10 Biggest Names Still Up for Grabs at the 2019 MLB Trade Deadline
The 2019 MLB trade deadline is now just a few short days away, as teams have until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday to pull the trigger on any deals.
After a deafeningly quiet start to this year's trade season, the first major domino finally fell Sunday when Marcus Stroman was traded to the New York Mets. Suffice it to say that was not among his most likely landing spots, and in the end, the deal has created more questions about how the rest of the market will play out.
Despite that, we've taken a crack at highlighting the 10 biggest names still up for grabs.
To clarify, this is not a list of players who have an outside chance of being traded or who are speculatively available. These are 10 players who are legitimately being shopped and have an excellent chance of being dealt before the calendar flips to August.
To that point, guys like Matthew Boyd, Whit Merrifield, Kirby Yates and Trey Mancini will not be found due to lofty asking prices unlikely to be met. The same goes for Nicholas Castellanos, who seems like a good bet to stay put and receive a qualifying offer, with the subsequent draft compensation outweighing his trade value.
Now, let's get to the 10 players who are actually on the block. They're ordered by overall value, which takes 2019 impact and remaining club control into account.
10. OF Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh Pirates
Corey Dickerson hit .300/.330/.474 with 35 doubles and 13 home runs while also winning a Gold Glove and posting 3.8 WAR in his first season with the Pittsburgh Pirates last year.
Injuries have limited him to just 42 games this season, but he's once again been productive when he has been on the field.
The 30-year-old is hitting .303/.365/.500 with 20 extra-base hits in 137 plate appearances, and he looks like a prime candidate to be dealt from a Pirates team that has slipped out of contention. After all, free agency awaits during the offseason.
The emergence of Bryan Reynolds and the long-term contracts of Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte would seem to shut the door on a new deal this winter, so flipping him now makes sense.
However, he left Friday's game with groin discomfort, and he sat on Saturday and Sunday.
"He felt like making the play in left field, he kind of aggravated something, and through the at-bat, he didn't feel comfortable," manager Clint Hurdle told reporters.
He'll need to show he's healthy ahead of Wednesday's deadline to open the door for a trade.
9. 3B Todd Frazier, New York Mets
Let's first address the elephant in the room.
The New York Mets' decision to trade for Marcus Stroman does not necessarily mean they are suddenly buyers. It means they found a controllable asset who was available at what they felt was a reasonable price and pounced.
If they are still set to move some veteran pieces, third baseman Todd Frazier seems like a prime candidate with free agency on the horizon.
The 33-year-old has a 107 OPS+ with 14 home runs and 41 RBI in 81 games this season, and he brings more to the table than just his on-field production as a good clubhouse presence and leader.
Moving Frazier now would give the Mets additional time to evaluate J.D. Davis at third base, and it would also unclutter the infield situation a bit if and when Jed Lowrie finally returns to action.
Given the reasonable price tag and a thin trade market for impact bats, the Mets might be able to turn Frazier into a mid-level prospect.
8. 1B Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays
A .218 batting average is ugly at surface level, but there's a lot to like about the season Justin Smoak is putting together for the Toronto Blue Jays.
For starters, his low batting average comes with a .224 BABIP, and according to Baseball Savant, his expected batting average (xBA) is a far more palatable .254. In other words, he's been unlucky, and positive regression should be forthcoming.
Beyond that, the switch-hitting first baseman has posted a stellar 16.3 percent walk rate that ranks sixth among all qualified hitters. That's given him a solid .359 on-base percentage and goes a long way toward offsetting his low batting average. He's also slugged 18 home runs while trimming his strikeout rate to a career-low 19.8 percent.
All that gives him an interesting profile as a high-contact power hitter with elite on-base skills.
The youth movement is in full swing in Toronto, and Smoak is a free agent at the end of the season. He's a no-brainer trade chip.
7. RF Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds are a team worth monitoring closely in the coming days.
On Sunday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote: "The Reds, entertaining a variety of buy-and-sell scenarios, might end up as one of the most active clubs. Among those in play: potential free-agent right-hander Tanner Roark, outfielder Yasiel Puig and second baseman Scooter Gennett, as well as closer Raisel Iglesias, who is signed through 2021."
Upcoming free agents Puig and Roark seem like the obvious candidates to be dealt, and Puig is arguably the best bat on the market.
The 28-year-old is raking during July with a .317/.360/.573 line that includes six doubles and five home runs in 89 plate appearances, and he has slugged 22 home runs and swiped 13 bases on the year.
Aside from his recent production, Puig also has a ton of postseason experience, including a strong showing last October when he hit .300/.375/.480 with eight RBI in 16 playoff games during the Los Angeles Dodgers' run to the World Series.
He's a rental, and the Reds will likely be moving on during the offseason. Getting what they can for him now should be an easy decision.
6. SP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
A shoulder impingement earlier this month put Zack Wheeler's trade status in doubt, but he returned to the mound Friday and allowed six hits and three earned runs with seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings. That will be his final start before the trade deadline passes.
