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The starting pitcher market
1. Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians: This may be the biggest "What will they do?" situation this deadline. The Indians were 11 games back of the Twins in mid-June, but they have clawed back into the race despite the absences of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Bauer hasn't been as dominant as last season, but he might still rank as the best starting pitcher available due to his ability to chew up innings and put batters away. He's under team control through next season, making him more attractive than a one-year rental.
So why would the Indians trade him? They need offense and may get Kluber and Carrasco back to join Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger in what would still be a formidable rotation. Bauer will also likely get close to $20 million in arbitration next season -- a price tag that is too steep for the Indians (and could scare some teams from wanting him). Plus, there is the need for the Indians to keep churning talent to remain competitive into the future.
"I also think we're at a different point organizationally, like we were in the offseason, where a lot more of our guys are maturing on their contracts and so, regardless of our competitive position, you explore different things than you otherwise would have," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff told Zack Meisel of The Athletic last week. In other words: The Indians may look to be creative and that may mean trading Bauer.
2. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants: You know the story. The Giants were stumbling along in last place all season, and a Bumgarner trade seemed like a foregone conclusion. But they've been red hot in July and climbed into the back end of the wild-card race, so now a trade is less likely. Remember, the Giants can just keep Bumgarner and ride this season out and still receive draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere as a free agent.
Making Farhan Zaidi's decision even more difficult is that Bumgarner has been pitching so well that his trade value is much higher than it was a couple months ago. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.84 compared to 2.53 in 2018 and he has a 1.55 ERA over his past five starts. Any team would love to have Bumgarner and his big-game reputation on the mound in October.
ESPN's Jeff Passan reported last week that the Astros, Twins, Phillies and Brewers are the most likely trade partners in a Bumgarner deal.
3. Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays: Like Bauer, Stroman is an enticing trade target because he's not a free agent until after the 2020 season. Passan recently reported that "multiple GMs expect Stroman to be dealt." Stroman is also attractive because he keeps the ball on the ground -- he has the second-highest ground ball rate among qualified starters -- which has helped him limit home runs. With the Blue Jays spinning in the mud for the foreseeable, they'll look to continue to add more young talent.
4. Mike Minor, Texas Rangers: Minor signed a three-year, $28 million contract that goes through next season, but Minor is unhappy with all the trade rumors. "I feel like ever since I signed it's been a topic," he told reporters last week. "It's almost like I signed just so they could trade me." The 2019 All-Star is having the best season of his career and owns a 5.9 WAR that already ranks as one of the five best seasons by a Rangers starter in franchise history. GM Jon Daniels has said the Rangers "probably" won't trade Minor, but also added that "we're not going to rule anything out."
5. Tanner Roark, Cincinnati Reds: Roark has been pretty solid in a tough park to pitch in, and he's a pending free agent. He's not a front-of-the-line starter and wouldn't bring back a top prospect, so the Reds may decide to just ride things out unless they completely tank in the final week before the deadline.
6. Zack Wheeler, New York Mets: Another free agent-to-be, Wheeler looked like a lock to be traded until landing on the IL with shoulder fatigue. Passan wrote that the IL stint "more or less destroys his trade value." An MRI revealed no structural damage and he might even make it back for a start before July 31. Wheeler has the stuff to pull out Eovaldi-like results -- if he's healthy -- so somebody may still take a chance on him.
7. Mike Leake, Seattle Mariners: He's strictly a back-end innings eater who throws strikes, but he has alternated some very good outings with some awful ones much of the season. Getting away from the terrible Seattle defense could help, and the Mariners would have to eat a big chunk of his salary to get even a Grade C prospect in return.
8. Trevor Richards, Miami Marlins: Of the 136 pitchers who have thrown 60 innings, Richards is basically middle of the pack in wOBA, in line with starters such as Zach Davies and Miles Mikolas. So he's better than you probably think. He's also easy on the payroll since this is his first full season in the majors. That's valuable to the Marlins, but they need some young hitters, so they might be willing to trade one of the young pitchers.
Looking for bullpen help?
9. Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres: If the Padres decide to trade Yates, they'll be able to extract maximum value for a pitcher they claimed on waivers from the Angels back in 2017. (To be fair, the Yankees also cut Yates and the Yankees purchased him from the Indians and the Indians purchased him from the Rays, so four organizations gave up on Yates.) He has been the best closer in baseball with an ERA barely above 1.00 thanks to a wipeout splitter, he doesn't give up home runs, and he's controlled through next season.
10-11. Will Smith and Sam Dyson, Giants: Smith has been one of the best lefty relievers the past couple of seasons, pitching better than ever after missing all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery. He gets righties and lefties out, so he fits in as either a closer or set-up guy. He'll be a free agent, so he's just a rental piece.
Dyson's career appeared in jeopardy back in early 2017 when he started the season with the Rangers with six losses and a 10.80 ERA in 17 appearances. They traded him to the Giants, and now he's having his best season as he's back to throwing more strikes with a high ground ball rate. He's arbitration-eligible for another year.
If the Giants stay hot until the deadline, they could also keep Bumgarner and deal from their bullpen depth (Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Reyes Moronta are also potential trade chips) for immediate help rather than prospects. "This entire season for us has never been a throwaway season or rebuilding season," Zaidi said last week on KNBR-680. "Not every trade that's made leading up to the trade deadline is a pure buy-or-sell deal. Sometimes it's a need-for-need deal. That might be the direction that we go."
12. Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers: With so many teams in need of bullpen help, it makes sense for the rebuilding Tigers to trade Greene now with his value so high. He is under team control for another season, but if you can get a couple decent prospects based on the best 35 innings of Greene's career, you need to cash in.
