Crowdsourcing the 10 Players Most Likely to Be Dealt at 2020 MLB Trade Deadline

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2020

Crowdsourcing the 10 Players Most Likely to Be Dealt at 2020 MLB Trade Deadline

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    On Tuesday afternoon, we took to the B/R app and asked MLB fans to name the three players they thought were most likely to be traded ahead of the 2020 trade deadline on Aug. 31.

    With 65 users offering up 195 names, we had a big sample size to draw from.

    All of those responses were tracked, and the 10 most frequently mentioned players were pulled from the results for a closer look. Each player's profile and trade stock were analyzed and a percentage was placed on the likelihood that they will be traded before the calendar flips to September.

    Thanks to everyone who participated in this week's mailbag article, and be on the lookout for the crowdsourcing comment thread in the app early next week.

    Let's kick things off with a look at the others receiving votes.

Others Receiving Votes

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    Trevor Bauer
    Trevor BauerPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    Before we dive into the 10 highest vote-getters, here's a quick rundown of the other players who received votes:

    • 6 Votes: SP Trevor Bauer (CIN), 1B Josh Bell (PIT)
    • 5 Votes: RP Mychal Givens (BAL)
    • 4 Votes: 3B Nolan Arenado (COL), 3B Kyle Seager (SEA), RP Brandon Workman (BOS)
    • 3 Votes: IF/OF Miguel Andujar (NYY), OF Clint Frazier (NYY), RP Keone Kela (PIT), OF Kevin Pillar (BOS)
    • 2 Votes: C James McCann (CWS), 1B Mitch Moreland (BOS), OF Joc Pederson (LAD), SP Jeff Samardzija (SF), 2B Jonathan Schoop (DET)
    • 1 Vote: RP Matt Barnes (BOS), SP Shane Bieber (CLE), OF Nick Castellanos (CIN), DH Shin-Soo Choo (TEX), RP Edwin Diaz (NYM), SP Michael Fulmer (DET), SP Zac Gallen (ARI), RP Ken Giles (TOR), SS Didi Gregorius (PHI), OF Mitch Haniger (SEA), RP Greg Holland (KC), SP Adrian Houser (MIL), RP Ian Kennedy (KC), 2B Gavin Lux (LAD), OF Starling Marte (ARI), SP/RP Carlos Martinez (STL), SP Mike Minor (TEX), RP Trevor Rosenthal (KC), RP Will Smith (ATL), SP Spencer Turnbull (DET), IF/OF Jonathan Villar (MIA), RP Tony Watson (SF)

    As far as under-the-radar trade candidates are concerned, hard-throwing reliever Trevor Rosenthal is definitely one to watch at the deadline.

    The former All-Star closer has regained his elite velocity (97.9 mph), and he has converted all five of his save chances while posting a 0.90 ERA with a 13-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 10 innings. The Royals plucked him from the scrapheap and he's a free agent again this offseason, so they'll be happy to turn him into a prospect.

RHP Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants (8 Votes)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Johnny Cueto entered the 2020 season as one of baseball's great unknowns.

    The former ace and two-time All-Star pitched a combined 69 innings in 2018 and 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and entering his age-34 season, it was fair to wonder if a clean bill of health would be enough for him to return to relevance.

    He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 8 before he came unraveled after Hunter Pence lost a fly ball in the sun, and then he tossed seven strong innings of three-hit, two-run ball against the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 14.

    He has at least proved capable of shutting down some potent lineups when things are clicking, and it's easy to see him fitting into the middle of the rotation for a number of contenders. The issue is the $21.8 million he is still owed in 2021, along with a $5 million buyout on a $22 million option in 2022.

    At this point in his career, he fits best as a No. 4 starter on a good team. The one-year, $10 million contract that Rick Porcello signed with the New York Mets is a reasonable comparison for his market value.

    Would the San Francisco Giants be willing to pay down $15 million or more of the money he is still owed to facilitate a trade?

