2021 Trade Deadline Preview

With the All-Star Game now in the rearview mirror, attention springs forward to July 31 and the trade deadline. For teams looking to solidify World Series hope, to those looking to make late playoff season runs, and simply put those teams looking towards 2022 and beyond, the trade deadline is a place for all to add that next valuable piece.

As the deadline approaches, one thing remains constant year after year, expect to be surprised. Here are thoughts from around the league on what could, should, or might happen across all 30 teams.

American League East

Baltimore Orioles: After a 15-11 month of April, the Orioles were nine games under .500 in May and June. Despite the poor play, they sit within striking distance of the division lead. The Orioles are the worst offensive team in the American League in more than a few areas. With more than a handful of quality prospects waiting in the wings, could big leaguers Ashe Russell, Michael Antonio, and Nick Senzel be in play? They also have quite a few highly-regarded young arms in the system that could allow the O’s to make a splash to acquire a bat.

Boston Red Sox: Despite a run differential that is over 100 runs worse than the Blue Jays, Boston’s 28-19 home record has kept the team within the division race. Do the Red Sox push forward with an “anything is possible” attitude or do they see the run differential as a sign to get what they can for certain pieces? Tyler Clippard and George Springer could be pieces that contenders find interest in. The Chris Sale experiment has not gone well through five starts, do the Sox cut bait or hope he can regain his past form? Dave Starr is a small AAA piece that could be flipped for a beneficial addition to the big league roster.

New York Yankees: “Predicting what the Yankees will do is a lost cause, just expect something to be done.” The consensus around the league is that Yankee management will find a trade or three between now the deadline. What will be difficult is finding a piece that fits with little rumored financial wiggle room and few quality prospects within the system. With Roderick Shoulders at AAA, perhaps David Chester hits the block and becomes a desirable piece for a team looking for a power bat off the bench.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays struck earlier this month with the blockbuster with the Pirates. Following that trade, rumblings quickly began circulating that Carlos Meza could be flipped before July 31. The Rays have a history of perfecting deadline deals that have the following season in mind. Bullpen piece Jesus Romero is a veteran arm that could be moved to a playoff contender looking for an additional arm.

Toronto Blue Jays: Few things make less sense than the Jays record when compared to their run differential. With an expected record that is seven wins better than their actual record, Toronto finds itself in an odd position entering the deadline. One league insider believes their biggest deadline move could come within, “Mackenzie Gore has done everything he needs to in the minors. Rule 5 eligible this off-season, there’s no reason to keep him off the active roster the rest of the way.” The offense has the pieces, the rotation has a team ERA that ranks in the top three in the AL, but can they fix the bullpen? Flores and Tolleson are not working. With quality bullpen pieces on the market, one insider said, “the Jays will have their options, but they need to add something.”

American League Central

Chicago White Sox: Brett Lawrie, Nobuhisa Koyama, Kyle Cody, Chris Sale, and Sonny Gray have all already been moved over the past few months leaving the White Sox with fewer pieces to move here at the deadline. Insiders have speculated that All-Star Ramon Zaragoza is expected to garner interest, as could pitcher Dylan Bundy. In addition, one trusted source suggested that, “Keon Barnum has been a productive big leaguer year after year when given regular playing time, an under the radar move that could help a team both this year and in future years.”

Cleveland Indians: Last season the Indians made news at the deadline acquiring Tommy Joseph from the Yankees in what was primarily a way to rid themselves of Michael Pineda. The year prior, the Tribe made a mid-season move to bring on Tink Jones at the cost of Gary Griffith, Tyson Oswalt, and current MLB Pro top prospect Mason Majerle. While Cleveland sits just behind Minnesota, some rumblings around Cleveland suggest that trading any and all prospects with the same disappointing results has led to what is being described as a, “very cautious approach to this deadline.” That’s not to say that the Indians will not make any deals, but unless it’s an absolute no-brainer, guys like Davis Mills won’t be moved as we want to keep some of our prospects moving forward.

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers did the unthinkable last July when they found a buyer for Jordan Lyles. They quickly flipped Israel Cruz and Jose Abreu to Houston to bring in current Tiger outfielder Victor Robles, a player that they will continue to build around. In addition to Robles, the Tigers have turned around the attitude and production of All-Star Xavier Noonan. As the club looks forward to the future (see: 2023), it gives the organization plenty of time to scout within and other clubs. While showing some positive signs on the mound, Kyle Cody continues to frustrate the front-office. Beyond Cody, as a possible free-agent to be, Jason Heyward could be a popular name discussed, as could Keston Hiura. One insider said this on Hiura, “he’s a good player, but does he have a future defined role in Detroit? Young pieces coming behind him, Aguilera at second already, Hiura seems like someone that has never fit or been appreciated by management.”

