One week away from the MLB trade deadline, it's time to play general manager.
Sports Illustrated's MLB staff (with the exception of Stephanie Apstein, who is currently in Tokyo covering the Olympics), responded to the following prompt for this roundtable: Pretend you're a GM for one of the 30 teams. What move do you have to make before the trade deadline?
Without further ado, here is the 2021 trade deadline edition of Let's Make a Deal.
Jed Hoyer of the Cubs: Trade Kris Bryant
If I’m Jed Hoyer of the Cubs, I can’t afford to still have Kris Bryant on my roster on the other side of the deadline. The Cubs have a 2% chance of making the postseason, per FanGraphs, which is why Hoyer already moved into sell mode when he sent Joc Pederson to the Braves. Bryant is a rare commodity on the market: He is a middle-of-the-order bat who can play corner positions in the infield and outfield. That brings plenty of teams into play as far as roster fits. I can work a bidding war among NL East teams—the Mets, Phillies and Braves. I can convince the Red Sox they need to do something about first base, and why not check on the Brewers, A's and Giants while I'm at it.
Alex Anthopoulos of the Braves: Acquire Joey Gallo and Kyle Gibson
The Braves' playoff chances right now certainly aren't great. (9.9%, per FanGraphs.) But with the generally weak state of the NL East, if I'm GM Alex Anthopoulos, I don't think I'm writing this season off just yet. That doesn't mean pursuing a short-term rental—it's just not practical—but players who can make an impact this season and next (or more)? Bring 'em on. Enter a call to the Rangers. They could help out with multiple needs at once: Joey Gallo is just the sort of outfield bat that would be perfect for Atlanta, and he could be grouped with someone like Kyle Gibson, who would add some rotation depth. (The latter might end up being particularly important for this stretch run, depending on the health of Braves starter Ian Anderson; he's currently on the 10-day IL with shoulder inflammation, which isn't thought to be too serious, but he doesn't yet have an expected return date, and there's no such thing as too much pitching depth.)
Those are two much-buzzed-about names that would require a serious prospect package in return. But Atlanta's farm system is deep enough to pull that off without getting decimated. It would likely mean saying goodbye to a top minor-league talent or two like Cristian Pache or William Contreras, among several others, but for a chance at two playoff runs with a hitter like Gallo? Worth it.
Dayton Moore of the Royals: Trade Whit Merrifield
The Royals should be applauded for trying to take the next step in their rebuild with some aggressive moves over the offseason. But, if I'm Dayton Moore seeing Kansas City last in the underwhelming AL Central, I likely realize my team needs to reset a little bit.
Both the offense (4.1 runs per game, 14th in AL) and the pitching staff (5.08 ERA, 14th in AL) could use more talent. The best way to further stock the coffers is to execute a trade I've long been reluctant to pull the trigger on; it hurts, but it's time to send away one of my favorite players, Whit Merrifield. The 2021 All-Star is coveted across the league for his versatility, speed (MLB-leading 25 stolen bases), hit tool and affordable contract ($3.75M in 2022, $10.5M in 2023). But his value may soon take a nosedive. During his age-32 season, Merrifield has recorded his lowest OPS (.727) since his rookie year, and top Royals prospect Bobby Witt Jr. is projected to arrive next season. He'll take over one of the middle infield spots, joining with Adalberto Mondesi, and push Merrifield to the outfield, where his bat won't be as valuable. I'm reportedly more open than ever to dealing Merrifield, and for good reason—now is the time to strike. The White Sox, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets and Braves could all make sense as landing spots.
Dave Dombrowski of the Phillies: Acquire Trevor Story, Germán Márquez and Daniel Bard
The Phillies have not made the playoffs since 2011, and their division race is wide open. They didn't hire Dave Dombrowski not to go all-in at the trade deadline, so now is the time to strike. If I'm Dombrowski, I want three of Colorado's top four players available—Trevor Story, Germán Márquez and Daniel Bard—and I'm willing to pay for them.
What do I have to offer? Well, the Rockies' farm system is in shambles, particularly at shortstop and catcher, and those are areas of depth for the Phillies. The Rockies are going to lose Story in free agency if they don't trade him now, and they'll be left with a massive hole at short. The Phillies could certainly use Story this season (as could most contending teams), but they do have both Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura under contract next season if they can't extend or re-sign Story, so they can afford to part with their No. 2 prospect, shortstop Bryson Stott (they also have shortstops Luis Garcia and Casey Martin as their fifth- and sixth-ranked prospects, respectively). Then, in order to snag Márquez, who is just 26 and signed through 2024 with a club option for '25, the Phillies could offer their No. 4 prospect, catcher Rafael Marchan, who is log-jammed behind J.T. Realmuto for four more seasons after this one. Considering Bard is already 36, Philadelphia could get him in the package for a player to be named later.
So how does this help the Phillies? Well, their most obvious need is relief pitching, which Bard would help address, but adding Story and Márquez also indirectly would aid the bullpen. No team is worse defensively at shortstop than the Phillies, in terms of defensive runs saved (-38). More than just his bat, Story is one of the best fielding shortstops in the game, and his glove would certainly turn more ground balls into outs for Philadelphia pitchers. Among National League teams, the Phillies have the worst difference between their actual and expected batting average allowed on balls hit toward the shortstop. Adding Márquez, another All-Star starter, to a rotation with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola would take some of the pressure off the bullpen.
As far as the lineup is concerned upon adding Story, the Phillies could slide Gregorius to second base and Segura to third in place of Alec Bohm, who is currently on the COVID-19 IL and having a down offensive season (77 OPS+) anyway.
Chaim Bloom of the Red Sox: Acquire Carlos Santana
The Red Sox have been in the driver's seat of the AL East for most of the season, but they'll have their work cut out for them if they want to hold off the reloading Rays and the rest of the competition. First base has been a black hole for Boston, with Bobby Dalbec and company putting up disappointing results. If I'm Chaim Bloom, I'm looking at some of the starting-caliber first basemen playing for basement-dwelling teams. The one that might make the most sense is Carlos Santana. The veteran switch-hitter is batting .242/.361/.408 with 15 home runs on the year, with more walks (61) than strikeouts (60). The 35-year-old is under contract through 2022, so he would give the team coverage at the position in the event that Dalbec still isn't ready for an everyday role next season. The Red Sox have the fourth-lowest walk rate (7.7%) in the majors, so Santana's patient approach would be a much-needed change of pace and help keep the line moving for the team's potent middle of the order.
James Click of the Astros: Acquire an outfielder
The Astros have a legitimate case as the World Series favorite as we approach August, and one more marquee move could put Houston over the top. Myles Straw has struggled of late after a torrid stretch, and another quality outfield bat could make a major difference in October. And there’s no shortage of options at Houston’s disposal. If I'm James Click, I am intrigued by both Joey Gallo and Bryan Reynolds, two controllable left-handed hitting outfielders. Marlins center fielder Starling Marte would add a nice dose of both speed and power. The Astros don’t need to necessarily make a move to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy in October. But another quality outfielder may separate them from Boston and Chicago come playoff time.
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