It’s not even June yet but it’s clear there are five teams in Major League Baseball headed for selling at this year’s trade deadline.
There are another handful of clubs on the brink, including the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, and Minnesota Twins, but it’s a bit early to write them entirely out of contention for at least the No. 2 Wild Card in their repsective leagues, and the Twins and Angels might be a little more bullish on holding things together and taking a chance the talent wins out over the course of the full schedule.
The last-place team in the National League East is just 2.5 games back in the division, so all five teams remain in hunting mode, and even the Reds at 5.5 games back in the NL Central aren’t toast just yet.
In addition to the Reds, Angels, and Twins, the Royals may join the sellers list, but are 22-23 and just four games back in the American League Central entering this week.
Here are the seven that already appear done for in 2021, and what they may consider trading by July 30. (yes, July 30 is this year’s deadline)
The Orioles in a full-scale rebuild and have some interesting pieces they’ll to consider. I don’t see Trey Mancini being shopped this year, and there are a few players not performing, such as Maikel Franco, Shawn Armstrong, and Anthony Santander, that could be sought after if they turn things around quickly.
John Means, LHS
Means might fetch a solid return package if he’s shopped this summer., but the question isn’t simply about tipping the scale with the right talent, it’s also about whether or not the club believes he’s a key part to the next winner in Baltimore.
He’s not a No. 1 starter and his track record as the No. 2 or 3 he’s shown in 2021 is extremely shallow — all of nine starts. Despite a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts last season, he was hit harder than that (4.45 xFIP, 5.60 FIP) and may be valued somewhere in between.
Means is 28 and will not be a free agent until after the 2024 season, so it’s three years after this left on his current contract situation, and at very reasonable prices in a world where mid-rotation arms don’t break the bank via arbitration.
Freddy Galvis, SS
Galvis isn’t likely to getch much as a rental, but he’s having a career year early on (123 wRC+ as of May 23) and legit shortstops with some offensive ability don’t grow on treest, especially in July.
Paul Fry, LHR
Fry is headed for arbitration for the first time after this season, and he’s backing up a solid 2020 with an outstanding 2021, dominating left-handed batters (.125/.222/.125) and treating righties only slightly better (.211/.302/.237).
He’s a two-pitch arm, but he’s getting a ton of value out of his fastball. He’s not a consistent multi-inning option — at least he hasn’t been the past two seasons — and he’s yet to appear in a single true back-to-back, but considering the volatility with relievers and the fact the club is at least two years from competing, the Orioles should dangle Fry and take the best offer.
The Tigers have flashed a bit early in 2021 but the 40-man roster has a long way to go and it’s difficult to see them winning before 2023. They’ve already moved most of their veterans, but theres a handful that contenders may be texting GM Al Avila about through the deadline.
Injured lefty Derek Holland could join the group below, but it’s been three years since he was last serviceable, so I;m not holding my breath.
Robbie Grossman, OF
Grossman signed a two-year deal worth $10 million prior to this season, but if he keeps running a 130 wRC+ powered by a .384 OBP and acceptable power the Tigers may get an offer they shouldnt refuse.
Grossman has a better hit tool as a right-handed batter but more raw power as a lefty and could fill a roll for a contender without a standard answer in an outfield corner, or at DH.
Jonathan Schoop, 2B
Schoop hasn’t hit much through 43 games (.216/.259/.309) but was solid a year ago and offers a club some pop at second base without giving it back defensively.
He’s in Motown on a one-year deal so if clubs call, the Tigers are sure to listen.
Wilson Ramos, C
Another one-year deal for Avila, Ramos is one hot streak from being a very valuable piece this summer. He owns a career 102 wRC+, but was 11% below average a year ago and is off to a bad start (.200/.238/.392), despite the power this season.
If healthy, the 33-year-old Ramos is a solid bet to be moved.
Daniel Norris, LHR
Norris, a free agent at seasons end, was good in 14 games a year ago, covering 27.2 innings, but he’s allowed earned runs in six of 15 appearances and his walk rate is up more than 3% so far.
He’s also getting hit harder than ever (95.2 mph average exit velocity is up more than 5 mph from career), and he’s not getting out lefties or righties, suggesting he’ll need to make an adjustment or two or and perform before he’s the subject of serious trade conversations.
