Perfect 2019 MLB Trade Deadline Targets for Every Contender
Now that Major League Baseball's 2019 trade deadline is just days away, it's only getting easier to separate the buyers from the sellers.
Here's who the former should be looking to buy.
We've pinpointed the best possible trade acquisition for each of the 14 teams that will clearly be in buy mode ahead of July 31. These are players who fill big needs and have skills that would fit their new teams well. Given how prevalent offense is this season, the list is naturally heavy on pitchers.
We'll begin in the American League East and make our way to the National League West.
New York Yankees: RHP Trevor Bauer
Record: 64-35, 1st in AL East
The New York Yankees have lesser needs here and there, but even general manager Brian Cashman isn't downplaying the team's dire need for a starting pitcher.
A trade for Cleveland Indians ace Trevor Bauer would at least fix the innings problem. He averaged 179 innings between 2015 and 2018, and he's now leading all of baseball with 144.2 this season.
Granted, the 28-year-old has regressed after racking up a 2.21 ERA and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018. Yet he's remained overpowering by way of a 10.6 K/9. In New York, he could be the right-handed power pitcher the Yankees have been missing ever since Luis Severino injured his shoulder.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Indians might be "aggressive listeners" on Bauer despite their recent surge up the AL Central standings. For their part, the Yankees have a spare outfielder in Clint Frazier and a farm system that doesn't include any untouchables, per Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Zack Wheeler
Record: 57-46, 2nd in AL East
The Tampa Bay Rays have been scuffling of late, but they're not ready to give up.
"What we think of this group and the way they've played so far it certainly motivates us to want to help them out however we can," senior vice president Chaim Bloom told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rays could use a little bit of everything, yet their formula is ultimately rooted in preventing runs. Their pitching hasn't been as up to that in June and July as it was earlier in the year.
In light of their not-quite-straight path to October and their perpetually limited funds, it would behoove the Rays to seek low-risk, high-reward targets that wouldn't cost too much from their third-ranked farm system.
Basically, Zack Wheeler. The New York Mets righty was having a difficult walk year even before he came down with a shoulder impingement. Any team that deals for him now will be gambling on both the 29-year-old's health and his capacity to realize his enormous talent.
Per Mike Puma of the New York Post, the Rays are interested in being that team. As well they should be, as they might revitalize Wheeler the same way they did Tyler Glasnow last season.
Boston Red Sox: RHP Kirby Yates
Record: 55-46, 3rd in AL East
Although questions still abound in the Boston Red Sox's rotation, their trade for Andrew Cashner at least set them up with a full stable of starters.
Now the Red Sox must see to a bullpen with an ugly 5.11 ERA since the first of June. And between his unfamiliarity with the role and his extensive injury history, there's plenty that could go wrong with their plan to use Nathan Eovaldi as their closer.
This could explain their interest in San Diego Padres righty Kirby Yates and Toronto Blue Jays righty Ken Giles, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com. They have two things in common: They're having spectacular seasons, and they're under club control through 2020.
The Red Sox couldn't go wrong with either Yates or Giles, but the former is simply the better of the two. All he's done this season is post a 1.05 ERA with 70 strikeouts and only nine walks in 43 innings.
San Diego's price for Yates is bound to be exceedingly high. But with a World Series in their immediate past and more Octobers potentially in their immediate future, the Red Sox should be prepared to empty what's left of their farm system.
Minnesota Twins: LHP Madison Bumgarner
Record: 61-38, 1st in AL Central
The Minnesota Twins held an 11-game lead over the Indians as recently as June 15. That lead has since been whittled down to just three games.
A related story is how Minnesota's offense has fallen off the historic pace it set earlier in the season. But rather than dwell on that, the Twins ought to be focused on a pitching staff that has something of a talent void in between aces Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi and closer Taylor Rogers.
According to LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune, the catch is that the Twins don't want to surrender top prospects Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff or Brusdar Graterol in trades. If true, that will limit their options.
However, a deal for San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner might be in play. He's only a rental and one whose value is compromised by his recent injury history and good-not-great production in 2019. His 3.65 ERA is on track to be a new career high.
Yet the Twins rotation could use a guy with a postseason track record as extensive as Bumgarner's. More to the point, the 29-year-old's tendency to keep the ball off the ground would mesh well with the club's tremendous outfield defense.
Cleveland Indians: RF Yasiel Puig
Record: 58-41, 2nd in AL Central
How have the Indians followed a 26-27 start with a 32-14 stretch since May 28? It's all in their offense:
Meanwhile, Cleveland pitchers have kept doing their part with a 3.80 ERA. Even if Bauer goes, the return of two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber from a broken arm might allow the party to keep going.
But if the Indians are going to add anything, it should be what Francisco Lindor wants for their lineup.
