Deal or No Deal: MLB Trade Predictions 1 Month from the 2019 Deadline
With MLB trade season set to kick into high gear as July approaches, it's the perfect time for a round of predictions.
We've highlighted 16 players who will hear their names mentioned often in the rumor mill and broken them into two categories:
- Deal: We think these players will be on the move. We've also proposed destinations. One way or another, expect them to be dealt.
- No Deal: We expect these players to stay put. Whether it's because of a high asking price or an unwillingness by their teams to make them readily available, these guys will not be dealt.
Easy enough, right?
Let's get to it.
No Deal: 1B Jose Abreu Stays Put
The value Jose Abreu brings to the Chicago White Sox stretches beyond his on-field contributions.
The 32-year-old is one of the few veteran voices in a young clubhouse, and by all accounts, he's the leader of a team on the rise.
He's also not particularly valuable from an outside standpoint.
While he has tallied 18 home runs and 55 RBI on the year, Abreu has a dismal .295 on-base percentage, which stems from a downturn in his walk rate (-1.5%) alongside a career-low .255 batting average.
He's also making $16 million in his final year of arbitration, so acquiring him would represent a significant financial commitment, especially for teams that face the luxury-tax threshold.
The most likely outcome would seem to be that he re-ups with the White Sox this offseason at a discounted rate. As we've seen in recent years, the market for one-dimensional sluggers is virtually nonexistent.
Deal: 1B Justin Smoak Traded to the Boston Red Sox
The health of Justin Smoak might determine whether he's moved this summer.
The 32-year-old recently landed on the injured list with a left quad strain, and he has not played since June 14 while nursing the injury. Even if he returns in short order, it's reason enough to give teams pause if they might pursue him.
Still, with a 114 OPS+ and 12 home runs on the year, there should be a market for Smoak's services. The Toronto Blue Jays will be motivated to deal; his free agency is looming, and their young players are looking for playing time.
The Boston Red Sox swung a deal with the Blue Jays last season to acquire Steve Pearce, which worked out well. However, with Pearce and platoon partner Mitch Moreland both currently on the injured list, the Red Sox have shifted rookie Michael Chavis to first base and used a combination of Brock Holt, Marco Hernandez and Eduardo Nunez to man second base.
Adding Smoak would allow them to return Chavis to the keystone and Holt to the super-utility role where he has thrived in recent seasons. And as a pure rental, it won't cost much in terms of prospects, which is ideal given the state of the Red Sox farm system.
No Deal: SP Caleb Smith Stays Put
The Miami Marlins are still a long way from contending and on pace for another 90-loss season.
However, the young starting rotation has provided some reason for optimism, and a breakout performance from left-hander Caleb Smith has been the biggest story.
The 27-year-old has a 3.41 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 82 strikeouts in 66 innings. While he's currently on the injured list with a sore hip, there would no doubt be an outpouring of interest if he were made available.
It doesn't sound like that's going to happen.
According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins have "no intention" of trading Smith or any of their "controllable, core starters."
Teams will no doubt inquire, and the Miami front office would be wise to at least gauge the market, but it doesn't sound like Smith is going anywhere.
Deal: RP Ken Giles Traded to the Atlanta Braves
John Lott of The Athletic recently highlighted the strides Ken Giles has taken since the Houston Astros traded him to the Blue Jays last summer, emerging as a leader in the clubhouse and a force in the late innings.
The 28-year-old came to Toronto in the deal that sent Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros. He's been lights out this season, converting 12 of 13 save chances with a 1.33 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a career-high 15.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 27 appearances.
It sounds like Giles would prefer to stay put.
"I love it here," Giles told Lott. "If I had the choice, I would stay here. But that's out of my hands. All I can do is do my job and help the younger guys as much as possible. Whatever happens, I'll always be rooting for these guys."
For a rebuilding team like the Blue Jays, though, a standout closer is more of a luxury than a necessity, and selling high makes a ton of sense.
The closer's role has seemingly been in flux for the Atlanta Braves since they traded Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres prior to the 2015 season.
