge the Red Sox or New York Yankees for the division title, but a wild-card berth is within their grasp. Still, they could stand to add pop to a lineup that finished 27th with 150 home runs last season.
Assuming the Chicago White Sox don't vault from intriguing rebuilder to legitimate playoff hopeful in 2019, they should shop first baseman Jose Abreu at the July 31 deadline.
The 32-year-old was an All-Star last season and swatted 22 home runs for the ChiSox. He's also entering his contract year.
The low-budget Rays can't afford to give up any top prospects, but assuming Tampa Bay is indeed in the postseason hunt, it has enough depth to entice Chicago with a system Bleacher Report ranks No. 5.
Cincinnati Reds Trade Yasiel Puig to Colorado Rockies
Credit the Cincinnati Reds for tenacity. Despite playing in MLB's deepest division and seemingly being in the midst of a rebuild, they made aggressive moves this winter with an eye on contending.
Among those moves: acquiring outfielder Yasiel Puig (along with outfielder Matt Kemp and left-hander Alex Wood) from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Puig is entering his contract year and, despite his mercurial past, is coming off a season in which he posted an .820 OPS with 23 homers and 15 stolen bases.
Assuming he can replicate those numbers and assuming the Reds, despite their best efforts, have slipped in the standings by the summer, Puig could be an enticing bit of trade bait.
Any number of clubs may come calling, but imagine Puig taking his hacks at Coors Field.
The Colorado Rockies are counting on Ian Desmond to be a key piece of their outfield. The 33-year-old hit .236 last season.
He's hit well this spring. But if he backslides, the Rox need a Plan B as they try to make a third consecutive postseason appearance.
That plan could be Puig. Plus, considering he'd be a rental, the brash 28-year-old wouldn't cost anything close to infielder and top prospect Brendan Rodgers.
Cleveland Indians Acquire Nicholas Castellanos from Detroit Tigers
The Cleveland Indians' outfield depth chart is topped by the trio of Jordan Luplow (.644 career OPS), Leonys Martin (.673 career OPS) and Tyler Naquin (.785 career OPS).
Needless to say, the defending AL Central champs could use an upgrade.
They were never going to sign a player of Bryce Harper's price and caliber, but they could target the Detroit Tigers' Nicholas Castellanos.
The 27-year-old hit .298 with 23 home runs and an .854 OPS in 2018 and is entering his contract year.
Assuming the Tigers are willing to deal within the division, the Tribe could probably grab him for a mid-level prospect or two while shoring up a glaring weakness.
Houston Astros Acquire Chris Archer from Pittsburgh Pirates
The Houston Astros have one of the better one-two combos atop their rotation in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. After that, the picture is a bit murkier.
Charlie Morton exited via free agency and still-unsigned Dallas Keuchel could soon follow. Lance McCullers Jr. is out after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
If the 'Stros want to regain Junior Circuit supremacy, they might need another ace.
Last summer, the Tampa Bay Rays traded right-hander Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates. If the Pirates don't make a surprise run in the loaded NL Central and have sagged in the standings by July, they might be willing to flip Archer at the deadline.
It would surely take a rich package, considering Archer is inked through 2021 with a pair of affordable team options. The Astros might have to surrender outfielder and touted prospect Kyle Tucker.
For the chance to hoist another Commissioner's Trophy, it could be worth it.
Kansas City Royals Trade Whit Merrifield to Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are penciling in Enrique Hernandez at second base. Hernandez is a nice ancillary player, but a guy with a .242 career average and .751 career OPS isn't the best look for a team that's desperate for a title.
If the Dodgers go shopping before the deadline, they could try to pry Whit Merrifield away from the Kansas City Royals.
Merrifield hit .304 with an .806 OPS in 2018 and led the majors with 45 stolen bases. The 30-year-old is controllable through 2023 with a team option and would require the Dodgers to surrender multiple top prospects.
Still, it could be a win-win. The Royals have a thin farm system and are beginning what should be a prolonged rebuild. And Los Angeles, as stated, needs to do everything possible to win it all after two consecutive World Series losses.
Los Angeles Angels Acquire Marcus Stroman from Toronto Blue Jays
The Los Angeles Angels just made Mike Trout a very wealthy man and ensured the greatest player in baseball with be a Halo for life. Now, they need to build a legitimate winning roster around him.
The Angels have multiple areas of need, but the starting rotation might be the most pressing. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney both posted plus-4.00 ERAs last season, and Matt Harvey is a lottery ticket at best. Trevor Cahill? Not a savior.
Los Angeles could still sign Keuchel. If the Angels don't, they might go after Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman.
The 27-year-old had a rough season in 2018, as he posted a 5.54 ERA in 102.1 innings. But he was a top-10 Cy Young Award finisher as recently as 2017 and is under club control through 2020.