There has been some talk recently of a potential package deal with embattled closer Edwin Diaz, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic also reported the Mets have been exploring the idea of trading Noah Syndergaard and extending Wheeler before he hits free agency this winter.
Then the Marcus Stroman trade turned the entire pitching market on its head, so who really knows what the Mets are planning.
At this point, Wheeler still has to be viewed as potentially available, especially if the Stroman move was made with an eye on 2020.
The 29-year-old has seen his ERA climb from 3.31 to 4.71 this season, though it comes with a solid 3.64 FIP while his strikeout rate has increased to a career-high 9.9 per nine innings. He should still hold plenty of appeal, even as a rental shaking off a shoulder injury.
5. RP Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers
If Ken Giles is the top bullpen arm on the market, Detroit Tigers closer Shane Greene is a close second.
The 30-year-old is enjoying a career year with a 1.22 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and a .157 opponents' batting average on his way to nailing down 22 saves in 25 chances. That performance earned him a spot on the American League All-Star team, and it has made him something of a luxury for a Tigers team squarely in the running for the worst record in baseball.
His 3.74 FIP raises some questions about the sustainability of his current production. But even at that level, he's a valuable commodity with his strikeout stuff and late-inning experience.
From the Tigers' standpoint, moving him now while he still has a year of club control remaining and is in the midst of a brilliant season looks like the best way to maximize his value.
It will be interesting to see if a Giles trade triggers the Greene market or vice versa.
4. RP Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Even after the Toronto Blue Jays flipped Marcus Stroman and Eric Sogard on Sunday, they could still cash in on several attractive trade chips before Wednesday.
Closer Ken Giles is at the top of that list.
With Will Smith and Kirby Yates likely staying put, Giles ranks as the top available bullpen arm on the market, and a number of contenders like the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals are all in serious need of late-inning help.
The 28-year-old has converted 14 of 15 save chances with a 1.54 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a .202 opponents' batting average. He has also fanned 58 batters in 35 innings, good for a 41.4 percent strikeout rate that trails only Josh Hader (50.8 percent), Matt Barnes (42.5 percent) and Yates (42.4 percent) among pitchers with at least 30 innings.
With a $6.3 million salary this year, his price tag shouldn't be a sticking point in trade talks, and he still has one year of arbitration remaining.
While that extra control gives Toronto leverage in trade talks, his value is at its peak right now. The Blue Jays would be wise to strike while the iron is hot.
3. SP Mike Minor, Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers took a real chance signing Mike Minor to a three-year, $28 million deal and slotting him in the starting rotation after he lost two years to injury and then spent the entirety of 2017 pitching out of the bullpen.
It wound up being a stroke of genius.
He was the team's best starting pitcher last season, posting a 4.18 ERA with 132 strikeouts in a team-high 157 innings, and he's progressed this year with a 3.00 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 135 innings. With park factors taken into account, his 169 ERA+ ranks fifth among qualified starters.
The Texas Rangers looked like potential buyers before a 7-15 July sent them sliding down the standings and out of contention. Now, they'll need to decide whether they want to hold onto Minor in an effort to contend in 2020 or flip him ahead of the final year of his contract in order to maximize his value in a thin market for impact starters.
2. SP Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians
Win or lose this season, Trevor Bauer was always going to be a trade candidate.
The Cleveland Indians made multiple financially motivated moves during the offseason. With Bauer earning $13 million this year and likely to approach $20 million in his final year of arbitration, flipping him makes sense for the organization.
The 28-year-old has a 3.79 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 185 strikeouts in 156.2 innings, and that comes on the heels of a brilliant 2018 season in which he finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting.
As Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com wrote:
"The Indians have two choices with Bauer. The difference is a matter of timing.
"No. 1: They can trade him before Wednesday’s deadline, which would reap the biggest return.
"No. 2: They can keep Bauer, hoping he pitches them into the postseason, and then trade him. He’s a free agent after the 2020 season and has shown no inclination to sign a multiyear deal. One way or the other, he almost certainly won’t be wearing a Tribe uniform in 2020."
With Marcus Stroman now off the market, Bauer looks like a true prize at the deadline.
1. SP Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
Jeff Passan of ESPN had an interesting take on the Marcus Stroman trade, tweeting: "Some Mets information, per sources. The plan is to hold on to Marcus Stroman, not flip him. They are increasingly unlikely to sign Zack Wheeler to a contract extension. The likelihood is strong they deal at least one of Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. They’ve hijacked the market."
It's a fair point.
Trevor Bauer and Mike Minor both have a reasonable chance to stay put at the deadline, while there was never a question whether Stroman would be dealt. Now that he's off the market, the Mets are in the driver's seat.
Syndergaard, 26, still has two years of team control remaining, so it's going to take at least one marquee prospect to pry him loose. To that point, one rival executive told Marc Carig of The Athletic that "a top 30 prospect and a couple of other solid pieces" would be required in a deal.
One thing is certain: The Mets have become the most interesting team at the bargaining table. After flubbing the offseason, this is a crucial juncture for rookie general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.