Though it may seem like the season just started, the MLB trade deadline will soon be right around the corner. As usual, teams will use this as an opportunity to add that extra piece that can assist them in getting to the playoffs, or as an excuse to sell off a bunch of unwanted talent. Finally, some teams will sit back and do nothing, letting their current roster lead them to the postseason, or start their rebuilding phase in the offseason.
Typically, there are at least a few high-profile moves made during every MLB trade deadline - more so than in other sports - and this year should be no exception. With the mix of veterans who still have a chance to be productive for a contending team, and young players who could have their upside better utilized, there are plenty of trade pieces floating around in the summer months. Many teams will be vying for their services, and in some cases, be willing to pay a pretty hefty price.
It's been a season that has given us a fair share of surprises in the standings, meaning that some teams who were initially thought to have been buyers may want to stay put with the roster they have, and vice versa. Even so, there's no telling what general manager will pull the trigger on a deal, and ultimately, it isn't uncommon for some deals to come down in the last few hours before the 4 PM deadline on August 1st. These transactions could spark a postseason run for a team in need, or be the start of a rebuild that could eventually lead to one. Basically, the trade deadline is an important date for every team in baseball, regardless of the quality of their season record.
Ranked below are the top 15 bold predictions for the MLB trade deadline.
15 Nationals Will Trade Jonathan Papelbon
Washington predicts to be in some kind of a playoff position late in the year, and will probably want to upgrade at closer. Papelbon is aging, and not in the best possible way, posting a 3.45 ERA and blowing two saves thus far this season. That may be acceptable for the garden variety relief pitcher, but given the turmoil Papelbon has been known to cause with fans and in the locker room, he's working with a handicap in his current situation. He'll have to improve notably in the next few months to save his closing role in the bullpen, otherwise the Nats could be looking to replace him in house, or through a trade for their late season run.
14 Cubs Will Trade For Bullpen Help
Probably the most exploitable spot on a very talented Cubs team this year is their bullpen. They have four relief pitchers with an ERA at or above 4.66, which cannot afford to continue in big-game situations against quality opponents. Only Adam Warren and Hector Rondon can be counted upon to provide stability and consistency from this group, which will need to be upgraded in the middle of the season. Look for Chicago to even possibly give up some young talent in their lineup, such as Addison Russell, to supplement Warren and Rondon. What is merely an inconvenience during the regular season, will become a detriment as the Cubs begin postseason play.
13 Ryan Howard Will Be Traded To An AL Contender
Howard's play this year has been a far cry from his MVP caliber seasons in the not so distant past. In total, he's hitting an abysmal .174, striking out 38 times in 109 at-bats. The one thing he can still do effectively is hit the long ball. He's notched eight home runs thus far, which account for nearly half of his hits. Because of this, he still would have marginal value as a rotational DH and pinch hitter in an American League setting. His play at first base hasn't exactly been up to snuff either, so he's really looking at being just a pure home run threat from here on out in his career. The Phillies could salvage what value he has left by trading him to a contender in the AL to provide power as a last resort.
12 That Will Be The Only Move The Phillies Make
As their surprisingly quality play has made apparent this season, the Phillies are closer than many thought to being a consistently competitive team. Other than unloading aging veteran Ryan Howard, there really isn't much they could trade for that would make sense at this time. Their minor league system is stocked with young talent all over the field, and there's just not anyone that would be worth giving it up for, considering a plan for this talent is currently in place. Count Philadelphia out for many moves this trade season, looking instead to stick with the fruits of their farm system to turn the franchise around. They seem to be on the right track.
11 Yankees Will Try To Sell Big
The Bronx Bombers have little chance at a playoff birth this season, and what makes it worse is that their roster is currently plagued by a bevy of veteran players who are past their prime. While several young players such as pitcher Aroldis Chapman and shortstop Starlin Castro won't be going anywhere this trade deadline, the rest of the roster is mostly expendable in some way, shape or form. While their longtime strategy of waiting for players to hit their prime, and then snag them in free agency worked for years, the Yankees need to be now building for the future. They can make a step toward doing so with a couple of trades that unload old, unwanted talent, and replace it with younger options.
10 Tigers Will Trade Either Justin Verlander Or Miguel Cabrera
Verlander and Cabrera oversaw great success in Detroit for quite some time, but it's clear that in the past several seasons, their productivity, due to age, cannot carry the team deep into the postseason any longer. Still, they're viable trade options for a contending team looking for hitting in Cabrera, or a veteran starter in Verlander. They can add value as supplemental pieces to an already good team at this point in their careers, and the Tigers can likely receive several minor league prospects for them. Waiting another year or two will only diminish their value further, and render a trade at a later date ineffective. Best for Detroit to just unload them now, and get the best possible return.
9 Cardinals Will Buy Low For Wild Card Push
With the Cubs establishing themselves early on as the clear-cut best team in the NL Central, the remaining teams in the division will likely have to set their sights on the Wild Card ranks. One of those teams are the Cardinals, who despite a hit and miss start to the season, will still have enough experience and talent to be competitive for a postseason bid. To do this, they'll want to add some complimentary pieces during trade season, but not try and add a big name just for the sake of doing so. If they can get a versatile bench player, or serviceable relief arm, they'll be fitting the bill for what they need. No need for them to overcompensate.