Matthew Boyd, LHS
Boyd has two years before free agency beckons and he’s having a weird, yet successful season.
His strikeout rate is down to 19.4% after he struck out more than 30% of the batters he faced in 2019. He’s also limiting home runs (3.1%) to unsustainable levels right now, but the raw stuff is the same, with one glaring exception; his slider hasn’t been the same since ’19, explaining the huge dip in strikeouts, and swinging strikes, and the increase in contact when he gets batters to chase out of the zone.
Still, he’s 30, will be due less than $3 million when the deadline arrives, and has allowed fewer than three earned runs six times in nine starts and fewer than two in four. He’s also gone six or more in six starts and failed to go at least five just once. Clubs are going to call, and the Tigers should pull the trigger. Finally.
Seattle was hoping to start competing better this season, but former team president Kevin Mather nixed the financial flexibility GM Jerry Dipoto was expecting, so in some ways the club is at least a half year behind where they wanted to be. There arent a lot of pieces left to sell, and there’s a good chance Dipoto looks to add future help this summer to both make up for lost time and get a jump start on the offseason.
Mitch Haniger, RF
Haniger is finally back healthy after missing 99 games in 2019 and all of 2020 with core injuries and multiple surgeries, and he’s powered up to a 140 wRC+ and above average marks in batting average and on-base percentage.
He’s a fringe-average right field glove but has a plus arm, and has lineup versatility from leadoff all the way down to the bottom third. He’s not free-agent eligible until after 2022, and is earning a modest $3M this season.
Having said all that, the 30-year-old remains an injury risk to some degree, and the deadline rarely bears a lot of fruit for corner outfielders.
Most of all, Haniger’s availability has to be weighed against Dipoto’s attempts to compete some in 2022. If the veteran is traded, it’s likely a sign the club has indeed been forced to push things back a full season. But most signs point to Haniger remaining, and at the end of the day it doesn’t seem like the Mariners would be passing up a lucrative package, anyway.
Kendall Graveman, RHR
Graveman isn’t going to warrant the kind of trade package a lot of Mariners fans expect, because he’s simply not special. Despite a 1.87 ERA and .111 BAA, his xFIP of 2.87 is rather ordinary for high-leverage arms and the Mariners have babied him all year.
The former starter has yet to pitch on back-to-back days and has pitched on fewer than 2 days rest just four times. He’s also pitched on three days rest three times, four days rest once and 6 days rest once. It may be precautionary, as the right-hander was diagnosed with a benign tumor near the C6 of his cervical spine, but if that’s how he needs to go about 2021 it’s going to impact his trade value.
That’s assuming the Mariners don’t plan on extending Graveman beyond 2021 and passing on the relatively modest trade return I’d expect to be offered.
Tom Murphy, C
Murphy entered 2021 as possible trade fodder in July, based on his above-average defense and .273/.324/.535, 18-homer run in 76 games back in 2019.
He’s played in 27 games in 2021 and enters the week batting .133/.182/.313 with four home runs. Nobody thought he’d repeat his ’19 success, but this is a but much. If he rebounds for a month or more clubs will call looking for a No. 2 catcher, but despite the fact prospect Cal Raleigh is close, the Mariners should hold Murphy, rather than exchanging him for a bullpen flyer or two.
Kyle Seager, 3B
Seager’s $15 million option for 2022 may not look bad is he continues to perform at a similar clip — 119 wRC+, .474 slugging percentage, 1.4 fWAR in 47 games — which could entice a club to inquire. The reason the option is a factor is due to a clause in his contract that turns the club option into a player one if he’s traded.
Seager’s increase in swinging strikes can be attributed mainly to his increased chase rate, which is up nearly 8% from a year ago, 4.1% higher than his career mark. His zone contact rate is also down enough to think maybe his bat has slowed down, but the sample is small and despite a baseball that’s not supposed to travel as far as recent season’s Seager still is hitting the ball as hard ( career best 90.7 average exit velo) and as often ( career high47.3% hard hit rate) as he ever has.
Seager’s ultimate trade fate is somewhat similar to Haniger’s in that the club would have one more hole to fill if they trade him or don’t find a way to bring him back in 2022, either on the option or a new contract.
