The Perfect 2020 MLB Trade Deadline Target for Every Playoff Hopeful

Martin FennCorrespondent IAugust 25, 2020

The Perfect 2020 MLB Trade Deadline Target for Every Playoff Hopeful

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Not every team in baseball can acquire its ideal trade target prior to the deadline.

    Some clubs do not have the assets or cash flow to make a potential deal work; others are outbid by teams with these exact resources. Sometimes, the asking price is just too high.

    But MLB teams are still working to address needs prior to Monday's deadline, especially in a season where 16 teams will earn a playoff spot and the chance to compete for a World Series.

    The perfect trade target is out there for various playoff hopefuls. Whether these contenders can close a deal is another question, but they should be trying all the same.

New York Yankees

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Lance Lynn

    The Yankees have a host of injuries to position players, including Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu. But the injury to left-hander James Paxton is more concerning.

    Paxton's recent MRI revealed a Grade 1 strain of the left forearm flexor, and it remains to be seen how much time he might miss. The Yankees could already have used more starting pitching, but now it feels like a necessity to keep them among the top contenders.

    Texas Rangers ace Lance Lynn would be a great add for the Bronx Bombers. The veteran right-hander has continued his run of good form, going 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in six starts.

    Moreover, Lynn is under contract for just $8 million in 2021, per Spotrac, and could provide added insurance with both Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka headed for free agency. The Yankees have MLB-ready players like Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar, as well as a decent prospect pool. They should use the resources necessary to acquire Lynn.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Mitch Moreland

    The Rays hoped they were adding more pop to the lineup when they signed Japanese slugger Yoshi Tsutsugo in the offseason.

    However, both Tsutsugo and first baseman Ji-Man Choi have both gotten off to slow starts. Tsutsugo had three homers and 14 RBI entering play on Monday, but he was also hitting .167 with a .585 OPS. Choi, meanwhile, was hitting just .200 with a .682 OPS. Jose Martinez has been solid (.760 OPS), but is more of an outfield platoon option.

    Fortunately for Tampa Bay, there is a left-handed slugger who could slot right in for either Tsutsugo or Choi, though the problem is he plays in the same division.

    Mitch Moreland has been an offensive force for the Boston Red Sox with seven homers and a 1.237 OPS through his first 50 at-bats. Moreland is also on an expiring contract (club option in 2021), making him expendable.

    Will the Red Sox trade Moreland within their division? If so, he would be an excellent add for the Rays.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Dylan Bundy

    Bundy has revitalized his career since moving from Baltimore to Los Angeles. The Blue Jays are looking to add rotation depth at the deadline.

    Seems like a perfect match.

    Bundy is 3-2 with a 2.58 ERA in his first six starts, striking out 10.3 hitters per nine innings. His advanced metrics are impressive as well, as he ranked in the 80th percentile or higher in exit velocity, hard-hit percentage and xwOBA, per Baseball Savant.

    Aside from his performance, Bundy is a controllable arm. The 27-year-old will not be a free agent until 2022, making him a good fit alongside the rest of Toronto’s young core.

    It seems unlikely the Angels would deal Bundy given their own need for young pitching. At the same time, the Halos need young assets, and perhaps the Blue Jays would be able to sway them with a decent offer.

Minnesota Twins

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Jorge Soler

    The Twins do not have a ton of needs, though the offense hasn't been as prolific as anticipated, and injuries are starting to creep into the picture.

    It seems unlikely the offense will continue to struggle this badly, but there are concerns all the same. The Twins entered this past weekend ranked fifth in runs scored but just seventh in OPS, hardly up to the standards of the 2019 club that broke the record for single-season homers. Byron Buxton's persistent injury issues also have to give the Twins some pause.

    What if Minnesota made a big move for Kansas City Royals outfielder Jorge Soler, who hit 48 homers last year and is off to a decent start this season?

