MLB Trade Rumors: Potential Deals to Watch for Heading into 2020 Deadline

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 23, 2020

Trevor Rosenthal is emerging as a popular trade commodity.
Trevor Rosenthal is emerging as a popular trade commodity.Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

For all the variables working against a busy MLB trade deadline, an early move may set the tone for more late-August activity.

On Friday night, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired relief pitchers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree from the Boston Red Sox. The deal makes sense for both sides. Boston emerged as one of few sellers with sapped playoff hopes, and Philadelphia badly needed to improve a bullpen possessing MLB's worst ERA by more than two full runs.

Teams will need to replicate that blueprint and find obvious matches to complete more deals.

Clubs have only had a month to ascertain their status as buyers or sellers. Those deciding to strengthen their squads before August 31's deadline will have just another four weeks to vie for one of 16 playoff spots.

Don't expect any blockbusters, but these latest rumors could foreshadow some other possible moves of intrigue.


Miami Marlins Are Buyers?

A solid start, expanded postseason and weak NL East all have the Marlins envisioning an unlikely playoff run.
A solid start, expanded postseason and weak NL East all have the Marlins envisioning an unlikely playoff run.Nick Wass/Associated Press

It's late August, and the Miami Marlins have 11 wins. In 2020, that means they are eyeing their first playoff bid since winning the World Series in 2003.

Despite losing a week of their season to multiple players testing positive for COVID-19, the Marlins remain one game over .500. That's good for second place in an underperforming NL East.

Per MLB Network's Jon Morosi, the Marlins will look to pounce on their unexpected opening:

Jon Morosi @jonmorosi

Source: The #Marlins -- currently occupying a playoff position -- plan to be buyers at the upcoming Trade Deadline, with a focus on adding bullpen help. The #Royals are one team whose relievers the Marlins are monitoring. @MLB @MLBNetwork

Led by Pablo Lopez and Elieser Hernandez, Miami has received solid starting pitching in its first 21 games. The rotation will only get stronger by welcoming rookie Sixto Sanchez as it awaits the returns of Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith.

The bullpen, however, entered Saturday saddled with an MLB-worst 6.10 FIP. Even if they sneak into the expanded playoffs, the Marlins would struggle to last long without any reliable high-leverage relievers.

It's also a weakness the organization is most likely to improve without relinquishing any key top prospects. FanGraphs still gives the Marlins just a 21.9 percent probability of reaching the postseason and 0.2 percent chance of hoisting their third championship, so CEO Derek Jeter shouldn't unload the farm just yet.

While a minor acquisition wouldn't turn the Marlins into a dangerous player, even the slightest win-now planning is refreshing from a franchise notorious for selling its stars in money-saving teardowns.


Trevor Rosenthal Drawing Interest

Rosenthal has successfully returned from Tommy John surgery to close for the Royals.
Rosenthal has successfully returned from Tommy John surgery to close for the Royals.Aaron Doster/Associated Press

If the Marlins are exploring the Kansas City Royals as a trade partner, chances are they are considering Trevor Rosenthal. It appears they wouldn't be alone in pursuing the closer.

According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, there's heavy interest in the hard-throwing 30-year-old:

Mark Feinsand @Feinsand

One of the hottest names on the trade market so far is Royals reliever Trevor Rosenthal. Several teams have expressed interest, per sources, and many expect him to move by Aug. 31.

After missing all of 2018 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Rosenthal returned to yield 40 runs and 42 walks in 30.1 professional innings last year. That makes his comeback all the more commendable. He's ceded just one run over 10.1 frames, accruing 14 strikeouts, four walks and six saves.

Not harboring serious thoughts of contention, the Royals inked Rosenthal to an inexpensive one-year, $1.75 million deal last winter in hopes of catching lightning in the bottle. At 11-16, it behooves them to cash out and sell him to any contender needing a bullpen boost.

It shouldn't be difficult to find one in this environment.

Fringe contenders like the Marlins could envision Rosenthal as a low-cost upgrade with the potential for a high reward. Looking at other mid-level NL playoff hopefuls, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres would all benefit immensely from late-inning help. And no matter the time of the trade deadline, the Washington Nationals are never not in need of bullpen reinforcements. 

An organization with a bit more urgency to compete in October will likely shell out a more significant prospect than Miami.


Angels Are 'Clear Sellers'

David Fletcher has provided an offensive and defensive spark in the Angels' infield.
David Fletcher has provided an offensive and defensive spark in the Angels' infield.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Few teams seemed better positioned to exploit MLB's playoff expansion than the Los Angeles Angels. Despite making the postseason just once in the past 10 years, they have averaged a respectable 79 wins per season. They fell short of the playoffs with at least 80 wins in six of those campaigns.

Playing .500 baseball could have sent Mike Trout to the postseason for the first time since 2014. Instead, they are 9-19 and already looking ahead to 2021.

After they lost eight of nine games, Morosi reported that the Angels aren't holding out hope for a turnaround:

Jon Morosi @jonmorosi

Trade Deadline update: The #Angels are among small number of clear sellers, and infielder David Fletcher fits virtually every contender due to his defensive versatility and reliable bat. However, the price tag on him is extraordinarily high — as it should be. @MLBNetwork @MLB

A bright spot to their dim 2020, David Fletcher is batting .316/.374/.470 with a higher WAR (1.2) than Trout (1.0). The 5'9" infielder has played his way into a full-time role as an exceptional catalyst atop the lineup.

"I talked about him before the season began in spring training with a tremendous amount of platitudes, but now I see how good of an infielder he is," Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Fletcher, per Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. "He's really that good."

Since he's yet to enter his first of three arbitration years, the Angels should have no urgency to deal Fletcher unless presented too good an offer to refuse. If they want to sell an early standout performer, Dylan Bundy is the more sensible choice.

Following four erratic seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, the 27-year-old righty has registered a 2.48 ERA and 0.80 WHIP through five starts. Sidelining an ineffective four-seam fastball in favor of more stellar sliders has propelled him to post 38 strikeouts and seven walks in 32.2 innings.

However, this isn't the first time that Bundy has enjoyed a brief stretch of dominance. He recorded a 2.68 ERA last May, only to surrender a 5.68 ERA the following month.

Bundy opened 2018 with a 2.97 ERA through four starts that had backers believing in a breakout the way they do now. He proceeded to permit 22 runs in the next three outings, which lasted only nine innings.

Because he's a fairly young and durable pitcher under team control through 2021, Bundy could fetch a sizable return on the open market. Since his new-found status as a rotation cornerstone is far from set in stone, the Angels should test those waters.


Note: All advanced stats are courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.