As the calendar turns to July, it means the Major League Baseball hot stove will start to warm up. We are approaching the halfway mark in the baseball season, where teams are starting to get a better sense of whether they will be acting as buyers or sellers at this year’s July 31st trade deadline. Even though the trade deadline is still a couple of weeks away, there have been no shortage of speculation about which star players from the struggling teams will be traded. This year, there seems to be a clear distinction between the teams that are contenders and the teams that are not. This means there look like there will be many more teams that are sellers than in previous years.
Even if teams opt not to improve their roster, either for the current season or for the long-term, they will have more opportunities to do this this off-season. This year’s free agency class is shaping up to be one of the most impressive in recent memory. Stars such as Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Brian Dozier, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, and Dallas Keuchel are just a few of the major free agents this offseason. With the talented free agents, there will undoubtedly be many opportunities for teams to pursue significant upgrades to their roster.
In this article, we will be taking a look at ten potential blockbuster trades that might happen by this year’s trade deadline. We will also be taking a look at the upcoming MLB offseason and previewing ten major signings that might actually take place.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been searching for a shortstop ever since they lost Corey Seager to a season-ending injury. Since that time, they have been filling his spot with a rotation of infielders.
The Dodgers have gotten by pretty well, but it is no secret that they would be much better off with a regular shortstop.
If the Dodgers are serious about making a deep playoff run once again this season, they should pursue Manny Machado. The Baltimore Orioles would likely want to trade their superstar before they risk losing him for nothing when he enters free agency this year.
As recently as this past off-season, the general consensus seemed to be that this would be the last year of Bryce Harper in Washington. Harper was expected to seek a major payday and go to the highest bidder in free agency. Unless Harper turns his season around and has a monster second half, his odds at a huge payday are diminishing. Harper chose a bad time to have a pretty poor season, which might help Washington re-sign him. It could make sense for Harper to re-sign with Washington on a short-term deal with an opt-out in a year or two for the young slugger to improve his value before finally pursuing his big contract.
Zach Britton was an oft-mentioned trade candidate last summer but ended up staying put. Since then, injuries have significantly affected his trade value and the Orioles likely won’t receive a whole lot in return for the soon to be free agent closer. This is good news for a team like the Los Angeles Angels, who don’t have a great farm system but are in search of a closer. They are in the thick of a wildcard race and could use a proven closer to help them make a playoff push in the second half of the season. Assuming Britton is healthy, he could be just what the Angels need.
Manny Machado looks like he will be the top free agent this offseason, considering Bryce Harper’s struggles. There will be no shortage of teams interested in signing him, but whichever team lands Machado will be paying a very hefty price. That limits the serious teams somewhat, but the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers will inevitably be threats to sign him. However, there is a good chance Machado will end up signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. They have a good, young team who could use a boost at third base or shortstop and they also have the payroll room to give Machado the big contract he seeks.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been at or near the top of the National League Central standings, which has been a surprise to many. The Brewers have a pretty solid offense, a good defense, and a fairly strong bullpen. The one weakness that could use some improving is their starting rotation.
Now might be the time for the Brewers front office to make the bold move and go out and acquire Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Brewers should have the prospects to get a deal done, and would like have to include top prospect Keston Hiura. However, this bold-win now move would see the Brewers have Archer under control for cheap through 2021.
Dallas Keuchel is one of the top pitchers in baseball when he is healthy and pitching at his best. He has not been pitching too well so far in 2018, but he will likely be searching for a massive payday in free agency. While the Astros will balk at his lofty asking price, there will be a number of other teams who won’t. Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has a history of making bold but risky moves for the right player. Keuchel might end up being that piece that Atlanta needs to really take the next step, as he would be a huge addition to their starting rotation.
Johan Camargo is capably holding down third base for the moment, but there is a general sense that the Atlanta Braves would like to seek an upgrade at third base as they make the push for the playoffs.
The Toronto Blue Jays happen to have a third baseman available in Josh Donaldson, whom Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos knows very well from his time as Toronto’s GM.
The Braves would be willing to offer a prospect or two for Donaldson, including young pitching prospect Mike Soroka who just so happens to be Canadian. That would make for a palatable return for Donaldson, although a lot of it depends on if Donaldson is healthy or not.
While we are on the topic of Josh Donaldson, he will be entering free agency this off-season. As a player in his mid-30s, teams will be wary about giving him a big contract that he will probably be after. The St. Louis Cardinals were known to have been aggressively pursuing the star third baseman last offseason, to no avail. This offseason, the Cardinals will have another chance at finally getting that big impact bat for the middle of their lineup. He may be entering some of his declining years, but there still should not be much doubt that the Cardinals be will receiving an offensive boost with Donaldson playing at the hot corner.
Even though they have struggled, the Cleveland Indians still remain the most likely team to win the weak American League Central division. The Indians have been known to be looking for bullpen help, as their bullpen has been among the worst in the league so far this season. Even with ace reliever Andrew Miller likely to return soon, their bullpen could use additional help. A good target for the Indians would be Miami’s closer Kyle Barraclough. Miami is obviously willing to trade pretty much anyone from their main roster, and the Indians are in need of a late-inning reliever. A bonus for Indians is that he comes with long-term control, which is important since Miller and Allen both hit free agency at the end of the season.
