MLB Trades Teams Should Already Be Considering 1 Week into 60-Game Sprint
Take the anything-can-happen oddities of a 60-game MLB season. Add the expanded 16-team playoff format. What do you get?
A whole lot of clubs with at least a decent shot at making the postseason.
That could throw all sorts of wrenches into the works of the upcoming Aug. 31 trade deadline, with potential buyers far outnumbering sellers.
Superstars who featured in multiple offseason rumors such as the Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant, Cleveland Indians' Francisco Lindor and Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado could technically be moved, but their respective squads could be in the thick of the playoff mix and may wait until after the 2020 campaign to entertain serious offers.
Instead, let's focus on a handful of more realistic swaps clubs should already be considering one week into this truncated season. All involve players on rebuilding teams and/or guys on expiring contracts.
Kansas City Royals: Deal RHP Ian Kennedy
The Kansas City Royals lost 103 games in 2019 and are at least a few years away from serious contention, even in a shortened season.
They've built their farm system up to the No. 10 position in our most recent rankings and should keep trying to add to their cache of minor league talent.
The Royals have several interesting veteran trade candidates, including second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield. But the most obvious place to trade from is the bullpen, since relievers are always in high demand at and before the deadline.
The Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs stand out as playoff hopefuls whose pens have been liabilities in the early going. But virtually every contender could use relief reinforcements.
The Royals could surely generate interest in right-hander Ian Kennedy. The 35-year-old converted from a starter to a late-inning arm last season and resurrected his career with a 2.99 FIP, 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and 30 saves in 63.1 frames.
He's allowed one earned run with three strikeouts in his first three innings of 2020 and could slot in as a setup man or closer in virtually any bullpen.
He's set to hit free agency after the season and as a rental wouldn't net the Royals a king's ransom. But if he could bring back a high-upside prospect or two, it would be well worth it for K.C. to cash in.
Baltimore Orioles: Deal RHP Mychal Givens
Speaking of rebuilding teams that could take advantage of the pervasive need for bullpen help, enter the Baltimore Orioles.
The O's, like Kansas City, are a clear rebuilder who posted triple-digit losses in 2019 and should be focused on adding prospects with an eye on the future.
The Orioles aren't loaded with tradable veterans, but reliever Mychal Givens is an obvious candidate.
The 30-year-old right-hander averaged 12.3 K/9 in 2019 and has opened 2020 with 1.1 scoreless innings and a pair of strikeouts. He also has closing experience, with 20 career saves.
Givens is controllable through 2021, so he'd be more than a rental. This feels like the moment for Baltimore to leverage his value and continue to stock the farm.
The same teams mentioned before—the Phillies, Mets, Reds and Cubs—make sense as partners, but interest should be widespread.
Seattle Mariners: Deal 3B Kyle Seager
The Seattle Mariners have baseball's No. 2 farm system. The future is bright in the Pacific Northwest.
But many of the M's top prospects, such as outfielder Jarred Kelenic, are a year or two away from seriously contributing at the big league level. Seattle is still in the rebuild phase.
As such, the Mariners should look for takers for third baseman Kyle Seager.
Multiple teams expressed interest in Seager over the winter, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The 32-year-old hit just .239 last season, but he's a former All-Star and Gold Glove winner who has hit 20 or more home runs every season since 2012.
Through his first 24 at-bats of 2020, Seager has collected eight hits, including three doubles and a home run. As a veteran bat and clubhouse leader, he should drum up interest among contenders.
Seager is owed $18.5 million in 2021 with a $15 million club option for 2022 that becomes a player option if he's traded. If the Mariners were willing to pick up some of that cash, they could net a decent return.
One potential suitor? The Atlanta Braves, who have been linked to Kris Bryant but, as mentioned, might not be able to pry him away from the Cubs before the deadline. Instead, after losing third baseman Josh Donaldson to free agency this winter, the Braves could dip into their deep farm system and acquire a proven hot corner option in Seager to supplement or supplant internal options Austin Riley and Johan Camargo.