"We all hit lefty," the All-Star shortstop told Zack Meisel of The Athletic. "We have left-handed hitters, so maybe a right-handed hitter."
Detroit Tigers right fielder Nicholas Castellanos and Cincinnati Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig are the two most obvious options. While this is another "can't go wrong" sort of situation, Puig has the advantages of being a superior defender and a red-hot hitter. He's batting .311/.359/.623 since May 24.
In light of how few contenders actually need offense, the Indians might get a good deal to rent the 28-year-old from their cross-state rivals for the rest of 2019.
Houston Astros: RHP Marcus Stroman
Record: 65-37, 1st in AL West
Although the Houston Astros are probably safe atop the AL West, their rotation is suddenly a potential threat to that notion.
Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole form an excellent one-two punch, and Wade Miley has been a surprisingly reliable No. 3. But after them are question marks in the Nos. 4 and 5 slots. Still another question mark is when Brad Peacock will return following a setback in his recovery from a sore shoulder.
The Astros ought to have few limitations on the trade market. They're absolutely a World Series contender, after all, and one with both deep pockets and a deep farm system.
Yet rather than focus on a pie-in-the-sky target such as Noah Syndergaard or even Matthew Boyd, the Astros should give Marcus Stroman a good, long look.
The 28-year-old righty is fresh off earning his first All-Star nod, and his 3.06 ERA is generally reminiscent of his big breakout in 2017. He also boasts a ground-ball habit and a talent for spin rate, both of which should appeal to a club with an outstanding infield defense and a fondness for spin.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Tanner Roark
Record: 57-44, 2nd in AL West
The Oakland Athletics sputtered their way through the first six weeks of the season. But in case anyone still hasn't noticed, they're now 38-19 dating back to May 16.
The A's might not need much to keep this up. They've already added to their rotation with a trade for Homer Bailey. Within the next few weeks, they should welcome ace lefty Sean Manaea (shoulder surgery) and outfielder Stephen Piscotty (knee sprain) back from the injured list.
About the only thing the A's might do is outfit their rotation with still another security blanket. It would likely be one of the low-risk variety, however. Like the Rays, they're a shallow-pocketed franchise that must protect its prospects.
Tanner Roark might be right up their alley. He's a rental who's barely noticeable amid the many big names on the starting pitching market, and his 3.97 ERA doesn't necessarily indicate that he deserves better.
This might result in the A's getting the 32-year-old righty from the Cincinnati Reds at a reasonable price. All they'd have to do then is hope Roark benefits from their huge home ballpark and outstanding defense.
Atlanta Braves: LHP Mike Minor
Record: 60-41, 1st in NL East
The Atlanta Braves are racing toward a second straight NL East title on the strength of an outstanding lineup and a bullpen that has an MLB-best 3.33 ERA since June 1.
Their rotation, on the other hand, needs some work. Dallas Keuchel, Julio Teheran and Mike Soroka are a strong trio, but after them come two revolving doors.
The Braves will have limits regarding what they're willing to subtract from their second-ranked farm system. Specifically, Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed to outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters and righties Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright as likely untouchables.
That's a long list, but perhaps not long enough to preclude the Braves from getting a top starter on the market such as, say, Mike Minor.
The 31-year-old southpaw has a 2.86 ERA over 129 innings this season. The Braves ought to covet both those numbers and Minor's contractual control through 2020.
Granted, Minor isn't too enthused about the idea of the Texas Rangers selling despite their winning record. But if it comes to it, he might not mind returning to the organization that drafted him 10 years ago.
Washington Nationals: RHP Ken Giles
Record: 52-46, 2nd in NL East
There was plenty of speculation about the Washington Nationals trading Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon and Sean Doolittle once upon a time. It's all but evaporated amid their 33-15 run since May 24.
"We've been most recently in acquire mode because, you know, we've had the chance to win the last eight seasons, and I think we're in that mode again," Nats general manager Mike Rizzo said in a recent radio interview, according to Caroline Brandt of NBC Sports Washington.
There's no more obvious target for improvement than Washington's bullpen, which has an NL-worst 5.96 ERA.
A trade for just one reliever might not be enough to fix the problem, but a right-handed partner in crime for Doolittle would definitely help. To this end, the Nats' plentiful options include Kirby Yates, Ken Giles, Shane Greene, Sam Dyson and Mychal Givens.
Yates would be ideal in a vacuum, but the Nationals might prefer to do a trade that doesn't require sending prospects to a National League rival. A deal for Giles, 28, would fit the bill. His 1.64 ERA and 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings would fit as well in Washington as they would anywhere else.
Philadelphia Phillies: LHP Robbie Ray
Record: 52-48, 3rd in NL East
The Philadelphia Phillies aren't struggling to keep up in the NL East because of any one thing. At any given time, it could be their offense, defense, rotation or bullpen letting them down.
