Deal or No Deal: MLB Trade Predictions 2 Months from the 2019 Deadline
June is just about here, which means that the 2019 Major League Baseball season's July 31 trade deadline is just around the corner.
If you're looking for predictions for what will happen, you've come to the right place.
We've played a game of "Deal or No Deal" with 10 potential trade targets who we think will (five of those) or won't (five of those, too) be playing for new teams come August 1. These predictions are based partially on what's on the rumor mill. But for the most part, they're speculative.
We'll begin with the deals and end with the no-deals.
Deal: Will Smith Goes to Philadelphia Phillies
Now that the lid on the coffin of the San Francisco Giants' dynasty has been nailed down, the least they can do this summer is shop their pending free agents.
Will Smith isn't the most famous of the bunch, but he's arguably the best.
The 29-year-old left-hander was sidelined by Tommy John surgery in 2017, but he returned in 2018 to post a 2.55 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 53 innings. So it goes for Smith in 2019, as he boasts a 2.61 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.
Although there will be contenders aplenty after Smith, the Philadelphia Phillies are a safe guess to end up with him.
With the Atlanta Braves breathing down their necks in the National League East, it's all but certain that the Phillies will leave no stone unturned on the trade market. A bullpen upgrade is a priority, and Smith would be a good left-handed complement for Hector Neris in the late innings.
The Phillies' farm system isn't so deep anymore, but there should be more than enough in there to pay the cost to rent Smith for the stretch run.
Deal: Madison Bumgarner Goes to St. Louis Cardinals
The Smith sweepstakes will indeed be interesting, but there's little question that Madison Bumgarner is likely San Francisco's most valuable trade chip.
The "likely" is necessary because Bumgarner must first bring his results closer in line with expectations. The four-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion has a 4.10 ERA through 11 starts.
Plenty of clubs stick out as a reasonable fit for the 29-year-old lefty, but it's the St. Louis Cardinals who take the proverbial cake. Even their starting rotation's 4.58 ERA overstates how reliable it's been. Further, having a lefty to balance out the righties wouldn't hurt.
Unlike other clubs, the Cardinals may not be scared off by paying a potentially high acquisition cost just to rent Bumgarner. For one, they have the young talent to do a deal. For two, they have a habit of trading for rentals and then signing them to extensions.
Given that the Cardinals are on Bumgarner's no-trade list, he may indeed insist on such an arrangement.
Deal: Yasiel Puig Goes to Colorado Rockies
To be fair, the Cincinnati Reds' plus-36 run differential suggests that they're a lot better than their 25-29 record.
Nevertheless, it's getting late early for the Reds. If they can't narrow the large gap between them and the NL Central leaders, they'll have little choice but to put their pending free agents on the table.
Included among them is Yasiel Puig, who's basically to the hitting market what Bumgarner is to the pitching market. He could bring back a haul, but only if he first brings his .658 OPS closer to the .827 OPS he put up for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 and 2018.
Even assuming Puig does that, there will still be a question of which contender might be willing to rent the 28-year-old for the rest of the year. In lieu of the Cleveland Indians—who are going south in a hurry—the Colorado Rockies might be the top candidate to do so.
The Rockies are 23-15 since April 14, and that's despite an outfield that's produced 0.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. If they can get something done with the Reds, a trio of Puig, Charlie Blackmon and Raimel Tapia could fix that in no time.
Deal: Marcus Stroman Goes to San Diego Padres
Although the Toronto Blue Jays have already begun harvesting fruits from their rebuild, they're not about to ease up on amassing young talent.
According to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal (via Mike Johnston of Sportsnet.ca), the Blue Jays want to move first baseman Justin Smoak and right-handers Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez this summer.
Of the three, Stroman has the most value. He broke out as an ace in 2017, and he's now putting a rough 2018 behind him to the tune of a 2.74 ERA over 69 innings. What's more, the 28-year-old is under club control through 2020.
These notes are music to the ears of many front offices, but perhaps none more so than the San Diego Padres.
Also according to Rosenthal, the Padres are in the market for a No. 1 starter. They indeed have been for a while. And according to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, they were actively trying to trade for Stroman as recently as December 2018.
As for how the Padres might pay for Stroman, well, that part is simple. They came into the season with MLB's No. 1 farm system, and it's still well-stocked with talent.
Deal: Anthony Rendon Goes to Milwaukee Brewers
The Washington Nationals were supposed to remain a contender in the NL East even after losing Bryce Harper to the Phillies over the winter. In actuality, they're not much better than the Miami Marlins.
It's possible that this will ignite a fire sale that will completely burn down Washington's roster. It seems more likely, however, that the Nats will only go as far as putting their pending free agents on the block.
Most importantly, that means Anthony Rendon. The 28-year-old third baseman could have been an All-Star in 2014, 2017 or 2018. Now he definitely should be one, as he's rocking a 1.079 OPS through 41 games.
As for where Rendon might fit, Miguel Andujar's season-ending shoulder surgery casts the New York Yankees as an intriguing possibility. And yet we propose not to sleep on the Milwaukee Brewers.
