I’m just back from a week’s vacation, so this is a Strike Zone with a different format. Instead of the usual notes, I want to look at the potential fallout from trades that could be consummated before the July 31 deadline. I’ll start off with a handful of players and then move on to the closer scenarios.
Next week’s All-Star break column should be up Wednesday and will be a 2019 rankings column that follows the format of my monthly rankings.
Manny Machado - SS Orioles - Baltimore might botch the return for Machado, but it looks like they’ll at least get something for him before the deadline after making the mistake of holding on to him for too long. Once the move comes, it’s likely that they’ll put Tim Beckham back at shortstop. Danny Valencia could return to third base from right field, but he’s a defensive liability there and he’s quite the trade candidate himself. Eventually it seems likely that they’ll plug in a prospect, either Steve Wilkerson or Drew Dosch, at third. Wilkerson had the edge a week ago, but he’s expected to miss a month or more with a strained oblique. I think Dosch might be the better option anyway; the lefty swinger has hit .327/.404/.545 against right-handers in Triple-A. He’ll need to be platooned, perhaps with Valencia, but that’s not a big issue.
The other possibility is that the Orioles get back a major league-ready infielder in a Machado deal. That’d most likely be the case if they trade with the Brewers, who could offer the disappointing Orlando Arcia in return. The Brewers, Diamondbacks and Dodgers would use Machado at short if they acquired him, while the Yankees and Red Sox would want to plug him in at third base. The Phillies could use him at either spot, but they would benefit most from his presence at third base, even if Maikel Franco is running circles around Scott Kingery offensively (the Phillies’ best lineup would have Machado at third and J.P. Crawford at short once healthy). I’m not sure what the Cubs would do, but the best solution probably involves Machado at third and Kris Bryant in the outfield. The Dodgers would be left with a very crowded outfield if they acquired Machado, as Chris Taylor would likely play center fairly regularly. That could be bad news for a healthy Yasiel Puig or Matt Kemp if he slumps, since Joc Pederson needs to start somewhere against righties.
Now that Greg Bird is showing real signs of life, the Yankees would have a tougher call about what to do if they acquired Machado. Moving Miguel Andujar to first seemed like the logical move, but they might be better off platooning Bird against righties and Andujar versus lefties. The Red Sox are a far longer shot for Machado, given that they have less need than some, a weak assortment of prospects and luxury tax issues. If they did somehow make the deal anyway, it’d probably be necessary to write off Rafael Devers until 2019.
J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada - SPs Blue Jays - Toronto is going to move at least one starter and perhaps two, opening up more room in a rotation already missing Jaime Garcia (shoulder) and Aaron Sanchez (finger). Both of those starters are expected back relatively soon to fill gaps, but the Jays are still going to have to rely on some younger arms in the second half. They’ve already called up Ryan Borucki, who has impressed with a 2.25 ERA in three starts. 27-year-old Chris Rowley isn’t young, having lost a lot of time due to injuries, but since he does have a 3.45 ERA at Triple-A Buffalo, he should be in the mix. More interesting is 22-year-old Sean Reid-Foley, a 2014 second-round pick who has really put it together this year after a rough 2017. He’s 10-2 with a 3.11 ERA and a 109/35 K/BB in 92 2/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A. I wouldn’t project mixed-league value for him in the second half, but AL-only value is quite possible.
Josh Donaldson, Yangervis Solarte - INFs Blue Jays - Donaldson’s calf injury has made things all too complicated here, as it’s unclear whether any suitor will be able to get a look at him before the trade deadline. Solarte might be more likely to go; his solid production, versatility and modest salary make him a fit with practically every contender. The Jays could then give his at-bats to Lourdes Gurriel, who might be an option in deeper mixed leagues in the second half.
