One Realistic Trade Every MLB Team Should Make in 2019
There are trades teams would like to make, and there are the trades they can make.
These two things don't always align perfectly, but we have ideas for what each of the 30 clubs should do before Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline.
For non-contenders and select clubs on the bubble, these involve where valuable assets might go. For all others, they involve which much-needed players are within reach.
What's ideal for one team might not be ideal for the other, so prepare to come across different suggestions for different franchises (and a few shared targets).
We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Zack Greinke to the Philadelphia Phillies
The Arizona Diamondbacks are technically in the National League wild-card race, but their mediocre 2018 season and 16-20 mark since May 5 point them toward selling.
If that's where the Snakes end up, they'll look to move veteran ace Zack Greinke and the remainder of his $206.5 million contract. Due to the sheer size of his deal and his 15-team no-trade list, this won't be easy.
Yet a swap with the Philadelphia Phillies is possible. Greinke fits their need for a reliable starter, and he would cost them more money from their deep pockets than prospects from their No. 14 farm system.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Jeremy Cluff of the Arizona Republic), the Phillies have scouted the 35-year-old right-hander. Convincing him to waive his no-trade clause may be as simple as guaranteeing him more money.
Atlanta Braves: Brad Hand from the Cleveland Indians
Now that the Atlanta Braves have added 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel to their starting rotation, their attention belongs on their bullpen.
It arguably needs an upgrade even more than their rotation did. And with old friend Craig Kimbrel off the free-agent market, the Braves must consider their trade options.
Given the depth of their No. 2 farm system and their standing in the NL East, the Braves shouldn't view any available reliever as off limits. That includes Ken Giles, Shane Greene, Will Smith and, ideally, Brad Hand.
The 29-year-old left-hander is all but certain to be available if the Cleveland Indians throw in the towel on 2019. A deal with Atlanta would be a chance for them to capitalize on Hand's value—and a chance for the Braves to land a closer with a 0.91 ERA and a team-friendly contract through at least 2020.
Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini to the Colorado Rockies
Because Mychal Givens, Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy aren't having great seasons, the Baltimore Orioles should consider dealing Trey Mancini.
The 27-year-old got sidetracked in 2018 after he broke out as a rookie in 2017, but he's back to hitting with a .912 OPS and 14 home runs. He's under Baltimore's control through 2022, yet his age and the work to be done with the team's rebuild are strong incentives to sell high on him.
The Orioles might interest the Colorado Rockies in Mancini. Their offense has somehow been even worse than it was in 2018. Mancini could help fix that by platooning (he has a .935 OPS against lefties) with David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and Daniel Murphy in the outfield and at first base.
Further, the Rockies' solid prospect depth and contention window are conducive to a deal.
Boston Red Sox: David Hernandez from the Cincinnati Reds
Whether it's Brad Hand, Ken Giles, Shane Greene, Will Smith or someone else, the Boston Red Sox's bullpen would benefit from one of the top relievers on the trade market.
That may not be feasible, however. Boston's farm system was possibly MLB's worst even before rookie slugger Michael Chavis graduated from it. The club has also already exceeded the highest luxury-tax threshold ($246 million), so additional big salaries may be a no-go.
If the Red Sox must shop from the bargain bin, they could do worse than Cincinnati Reds righty David Hernandez.
The 34-year-old is earning just $2.5 million. And despite his 4.80 ERA, his appeal is heightened by his dominance against righty batters—a useful talent in an AL playoff race that's loaded with right-handed sluggers—and his rate of 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings.
Chicago Cubs: Jake Diekman from the Kansas City Royals
With Craig Kimbrel in the fold, the Chicago Cubs bullpen isn't an ugly duckling relative to their offense and starting pitching anymore.
But whereas the Red Sox need a bargain right-hander, the Cubs more so need a bargain left-hander who would effectively complete their bullpen mix. To this end, they should consider Jake Diekman.
Diekman only has a 4.28 ERA through 31 appearances with the Kansas City Royals, but that comes with 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a .488 OPS allowed to lefty batters. He's also earning just $2.25 million this season.
Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu to the Houston Astros
The end of the Chicago White Sox's rebuild is within sight, but a return to the postseason still looks like it'll have to wait until 2020.
This should have the White Sox preparing to trade their impending free agents, but general manager Rick Hahn has seemingly set aside veteran first baseman Jose Abreu as an exception.
"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," Hahn said in a recent MLB Network interview.
