5 Early Predictions for the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline
The 2021 MLB trade deadline is still months away, but fans and scouts alike are already eyeing up the potential trade market in an attempt to see how their teams can improve their fortunes.
The trade deadline is July 30, so there is plenty of time. May and June trades aren't unheard of (hello, Jerry Dipoto!), but realistically, the market won't move until early to mid-July when teams start to gain separation in the standings.
It's tough to gauge how active or inactive teams will be this year given the strange circumstances surrounding season No. 2 of pandemic ball. Most teams have made it clear that the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on their finances, but fans are coming back to the ballpark which should help, even if the crowd sizes are limited.
And then, there are teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers that don't seem to have much of a budget and will never hesitate to grab the best players available, whether the team needs them or not.
Until baseball implements a salary floor, there will always be drastic differences between the haves and the have-nots, but that hasn't stopped small-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A's from using the trade market to their advantage.
It's never too early to start speculating, so let's speculate with five predictions for the 2021 MLB trade deadline.
Kris Bryant Will Be Traded to the New York Mets
The Mets have needed a third baseman for several years, but the club held the spot open out of respect to David Wright before his retirement. Post-retirement, they chose to prioritize offense over defense, as they have since before Wright's back and neck injuries took him out of the game. It's been nothing but a detriment to their star pitcher.
Jacob deGrom deserves better.
The club made some moves to bolster the defense in the offseason, trading for shortstop Francisco Lindor and signing Kevin Pillar as a depth outfielder in order to move Brandon Nimmo to left field and keep Michael Conforto in right. But they chose to stick with J.D. Davis at third base.
It's been two years and he has yet to turn into the defender they hope he could become. Davis' offensive prowess is important. He has an OPS of over 1.000 right now and the rest of the club hasn't been hitting (.689 OPS, 19th in the league). But he ranks last in defensive runs saved out of all players since the start of the 2019 season.
Wednesday night in Chicago, the Mets had one of the signature meltdowns and Davis played a big role. He's now been responsible for five defensive runs and he's made three errors in 13 innings.
The third base situation has reached a new level of urgency. The Mets have stacked their chips in attempt to contend for a National League pennant this season, so if they are serious contenders, they will make a move for the best player available at a crucial position.
Bryant does not seem to have a future in Chicago. He's a rental, and it would be a high price to pay for a rental, but if the Mets are still in first place in the NL East in July, then it's a move that would make them a contender.
Trevor Story Will Be Traded
The Colorado Rockies are going nowhere fast. General manager Jeff Bridich and owner Dick Monfort have expressed a desire to lock up Story long-term, but at this point, few would blame him if he decided to leave Colorado.
The New York Yankees come to mind as a fit. Gleyber Torres is having an awful start to the season offensively and the club could use a big defensive upgrade. But the money might be dealbreaker: Story is owed $17.5 million this season and that would put the Yankees well over the luxury tax threshold. It's uncharacteristic of the Yankees to be so cost-conscious but this is the position the Yankees find themselves in during a strange time in history.
The Cincinnati Reds also need a shortstop and they need something to separate them from the pack in the NL Central. They have $70 million in luxury tax space and some prospects they could send to a rebuilding Rockies club, but the question is whether or not they want to pay that much for a rental.
If Story wants to stay in Colorado, then maybe there is a deal to be made. But the future in Colorado is unclear and Story is in the prime of his career at 28. He could be an asset to a club in the midst of a playoff chase.
Joey Gallo Will Go to the Rival Los Angeles Angels
The Angels made a smart move to bring Dexter Fowler to Orange County in the offseason so top prospect Jo Adell could spend another season developing in the minor leagues. The right fielder was overmatched last season and the Angels have made it clear that they are doing what they can to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
But Fowler is out for the season with a torn left ACL and the Angels are using a platoon of Jared Walsh and Scott Schebler. Walsh plays in right on nights when Albert Pujols plays at first base but giving Pujols a ton of starts at first may be unsustainable. This could be the last year of his Hall-of-Fame career and he's been mostly a DH over the past five seasons.
Schebler is a part-time player who may have an opportunity to be a full-time player. There is, however, another full-time right fielder who could help the Halos achieve that goal of getting Mike Trout to the playoffs.
The only problem is that he's with an AL West rival.
Joey Gallo won't be a free agent until after the 2022 season. He's a bargain for the rebuilding Texas Rangers, but by the time they're ready to contend again he may be gone anyway. If the Rangers are where we expect them to be in July (toward the bottom of the standings) then sending Gallo to a division rival wouldn't be all that detrimental.
He's a three-true-outcomes player, but he would give the Angels an elite outfield and a heavy bat. If the Angels can swing it, they should.
Carlos Correa Will Stay with the Astros
The Houston Astros find themselves at the bottom of the AL West standings, and they're 2-8 in their past 10 games. The streaking A's and the Trout-led Angels make this a strong division, but the Astros should still be competitive.
And if that's the case, they'll want to hang onto their star shortstop. Correa's likely replacement at shortstop, top prospect Jeremy Pena, recently underwent left wrist surgery and will be out for approximately five months. That would mean he would return in late August or early September, well past the trade deadline. The Astros need Correa this season.
But it will probably be Correa's last stand in Houston. His contract is up after this season and he turned down a $120 million, six-year deal. He seems ready to move on if that's what he has to do.
A slew of talented, high-end shortstops are set to become free agents after this season. There will be one fewer with Lindor under contract for 10 years, so Correa will be in a class with Story, Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs and Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Seager and Correa are the youngest of the group at 26, so they will be able to command high prices on the free-agent market.
The Marlins Will Be Buyers
The NL East might be the toughest division in baseball this season. No disrespect to the historically tough AL East, but if you want to compare the two, the Baltimore Orioles are holding that division down. The Mets have title aspirations, as do the struggling Atlanta Braves. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep their title window open a little longer and the Philadelphia Phillies can't be discounted either.
Typically, the Miami Marlins are one of the top sellers on the market. So here is my bold prediction for the season: The Marlins will be buyers at the trade deadline.
The Marlins' starters have been integral to their success so far this season. The club has a top-10 ERA led by young starters Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez. Yimi Garcia was once one of many talented relievers in the Dodgers' bullpen, but now he has a starring role as Miami's closer. He's converted four saves in four opportunities and has been nearly unhittable through 10.1 innings.
What the Marlins will be buying is a bat. Miami's .686 OPS is 17th in the league. Jazz Chisholm has been fun to watch and he'll be a big reason why the Marlins could be in the market for another bat in July, but the Fish will need more than their rookie shortstop.
I'm not sure it will age well, but I said what I said. The Marlins will be in the hunt come deadline day.