Mike Moustakas - 3B Royals - Obviously, the Royals are lacking much offense at the Triple-A level or they would have long since reached for it. Their preferred replacement at third base when they trade Moustakas will be Cheslor Cuthbert, but it’s still unclear when or if he’ll return from a back injury. They’ll probably get by with Alcides Escobar and Hunter Dozier at third for a spell. If they succeed in trading Lucas Duda to a contender, it would leave the door wide open for 26-year-old first baseman Frank Schwindel, who has been putting up nice numbers in the high minors for nearly three years now. Schwindel is a fine AL-only sleeper for the second half. Moustakas’s value would almost certainly get a boost if traded.
Adrian Beltre - 3B Rangers - It sounds like Beltre would waive his no-trade rights to go to a contender. The old assumption was that Joey Gallo would simply take over at third whenever Beltre moved on, but now Gallo wants nothing to do with his old position. That’s fine, though, since the Rangers can just go with Jurickson Profar at the hot corner on a regular basis.
Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler - SPs Mets - I’m so glad I’m not in charge of this mess. While it’s turned out to be another disastrous year, it’s still quite possible to squint and see the Mets’ arms making them contenders next season. It’d just require copious amounts of luck. What doesn’t seem practical is simply selling deGrom and keeping everyone else, so my guess is that the Mets mostly keep their rotation intact for now. I could see Wheeler going; the uptick in his velocity has made him more interesting, but because he is a free agent after next season, the long-term payoff for turning him around isn’t as high as it might seem.
Asdrubal Cabrera - 2B Mets - The Mets would like to give Jeff McNeil a shot, likely at second base, in light of his remarkable success this year. The 26-year-old hit .327/.402/.626 in 57 games at Double-A Binghamton, and he’s at .393/.453/.655 in 21 games since moving up to Triple-A Las Vegas. Cabrera has picked it back up some after slumping in June, and he has a fine .280/.328/.485 line for the season. He’s also in the final year of his contract. Someone who misses out on Machado is going to want Cabrera for second base or third.
Michael Fulmer - SP Tigers - Fulmer’s ERA has climbed from 3.06 as a rookie to 3.83 last year and 4.11 so far this year. Still, his velocity has held steady, even as he’s dealt with minor elbow and shoulder problems, and his strikeout rate, while never exceptional, is as strong as ever. He could go from a fringy mixed-league guy to a real asset if he’s moved to a contender, especially if he switches leagues. Detroit is just such a bad situation for a pitcher.
The catchers - J.T. Realmuto (Marlins), Wilson Ramos (Rays), Salvador Perez (Royals), Jonathan Lucroy (A’s), Russell Martin (Blue Jays), Francisco Cervelli (Pirates), Robinson Chirinos (Rangers), Devin Mesoraco (Mets) - In many of these cases, it isn’t of a whole lot of fantasy consequence who would take over as starters in place of departed catchers. The A’s and Blue Jays do have very interesting catching prospects in Sean Murphy and Danny Jansen, respectively, but it’s not certain that either would get the call even if those teams do trade their starters. Plus, Murphy is expected to miss a month with a broken hamate bone. In Oakland’s case, I would think the club would want to upgrade from Lucroy, arguably a very poor regular at this point, in the event of a move. The backup with the most to gain if his regular gets moved is Elias Diaz in Pittsburgh; he’s hit .290/.340/.490 with seven homers in his 145 at-bats this year.
The more interesting topic here is who could get replaced. The Astros were already considering upgrading from Brian McCann before he hurt his knee. They have Max Stassi starting now, and Stassi has been an extremely pleasant surprise this year. They still might consider a move, largely because they have so little else that needs fixing, but it’s not really a need. Matt Wieters would lose his spot if the Nationals could pull off a deal. Old friend Ramos would make the most sense there. The A’s really need to think about the upgrade if they’re going for it this year. The Red Sox became a possibility for a catcher after Christian Vazquez went down with his broken finger, but I’m guessing they’ll be content with Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart. If not, hopefully Swihart is sent out in the deal and gets to play at least semi-regularly for some club, making him potentially of use in two-catcher mixed leagues. The Brewers could use Ramos to play over Manny Pina. The Mariners and Cardinals won’t be in the market for starters, but quality backups would be nice.
