Trade Winds Pick Up
Photo: Fox TV
One day after representing Baltimore at the All-Star Game, Manny Machado became the first domino to fall in the July trade season when he joined Matt Kemp (right) as a member of the Dodgers
Now that the All-Star Game is behind us, July Trade Season begins in earnest. Manny Machado has finally been traded (to the Dodgers, for five minor-leaguers) and serves as an unofficial starting gun; let the wheeling and dealing begin!
Traditionally—at least, since the non-waiver trading deadline was shifted to July 31 from June 23 in 1986—the latter half of July has been when contending teams look to shore up any weak spots and so-called "second-division" teams try to cut their losses, shave payroll, and re-stock their farm systems by dealing veteran stars when they can get the best return. Often these veterans are in the final year of their contracts and thus "rentals" for the acquiring clubs, expected to merely serve out the year in their new cities before hitting the open market as free agents. Since the advent of the Wild Card, and especially since the institution of a second Wild Card concept, more clubs have seen themselves as contenders and fewer big names have gotten dealt as a result. This year, though, the standings are less fluid than in recent seasons, especially in the American League—the clubs currently in playoff position seem likely to be the ones that end up there: Boston, Cleveland, Houston, the Yankees, and the Mariners are in position, and the only other team that seems likely to challenge any of them is Oakland. The National League has nine teams that could reasonably claim one of the five postseason berths.
So who will be changing zip codes soon? Last year the biggest names traded were Justin Verlander, J.D. Martínez, Yu Darvish, Jonathan Lucroy, and Sonny Gray, all of whom helped their new teams get to the playoffs. This year's list of potential stars to move doesn't have a Verlander, but there are plenty of interesting names:
- Mike Moustakas, Kansas City (3B) — Not a game-changer, really, but a decent power bat without a prohibitive contract. Current stat line: .249/.306/.466. Best trade fits: Cleveland, Arizona
- J.T. Realmuto, Miami (C) — An All-Star bat at catcher is a rare thing indeed this year, especially in the American League. Under normal circumstances, no team would be looking to move this guy, but this is the Marlins we're talking about, and they're in such disarray that any valuable trade chip could be dealt in the name of wholesale rebuild. Realmuto could net a decent return for a sad franchise and be a huge get for the acquiring team. Realmuto would not be a rental; he's young and won't reach free agency until 2021. Current stat line: .310/.365/.536. Possible destination: Arizona, though any team would like to have him
- Brian Dozier, Minnesota (2B) — He's having a down year, but Dozier would be worth trading for should a team feel their middle infield is weakish. If he could be spurred back into the form he displayed last year—and over his career, Dozier has tended to put up his best numbers in August—Dozier could make a difference for a team like the Nationals, Indians, or Brewers. Current stat line: .230/.314/.423. Most likely suitor: Milwaukee
- Shin-soo Choo, Texas (OF/DH) — The former Mariner made the All-Star team for the first time and is having a career year, and with the Rangers going nowhere fast he'd be almost certain to be dealt if not for his contract (two more years at $21M after this season). If Texas is offered a halfway-decent return, they might agree to pay some of that remaining salary. His suitors might be limited if he can't play the outfield every day, but a team like the Phillies or the Indians could use his bat. Current stat line: .293/.405/.506. Potential fit: Atlanta
- Adam Jones, Baltimore (OF) — Jones has 10/5 rights to block any trade, but given the state of the Orioles, it seems likely he'd agree to be moved. While not the superstar he once was, the former Mariner product could be a nice rental add for some club with an underperforming CF. Baltimore would have to eat some of his remaining salary to get much return, but they need the prospects. Current stat line: .275/.299/.423. Most likely suitor: Cleveland
- Nick Castellanos, Detroit (OF/3B) — With the Tigers in rebuild mode, Castellanos is a prime candidate to go even though he won't hit free agency until 2020. That could make him more attractive to a contender, though his appeal is mitigated by his subpar defense; moved from third to the outfield this year, he hasn't shown a lot of ability at either position, but it'd be worth finding a place for him somewhere in the lineup. Current stat line: .305/.359/.517. Potential destination: Philadelphia
- A.J. Ellis, San Diego (C) — Like Realmuto, Ellis could give most teams an offensive upgrade and/or valuable depth piece behind the plate and does not have a hefty salary. Unlike Realmuto, he's strictly a rental and has no long-term appeal. It probably would not take much to get him, and he has that valued postseason experience (.365/.450/.615 in four playoff series with the Dodgers). Current stat line: .284/.392/.358. Possible fits: Seattle, Houston
