The Trade Deadline is still three months away, but as teams begin to establish themselves as contenders, general managers will deploy their scouts to ballparks around the league, looking at potential July acquisitions.
MLB.com polled 25 front-office executives to get their thoughts on the first full month of the 2019 season, and one of the questions asked was, “Who will be the biggest name moved by the Trade Deadline?”
Predictably, the overwhelming choice was Madison Bumgarner, who received 16 votes. In fact, no other player was named more than once, with nine players splitting second-place with a single vote each.
Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants (16 votes)
Bumgarner was the obvious answer for the majority of executives who took part in the poll, which makes sense given San Francisco’s sluggish start and Bumgarner’s expiring contract.
“Seems like a move the Giants have to make given how good he is and where they sit as an organization,” a National League executive said.
“They will probably make it by the Fourth of July,” another NL executive predicted.
A third NL executive theorized that the Giants could try to take the same approach the Yankees took with Aroldis Chapman in 2016, trading Bumgarner to bolster their system, then signing the left-hander back as a free agent after the season.
Bumgarner looked like his old self on Wednesday night against the Dodgers, allowing one run over six innings while striking out eight. In the process, he lowered his ERA to 3.92. One NL decision-maker believes the Giants will have little trouble moving him for a solid return.
“He’ll have action just based on his playoff success and experience,” the exec said, noting Bumgarner’s 8-3 record and 2.11 ERA in 16 postseason appearances (14 starts).
Some executives questioned the wording of the question, noting that the “biggest name” might not be the most impactful player acquired during trade season.
“Bumgarner won’t be the best [player traded], but he could be the most famous,” said a American League executive who picked Oakland’s Blake Treinen.
The Red Sox, Twins, Braves and Cubs seem like potential fits for Bumgarner if he becomes available, but it should be noted that according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Bumgarner has limited no-trade protection that allows him to block trades to eight clubs. The names of those clubs are not known, but that contract clause could make it tougher for San Francisco to move Bumgarner, either giving him the ability to block a trade entirely or use the no-trade provision as leverage for a contract extension.
Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox (1 vote)
Abreu is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season, and given the first baseman’s solid start (.893 OPS, 6 home runs), the White Sox should be able to get something back for the 32-year-old as teams look to add power to their lineup. Some potential fits include the Red Sox, Twins, Astros and Rockies.
Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber, RHPs, Indians (1 vote each)
This poll was conducted the day before Kluber suffered a fractured right forearm, which probably would have changed the overall results of the poll, with Bauer potentially getting more votes, and Kluber none. Why? Well, for starters, an injured pitcher has minimal trade value, and if Kluber does miss extended time, the Indians might not contend as expected, which could motivate them to cash in on Bauer, their top trade chip.
Cleveland did talk to teams about moving both Bauer and Kluber this past offseason, so the idea of the Tribe parting with either of its All-Star starters is not so crazy. If the Twins create some separation in the AL Central by the summer, the Indians could look to move Bauer, who is under club control through the 2020 season (Kluber, for the record, is under control through 2021).
Like Bumgarner, the Red Sox, Twins, Braves and Cubs are potential fits for Bauer, and possibly the Yankees as well depending on how quickly Luis Severino recovers from his lat and elbow injuries. Right now, he’s not expected back until at least July.
Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, OFs, Red Sox (1 vote each)
Two executives tabbed the pair of Red Sox stars as their picks to be traded, citing Boston’s poor start. Of course, Kluber’s injury depletes what was already a fairly shallow pool of playoff contenders in the AL, and Boston’s path back to the playoffs is taking shape. Entering this weekend, the Red Sox are four games under .500, and even if you concede that they may not be able to hang with the Rays and Yankees in the division race, there is not a clear favorite for the second Wild Card spot.
Of the two players mentioned, a Betts trade seems like a far-fetched scenario, as the 2018 AL Most Valuable Player Award winner is the linchpin of the club and under control through 2020. As for Martinez, an NL GM cited the opt-out clause in his contract, which allows the slugger to tear up the final three years and $62.5 million owed to him to become a free agent next fall.
Alex Gordon, OF, Royals (1 vote)
The Royals went 9-20 through the end of April, and while the roster includes talented 20-somethings such as Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler, the 35-year-old Gordon is nearing the twilight of his career. Gordon -- a lifelong Royal and one of few players left from the 2015 World Series team -- is off to a hot start, posting a .939 OPS in 28 games. Moving him to a contender seems like a logical move, given that he’s set to become a free agent after the season.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Angels (1 vote)
The executive that chose Simmons called him a “bigger” name than Bumgarner, and given the 29-year-old’s defensive skills at shortstop, he might be right. Simmons has been consistent at the plate since the start of 2017 (.753 OPS) as he continues to be the best defensive player at his position in the Majors. The Angels are 14-17, and although they’re only five games out of first place in the AL West, the Astros remain heavy favorites in the division, while the surprising Mariners are hoping to challenge for the crown. Unlike rental players, Simmons has another year remaining on his seven-year, $58 million contract; he’s earning $13 million this season and is due $15 million in 2020 before becoming a free agent.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (1 vote)
Syndergaard might not have the same lengthy track record as Bumgarner, but the Mets’ starter has pitched well in the postseason and, despite his subpar start to 2019, is considered by many to be a frontline starter -- as shown in Thursday's 1-0 shutout of the Reds, in which he homered for the only run.
“Bumgarner might be a big name, but I’m looking at somebody who may have actual impact; he hasn’t pitched well since his injury,” said an AL GM who listed Syndergaard as his choice and is bearish on the team’s chance this year. “The Mets aren’t going to win and they’re going to have to rebuild.”
Syndergaard is making $6 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for two more years, making him eligible for free agency following the 2021 campaign. Given the Mets’ huge financial commitments to Robinson Canó, Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Céspedes next season ($79 million total), could the club choose to move Syndergaard for a haul of prospects before he starts making big money in arbitration? Thor had been linked to San Diego in the offseason, and that could be a potential fit again if Padres continue to contend. As noted, he is not a rental, and the Padres might be more willing to part with some of their impressive prospect depth for someone they know they can have for multiple seasons.
Blake Treinen, RHP, A's (1 vote)
He made the AL All-Star team in his first full season with the Athletics in 2018, and although he’s a key piece of Oakland’s roster, the club’s slow start could prompt the front office to become sellers if it continues into the summer.
Treinen is making $6.4 million in 2019, his second arbitration-eligible season. The 30-year-old has one more season of arbitration remaining before becoming a free agent, and given Oakland’s history, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him dealt this summer if the Athletics find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff race. They currently sit in the AL West cellar.