    It's not out of the question, considering they absorbed Zack Cozart's contract in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason to acquire 2019 first-rounder Will Wilson.

    Still, it's a significant enough hurdle to make a Cueto trade far from a sure thing.

    Trade Chances: 49 percent

RHP Mike Clevinger, Cleveland Indians (8 Votes)

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Mike Clevinger was my preseason pick to win AL Cy Young honors.

    The 29-year-old went 13-4 with a 2.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 169 strikeouts in 126 innings last season, good for a 12.1 K/9 rate that ranked seventh among starters who tossed at least 100 innings.

    So why would the Cleveland Indians consider trading him?

    His climbing salary could be one reason. His 2020 salary was set at $4.1 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility before the season was shortened. He's controllable through the 2022 season, but that figure will continue to climb in the years to come.

    The other factor at play here is his selfish decision to break safety protocol, along with teammate Zach Plesac. It has put him at odds with a number of his teammates, and those fences could be deemed unmendable.

    In the end, he's still an extremely valuable trade chip, and the Indians are not simply going to give him away. But if another team comes calling with a significant offer, they might be more willing to listen than they would have been prior to the incident.

    Trade Chances: 20 percent

RHP Lance Lynn, Texas Rangers (8 Votes)

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Texas Rangers signed Lance Lynn to a three-year, $30 million contract after he posted a 4.77 ERA and 89 ERA+ in 156.2 innings pitching for the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees in 2018.

    Now that's one of the best bargains in baseball.

    The 33-year-old finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting last year, going 16-11 with a 3.67 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 246 strikeouts in 208.1 innings.

    He's been even better so far this year, leading the AL with a 1.11 ERA while allowing just 12 hits in 32.1 innings, and he tossed his third career complete game last time out.

    A team friendly $9.3 million salary for 2021 makes him more than just a rental and an extremely valuable trade chip for the Rangers.

    His availability will boil down to whether they see themselves contending in 2021.

    After adding Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to the pitching staff during the offseason, it was clear the front office had its sights set on contending this year. That might not be in the cards, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're willing to throw in the towel on 2021.

    If they have any inclination of making a run next year, they have to hold onto their ace. They would be wise to listen to offers, but it's going to take a lot to pry him loose, likely more than any contender is willing to pay.

    Trade Chances: 20 percent

3B Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (9 Votes)

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Something has to give for the Chicago Cubs.

    Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester are all free agents after the 2021 season. Willson Contreras hits the open market the following winter.

    With Bryant and Baez, the front office likely faces a decision similar to what the Washington Nationals dealt with this past offseason when they had to choose between re-signing Anthony Rendon or Stephen Strasburg.

    They can afford to keep one. It's hard to see them locking up both.

    In terms of overall importance to the team, Baez should be the club's top priority for a long-term extension, which means a trade of Bryant has to be on the table.

    That said, such a deal is more likely to occur during the offseason. The Cubs are in the thick of things in the NL Central right now despite a leaky bullpen, and waiting until the offseason to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal won't diminish the return.

    The Atlanta Braves still look like the perfect trade partner given their stockpile of young pitching and the questions surrounding Austin Riley as the long-term answer at third base. They are more likely to be focused on finding veteran pitching help at the deadline, which could further motivate the Cubs to wait until they're ready to talk trade.

    I think a trade happens before he reaches free agency, but I would be shocked if it takes place at this year's deadline.

    Trade Chances: 5 percent

LHP Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers (10 Votes)

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Last June, Jason Beck of reported that the Detroit Tigers were seeking a return comparable to what the Chicago White Sox received from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Jose Quintana if they were going to trade left-hander Matthew Boyd.

    That was the trade that sent Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to the South Siders.

    No one was willing to meet that lofty asking price, and Boyd ended up staying put. He then went on to struggle to a 6.11 ERA in 10 starts over the final two months of the season.

