Predicting the Most Active Teams at 2021 MLB Trade Deadline

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 7, 2021

Predicting the Most Active Teams at 2021 MLB Trade Deadline

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    The July 31 Major League Baseball trade deadline is still months away, but the early transactions and injuries across the league have given us a look into who may be active this summer.

    Atlanta and the New York Yankees were busy Tuesday, as they acquired Orlando Arcia and Rougned Odor, respectively, to bolster their infield depth.

    The big concern is in San Diego, where Fernando Tatis Jr. could be out for an extended period with a shoulder injury.

    With that, the Padres could look to the trade market for a rental. As we saw at last year's deadline and over the offseason, the San Diego front office has no problem wheeling and dealing.

    Aside from that, buyers and sellers will become more clear as the season goes on.

    For now, we can look at buyers that we think will be at the top of the standings and sellers that have plenty of talent and could add prospects to potential rebuilds instead of letting players walk in free agency this offseason or next.

NL Potential Buyers

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Dodgers are always going to be mentioned among the buyers because of their position in the standings and their willingness to add top talent to chase World Series titles.

    Barring a significant injury, the Dodgers may not be in the market for one of the top trade candidates.

    They can bring in David Price, Tony Gonsolin or Jimmy Nelson from the bullpen to the rotation and have a solid bench made up of Zach McKinstry, Austin Barnes, Edwin Rios and A.J. Pollock that has already contributed to victories.



    Philadelphia displayed its commitment to winning a title by re-signing J.T. Realmuto in the offseason.

    The Phillies may be more willing to do a deal when July rolls around since they are in the middle of a nine-year playoff drought.



    Washington could be playing catch-up in the NL East with Atlanta, New York and Philadelphia all in position to contend for a division title.

    If the Nationals keep pace with that trio, they could be in the mix.


    St. Louis

    St. Louis made the biggest trade of 2021 so far when it landed Nolan Arenado in the offseason.

    If the Cardinals are in playoff contention, they would most likely make much smaller deals than the Arenado blockbuster.

AL Potential Buyers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press


    The Blue Jays carry an abundance of young talent, but they have not been shy on the trade market in recent years.

    If they try to outpace the Yankees in the AL East, they may go shopping. The performance of Steven Matz and Tanner Roark at the end of the rotation could determine how much help it needs.


    Tampa Bay

    Tampa Bay’s blockbuster trades typically happen in the other direction.

    If any deals materialize in Tampa, it should be of the minor variety and will depend on their standing in the AL East.


    Chicago White Sox

    The outfield depth of the White Sox has shown in the first few days of the season.

    If Billy Hamilton, Leury Garcia and Andrew Vaughn produce enough in Eloy Jimenez’s absence, the White Sox could focus on the pitching market.



    If Houston and Oakland are locked in a battle atop the AL West, it could look to make more trade deadline additions.

    The success of the young bullpen arms and the bottom half of the rotation could determine the Astros’ top needs.



    Oakland falls into the same category as Houston.

    If the Athletics are fighting for a divisional crown, they could revamp parts of their rotation or bullpen, but their lineup seems set for now.

NL Potential Sellers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press


    With Arenado now in St. Louis, the focus in Colorado shifts to the retention of Trevor Story.

    The shortstop is set to become a free agent in the offseason and could be the most intriguing rental piece on the market come summer.



    Josh Hader is the main attraction on the Milwaukee roster from a trade perspective.

    If the Brewers drop to the bottom of the NL Central, they could find a package for Hader and let Devin Williams take the reins at closer.



    Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo could be on the radar of teams in need of pitching help.

    Both hurlers have multiple years of club control on their deals, so that could bring a decent haul back to Cincinnati.


    San Francisco

    If Kevin Gausman turns in a strong first half, he could be San Francisco’s All-Star Game representative and a trade candidate.

    The Giants have a handful of hitters over 30 that would be great additions across the majors, and they are not likely to contend with the Dodgers and Padres over 162 games.

AL Potential Sellers

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Angels

    Raisel Iglesias should generate attention if the Angels fail to keep pace with Houston and Oakland.

    If the Angels prove to be a worthy third contender in the AL West, they could shift into the buyer category.



    What is next for Cleveland after the Francisco Lindor trade?

    Cleveland has a ton of young arms, but if they do not carry the team into AL Central contention, it may fit more into the seller category.


    Kansas City

    Would any team be willing to make a substantial offer for Whit Merrifield?

    Kansas City likely will not contend for a playoff spot, and Merrifield is its most valuable potential trade asset.

