Impact Deals to Shake Up Slow 2020 MLB Trade Season

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2020

Impact Deals to Shake Up Slow 2020 MLB Trade Season

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    The buildup to the Aug. 31 trade deadline has been...insert cricket sound effect...pretty quiet. That's not unusual. Most trade deadlines are preceded by weeks of chatter, a few notable deals and then a flurry of activity at the 11th hour.

    But this year's deadline is far from normal. COVID-19 and the expanded playoff format have seen to that.

    While we wait and see how much action there is between now and Monday, here are eight impact deals that would shake things up.

    All proposals feature players who at least might be moved (sorry, Mike Trout is staying put).

Tampa Bay Rays Acquire James McCann from Chicago White Sox

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Chicago White Sox are humming toward a playoff appearance and still basking in the glow of the no-hitter Lucas Giolito twirled against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.

    The catcher in that game was veteran James McCann, who was an All-Star in 2019 and is hitting .347 with a .941 OPS. So the postseason-hopeful ChiSox should...trade him?

    Maybe, yes. With Yasmani Grandal in the fold, McCann is the most overqualified backup catcher in the game. That's a nice asset to have, but also an expendable one. And the 30-year-old is set to hit free agency after the season, so if Chicago is going to cash in on his value, it's now or never.

    One obvious trade partner? The Tampa Bay Rays.

    Tampa Bay may also look to reinforce a starting rotation and bullpen that have been hit by injuries. But catchers Mike Zunino and Michael Perez are slashing .133/.235/.383 and .171/.211/.257, respectively.

    McCann's bat would represent a significant upgrade. And with a farm system we ranked No. 1 in the game, the Rays could offer the White Sox a decent, lower-tier prospect or two without sacrificing any of their top MiLB chips.

Oakland Athletics Acquire Mitch Moreland from Boston Red Sox

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    The Oakland Athletics are comfortably leading the American League West and seem capable of challenging for AL supremacy.

    If they want to add to an already solid roster, one area of need is a left-handed power bat. Enter the Boston Red Sox's Mitch Moreland.

    The 34-year-old slugger is having an excellent year with a .350 average, 1.275 OPS and eight home runs in 72 plate appearances.

    The Red Sox meanwhile, are mired in last place in the AL East and have already begun selling assets, including closer Brandon Workman and reliever Heath Hembree to the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Moreland could see time at first base behind Matt Olson and at designated hitter, where he'd provide a lefty-swinging complement to Mark Canha's and Khris Davis' right-handed bats.

    Moreland would be owed only the remaining portion of his prorated $2.5 million salary, and he has an affordable $3 million club option in 2021, which should be attractive to penny-pinching Oakland.

    As for a return, the A's have a number of intriguing arms in the bottom third of their top 30 prospects who should interest the pitching-hungry Red Sox.

Chicago Cubs Acquire Trevor Rosenthal from Kansas City Royals

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Chicago Cubs are leading the National League Central and intent on making another deep postseason run. Talk of trading any of their core players such as third baseman Kris Bryant is on hold until this offseason.

    Instead, the Cubbies should seek to boost a bullpen that ranks 29th with a 5.79 ERA.

    One of the better relief options who should be on the market is Kansas City Royals right-hander Trevor Rosenthal.

    In 14 appearances, Rosenthal has posted a 3.29 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. And his average fastball velocity of 98.1 mph is just a tick below his career average of 98.2 mph.

    Rosenthal spent his first six seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, he could help the Cards' archrival make an October push.

    He wouldn't come free, even though he's a rental. Multiple contenders need bullpen help, and the list of teams willing to sell figures to be short.

    Catcher Miguel Amaya, the Cubs' No. 3 prospect, is blocked at the big league level by Willson Contreras and could interest K.C. as a potential heir apparent to veteran Salvador Perez.

Houston Astros Acquire Matthew Boyd from Detroit Tigers

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Houston Astros are in position to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year, but they've got a lot of problems. 

    That includes a starting staff that has been without ace Justin Verlander (forearm strain) for most of the season and has posted a mediocre 4.20 ERA.

    Zack Greinke (2.29 ERA) has pitched like a true No. 1 and 26-year-old lefty Framber Valdez (2.35 ERA) has taken a step forward. But this unit lacks depth and certainty.

    Unfortunately for the 'Stros, they don't have a deep farm system and will have a hard time competing for what few ace-level arms may be available. Instead, Houston may have to turn toward a struggling change-of-scenery candidate like the Detroit Tigers' Matthew Boyd.

    Boyd's name has been a rumor-mill staple since the 2019 deadline. At that point, he was in the midst of a career year and the Tigers opted not to trade him.

    This year, Boyd's trade stock has tumbled because of his 8.48 ERA and AL-leading eight home runs and 39 hits allowed. That said, the 29-year-old has averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings one season after putting up a career-high 11.6 K/9. His wipeout slider, plus curveball and solid low-90s fastball give him the arsenal of a mid-rotation starter at least.

    Boyd is controllable through 2022, so the rebuilding Tigers will want something of value despite his struggles. Again, the Astros system is thin, but they may be able to build a package around infielder and No. 3 prospect Freudis Nova, whose raw power, speed and arm strength should intrigue a rebuilding Tigers team that wants to continue stockpiling projectable talent.

Atlanta Acquires Kyle Seager from Seattle Mariners

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Atlanta is in the mix to win the NL East and will be a postseason factor. It could use more arms in a starting rotation that lost budding star Mike Soroka to season-ending Achilles surgery and has yet to get an inning from veteran lefty Cole Hamels (triceps).

