Well, we’re only a week into the MLB season and normally that would be way too early to start thinking about the trade deadline. But this season is only 60 games and the trade deadline is only a month away, on August 31st. I don’t see many huge trades going down given the current situation, but it’s always fun to speculate.
Buyers and Sellers
While it is harder to tell exactly which teams will buy and which teams will sell in a short season, the obvious ones are still there. Rebuilding teams know exactly where they are and have to try getting as much value out their current players as they can to upstart the rebuild. The perennial in-contention teams also know they will need that extra piece or two to make the full run at the World Series. But even with that, how many big-time prospects would a buying team be willing to give up to get just a rental?
In a normal season, a team has a rental for at least 60 games or so, plus the postseason. But now this season, the length of time will be around 30 games plus the postseason. It is still half the season, but fewer games. The biggest concern is the uncertainty of the season even completing given what has happened with the Marlins, Phillies, and Cardinals with COVID-19.
The obvious buyers are the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Astros, Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, and Dodgers, while the obvious sellers are the Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, Royals, Mariners, Marlins, Pirates, and Giants. The Red Sox are also probably sellers as they already started the rebuild in the offseason, trading superstar Mookie Betts along with David Price. The other 12 teams are kind of in the middle, either close to the start of a rebuild, at the end of one, or just waiting it out. It all depends on how they play and their division shapes up over the next month.
Teams like the Mets, Phillies, Cubs, and Brewers play in tightly contested divisions that can see every team in contention for the division crown through all 60 games. The expanded playoffs, with three extra teams for a total of eight in each league, changes a lot of things for those teams as well and really could make almost every team in the league either a buyer or stay stagnant. Honestly, this year is so weird and crazy that I could sit here and seriously see the Tigers making the playoffs. The world is upside down already, so it really wouldn’t surprise me.
Predicting Big Trade Pieces
Whit Merrifield, 2B/OF, Kansas City Royals –
Already 31, Merrifield was a late bloomer with just 3.1 years of service time in the majors to his name. The Royals were able to sign him to a four-year, $16.25 million extension that doesn’t make him a free agent until after the 2023 season. The cheap contract and three years of control after this season could make him an interesting target for teams. Merrifield has led the league in hits the last two years and he posted a 5.9 fWAR in 2018. The Royals love his leadership and want him to help develop the young prospects, so they would look for a pretty rich return, especially with the three years of control.
Suitors: Diamondbacks, Cubs, Phillies, Yankees (Depth), Padres
Ken Giles, Cl/Rel, Toronto Blue Jays –
The possibility of Giles being dealt took a major hit on Tuesday, June 28, when the Jays announced he was being shut down for an uncertain amount of time due to a forearm strain. I am banking on the injury not being too major and that he will be able to come back before the deadline. He also dealt with elbow issues last season but was able to come back to the mound and close games for Toronto. If he were to be dealt before August 31, I wouldn’t expect the Blue Jays to get much in return given the injury concerns in addition to the short season. He would be a rental, as the Jays brought Giles back on a one-year, $9.6M deal this season after putting up great numbers last season, a 1.87 ERA/2.27 FIP with a 14.09 K/9 rate across 53 innings as the full-time closer.
Suitors: Dodgers, White Sox, Phillies, Nationals
Jonathan Villar, UTL, Miami Marlins –
The Marlins were able to acquire the versatile Villar last season from the Orioles for pitching prospect Easton Lucas after Baltimore surprisingly designated him for assignment. He slashed .274/.339/.453 with 24 homers, 40 stolen bases, and a 4.0 fWAR last season with the Orioles before going to Miami. The Marlins signed him to an $8.2 million deal in arbitration, a bargain compared to the $10.4M projection made by MLB Trade Rumors. That, in addition to his ability to play almost any position, could make him a sought-after target at the deadline. Villar also hit 33 doubles last year and his speed increases his value the Marlins could get in return.
Suitors: White Sox, Padres, Cubs, Diamondbacks
C.J. Cron, 1B/DH, Detroit Tigers –
The Tigers signed Cron to a one-year, $6.1 million deal over the offseason. It wasn’t just to give their awful offense a boost but to use him as trade bait. They are a clear rebuilding team and will try to get as much value as they possibly can from him. The 30-year-old posted a .799 OPS with 55 home runs over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, .972 OPS and 19 homers against southpaws. This year he is off to a bit of a slow start. If he can get rolling, the Tigers should get some solid returns. With the National League adopting the DH, his value only increases to every team in the majors that will look at his bat.
Suitors: Phillies, Nationals, Padres, Diamondbacks, Brewers
I will be checking back in as we get closer to August 31 with some hypothetical trade scenarios and more notes.
Questions and comments?
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