The weeks leading up to the MLB Trade Deadline (July 31) are always loaded with casual speculation about which players will be moved and where they’ll fit best. But as we approach a big day for baseball’s contenders and re-builders, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a video game. Real people’s lives are being uprooted with each trade.
Who could forget how Wilmer Flores broke down upon hearing that he was about to get traded? (Only for the deal to fall apart at the last second and keep Flores in a Mets uniform.) We could see similar reactions at this year’s deadline.
The Royals are almost sure to move pieces from a core that reached baseball’s ultimate goal, a World Championship. That has to be emotional for whomever moves on (not to mention the unlucky ones who have to stay).
Then there’s longtime Pirates star Andrew McCutchen: after leading the franchise out of the darkness, he’s spent the winter on the trade block, and should find a new home soon. As bad as he’s played this season, there shouldn’t be a Bucs fan with a dry eye when he goes.
For all these sob stories there will also be a few Melky Cabreras, who will happily leave the South Side with a simple, “lol… peace!” It is a business after all.
As for me; I’m in the business of predicting. So now that I’ve established that I am capable of feeling (sometimes), let’s soullessly play matchmaker by setting odds on which big names will be on the move.
MLB Trade Deadline Odds
Odds to be traded by the deadline: position players
- Jed Lowrie (Athletics): 1/5
- Zack Cozart (Reds): 1/3
- Andrew McCutchen (Pirates): 4/11
- Howie Kendrick (Phillies): 2/5
- Melky Cabrera (White Sox): 1/2
- Lorenzo Cain (Royals): 2/3
- Mike Moustakas (Royals): 1/1
- Brian Dozier (Twins): 4/3
- Todd Frazier (White Sox): 2/1
- Ryan Braun (Brewers): 4/1
The Cubs’ sluggish start may end up hurting more than their chances at homefield throughout the playoffs; it may keep some prime selling candidates from exploring the market. The longer the Brewers and Reds are in the race, the less time they’ll spend looking for potential trade partners. Neither Milwaukee nor Cincinnati is close to contending status, but they also aren’t sitting on a bunch of expiring contracts they’ll feel pressured to move. The Pirates are close enough in the race that they could back out of a McCutchen deal with a run in June.
The Reds’ biggest asset in the field is 32-year-old shortstop Zack Cozart, who is enjoying a career year. The Brewers biggest trade question remains Ryan Braun, who gained full-trade protection this month thanks to the league’s 10-and-5 rule. Braun has hinted at being open to a trade, but from his list of approved teams, only the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks appear to be an option at this point.
If the American League were a cafeteria, the Royals and Athletics would be the kids looking to trade Hostess Cupcakes. K.C. has five big expiring deals and is sure to move some, if not all of them. Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas are the most likely to get moved as the Royals make a play to re-sign Eric Hosmer.
The White Sox are the kids looking to get anything for a bag of carrot sticks. Nearly all of Chicago’s deadline pieces have significantly underperformed this season. Cabrera is hitting below his career average, but that’s nothing compared to Todd Frazier, who’s entering June below the Mendoza line.
The Twins are currently in first, which could sway them out of making a deal. But the odds of Minnesota remaining on top are pretty low: they enter June with a -23 run differential. So both Dozier and their lights-out pitcher (more on him, below) should be on the market.
Odds to be traded by the deadline: pitchers
- Jason Vargas (Royals): 2/7
- Gerrit Cole (Pirates): 1/3
- Jeremy Hellickson (Phillies): 3/5
- Sonny Gray (Athletics): 5/6
- Ervin Santana (Twins): 1/1
- Johnny Cueto (Giants): 8/7
- Jose Quintana (White Sox): 7/3
- Alex Cobb (Rays): 3/1
There are some great names on this list, and shockingly Ervin Santana boasts the best ERA out of all of them. In fact, he has the best ERA in the entire league for starting pitchers. So how much will teams be willing to give up for one of the year’s top pitchers? Probably not as much as you think. Not only is Santana 34 and due for a regression (his BABIP is currently .143: the league average is around .300), but there are tons of other starting pitching options.
There’s an excellent lefty available in Kansas City’s Jason Vargas, who’s currently posting a 2.39 ERA. Righties Johnny Cueto and Gerrit Cole can bring valuable playoff experience to an inexperienced team trying to make a playoff push. Cash-strapped franchises like Oakland and Tampa are always trying to flip big-money players for prospects, so their aces could be available for the right price. However, the Rays remain in the thick of things in AL East, so the oft-rumored Chris Archer deal probably won’t come this summer either.
Jose Quintana is also available … probably for a handful of loose change.
Odds of acquiring (at least) one of the position players, above, by the deadline
- Chicago Cubs: 1/4
- St. Louis Cardinals: 1/2
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 2/3
- New York Mets: 5/7
- Boston Red Sox: 11/10
- Cleveland Indians: 8/7
- Colorado Rockies: 2/1
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 7/2
- Minnesota Twins: 7/1
The Mets won’t let injuries, suspensions, or even improper mascot behavior derail their season, not without making a move first. The latest rumor is that New York is after Moustakas to help improve a mediocre offense. Despite sitting 8.5 games back of a Wild Card, selling isn’t an option for a team designed to win now.
The Cubs and Cards could use some assistance, too, and whoever gets it first will have a big advantage in the NL Central race. St. Louis needs a better bat in the outfield, like a Cabrera or Kendrick. The Cubs need an effective leadoff hitter, a role perhaps Lowrie or Cain could fill.
Boston is another contender with a glaring need: they have a hole at third so enormous, it dwarfs Pablo Sandoval’s gut. The market for third baseman isn’t particularly deep beyond Moustakas, but as the season wears on, perhaps more names, like Yunel Escobar will come available.
And it wouldn’t be a trade deadline if the Dodgers weren’t adding bodies, whether they have any needs or not.
Odds of acquiring (at least) one of the pitchers, above, by the deadline
- Houston Astros: 1/4
- Colorado Rockies: 2/5
- New York Yankees: 1/2
- Chicago Cubs: 1/1
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 5/4
- Cleveland Indians: 3/2
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 3/2
- Baltimore Orioles: 8/5
The Dodgers have some surprise company at the top of the NL West, but if the D-Backs and Rockies want to hang with L.A. all year and avoid the dreaded Wild Card game, beefing up their rotations is key. Arizona is already running into injury trouble on the mound, with Shelby Miller done for the year and Taijuan Walker on the DL. But since the D-Backs emptied their farm system over the past few seasons, they likely can’t chase any top options. Perhaps they bring back Hellickson for a second go-around?
The Rockies have more prospect capital to work with and could use a veteran presence among their young starters. Since trading within the division is frowned upon, Cueto doesn’t appear to be an option, but virtually every other big name starter is. Cole would be a good fit here.
In the AL, the Yankees are overachieving, but not because of their starting rotation. With Masahiro Tanaka struggling they could make a play for another arm. But New York was a seller just a year ago; are they already back to buying at the deadline?
Cleveland could use some pitching help, as well, with Corey Kluber dealing with back issues and the rest of the starters M.I.A. Look for Houston to load up, too, even though they’ve already sewn up the AL West. A lefty like Vargas makes sense for an Astros rotation that only has Dallas Keuchel throwing southpaw.