The Rangers have a lot more to offer than one might assume, considering they’re rebuild is a few years under way. There are a few veterans, namely Jordan Lyles, that likely will be available but difficult to trade considering performance and monies due, but Chris Young will have opportunities to move proven players for future assets.
Kyle Gibson, RHS
The 33-year-old Gibson is signed through 2022 and will be owed $10 million total once the deadline hits. He struggled some in 12 starts last season, but has been solid in 2021, thanks to the return of his sinker and changeup.
Texas could keep Gibson and hope they can break through in 2022, but unless they plan on competing for at least two stars in free agency this coming winter, 2023 is the soonest Arlington is likely to see a winner in the royal, red, and white.
There are always contenders needing rotation stability and the fact he’s not a two-month rental and dirt cheap only increases both demand and value.
Ian Kennedy, RHR
Kennedy is due under $1 million the final two months of the season and has found success in the Rangers bullpen after a terrible 2020 in Kansas City.
But success in relief is not new to Kennedy, as he was very good for the Royals in 2019.
At press time, he was running a career-high 31.1% strikeout rate and career-best 5.4% walk rate. He’s sitting 93-96 mph and his best secondary has been a solid-average cutter and improved curveball.
Kennedy should end up elsewhere by the deadline. He can help a contender.
Joey Gallo, OF
Gallo’s value peaked in 2017 and held fairly strong in 2019 before he got hurt and missed more than half the season. He hit .181/.301/.378 last season in 57 games and is batting .209/.365/.361 in 47 games this season.
He’s fine in a corner outfield spot and will draw walks, and one might wonder if he was surrounded by a better lineup if he might get more pitches to hit and feel incentivized to be more selective. He’s still just 27 and the raw power is at least 70-grade, so a club with a need for some pop that’s willing to put up with low averages could show enough interest to pry him away.
Gallo won’t be a free agent until after next season.
David Dahl, OF
The Rangers’ signing of Dahl was one of the best moves of the winter by any club. It cost the Rangers under $3 million and Dahl has upside, as he showed in 2018 and 2019. But after a fast start this season he’s struggled someting fierce and it appears he’s topping the baseball and/or getting out fron too much.
He’d likely have to turn things around for teams to come knocking, but Dahl is a talented hitter who’s healthy so stay tuned here.
The Pirates were sellers when the year started and even they knew it, but how aggressive they’ll be remains to be seen since there isn’t a whole lot to trade. It would help if Gregory Polanco could find some consistency, because without it no club is going to take on the $6.3 million guaranteed he’s owed.
The former 6th-round pick is peaking at the right time, batting .335/.396/.462 driven by a line-drive swinf and high rate of contact. He’s an average glove at second base, a very good baserunner with above-average speed and isn’t free-agent eligible until after next season.
He also has spent enough time in the outfield to suggest he’s at least average there, too, offering more flexibility to a contending roster, especially if a club that calls on Frazier doesn’t need an everyday player.
Tyler Anderson, LHS
Anderson should interest some of the Wild Card clubs that are kind of stuck between waiting another year and going for it a bit right now, because he’s a rental with a low price tag in both trade cost and salary (due under $1 million the final two months of 2021).
He’s running a career-high strikeout rate of 23.8%, a career best xFIP, throws a lot of strikes, and when he spots his four-seam fastball he’s tougher to hit than his raw stuff would suggest thanks to what has been a very good sinker-cutter combo.
Trevor Cahill, RHS
Cahill is a No. 5 starter, but has experience in relief and could interest a fringe contender that believes in the veteran’s ground ball arsenal again.
Richard Rodriguez, RHR
Rodriguez is heading for Year 2 of arbitration following the season and his performance thus far suggests $4 million is not out of the question, which may send the Pirates out this summer to maximize the return on what is shaping up to be another very good season.
The righty isn’t posting the huge strikeout numbers he did a year ago (36.6% in 2020, 23.4% in 2021), but he’s issued but one base on balls and has yet to serve up a longball.
Rodriguez is a four-seam fastball pitcher with a rare slider (8.7%), which may explain the dive in strikeouts and swinging strikes (down 5%).
If he flashes the good slider some before the deadline contenders are going to be interested and the Pirates should be more than willing.
The Rockies probably should be willing to gut the entire roster and start fresh, but their GM just resigned and the interim GM is scouting director Bill Schmidt, who may or may not be a candidate for the permanent role.