New York Yankees: Acquire 1B Josh Bell
The Pittsburgh Pirates figure to be bottom-dwellers in the deep National League Central in 2020. The Bucs have some exciting young talent in right-hander Mitch Keller and third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes but should work to keep buttressing their No. 13-ranked farm system.
First baseman Josh Bell should draw ample interest. The 27-year-old had a career year in 2019 with 37 home runs and a .936 OPS. He's controllable through 2022 and should fetch a nice return from a club looking for a power hitter entering the midst of his prime.
They wouldn't be the only team to pick up the phone, but the New York Yankees seem like a fit for Bell's services.
The Yanks are relying on the duo of Luke Voit and Mike Ford at first base. Voit posted an .842 OPS with 21 homers in 118 games last year but got out of the gate slow with one hit in his first 10 at-bats, though he went 2-for-4 with a grand slam Thursday in an 8-6 win over the Orioles. Ford flashed power in 2019 with 12 homers in 50 games but is unproven. It's a position where New York could use an upgrade as it angles for title No. 28.
Bell would represent exactly such an upgrade, and his switch-hitting bat would help balance the Yankees' right-handed-heavy lineup.
New York would have to part with some impact talent and deplete a farm system that's already ranked No. 23, but Bell is the type of controllable, proven talent who'd be worth the cost.
Houston Astros: Acquire LHP Matthew Boyd
Last season, the Houston Astros won the AL pennant behind co-aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who finished first and second, respectively, in Junior Circuit Cy Young Award voting.
Now, Cole is a member of the Yankees and Verlander is out indefinitely with a forearm injury.
The 'Stros still have a deep lineup and veteran right-hander Zack Greinke to headline the starting rotation. But their status among MLB's elite is in jeopardy.
Houston could turn to internal options such as touted prospect Forrest Whitley, but it would be wise to add a proven arm.
Detroit Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd posted a less-than-stellar 4.56 ERA in 2019 and has wobbled in his first two starts of 2020, allowing eight earned runs in 10 innings. But he averaged a career-high 11.6 K/9 last season and has the stuff to be an effective, bat-missing rotation stalwart.
He's also 29 years old and controllable through 2022. He could be part of the rebuilding Tigers' future. Yet Detroit has multiple high-upside arms at the top of its farm system, including Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, which makes Boyd expendable.
If the Astros (or someone else) come calling with an enticing package, Detroit should pull the trigger. Boyd won't replace Verlander—few pitchers could—but he'd help shore up a recently exposed hole in Houston's armor.
Boston Red Sox: Deal CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
Over the winter, the Boston Red Sox were "all but certain" to trade center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.
That didn't materialize, and Bradley remains a member of the Red Sox. But Boston should revisit this trade idea soon.
Entering play Thursday, Boston pitchers ranked 27th in baseball with a 5.83 ERA. Cry small sample if you want, but the eyeball test backs up the numbers. Chris Sale is lost to Tommy John surgery. Nathan Eovaldi, easily the Sox's best starter so far, has surrendered 13 hits in 11 innings.
Boston simply doesn't have enough pitching to be a serious postseason factor in 2020.
The Sox could go shopping for starters and bullpen help. But they'd have to strip pieces from their already-thin, No. 25-ranked farm system.
Instead, Boston should continue on the trajectory it established by trading right fielder Mookie Betts and left-hander David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in February.
Bradley has gotten off to a hot start with eight hits in his first 20 at-bats, including a pair of doubles. And the 30-year-old remains a superlative defensive center fielder.
He's in a contract year but should interest multiple teams as a rental. The New York Mets spring to mind as a club that could use outfield depth, and they've been linked to Bradley before.
Either way, Bradley should switch laundry before the season is over and land Boston a few pieces for the future.
All statistics current as of Thursday and courtesy of Baseball Reference.