    The right-handed slugger will not be eligible for free agency until 2022, and he could play right field as Max Kepler mans center in Buxton's absence.

    Soler is likely to come at a massive prospect cost, but the Twins have the farm capital to get a deal done. Then again, this is another inter-division hypothetical, which always makes things difficult.

Cleveland Indians

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Mike Yastrzemski

    It is no secret the Indians desperately need more production from their outfield.

    The Tribe have lacked quality outfield depth in recent years, and past fringe acquisitions like Yasiel Puig have only made for marginal upgrades. Where can they turn for assistance?

    San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski has been red-hot this year. The 30-year-old entered play on Monday with seven homers and a 1.074 OPS, and he also led the majors with 2.2 fWAR, according to FanGraphs.

    The primary question: How highly do the Giants value Yastrzemski? He only made his big league debut last year, meaning years of club control remain before he can become a free agent. At the same time, Yastrzemski is already 30, and he is unlikely to be a major contributor for the next Giants winner.

    Cleveland might be able to convince the Giants with its wealth of arms, including the likes of 25-year-old Zach Plesac.

Chicago White Sox

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Dylan Bundy

    The White Sox offense has been everything South Siders likely hoped it would be heading into the season, and the bullpen has looked pretty sturdy as well.

    However, the rotation could use another arm, particularly if Chicago hopes to make a deep playoff run against high-scoring American League teams like the Yankees and Oakland Athletics.

    Left-hander Dallas Keuchel has proved himself an excellent offseason addition, and Lucas Giolito looks good coming off an All-Star 2019 campaign. But things get uneasy after that.

    Dylan Cease has a 3.13 ERA but also a 1.33 WHIP and 84.8 percent of runners left on base, per FanGraphs. Gio Gonzalez might be better served in a long relief role, and Reynaldo Lopez has started just twice after a lengthy IL stint.

    White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has said they will probably not pursue rentals, making Bundy the highest-upside starter they could pursue.

Oakland Athletics

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Mitch Moreland

    Much like the Rays, the Athletics could use another left-handed bat in the lineup.

    First baseman Matt Olson figures to get things rolling eventually, but Tony Kemp is not a run producer, and both he and outfielder Robbie Grossman split time anyway.

    As well, veteran designated hitter Khris Davis has been atrocious. Davis had just one homer and a .536 OPS through his first 17 games and is still owed close to $17 million in 2021.

    The Athletics might best be served to try to eat some cash to move Davis while also acquiring Moreland, a left-handed slugger who would fit perfectly in a lineup with Olson, Matt Chapman and Mark Canha.

    Oakland should look for additional pitching should it fail to add an impact bat, perhaps a rental starter. But Moreland would give the A's a legitimate threat from the left side of the dish, something they desperately need.

Houston Astros

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Sean Doolittle

    Doolittle has had a terrible 2020 season, giving up five earned runs and three homers in three innings of work before hitting the injured list.

    However, the Washington Nationals reliever might be an attractive target for the Astros.

    Houston has a shortage of left-handed bullpen arms with Blake Taylor as the only guy who can get outs effectively. It seems unlikely the Astros can afford to head into the final stretch with just one lefty in the pen, though most marquee relievers are right-handed.

    Meanwhile, the Nationals—though they might also buy at the deadline—could sell Doolittle in a move to reposition since the 33-year-old is on an expiring contract and has struggled to prevent the long ball.

    The Astros have had plenty of success revitalizing veteran pitchers, with Justin Verlander as the ultimate example. They also cannot afford to keep dealing prospects since the farm is thinning after blockbuster trades in recent years.

    Perhaps Doolittle would be the next project capable of getting his career back on track and pitching high-leverage innings.

Atlanta Braves

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Mike Clevinger

    The Braves are in dire need of quality starting pitching.

