Way-Too-Early 2020 MLB Trade Deadline Blockbuster Predictions

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2020

Way-Too-Early 2020 MLB Trade Deadline Blockbuster Predictions

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The 2020 MLB season hasn't even begun. Players are still limbering up and playing semi-meaningful exhibition contests in Florida and Arizona.

    But since Opening Day is more than a month away, let's gaze ahead to July and make some way-too-early trade deadline predictions.

    We'll zero in on potential blockbusters that would shift the baseball landscape based on this winter's hottest rumors and rumblings and a healthy dose of informed speculation.

Matthew Boyd from the Detroit Tigers to the Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Left-hander Matthew Boyd averaged a career-high 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 185.1 frames for the Detroit Tigers last season. The 29-year-old is controllable through 2022, so Detroit doesn't have to trade him.

    With that said, the rebuilding Tigers could flip Boyd at the deadline for a bushel of prospects, provided he pitches up to his potential between Opening Day and July 31.

    Any number of contenders would come calling, but the Los Angeles Dodgers seem like a particularly good fit. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman loves to stockpile arms, and Los Angeles has a deep farm system.

    Catcher Keibert Ruiz is the No. 33 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, but 24-year-old Will Smith is blocking the 21-year-old is at the big league level.

    If the Dodgers tossed in another decent MiLB chip or two, they could pad a rotation that lost 2019 National League ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu while adding veterans David Price and Alex Wood.

Chris Archer from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Los Angeles Angels

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Angels inked third baseman Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245 million contract to join reigning American League MVP Mike Trout in the heart of their lineup. 

    But did they do enough to bolster a pitching staff that ranked 25th in MLB with a 5.12 ERA by adding Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran? That remains unclear.

    Expect the Halos to go shopping for arms at the trade deadline, assuming they're in contention. One potential target: Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Chris Archer.

    A two-time All-Star, Archer has battled through injuries and inconsistency in recent seasons. He posted a career-worst 5.19 ERA in 23 starts last year, although he averaged 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

    He's also only 31 years old and is an elite starting pitcher at his best. The Angels won't dangle top prospect and budding star outfielder Jo Adell, but they could entice the Bucs with athletic middle infield prospect Jahmai Jones and a few ancillary pieces.

Kirby Yates from the San Diego Padres to the Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals won the World Series in 2019 despite a bullpen that ranked last in the regular season with a 5.66 ERA. As they embark on their title defense, they may need relief help come July.

    The San Diego Padres are on the brink of contention but are likely a year or so away from challenging the loaded Dodgers in the National League West.

    Pads closer Kirby Yates will be a free agent after the 2020 campaign and posted a 1.19 ERA with 15 strikeouts per nine innings along with 41 saves last year.

    If the Nats are contending in the deep NL East come July, they could offer up toolsy 19-year-old infielder Luis Garcia, the game's No. 91 prospect, per MLB.com.

Whit Merrifield from the Kansas City Royals to the Oakland Athletics

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    The Oakland Athletics won 97 games in 2019 and remain legitimate contenders in the AL West despite a quiet offseason. They have a gap at second base, though.

    Assuming they haven't filled it internally by July, they could go after the Kansas City Royals' Whit Merrifield. He hit .302 with a .348 on-base percentage in 2019 and is controllable through 2023.

    Merrifield is 31 years old and doesn't fit with the rebuilding Royals, who are at least a few years away from contending.

    He's a solid match for the A's, who could surrender a pair of promising minor league middle infielders in Jorge Mateo and Logan Davidson that would boost KC for the future.

Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs to the Philadelphia Phillies

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    In early February, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was on the trading block and that the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals had shown "at least exploratory interest."

    The Cubs are almost sure to keep him until the summer, but if they sink in the standings in the highly competitive NL Central, expect those rumors to resurface.

    The Phillies infield is currently filled by first baseman Rhys Hoskins, second baseman Jean Segura, shortstop Didi Gregorius and third baseman Scott Kingery. However, Bryant and Kingery can both play the outfield. 

    Bryant and Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper are longtime opponents and friends. Bryant posted a .903 OPS with 31 homers in 2019 and would bolster Philadelphia's lineup.

    The Phillies could dangle top prospect and third baseman Alec Bohm, electric righty Adonis Medina and maybe another chip or two.

Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians to the New York Mets

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    The Cleveland Indians are caught between a retool and a rebuild.

    They could contend in a relatively soft AL Central, but they traded two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. Will franchise shortstop Francisco Lindor be next?

    The 26-year-old is set to hit free agency after 2021, and his trade value may never be higher for the Tribe.

    The New York Mets, meanwhile, are trying to contend in the NL East and need offensive help. 

    The Mets could offer shortstop Amed Rosario, who has two more years of club control than Lindor, as well as left-handed pitching prospect David Peterson and promising MiLB third baseman Brett Baty.

    If the Indians aren't leading the division in late July, this would be a wise (albeit temporarily painful) move.

Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies to the Atlanta Braves

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    The Colorado Rockies seemed to anger star third baseman Nolan Arenado by not doing what it took this winter to build a surefire contender around him.

    Arenado promised to "play hard and play for my teammates," per MLB.com's Thomas Harding, but he sounded like a guy with one foot out the door. He could wait until his opt-out clause kicks in after the 2021 season, or the Rockies could trade him this summer and add to its farm system.

    The Atlanta Braves need to improve at third base, where Johan Camargo and his .663 2019 OPS tops the depth chart, and they have a stacked farm system.

    In December, MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the Braves had "inquired" about Arenado. 

    In July, the Braves could offer top-tier right-handed prospects Ian Anderson and Bryse Wilson and push for a third straight NL East title and a deep playoff run.

    All statistics via Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.