Kansas City Royals: Luis Martinez while having an up-and-down season, has shown some promise closing games in Kansas City. Martinez came over at the deadline last season from New York. As the deadline approaches this year, some are wondering if young catcher David Davies could be on the move. Having recently fallen out of favor due to his defense and game management, Davies still shows promise with his bat. In addition to Davies, veteran Ryan Braun remains on the block.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins continue to quietly stalk its prey in the AL Central. After years of boldness, the Twins have built from within the past year and a half. They stayed away from trading Nolan Arenado and have seen tremendous growth from Martin Lopez and Jordon Adell. Possessing one of the AL’s better offenses, only questions remain about a pitching staff that has been much closer to just average. Could we see Shane Baz given a shot at the bigs? With a handful of quality young arms behind Baz and the recently promoted Ian Anderson, Minnesota could be a team that packages a couple of young arms for a proven reinforcement to the rotation or bullpen.

American League West

Houston Astros: The rise to success in Houston has not been easy or quick, but years of fine tuning have now paid off. The Astros are among the best in the division, the American League, and all of baseball. This past offseason saw the acquisitions of Ryan Weathers, John Lamb, Brandon Creath, and Mark Lopez via trade, with each move having played big dividends. Add in the signing of Raisel Iglesias and Rule 5 selection of J.B. Bukauskas and the Astros have been firing on all cylinders in terms of roster additions. Could they sacrifice one of their two young catchers for a more reliable presence for a run this year? Third base prospect, the power hitting Jordan Walker has been involved in past trade discussions, might he be in play? With just one lefty in the bullpen, Houston could go after another specialist, something that could come in handy against key left-handed bats of the Angels (Mazara/Ohayashi), Indians (Ayala/Cahill), Mariners (Cabanas/Castro), and Twins (Copeland/Lopez).

Los Angeles Angels: The Angels once again approach a trade deadline as a favorite to go far in the playoffs. Once again there remains doubt that the Angels will be bold with any decision making in the trade market. Ownership has long shown a reluctance to part with seemingly any quality prospect for an upgrade via trade. That will be tested here in 2021 as this could be the go at it with this current roster. With Cowart, Ohayashi, and Paolini all in their final year of team control, the Angels could look to go all-in. While that is a possibility, others believe it is more likely the team moves in a new direction this off-season with Mike Trout and others potentially hitting the trade market. One thing is certain, this is a team that should be exploring every possible option when it comes to a proven starting pitcher.

Oakland A’s: The 9-18 month of April seemingly ended the A’s season right from the start. As the deadline approaches, Oakland is a team that could be quite active. Will there be a market for veteran Zack Greinke? Chad Scott and Anthony Rizzo are productive bats that could draw interest, but some again wonder about demand. “Anthony Rizzo went unsigned into the season, teams were shy about giving him a one-year deal before Oakland gave him upwards of five. Will teams suddenly be interested in Rizzo at that price? Plus whatever Oakland wants via trade?” Lefty Juan Oramas has rebounded in 2021 and could be a valuable addition to a team. Others expect for Oakland to, “be very busy fielding offers on the likes of Giolito and Buehler. I would be surprised if they are moved, but I will not be surprised if many offers are made.” One other player to keep an eye on: Ken Gary.

Seattle Mariners: Is this the year Seattle can get by Los Angeles? The “other part” of the 2019 deadline deal with Atlanta is paying of in 2021 as Mark Appel has returned from his lengthy injury recovery and is once again proving to be an ace, giving Seattle the mighty 1-2-3 of Hultzen, Hooper, and Appel. They recently attempted to fix some bullpen woes by swapping Orlando Garcia for Tanner Scheppers. Some feel that more bullpen moves are to follow. One source described the Mariners as, “a team with ammo to make a move. With Carroll, Edmonds, Hassell, Moniak, and Rangel and a crowded outfield in the bigs, those outfield prospects could be popular targets.” While Matthew Thompson is unlikely to be moved, other pitching prospects, including power throwing arms like Ramon Vidal, Victor Vodnik, and Cole Kelley could be moved for reliable MLB bullpen pieces. We’ve seen bold moves from Seattle in the past, expect them to at least reach out on several big names.

Texas Rangers: New management traded Addison Reed last month leaving the Rangers with the likes of Juan Hidalgo, Jesus Montero, and Javy Guerra as players in their final year of deals who could be popular targets. Hidalgo and Montero are producing at uncommonly low levels for their usual standards. Guerra has had a strong year out of the Rangers bullpen. With the strong nature of the top of the division, some expect the Rangers to be active moving these pieces. One league reporter will be keeping an eye on James Kaprielian, “like other pitchers, he shows terrific stuff, but hasn’t put it together last year or this year. He enters the final year of his contract next year, now might be the time to see what he could fetch in return. Even without the production, we know how some teams value visible stuff which he has.”

