If you asked me one year ago who would be the biggest name that might be dealt at the 2019 Trade Deadline, the answer might have been … Mike Trout?
Before Trout signed his 12-year, $430 million extension with the Angels, "What Do They Do With Trout?" was one of the biggest questions in the sport. If they weren’t going to re-sign him, didn’t they owe it to themselves to trade him at the peak of his value?
Which would have been this year, had that contract extension not happened. It would have been the last time a team trading for Trout could get a full season of him, since his contract was set to expire after 2020. The extension obviously made that notion kaput. But had it not happened, the possibility of trading Trout would be all we would have been talking about this month.
Thus, as we approach this year’s Deadline, it’s a fun thought experiment to try to guess who might be the hot names at next year’s Deadline. Thanks to all the extensions signed this past offseason, it’ll be an awkward year for the Trade Deadline -- it’ll be too early in those extensions for any of those players to be on the market, and because those extensions were signed in the first place, there will be fewer star players hitting free agency and thus, fewer logical trade candidates.
All told, the 2021 Deadline could end up being the next crazy one. But who wants to wait that long? Here are some Hail Mary guesses on names we might see at the next Deadline.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Indians
Bauer is one of the big names at this year’s Deadline, but whether or not the Indians trade him, he’ll likely be on the market next year as well. He’ll be a free agent after next season -- one of the reasons he’s on the block in 2019 -- so if the Indians don’t trade him now, they will likely do it at some point in the next year, possibly this offseason.
But even the team that hypothetically gets him might be want to put him on the market again in 2020. After all, it’s not like Bauer hasn’t been known to, uh, wear out his welcome in some circles, and they might be looking to flip Bauer to a team willing to dream on him just like the Indians are. This would probably all be just fine for Bauer, of course: He has said he’d like to just sign one-year contracts throughout his career anyway. This could just be practice!
Edwin Díaz, RHP, Mets
The Mets are going to try to contend again in 2020, no matter what trades they pull off this year, and his occasional struggles this season aside, Diaz is key to any 2020 hopes of contention. But these are the Mets; those hopes of contention don’t always pan out. If that happens, expect Diaz to be back on the market again.
He’ll still have two more years of team control, which would make him even more attractive to any team desperate for bullpen help in July (which is to say, every team), and the Mets may be looking to kickstart another rebuild by shipping out an extraneous top-tier closer. If that strategy sounds familiar … it’s what the Mariners did in trading Diaz to the Mets in the first place.
Zack Greinke, RHP, D-backs
Greinke, of course, could be shipped out in the next week if Arizona gets particularly aggressive about building for their future; he’s pitching as well as he has in years. But there’s a good argument to be made that the D-backs should wait until next year.
First off, they’re still hanging around the Wild Card chase. But the case to wait has practical benefits as well.
Right now, the D-backs likely would have to eat some of the $70 million they’re paying him in order to trade him, because he has two years left on his deal after this one. But next year, with just one year and two months left on his deal? If Greinke’s pitching like he is now, they might just take on all of that for his services … and still give up talent in the process.
Like Bauer, Greinke could get dealt this week and still be on the market again a year from now.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
He could end up being traded this offseason as well, considering the Indians and Lindor seem to have made little progress on a long-term contract extension and that he’ll have two full years to play for any team that might want to trade for him. (And thus should bring in a massive haul.) But if the Indians want to wait until the Deadline, and feel assured that he truly will never sign an extension, next July will be the time to maximize his value, similar to what might have happened with Trout this summer.
There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t be better with Lindor on it, and whoever gets him will have him for two full playoff chases. And as we saw with some of 2019’s trades (like with Paul Goldschmidt), making a trade for a star really is an excellent way to have an in on signing an extension. It’s possible every conversation next July is about Lindor (if he’s not traded before then.)
Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
Two years after the PED suspension that cast a cloud over his career, Marte has recovered to become, essentially, the same player he has been since he came up in 2012: An above-average hitter who can play all three outfield positions and has both power and speed. He hasn’t turned out to be a superstar, but what he has become is extremely useful. He’ll also have two very reasonable team options for both 2020 and 2021, which could bring back value to the Pirates. The Pirates don’t have a ton of players to ship out to restock their farm system. Marte is one.
Blake Treinen, RHP, A’s
This might be the most no-brainer name on this list. The A’s never hang on to closers longer than they have to, even great ones like Treinen, and every team needs bullpen help at the Deadline. The A’s could potentially be contending next July and might want to hang on to him, but if there’s any doubt, the impending free agent would be on his way out of town. He may be gone as soon as this offseason, though his down year this season will hurt his value this winter, but he’ll have time to rebuild it a year from now.