But if the White Sox determine they can always try to re-sign Abreu as a free agent after the season, they could look to cash in the value of his .789 OPS and 16 homers. There's no fit for him like the Houston Astros, who have prospects to spare and an offensive weakness (i.e., a .674 OPS) at first base to fix.
Cincinnati Reds: Tanner Roark to the New York Yankees
The Cincinnati Reds entered 2019 with several big-name rentals to possibly cash in at the trade deadline, but Yasiel Puig has slumped and Scooter Gennett (groin) and Alex Wood (back) have been injured.
Tanner Roark, however, is going strong. The 32-year-old has boosted his value with a 3.74 ERA and 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings through 13 starts, which cover 67.1 innings.
The Reds can't market Roark as an ace, but they should be able to generate interest in him among teams that need a reliable starter. The New York Yankees might bite.
According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, the Yankees were one of the favorites to sign Dallas Keuchel before the Braves got him. Roark is a solid Plan B who would fit nicely in the middle of their rotation, and he wouldn't cost too much from their middling farm system.
Cleveland Indians: Trevor Bauer to the San Diego Padres
The Cleveland Indians are in the running for the AL's second wild-card spot, and the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox may be their only competition.
Yet it's no secret that the Indians have had a disappointing year. And as Steve Adams covered well at MLB Trade Rumors, their many injuries and looming financial dilemmas could necessitate a summer fire sale.
If so, Trevor Bauer figures to be in high demand after he broke out as a Cy Young Award contender in 2018. Moreover, he's under club control through 2020.
There's a natural fit for him in San Diego, where Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says the Padres are seeking a No. 1 starting pitcher. And since they have baseball's top farm system and an excess of major league outfielders, neither Bauer nor any other trade chip is potentially beyond their price range.
Colorado Rockies: Howie Kendrick from the Washington Nationals
A trade for Trey Mancini is one idea, but the Colorado Rockies can do better in their search for a much-needed bat.
For instance, Howie Kendrick.
Assuming the Washington Nationals' disappointing season causes them to sell, Anthony Rendon will unquestionably be their most sought-after trade chip. But Kendrick (who's a fellow rental) is plenty appealing in his own right.
The 35-year-old has a long track record of quality hitting, and now he's hitting like a superstar with a .961 OPS and 11 home runs. He can also play three infield positions and the corner outfield spots. And all this for just a $4 million salary.
Detroit Tigers: Shane Greene to the Atlanta Braves
Slugging right fielder Nicholas Castellanos seemed to be the Detroit Tigers' top trade chip at the start of the season. But to this point, he's hurt his value by mustering only a .769 OPS and seven home runs.
Shane Greene, however, would help an awful lot of bullpens. The 30-year-old righty has a 1.00 ERA with 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings through his first 27 appearances. He also comes with club control through 2020.
Perhaps the two most obvious fits for Greene are the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. The former could use him as a setup man. The latter, as a closer.
As far as the Tigers are concerned, the Braves are the better trading partner on account of a farm system that ranks at No. 2 in MLB. A deal with them would be a chance to score some sweet young talent.
Houston Astros: Edwin Encarnacion from the Seattle Mariners
Jose Abreu would be a nice upgrade for the Houston Astros at first base, but they're better off targeting Edwin Encarnacion.
The 36-year-old slugger seemed to be fading as an offensive threat when the Seattle Mariners acquired him from the Cleveland Indians in December 2018. Not so much, as it turns out. Encarnacion has put up an .888 OPS and slammed 21 home runs.
Perhaps the only question is whether the Astros are interested in doing business with an AL West rival. But even if the Mariners eat a chunk of their $16.2 million commitment to Encarnacion, he still won't have value worthy of the Astros' assortment of blue-chip prospects, which helps.
Besides which, adding Encarnacion is kinda-sorta unfinished business for Houston.
Kansas City Royals: Whit Merrifield to the Colorado Rockies
The Kansas City Royals are ready to open for business, according to Feinsand, and only shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and third baseman Hunter Dozier will be off the table.
If so, the Royals are perhaps willing to trade Whit Merrifield. By way of his .800 OPS since 2017, his positional versatility and his club-friendly contract through 2022, they stand to get a nice haul for him in the right trade.
Merrifield fits well on a number of teams, but there's no place for him like a club that could use him as a primary second baseman and as a Johnny-on-the-spot utility player at other positions.