    If the Royals keep Merrifield, Jorge Soler could be an intriguing power option for contenders.

Teams in the Middle

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press


    Pittsburgh is in a full-blown rebuild with its young talent coming through the majors, led by Ke'Bryan Hayes.

    The Pirates do not have many tradable assets, but if one player leaves, it could be Trevor Cahill.



    The Diamondbacks made their big trade last summer when Starling Marte was shipped off to Miami.

    Merrill Kelly and Chris Devenski might be pieces to consider on the market, but Arizona does not have much in terms of major targets.



    Unless Marte is dealt for a second straight year, the Marlins should not have too much action.

    Their young core is receiving MLB experience and is a year or two away from being a serious player in the NL East.



    Detroit is focused on giving its top prospects as much time on the diamond as possible.

    Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Akil Baddoo are the future of the organization. If anything, the Tigers will be a fun team to watch develop in 2021.

10. Minnesota Twins

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Twins have already been bitten by the injury bug with Josh Donaldson (hamstring strain) and Byron Buxton (illness) going down in the first week.

    Luis Arraez is a good in-house option to fill in for Donaldson if his injury woes persist. But if a long-term outfield problem pops up, the Twins could call on Kyle Garlick off the bench (or Brent Rooker when he returns from the 10-day injured list, where he landed Wednesday with a neck injury). They could also hand the keys to top prospect Alex Kirilloff, who was optioned to the team's alternate site in spring training.

    On the trade market, the Cubs' Joc Pederson, Texas' Joey Gallo and Miami's Starling Marte might be available, depending on their club's fortunes.

    Gallo might be an intriguing piece to chase at the right price, since he would bring power and another left-handed bat to the middle of the order alongside Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano. Kepler is the only power left-handed bat in that part of the lineup.

    The Twins could also look for a back-end starter for depth behind Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda.

    In those three pitchers, the Twins have enough power to get through the division series, but they may need more depth if Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ do not carry their weight.

9. Seattle Mariners

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Seattle Mariners have transitioned plenty of young players into their everyday lineup, but they still have a few valuable veteran assets who could be intriguing as the deadline approaches.

    Third baseman Kyle Seager would be the most interesting batter for contenders to look at.

    The 33-year-old has hit 20 home runs in each of his eight full seasons, and his left-handed power could be vital for a contender.

    The veteran carries an additional year of control with a $15 million club option for 2022, so he could bring more in return than a typical rental. Seager's 2022 option becomes a player option if he is traded. 

    Left-handed pitcher James Paxton may be the more movable piece between him and Seager since he is on a one-year deal. Paxton left his first start with an injury, but if he is healthy, he could be a tradable asset. 

    The 32-year-old carries some postseason experience from two years ago with the New York Yankees, so that and the ability to add a lefty to any pitching unit could interest contenders.

8. New York Mets

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    It did not take long for the Mets' bullpen flaws to be exposed.

    New York's relievers struggled to put away Philadelphia in its season opener Monday, which left Jacob deGrom with yet another no-decision.

    As CBS Sports' Mike Axisa pointed out, deGrom has a 2.07 ERA since 2018, yet the Mets are 36-41 in those games.

    The Mets can't afford to waste their ace's production all season, and there still may be confidence issues with closer Edwin Diaz after his roller-coaster 2020.

    New owner Steve Cohen has already displayed a willingness to make a big trade, as he acquired Francisco Lindor from Cleveland in the offseason.

    The relief market is typically one of the most active when the deadline comes around, and the additions may not be flashy ones.

    However, if Milwaukee struggles in the NL Central, a phone call about Josh Hader would not hurt. Hader may be expensive, but it might be worth trying if the Mets want to go big.

7. Chicago Cubs

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    David Banks/Associated Press

    The Chicago Cubs are in one of the most precarious situations in the majors.

    They have a roster capable of contending for a pennant, but they also have some intriguing trade candidates if they fall out of the race.

    Javier Baez and Kris Bryant are under team control until the end of the season, and Willson Contreras' deal runs out after next year.

    If the Cubs believe they can't afford megadeals for their stars, they could look to the market.

    If anything, their situation will be monitored closely, because Baez and Bryant could flip pennant races in a heartbeat with their middle-of-the-order power.

    If a fire sale were to happen, Jake Arrieta and Eric Sogard may be less expensive options for contenders. Joc Pederson's one-year deal could make him expendable as well, though his pact carries a mutual option for 2022.

