MLB All-Stars Most Likely to Be Dealt Before 2021 Trade Deadline
Now that the 2021 Major League Baseball season is past the All-Star break, it's about time for the trade market to heat up ahead of the July 30 deadline.
Some recognizable names are already on the block, including at least eight belonging to players who made this year's American League and National League All-Star squads.
We've broken down which of these eight players is most likely to be on the move in the coming weeks. This involved weighing their current teams' incentives to deal, as well as what their potential markets are looking like.
Let's count 'em down.
8. Taylor Rogers, LHP, Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins were supposed to chase a third straight AL Central title in 2021, but they're instead closer to the bottom of the division at 39-50.
This understandably has other teams looking at the Twins as a likely seller, and they may not have a shinier trade chip than Taylor Rogers. According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the veteran lefty is "very popular among teams that want bullpen help, which is pretty much every team."
Rogers did have a bit of a rough stretch going into the break, allowing seven earned runs in 13.1 innings over 14 appearances. Yet in context of MLB's crackdown on foreign substances, it's a good look that his spin rate is actually up from 2,308 RPM before this span to 2,361 RPM during it.
Rather, the bigger question here is how willing the Twins will be to deal Rogers. Since he's under club control through 2022, they could always keep him with the idea they'll return to contention next season.
7. Kris Bryant, 3B/RF, Chicago Cubs
There was a point this season when the Chicago Cubs were red-hot and seemingly unlikely to sell at the trade deadline. But with wins in just six out of their last 25 games before the break, the picture has changed.
The Cubs have plenty of pending free agents they could potentially rent out, including four-time All-Star and winner of both the NL Rookie of the Year and MVP, Kris Bryant. After struggling throughout 2020, he's certainly done the Cubs a favor by replenishing his stats and, thus, his value in 2021.
...Sort of, anyway. Though his OPS was over 1.000 as recently as June 4, Bryant hit just .179/.257/.284 in 28 games to finish out the first half. Any more of that, and there may well be a disconnect between how the Cubs and other teams value Bryant.
Which is to say that there's actually something to the notion that, along with fellow cornerstone stars Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, Bryant could actually stick in Chicago through the end of the season. But if he does move, the Mets might be the leading candidate to end up with him.
6. Nelson Cruz, DH, Minnesota Twins
The sun must still be rising in the east and setting in the west, because Nelson Cruz just keeps hitting.
This is the third year in a row that his average has been over .300, and he's also further added to a pile of home runs that, at 278, is now 30 homers bigger than any other player's since 2014.
With the Twins out of it and Cruz working on a one-year contract worth $13 million, he's a clear trade chip in theory. But to at least one degree, this particular situation is complicated by the mutual love that Cruz and the Twins have for one another. They might have to be blown away in order to agree to a deal.
Which brings us to another degree of difficulty, in that Cruz is only a fit for American League clubs that can play him at designated hitter every day. The Oakland Athletics, who are getting a .690 OPS out of the DH spot, might be the only contender with a need in that department. And they famously have a tight budget.
5. Joey Gallo, RF, Texas Rangers
Because he's the best player they have and his club control runs through the 2022 season, the Texas Rangers don't have to trade Joey Gallo if they don't want to.
And yet they're "very likely" to move the two-time All-Star and 2020 Gold Glover, according to Passan (h/t Jessica Kleinschmidt of NBC Sports Bay Area).
Even if the clock isn't ticking for the Rangers to cash in Gallo, the team was rebuilding mode even before it played its way into last place in the AL West through the first half of the season. And because the organization's farm system opened 2021 in the bottom third of MLB, said rebuild needs all the help it can get.
As he homered 13 times in 18 games leading up to the break, Gallo is also giving the Rangers every excuse to sell high on him. As it is, they already have at least two interested parties in the San Diego Padres (Dennis Lin of The Athletic) and the New York Yankees (Joel Sherman of the New York Post).
4. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Texas Rangers
The Rangers seemed to render their starting rotation ace-less after trading Lance Lynn to the Chicago White Sox last December, but that hasn't actually been the case thanks to Kyle Gibson.
The veteran right-hander trails only Lynn among AL starters in ERA, and he's notably been largely unaffected by MLB's recent crackdown on sticky stuff. He's only had one bad outing since returning from a brief stint on the injured list on June 4, posting a 2.38 ERA in seven total starts in this span.
Like Gallo, Gibson is controlled by the Rangers through 2022 by way of a contract that's paying him $9.7 million this season and $7.7 million next season. Yet the Rangers likewise have every excuse to sell high on Gibson, particularly in light of his age and his less-than-stellar track record prior to 2021.
The St. Louis Cardinals have checked in on Gibson, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But with all starting pitchers struggling to the tune of a 4.45 ERA since MLB got serious about sticky stuff in June, they're hardly the only contender that needs rotation help right now.
3. Adam Frazier, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Is this an unsustainable peak for a hitter who came into 2021 as a .273 career hitter? Probably. There's nonetheless plenty of teams that would love to have Frazier's exceptional bat-to-ball skills, especially knowing that he's under team control through next season.
As for whether the Pirates will deal Frazier, there wouldn't seem to be much question. He's about as obvious as sell-high candidates come, and they're smack in the middle of a rebuild that could still be going better even after the drafting of Louisville catcher Henry Davis at No. 1 overall last Sunday.
Though Frazier potentially fits at second base or even in left field with any number of contending teams, two that may be leading the pack for him are the Chicago White Sox (here) and New York Mets (here), according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
2. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Even as recently as last August, the idea that Craig Kimbrel had any kind of trade value for the Cubs would have been easily dismissed. He had, after all, posted a 7.53 ERA in his first 33 games as a Cub.
Well, now he has a 0.47 ERA over his last 40 appearances with Chicago. And even though his infamously dirty hat came under focus as MLB started leaning into its sticky-stuff crackdown, he's just kept doing his thing. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 17 appearances, in which he's whiffed 29 out of the 56 batters he's faced.
Because the Cubs hold a $16 million team option on Kimbrel for 2022, he isn't technically a pending free agent like Bryant. And yet he's the more likely of the two to go, as trading him is a chance for the Cubs to both sell high and save a substantial amount of money.
There's no shortage of possibilities as to where Kimbrel could end up. But as proposed by Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, there might not be a more intriguing fit than the cross-town Chicago White Sox.
1. Eduardo Escobar, 3B/2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
The catch with Eduardo Escobar is that he isn't and has never really been a particularly good hitter. Both the average and the OBP he has this season are in line with his career marks of .256 and .308, respectively.
But after a down year in 2020, this is the second time out of the last three seasons that Escobar has been one of the game's top sluggers. He also hit 35 home runs in 2019. It also shouldn't be overlooked that he's thus far racked up five outs above average at two different positions for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Meanwhile, the D-backs are on track for a second straight last-place finish in the NL West, and Escobar is making a modest $7.7 million in the last year of a three-year contract.
So if anything, it's a wonder that he hasn't already been dealt. The White Sox have been in on him, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, though Heyman tweeted on July 2 that the South Siders aren't alone in the hunt for Escobar.