    Atlanta's rotation looked solid heading into spring training. But veteran left-hander Cole Hamels is yet to make his debut, and Mike Soroka is out for the year after tearing his Achilles. Meanwhile, left-hander Sean Newcomb and Touki Toussaint have struggled to limit free passes.

    The Braves and general manager Alex Anthopoulos are running out of reasons to retain all of their assets, given this team is a legitimate contender for a World Series title. This is even more evident since the Braves might be able to procure right-hander Mike Clevinger from the Indians.

    Clevinger's status is a bit of an unknown after he and Zach Plesac violated protocols by going out in Chicago and then lying about it, further angering teammates. Meanwhile, the Braves have premium outfield prospects the Indians might desire, like Cristian Pache and Drew Waters.

    Lastly, Clevinger would fit in with the rest of the Braves in the sense he is not eligible for free agency until 2023, which gives Atlanta additional assurances.

    Clevinger has a 3.20 ERA and averages 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 517.1 career frames. He is the kind of controllable, impact pitcher a contender fawns over, and the Braves should pursue such a move.

Miami Marlins

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Greg Holland

    Few baseball fans would have picked the Marlins to be among the contending teams over a third of the way through the year.

    Yet the Fish are indeed fighting for a playoff spot, which speaks to the unprecedented nature of this shortened season. Jon Morosi of reports the Marlins will be buyers at the deadline and says Miami is looking at Kansas City Royals relievers.

    However, the Marlins are still—technically speaking—in rebuilding mode, so they do not want to buy too high on any given reliever.

    How about veteran Greg Holland? The 34-year-old no longer possesses the elite strikeout stuff he had when he made three All-Star teams between 2013 and 2017 (Holland missed all of 2016 because of injury), but he is still a productive reliever.

    The right-hander had a 3.21 ERA in 14 appearances entering play on Monday and can throw leveraged innings whenever the Marlins need him. Holland will also likely demand a lesser haul than teammates Ian Kennedy and Trevor Rosenthal, making him the best target for the Fish.

New York Mets

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Taijuan Walker

    The Mets do not have much prospect capital to work with, but they desperately need reinforcements in the starting rotation.

    New York has not been able to sustain the losses of both Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, as the starting staff ranks 23rd in ERA.

    Jacob deGrom has been steady, and left-hander David Peterson looked like a nice piece prior to hitting the IL. But veterans Rick Porcello and Steven Matz (moved to the bullpen) have had a tough go of things, and Robert Gsellman is not the No. 5 the Mets were hoping for heading into the season.

    Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker is probably New York's best option. The 28-year-old has a history of injuries, but Walker also boasts a career 8.2 strikeout rate and is coming off a pair of quality starts.

    The Mets are almost assuredly going to opt for a rental in the starting pitcher market, though Walker (a free agent this winter) could potentially be a nice option to retain if New York cannot re-sign Stroman.

Washington Nationals

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Josh Bell

    The Phillies made their play for bullpen arms by acquiring Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree from the Boston Red Sox, so the defending world champions are the last team to assess in the NL East.

    Washington has already had a frustrating year. Juan Soto missed the first eight games because of complications around a positive COVID-19 test. Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg is out for the year after undergoing surgery to repair issues related to carpal tunnel syndrome.

    What do the Nats make of all this? Well, they could throw caution to the wind and acquire first baseman Josh Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    The Nationals could probably also use some pitching, either in the rotation or the bullpen. But why not add a guy like Bell considering Ryan Zimmerman is bound for retirement?

    Bell had a .545 OPS through 23 games but still has upside as a potential run producer for a contender. Plus, the 28-year-old is under team control through 2022 and would give the Nats a potential cornerstone in the infield to replace Anthony Rendon.

    The Nationals are struggling to score runs and could also use another left-handed slugger in the lineup to complement Soto.

    Perhaps the asking price will be too high, but Washington has to shake things up to remain competitive in the coming years.

Chicago Cubs

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Trevor Rosenthal

    The Cubs have managed to stay atop the NL Central despite terribly slow starts from stars like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, and the aging rotation has performed well.

