Deal or No Deal: MLB Trade Predictions 2 Weeks from the 2019 Deadline

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2019

Deal or No Deal: MLB Trade Predictions 2 Weeks from the 2019 Deadline

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    Quinn Harris/Getty Images

    The July 31 MLB trade deadline is creeping up. Over the next two weeks, swaps will be consummated, or they won't.

    Based on the latest rumors and credible rumblings, plus a dollop of informed speculation, here are nine deal or no deal predictions for some of the top potential trade candidates.

    To be clear, if we say "deal," we believe the player in question will change laundry on or before July 31, and we'll go out on a limb and predict the destination. If we say "no deal," we believe the player will remain with his club through the season and possibly beyond.

No Deal: The Tigers Hang On to Nicholas Castellanos

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Detroit Tigers are in the midst of a rebuild and appear unlikely to extend right fielder Nicholas Castellanos.

    An impending free agent, Castellanos is 27 years old, owns an .805 OPS and has hit an MLB-leading 31 doubles. You'd think that would make him an obvious trade candidate for a contender looking to rent a bat.

    Not so fast.

    As Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter pointed out, the Tigers could opt instead to keep Castellanos through the season and then extend him a qualifying offer. He'd almost surely reject it, which would give Detroit a compensatory draft pick.

    Of course, if a team wows them with a multiprospect package before July 31, the Tigers should pounce. But given Castellanos' notable defensive limitations, that seems unlikely.

Deal: The Nationals Acquire Will Smith from the Giants

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Washington Nationals own the top position in a crowded National League wild-card race and should be buyers at the deadline.

    To say they need to upgrade their bullpen is an understatement of Mariano Riveraian proportions.

    Their relief corps ranks dead-last in the NL with a 5.93 ERA and is tied for second in baseball with 18 blown saves. If the Nationals have designs on a legitimate postseason run, this is the leak they need to plug.

    There are multiple interesting relief targets potentially on the market, but San Francisco Giants left-hander Will Smith might top the list.

    The 30-year-old southpaw owns a 2.11 ERA and has struck out 54 in 38.1 innings while locking down 24 saves. He also has experience as a setup man and would give the Nats the versatile, shutdown late-inning arm they need.

    Smith will be a free agent after the season, but he'd be a more-than-worth-it rental.

No Deal: The Royals Hang On to Whit Merrifield

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    The Kansas City Royals will be sellers, but it says here they won't sell Whit Merrifield.

    The Royals' All-Star second baseman is hitting .307 with an .855 OPS and paces MLB with 122 hits after leading both leagues with 192 knocks in 2018.

    He's also making just $1 million this season, $5 million in 2020, $6.8 million in 2021 and $2.8 million in 2022 with a $10.5 million team option for 2023.

    That means he could be a prime trade asset given his production and affordability or a piece of the rebuilding Royals' future.

    "I mean, the players, the young people in our community identify with Whit. That's really important for us," Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore told reporters. "He's, I believe, one of the best players in all of baseball right now. So, I mean, the ask would be just crazy."

    Those don't sound like the words of a man ready to make a deal.

Deal: The Braves Acquire Madison Bumgarner from the Giants

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    In addition to Will Smith, the Giants' most obvious and high-profile trade asset is left-hander Madison Bumgarner. He's a playoff legend any contender would love to carry into October.

    Yes, he's an impending free agent. And sure, he owns a career-high 3.86 ERA. He's also struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings and, at age 29, is far from over the hill. It's possible MadBum could author another riveting postseason chapter.

    Suitors will surely line up, but the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves are an obvious fit.

    Despite the signing of lefty Dallas Keuchel, the Braves rotation ranks 15th with a 4.39 ERA. And Atlanta is a young team that could use an injection of veteran leadership.

    As for Bumgarner, he's a native of North Carolina and could return to his Southeastern roots.

    The Braves are one of at least four teams interested in Bumgarner, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. And they have a deep farm system with plenty of pieces to get a deal done.

No Deal: The Diamondbacks Hang On to Robbie Ray

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    The Arizona Diamondbacks traded franchise first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason, which seemed to signal the beginning of a rebuild.

    To the contrary, the D-backs are in the thick of the muddled NL wild-card scramble and own the Senior Circuit's fourth-best run differential at plus-50. Heck, they might be buyers.

