2021 MLB Trade Deadline Big Board: Ranking the Top 25 Trade Candidates

Abbey MastraccoContributor IIJuly 19, 2021

2021 MLB Trade Deadline Big Board: Ranking the Top 25 Trade Candidates

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Now that we're past the All-Star break and the halfway point of the MLB season, it's time to talk trades with the July 30 deadline closing in.

    The Atlanta Braves have been more active than anyone, trading for outfielder Joc Pederson and catcher Stephen Vogt. General manager Alex Anthopoulos filled two big needs with those deals, especially after Ronald Acuna Jr.'s season-ending injury. The Braves are four games behind the New York Mets in the NL East, but Anthopoulos still believes this team can reach the postseason.

    Who else could be on the move in the new two weeks? Here is a look at the 25 best candidates, ranked by fWAR (FanGraphs' calculation of wins above replacement), positional versatility, club control and salary.

25-21: Relief Depth and Infield Help

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    25. Detroit Tigers 1B/2B Jonathan Schoop

    The problem with Schoop is that he doesn't walk a lot (career .300 OBP), though his walk rate has improved this season to 5.6 percent, 1 percent higher than his career average.

    He's a free agent after this season and is owed what's left of a $4.5 million contract, so he's an affordable infield option who can play two positions. The Tigers' best trade chips are starting pitchers Michael Fulmer and Matthew Boyd, but their stocks plummeted when they went on the injured list.


    24. Minnesota Twins SS Andrelton Simmons

    The four-time Gold Glove winner isn't the heaviest-hitting shortstop, but he's long been one of the better defenders in baseball. He's saved 185 runs since he entered the league, and he would help shore up the defense for a team like the Cincinnati Reds, who have a need for an upgrade at the position.


    23. Pittsburgh Pirates C Jacob Stallings

    Now that Stephen Vogt is off the market, Stallings is the top catcher if the Pirates decide to make him available. He's controllable through arbitration through 2024, so the Bucs may decide not to trade their 31-year-old backstop. His bat is about average, but he has the highest WAR of catchers from rebuilding teams (1.8), so general manager Ben Cherington may field some calls on him.


    22. Colorado Rockies SP Jon Gray

    We knew the Rockies would be sellers even before the season began after trading face-of-the-franchise third baseman Nolan Arenado in February.

    Gray might not have the most extensive arsenal (he mostly throws low-90s fastballs and sliders), but his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) has steadily declined over the last few years, as he's giving up fewer home runs and striking out more hitters.

    He might even be better outside of the extremely hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. As a free agent after this season, he would be a rental, but he could help a rotation that is willing to pay the balance of his $6 million salary.


    21. Miami Marlins RF/1B Garrett Cooper

    The Marlins' annual fire sale is about to commence, and Cooper might be an under-the-radar candidate to be moved. The 30-year-old was never a top prospect with the New York Yankees, but he showed what he could do down the stretch with the Marlins last season when he hit .284 with four home runs and an .834 OPS in 28 games in September and October to help the Marlins reach the postseason.

    He is producing similar numbers this season in a crowded outfield, and though Miami doesn't have to deal Cooper, the 40-53 Fish might find it worthwhile.

20-16: Pitching Help and Lineup Pop

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    20. Texas Rangers RP Ian Kennedy

    Kennedy managed to reinvent himself as a reliever this season. At 36 years old, he's become a key piece of the Rangers bullpen by throwing his four-seam fastball harder than ever (94.7 mph average) and more than ever (82.1 percent). He's converted 15 saves and boasts a 2.67 ERA.

    A team like the Philadelphia Phillies, who are hamstrung by a bad bullpen but still within striking distance of a playoff spot, might be a good fit.


    19. Pittsburgh Pirates RP Richard Rodriguez

    Rodriguez is still under team control through 2023, so if the Pirates wanted to trade the big righty, they could get a decent return. This season, his walk rate is lower than it's ever been (0.99 per nine innings), and he's converted 13 saves. Since 2018, he has a 2.95 ERA.


    18. Arizona Diamondbacks 3B Eduardo Escobar

    If you're a contending team, you're likely getting offensive production and defense from whoever mans the hot corner. Escobar's 21 home runs show he can produce at the position.