    The same cannot be said for the bullpen.

    Chicago lacks quality arms in the later innings. Duane Underwood Jr. and Dan Winkler are having a hard time commanding the zone, and left-hander Kyle Ryan has failed to replicate his success from 2019.

    Craig Kimbrel has had a decent run of outings, though the Cubs are likely to be wary of his ability to hold down the closer role. Meanwhile, Rowan Wick has begun to slide a bit since taking over the majority of high-leverage situations.

    In short, the Cubs need an impact arm in the bullpen. Team president Theo Epstein said the team needs an arm capable of getting outs against left-handed batters.

    Rosenthal is a rental who fits that billing. The 30-year-old is dominating left-handed hitters, holding them to a .350 OPS through his first 12 appearances.

    The Cubs would do well to bring the former St. Louis Cardinals whiz back to the NL Central to solidify the bullpen in the later innings.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Kevin Pillar

    The Cardinals have a multitude of needs, most of which appear to be in the lineup.

    St. Louis has played the fewest games of any team in baseball thanks to its COVID-19 outbreak, but many of the numbers are discouraging.

    Center fielder Harrison Bader had a nice weekend to get back on track but is still striking out in nearly 28 percent of his plate appearances and had a .680 OPS last season. Meanwhile, Tyler O'Neill had a .620 OPS ahead of Monday's game against the Kansas City Royals, and rookie Dylan Carlson had six hits in 39 at-bats.

    There are a number of directions the Redbirds can go at the deadline, but why not try to get Red Sox outfielder Kevin Pillar?

    Boston will be eager to sell expiring contracts, and Pillar has produced solid results at the plate for the better part of the last two years while supplying Gold Glove-caliber defense at any of the outfield spots.

    Perhaps the Cardinals still feel Bader can turn his season around or Carlson will start to acclimate to major league pitching. Acquiring another outfielder might seem like a "holding" move, but it still makes the most sense given they rank 27th in outfield fWAR.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Todd Frazier

    Like the Cardinals, the Brewers are in desperate need of more lineup production.

    Milwaukee entered Monday's game with the Cincinnati Reds ranked 12th in runs scored and 14th in OPS. Christian Yelich has recovered from a woeful stretch to begin the year, but the Brewers are still having a hard time producing any offense.

    Simultaneously, the Brewers have almost nothing to offer opposing teams. Milwaukee has the worst farm system in the bigs, per, yet they are still trying to remain competitive both this year and over the course of Yelich's contract.

    The Brewers will have to buy low, and they can do so by acquiring Frazier from the Texas Rangers.

    Thought the "Toddfather" might not be the same slugger he once was, he offers positional versatility and can still hit the ball out of the yard. He might also benefit from playing in a hitter-friendly stadium like Miller Park.

    Frazier also has a club option for next year, so the Brewers can keep him for less than $6 million next year or let him walk.

    Milwaukee has limited options, but Frazier might provide veteran leadership and preferable production compared to Eric Sogard and Justin Smoak.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Ian Kennedy

    The Reds—like the Brewers and Cubs—are hoping to make a move despite having an unsavory farm system.

    Unlike Milwaukee and Chicago, however, Cincinnati has not been to the playoffs in recent years. The Reds will have to decide how much they want to dedicate to a postseason run this year.

    Still, there are some low-cost moves the Reds could make to improve their club, and Royals reliever Ian Kennedy is among them.

    Kennedy has put up ugly numbers, giving up six homers in his first 11.2 innings of work entering play on Monday. But he still has a high strikeout rate and is coming off a 2019 season in which he had a 3.41 ERA and 2.99 fielding independent pitching while notching 30 saves.