    But here's another area of concern: The team has also gotten exceedingly limited production from the third base duo of Austin Riley (.205/.256/.373) and Johan Camargo (.178/.221/.344).

    Atlanta could address its hot-corner deficiency by swinging a trade with the Seattle Mariners for third baseman Kyle Seager.

    Seager is having a nice season with the M's with a .290 average, .875 OPS, five home runs and eight doubles. The 32-year-old is owed $18.5 million next season with a $15 million club option for 2022 that becomes a player option if he's traded.

    That's not chump change, but he'd represent a massive upgrade.

    Atlanta would have to dip into its No. 3-ranked farm system, but if it were willing to absorb all of the money owed to Seager, it shouldn't have to part with any blue chips. 

    A name from the bottom of the Braves' top 30 prospects should be enough and would further gild the rebuilding Mariners' No. 2-ranked farm.

New York Yankees Acquire Lance Lynn from Texas Rangers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Gerrit Cole has been the ace the New York Yankees hoped they were getting when they signed him to a massive free-agent contract. After that, there's ample uncertainty in New York's starting unit.

    Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ have struggled at times. James Paxton (forearm) is on the injured list. There are reasons to wonder if the bats and the bullpen will be enough to pick up the slack come playoff time.

    The competition for any impact starters will be robust, and that includes right-hander Lance Lynn.

    Assuming the Texas Rangers (11-19) decide to sell and make Lynn available, multiple suitors will come calling for the 33-year-old. Lynn has followed up last season's top-five AL Cy Young Award finish with a 1.59 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 45.1 innings.

    In 2018, the Yankees acquired him from the Minnesota Twins, with whom he'd posted a 5.10 ERA. Lynn posted a 4.31 ERA during his stint with the Yankees and seemed to rediscover his groove.

    If New York wants him back in pinstripes, it won't be cheap. Not only is Lynn pitching like an ace, but he's also signed for an affordable $9.3 million for 2021.

    The Rangers might demand outfielder/designated hitter Clint Frazier as a starting point and may also want top pitching prospect Clarke Schmidt.

    New York is in win-now mode, however, and should pay what it takes to plug an obvious hole.

Los Angeles Angels Acquire Mike Clevinger from Cleveland

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    On Wednesday, Cleveland recalled right-hander Mike Clevinger from the alternate site, adding another twist to an ongoing saga.

    Clevinger, along with teammate Zach Plesac, was sent down after it was revealed that both players violated the team's COVID-19 safety protocols, angering teammates and creating a clubhouse distraction. Immediately, both Clevinger and Plesac became the subject of widespread trade speculation.

    Now that Clevinger is back, does that mean Cleveland intends to keep him? Maybe, especially if he can make things right with his teammates.

    He's certainly a talent worth keeping after posting a 2.71 ERA with 12.1 K/9 in 2019. In his first start back from alternate-site purgatory on Wednesday, he threw six innings and allowed two earned runs with six strikeouts as Cleveland won, 6-3, against the division-leading Minnesota Twins.

    Was it an audition for a deadline trade? If so, where might Clevinger end up?

    Here's an idea: the Los Angeles Angels.

    The Halos are in the midst of a last-place season and are wasting another year of Mike Trout's prime. A lot of the blame rests on their woeful starting pitching staff, which ranks 28th with a 6.34 ERA.

    Clevinger is controllable through 2022, so the Angels could acquire him now with an eye on building a winner in the near future. We know they liked him once, when they drafted him in the fourth round in 2011 before trading him to Cleveland in 2014, and again when they inquired about him in January.

    Los Angeles could offer versatile 26-year-old David Fletcher, who is hitting .321 with an .835 OPS and has played all over defensively, including shortstop, second base, third base and right field. They could sweeten the deal with high-upside outfielder Jordyn Adams, their No. 4 prospect, who sits behind fellow outfielders Jo Adell (already promoted to the big leagues) and Brandon Marsh on their MiLB rankings.

    Cleveland needs offense, particularly in the outfield. It's an outside-the-box idea. But assuming Clevinger is available, this could be a match and a chance for the Angels to reel back in the prospect who got away.    

San Diego Padres Acquire Josh Hader from Milwaukee Brewers

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    First, the caveat: The Milwaukee Brewers almost surely aren't going to trade Josh Hader. They're hanging around in the NL playoff race. And they're in no rush to unload their closer, who is controllable through 2023.

    But, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Brewers are at least listening to offers for Hader.

    The left-hander averaged 15.8 K/9 and 16.4 K/9 in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and made a pair of All-Star teams. This year, he hasn't been scored upon in 9.1 frames over nine appearances and has fanned 13. He's among the game's most dominant relievers, he's 26 years old, and again, he won't reach free agency until 2023.

    The question isn't who would want him. It's who would want him and might be able to afford the astronomical price?

    How about the San Diego Padres?

    The Friars are a team on the rise with a real shot at making noise in the postseason this year, and their biggest weakness has been their bullpen. Closer Kirby Yates struggled mightily with a 12.46 ERA and is lost for the season to elbow surgery. Overall, San Diego's pen ranks 26th with a 5.41 ERA.

    Needless to say, Hader would help.

    San Diego would have to decimate the upper portion of its No. 4-ranked farm system. It might be able to keep its top prospect, left-hander MacKenzie Gore. But the Pads would probably have to part with their Nos. 2 and 3 prospects—shortstop CJ Abrams and right-hander Luis Patino—who rank 26th and 28th among MLB.com's top 100. And Milwaukee might want more.

    Again, the Brewers probably aren't going to trade Hader, and the Padres may not want to give up what it takes. But if you're looking for a deal to shake up a quiet deadline, well, here it is.

                                           

    All statistics current as of Thursday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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