The July trade deadline in Major League Baseball draws out what most of the teams are thinking relative to making a strong run at a playoff berth this season, or just packing the bags now as they look forward to being competitive in the next couple of years. During this time of the season baseball fans find out who’s in or out for the current pennant races.
Consequently, it’s an exciting time for the teams looking to bolster their lineups, while it’s hard for other baseball fans to understand why their favorite team is actively looking to unload their best players or top prospects. Diehard fans don’t ever want to give up on their team, while some general managers are forced to face the harsh reality that the current season is lost and begin planning how to reverse their fortunes for next season.
As always, good pitching is in high demand by most teams, while some teams are looking to backfill for injured players or adding another bat to provide some extra punch to their lineup.
The Boston Red Sox set the tone for trade activity in the past two weeks, with selective acquisitions of several pieces to complete their puzzle going into the final stretch of the season. Brad Ziegler was brought on to backfill for reliever Craig Kimbrel who suffered a season-ending injury. Drew Pomeranz was acquired for the starting rotation, and veteran infielder Aaron Hill was a good addition as a utility player.
Let’s take a look at who some of the buyers and sellers will be this week, leading up to the trade deadline on July 31.
The New York Yankees are one of the most talked about teams at this time of the season, but not particularly for their play on the field. Rather, it’s because many of the other major league clubs are coveting the Yankees’ three star relief pitchers, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees are playing .500 ball, but apparently don’t believe they can overcome Baltimore, Boston, and Toronto in their division during the rest of this year and thus are willing to part with one or more of them. Chapman would likely bring the most value to the Yankees in terms of prospects to build for the future. His 104-105 mph pitches this past week make for a good audition for the hungry suitors.
Another team in the AL East, Tampa Bay, is likely to join the Yankees as sellers this week. They are acknowledged for having built some solid young pitching staffs over the past several years. Their ace this season, Chris Archer, would be highly desirable by several teams needing a late-season boost in their starting pitching. Matt Moore is another quality starter who will attract attention. But the most surprising player up for grabs will be the face of the Rays’ franchise, Evan Longoria. This would devastate Rays fans, as he’s been their only consistent player on offense throughout his career. However, if they can get high future draft picks or top prospects in return, Rays management would willingly cut the cord on the popular player.
The Colorado Rockies were willing to part with slugger outfielder Carlos Gonzalez last year, but there were no takers for fear of his long-term health situation and his contract situation. Gonzalez finished last year very strong and has put up an all-star performance this season; so he has erased any health fears. However, someone would still have to be willing to pick up a hefty contract for 2017. But he’s still only 30 years old and would be a good fit for several needy teams.
The San Diego Padres did a major overall during the winter of 2014, spending a lot of money acquiring a number of high-profile free agents in an attempt to jump start a team into contention for 2015. That didn’t work and now they face the situation of having to go back to their farm system and trading for prospects to build up their team. A week ago, they traded their best pitcher this season, Drew Pomeranz, and are likely to put hurler Andrew Cashner on the trading block as well. The under-achieving Cashner would be a desirable addition for several teams. Melvin Upton Jr., who is putting together a solid season after a disastrous one in 2015, is likely to be put on the trading block by the Padres. They would also like to shed Matt Kemp’s high salary, but there are not likely to be any takers at this time.
The Milwaukee Brewers, under new GM David Stearns, are in re-building mode for the next couple of years, and thus would be willing to make its best player, all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy, available for the right price. Although Lucroy has another year on his current Brewers contract in 2017, he would be very affordable to another team and would make for a solid long-term addition.
It’s puzzling sometimes when teams that are leading their division are the most active buyers at the trade deadline. But it’s usually because they recognize some weaknesses in their lineup and want to stay in contention for the playoffs. That’s currently the case for the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Texas Rangers. As it seems to always be the situation, quality pitchers are in high demand by most clubs.
The Cubs reportedly have strong interest in Yankee reliever Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller, as they figure they need to bolster their bullpen. Either of them would be a huge upgrade over its current closer Hector Rondon. The Cubs have already made a move in acquiring pitcher Mike Montgomery who could help in the back of their rotation or in middle relief. The Cubs’ outfield has suffered injuries to several of its outfielders and would welcome someone like the A’s Josh Reddick, who is familiar to Cubs management when he was with Boston several years ago. The Cubs are currently deep in top prospects as trade bait.
The Giants made a big splash during the off-season to bolster its starting pitching and that has worked. Now they are similarly looking to stabilize its bullpen, as they have 18 blown saves so far this season. They have interest in Chapman or Andrew Miller, but would have to give up some high draft picks.
The Rangers have suffered several setbacks in their starting pitching during the first half, although they’ve remarkably managed to stay atop the division. They would have interest in the Chicago White Sox top pitcher, Chris Sales, but would likely have to put together a five-player package that includes top minor league prospect Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar, who’s uplifted the club after coming off of an injury-plagued season last year. There’s some history in the Rangers pulling this off, as last year they went after high-profile hurler Cole Hamels who helped propel the Rangers to the division title.
The surging Houston Astros are in need of an additional starting pitcher as well. They have the resources to make this happen, as their farm system is flush with top prospects they have been accumulating for the past 3-4 years. Don’t be surprised if the Astros’ 2015 Number 1 draft pick, Alex Bregman, is exploited in a trade deadline deal. The Astros are now thinking he will get a shot in their lineup as an outfielder, because there is no obvious place for him as an infielder. Pitcher Andrew Cashner would be a good pick-up for them, as well as Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer or Matt Moore. The Padres and Rays could certainly use Bregman to build their future. The Astros could be in the hunt for Chapman, too.
The second-place Los Angeles Dodgers are also reportedly interested in Chris Archer and/or Chris Sale, given Clayton Kershaw’s recent health status and the rest of the staff being state of flux as well. Dodger president Andrew Friedman is familiar with Archer from his Tampa Bay background. The Dodgers’ young 19-year-old starter, Julio Urias, would have to be a big chip in such a deal.
A few other moves that could make sense for several clubs include Jonathan Lucroy to the Cleveland Indians to backfill for injured Yan Gomes; Phillies’ pitcher Jeremy Hellickson to the Miami Marlins; outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. to the New York Mets for much-needed offense; and Aroldis Chapman to the Washington Nationals, where they finally demote controversial reliever Jonathan Papelbon. Plus, the Red Sox may not be finished, as they consider Chris Sale and his White Sox teammate Jose Quintana.