    Those struggles have carried over into 2020. He's posted an unsightly 9.64 ERA over his first five starts, leading the AL in hits allowed (34), earned runs allowed (25) and home runs allowed (8).

    Opponents are hitting a staggering .333/.400/.676 against him, while his walk rate has climbed (2.4 to 3.9 BB/9) and his strikeout rate has dropped (11.6 to 10.4 K/9). Not good signs.

    The Tigers famously turned down offers of Javier Baez (from the Cubs) and Alex Bregman (from the Astros) for Michael Fulmer at the 2017 trade deadline, when he was fresh off his AL Rookie of the Year win.

    It looks like they might have made a similar mistake not selling high on Boyd.

    At this point, it's unlikely they'll be willing to admit that mistake and sell low, and no one is going to come close to meeting their previous asking price until he rights the ship.

    Those remaining years of team control don't mean much when he's not pitching well.

    Trade Chances: 5 percent

SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (11 Votes)

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    "Enjoy him. We control him for three more years. Enjoy him, and then we'll see what happens."

    Since those words were uttered by Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan prior to the 2019 season, it has almost become a foregone conclusion that Francisco Lindor will eventually be wearing another uniform.

    Not since Manny Machado was wrapping up his tenure with the Baltimore Orioles has it been so abundantly clear that a superstar player and his current team are headed for a split.

    The Indians are 13-9 on the year, and despite missing the playoffs a year ago, they were still a 93-win team with the pieces to make a legitimate postseason push. That could be reason enough to justify holding onto Lindor and waiting until the offseason to strike a deal.

    On the other hand, the 26-year-old carries a $17.5 million salary figure in 2020, and that will climb north of $20 million in his final year of arbitration. The purse strings are tight in the Cleveland front office, and his trade value will start to diminish once his remaining control drops below a full season, so swinging a deal now is not out of the realm of possibility.

    The question is where he fits.

    There are a finite number of teams with the young pieces to swing a deal and the financial flexibility to pursue a long-term extension once a deal is done. The Dodgers? The Reds? Maybe the Braves?

    My money is still on the Indians holding onto him until next year's trade deadline, at which point they'll either make one final push with him on the roster or flip him to a contender for a package similar to what the O's acquired from the Dodgers in exchange for Machado.

    Trade Chances: 15 percent

CF Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox (13 Votes)

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    After a 1.9-WAR season in 2019 and with a $11 million salary awaiting in his final year of arbitration, there was talk of Jackie Bradley Jr. being a non-tender candidate for the cost-cutting Boston Red Sox this past offseason.

    He was "actively shopped" at the winter meetings, but when no taker was found, the team opted to bring him back for another year as the starting center fielder.

    The 30-year-old went 8-for-14 with two doubles in his first four games this season, but he's hitting an abysmal .140/.204/.160 with just one extra-base hit and 16 strikeouts in 54 plate appearances since.

    From 2017 to '19, he hit .234/.318/.409 for a 90 OPS+, so there's very little reason to believe he's going to be an offensive asset at this point.

    The Red Sox would no doubt love to unload him, but it takes two to tango.

    He's still owed roughly $2.5 million, and with teams facing significant financial losses this year, that's almost certainly going to be more than anyone is willing to pay for an underperforming, defensive-minded center fielder.

    Even if the Red Sox eat most of that salary, he's not going to bring back much of a return, so they might as well ride it out rather than creating a defensive hole behind an already struggling pitching staff.

    Trade Chances: 10 percent

LHP Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks (17 Votes)

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    A mechanical tweak intended to improve his command had baseball people buzzing about a potential breakout season from Robbie Ray. I slurped down a couple gallons of that Kool-Aid myself, picking him to win NL Cy Young honors in what promised to be a wacky season.

    He retired the first eight batters he faced in his 2020 debut, five by way of the strikeout, before the wheels fell off and he was yanked with two outs in the fourth inning with a pitch count of 97.

