MLB Trade Deadline Questions:

Who’s Buying, Who’s Selling, Who’s Gonna Make A Move

Published by: Bear Acuda

Monday witnessed numerous trades across Major League Baseball, a fairly common occurrence for July 31. However, this year’s Trade Deadline is scheduled for Aug. 1, suggesting a potentially even busier day for transactions.By 6 p.m. Eastern Time, we should have a clearer picture of potential contenders for the pennant.

But which teams will put themselves in a position to make a run in October?

Trade Deadline Questions

Will the Mets actually let Justin Verlander go?

 Following the Mets’ decision to trade away Max Scherzer – and approximately $36 million – for a top 50 prospect, is it possible for Verlander to follow his fellow Cy Young Award winner out of the Big Apple? 

The Mets are weighing all options, yet Verlander’s no-trade clause provides him the ultimate say in whether he departs or stays. At 17.5 back in the NL East, it is clear that the Metropolitans are having a firesale. With that in mind, teams like the Dodgers and Astros have serious interest in the 40-year-old, and the Braves and Orioles have also been linked to Verlander.

While Baltimore might seem an unlikely contender, the Orioles’ rich and skilled farm system, and the Mets’ apparent readiness to decrease Verlander’s salary to secure premier young talent, suggests that it’s not an impossible scenario. Verlander was raised just three hours south of Baltimore, in Virginia, and so he is no stranger to the DMV region.

Despite the industry-wide assumption on Monday that Verlander will remain with the Mets post-Deadline, nothing is set in stone.

Which pitching assets could be up for trade?

Before Monday, Scherzer was the only significant starting pitcher asset to be traded, who committed to his $43.33 million deal for 2024 after being moved to Texas. Aaron Civale became the second when the Guardians traded him to the Rays for first-base prospect Kyle Manzardo. Lucas Giolito, Jordan Montgomery, and Noah Syndergaard were all traded as they approached free agency, while impending free agents Michael Lorenzen, Jack Flaherty, Rich Hill, and Carlos Carrasco could be traded by Tuesday night. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez can also opt out of his contract at year-end.

Which other high value starters might be considered? 

Logan Gilbert (Mariners), Mitch Keller (Pirates), Dylan Cease (White Sox), and Brady Singer (Royals) have all generated considerable interest, but they naturally command high price tags. Free-agent starting pitching can be quite expensive, hence clubs with controllable rotation assets will require a substantial return to part with any of these pitchers.

Are the Rangers finished with their shopping?

The Rangers sit a half a game up on the Houston Astros at the top of the AL West standings and were looking to strengthen their roster by the deadline, and it looks like they have. Texas scooped up Max Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery, and Chris Stratton to bolster both the rotation and bullpen, the latter of which had already added Aroldis Chapman in late June.

However, the Rangers likely aren’t done yet, as sources suggest Texas is still seeking at least one more bullpen arm. Jonah Heim’s injury might have GM Chris Young considering some backup behind the plate, and there’s a possibility the Rangers add another outfield bat.

TRADE DEADLINE

What’s the game plan for the Yankees?

The Yankees find themselves in a complex situation. Sitting at the bottom of the AL East but still 4 above .500 in W/L (55-51), they still have a shot at the AL Wild Card. Carlos Rodón finally made his pinstripes debut last month, and Aaron Judge returned from a two-month injury layoff on Friday. As of Tuesday, New York is 3.5 games behind in the AL Wild Card race, competing with the Astros, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Angels for the final two spots.

The Yankees have several needs: third base, left field, and catcher, plus a rotation that could be improved with another pitcher. The farm system has some talent, and while it seems unlikely that the Yankees would part with their top four prospects, there are others who could be used in trades.

The main question is whether general manager Brian Cashman believes this team is good enough to reach October and make an impact in the postseason. If he does, it’s reasonable to expect him to do what’s necessary to fill the gaps. Dylan Carlson? Elias Díaz? Michael Lorenzen? There are players out there who could enhance the Yankees, but it’s yet to be seen if Cashman will pursue them. Will the Yankees consider selling?

This hasn’t happened since 2016, the only year during Cashman’s quarter-century reign that he’s been a seller. If he decides to go down that road again, he could consider trading Gleyber Torres and/or Domingo Germán, who are under control through 2024, plus soon-to-be free agents Harrison Bader and Wandy Peralta.

The Yankees might also contemplate a mixed strategy, acquiring controllable players while trading away their expiring contracts. 

Will Eduardo Rodriguez and/or Marcus Stroman be traded given potential opt-outs in their future?

Rodriguez, yes. Stroman, no.

The cross-town rivals each hold an ace, but with two very different hands. The Chicago White Sox are 21 games below .500 (43-64) whereas the Chicago Cub are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, sitting at an even .500 (53-53), but winning 8 of their last 10 games. The White Sox’s Rodriguez has performed admirably this season, registering a 2.95 ERA in 15 starts. He missed all of June due to a pulley rupture in his left index finger, and despite inconsistent performances in his four starts since returning, he remains one of the top starting pitching options available.

The left-hander has the option to opt out of the remaining three years and $49 million of his contract at the end of the season, and as long as he remains healthy for the rest of the campaign, the choice should be straightforward for Rodriguez. But do teams looking at a trade see him as a short-term addition or as a potential risk? Detroit’s asking price has been steep, but Rodriguez appears to be as likely to be traded as any player out there.

The Cubs’ Stroman, on the other hand, is less likely to be traded; this is due in part because of the streaking Cubs, but also because Stroman got shelled for the third start in a row. The star right-handed pitcher, who is widely anticipated to terminate the final year and $21 million of his contract after this season, has conceded 17 earned runs in just 10 innings across his last three performances. This spurt of poor form has resulted in a sharp rise in his seasonal ERA from 3.37 to a high of 3.85.

However, Stroman’s current on-field struggles do not necessarily indicate a trade is on the cards. With the Cubs just 3.5 games away from the final NL Wild Card position and the recent acquisition of third baseman Jeimer Candelario, the Chicago team shows signs of fortifying its lineup rather than dismantling it. 

Do the Cubs and Padres see themselves as real contenders?

Just a week ago, many speculated that Stroman and Cody Bellinger would leave the Cubs ahead of the trade deadline. Given the Padres’ standing at that time, Blake Snell and Josh Hader were highlighted as two of the prime rentals poised for release.

However, since then, both San Diego and Chicago have displayed an impressive performance in the league, carving a path for themselves towards the NL playoffs. The Padres’ commanding victory over the Rangers during the weekend virtually confirms that their GM, A.J. Preller, has no plans to downsize, but the question remains: will he augment his team to secure a playoff position in the concluding two months?

On Monday, the Cubs secured Candelario, the hitter they had been courting. They also added Royals’ right-handed pitcher, Jose Cuas, to their roster. Nevertheless, their search for reinforcements in the bullpen, particularly a left-handed pitcher, will likely persist until the deadline at 6 p.m. ET. 

Are the Reds and Orioles going to go all-in?

Among the three unexpected contenders, only the D-backs (57-50, 3rd in NL West)  have struck a significant deal, acquiring Mariners’ closer Paul Sewald on Monday.

The AL East leading Baltimore Orioles (65-41) aim to fend off the Tampa Bay Rays while the Cincinnati Reds (59-49) are contending with the Milwaukee Brewers for the top spot in the NL Central. Both teams, with their robust farm systems, are seeking improvements to their rotation and bullpen, but what price are they willing to pay for temporary additions?

Baltimore and Cincinnati are in a unique position to overwhelm other teams with trades for pitchers with terms left on their contracts.

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