Yet based on the rumor mill—h/t Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors for the useful compilation—the Phillies seem most desperate for a starter who could help out Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.
This is where the Phillies must tread carefully. Their standing in the NL playoff picture isn't necessarily conducive to going all-in on a rental such as Madison Bumgarner or Zack Wheeler. They must also keep their sights restricted to pitchers who could overcome their small ballpark and less-than-stellar defense.
Which is to say they should keep their sights set on Robbie Ray.
The Phillies do indeed like the Arizona Diamondbacks lefty, according to Morosi. More than anything, that presumably comes down to the 27-year-old's club control through 2020 and his elite ability to strike batters out. His rate of 11.8 punchouts per nine innings since 2016 ranks behind only Max Scherzer and Chris Sale.
Chicago Cubs: INF Whit Merrifield
Record: 54-46, 1st in NL Central
The Chicago Cubs filled a huge hole when they added Craig Kimbrel to their bullpen in June. A month later, however, it's still easy to spot needs in their lineup, rotation and bullpen.
What's the best possible trade the Cubs can make? Probably one for a hitter who could tie their up-and-down offense together by slotting in at second base and in the leadoff spot.
Nobody matches that description as well as the Kansas City Royals' resident jack-of-all-trades, Whit Merrifield. He's a primary second baseman who can play multiple other positions. He's also a quality hitter who seems to get even better by the day.
According to Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, the Royals won't even consider moving Merrifield unless a trade conversation starts with "three MLB-ready players who could help them right now." It's as if they know the 30-year-old is an All-Star who's signed for cheap through 2022.
That asking price frankly does make a trade unlikely to happen. But if anyone is going to pay that price, why not the Cubs? At this point, they have little to lose and everything to gain in their pursuit of a second World Series title in four years.
St. Louis Cardinals: LHP Matthew Boyd
Record: 52-47, 2nd in NL Central
The St. Louis Cardinals' most apparent needs can be found in an offense that has largely struggled to live up to its preseason billing as one of the NL's best.
Said offense has turned a corner this month, however, and there may be hope for a larger rally around Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter and a healthy Marcell Ozuna down the stretch. The Cardinals can therefore afford to focus their trade efforts on their pitching staff.
To this end, they may be just as willing to trade major leaguers as they are prospects. Specifically, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal pointed to righty Carlos Martinez and outfielder Tyler O'Neill as possible trade chips. Fellow righty Michael Wacha and outfielder Harrison Bader are two more who could hypothetically be spared.
All this could make the Cardinals a match for Matthew Boyd. The 28-year-old lefty has an AL-best 6.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he comes with club control through 2022. Hence why the Tigers have put a huge asking price on him. Per MLB Network's Jon Heyman, it may include an "established young MLB star" and prospects.
The Cardinals may be the team that can best afford that price. And with Boyd atop their rotation for the next four years, they would be glad they paid it.
Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Lance Lynn
Record: 53-49, 2nd in NL Central
The Milwaukee Brewers were veering dangerously close to sell territory for a while there, but their recent 5-2 stretch and mere two-game deficit in the NL Central should push them toward buying.
Above all else, the Brewers need a stabilizer for a rotation that's struggled to a 4.71 ERA. Yet they should only be in the market for controllable starters, and their options must fit within a limited price range. Assuming Keston Hiura isn't available, there's little in the Brewers' farm system to barter with.
Despite those limitations, a deal for Lance Lynn might be doable.
If the Rangers are willing to trade Minor, they might just be willing to move Lynn, too. Although he's only in the first year of a three-year, $30 million contract, his trade value is peaking right now. The 32-year-old righty boasts a 3.93 ERA and the most wins above replacement of any AL hurler, according to FanGraphs.
The Brewers might take Lynn's contract off the Rangers' hands and outfit Texas with an ample supply of young, controllable arms such as righties Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Adrian Houser.
Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP Will Smith
Record: 67-35, 1st in NL West
The Los Angeles Dodgers don't need much, save for maybe a reliable reliever.
Their bullpen in general has been a sore spot this season. It has a pedestrian 4.07 ERA, and it's ultimately done more harm than good to the club's win probability. And with Caleb Ferguson struggling and Scott Alexander shut down for the foreseeable future, it has a clear need for a capable southpaw.
Ideally, that would be Will Smith.
The 30-year-old quietly had a terrific season for the Giants in 2018. It's been more of the same by way of a 2.55 ERA and 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 2019. The biggest difference is that Smith was appropriately honored with his first career All-Star nod.
Perhaps the big question is whether the Giants would rent Smith out to their longtime rivals. According to Morosi, neither side is ruling it out. If anything, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi might even jump at the chance to raid his former employer's outstanding farm system.