Outfielder and top Angels prospect Jo Adell should be off-limits, but Los Angeles could dip into the middle tier of a rebuilt farm system to coax Stroman away from the rebuilding Jays.
Miami Marlins Trade Sergio Romo to Minnesota Twins
The Miami Marlins could lose 100 games in 2019. They traded All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto this winter and play in the NL East, one of the deepest divisions in baseball.
Assuming they're selling this summer, they might find takers for veteran right-hander Sergio Romo.
Romo was part of the pioneering "opener" experiment last season with Tampa Bay and finished with 25 saves and 10 strikeouts per nine innings in 73 appearances.
The Fish signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million deal and might move him to a contender in need of bullpen help...which is to say, basically every contender come July.
We'll toss out the Minnesota Twins, who have a shot at contending in the soft AL Central. Their relievers posted a 4.45 ERA last season, and the Twinkies made no major offseason bullpen upgrades.
Romo wouldn't be a savior, but he's playoff-tested from his days with the Giants and wouldn't cost a ton in prospects.
New York Mets Trade Edwin Diaz to St. Louis Cardinals
The New York Mets made an array of moves this winter aimed at contending, including acquiring second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from the Mariners. New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen is going for it.
It could work if the Mets' starting rotation stays healthy. That's a massive "if" after two consecutive losing seasons and various injuries to key arms such as Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.
Maybe it'll work. Maybe New York will elbow its way back into the postseason. If the Mets don't, Van Wagenen will feel pressure to tear it down.
In that eventuality, one of his glitziest assets will be Diaz. The 25-year-old averaged 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018 and posted a 1.96 ERA with an MLB-leading 57 saves.
You could argue the Mets should hang on to him regardless. But he could yield a farm-system-draining package for a contender in need of relief help.
The St. Louis Cardinals added veteran left-hander Andrew Miller via free agency this winter, but he's coming off an injury-marred campaign in which he posted a 4.24 ERA in 34 innings. The Cardinals could roll with Miller and youngsters such as Jordan Hicks (22 years old) and Alex Reyes (24) and hope for the best.
Or, as they seek to contend in the NL Central, they could flip some of their top MiLB talent and/or an arm like Hicks or Reyes for Diaz. Again, assuming the Mets are selling.
New York Yankees Acquire Mike Minor from Texas Rangers
The New York Yankees added left-hander James Paxton in a trade with the Mariners this offseason. That was their big pitching acquisition as they jockey for top position with the Red Sox in the AL East.
Now, however, ostensible co-ace Luis Severino is battling a shoulder injury and will be out until at least early May.
If Severino's injury lingers and Paxton struggles in the hitter-happy confines of Yankee Stadium, the Yanks could look to add another starter.
They won't panic and sign Keuchel, but they could try to reel in a mid-rotation hurler such as Texas Rangers left-hander Mike Minor.
Minor is no one's idea of a No. 1, but he has experience in both the bullpen and the starting rotation and would offer New York needed depth and flexibility without decimating the farm system.
Philadelphia Phillies Acquire Mike Leake from Seattle Mariners
Hey, not sure if you heard, but the Philadelphia Phillies made a pretty big signing this offseason.
In addition to Bryce Harper, the Phils acquired shortstop Jean Segura from the Mariners, signed outfielder Andrew McCutchen (three years, $50 million), acquired catcher Realmuto from Miami and landed reliever David Robertson (two years, $23 million).
If they're serious about winning the NL East, they may need more starting pitching behind ace Aaron Nola.
A dark-horse charge for Keuchel isn't beyond the realm of possibility. More likely, the Phils will wait until closer to the trade deadline and go after a complementary pitcher such as right-hander Mike Leake, who chewed through 185.2 workmanlike innings with the Mariners last season.
He has a no-trade clause, per MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal. He won't front the Phils' starting corps. But his desire to pitch for a winner could override the former, and he could be the experienced hurler who pushes Philadelphia over the top.
San Diego Padres Trade Kirby Yates to Washington Nationals
The San Diego Padres signed superstar infielder Manny Machado for 10 years and $300 million this offseason. They boast the game's No. 1 MiLB system.
They're also unlikely to compete in a top-heavy NL West until at least 2020. They should be sellers at the 2019 deadline even as they call up future stars such as infielder Fernando Tatis Jr.
Right-handed reliever Kirby Yates could fetch a hefty return after he posted a 2.14 ERA with 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 63 frames.
He's controllable through 2020 and could add even more high-upside prospects to the Friars' already-stacked farm.
One club that could grab him? The Washington Nationals, who are facing an uphill battle in the post-Harper era and could use help at the back end of the bullpen.
Outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles are undoubtedly off the menu. But the Nats should be prepared to surrender minor league pieces to win in the moment, and the Padres should be ready to pick up the phone.