    That roller coaster ride has continued through his first five starts. His last time out, he threw five no-hit innings against the San Diego Padres, but he also walked six batters and hit another.

    All told, he has racked up 27 strikeouts in 22 innings while leading the NL in walks (20) and wild pitches (4). That has led to an unsightly 8.59 ERA and 1.91 WHIP, making him by no means the most attractive trade chip.

    Despite that, he knows how to miss bats, and his swing-and-miss stuff is always going to hold appeal to a team that thinks it can "fix" him. The 28-year-old is reasonably priced, and the D-backs could be motivated to move him with free agency looming and the club off to a slow start.

    On the other hand, if all they receive are low-ball offers, they might be better served holding onto him. If he finishes strong, he would be a prime candidate to receive and decline a qualifying offer.

    His age and stuff make him an appealing target for a multiyear deal in free agency, and the value of the draft-pick compensation the D-backs would receive for him turning down a QO would potentially exceed a sell-low return. Again, that's all contingent on him finishing strong, and his next start will be closely monitored.

    Trade Chances: 51 percent

DH J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox (17 Votes)

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    J.D. Martinez hit .304/.383/.557 with 33 doubles, 36 home runs and 105 RBI last season.

    His $23.75 million salary made him the eighth-highest-paid position player in baseball, yet from an overall value standpoint, his 3.4 WAR was tied for 71st.

    That is something that Red Sox fans need to take into account when offering up trade ideas that have Martinez bringing back a blockbuster package of prospects.

    The value just isn't there.

    He's still owed $38.7 million in 2021 and 2022, and he'll turn 33 years old on Aug. 21, so there is also a financial commitment beyond this season that comes with legitimate regression risk. Even if the Red Sox make a serious push to trade Martinez, finding a trade partner will be tough.

    With no guarantee that the universal DH will continue beyond 2020, NL teams will shy away given the remaining years on his contract. On the AL side, the Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Royals and Tigers can all be classified as rebuilding at this point.

    Already we've eliminated 20 teams from the conversation.

    The Twins (Nelson Cruz), Astros (Yordan Alvarez) and Angels (Shohei Ohtani) already have DH-only players locked into the role. The White Sox have Edwin Encarnacion keeping the position warm until Jose Abreu moves there. The Athletics, Rays and Indians don't have the payroll flexibility. The Yankees are already paying Giancarlo Stanton a small fortune.

    That leaves the Texas Rangers. They made a push to sign Nick Castellanos during the offseason for a similar role, so there could actually be some interest there. That's an awfully narrow market, though.

    Trade Chances: 5 percent

2B/OF Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals (21 Votes)

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Despite their clear rebuilding status, the Kansas City Royals have given zero indication they intend to trade Whit Merrifield.

    "Whit Merrifield has led the world in hits the last two years. Jorge Soler is the home run king. (Adalberto Mondesi) is so dynamic he’s capable of doing a lot of different things. We’re holding onto that core," general manager Dayton Moore told reporters in December.

    Moore went on to explain the logic behind keeping a player like Merrifield even though he might not be part of the next contending team:

    "I've always believed that you have to have strong examples of how to conduct yourself as a Major League Baseball player. Whit Merrifield provides that example. You can’t necessarily quantify what that means to the future of the team. But when you know you’re going to be transitioning a lot of young players to your 26-man roster of the next few years, guys like Whit Merrifield are important to help establishing winning."

    That doesn't sound like posturing.

    It sounds like the front office has made a clear-cut decision to use Merrifield as a foundational piece of the club's rebuilding efforts, and it explains why they have seemingly not even entertained offers for him.

    Signed to a team-friendly four-year, $16.25 million contract that includes a $10.5 million club option in 2023, there is no financial motivation to trade him.

    His name will continue to swirl in trade rumors as long as the Royals are out of contention and he's racking up hits, but it sure seems like he's staying put.

    Trade Chances: 2 percent


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.