The downfall of Travis Shaw has resulted in the Brewers getting only 0.1 WAR out of the hot corner. Beyond solving that problem, Rendon would combine with Christian Yelich to give the Brewers an arguably unparalleled middle-of-the-order duo.
Not a bad way to keep pace in the NL Central, and the Brewers might have just enough spare young talent to make it happen.
No Deal: Alex Gordon Stays with Kansas City Royals
After three straight disappointing seasons, Alex Gordon is back to playing like a star.
The .856 OPS that Gordon has through 50 games is blowing away the .665 mark he put up between 2016 and 2018. And while his defensive metrics aren't quite on par with his track record, chances are that the 35-year-old left fielder will be eyeing his seventh Gold Glove by season's end.
The Kansas City Royals may see a trade of Gordon as a way to net some prospects and shed some of his $20 million salary.
Not that many contenders need a left fielder, however, and then there's the even bigger roadblock of what Gordon himself wants. Like Adam Jones did last year, he seems very much willing to exercise his 10-and-5 rights and veto any trade.
"I don't want to play anywhere else," Gordon said, according to Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. "Yeah, I want to retire as a Royal. I've established my family here with my kids. This is home."
Altogether, Gordon isn't as much a trade chip in reality as he is in theory.
No Deal: Jose Abreu Stays with Chicago White Sox
Elsewhere in the American League Central, Jose Abreu is another veteran who could be tough to pry loose.
The Chicago White Sox are far behind the Minnesota Twins, so it would make sense for them to put Abreu out there and see what they might get for him. After all, he's a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger on a one-year, $16 million contract.
The 32-year-old's bat isn't what it once was, however. Between 2014 and 2017, Abreu averaged an .883 OPS and 31 home runs per year. He slipped to a .798 OPS in 2018, and he's only improved to an .805 OPS and 13 homers this year.
There's thus a question of whether Abreu is preferable to, say, Justin Smoak, Edwin Encarnacion or even Pablo Sandoval. To boot, there's the matter of if the White Sox even want to cut ties with him.
"He's been here throughout the early stages of this rebuild, and it's certainly very likely that he'll be here for the more enjoyable stages that lie ahead of us," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn recently said on MLB Network.
If anything, the White Sox might sooner extend Abreu than trade him.
No Deal: Aaron Sanchez Stays with Toronto Blue Jays
While the Blue Jays should have little trouble generating interest in Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez presents a different challenge.
For starters, there's the issue of the 26-year-old's health. An assortment of finger and hand maladies limited him to 28 starts over 2017 and 2018, and he's not out of the woods yet. Sanchez had to be pulled from his Monday assignment with a nail avulsion.
Moreover, the 2016 season in which Sanchez led the AL with a 3.00 ERA is looking more and more like an outlier. He's been unable to sustain that season's low walk rate, which has contributed to the 4.43 ERA he's posted over the last three seasons.
Between his youth, live arm and club control through 2020, there are indeed reasons for contenders to circle Sanchez anyway. But it takes two to tango, and whether the Blue Jays should trade him now is a fair question.
For them, a better play might be to hold off until the winter, or perhaps wait and hope that Sanchez will reestablish his value with a healthy and productive season in 2020.
No Deal: Trevor Bauer Stays with Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians started out well enough. But following an offseason defined by an exodus of stars, their 8-14 record since May 5 sure seems like a truer measure of their actual quality.
Between that and the vise-like grip the Minnesota Twins have on the AL Central lead, any speculation about the Indians selling at the trade deadline is well-founded. In particular, they might stand to make a killing on Trevor Bauer in the wake of his All-Star breakout in 2018.
It's no accident that the 28-year-old righty's ERA has risen from 2.21 to 3.99. His three true outcome (strikeouts, walks and home runs) rates have all taken a turn for the worse. And things are only getting worse, as he has a 6.25 ERA over his last six starts.
If Bauer was due for free agency this offseason, the Indians wouldn't have much choice but to shop him anyway. But since they control him through 2020, they don't need to sell low on him.
Since the same also goes for shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Indians may simply wait out the rest of 2019 and retool for 2020 over the winter.
No Deal: Zack Greinke Stays with Arizona Diamondbacks
It just wouldn't be any kind of trading season if there wasn't chatter about the Arizona Diamondbacks possibly unloading Zack Greinke.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today listed Greinke as a candidate to be moved this summer. Per Jeremy Cluff of AZCentral.com, Nightengale also said during a local radio spot that the Phillies and Yankees have been keeping an eye on the 35-year-old ace.
Greinke's value is certainly high at the moment. He was an All-Star in 2017 and 2018, and he's pitching even better in 2019 to the tune of a 2.78 ERA and 6.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Trouble is, the Snakes are in the thick of the NL wild-card race at 28-26. High value or not, that makes now an awkward time to seriously consider moving Greinke.
His contract is a whole 'nother complication. He's pulling in a $34.5 million salary this year, and $35 million salaries in 2020 and 2021. Even at this current talent level, the Diamondbacks would probably have to pay down some money to swap Greinke for legit young talent.
As it has been for the last couple years, this is a "never say never" sort of situation. Yet the Diamondbacks actually trading Greinke is still so much easier said than done.