National League East

Atlanta Braves: The rebuild following the trade of Mark Appel and Armando Cabanas is back on the right track with the Braves sitting within reach of the division and wild-card race. Their current run differential of +74 is 70 runs better than the Nationals and the third best in the National League. One league source thinks more work to the bullpen is needed saying, “finally promoting Riley Pint was a start, but can they really trust Karapetyan in key innings?” Is there room in the Braves future for all of Bo Bichette, Brendan Rodgers, Nick Madrigal, and CJ Abrams? The Braves have been rumored to be interested in packaging several prospects for a large return. Focus could be centered on the outfield where an additional proven, big bat could help the lineup down the stretch. Brady Aiken has been rumored to be on the block, but how serious could that actually be?

Miami Marlins: After winning 81 or more games in each of the past two seasons, 2021 is not going as planned in Miami. The offense is one of the worst in the bigs, with too many players hitting for little average. Cameron Gallagher, a free-agent to be, could be a hot commodity if he hits the market. Gallagher is, “someone with a history of production who is also a very good defensive catcher.” Could Corey Seager be moved ahead of his final year of team control? Seager, having posted 10 WAR over the prior two seasons would net a big return for a team with a limited number of high-end pieces in its system beyond Acuna and Franco.

New York Mets: The biggest surprise in 2021 has been the play of the Mets. A perennial favorite, the season was derailed after an 8-17 month of April. The team has 217 million dollars in salary on the books this year and 198 in salary for 2022 as of now. With an aging core of players that are mostly above 30 years old, One insider wonders if Matt Den Dekker or Alberto Vega could be discussed over the next two months. With Den Dekker, that insider pushed the idea of an in-division trade saying, “could you imagine Den Dekker in Atlanta? Not only would he no longer be there to hurt them from the opposing dugout, but he could help the younger outfielders grow, while providing additional protection in the lineup.”

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies could have very busy trade discussions here in July. Sean Gilmartin, Josh Bell, William French each are rumored to be on the block. Even as Gilmartin’s ERA has risen, his peripherals remain quite strong. Josh Bell, an All-Star in 2021, is showing tremendous power with his bat. They are an organization in serious need of young arms to pair with the young lineup. One insider suggested that, “Gilmartin could be a difference maker. I think some might become too fixated on trying to pry Magana when in my opinion, that is simply not going to happen.”

Washington Nationals: As of writing this, Arizona, Atlanta, Colorado, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and St. Louis each have a losing record against left-handed pitching. While Washington has the NL’s best starters’ ERA, they do lack a southpaw in the rotation. Might they look ahead and try to bring in a lefty to help in a playoff setting? With Ed Palmer and Devin Lewis both in the lineup on most days, acquiring a backup catcher could be needed to protect the Nationals. Things get trickier to get them both playing time when Loren Rogers returns from injury. Would Washington dare trade one of Lewis or Palmer? There is definite and known interest on both. Among qualified outfielders in the NL, the Nationals Bill Wells and Rymer Liriano each rank among the bottom 3 players in WAR.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are headed for their fourth consecutive season finishing below .500. While they have been big spenders in free-agency (Baumgarner, Sandoval, Copeland, Rivera), play on the field has not picked up. The bullpen’s collective ERA sits near the top of the NL which could make veterans Alex Ramirez and Tyler Green popular targets, but each would come with a high price tag. Pablo Sandoval is having a good season, but at nearly 35 years old and with a big contract attached to him, finding the right buyer could be difficult.

Cincinnati Reds: Nate Pearson is in the bigs, as are Royce Lewis and Fernando Leguizamo. With the team’s top prospect Alfred Johnson, as well as highly-regarded arms of Hunter Greene, Cole Wilcox all at AAA, along with the bats of Bubba Osborn and Joshua Lowe, things are starting to look up in Cincinnati. While currently injured, Fautino de los Santos’ 25 strikeouts (8.3:1 K:BB) in 25 innings could be enticing to a contender. One addition the Reds can look forward to will be the return of Alex Faedo to the fold next season.

Milwaukee Brewers: After starting the year 37-17, the Brewers have played sub-.500 ball since. As of writing this, they rank 10th in the NL in homers and extra-base hits, while maintaining a team on-base percentage that is 9th among NL squads. Since June 1, the quartet of Kwan-yew Yeh, Bobby McDonald, Carlos Martinez, and Kevin Colomo all hold an on-base percentage below .300. With three rookies in the rotation, some feel the Brewers need another starting pitcher, with one insider saying, “Pedro Cuevas’ 82 innings last year and Cody McCutc’s 67 big league innings prior to this year are all the experience the Brewer starters have. It could be risky going into uncharted territory without any veteran presence — both in terms of pressure ramping up and in stretching these arms into high innings pitched levels.”

