Deal or No Deal: MLB Trade Predictions 1 Week from the 2021 Deadline
Somehow, some way, Major League Baseball's 2021 trade deadline is just a week away. And with plenty of stars still on the market, it could be a wild week.
The emphasis is on "could," however, because it's not a given that every one of those stars will be moved before 4 p.m. ET on July 30.
We've taken a whack at predicting what will happen via a game of Deal or No Deal. This involved examining which rumors are out there and analyzing the lay of the land, all for the purpose of assessing the likelihood of certain stars moving and others staying put.
Starting on the North Side of Chicago, we'll touch on five key teams and a dozen key players.
Deal: Cubs Say Goodbye to Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel
With slugging outfielder Joc Pederson now in Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs have already made one notable trade. And according to FanSided's Robert Murray, they're still willing to listen to offers for everyone they have.
That includes third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant and closer Craig Kimbrel, both of whom are as good as gone.
Those are indeed the exact words that ESPN's Jeff Passan used to describe Bryant's situation. Following his difficult 2020 season, the Cubs have a chance to sell high on the four-time All-Star before free agency calls his number this winter. And between his power and defensive versatility, he has things contenders want.
As for Kimbrel, the eight-time All-Star closer is the best reliever on the market amid a season marked by a microscopic 0.51 ERA. Some teams might be scared off by his $16 million salary, but others might be fine with both that and the $16 million vesting/club option for 2022.
As the Cubs have gone just 9-22 since June 14, the reality of a looming rebuild has become that much clearer. To this end, dealing Bryant and Kimbrel for prospects is perhaps the best step forward they can take.
No Deal: Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez Stay on the North Side
In addition to Bryant, the other big-ticket rentals in Chicago's everyday lineup are two infielders with five All-Star selections between them: first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Javier Baez.
However, it's no big surprise that their corners of the market have been less noisy throughout the summer.
Whereas Bryant has hit like a star by way of a 127 OPS+, Rizzo (107 OPS+) and Baez (108 OPS+) have put forth restrained offensive performances in 2021.
It's been a couple of years since Rizzo, who turns 32 on August 8, has had firm footing as one of baseball's top first basemen. And while there are still instances when Baez looks like a human highlight reel, it's hard to excuse that he's struck out 180 more times than he's walked since the start of last season.
In the context of all this, Passan's report that Rizzo and Baez are "far less likely" than Bryant to be moved makes sense. But this is not to say the Cubs will come away empty-handed, as Chicago could recoup two compensatory draft picks if it extends qualifying offers to both players this winter and they leave via free agency.
No Deal: Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Other Twins Stay Put
Having already dealt veteran slugger Nelson Cruz, the Minnesota Twins could go even bigger on the trade market by dealing controllable players such as outfielders Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, ace Jose Berrios and even veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, however, the Twins "aren't inclined" to do so.
This doesn't seem to be because there's a lack of interest in said players. To wit, the New York Mets have kicked the tires on both Berrios and Donaldson, according to The Athletic's Dan Hayes. Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Yankees have "wondered" about Kepler. And so on.
Yet the Twins aren't exactly in a position to sell high on Buxton or Kepler. The former is on the injured list for the second time this season and what seems like the hundredth time in his career. The latter, meanwhile, is still struggling to live up to his 36-homer breakout from 2019.
The Twins have a bit more incentive to move Donaldson, who'll earn $21.8 million per year through 2023, and Berrios, who's in no hurry to sign an extension. Yet there's also an all-too-appealing alternative, in which the Twins keep all these guys and hope for a quick turnaround back to contention in 2022.
Deal: The Rockies Cash in Jon Gray
The Colorado Rockies set themselves up for failure in 2021 when they dealt franchise icon Nolan Arenado in February. Sure enough, failure has found them, as they've gone 42-54.
It's now a question of who the Rockies will deal next. While that's more of a complicated question than some might think, Rosenthal has reported that Jon Gray is "almost certain" to move.
Because Gray will be a free agent at season's end, there's a ticking clock at play with his trade value that's heightened further by the tenuousness of the 29-year-old's performance.
Though Gray has a 3.68 ERA, he had a 6.69 mark last year and has generally had issues with both injuries and inconsistency throughout his career. Such things make him a textbook definition of a sell-high guy.
If the Rockies were to keep Gray with the idea of making him a qualifying offer, the risk would be twofold: He could either slump his way out of that consideration down the stretch or deem it wise to accept such an offer even if he keeps pitching well.
No Deal: The Rockies Keep German Marquez and, Surprisingly, Trevor Story
Though Gray is a significant trade chip in his own right for the Rockies, he doesn't loom quite as large as fellow right-hander German Marquez or shortstop Trevor Story.
And yet, it's an understatement to say that the Rockies are reluctant to trade Marquez.
Manager Bud Black told MLB Network Radio the 26-year-old "is not going anywhere" this summer. That apparently reflects both his own feelings and those of the team's owner, Dick Monfort. And understandably so, given that Marquez is coming off his first All-Star nod and is signed for relatively cheap through 2023, with a $16 million club option in 2024.
Story, meanwhile, is a two-time All-Star who was arguably the game's best shortstop from 2018 to 2020. And unlike Marquez, the Rockies seemingly never got serious about extending the 28-year-old, and now he's just months away from free agency.
Trouble is, Story has dented his value by way of a 91 OPS+, and there aren't many contenders who need him at shortstop. One team is reportedly eyeing him as a center fielder, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, but that's a reach given that he's never even played the outfield at the major league level.
The qualifying-offer route is looking like the Rockies' best play with him, so it's no surprise that Passan says there's growing skepticism that he'll be moved.
Deal: The Rangers Sell High on Joey Gallo and Kyle Gibson
As they languish in last place in the AL West for a second year in a row, the Texas Rangers have little choice but to hear offers for All-Stars Joey Gallo and Kyle Gibson.
Though he's making just $9.7 million this year and is due $7.7 million in 2022, there's some question as to whether Gibson can keep living up to his 2.86 ERA. He's still striking out less than a batter per inning, so there's at least one way in which he still resembles the guy with the career 96 ERA+.
In other words: better sell high on him, Rangers.
As for Gallo, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweeted that some rival teams see him as unlikely to be dealt. He does like where he's at, after all, and the Rangers control him through next season even without a contract extension in place.
Yet with clubs like the Yankees and the prospect-rich San Diego Padres in on Gallo, the slugger's market may be too strong for the Rangers to deny. And because it was just last year that he slumped to an 85 OPS+, the Rangers should also want to sell high on him while he's raking with a 143 OPS+ and 24 homers.
No Deal: Max Scherzer Stays with the Nationals
With respect to everyone else, there's perhaps no bigger star potentially on the trade market than three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
Though Scherzer turns 37 on July 27, age isn't slowing him much, if at all. In 18 starts for the Washington Nationals, he's put up a 2.83 ERA and whiffed 142 batters in 105 innings.
Scherzer is earning $34.6 million in the final season of the seven-year, $210 million deal that he signed in 2015. The Nationals came into 2021 hoping to make the most of this final season but have failed to do so, as they've racked up a 45-50 record.
Scherzer's market has yet to take shape, but there's a juicy rumor out there that the Houston Astros are in on him, per Michael Schwab. And for what it's worth, Feinsand isn't alone in imagining Scherzer in the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation.
The catch, though, is that the Nationals have typically been averse to selling under general manager Mike Rizzo. He told reporters he doesn't "foresee" cashing in Scherzer at the deadline, and there's at least one good reason for him to buy instead: In spite of their record, the Nats are only six games out in the NL East.