With another year of arbitration remaining, Giles would be more than a Band-Aid solution. The Braves have a loaded farm system at their disposal and a glaring need; he seems like the ideal target for the NL East leaders.
No Deal: 1B/OF Trey Mancini Stays Put
The Baltimore Orioles lack controllable talent to build around at the MLB level.
To that point, it would seem counterproductive to deal Trey Mancini, who has been arguably the team's best player this year and is under control through the 2022 season.
The 27-year-old is hitting .303/.362/.557 for a 142 OPS+ with 17 home runs. An uptick in his fly-ball (+6.8%) and hard-contact (+4.1%) rates lends some credibility to his breakout performance.
"I don't know if it's even arguable. He's the best player on our team right now," general manager Mike Elias told reporters. "A .900 OPS, he's a sure-fire All-Star in my eyes, great in the clubhouse, home runs, hitting for average. You name it. So we're not looking to part with Trey. That said, as I've said all along, we're open to anything."
It sounds like the O's would have to be blown away to consider moving Mancini. Even if they do make him available, there's a good chance Baltimore will value him higher than the market, and he'll wind up staying put as a result.
Deal: RF Nicholas Castellanos Traded to the Cleveland Indians
An offensive threat at the plate and a defensive liability in the outfield, Nicholas Castellanos rejected the idea of a move to first base down the stretch last season. Earlier this month, he expanded on his reasoning.
"I told them, if you offer me an extension and show me that I'm a piece of the future, I'll play first. I'll even throw bullpens for you. But give me that security," Castellanos told reporters.
It does not appear the Detroit Tigers have taken any recent steps toward an extension with the soon-to-be free agent, and Castellanos can be counted among those who don't think it's going to happen.
"I don't have a college education. But I can pick up the pieces and put a puzzle together. I'm not saying that this is 100 percent what it's going to be, but if I'm a gambling man, I don't see [the Tigers] offering me an extension at this point in time," Castellanos said.
With that in mind, there might not be a more sure-fire candidate to be moved this summer, and the Cleveland Indians have a glaring hole in the outfield.
The left field position has produced a .672 OPS that ranks 28th in the majors, ahead of only the San Francisco Giants (.584) and Miami Marlins (.548), and the team has used four different starting left fielders in the past six games. Castellanos has a .788 OPS with 35 extra-base hits in 315 plate appearances.
The Tigers have little leverage in negotiations, and the market could be limited given his defensive shortcomings, so the Indians could get a deal done for pennies on the dollar.
No Deal: 2B/OF Whit Merrifield Stays Put
As the best player on a rebuilding Kansas City Royals team, Whit Merrifield is inevitably going to see his name pop up in the rumor mill.
However, general manager Dayton Moore did not mince words on the subject of his availability: "He's, I believe, one of the best players in all of baseball right now, so the ask would be just crazy."
The 30-year-old signed a team-friendly four-year, $16.25 million extension during the offseason that arguably makes him even more valuable than he was at this time a year ago.
He's hitting .304/.351/.507 with 39 extra-base hits and 11 steals, and he's been worth 11.7 WAR since the start of the 2017 season.
There's a case to be made that the Royals' best move would be to flip him for prospects, especially considering his age and their time frame for contention, but it doesn't sound like that's going to happen.
Deal: RP Shane Greene Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals were dealt a major blow when flame-throwing closer Jordan Hicks was lost for the season to a torn UCL that will require Tommy John surgery.
Starter-turned-reliever Carlos Martinez will fill the closer's role for the time being while John Gant and Andrew Miller serve as the primary setup options.
However, Martinez is probably best utilized in a multi-inning role, so the Cardinals could be in the market for a late-inning addition.
Considering Hicks will likely miss a good chunk of the 2020 season as well, targeting someone with control beyond this season makes sense, and Detroit Tigers standout Shane Greene fits the bill.
The 30-year-old has been virtually untouchable this year, posting a 0.90 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 while converting 21 of 22 save chances in 30 appearances.
He's making a reasonable $4 million this season and has one year of arbitration remaining, so this summer might be Detroit's best opportunity to sell high.