Once again, the Colorado Rockies make the grade. And while they don't have a ton of prospect depth to work with, they should have enough for Merrifield.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Leake from the Seattle Mariners
The Los Angeles Angels aren't good enough to be all-out buyers at the trade deadline, but they also aren't bad enough to tear it all down. For that matter, they even lack rentals with substantial trade value.
From their current position, the best thing the Angels can do is look to opportunistically add players for 2020 without giving up too much. To wit, they might take on contracts that other teams don't want anymore.
The Seattle Mariners may have just the guy in the person of veteran righty Mike Leake. His $80 million contract runs through 2020. Some of it is already being paid by the St. Louis Cardinals. Per ESPN's Jeff Passan, the Mariners might be willing to eat even more of it.
If yes, the Angels might stand to gain a solid, if unspectacular, starter for nothing they would miss.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Brad Hand from the Cleveland Indians
The Los Angeles Dodgers have everything they need, save for a fully functional bullpen.
Although Kenley Jansen has put his early-season struggles behind him, the Dodgers pen still has a 4.48 ERA for the season. To fix this, the only thing they must heed is Jansen's request that the team not bring in a new closer to challenge him for the role.
That might be an issue where Ken Giles and Shane Greene are concerned, but perhaps not with Brad Hand. Although he spent most of the last three seasons closing games for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, he began his stint with the latter sharing closer duties with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.
Besides which, Hand and the Dodgers make sense simply because he's the best reliever available, and they're a prospect-rich, relief-needy team with eyes on a World Series championship.
Miami Marlins: Neil Walker to the Boston Red Sox
The Miami Marlins were playing well for a moment there, but their season is still very much about making any progress they can with their rebuild.
To this end, it's not ideal that they're short on appealing trade chips. Assuming he recovers well from a quad strain, Neil Walker might be their best.
The 33-year-old switch-hitter offers positional versatility and a bat that's produced an .818 OPS. And he's only earning $2 million.
The Boston Red Sox could be just the team for Walker. He could answer either or both of the question marks that have recently emerged over their second base and first base slots, and he could play left field or right field as needed. Plus, he would fit nicely in their limited price range.
Milwaukee Brewers: Madison Bumgarner from the San Francisco Giants
After the Chicago Cubs upgraded their pitching staff with a much-needed reliever, the Milwaukee Brewers should add a much-needed starter to their rotation.
At this point, highlighting Madison Bumgarner as the fix for what ails the Brewers is a broken-record thing. The four-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion nonetheless is such a fix, as his reliability and big-game ability are exactly what's needed in Milwaukee.
According to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, the San Francisco Giants asked for one of Milwaukee's young pitchers—e.g., Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff—for Bumgarner in January.
The Brewers can still pay that price, and convincing Bumgarner to waive his no-trade protection may be a simple matter of offering him some money.
Minnesota Twins: Ken Giles from the Toronto Blue Jays
According to Dan Hayes of The Athletic, the Minnesota Twins "pushed hard" for Craig Kimbrel before he signed with the Chicago Cubs.
That's a strong signs they're aware of their bullpen's shortcomings. It's probably better than its 4.73 ERA indicates, but there's something of a talent vacuum around overpowering lefty Taylor Rogers. Specifically, righty closer Blake Parker has been vulnerable all season.
With a top-10 farm system at their disposal and a World Series run in their sights, the Twins can consider all options. But rather than trade within the AL Central for Brad Hand or Shane Greene, they can do just as well by sending prospects to the AL East for Ken Giles.
This is health permitting, of course, as the Toronto Blue Jays placed the righty on the IL with elbow inflammation on Wednesday. But before that, he'd been dominating with a 1.08 ERA and 15.1 strikeouts per nine innings this season. Plus, he's under club control through 2020.
New York Mets: Mychal Givens from the Baltimore Orioles
Given that they're merely on the periphery of the NL East race, it's possible the New York Mets will sell at the trade deadline.
Yet that seems like a stretch. After new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen promised over the winter that the team would win now, the Mets will probably shoot their shot at the postseason even if they struggle to rise far above .500.
The Mets need relievers who could help reduce their bullpen's 5.13 ERA. For instance, they might consider Baltimore Orioles righty Mychal Givens.
He's a valuable trade chip in theory, but the 3.99 ERA he posted in 2018 is being followed by a 4.82 ERA in 2019. The Mets might buy low on him as a change-of-scenery candidate and then hope he reverts to his previous dominance under their watch. As a bonus, he'd be under their control through 2021.
