We have reached July, which means that the MLB trade deadline is right around the corner. There are several teams still trying to determine whether they will be sellers or not, but for the most part, there is an idea of whom might be on the move. The reason for that is some star players will be free agents in either 2018 or 2019. Combined, the the next two Winter Meetings will be very, very interesting with all of the names headlining such as Andrew McCutchen (2019), Jake Arrieta (2018), Adam Jones (2019), etc.
Over the years, we have seen some big splashes via free agency and trade in the offseason. Most notably was Chris Sale being dealt from the White Sox to the Red Sox for top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, and two other prospects. As of now, Sale is playing incredible dived ends for the Red Sox, as he is sporting a 11-3 record, with a 2.61 ERA, and is undoubtedly leading the race for the American League Cy Young.
While there are those who make their organization looks like geniuses by giving them big contracts, there are those who do the complete opposite. There have been a plethora of awful contracts given out in the past decade, and Ryan Howard’s contract extension comes to mind. At 30 years old, Howard was given a 5 year, $125 million contract by the Phillies. Now, Howard was one of the most feared sluggers in the game at the time of his extension, but his production took a complete nose dive afterwards. After tearing his Achilles in the 2011 NLDS, he was never the same. Safe to say his career is over after being released by the Atlanta Braves earlier this year.
What is a given is that we see some good and bad contracts, along with some blockbuster trades but who will be moved is the bigger question. Here are the 15 players that will change teams this year (via free agency or trade).
15. Hunter Pence
Two time champion Hunter Pence is one of those guys any team would love to have. A guy who brings fire and energy to a clubhouse, as 2012 was a perfect example of his fiery leadership. Being backed up against the wall in the NLCS, Pence was seen giving an intense pep talk to his teammates before Game 5, and fueled them to make a comeback from 3-1 to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, and eventually defeat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Fast forward to now, Pence is 34, but still a solid player. Hamstring issues have kept him out a handful of games, but when healthy, he delivers. With the Giants struggling as much as they are, a retool of the roster may have to be in order, and unloading Pence should be a priority by the deadline or in the offseason.
14. Yonder Alonso
Yonder Alonso was once a top prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization. He seemed to be untouchable, but Joey Votto happened, and he’s pretty good. He was dealt to the Padres, and was once was planned to start in front of Anthony Rizzo as both were in the organization and both were blooming, Rizzo was traded to the Cubs, which left first base all to Yonder. He had a sub par tenure with San Diego, and it led to him getting traded to the Athletics in the offseason of 2015. His 2016 campaign was not good, but has had a career resurgence in 2017. Yonder is batting a .281, 17 home runs, and 38 RBI’s, and will be the only Athletic at the All Star game. With the A’s clearly in the rebuilding stage, Alonso will most likely not return next season, which is the right move going forward.
13. Sonny Gray
From one Oakland Athletic to another, Sonny Gray can be a very attractive player at the trade deadline. Only 27 years old, Gray is one of the more underrated pitchers in the game. His 2017 statistics may not back up that claim, but his stuff is pure filth. A change of scenery may do him well since as mentioned before, the Athletics will not be competing at all. Despite Gray being young and the A’s rebuilding, the pieces teams will throw at Gray would be extremely hard to turn down. Gray will be arbitration eligible next offseason, but will be a free agent in 2020. With that said, teams can lean back on the fact there is no big contract involved, and technically have three years left. While he is not in his 2015 form, he will be a good bargain for any contending team.
12. Mark Melancon
Mark Melancon is in a dire situation as a closer in the MLB. He is 32 years of age, and has bounced around to a couple of teams in the past couple of years. Also, according to Fox Sports’s Ken Rosenthal, some unnamed sources have claimed that Melancon has rubbed teammates the wrong one. While everyone from Bruce Bochy, to Mike Krukow, and Melancon himself have denied it, it something to think about, considering it was reported in the first place. As far as on the field is concerned, Melancon is having a down year to say the least. While he is currently serving his second DL stint because of elbow issues, he has a 4.35 ERA on the season, along with 4 blown saves in 15 save opportunities. While it is looking like he is on that downslide that closers seem to can not avoid, a team with bullpen issues will take a look at home.
11. Mike Moustakas
At the point, I have no idea what the Royals are going to do with this team. While they are “contending” from a technical sense, a lot do not know how far this team is actually going to go. If they make the playoffs, the dynamic may change, but being hypothetical, Mike Moustakas may not be back witht the Royals. As of now, Moose is having a very strong year, batting a .270, with 22 home runs, and 49 RBI’s. If he keeps up this strong year, his value will rise, and who knows if the Royals will offer big. If the Royals make a run at the playoffs, unloading Moustakas would seem unlikely, but if not the case, a rebuild will be in order in Kansas City. Some argue that it will start with not bringing back Eric Hosmer, but considering that is their franchise player, that may be unlikely
10. Matt Carpenter
Matt Carpenter came into the season as the anchor of the St. Louis Cardinals lineup. He placed in the three hole, which is was a bad idea considering his career splits outside of the leadoff spot. In his career, he is batting a .294 in the leadoff spot. Outside of that, he does not have an average over .260 (excluding the 6th hole, which he has a .421, but in only 14 games). This season, he is hitting a disappointing .234, with 14 home runs. The average is significantly bad, and the strikeouts have gone up. Carpenter is a world class hitter, but maybe a change of scenery may be in order.
The Cardinals are struggling this year, and may possibly be sellers, so selling Carpenter in the offseason may be the right thing to start a rebuild. Anything can happen, Cardinals can still reach the playoffs, but it does not seem likely at this moment in time.