13. Ken Giles, Blue Jays: The last you might remember of Giles is the 2017 playoffs, when he suddenly couldn't throw his slider for strikes, gave up 10 runs in 7 innings and lost his job as the Astros' closer midway through the postseason. Well, the slider is back and Giles has been terrific with the second-highest strikeout rate among relievers (behind only Josh Hader). Of course, closing for a bad Blue Jays team isn't the same thing as pitching in October. Would you trust him in a big situation?
14. Alex Colomé, Chicago White Sox: Yet another closer who might be available. A lot of contenders could use one. Colomé isn't flashy, but he has a 2.71 ERA since 2016. He's not an elite strikeout guy, and his actual wOBA allowed is about 100 points below his expected wOBA based on contact allowed, so there may be some buyer-beware issues here.
15. Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals: After a decade as a starter, Kennedy has been a revelation in his first year in the bullpen. The advanced metrics in particular are big on the way he's pitched, as he ranks high in exit velocity allowed and expected wOBA.
16. Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles: Have we mentioned that many teams are desperate for bullpen help? Givens has allowed too many home runs, but six of the eight he has served up have come in Camden Yards. A change of scenery could help in that area as otherwise he has been good, riding his mid-90s fastball/slider combo to the best strikeout rate of his career. "He's pitching like he wants out of there," a scout told ESPN's Eddie Matz. Can you blame him?
17. Roenis Elias, Mariners: He's a lefty with a big reverse platoon split and some recent home run issues, but you know Jerry Dipoto won't be sitting around knitting and doing the New York Times crossword on deadline day.
If you need a bat ...
18-19. David Peralta and Adam Jones, Arizona Diamondbacks: Both veteran outfielders have been mentioned in trade rumors. Peralta is better and under team control through 2020, but he's also currently on the injured list with right shoulder soreness. Jones got off to a hot start with 11 home runs through May, but he has struggled of late and is more of a bench bat for a contender.
20. Nicholas Castellanos, Tigers: He leads the American League in doubles and crushes lefties, but his best position is DH so that will limit interest in him. The Tigers tried to trade him in the offseason without any success, and even Castellanos admitted he wouldn't be surprised if he's not traded.
21. Eric Sogard, Blue Jays: Here's an under-the-radar trade candidate who could make a big impact in October, similar to Marco Scutaro of the Giants in 2012 or Steve Pearce last season with the Red Sox. Sogard has hit very well with a 128 OPS+ while starting games at five different positions. He's best at second base, but his ability to play shortstop or fill in in the outfield makes him a valuable trade piece.
22. Pablo Sandoval, Giants: Another guy who seemed dead in the water a couple years ago, but Sandoval is slugging over .500, no easy feat in Oracle Park. He's a platoon bat, but he can play third and first and his .344 career average in the postseason could draw some interest if the Giants decide to bail on 2019.
23. Todd Frazier, Mets: Not much trade value here, but he can hit lefties and he's still solid at third base. With J.D. Davis, there's no reason for the Mets to keep Frazier so he can be had for a low-grade prospect by a team in need of a righty bat off the bench.
24. Scooter Gennett, Reds: The 2018 All-Star has missed most of the season due to a groin injury suffered in spring training and hasn't hit since returning in late June. He hit .310 with 23 home runs last season. Most of the contenders appear set at second base, but maybe the A's or Giants take a chance.
25. Noah Syndergaard, Mets: Passan reports that the Mets are taking calls on Syndergaard, but it still feels unlikely that Brodie Van Wagenen will trade Thor, who is still under team control through 2021. Trading Syndergaard would essentially mean committing to a rebuild. Are the Mets willing to do that? Plus, Syndergaard's trade value right now isn't sky high given his 4.55 ERA, and the Mets are one hot stretch away from being back in the wild-card race.
26. Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks: Greinke eats up 28% of the Diamondbacks' payroll, which is why he has been in trade rumors for a couple years now. But he's also owed about $83 million in salary through 2021, which limits his trade value (unless the Diamondbacks eat salary). He also has a no-trade clause with 15 teams -- including the Phillies, one of the teams most interested in Greinke.
27. Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks: If not Greinke, maybe the Diamondbacks trade Ray. The hard-throwing lefty is always on the brink of stardom, if he could just cut down on the walks. He racks up the K's, but he's so inefficient that he has gone more than six innings just once all season. Still, power lefties like this are hard to find. He's under control for another season, and it would be interesting to see if a different team could extract better results out of him -- such as the Yankees, who reportedly have interest.
28. Matthew Boyd, Tigers: Boyd's breakout season has him fourth in the majors in strikeout rate among starting pitchers -- behind Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer, thank you very much -- and the Tigers are rightfully asking for a ransom in return, as they should, since he's under control through 2022.
29. Felipe Vazquez, Pirates: The two-time All-Star closer is one of the best in the business and will make just $33.5 million from 2020 through 2023. That makes his trade value enormously high as the Pirates will demand at least a couple premium prospects in return. Would the Dodgers be willing to pay that price to solve some of their bullpen issues?
30-31. Franmil Reyes or Hunter Renfroe, Padres: The Padres have a logjam in the corner outfield positions with these two sluggers, plus Wil Myers and Josh Naylor. Except Myers hasn't really been good, and Naylor is really a first baseman. The farm system is loaded, but the top two outfield prospects are hitting .201 and .229 this season. Reyes and Renfroe are also low OBP sluggers and Reyes has limited range in the field. The Padres would like to add a controllable starting pitcher -- think Bauer or Syndergaard -- but the Mets don't need a corner outfielder and they'll need to offer more than Reyes or Renfroe to land Bauer.
Passan: D-backs hold a lot of keys to the trade deadline
Jeff Passan explains why the Diamondbacks are the team to watch out for as the trade deadline approaches.