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  • Where will Sonny Gray land? Will two former MVPs be traded? Should the Cardinals buy or sell? SI's baseball panel addresses those topics and much more.
By SI.com Staff
July 25, 2017

With the non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaching, SI.com's baseball writers and editors weigh in with their predictions as to what will happen before 4 p.m. on July 31.

1. Which team will wind up with Sonny Gray?

Tom Verducci 

The Brewers. Teams like Milwaukee shouldn't take these playoff opportunities lightly. The Brewers' payroll is $40 million below what it was just two years ago, with only $25 million in commitments for next year.

Jay Jaffe 

Having gone out on a limb recently by predicting Gray to the Astros, I’ll stick with that. They’re the best team in the AL, but they need another frontline starter given the fragility of Lance McCullers Jr. (who's allowed 16 runs in 13 2/3 innings over his last three starts, none of them even five innings long) and Dallas Keuchel, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since June 2, not to mention the drop-off from those two to the rest of the rotation and the faith they're placing that Collin McHugh will instantly return to form after missing the first half due to elbow impingement. It won’t be painless; Houston will have to give up talent to keep Gray away from other suitors such as the Brewers and the Yankees, but it's a move the team should make as it chases its first World Series title.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Emma Span

The Astros make the most sense. Their pitching has been better than expected this season, but Dallas Keuchel has been on the DL twice and Lance McCullers has scuffled a bit lately. Another top-line starter would patch up their only hole (well, sort-of hole). They have the third-ranked farm system in the game, and Gray is ridiculously affordable—he hasn’t even reached arbitration yet. Of course, that also means the A’s will want the moon for him. But Houston may never get a clearer shot at a championship than it has right now, so if there was ever a time to go all in, this is it.

Jon Tayler

​​Trying to predict what Billy Beane is going to do at a trade deadline is like trying to eat soup with a fork. But I'll stick my neck out and say that, by or on July 31, Sonny Gray will be packing up his locker and heading to Houston. The Astros have the need and the prospects to make a deal happen, and Gray is the best bet for them.

Ted Keith

The most recent reports have the Yankees in heavy pursuit of Gray, who showed fine form even in defeat Tuesday night against Toronto. They have a major need for pitching with Michael Pineda out for the year. The question is how willing GM Brian Cashman will be to part with the prized prospects he's spent years acquiring. The bet here is that Gray is wearing pinstriples by month's end.

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2. Will Justin Verlander and Andrew McCutchen be traded? If so, where?

Tom Verducci

I have much more to say about Verlander and the pros and cons of a trade (to the Dodgers?) here, but he might be too expensive for another club to risk getting the back end of his career. The Pirates are one game under .500 but just 3 1/2 games behind in the NL Central. They have no business trading their best player now that they're back in the race. He stays put.

Jay Jaffe

Neither. I don’t see Verlander being traded because he’s just not pitching very well (4.50 ERA, 4.1 BB/9) and he’s owed so much money (more than $66 million through 2019). I don’t see the Tigers as that willing to absorb so much cash to send an iconic player out of town for a less-than stellar return. And while I predicted a McCutchen trade earlier this month, I don’t see the Pirates as being able to sell their own iconic player after they just won six in a row to (briefly) pull to within two games of the NL Central lead.

Emma Span

Between his age (34), his hefty contract ($28 million this year) and his uneven season, Verlander is worth more to the Tigers—with whom he’s spent his entire career—than he is to anyone else. He also has a no-trade contract, limiting the options to places he’d actually want to go. McCutchen might be likelier to move: He’s younger (30), less expensive ($14 million this year), doesn't have a no-trade clause and has rebounded from his early-season struggles over the last two months. That said, it’s very tough to trade your biggest star with your team just three games out of the division lead, and I’m not sure any current contender needs a corner outfielder badly enough to meet Pittsburgh's asking price for McCutchen.

Jon Tayler

Neither. Verlander's contract (another two seasons at $56 million, plus a $22 million vesting option for 2020) and advancing age make him unlikely to be dealt, particularly in a market where better, younger and more affordable options are out there. As for McCutchen, he finally looks like Andrew McCutchen again, but with the Pirates looking feisty in the NL Central, they should hang onto him. After all, even if he walks at season's end, Pittsburgh should still be able to get the max free-agent compensation for him.

Ted Keith

Both teams should explore trades for their franchise icons, but I can't see either getting moved. Pittsburgh will be more interesting here because it has dangled McCutchen for a year now and by week's end could either be in first place or buried way out of it. The next three days will determine the Pirates' decision.

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3. Which contender has the most desperate need?

Tom Verducci

The Red Sox need a third baseman. They have punted the position for far too long, and asking rookie Rafael Devers to step into a pennant race—even though Xander Bogaerts did so successfully in 2013—is a big ask.

Jay Jaffe

Sheer adequacy at third base would be a major improvement for the Red Sox, but I'll go with the Twins' lack of quality pitching. Given that they’re now 4 1/2 games out in the AL Central and 3 behind in the wild-card race, they have to do something about their 4.87 team ERA and 5.00 FIP. Aside from Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, there’s just nobody you’d want to have the ball in a game that means anything. But they’re not going to break the bank trying to fix that and I haven’t even discussed their bullpen, which is 13th in the league in ERA. 

