There have already been 28 trades completed in the month of July, but the fun might just be getting started. It’s trade deadline day, or as we call it around here, Christmas for baseball junkies.
Last year’s deadline day brought us a whopping 18 trades, with Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Lucroy, Jay Bruce, Josh Reddick and Rich Hill among the names to move. While we may not see the same quantity today, the 2017 deadline has the potential to beat its 2016 counterpart in the quality department by a significant margin.
With less than a day until the deadline (4:00 p.m. ET), here are the biggest stories to keep an eye on:
Where will the big-time starters land?
Gray and Darvish. Darvish and Gray. These guys have been the belles of the deadline ball for weeks and we still don’t know where they’ll spend the final two months of the season.
These two front-line starters are unequivocally the biggest names out on the trade market, and have been for a while. Gray’s market is a bit more robust due to the fact he’s under club control through 2019, but Darvish’s market is flush with suitors looking for a rental ace down the stretch. They’re drawing interest from many of the same clubs (the Yankees, Dodgers, Indians and Astros among them), meaning their fates will be very much intertwined.
The Vegas money all weekend has been on Gray ending up with the Yankees and Darvish going to the Dodgers, though both clubs have let their eyes wander in the last couple days. Cleveland should be viewed as a dark horse on both, with Darvish probably a more realistic target because of the lower price and the club’s firm status as a contender now.
The big-market teams in New York and Los Angeles appear to be the leaders in the clubhouse, but don’t count out some small-market clubs. The Braves, Padres and Brewers could all get involved with Gray and Cleveland is a team to watch on Darvish.
Will the two best remaining relievers be moved?
The weekend began with three major lefty relievers on the board, but with Justin Wilson joining the Cubs late Sunday night, we’re down to two. San Diego’s Brad Hand and Baltimore’s Zach Britton remain available, but it’s no sure thing they’ll be moved.
The hauls the Yankees received for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman at last year’s deadline have skewed the bullpen market to the point where teams with the top available relievers are shooting for the moon. Though the Astros, Nationals and Dodgers have been especially intrigued by relief arms this summer, the prices on both Hand and Britton have been considered extremely high, to the point where the Padres and Orioles may just hold onto them.
Clubs involved in the Wilson race believed Detroit’s ask was too high, with the Tigers believed to be asking for top-100 prospects in most packages. Jeimer Candelario, the top prospect they got back from the Cubs, is a bit of a polarizing player whose rankings vary by site.
Britton is controlled through next year and Hand isn’t a free agent until 2019, so the O’s and Padres don’t have to move them if they don’t get exactly the kind of offers they’re looking for.
One cheaper alternative for every team looking for bullpen help is Mets closer Addison Reed, who is almost a lock to be dealt by the end of the day. The Red Sox showed strong interest Sunday, but there are a ton of teams involved there.
How will new sellers affect the market?
The Twins are the most obvious fit here, with Jaime Garcia already having been flipped to the Yankees less than a week after joining Minnesota. Brandon Kintzler is the most likely to go as a rental, but the club could also listen on Ervin Santana, Brian Dozier, Matt Belisle and others.
The Angels could sell after a heartbreaking loss Sunday with main chips Yusmeiro Petit, Bud Norris and David Hernandez already drawing interest. Yunel Escobar and Cameron Maybin could go, as well.
Texas (Yu Darvish, Mike Napoli and Carlos Gomez), St. Louis (Lance Lynn, Randal Grichuk, Tommy Pham and relievers) and Pittsburgh (David Freese, Tony Watson and John Jaso) could all move some pieces as well, if they decide to do so.
Is there a market for position players?
There hasn’t been a ton of position player movement so far this month, with J.D. Martinez being the most valuable piece moved and Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nunez, Lucas Duda, Howie Kendrick, Melky Cabrera, Jonathan Lucroy and Alex Avila. The returns for almost all of them have been underwhelming, suggesting there’s little demand for offense on the market this year.
Jose Bautista, Yonder Alonso, Jed Lowrie, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Asdrubal Cabrera and Yunel Escobar are probably the best options realistically available for clubs looking for offense. Some of those guys will be dealt by Monday, but the lack of demand at almost every non-pitching position creates the possibility of most staying put.
Alonso, Granderson, Bruce and Escobar will all be free agents after the year, while Cabrera and Lowrie are under control via team options. A rival executive pointed out this week that the Mets could consider Cabrera as a legitimate third base option for next year due to injury concerns about T.J. Rivera and David Wright, so New York may not even move Cabrera.
It’s unlikely we’ll see a major position player become available despite the whispers about Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson all month. Zack Cozart isn’t even drawing interest as a rental because no one has a hole at shortstop.
How will the rest of the pitching market shake out?
Gray and Darvish are obviously the big dominoes, and there’s a sharp drop-off after them. Lance Lynn is probably the third best guy available, but there are many who aren’t convinced the Cardinals will deal him at all.
Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Marco Estrada, Clayton Richard, Jhoulys Chacin, Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland are pieces that could move. Less likely are trades involving Dan Straily, Jeff Samardzija, J.A. Happ and Johnny Cueto, and nearly impossible are moves for Cole Hamels, Justin Verlander and Julio Teheran.
Will we get a surprise trade?
If I knew the exact answer to that, I wouldn’t be writing about baseball trades. But there are some names that could move that you haven’t heard much about.
Bautista is one, and I’m sure there’s a contender who could squeeze Cozart onto their roster in a creative way. Watson may be a cheaper alternative for teams playing at the Britton/Hand level, and he’s a free agent after the year.
Don’t bank on Machado or Donaldson being dealt. Probably a better chance of Jaime Garcia being traded for a third time.
Gray and Darvish will dominate the day, period. The teams that lose out on them will surely get creative in their buying efforts, setting up the potential for surprise moves as 4 p.m. nears.