8 Indians Will Trade Big For Wild Card Push
On the other hand, the Indians will be wanting to add a big name, as they predict to be in the running for a Wild Card spot in the AL. They'll be wanting to add a reliable relief arm, and the aforementioned Jonathan Papelbon would really add to what has been a lot of underwhelming performances in their bullpen this season. There's been some notable positives in the group, such as Joba Chamberlain and Zach McAllister both posting an ERA under 2.00, but the back end of the unit could definitely use some additions. They could also stand to add a big-hitting corner infielder, for which Miguel Cabrera would fit nicely. Expect Cleveland to add a big name to get them over the hump and make a late season run.
7 Dodgers Will Try To Add Starting Pitching Help
Although LA has the elite services of ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw, and a stable starter in Kenta Maeda, the rest of their rotation has been underwhelming in the first half of this season. Expect the Dodgers to try and make a trade to upgrade back end starters Alex Wood and Ross Stripling, both of whom have had more downs than ups this season. The batting order should be sufficient enough to land them a postseason birth all on their own, but in the playoffs, LA will need to see better quality starting pitching or else they'll be facing an early exit against high-end National League opponents.
6 Blue Jays Will Sacrifice Offensive Personnel To Upgrade Pitching
The Jays have a surplus of talented hitters on their roster, and can afford to unload players like shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and centrefielder Kevin Pillar. They could stand to add another power arm or two to their pitching staff, which currently features a lot of decidedly average arms. We know that Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson will be able to provide enough pop in the lineup to keep them in games, but in order to make a run in the competitive AL East, Toronto will be wanting to upgrade in their rotation and bullpen. Look for them to put some effective offensive weapons on the trade block in order to address their middling staff.
5 Red Sox And Orioles Will Stay Put
At the top end of the AL East division, the Red Sox and Orioles predict to be the two teams fighting it out for the division crown in the last third of the season. Both rosters are pretty well stacked, and both teams will likely be avoiding making any trades this deadline season. They've proven early in the season that they already have the necessary pieces to compete at a high level, and go deep into the playoffs. Expect this division race to be neck and neck, down to the wire, eliminating the need for either team to make a significant upgrade late in the year.
4 The Braves Will Sell Big, Trading Freddie Freeman
The Braves have been one of the worst teams in all of baseball in the early half of the season, and such poor play typically warrants a lot of big moves being made. Just recently, the team fired manager Fredi Gonzalez, and looks to be prompting a rebuild for the whole roster. One player that would draw a premium exchange from other teams is first baseman Freddie Freeman. He can hit for both average and power, and is a quality glove in the field. Atlanta will want to invest in young prospects, and putting Freeman on the trade block can allow contending teams to oblige, since they'll be getting guaranteed assistance in the short term. Overall, with the recent changing to the coaching staff, the Braves will probably be one of the busiest teams around the deadline.
3 Astros Will Overrate Their Roster, Not Making A Move
In an event that shocked the baseball world last year, the Astros made a respectable playoff run after being expected to be one of the worst teams in the league. Now, in the early going of 2016, the team is struggling, not seeing the offensive production they would like from their young roster. The play they will probably make around the deadline is to mostly stay put with what they have, and allow their youth in the lineup and the rotation try to turn the season around on their own. Since they had success last year, the front office likely figures that the team is just in a slump, and that additional pieces are not needed. The truth is probably closer to the opposite and last year's success for the Astros will become an anomaly if they don't add several upgrades to their roster.
2 Royals Will Sell Off Young Talent To Compete In Second Half
After a couple of stellar seasons, the Royals have exhibited a middling performance so far in 2016. In contrast to the Astros, I suspect Kansas City to be willing to part with some of their key roster pieces. Shortstop Alcides Escobar is a possibility, as he mixes in decent hitting, and speed with dependability in the field. He may be able to yield a good return for the Royals. There's also Mike Moustakas, he can hit for power, and has age on his side. Putting these players on the block could allow the team to bolster the back end of their bullpen, and pick up some prospects simultaneously. It doesn't look like they'll be catching the White Sox for the division crown, but they could earn a Wild Card spot if their play improves.
1 Angels Will Trade Either Mike Trout Or Albert Pujols
The Angels have been the definition of an enigma, seeming to always underachieve despite having some elite, dangerous hitters in their batting order. Clearly, what they're doing now isn't working, and they would be able to land a stellar haul for Mike Trout, who has proven himself to be one of, if not the best young hitter in the game. While trading a perennial All Star like Trout may seem counterproductive, the Angels need to find a way to upstart some young pitching prospects, in order to rebuild their roster. Trading Pujols may help as well, even though his value has clearly gone down from his prime. Still, the Angels would be able to land several minor league prospects from a contending AL team, which would be a better return than what Pujols has given them in recent years. It's doubtful that both of them are sent packing, but it has to be suspected that one of them will be on the deadline block this summer.