6. Texas Rangers

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    The Texas Rangers will be watched with a keen eye because of Gallo.

    Left-handed power hitters with two 40-homer seasons and an extra year of club control do not often become available at the trade deadline.

    The Rangers' pitching staff has already displayed weaknesses, as it conceded 38 runs in six games.

    If that becomes a trend, the Rangers won't compete for anything meaningful.

    Even if the pitching improves, Texas will have a hard time navigating a division with Houston, Oakland and an improved Los Angeles Angels team vying for postseason spots.

    Gallo could produce a decent-sized haul, especially if he hits well in the first half of the season.

5. Baltimore Orioles

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Baltimore Orioles seem like they have topped the list of potential sellers for quite a few years.

    And while they have shown improvement, they are not yet playoff contenders.

    With that in mind, the Orioles could try to collect assets for some tradable pieces, starting with 27-year-old ace John Means, who impressed in his season debut against the Boston Red Sox and is under team control through 2024.

    If Matt Harvey resurrects his career, he could be an intriguing back-end rotation piece for a contender.

    Although Baltimore has moved most of its top prospects into the lineup, it eventually has to make an opening for 2019 No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman behind the dish. Depending on how the 23-year-old plays in the minors, Pedro Severino might be expendable this summer.

    A few other tradable assets could emerge in the coming months, but Baltimore will likely be a top seller.

4. Boston Red Sox

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The early returns on the Boston Red Sox's 2021 campaign haven't been good.

    If Boston can't turn around its early struggles, veteran designated hitter J.D. Martinez could gain traction on the trade market.

    Martinez is under contract until the end of the 2022 season, but he can opt out after this year, which could make him an intriguing rental for contenders.

    At 33, Martinez may not be in Boston's long-term plans, and it would not hurt the club's future to land another decent prospect or two in a potential July deal.

    If Boston opts to take the fire-sale route, it could look at trading Adam Ottavino, Matt Barnes and Marwin Gonzalez since relievers and versatile batters are intriguing to many contenders at the deadline.

3. Atlanta

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The top of the NL East is expected to be a fight until Game 162. So of course, Atlanta should consider making a few upgrades when July rolls around.

    The team's biggest weaknesses are at the bottom of the order and the back end of the rotation.

    The starter issues could be eased if Mike Soroka has a successful return from an Achilles injury. Even if he comes back at full strength, Atlanta could look for an upgrade at the back end.

    The success of infielder/outfielder Austin Riley and outfielder Cristian Pache will determine how much shopping GM Alex Anthopoulos does this summer.

    At minimum, Atlanta could look to bring in bullpen help because you can never have too many reliable arms to call on in a pennant race.

2. New York Yankees

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Yankees seem like a much more viable candidate to make a July splash than the Los Angeles Dodgers, their NL big-money counterparts.

    L.A. is stacked at every position and has plugged holes with a deep farm system.

    The Yankees have a bevy of impressive arms waiting for the call to the Bronx, but they are not flush with strong hitting prospects.

    With that in mind, New York should be in the market for some type of upgrade in the summer, and the needs could be even more dire if Luke Voit does not return at full strength from a torn meniscus or if the injury bug hits its stars again.

    While it may not be the main motivator at the trade deadline, the Yankees should keep an eye on the business the Mets do this summer.

    With Cohen running the show in Flushing Meadows, the Yankees have a true competitor to be the most successful New York baseball team for the first time in a few years.

1. San Diego Padres

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    Derrick Tuskan/Associated Press

    The San Diego Padres were already going to be near the top of this list because of their willingness to make deals in the shortened 2020 season. 

    The Padres' campaign could be tied to the health of Fernando Tatis Jr., who left Monday's game with a non-contact injury. An MRI on the infielder's left shoulder showed a slight labral tear, according to San Diego general manager A.J. Preller. 

    The club placed him on the injured list Tuesday. And while the recovery timetable isn't fully known, he's expected to miss a lengthy period. In that case, the Padres might consider an early move on the trade market. 

    Of course, the options could be limited at this time because the successes or failures of potential sellers have not materialized. 

    The Padres have internal options with Ha-Seong Kim and Tucupita Marcano on their infield depth chart. Utility man Jake Cronenworth also provides infield flexibility. But if in-house options can't plug the hole well enough, a trade may be a necessity to keep up with the Dodgers. 

    If the Padres go after an infielder, it would likely be for a year since Tatis is on a 14-year contract. Marwin Gonzalez might be someone to look at if Boston is selling.


    Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference.

    Contract information obtained from Spotrac.


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