    Per MLB Network's Jon Heyman, Escobar, a pending free agent with the balance of $7.5 million owed to him this season, has already been tied to the Chicago White Sox, so it's safe to say he's on his way out of the desert.


    17. Miami Marlins 1B Jesus Aguilar

    Aguilar draws walks (career 9.7 percent walk rate) and strikes out less than other slugging first basemen. He's a right-right first baseman, but he has some pop in his bat with 17 home runs this season. He has a year left of team control, but the Marlins have Lewin Diaz, the No. 6-ranked prospect in the system, coming up behind him. Trading Aguilar would clear the way.


    16. Pittsburgh Pirates SP Tyler Anderson

    Anderson has had two bad outings this season: a nine-run blowup against the Braves and a six-run game against the Washington Nationals. Outside of those, he's been a solid starter for the Pirates.

    Since that start against the Nats on June 15, Anderson has a 2.66 ERA and held hitters to a .211 average. He's also lasted at least 5.0 innings in each of his 17 starts. He would be a good depth piece to a rotation that needs a left-hander.

15-11: The NL Central Teams Selling

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    15. Minnesota Twins DH Nelson Cruz

    As a full-time designated hitter, Cruz's market is limited to the American League. There was a time when he played outfield, but he hasn't played more than a handful of games there since 2016. But the 41-year-old was just named an All-Star for the seventh time in his career, and his .923 OPS and 18 home runs show that he can still make an impact in the middle of the order.


    14. Minnesota Twins SP Jose Berrios

    Berrios would be ranked higher if the Twins were actively shopping him, but according to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Twins don't have much interest in trading players who are under team control through next season. Berrios fits into that category.

    However, if the Twins were to reverse course, they could get a huge return considering the strong season Berrios is having (7-3, 3.48 ERA). One stat of note for Berrios: He doesn't give many home runs. His 0.91 HR/9 is 22nd among qualified pitchers.


    13. Baltimore Orioles 1B Trey Mancini

    Mancini missed last season while undergoing treatment for stage 3 colon cancer, and his Opening Day return was arguably the best moment of the season. But the 29-year-old will be a free agent after the 2022 season, and his production has been too great for other teams to ignore.

    Mancini is slashing .255/.330/.457 with 16 home runs and 50 runs scored. Although he has said he would like to remain in Baltimore to see the rebuild through, the Orioles might be better off without him in the long run.


    12. Chicago Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo

    Last week, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported the Cubs might want to try to restart contract negotiations with pending free agents Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. It's possible the two get extended, but if nothing comes of the conversations, the Cubs need to try to trade them.

    The 31-year-old Rizzo is a three-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner. He was a key piece of the 2016 World Series team, and he's a respected leader. He hits for power and fields his position well, but he's a pricey rental with part of his $16.5 million contract still owed to him this season.


    11. Pittsburgh Pirates 2B Adam Frazier

    Frazier was named an All-Star for the first time in his career after slashing .330/.397/.463 over the first half of the season. These numbers are above his career averages, but a team might want to capitalize on a good season.

    The 29-year-old Frazier brings value in two other areas: He's under team control through next season, and he's a versatile defender. He can play all three outfield positions, as well as second base and third base, though he hasn't played third since 2017.

10-6: The Heavy Hitters

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    10. Chicago Cubs CL Craig Kimbrel

    The Cubs' closer has an option year on his contract, but the team is reportedly shopping him. Oddly enough, the team on the south side could use a bullpen boost, and that has not gone unnoticed by the Chicago media. Kimbrel, 33, went from putting up a 6.53 ERA in his first season with the Cubs in 2019 to looking more like he did a decade ago (0.53 ERA, 21 saves).


    9. Miami Marlins OF Starling Marte

    Marte is in the final year of his contract, and the two sides could not come to an agreement on a long-term extension. He lost his leverage when he slumped to the All-Star break, hitting .176 with a .523 OPS in the final 20 games before the break.

    There is still time to get a deal done, but if not he'll be a quality rental for a team in need of outfield help. He's still slashing .285/.387./444 on the season and has seemingly come out of that slump. Over his last three games, the 32-year-old is 4-for-7 with a home run and four runs scored.


