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MLB Trades 2020: Examining Most Intriguing Deals Heading into Deadline

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2020

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Taijuan Walker claps his hands as he heads off the mound after throwing in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The 2020 MLB trade deadline will probably be calmer than usual, but one of the biggest names on the market is already on the move.

Four days before Monday's cutoff, the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays agreed to the most notable deal so far. Seattle sent Taijuan Walker to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for a player to be named later, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Walker, a right-handed starting pitcher, opened five games for the Mariners this season. In 27 innings of work, he's allowed 12 earned runs with 25 strikeouts to eight walks.

Between his expiring contract and the team's struggles, Seattle had good reason to trade Walker. Although the return isn't much, the M's recovered a little bit of value instead of losing him for nothing as a free agent this offseason. Plus, they have already cracked the 20-loss mark and aren't a playoff contender.

Toronto, on the other hand, is eyeing the postseason.

Toronto Blue Jays @BlueJays

OFFICIAL: We’ve acquired RHP Taijuan Walker from the M’s for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Welcome to the #BlueJays, @tai_walker! https://t.co/HBzgOEeLaa

While trailing the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in the AL East, the Blue Jays are the second wild-card team in the American League. However, a few injuries have increased the problems in Toronto's rotation.

During the past two weeks, the Jays have placed Nate Pearson (forearm flexor strain), Matt Shoemaker (shoulder) and Trent Thornton (elbow) on the Injured List. The latter is done for the season.

And injuries weren't the whole problem. Pearson, Shoemaker and Thornton have surrendered 33 earned runs in 47.2 inningsa combined ERA of 6.23 over 12 starts. Healthy or not, that's not good enough for anyone, let alone a playoff hopeful.

Walker recently recovered from Tommy John surgery, so he's by no means a guaranteed success. But with a 3.95 career ERA and a low price tag, he's worth the risk.

According to Rosenthal, the Blue Jays will receive a minor league player to be named later. Anyone not on the 60-man roster is not eligible to be traded during the season in 2020, so the PTBNL is working around this temporary rule.

Elsewhere in the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays swung a deal with the Kansas City Royals to improve the outfield.

Kansas City Royals @Royals

We have acquired INF Lucius Fox from the Tampa Bay Rays for OF Brett Phillips. #Royals https://t.co/BLIVSZ1sUC

Perhaps a return to Florida will benefit Brett Phillips, who attended high school in Seminole. He's struggled as a hitter since making his MLB debut on the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017. Phillips has a career .205 average, a .282 on-base percentage and 126 strikeouts in 317 at-bats.

Considering he smashed 18 homers for Triple-A Omaha in 2019, that optimism isn't unfounded. However, the Rays didn't acquire Phillips for his bat.

The speedy 26-year-old has committed one error in his career with 22 defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs. An outfield of Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot and Phillips could be excellent, and he may contribute as a pinch runner too.

In return, Tampa sent infielder Lucius Fox to Kansas City.

He fits a similar profile to Phillips as a fast, talented defender with issues at the plate. Through four minor league seasons, the switch-hitting Fox has a .244 average and .337 on-base percentage.

But with 130 career steals and the ability to play shortstop and second base, Fox could develop into a valuable utility player. The 23-year-old has a little time to show he's an MLB-caliber player.

                 

Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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