Every year, late-July brings a flurry of movement among teams at the MLB trade deadline. With added wild card spots and TV revenue through the roof, it feels like the league has a bigger divide than ever between contending teams and tanking teams, allowing the deadline to function nearly like a relegation system in soccer: a few smaller teams (Mariners, Royals, Reds) send their best players to the big boys (Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) who in turn send their younger, less proven players back.
However, while this year looks like it will eventually be more of the same, so far the trade deadline has been – well – dead.
July 31 is the official trade deadline and as of this writing, very few trades have been made. So many teams are caught in that dangerous middle area, where they aren’t quite contending but they aren’t totally out of it either, making it hard for them to commit to either being buyers or sellers.
As such, the few teams that are selling have their asking price at sky-high levels, because they know the market is scarce at the moment.
The contending teams are content to wait and see if more teams decide to sell, which should saturate the market and allow some deals to get done.
So for now, we wait.
Should the market finally get going, here are the five players who could get dealt before the MLB trade deadline who will have the biggest impact for their new team down the stretch:
Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are on a nice 9-1 stretch right now, and at 52-50 they do have an outside chance at winning one of the two wildcard spots in the National League.
However, most experts predict they’ll sell at the trade deadline in order to help shore up their depleted farm system.
If they do that, longtime left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner could find himself pitching in a new uniform for the first time in his big league career.
Bumgarner, 29, is 5-7 with a 3.66 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a 9.09 K/9 on the season. He has been one of the most reliable starting pitchers in the entire league over the last decade and is known for his postseason heroics – a fact that will no doubt add to his price tag if the Giants make him available.
Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman appears on this list despite not being a free agent at the end of the season, a rarity in today’s “rental” era.
However, the Blue Jays have been known to be shopping the fiery 28-year-old, and it makes sense to deal him while he is pitching as well as he is.
Stroman is boasting a 3.06 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and a 7.11 K/9 despite a disappointing 6-10 record. Considering how bad he was in 2018 (5.54 ERA in 19 starts) the Blue Jays are likely trying to deal him now in case he struggles again next season and ends up worthless on the trade market.
As such, his value should be pretty high heading into late-July.
Matthew Boyd, LHP, Detroit Tigers
Boyd will be one of the most attractive arms on the market, not just because of how strong of a season he is having, but because he is under team control through 2023.
That also gives the Tigers less motivation to deal their star left-hander, which means any trade that does occur with Boyd will net them a very high-profile prospect, or two.
Boyd is currently 6-8 with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. His 12.00 K/9 is absolutely elite, and his 3.24 SIERA and 3.57 FIP indicate he is pitching much better than his 4.07 ERA shows. That’s because Detroit’s defense is awful.
A move to a better offensive and defensive team would make Boyd an absolute star in the second half, and would net the Tigers a ton of young players to build around in the future.
Nicholas Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers
The second Tigers player to crack this list, right fielder Nicholas Castellanos is a fairly obvious MLB trade deadline candidate after repeated efforts to sign him to an extension have fallen flat.
The 27-year-old outfielder is having a nice season, slashing .285/.342/.483 with 11 home runs and two stolen bases. He’s walking at a 7.5% rate and striking out at a 21.2% rate, both the best marks of his career.
While his outfield defense still leaves plenty to be desired, Castellanos is arguably the best rental bat available on the market. He’d be a great fit for an AL team who needs someone to serve as a DH and platoon outfielder and could go to an NL team as well – although his defense will likely give NL teams hesitation in dealing for him.
Expect the Tigers to be aggressive in pursuing top of the line prospects in return for Castellanos, although they’ll need to move him or else risk losing him for next to nothing – so at the end of the day they’ll end up taking whatever the market dictates.
Will Smith, LHP, San Francisco Giants
As stated above, Smith is only going to be available if San Francisco decides to cash it in – which is becoming less likely with their recent run of success.
However, if they do, the fresh prince would be one of the hottest commodities on the trade market. I mean, what’s not to love? Smith is a dominant left-handed closer, in his prime, and is on a very affordable one-year contract.
Teams would be able to plug him into their late-inning situation right away, would only have to pay him about $2 million dollars, and could let him walk in free agency after he helps them lock up a potential playoff victory.
Players like this historically have commanded ridiculous amounts of prospects, including the Andrew Miller trade (Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier went from the Indians to the Yankees) and the Aroldis Chapman trade (Gleyber Torres to the Yankees from the Cubs).
Smith is going to command a big pot of prospects from whichever team can convince San Francisco to pack it in and deal away their two star left-handers.
The movement at the MLB trade deadline may turn a contender into a World Series champion.