    Cincinnati's bullpen ranked toward the bottom of the league in ERA entering the weekend and could use a strikeout pitcher like Kennedy to bolster its depth, particularly given some of the dynamic stuff of guys like Raisel Iglesias and Lucas Sims. Both are striking out over 13 opponents per nine innings, and Kennedy would give the Reds another player capable of getting punch-outs in big situations.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Lance Lynn

    Realistically, the Dodgers do not have many needs to address at the deadline.

    The best team in baseball ranks at or near the top in just about every major statistical category, and the bullpen has been dominant, ranking first in ERA.

    Fans are used to hearing the Dodgers rumored to be involved in a potential blockbuster when the deadline rolls around. But that does not appear to be the case this year, particularly after they just gave Mookie Betts an enormous contract extension.

    Still, why not see what you would have to give up to acquire Lynn? The Dodgers have talented prospects at multiple positions and a slew of MLB-ready players (Joc Pederson, anyone?) to offer.

    The Dodgers rotation has been fine, though Walker Buehler and Ross Stripling have been underwhelming. Buehler should round into ace form, but acquiring Lynn would allow the Dodgers to move Stripling into a long-relief role, something for which he seems better suited.

    Again, Lynn is also under contract through 2021, which is also the final year of Clayton Kershaw's contract. The Dodgers can buy high on starting pitching in the hopes it nets them a title or two.

San Diego Padres

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Trevor Rosenthal

    The San Diego Padres suddenly have questions at the back end of the bullpen.

    Closer Kirby Yates is likely out for the year after undergoing elbow surgery to remove bone chips from his throwing elbow. Emilio Pagan has been a bit of a disappointment, holding a 6.23 ERA even after tossing a scoreless frame and getting the save on Sunday. Pagan is also striking out just 6.9 opponents per nine innings after registering a 12.3 K/9 in 2019.

    Moreover, Drew Pomeranz is on the injured list, and Craig Stammen has not been the kind of middle-relief ace he was in 2019.

    Naturally, this would seem to dictate that the Friars acquire another bullpen arm, especially given Yates will be a free agent at the end of the year.

    Rosenthal is the best option, given his dominance thus far and exceptional reverse splits, a major factor considering the Padres lack a quality lefty out of the pen outside of Matt Strahm.

Colorado Rockies

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Trevor Rosenthal

    The Rockies should also be in hot pursuit of Rosenthal.

    Colorado's makeshift bullpen has done a tremendous job this season. Veterans such as Daniel Bard are making the most of second chances, and youngsters like Yency Almonte are displaying nice potential.

    But the Rockies could still stand to acquire an experienced veteran like Rosenthal. Jairo Diaz has converted all three of his save opportunities but also has eight walks in just 10.0 innings of work. It might also be preferable not to hand the ball back to Wade Davis in the ninth inning even once he gets healthy.

    Rosenthal would give the Rockies yet another fireballer and a guy who can get both right- and left-handed hitters out, which would seem to play a big role in pitching well at a hitter-friendly park like Coors Field.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Ideal Target: Mychal Givens

    Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen has made it clear Arizona will do everything it can to add bullpen depth prior to the deadline.

    Hazen specifically mentioned "firepower" as a crucial component in limiting runs and getting out of jams come playoff time. Baltimore Orioles right-hander Mychal Givens has plenty of firepower.

    Givens was the Orioles' closer for a good portion of 2019, but a move into the setup role has done him lots of good. The 30-year-old had allowed just one run in his first 11.2 innings of work, striking out 16 and walking six.

    The advanced numbers mostly work in Givens' favor as well. As of Monday, Givens ranks in the 89th percentile xwOBA and 86th percentile xERA, per Baseball Savant, and also ranks in the 67th percentile in whiff rate.

    Arizona already has a closing option in Archie Bradley, but Givens could be the team's new setup man given the recent injury to left-hander Andrew Chafin. The Diamondbacks also have a number of top outfield prospects who could appeal to the Orioles.


    All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, FanGraphs or Baseball Savant unless otherwise noted. All contract information obtained via Spotrac.