    At the very least, they figure to hang on to 27-year-old left-hander Robbie Ray, who has averaged 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings with a 3.81 ERA through 20 starts.

    Ray has been the subject of multiple trade rumors, with the New York Yankees among the clubs interested, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

    He could be moved if a team blows the Diamondbacks away. But as long as they don't drop out of contention between now and the end of July, they might be better off riding out the season with their bat-missing southpaw and extending or trading Ray (who is controllable through 2020) in the offseason instead.

Deal: The Padres Acquire Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    If the Toronto Blue Jays trade Marcus Stroman—a safe assumption—they'll have no shortage of suitors.

    The 28-year-old right-hander made his first All-Star team this season and sports a 3.25 ERA through 110.2 innings. He's also controllable through 2020.

    According to Bob Elliott of the Canadian Baseball Network, the Braves, Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres all had scouts at Stroman's start Sunday in New York.

    All those teams, as well as others, make sense. But the Padres are a sneaky favorite to land Stroman.

    Yes, the Friars are barely on the fringe of the NL playoff picture. But they have a strong young nucleus and could be a major factor next season, when Stroman would still be around.

    They need to boost a starting rotation that ranks 14th with a 4.35 ERA despite throwing half its games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. And they've got the chips to do it from a farm system Bleacher Report ranked No. 1.

No Deal: The Mets Hang On to Zack Wheeler

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Not much has gone right for the New York Mets in 2019.

    After adding veterans over the offseason in hopes of contending, the Mets are sunk in the standings and should be sellers at the trade deadline. But their most obvious asset is damaged goods.

    Right-hander Zack Wheeler was reportedly drawing interest from a number of teams, and for good reason. The 29-year-old was averaging a career-best 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings with a 3.66 FIP in 119 frames.

    Then, Monday, he landed on the injured list with shoulder fatigue. As's Jeff Passan put it, the IL stint "more or less destroys his trade value."

    Maybe Wheeler will return in time to convince a contender the injury isn't serious. But considering he's set to hit free agency this offseason, it would be a huge gamble for a couple of possibly injury-marred months.

Deal: The Yankees Acquire Trevor Bauer from the Indians

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    The Yankees have the second-best run differential in the American League at plus-117. Yet their starting rotation owns a so-so 4.12 ERA (10th in MLB) and has been without ace Luis Severino (shoulder) all season.

    If the Yanks want to make a charge for championship No. 28, they need to bolster their starting corps.

    They've been linked to every starting pitcher on this list and several more, but keep an eye on Cleveland Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer.

    Bauer leads baseball with 138 innings pitched and has posted a 3.65 ERA with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He's 28 years old and under club control through 2020. He's got a polarizing personality, which could turn off the Yanks brass. But his strikeout stuff and innings-eating ways ought to trump that.

    Granted, the Indians are 12 games over .500 at 52-40. That puts them six games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, but they're in the second wild-card spot at least.

    Yet they need to boost their offense, particularly in the outfield. On Saturday, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer speculated Bauer is "likely to be traded by the end of the month."

    If the Yankees offered talented young outfielder Clint Frazier (a Cleveland draft pick in 2013) plus an ancillary chip or two, this might be a roller skate-meets-key match.

No Deal: The White Sox Hang On to Jose Abreu

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The Chicago White Sox are six games under .500 and 15 games out in the AL Central. The rebuild is progressing on the South Side but it isn't over yet.

    So it would seem obvious for Chicago to sell first baseman Jose Abreu. He's 32 years old and in a contract year but would interest any number of power-hungry contenders with his 21 home runs and 66 RBI.

    The White Sox, however, hope to sign the veteran to an extension, per Scot Gregor of the Northwest Herald.

    Partly, Gregor noted, that could be because of Abreu's relationship with burgeoning stars such as left fielder Eloy Jimenez and third baseman Yoan Moncada.

    "He's been like a father to me," Jimenez said, per Gregor. "He gives me advice, he always tries to help me."

    Meanwhile, Abreu spoke like a guy who wants to stick around.

    "I don't want to leave here," he said, per Gregor (via White Sox interpreter Billy Russo). "We are going to be good. We have a lot of talent. I'm very blessed being here in this organization."

    An extension is no guarantee. But it sounds much more plausible than a deadline trade.


    All statistics accurate as of Tuesday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.