Emma Span

Though both could use a pitcher, it’s hard to call either the Dodgers’ or Astros’ needs “desperate” when they’re demolishing their respective leagues. The Twins badly need rotation help—but they need it so badly that I don’t really consider them contenders. The Indians might be the strongest contender with the biggest need still unaddressed. While Corey Kluber has been his usual great self, Carlos Carrasco has been strong and Mike Clevinger has thus far stepped up, the starting pitching trio of Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar all have ERAs over 5.00. One more reliable arm would go a long way towards getting Cleveland back to the World Series.

Jon Tayler

The Yankees' recent acquisitions of third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox didn't just solve some extant problems, but it also put them squarely in the buyer camp. So New York should lean into that and address its next biggest issue: a pitcher to replace the injured Michael Pineda. Gray would make a lot of sense for the Bronx Bombers, particularly if Brian Cashman can swing a package deal that includes Oakland's All-Star first baseman, Yonder Alonso.

Ted Keith

The Red Sox have to get a third baseman but there aren't a lot of great options out there. Rookie Rafael Devers is too raw and the Giants' Eduardo Nunez, who might be the best trade option available, is hardly a game-changing offensive force. 

Ted S. Warren/AP

4. Which player who has already been traded will have the biggest impact?

Tom Verducci: Yankees reliever David Robertson. He can affect the most games by deepening what has been a problematic bullpen and becoming this year's version of Andrew Miller.

Jay Jaffe

Jose Quintana seemed like an ideal change-of-scenery candidate given that his stuff was far better than his performance for the White Sox this year. He was brilliant in his first outing after being traded to the Cubs before the All-Star break, racking up 12 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings against the Orioles, and he was solid on Sunday against the Cardinals. The Cubs' rotation needed a shot in the arm; eventually they may even be able to mothball John Lackey, who's yielding a 4.97 ERA.

Emma Span

Jose Quintana. There’s every reason to think the Cubs’ big bats will come around—some of them already have—but their aging pitchers provided more cause for concern. With Quintana they added an excellent and reliable arm who should go a long way toward stabilizing their rotation and carrying them into the playoffs. 

Jon Tayler

Jose Quintana has already made a huge impact on the Cubs so far, winning his first two starts with the North Siders. He's bringing needed stability to an unexpectedly shaky rotation—and even if a second straight championship isn't in the cards for Chicago, Quintana will keep making an impact thanks to his terrifically team-friendly contract that runs through next season and has club options for 2019 and '20.

Ted Keith

J.D. Martinez is off to a slow start in Arizona—batting just .167 with a .647 OPS—but he's been by far the best everyday player moved so far and thus the most likely to have the biggest impact the rest of the way. His production during four years with the Tigers included 99 home runs and 285 RBIs and suggests he will eventually show the impact-hitter form that led the Diamondbacks to go get him in the first place.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

5. Of the teams on the buy/sell bubble, which one should become a buyer and which one should become a seller?

Tom Verducci

The Cardinals are 49-51, so they should see what they can fetch for righthander Lance Lynn—consider it the equivalent of the Pirates last year turning two months of Mark Melancon into Felipe Rivero. The Rays, meanwhile, are a legitimate contender and should add one or two arms to their bullpen.

Jay Jaffe

The Cardinals should be buyers. They have the fourth-best rotation ERA, and aside from the excellent season Carlos Martinez is having, they’ve gotten great bouncebacks from Lance Lynn, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha. It’s everything else—particularly the bullpen and the outfield corners—that’s a mess, but this is a deep organization that doesn’t lack for options and one that expects to contend annually.  

The Rangers should be sellers. Yu Darvish would be the best starter available at the deadline. He's a rental, so if a team doesn't think it can re-sign him it will have to make sure it gets something better than a compensation pick. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Andrew Cashner are other pending free agents for Texas who could be useful trade chips. The Rangers should get what they can for those guys, restock their farm system and retool the big league roster. 

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Emma Span

The Rangers should buy. They’re 49-51 and 3 1/2 games out of a wild card spot, but they have a positive run differential—per their Pythagorean record, they should actually be 51-49 and only a half-game out. There’s plenty of talent on this team, so while Texas shouldn’t trade the farm (particularly not since their system is already pretty thin), a few smaller trades to shore up the bullpen could be worth a shot.

The Royals can't do this as long as they lead the wild card race, but they should sell. It is a very tough call with the team just 1 1/2 out of the division lead and having a one-game edge in the wild-card standings, but they have five impending free agents—Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakis, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar and Jason Vargas—and they can’t afford to re-sign all or even most of them. They can certainly justify going for it now, but the near future is pretty bleak if they don’t take this opportunity to re-stock. 

Jon Tayler

The Pirates are the bubble team that should go all in. This may be the last hurrah for this particular Pittsburgh squad, what with Andrew McCutchen set to hit free agency at season's end. But with the Bucs surging to start the second half and the NL Central up for grabs, now is the time for them to make that big deal and go for it. 

On the other side, the Orioles have made noise about bulking up at the deadline to make a run at the AL East or the wild card, but that's a pipe dream. GM Dan Duquette suggests that the O's could grab a starter, but Baltimore is in need of more than just one pitcher. Better idea: Take advantage of every team's desire for relief help and move closer Zach Britton to help restock a mediocre farm system and bring some needed youth to Camden Yards.

Ted Keith

The Twins and Angels should sell. The AL wild-card race is too crowded for a sub-.500 team to trick itself into thinking the reward of being the road team in a coin-flip game is worth mortgaging their future. The Rays, though, should be all in. They're within striking distance of both the division and wild-card leads, just one game out in the latter, and shouldn't miss an opportunity to grab a surprising playoff spot.

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