No Deal: SP Mike Minor Stays Put
Early on, Mike Minor looked like a valuable trade chip for the Texas Rangers, who were not expected to contend for a playoff spot.
Now he looks like the indispensable ace of a team very much in the hunt for a postseason berth.
The 31-year-old was solid in his return to a starting role last season, but he's taken things to another level this year, emerging as one of the best pitchers in baseball. He ranks in the top 10 among all qualified starters in ERA (2.52, third) and innings pitched (103.2, seventh), and his 197 ERA+ is tops among AL starters.
With a 15-9 month of June, the Rangers have pulled to seven games over .500, and they are currently part of a three-way tie for the No. 2 wild-card spot in the American League.
How they play over the next month will determine how they approach the deadline, but they may have already made up their minds to hold on to Minor.
A team seemingly destined for a rebuild now looks to be on the rise with the potential to make legitimate noise this year and in the immediate future. With a budget-friendly $9.8 million salary for next season, Minor figures to be a big part of the Rangers' plans for 2020.
Deal: SP Zack Wheeler Traded to the New York Yankees
Depending on how you feel about the current iteration of Madison Bumgarner, there's a strong case to be made that Zack Wheeler is the best rental starter on the market this summer.
Of course, the New York Mets will first have to decide to sell.
According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Mets would still prefer to be buyers. But if they do sell, a lot of teams are already showing interest in Wheeler, including the New York Yankees.
That's not surprising.
The Yankees were linked to Wheeler at the deadline last year, via Marc Carig of The Athletic, and there's a clear need for starting pitching help on a staff that has battled the injury bug all season.
Wheeler, 29, has posted a 4.69 ERA and 1.30 WHIP with 108 strikeouts in 101.2 innings, but his 3.73 FIP indicates there is some positive regression to come.
The Yankees and Mets don't match up on trades often, but it's not unprecedented. With the Yankees' deep farm system of high-ceiling talent and the Mets' thinned-out system, the move could prove mutually beneficial.
No Deal: RP Kirby Yates Stays Put
Kirby Yates took over as the San Diego Padres closer last year when they traded Brad Hand to the Cleveland Indians. He's been phenomenal in his first full season in the ninth-inning role this year.
The 32-year-old leads the majors with 26 saves in 27 chances, to go along with a pristine 1.36 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and an overpowering 54-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings.
The Padres are clearly a team on the rise, so they might be hesitant to part with any players who could help them beyond this season. Yates has one year of arbitration remaining, so he fits the bill.
According to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, it would take an "overwhelming offer" for the Padres to trade Yates. Unless they're blown away, there's really no reason to move him.
Yates seems happy to stay in San Diego as well.
"I'd prefer to stay here," he told reporters. "I don't want to go anywhere else. I want to win here. I've built a lot of strong relationships here with staff members and my teammates. My family likes it here, my wife likes it here, and the way the Padres organization has treated me and my family has been awesome."
Don't be surprised if he signs an extension similar to the three-year, $19.75 million deal that Hand agreed to prior to the 2018 season.
Deal: RP Will Smith Traded to the Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs team president Theo Epstein knows the value of a strong bullpen.
In his time steering the ship on the North Side, he has pulled off a blockbuster deal to acquire Aroldis Chapman, traded young slugger Jorge Soler for Wade Davis, completed another major trade to acquire lefty Justin Wilson and spent big to sign Brandon Morrow in free agency.
Those moves have produced a mixed bag of results, but they show a consistent willingness to aggressively pursue high-end bullpen help.
This summer, San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith looks like the best bullpen upgrade available.
The 29-year-old is now all the way back from Tommy John surgery after missing all of 2017 and the early part of 2018, and he's been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.
Aside from converting all 21 of his save chances, he also has a 1.95 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, and a stellar 49-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32.1 innings for a career-high 13.6 K/9.
He's struck out 17 of the 32 left-handed batters he's faced, allowing just five hits. The ability to keep Milwaukee Brewers slugger Christian Yelich in check in the late innings might be reason enough for the Cubs to justify the acquisition cost.