Since it does seem like such a buyer’s market, I’m guessing Realmuto doesn’t get moved. The Marlins will ask for a ton, and the Astros are the only team I can really envision potentially meeting their price tag. A Perez deal also seems highly unlikely; the Royals still like him as the face of the franchise and they’d be selling low if they moved him now.
The Closers - Dealers
Baltimore: Zach Britton, Brad Brach - Both are free agents to be, and the Orioles have every reason to get whatever they can for them. I think both go, leaving the team with Michael Givens as the favorite for saves and Miguel Castro potentially next in line. Britton, unfortunately, seems more likely to be a setup man for one of the elite contenders than a closer for his new team. Brach also figures to be a setup man unless he stays after Britton goes.
Chicago AL: Joakim Soria - Expect Soria to go, perhaps as soon as next week. Ideally, the White Sox could plug Nate Jones back in, but he’s down with a muscle strain in his arm. The hope is that he’ll return in 10-14 days, so he’s probably worth picking up in leagues in which he was dropped. If Jones has a setback, rookie Jace Fry would have to be in the mix to closer. Juan Minaya, who did decent work in the ninth last year, has walked 17 in 18 innings this year. Soria will probably wind up as a setup man elsewhere.
Cincinnati: Raisel Iglesias - If the Reds’ recent play gives them reason to think they’re closer to contention than they felt they were a few months ago, they’ll be more inclined to hold on to Iglesias, who is under control for three more years. Still, given his injury history and the volatility of relievers, a trade would make a lot of sense, especially since he’d probably command the biggest return of any closer moved. A trade would make Jared Hughes the short-term favorite for saves in Cincy. David Hernandez, a strong trade candidate himself, would potentially factor in, too.
Colorado: Wade Davis - The Rockies are going to try to hang in the race, but if they find themselves in a skid prior to July 31, getting out from under Davis’s contract would become more palatable. He’s been rather average in amassing his 25 saves this year, posting a 4.04 ERA, and he’s owed $36 million over the next two years. Adam Ottavino could close in his place, though if the Rockies decide to trade Davis, they might as well see what they can get for Ottavino, too (they’d get substantially more).
Detroit: Shane Greene - The Tigers have their fingers crossed that Greene’s shoulder injury was a short-term problem and that he’s ready to make himself attractive to contenders again. He should get the closer’s gig back for a spell, but the Tigers’ wish is to trade him and let Joe Jimenez close in the second half.
Houston: Ken Giles - Giles seems to have worn out his welcome in Houston after his latest tantrum got him sent to Triple-A this week. If he’s up for grabs, he’d be attractive to contenders and rebuilders alike. Wouldn’t a Britton-for-Giles deal make sense for both sides?
Miami: Kyle Barraclough, Brad Ziegler, Drew Steckenrider - The Marlins’ top three relievers from this year are all up for grabs. The same goes for lefty Adam Conley, who has displayed impressive stuff since moving to the pen. It’s unlikely that the Marlins will move everyone, but it’s not a bad idea to pick up Steckenrider in fantasy leagues in case he stays and Barraclough goes.
Minnesota: Fernando Rodney - Rodney has had a nice year at age 41, but he wouldn’t seem to be a real upgrade for a contender in a closer’s role and his track record in a setup role is problematic. I expect that he’ll stay. If not, then Trevor Hildenberger would pretty much have to be the closer, what with Addison Reed ineffective and now injured.
New York NL: Jeurys Familia - Familia hasn’t gotten any good attention of late because of what’s going on with the Mets, but he has a 3.03 ERA and a 40/14 K/BB ratio with just one homer allowed in 38 2/3 innings. That’s plenty good enough to help some contenders and even close for a few. While Britton and Brad Hand might be better fits for the postseason locks, I can see Familia finishing the year as a closer for the Diamondbacks or Angels. The Mets would likely be left with Robert Gsellman as the favorite for saves if Familia goes. Seth Lugo would probably get some longer save opportunities, and Anthony Swarzak would enter the mix if he started to perform better.
