The Trade Deadline is still several weeks away, but it’s never too early to examine which teams are leaning toward buying or selling, with an eye on July 30. MLB.com reporters Mark Feinsand and Jon Paul Morosi have been monitoring the market all season, and they recently gathered to talk about the possibilities.
Alyson Footer, editor/moderator: Reports out of Denver are stating the somewhat obvious — Trevor Story doesn’t intend to re-sign with the Rockies. He is already considered the most likely player to be dealt at the Deadline. The A’s might make the most sense, but what other teams may be interested?
Jon Paul Morosi, reporter, MLB.com and MLB Network: I agree that the A’s are the most logical fit, especially if the Rockies are willing to include more cash in order to maximize the prospect return. One could point out it would have been easier for the A’s to simply retain Marcus Semien, but that is a separate conversation!
Mark Feinsand, executive reporter, MLB.com: As you said, Oakland has been the team that makes the most sense. The A’s are a real contender, and shortstop has been a black hole for them this season. Even before this latest report, Story was a near-lock to be traded, but I don’t expect it to happen soon. The All-Star Game is being played in Denver, and the last thing the Rockies want is for the conversation that week to be about them trading their best player — just months after trading their best player in Nolan Arenado.
Morosi: The reality is that the A’s are in win-now mode, in a division with only one other strong competitor, and a trade for Story fits with their past rentals. I’d also keep an eye on the Brewers. Yes, they already traded for Willy Adames. But remember the year when Milwaukee traded for 342 second basemen in one day and nearly reached the World Series? (I might be exaggerating but only slightly.)
Feinsand: The Brewers definitely make sense to me, J.P. Adames is a nice player, but Story would be a big upgrade. Milwaukee has been on the brink of being really good the past few years, so if Brewers president David Stearns and general manager Matt Arnold believe Story is the missing piece, I could see them going for it.
The Yankees made some sense to me for a while, but they seem determined to stay below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. That, plus the fact that they’re just not playing well, makes me question whether they would make a move like that. Luke Voit can’t stay healthy, though, and they can move DJ LeMahieu to first, Gleyber Torres to second and open shortstop for Story.
I think it’s more likely that the Yankees shift their infield like that in the offseason, however. They could be a player for one of the big shortstops.
Morosi: Mark, to your point, Story is the rental version of the Justin Turner move the Brewers wanted to make last winter.
From Stearns and Arnold’s perspective: Get the bat, figure out the defensive details later.
Feinsand: The most interesting thing to me about Milwaukee has nothing to do with the Brewers themselves …
What the heck are the Cubs going to do? Are the Brewers competing with the Cardinals for the NL Central, or do the Cubs plan to be a player in that division, too? Chicago is the most fascinating team for me between now and July 30.
Footer: The Cubs are interesting, because one, they’re the Cubs, and two, their 2021 so far has been a tale of two seasons: They were playing terribly, and then they took off. Good for them for getting their act together, but that definitely changed the narrative in terms of the Trade Deadline. After their offseason of regression, they weren’t supposed to be good! What happened, and what does this mean for the Deadline?
Morosi: The story of the Cubs in recent years has been the malaise of their core players. Simply put, Kris Bryant has broken out of that.
We also shouldn’t forget that the Cubs won the division last year. They were a good team that underachieved. They won the division last year despite receiving very little contribution from Bryant. Now, Bryant is playing like the MVP we’ve known him to be. Barring a dramatic downturn, the Cubs can’t rationalize trading him now.
Feinsand: When they traded Yu Darvish this winter, it seemed like a precursor to some July trades featuring Bryant, Javier Báez and possibly Anthony Rizzo. Bryant could have been traded during the winter, but his 2020 wasn’t particularly good. Now he’s playing like his old MVP self, and while his value has shot up because of it, so have the Cubs’ postseason chances.
Jed Hoyer could decide to let this play out, keep the team together and try to make a run this fall. But will ownership allow him to add payroll? If the Cubs decided to become buyers, they could add a piece or two that would allow them to challenge the big boys in the NL.
Morosi: And I wonder if there are some teams that ALMOST traded for Bryant last winter that are now regretting they didn’t offer just a little bit more.
The Cubs are also benefiting from the best version of Craig Kimbrel we’ve seen in a while.
Feinsand: Once they traded Darvish, I think the expectations for 2021 were lowered significantly.
Morosi: True, but every team in the division is flawed in a way that we didn’t necessarily anticipate — especially with the Cardinals’ rotation issues.
Feinsand: When they non-tendered Kyle Schwarber and traded Darvish, we all thought we knew the direction the Cubs were taking. Then they zigzagged and signed Joc Pederson. They’re certainly keeping us all on our toes.
The Cubs are the one team that I have no idea what direction they will take during the next seven or eight weeks. It could go any number of ways.