A deal built around Ian Happ could hold some appeal for the Giants given their need for controllable offensive talent and outfield help. It would take a solid prospect or two as well, but Happ would be a good starting point.
No Deal: SP Matthew Boyd Stays Put
According to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, the Detroit Tigers are "open to moving virtually any veteran" on the roster this summer.
While Nicholas Castellanos and Shane Greene look like obvious trade candidates, the Tigers face a considerably tougher decision on whether to move Matthew Boyd.
The 28-year-old is enjoying a breakout season, posting a 3.61 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 94.2 innings, and his 118 strikeouts rank 10th in the majors. He's employing a more fastball-slider-heavy approach while throwing his changeup and curveball less, and the result has been a significant spike in his strikeout rate from 8.4 to 11.2 per nine innings.
With team control through the 2022 season, the Tigers certainly don't need to move him now.
They could shop him during the offseason when Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler will headline an extremely thin market for starting pitching. Or they could hold on to him and slot him alongside Casey Mize and Matt Manning at the top of the rotation once those two highly touted prospects arrive.
Unless someone blows Detroit away with an offer, Boyd will be wearing a Tigers uniform Aug. 1.
Deal: SP Madison Bumgarner Traded to the Minnesota Twins
For many of the players mentioned in this article, the overarching question is whether they will be traded at all this summer.
Madison Bumgarner is going to be traded.
The question is where the battle-tested veteran will wind up and how soon the San Francisco Giants will pull the trigger on dealing him.
The 29-year-old struck out a season-high 11 batters in six strong innings against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night. While he is no longer the same front-line pitcher he was in his prime, he's still managed to tally 12 quality starts in 17 outings this year.
The Minnesota Twins have already been linked to Bumgarner. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Wednesday that the AL Central leaders are showing "strong interest," and they could potentially make a play to get ahead of the market.
The Twins have a solid one-two punch atop the rotation in Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, and free-agent-to-be Kyle Gibson is a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm. Adding Bumgarner to the mix would solidify the rotation and bring some welcome playoff experience to a green team.
It would also take Bumgarner out of the equation for the Yankees, who figure to be one of the Twins' biggest competitors in the AL.
No Deal: 3B Anthony Rendon Stays Put
The Washington Nationals hovered around the .500 mark long enough to decide against trading Bryce Harper last summer, and he wound up leaving in free agency for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.
It's hard not to envision some impending deja vu with Anthony Rendon.
The Nationals enter play Wednesday at 38-40, but they've been playing well of late with a 14-7 record in June. Plus, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets are both falling short of expectations, so the NL East is not the battlefield it was expected to be this season.
Will that be enough to convince the Nationals to once again cling to their most valuable trade chip?
While the two sides have talked extension, there was reportedly still a "decent-sized gap" in negotiations in April, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
In an appearance on 106.7 The Fan in May, general manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals are still "aggressively trying" to sign Rendon, but nothing has come of that to date.
The star third baseman could command a haul similar to what the Baltimore Orioles received in exchange for Manny Machado last summer, which would go a long way toward bolstering a top-heavy Nationals farm system.
Still, based on the recent track record of this front office and the Nationals' middling play, there's a good chance Rendon will stay put for the stretch run.
Deal: SP Marcus Stroman Traded to the San Diego Padres
Last summer, the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled off a surprise deal to acquire Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays despite sitting six games back in third place in the NL Central.
While they were on a nice roll at the time and had an outside shot at a wild-card spot, the trade was largely made with the following season in mind. A similar approach by the San Diego Padres this summer to bolster the starting rotation for 2019 and 2020 makes a lot of sense.
The Toronto Blue Jays discussed a Marcus Stroman trade with the Padres during the offseason, according to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, and they could revisit it this summer.
The 28-year-old has returned to form this season after a trying 2018 campaign, posting a 3.04 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 100.2 innings, and he's been on a roll of late with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts.
The Padres have the No. 1 farm system in baseball and can put together an offer no team could top if they have their sights set on landing Stroman.
A similar trade for Cleveland Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer would also make sense, though he seems far less likely to be moved, which could make Stroman the team's top priority.