- Starlin Castro, Miami (SS/2B) — He's overpaid and under contract for another year plus an option year ($1M buyout), but a team that missed out on Manny Machado might want to make an offer, and it'd be to the Marlins, who might well take whatever they can get to unload the contract. Current stat line: .291/.337/.408. Most likely suitors: Milwaukee, Atlanta
- Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh (IF/OF) — Harrison has not produced with the bat much this year, but he's highly versatile and was an All-Star as recently as last season. As a rental, he'd come relatively cheap and could help any contender with a struggling infield. Current stat line: .249/.291/.340. Potential destination: Arizona
- José Abreu, Chicago White Sox (1B) — The South Side's All-Star representative is under contract through next year, but could be dealt as a salary dumping move should any team make a reasonable prospect offer. Most contenders are either set at first base or unwilling to assume a big salary arbitration case, but a power bat could make sense for some despite Abreu's statistically down year. Current stat line: .253/.311/.441. Possible suitor: Colorado
- Jeurys Familia, New York Mets; Zach Britton, Baltimore; Brad Hand, San Diego; Joachim Soria, Chicago White Sox (CL) — Closers are popular trade targets this time of year, and for the "selling" team, they're far more replaceable than other players. Any of these hurlers could make a difference in the ninth inning for a contender not already equipped with a shut-down closer. Hand is the only one of the bunch under team control beyond this season, the rest would be rentals. Current stat lines: 4-4, 2.88, 17 SV (Familia); 1-0, 3.68, 4 SV (Britton); 2-4, 3.05, 24 SV (Hand); 0-3, 2.75, 14 SV (Soria). Likely destinations: Houston, Philadelphia
(UPDATE: Hand has been traded to Cleveland.)
- Cole Hamels, Texas (SP) — The veteran southpaw has had a rough go of it lately, but starting pitchers don't grow on trees and Hamels has the track record to draw serious interest. That said, his contract is pricey and the only thing he's leading the league in this year is hit batters. He'll probably get dealt, but the acquiring team will probably overpay and may regret it. Current stat line: 5-8, 4.36, 1091⁄3 IP, 109 Ks. Likely suitor: New York Yankees
- James Shields, Chicago White Sox (SP) — Like Hamels, Shields has seen better days, but the vet has seen postseason time with the Rays and Royals and some clubs may be willing to gamble on his past success. His contract is immense, though a team might be able to get the White Sox to cover some of it, or at least the $2M buyout for his 2019 option year. Current stat line: 4-10, 4.43, 126 IP, 92 Ks. Possible interest: Milwaukee, Arizona
- J.A. Happ, Toronto (SP) — An All-Star, yes, but only because there was no one better on this year's horrid Blue Jays club. The former Mariner is a serviceable starter, though, and with the pitching market what it is, would be an upgrade for some. He'll likely find a temporary home as a rental. Current stat line: 10-6, 4.29, 109 IP, 121 Ks. Potential destination: Oakland
- Matt Harvey, Cincinnati (SP) — He's already been traded once this year, and the change did him good; since leaving the Big Apple for the relative calm of Ohio, Harvey's been more like his old self, pitching to a 5-3, 3.64 mark with the Reds. As a relatively inexpensive rental, the injury-prone former Met ace should end up with his third team of 2018 soon. Current stat line: 5-5, 4.63, 911⁄3 IP, 69 Ks. Likely suitors: Seattle, Milwaukee
Plenty of less-enticing names may (OK, will) change uniforms in the next couple of weeks as well, and knowing GM Jerry Dipoto as we do, the Mariners seem likely to be involved in at least one of those lesser deals if not one for any of the players listed above.
The Mariners have had some weaknesses in the bullpen and at catcher, and the outfield will get crowded again once Robinson Canó returns from suspension if he goes back to his second-base position and Dee Gordon shifts back to center field. If he doesn't, and Gordon remains at the keystone, Nelson Cruz and/or Ryon Healy figure to see a lot of bench time and center field becomes a need area for Seattle. One doesn't figure Dipoto to go after a big name to play there, but a depth piece could make sense.
There's also been talk of supplementing the starting rotation with a sixth man to lessen the workload on youngster Marco Gonzales and high-mileage Felix Hernández, so despite having a seemingly-set starting corps, a trade for Harvey or another low-cost starter is more than possible. Alternatively, getting a bullpen piece and sliding Roenis Elias into a starting role would make sense.
We'll see how it plays out over the next couple of weeks, but as always, the July transactions page should be hopping.