New York Yankees: Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays
Tanner Roark is a sneaky possibility for the New York Yankees, but they have their sights set on shinier starting pitchers.
According to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, the Yankees have Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman on their radar. Either would boost a rotation that may not feature a vintage Luis Severino any time soon.
Between the two, however, Stroman should take precedence. Whereas Bumgarner is past his prime, Stroman is in the thick of his. He was a Cy Young Award contender in 2017, and he has a solid 3.31 ERA through 14 starts this season. He's also under club control through 2020.
Acquiring Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays would require the Yankees to trade precious prospects within the AL East. But he's probably the best starter they can get, and winning a World Series would make it all worth it.
Oakland Athletics: Liam Hendriks to the Tampa Bay Rays
The Oakland Athletics could go either way at the trade deadline. But if they continue to struggle to escape the .500 mark, selling will be pragmatic.
They're bound to get calls on righty closer Blake Treinen, but they'd be needlessly (he's under their control through 2020) selling low on him in the midst of his regression from a breakout 2018 season. A better idea would be to sell high on Liam Hendriks, who's posted a 1.69 ERA through 31 appearances.
If the A's do put Hendriks out there, the Tampa Bay Rays might bite.
They came in second place in the bidding for Craig Kimbrel, according to Rosenthal. Although Hendriks isn't quite a Kimbrel clone, he is a guy who would fit well in their eclectic pitching staff as a setup man, a multi-inning middle reliever or as an opener.
Philadelphia Phillies: Will Smith from the San Francisco Giants
After they lost Andrew McCutchen to a torn ACL and Odubel Herrera to administrative leave following his arrest on a domestic violence charge, it sure looked like the Philadelphia Phillies needed an outfielder.
Maybe not, after all. Bryce Harper is safe in right field, and the early returns from Jay Bruce in left field and Scott Kingery in center field have been overwhelmingly positive.
The Phillies bullpen, meanwhile, has been vulnerable all season. And now hard-throwing righty Seranthony Dominguez is saying he'll need a "miracle" to avoid having Tommy John surgery.
Major fixes such as Brad Hand, Ken Giles and Shane Greene may be within the Phillies' grasp, but none as much as San Francisco Giants lefty Will Smith. He boasts a 2.03 ERA and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings, but his value is somewhat limited by his rental status.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Francisco Liriano to the Los Angeles Dodgers
In Corey Dickerson and Melky Cabrera, the Pittsburgh Pirates have two capable corner outfielders to offer on the trade market.
Yet it's difficult to spot potential homes for them. The Cleveland Indians need corner outfielders, but they may not be buying. The Philadelphia Phillies would probably only add an outfielder who can handle center, and Pittsburgh may be much less willing to part with Starling Marte.
The Pirates figure to have an easier time moving Francisco Liriano, who's impressed with a 2.27 ERA over 31 appearances out of their bullpen. If nothing else, the Pirates can market the veteran as a traditionally dominant lefty specialist.
The Los Angeles Dodgers could be interested. They've thus far relied on Scott Alexander to do their left-handed dirty work, and that wasn't working out even before he landed on the IL with forearm inflammation.
San Diego Padres: Trevor Bauer from the Cleveland Indians
Finally, a trade that makes sense for both teams.
Although Trevor Bauer hasn't been as dominant in 2019 as he was in 2018, he still fits the mold of the No. 1 starter Rosenthal says the San Diego Padres are looking for. And according to Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of The Athletic, Bauer has been on San Diego's radar since at least March.
As far as the Cleveland Indians are concerned, trading Bauer to the Padres wouldn't necessarily have to be a first step into a rebuild. Rather than prospects who are years away, they could insist on players who could help bring about an immediate turnaround in 2020.
Slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe, for example, would be a sensible centerpiece. From there, the Indians might target an MLB-ready young pitcher (e.g. Cal Quantrill) who could fill Bauer's shoes.
San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner to the Minnesota Twins
The San Francisco Giants won't simply give Madison Bumgarner away. According to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, they're prepared to keep their long-time ace if suitable offers are not forthcoming.
In light of how much Bumgarner's excellence has diminished over the last three years, the Giants may indeed have a hard time finding the right offer for him. His no-trade clause will also complicate things, as it features eight teams that otherwise look like ideal trading partners.
The Minnesota Twins aren't on there, however, and that might work to both their and the Giants' advantage.