    8. Chicago Cubs SS Javier Baez

    Baez won't be available if the Cubs can work out a contract, but he might be more inclined to try to hit the open market along with other high-end shortstops Carlos Correa and Trevor Story.

    Baez has never been known for his plate discipline (career 4.4 percent walk rate), but he puts the ball in play when does connect and hits for power (21 home runs this season). He is owed the rest of his $11.7 million salary this season.


    7. Kansas City Royals SP Danny Duffy

    The Royals are in a weird spot. They had a torrid start to the season and finished April in first place in AL Central but fell back to earth and fell hard in June and now find themselves dead last in the division, 19 games behind the Chicago White Sox.

    The rebuilding Royals don't have a ton of assets they can trade, but it would behoove the team to bring in some players. Trading longtime ace Danny Duffy, a pending free agent, would be a way to bring those in. However, since he has 10 years of service time, he can veto a trade.

    Joel Sherman of the New York Post said multiple executives expect Duffy to be traded if he's still healthy by the end of the month. He's owed the rest of his $15.5 million salary and is 4-3 with a 2.51 ERA. He also went to two straight World Series with the Royals and helped the club win one in 2015.


    6. Texas Rangers RF Joey Gallo

    Gallo is having a career year, slashing .235/.394/.516 with 24 home runs and a .910 OPS. He has another year left on his contract, so the Rangers could decide that this is a prime opportunity to trade him.

5-1: Top of the Class

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    5. Texas Rangers SP Kyle Gibson

    Gibson blew up on Opening Day, but then he reeled off 15 straight starts with three or fewer earned runs allowed and made his first All-Star team at age 33. He was finally dealt his first loss of the season July 7, allowing five earned runs to Detroit.

    Gibson will be in consideration for the AL Cy Young Award. He has another year on his contract, and he's only owed $7 million next year, so the asking price will likely be high.


    4. Colorado Rockies SS Trevor Story

    After Nolan Arenado went to the Cardinals, the clock started ticking on Story. It's a little surprising the Rockies didn't trade him right after Arenado over the winter, but the club thought it would be able to re-sign him. It's not really clear what the Rockies' intentions are now, but it looks like Story's future won't be in Colorado.

    The balance of his $17.5 million contract will be difficult for some teams to stomach. The Yankees might need infield help, but they're up against the luxury-tax threshold. Story also has drastic home/road splits, but he's an impact player who can help a team in the hunt for the playoffs.


    3. Colorado Rockies SP German Marquez

    The Rockies don't have to trade Marquez, who is under control through at least 2023 (club option in 2024). Manager Bud Black said he won't be traded, either.

    Interim general manager Bill Schmidt probably shouldn't trade him since it's difficult to attract free-agent pitchers to Denver, so the club has to rely on drafting and developing its arms and capitalizing on their control years before they decide to depart for more pitcher-friendly confines.

    But according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, there is interest from other teams in the 26-year-old right-hander. Of course there is—he's put up a 3.36 ERA this season and has actually been better at home throughout his career. A lot can change between now and July 30, and the club could get an enticing offer that would greatly improve its prospects for the future.


    2. Washington Nationals SP Max Scherzer

    Much like a few of the other pitchers on this list, we don't know if Scherzer is available. But given that the Nats haven't been able to gain much ground in the NL East and are currently 10 games out of a wild-card spot, it's probably time to move Mad Max, who will be a free agent this winter.

    He'll be 37 next season, and the Nationals have already committed significant money to Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a team that could make sense as a destination for Scherzer. They have a thin starting rotation and aren't afraid to pursue someone at his price range (over $27 million this season).


    1. Chicago Cubs 3B/OF Kris Bryant

    It's not often an MVP-caliber player in his prime becomes available, but such is the case here. Bryant is the prize of the 2021 trade deadline, despite the fact that he is an expensive rental (owed the balance of $19.5 million this season).

    But the addition of Bryant could turn a playoff team into a contender. The 2016 NL MVP can play third base or outfield, produce at the plate and fit into any clubhouse. He made up for a career-worst 2020 season by hitting .268/.349/.497 with an .846 OPS and 16 home runs this season.

    Bryant will always be remembered for helping the Cubs win a World Series, so it's unfortunate that it has to end like this. But maybe he'll be able to help the New York Mets end their drought as well, because if there is any team that could use a player like Bryant, it's them.