Morosi: St. Louis was a popular pick to win the division for obvious reasons, but the Cards will need to add a pitcher to keep pace with the Cubs and Brewers. Cue the storyline about Max Scherzer getting traded back to his hometown. Let’s be honest: That would be fun to see.
Footer: Do you think that could happen?
Morosi: Well, Mike Rizzo and the Nats don’t become sellers very easily.
Feinsand: Max! Chatting with a GM earlier today, I said that more words will be written and spoken about Scherzer than any other player between now and July 30.
If Scherzer truly becomes available, I can see four or five teams making a serious push for him. Put Scherzer on the Blue Jays and the AL East becomes even more interesting than it already is.
Morosi: I do think it’s easier for the Nats to trade Max now than Bryce Harper in his walk year. They’ve won a World Series, for one reason.
Feinsand: Not trading Harper was as much about wanting to re-sign him as anything. Why couldn’t they trade Scherzer, then bring him back in the offseason? The Yankees did it in 2016 with Aroldis Chapman.
Morosi: And even if Max returns to the Nats as a free agent, he’s not going to be a key part of their five-year plan, simply based on age (he turns 37 in July).
Feinsand: If Scherzer wants to stay, wouldn’t he want them to have added a piece or two that could help make them better next year? Plus, he would have a chance at winning a ring this year as a rental.
Trading a guy doesn’t mean you’re severing ties forever. It almost seems irresponsible NOT to trade Scherzer, unless he tells Rizzo that he absolutely won’t sign back there if they deal him.
Morosi: And they have a long history, going back to when Rizzo drafted him with the D-backs. Max’s relationship with Rizzo is good enough that they could have that conversation: “I’d love to come back to D.C. for the long term, if it works out that way, but it would be fun to chase a championship in my hometown.”
Feinsand: And that guy is way too competitive to not want to pitch in big games down the stretch, no matter what uniform he’s wearing.
Nolan Gorman would look good in Washington. And St. Louis seems to be set at third base for a while.
Morosi: Yes, Max for Gorman sounds like a great deal. And the Nats need to replenish their prospect base after going for it over the last decade, really. There’s such an aversion in the game to giving up prospects, but the Cardinals have a strong rationale to trade Gorman. They clearly need pitching.
And Cardinals GM John Mozeliak can say, “I got our third baseman in an incredibly favorable deal last winter, so giving up Gorman is something we can do.”
Not that Mo will say those words exactly. But he could!
Feinsand: Gorman is the one big prospect the Cardinals (No. 2 in their system, per MLB Pipeline) can afford to part with. I’m not saying they would deal him for a rental, but if the front office believes Scherzer makes them a legit contender, why not do it? The Cubs knew how good Gleyber was going to be, but Theo Epstein believed Chapman was the missing piece, so he made the deal. And then the Cubs won the World Series. Sometimes, you just need to go for it.
If Gorman had been in the Arenado deal, nobody would have flinched.
Footer: Let’s move on to the Yankees, who, by Yankee standards, are a bit of a mess right now. Trying to pinpoint a singular area to improve is maybe a little naïve on our part. That said, let’s now pinpoint a singular area where they need to improve — is that center field? Is there a fit?
Morosi: If I’m the Yankees, I add an inexpensive left-handed bat, possibly an outfielder.
The Yankees’ lack of production from the left side is stunning, especially when you consider how left-handed slugging was the hallmark of the Yankees teams you covered on the beat, Mark.
Feinsand: I agree that the lineup imbalance is an issue for the Yankees, but they were a top five offense with mostly the same lineup the past few years. The fact that LeMahieu and Torres aren’t hitting is one of the real problems.
Morosi:. As we type this, the Yankees have the worst OPS from the left side of any team in MLB. A .569 OPS. Only 11 home runs by left-handed batters.
And in that ballpark! So if you’re a left-handed batter, please send your application to Yankee Stadium.
Feinsand: Center field is definitely an issue, as is the lineup imbalance we discussed earlier. Aaron Hicks hasn’t been able to stay healthy since he signed his extension, and now he’s out for the year. Estevan Florial isn’t ready for an everyday job yet, and Brett Gardner just isn’t the same player he once was. They need to address center field in some form or fashion, if they want to make a run.
Starling Marte seems like a good fit for them, though that’s another right-handed hitter. Joey Gallo is the lefty slugger who would be a potential difference-maker, but that doesn’t help the CF situation.
Morosi:. I know Ken Rosenthal has mentioned switch-hitting Ketel Marte as a possibility, and I see that as an excellent fit.
Feinsand: I agree. In my Trade Deadline Inbox last week, I mentioned Ketel Marte as the ideal candidate, but he’s going to cost them some serious capital to acquire. He’s signed through 2022 (with affordable club options for ’23 and ’24), so Arizona isn’t going to trade him unless the return is solid.