Brian Dozier has been a fairly solid second baseman for the Minnesota Twins and, while they would surely love to re-sign him, there is a good chance he ends up on a different team in free agency. There will be a number of good second baseman available in free agency this offseason, but Dozier might be the best one available. There are not many power-hitting second baseman available, and Dozier certainly provides that. The Los Angeles Angels continue looking for quality hitters to surround Mike Trout, and they have an opening at second base. Even though he will be 31, Dozier is still a quality second baseman who would be a nice pickup for the Angels.
The Washington Nationals desperately are searching for an upgrade at catcher, as the Matt Wieters signing has failed badly. The Nationals continue to get minimal offense from their catchers, so they have tried looking elsewhere. They are unwilling to meet the price for JT Realmuto, so a logical next option very well might be Wilson Ramos who is with Tampa Bay.
Ramos might not be as big of a name as Realmuto, but Ramos has quietly been having a very strong offensive season for the Rays.
There is not much doubt that Ramos would be able to be the Nationals starting catcher right away and provide a significant upgrade over their existing options.
The Houston Astros are one of MLB’s top teams, who boast an impressive starting lineup and a perfectly solid starting rotation. All that seems to be missing is a bona fide closer. The Astros acquired Ken Giles a few seasons ago thinking he could be their closer long-term. That plan seems to have backfired, so the Astros are perusing the trade market for their closer. Regardless of who they may end up acquiring at the deadline (if anyone), the Astros seem like a good bet to sign an impact closer in free agency. Andrew Miller will be the top target for many teams, but Craig Kimbrel is just as good and is already a proven closer.
As we mentioned earlier in the list, the Los Angeles Dodgers would do well to acquire Manny Machado. Another player whom the Dodgers should be pursuing is Cincinnati Reds infielder Scooter Gennett. While he may not move the needle in the same way Machado can, Gennett is a quality infielder who can play many different positions on the field. Given the plethora of injuries the Dodgers have encountered in the past few seasons, this added roster versatility would be highly beneficial to the team. Scooter Gennett wouldn’t cost much to acquire, and he would serve as a safeguard in case another infielder struggles or goes down to injury.
Patrick Corbin is still somewhat underrated, likely because he plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Corbin has quietly been very good and very consistent for the Diamondbacks, and he finds himself about to enter free agency after the season.
He is pitching some very good baseball, and could be in line for a good payday.
The New York Yankees will still be on the lookout for quality pitching to fill the 2nd or 3rd slots in the rotation, and Corbin would be a great fit for the Yankees. Corbin might not be the flashiest free agent signing of the offseason, but he could be a very impactful one for the Yankees.
The 2015 trade of Cole Hamels to Texas from Philadelphia will have come full circle if the Phillies manage to re-acquire their former ace at the trade deadline. The Rangers are looking as if they will be sellers, and the Phillies could be on the lookout for starting pitching as they try to make a push for the playoffs. Hamels should not cost much to acquire given his age and contract status, but the Phillies could be legitimately interested in a reunion with Hamels. After all, the Phillies are well aware of how good Hamels can be in the playoffs for them.
Boston Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski will need to ensure his team has a true closer in 2019. If the Red Sox are going to lose Craig Kimbrel in free agency as we predicted earlier, then they will need a new closer. Andrew Miller could be the top closer on the market and, even at 34, will command a fairly large salary. The Red Sox will probably still be willing to pay Miller what he wants to be their closer. Andrew Miller will also be very familiar pitching in Fenway Park, given the time he has spent in the A.L. East with Baltimore and New York a couple of seasons ago.
The Toronto Blue Jays will most likely be a seller at this year’s deadline and, given the question marks surrounding Josh Donaldson at the moment, J.A. Happ might be their best trade asset. The Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees have been mentioned as two of the primary suitors for J.A. Happ leading up to the deadline.
The Yankees stand a great chance at acquiring Happ because of their deep farm system, but they also know they desperately need a reliable lefty starter to slot in behind Severino in the rotation.
Happ would help solidify the Yankees rotation for the remainder of the season.
Adrian Beltre is a near lock to be in the MLB Hall of Fame, but he is more focused on winning a World Series championship. The veteran is running out of opportunities to do that. This means that Beltre will likely depart the Texas Rangers this off-season in hopes of signing with a team with a true shot at winning it all. Beltre has proven that he can still capably play at third base, which helps widen his market. Even though they have a younger team, the Atlanta Braves could be a logical fit. The Braves have shown in 2018 they have loads of talent and can be a top team again in 2019, especially if the Braves make some other shrewd acquisitions this offseason.
Cincinnati’s biggest trade chip is easily their young closer Raisel Iglesias, who has been a top closer for the past few seasons. Elite closers aren’t much good on a rebuilding team but they can be very impactful on contending teams who need to win close games more often than not. Iglesias would be a significant upgrade over the inconsistent Ken Giles.
Houston has a strong enough farm system to warrant trading for Iglesias, and might be willing to part with some prospects knowing that Iglesias is under a cheap contract through 2020.
Fortifying the back-end of their bullpen will go a long way to helping them pursue a second straight World Series championship.
In the past year, there has been talk of the Los Angeles Dodgers trying to cut costs as a means of reducing their debt as a franchise. All of that will probably go out the window when it comes to retaining their ace, Clayton Kershaw. He is arguably one of the top starters in all of baseball right now, and the Dodgers will not let him walk away easily. Even if Kershaw exercises his opt-out clause, the Dodgers still seem like the favorites to have Kershaw pitching for them on Opening Day 2019. Kershaw has never expressed a desire to explore other options.