How much leash will the club president allow an interim GM? My guess not the kind that makes German Marquez trade bait in July.
Trevor Story, SS
Story should be one of the elite prizes a this year’s deadline. He’s a free agent after the season, has two 5-win season under his belt and offers speed, power, and defense from the shortstop position.
He’s not tearing it up, but is hitting enough to draw significant interest, and he could start a 14-for-25, 6-homer stretch at any moment.
While Story should hit anywhere, I do wonder how much he’ll have to alter his general game plan to maintain his power production outside Denver.
Story should be sure bet to be moved by the deadline, and it could happen at any moment.
Daniel Bard, RHR
Bard is a quality arm for the middle innings for a good team, and hes throwing as hard as ever (98.2 mph) with an above-average slider to complement.
His contract is club controlled through next season, but the Rockies should have no dreams about 2022. Trade him.
Mychal Givens, RHR
Givens is a free agent at season’s end, and while he hasn’t been great in 2021 his stuff and deception are lightning in a bottle waiting to happen.
He’ll need to string together some success, but he has time to find some mechanical fixes to help him throw more strikes.
Robert Stephenson, RHR
Stephenson throws strikes and his velocity is up two ticks (97 mph) from a year ago. His curveball is average and the home run ball has bitten him his past 29 appearances, but there’s a controllable, quality middle-relief arm here, perhaps a little more if a club can get more from his secondaries.
Jon Gray, RHS
Gray was the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 and while he’s been fine, he hasn’t quite lived up to lofty expectations.
There’s a chance he’s having his best season in terms of pure results, but it’s difficult to see how its sustainable. After his strikeout rate was cut in half last season, it remains below 20%, and he’s rolling out the worst walk rate of his career. He is, however, generating more ground balls, which is a strategy that theoretically works at Coors Field.
His slider, at time throughout his career has been pure filth, and it has been above-average in 2021, but the lack os a quality third pitch has held him back almost as much as his environment.
Still, he’s throwing 95 mph, is healthy, and there’s no commitment beyond this season, so I expect the Rockies to trade him. A Wild Card team could use him in the rotation and a World Series contender might see a multi-inning reliever for their October run.
Charlie Blackmon, OF
Blackmon isn’t hitting much, will be 35 in July and is owed $52 million over the next three years.
While it’s difficult to suggest he’s not available, no team is going to take on a significant portion of that money and the Rockies are probably better off hanging onto him and hoping he hits so they can move him next summer.
C.J. Cron, 1B/DH
Cron is in Colorado on a one-year, $1 million deal, which is going to help him get traded. He’s batting .297/.391/.486 and can fake it at first base.
I joked in April the Diamondbacks had one good player, Ketel Marte, and while that’s not true — Carson Kelly, David Peralta, Josh Rojas, and Zac Gallen are all good players, and Madison Bumgarner has found a way to be solid again, too — it is true the D-Backs are stuck in purgatory.
They’re nowhere near a 90-win team, and 2021 is a lost season, but they do have some talent to dangle in July.
Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/3B
I saw Cabrera’s first professional game for short-season Everett in 2004 and he’s still playing — and hitting — at age 35.
He’s a .306/.406/.529 hitter as a lefty this season (154 wRC+), can manage at second in short stints and more than handle third base. Cabrera, on a one-year deal in Arizona, could be a valuable reserve for any club aiming toward October.
Eduardo Escobar, UT
It’s the final year of Escobar’s three-year deal and as a multi-position glove he’s decent enough trade bait to expect buzz on him in July.
He’s hitting .230/.272/.470 with 12 homers, so a good club is likely to see him as a short-term replacement or bench option, but there’s no reason for Arizona to keep him beyond July 30.
David Peralta, OF
Peralta, 33, is signed through next season and will be due about $11 million from this year’s deadline through 2022.
He’s been a steady, yet limited performer for years,posting mostly good but not great power numbers, but carries a .290/.345/.474 career slash into the week, which is almost idnetical to his 2021 numbers.
He’s an average corner outfielder who struggles versus left-handed pitching, but he’s hit them enough lately to stay in the lineup, and he owns a lifetime 128 wRC+ versus right-handers, essentially making him the Cabrera of outfielder potentially on the trade block this summer.
Jason A. Churchill
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