Publish date:

MLB Roundtable: Trade Deadline Predictions

Which NL West contender will land Max Scherzer? Where will the Cubs send Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel? Will the Rockies decide not to deal Trevor Story?
Author:

The first massive deadline deal went down Wednesday night when the Yankees reportedly acquired Joey Gallo from the Rangers, and plenty of other big-name players remain available.

Which NL West contender will land Max Scherzer? Where will the Cubs send Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel? Sports Illustrated's MLB staff makes its predictions for the moves still to come before Friday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline.

Jul 18, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the fourth inning at Nationals Park.

Tom Verducci

The Dodgers get Max Scherzer in a deal that features catcher Keibert Ruiz, 23, and two other prospects. Washington can arrange a bidding war between NL West rivals Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, offering Scherzer as a possible difference-maker in who wins the division. The Dodgers had signed Trevor Bauer to a ridiculous contract in response to the Padres’ offseason moves; L.A. was terrified about putting its huge payroll on the line in a one-game playoff, so it went all in on trying to win the division. Now they need another expensive starting pitcher to accomplish the same goal because it appears Bauer will not throw another pitch for the Dodgers.

Emma Baccellieri

Craig Kimbrel to the Padres. Yes, San Diego's bullpen is strong already, and Mark Melancon has excelled in the closer's role so far. But it was still unsurprising earlier this week when The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal linked the Padres to Kimbrel. Given the tense competition in the NL West, which is all but guaranteed to hold three playoff teams, it makes sense to pull out all the stops. San Diego general manager A.J. Preller has already signaled he's interested in pushing for the division title rather than settling for a wild-card—he made one of the first splashes of deadline season by acquiring Adam Frazier—and adding one of the best relievers in baseball certainly improves his team's chances. Kimbrel could be perfect for the Padres: He is under contract through 2022, so this isn't just a short-term rental, and though he's pricier than most of the other relief options on the table right now, he's also much better, and this farm system is deep enough to make a deal work.

Fantasy Baseball, Craig Kimbrel Chicago Cubs

Will Laws

Craig Kimbrel will be traded either to a team he's already played for (Braves, Padres, Red Sox) or for a team run by someone who's already acquired him. Dave Dombrowski, the Phillies' president of baseball operations, traded for Kimbrel in November 2015 when he was running the show in Boston. With Kimbrel, the Red Sox won the '18 World Series. From Chicago's perspective, Jed Hoyer knows Kimbrel is a luxury the Cubs don't need as they transition into their next window of contention. All three of Kimbrel's former employers, plus the Phillies, fancy themselves as contenders both for this season and '22, when Kimbrel's $13 million salary will be more than acceptable for a potential Hall of Famer who's rediscovered his peak. All could also use bullpen help to various degrees, especially Atlanta and Philadelphia. Despite still holding the league's top bullpen ERA over the entire season, San Diego's relievers have quietly stumbled (4.68 ERA) over the last month. Boston perhaps makes the most sense as the team with the best combination of realistic contending expectations and a closer in Matt Barnes who could smoothly transition into a setup role. Those four clubs know firsthand what Kimbrel can accomplish, and thus the most enticing package to acquire his services will emerge from one of them.

Matt Martell

The Giants will trade for both Max Scherzer and Kris Bryant. San Francisco is the team best suited to win the NL West arms race for two of this deadline's most desirable players, because it has the financial flexibility and prospects to make it happen. The Dodgers are well over the third luxury tax threshold, and while they certainly don't care too much about money if it means winning a second straight title, they may balk at taking on Scherzer's $10 million with a 62.5% tax rate attached and dealing away the prospects necessary to get him. Especially because he's on an expiring contract and they may have trouble re-signing him given all their other costs. 

SI Recommends

The Padres, too, are at a disadvantage in a bidding war with the Giants, because San Diego doesn't have the financial resources of Los Angeles or flexibility of San Francisco. The Padres are bumping up against the luxury first tax threshold, and while they could decide it's worth exceeding it for Scherzer, they may not want to re-sign him and go over it for a second consecutive season, which comes with an additional tax penalty. To cut costs, they are reportedly looking to trade away Eric Hosmer, who is owed $59 million for another four years after this season. Then, as Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune reports, they'd also have to give up one of their top four prospects to get a team to take on Hosmer's contract. Their best bet may be dealing for Craig Kimbrel to make their bullpen even better and José Berríos; both players are signed through 2022.

Apr 17, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) hits a two-run home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fifth inning at Wrigley Field.

The Giants can afford to add Scherzer and Bryant without exceeding the luxury tax threshold this year and without depleting their deep farm system. Then, with about $100 million coming off the books this offseason, they can also extend or re-sign both players and remain below the threshold next year, too.

Bonus prediction: The Rockies will not trade Trevor Story, with the only rational explanation for it being the team's characteristic irrationality.

Nick Selbe

The Dodgers will land Max Scherzer. The defending champs have a track record for giving up top prospects for high-impact, short-term additions in the middle of the season, and Scherzer is the biggest piece available. Their rotation has been outstanding to this point, but there are obvious reasons for concern with the current group going forward: Clayton Kershaw is currently on the injured list, Trevor Bauer remains on administrative leave amid his sexual assault allegations and Julio Urías has blown past his previous career high in innings pitched. Scherzer will give the Dodgers another ace at the top of the rotation and a postseason-tested arm that can help Los Angeles chase down the rival Giants in a heated battle for the NL West.

Michael Shapiro

The Padres will make two major additions before Friday's deadline.

San Diego has already made plenty of splashes since the end of the 2020 season, including the additions of Yu Darvish and Adam Frazier. But it appears A.J. Preller is anything but satisfied with his current roster as the Padres eye the National League crown. A Trevor Story trade isn't completely out of the question. They could either upgrade their rotation by dealing for José Berríos, or they get Craig Kimbrel to join Mark Melancon at the backend of their bullpen. San Diego has plenty of options at its disposal to make a major move. Don't be surprised if a spending spree ensues.

More MLB Coverage:
In Trade for Gallo, Yankees Bet the Farm on Another Slugger

Starling Marte Trade Is Win-Win Deal for Both A's and Marlins
How Scherzer Fits With Three NL West Contenders
Inside Alex Cora’s Second Chance After Scandal