9. Evan Longoria
Evan Longoria is the final member of the of that 2008 Cinderella Tampa Bay Rays World Series team that fell short to the Philadelphia Phillies. He has been the face of the Rays ever since 2009, and has been a consistent contributor for a team that has been on a rapid downslide over the years. Now, the Rays are overachieving this season. Currently, they hold the second Wild Card spot, and who knows how long they can maintain their success this season. If things go wrong, a rebuild should happen, and it must start with the face of the franchise. Longoria is 31 years old, which means he is entering the twilight of his career. I am sure he would want to be traded to a contender, and win the elusive first championship. While he is not putting up typical LonGo numbers, he can contribute to any team he will go to next.
8. J.D Martinez
The Tigers have so much talent, they just have not put it together at all this season. It has been pretty ugly to say the least. One of the few bright spots, has been for some time now is J.D Martinez. If I were putting together a list of most underrated players, J.D would crack my top 5. This season, he is hitting a .307, 14 home runs, and 31 RBI’s. Even more impressing, he has been the best hitter on a team that has one of the best of all time in Miguel Cabrera. Literally, all throughout his tenure with the Tigers, he has hit. He is a free agent at this season’s end, and you know he will be looking for big money, and rightly so. Tigers must rebuild, and there is absolutely no way the Tigers can retain Martinez even if they tried.
7. Ryan Braun
It has taken Ryan Braun a long time to revive his image after the HGH debacle. Braun was at the centerfold of criticism in 2013 after lying on a collector about the distribution of HGH, putting a bad name of the collector. Ever since then, Braun has responded well to the critics, and has performed very well. He has had an injury riddled season so far, only batting a .262, with 9 home runs, and 21 RBIs. When healthy, he can flat out hit. The Brewers are currently leading the NL Central, and it is an absolute mystery whether they will maintain that lead, but I still expect Braun to be on the move in the offseason. Not because Braun is a bad player, but simply the Brewers need to get younger. Brewers are clearly trending upwards, but I just can not see Braun in their future plans.
6. Todd Frazier
The White Sox are rebuilding, clearly, so they will most likely be unloading veterans. Third basemen Todd Frazier has to be on top of that list. His season numbers are what you expect from Frazier, he is batting a .214, with 15 home runs. His batting average will scare a lot of teams away, but the pop he brings is irresistible. Sluggers who will either hit a home run or strikeout will always be attractive to teams, just ask Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn. Frazier is in the last year of his contract, and despite his low batting average, he will draw a lot of attention at the start of the Winter Meetings. Do not forget, Frazier did hit 40 home runs a year ago, and do not be surprised if he touches 40 again this season.
5. Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez, for years, has been known as one of the best sluggers in the game. Known for one of the sweetest swings in the majors, Gonzalez consistently has put up numbers in Colorado for the past eight years. This year, he has been hit with injuries, which has halted his impact on this team. In his absence, the Rockies have held it down, as they are in the drivers seat in the Wild Card spot heading towards the all star break. However, Gonzalez is 31, and in the final year of his contract. Injuries have been coming around for him, so that may be the deciding factor. Rockies may not overpay for an aging slugger, so they might just let someone else do so. When healthy, Carlos Gonzalez is a superstar, but the key for him is strictly staying healthy.
4. Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander is one year removed from finishing second in the Cy Young race. Fast forward to now, he is nowhere near in contention. He has something common with the Tigers, because they are not in contention for anything at this moment in time. As I mentioned before, the Tigers need to rebuild, and getting rid one of the core guys will get it going. Verlander is in the midst of a 10 year contract, signed back in 2010. He is scheduled to be a free agent in 2019, so unloading him and the big contract in the offseason should be a major priority for the rebuilding Tigers. His numbers this season so far have been subpar, as he sporting a 4-4 record, with a 4.96 ERA. Despite that, he will be able to help any team due to veteran presence.
3. Jake Arrieta
Jake Arrieta will be remembered for the dominant stretch he had in 2015 and 2016. He completely revived his career after being below average in his time with the Baltimore Orioles. Arrieta took the baseball world by storm, winning 22 and 18 games in 2015 and 2016 respectively (won Cy Young in 2015). The Cubs and Arrieta discussed an extension before the season, and it did not go through. Most likely, Arrieta wants to stay a Cub under a big contract, but he is doing himself no favors. His stuff has been flat this year, as his record is 8-6, with an uncharacteristic 4.33 ERA. A major second half push can convince the Cubs to bring Arrieta back, but it is not looking likely at this moment in time.
2. Miguel Cabrera
When you look up the term “world class hitter”, you will see a picture of that man above. Miguel Cabrera will ultimately go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time. The former Triple Crown winner has been a mainstay in the Detroit Tigers organization since 2008, but that may change with the inevitable rebuild coming soon. His contract will be pretty hard to move, but I am sure there will be a team willing to take it.
His career is slowly declining due to the undefeated father time, but with his resume, getting the chance to get Cabrera would be pretty hard to turn down. The Red Sox always love to make a splash, so perhaps they take a chance on the aging slugger.
1. Andrew McCutchen
It seems like Andrew McCutchen was named National League MVP so long ago, but it was only in 2013. McCutchen looked like he was heading towards being a perennial MVP candidate every year, but that has not been the case. McCutchen was voted in the top five of the MVP in both of the next two years, but 2016 was a down year for the former MVP. The trade rumors were ringing in the offseason for McCutchen, but nothing to came into fruition. With the Pirates most likely not contending this year, they may go down the rebuilding stage.
With McCutchen in the last year of his contract, given his resume, he will be getting paid big time, and Pittsburgh may not be in position to give McCutchen what he wants.
Possible landing spots: Phillies, Rangers
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