- It's almost certain that Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman will be moved before the trade deadline. But will the Nationals actually deal Max Scherzer?
There’s a little more than a month to go until the trade deadline, which means that there’s juuuuust enough out there to begin really sketching out the potential moves—all subject to change, likely within the week, and fueled by plenty of speculation.
But, hey, if six weeks out isn’t the time to engage in a little speculation, when is? We’ve already looked at the various teams who might be buyers and sellers, so here, we’re turning our attention to a sampling of players who might be moved (or not), and we’ll keep taking the temperature as the deadline draws closer:
Clearly On The Trading Block
Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants: A move here has seemed like it should be coming for quite a while, with this being the final year of his contract, and it stands to reason that it’s probably going to happen. (Given San Francisco’s…. everything, it should probably go without saying that this team is looking to sell.) The 29-year-old Bumgarner isn’t the pitcher that he was five years ago, or even three years ago, but he’s stayed healthy this year and would be a perfectly functional addition to any rotation. His 3.87 ERA (109 ERA+) is still above average, after all, and he’s lately seen a slight uptick in velo and slightly brought down his ERA; if this trend continues, his stock will only rise. There’s no shortage of potential landing spots—it’s a truth universally acknowledged that a team in search of a postseason berth must be in want of some more pitching depth—and despite the research that “clutch” isn’t a repeatable skill… Bumgarner’s October record can’t hurt, either.
Marcus Stroman, SP, Blue Jays: Bumgarner’s probably the most anticipated pitcher to be moved next month, but only barely, as it’s a close race between him and Stroman. The 28-year-old Blue Jay has an additional year under team control, not scheduled to hit free agency until after 2020; he comes at a lower price ($7.4 million in total salary this year, eligible for arbitration next year, compared to $12 million for Bumgarner); and he’s having a markedly better season, with a 3.23 ERA (135 ERA+). Stroman has relied a little less on his signature sinker this year—turning to his slider instead—meaning that he only has one of the highest groundball rates in baseball, rather than the highest outright, as per usual, but he’s been more effective than ever. And the fact that he’ll be around through 2020 means that he might be an attractive target not only for teams looking to build their rotation immediately (Yankees, Brewers, Braves) but for those looking ahead a bit, too (Padres, Twins).
Nicholas Castellanos, OF, Tigers: Castellanos is a consistent bat in his final year under team control for a losing club, which means that he checks almost all of the boxes for a likely trade candidate. There are certainly some factors that might make it hard for him to draw much of a return—his defense (or lack thereof), and his slow start to the season—but Detroit’s farm system could use a boost, and it seems reasonable that the club would likely take anything it can get here, given that it apparently isn’t interested in an extension.
Up In The Air
Justin Smoak, 1B, Blue Jays: Less than a week ago, Smoak looked like a lock to be traded. Coming from a losing team that has plenty of incentive to sell off as much as possible, he seemed like a solid consolation prize of sorts for the teams who missed out on Edwin Encarnacion. On Tuesday, however, Smoak was sent to the IL with a quad injury, with no timetable for his return. If he returns soon and keeps up his 115 OPS+? Expect him to move. Otherwise? Maybe not.
Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees: The Yankees’ lineup is getting crowded, with the addition of Encarnacion and the returns of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The odd man out so far has been Frazier, who was recently sent down to Triple-A. The 24-year-old has proven himself as a capable MLB talent, but he hasn’t been able to earn consistent playing time in the majors on such a loaded club. Given the Yankees’ need for rotation depth, it seems logical that they might try to swap him for a starting pitcher. Owner Hal Steinbrenner did say this week that Frazier will “be a big part of this team going forward”... but stronger promises have certainly been broken.
Kirby Yates, RP, Padres: Relievers are always a hot commodity in July, and Yates just might be the best of them. With a 1.13 ERA (369 ERA+, yes, 369), he has a strikeout rate of 45%, he’s arguably been the best relief pitcher in the National League, and he has another season under team control after this year. The Padres could undoubtedly get a hefty return package for him… if they were clearly interested in moving him. They’re still on the fringes of this year’s wild card race—fringe-y enough that it shouldn’t necessarily preclude them from selling, but it might—and they’re hoping to contend sooner rather than later, which might be enough to motivate them to keep Yates through 2020. It was certainly enough for GM A.J. Preller to say that it would require an “overwhelming offer” to move him, but, well, that might just be in the interest of getting an overwhelming offer to appear.
Most Likely Staying Put
Max Scherzer, SP, Nationals: Given Washington’s lack of success this season, some rumors have started to stir here, and while it’s fun to draw up hypothetical trade proposals for the star pitcher, it’s unlikely that any of them come true. The Nationals, despite their underwhelming 2019, are still structured to contend for the next few years—and, given their recent run of success, which has coincided with a rough patch for the Phillies, maybe they shouldn’t be counted out of this year just yet, either—meaning that moving their ace (and his contract) would probably be as impractical as it is unreasonable.
Mike Minor, SP, Rangers: The Rangers are… in the wild card race? They’re in the wild card race! Minor seems to pick up trade value with every start—2.63 ERA, 188 ERA+—but with the team playing like it is right now, it seems likelier than not that it holds on to the veteran pitcher.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians: A Bauer trade was initially floated in the offseason, when Cleveland looked poised to capture a fourth straight title in the AL Central and seemingly had some wiggle room to deal while doing so. How the tables turn! With Minnesota dominating the division, Cleveland isn’t all the way out of it, but it certainly isn’t fully in it, and at this point, it seems unlikely that the team would move any pieces out of its injury-stricken rotation.