They arguably need a reliever more, but there is a need for a veteran ace like Bumgarner in the Twins rotation. Their farm system, meanwhile, has plenty of goodies for the Giants to choose from in trade talks.
Seattle Mariners: Edwin Encarnacion to the Houston Astros
A couple of days ago, the stars seemed aligned for the Seattle Mariners to make a killing on a potential Mitch Haniger trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.
But then Jay Bruce and Scott Kingery came to their rescue, and Haniger landed on the IL after (cringe incoming) he ruptured a testicle on a foul ball.
Now, probably the best trade the Mariners can make is the same one that would work for the Houston Astros: One involving veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion.
For the Astros, such a deal would be a fairly straightforward means of cladding their already outstanding offense in iron. For the Mariners, it would be a chance to dump money and extract talent from an AL West rival. That's likely the best they can hope for, given how little trade value exists elsewhere on their roster.
St. Louis Cardinals: Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays
The St. Louis Cardinals have struggled to keep up with the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs, yet they may only be an impact starter away from finally asserting themselves in the NL Central race.
As for actually finding one, the Cardinals are seemingly disadvantaged by a weak farm system, but that picture is missing not-quite-prospect talents such as outfielder Tyler O'Neill and right-hander Alex Reyes.
In short, they could probably land Madison Bumgarner or Marcus Stroman. The only question may be which of them fits best in St. Louis.
The vote here is for Stroman just ahead of Bumgarner. The Cardinals wouldn't have to get around a no-trade clause to get him from the Toronto Blue Jays. Their outstanding infield would be a perfect match for his ground-ball style, and they'd control him through 2020.
Tampa Bay Rays: Ian Kennedy from the Kansas City Royals
It's hard to take anything else away from Rosenthal's report about their runner-up status for Craig Kimbrel. If there is something else to take away, though, it's that the Rays may sooner spend money on a pitching upgrade than sacrifice prospects for one.
If so, the Kansas City Royals await their call about Ian Kennedy.
After flaming out as a starter in 2018, Kennedy has redeemed himself in 2019 as a reliever with a 3.71 ERA and an impressive 8.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But since this isn't enough to justify his $16.5 million salaries for 2019 and 2020, maybe the Rays and Royals can split the remaining money and call it even.
Texas Rangers: Jeff Samardzija from the San Francisco Giants
The Texas Rangers' contender status through the middle of June is arguably the most surprising story of the 2019 season.
And they're prepared to dig in. According to Morosi, the Rangers are eyeing controllable starters to help a rotation that's been unpredictable (to put it lightly) outside veterans Mike Minor and Lance Lynn.
Yet the Rangers only have MLB's No. 29 farm system, so they probably couldn't be in the market for the top starters on the trade block even if they wanted to. They're likely stuck shopping for albatross contracts to take off another team's hands.
Two potentials are Seattle Mariners righty Mike Leake and San Francisco Giants righty Jeff Samardzija, both of whom are signed to big bucks through 2020. Samardzija would fit better in Texas, as the Rangers really don't want a ground-ball pitcher like Leake mixing with their porous infield.
Toronto Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman to the San Diego Padres
The Toronto Blue Jays are set up to do well at the trade deadline.
They can offer two talented starters (Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez), a dominant reliever (Ken Giles) and an underrated slugger (Justin Smoak). But if it's a question of which has the most value, Stroman would appear to be the obvious answer.
If another question is which team would fit the Blue Jays best as a trading partner, the San Diego Padres are likewise yet another obvious answer.
They were talking to the Blue Jays about Stroman in December 2018, according to Morosi, and their top-ranked farm system is certainly conducive to a trade. And much like the Cleveland Indians for Trevor Bauer, the Blue Jays would surely love to get some of San Diego's MLB-ready talent for Stroman.
Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon to the Milwaukee Brewers
The Washington Nationals have been making steady progress back toward the top of the NL East, but it looks like too little, too late.
This is to say that Anthony Rendon, who boasts a 1.076 OPS in his final season before free agency, should indeed be available this summer.
One complication for the Nationals is that not many contenders have an immediate need at third base. Maybe the Philadelphia Phillies do, but they're an NL East rival with bigger needs elsewhere. As such, the Nats may have to barter with a team that merely wants Rendon.
The Milwaukee Brewers might fit the bill. They could use an impact hitter to help out reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich. And while they don't have much in the way of prospects, their supply of young pitching could appeal to the Nationals, who almost certainly won't be looking to rebuild.