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates self-imposed deadline has passed, but not without a bang. If they end up making more deals, what could they be? With a bullpen that ranks around the middle of the pack and with Tyson Oswalt gone, perhaps they look to add a small piece there.

St. Louis Cardinals: Rumors began circulating that the Cardinals have recently placed numerous big leaguers on the trade block. Starting pitchers Kevin Comer and Zach Potter’s names appear ready to be discussed, prompting speculation that Jesus Luzardo and Logan GIlbert are on the verge of making debuts. Potter, a former top 30 prospect, has not met expectations in 2021, but has still shown tons of promise striking out over a batter per inning while showing excellent control. One question from an outsiders perspective surrounds Kenley Jansen, who despite throwing just 88 MPH on the gun, has continued to be productive in a limited number of appearances, can that keep up the rest of the season?

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks: A 13-14 month of June was somewhat concerning, but Arizona has turned things back around and now sit 9-4 in July, with a two-game division lead on Colorado. Quiterio Gavio is 2-0 in five starts since being moved to the rotation, but is that something that will last for the remainder of the season? 2018 draftee (#3 Overall) Ethan Hankins is showing promise in AAA, could he be given a big league shot? If Hankins is unavailable, prospects Jared Kelly, Triston Casas, Yusneil Diaz, and Nico Hoerner could be assets that could bring in a desired addition to the squad.

Colorado Rockies: Leading the National League in most offensive categories, Colorado’s needs as far as a bat go would likely be limited to a bench outfield bat. While providing some defensive flexibility, neither Charles Tilson nor David Kandilas provides much help offensively off the bench. The Rockies have a handful of fringe MLB players sitting in the minors who could provide intriguing options for rebuilding teams. Gerardo Rivero, Chris Brown, Bill Pyke could be low cost acquisitions. Where Colorado is likely to be active is in the bullpen. To begin, their bullpen ERA ranks outside of the top 10 in the NL. A plethora of closers has led to some pitchers pitching in new roles without their usual success. Rumblings have included Nick McCully, the recently acquired Addison Reed, veteran Phillippe Aumont, and Dennis Moore all being on the block. Expect the bullpen to undergo some shuffling over the next two weeks.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers could hold the cards for a handful of teams come the deadline. From starting pitchers Parkel Markel and Jared Cosart to closer Jordan Walden, the Dodgers have pieces that could be key for playoff teams. One source believes, “Jordan Walden will be an impact acquisition for some team. Could do wonders back in Toronto, with Seattle.” The veteran closer is signed through 2022 and is having another fantastic season here in 2021. While Jared Cosart is just 5-8 in 20 starts, he’s 2-1 with an ERA of 1.73 in July. With a team option for the 2022 season, Cosart becomes an intriguing possibility for a team like the Angels to inquire upon. One other player that is worth monitoring is J.D. Martinez. The hard-working outfielder works the count while providing plenty of power.

San Diego Padres: While surely inquires will be made on Michael Matuella, many believe an actual trade involving the starter would be rare. Where the Padres could make noise is with their bullpen. Andy Otero was traded earlier, but they still have Masanobu Mochizuki, Abel De Los Santos, and Jesse Biddle. De Los Santos and Biddle both sport ERA’s below 2.50. Biddle, having finally broken through into the bigs, has 47 strikeouts to just 12 walks in 47 innings of action.

San Francisco Giants: Will these be the final weeks of Buster Posey and Braulio Pardo in a San Francisco Giants uniform? Both are north of 34, but both also continue to be productive offensive weapons. With each having large financial commitments beyond this year, trading one or both, could allow San Francisco to jumpstart a rebuild in more than one way. It remains unclear how realistic a trade of either star really is. What is becoming more strongly anticipated throughout the league is the trading of Daniel Schlereth. In 30 appearances Schlereth has a 2.42 ERA with 29 strikeouts to just 9 walks. A free-agent to be, the reliever could step-in to most bullpens as an upgrade. In addition to Schlereth, Jeurys Familia and Michael Schwimer are two more bullpen arms that will likely be heavily discussed. Another tough decision San Francisco will have to make centers around Albert Suarez who has a player option for 2022. Suarez, with an ERA under three and 101 strikeouts in 116 innings seems likely to test free-agency after this season. Might that possibility increase the likelihood that the Giants listen to offers on him?

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