San Diego: Brad Hand - Hopes that Hand could be free of trade rumors after signing a three-year deal this spring have vanished, as the Padres still seem plenty willing to cash him in if the right offer comes along. The price tag has been sky high for over a year now, so the Padres will have to back off some to get a deal done. Kirby Yates would be their fallback in the ninth, but he’s a strong candidate to be traded, too. Phil Maton is a sleeper here.
Tampa Bay: Sergio Romo - The Rays are sellers, but I’m guessing they don’t want to bottom out after a nice first half. Considering that Romo is no longer all that effective enough against right-handers to command a substantial return, I think he’ll stay put. If I’m wrong, then Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo and maybe Ryne Stanek would be candidates to close. Unfortunately, Roe probably won’t be back for a month after knee surgery. Alvarado would be my preferred option anyway.
Texas: Keone Kela - Contenders looking beyond a 2018 fix will be interested in the 25-year-old Kela, who has 22 saves and a 2.54 FIP for the Rangers, but the inflated price tag means it will make a lot more sense to just go get a Soria. I think the most likely scenario for a deal here is that he’s a sweetener to induce another team to pick up a significant portion of Shin-Soo Choo’s contract. But he probably stays and continues to close. If not, Alex Claudio could get his old job back. Jake Diekman is an alternative, but he’s the Rangers reliever most likely to be traded. Jose Leclerc has been terrific, but the Rangers won’t want to drive up his future salaries by having him close now.
Toronto: Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera and everyone else - The Jays are prepared to welcome Osuna back Aug. 5 after he completes his 75-game domestic violence suspension, though his court case could still factor into his status for the final two months. Maybe things change before July 31, but as is, it doesn’t sound like there’s any real interest around the league in trying to trade for Osuna before he returns. Tepera, currently on the shelf with elbow inflammation, could return right after the All-Star break and regain the closer’s role temporarily, but if he shows he’s healthy, he’s a strong candidate to be traded.
The Closers - Acquirers (listed by likelihood of picking up a replacement closer)
Philadelphia: The Phillies have been increasingly reliant on 23-year-old Seranthony Dominguez in save chances with no ill effects to date. Still, they’d certainly prefer to have more flexibility in how they use their rookie reliever and acquiring an experienced closer would help a bunch. Given the number of options available, I think they come away with one and put Dominguez back into more of an Andrew Miller role.
Houston: The Astros should be just fine with Hector Rondon leading a still deep and balanced bullpen, but why settle for fine? Hand would look really good here. Let him close initially and then play matchups when the games matter in October. The same goes for Britton, though that requires dealing with the Orioles again, and last time they tried for Britton, they had the rug pulled out from under them.
St. Louis: The Cardinals have to weigh a late-inning bullpen option versus the need for a starting pitcher or another middle-of-the-lineup bat. They’re not necessarily limited to addressing just one of those issues, but the bullpen doesn’t seem like the biggest priority.
Arizona: This team is in the same boat. Brad Boxberger doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of opponents, but he’s been fine and Archie Bradley is still doing a smashing job in a setup role. The Diamondbacks could pounce if a closer falls into their laps -- why not get Familia is the cost is simply a B prospect? -- but it’s not their top need.
Atlanta: A healthy Arodys Vizcaino is a fine closer, and the Braves have a couple of nice fallbacks in Dan Winkler and A.J. Minter in case Vizcaino goes down again. So, there isn’t a big need here. If the price is right, though, it wouldn’t hurt to add.
Los Angeles AL: The Garrett Richards injury might be the nail in the coffin for the 2018 Angels, and at this point, it’d be a mistake to give up much of the future to try for bullpen reinforcements. Still, if they want to show Mike Trout that they’re still trying, they could get a Rodney or someone for cheap.
San Francisco: Because they’re straddling the luxury tax line, it seems really unlikely that the Giants will be able to add a closer. Their bullpen has been just fine anyway, even if things haven’t gone exactly as anyone expected.
Cleveland: The Indians will add help, but it’s doubtful that they’ll supplant Allen in the ninth, even though Tuesday’s meltdown took his ERA all of the way up to 4.66. It’s the seventh inning they’ll be looking to address.