Tuesday’s All-Star Game not only provided a chance to see some of baseball’s biggest stars on the same field but also served as a Trade Deadline preview of sorts.
The Midsummer Classic rosters included a number of players who are expected to drive trade discussions over the next few weeks.
These are the 2021 All-Stars who are most likely to be dealt by the Deadline on July 30.
Kris Bryant, 1B/3B/OF, Cubs
After recording a .445 OPS in June, Bryant has picked up his production again this month, but the Cubs continue to flounder and are expected to be Trade Deadline sellers. Bryant, an impending free agent who will be looking for a megabucks contract this offseason, is among the team’s most obvious trade candidates.
The 29-year-old didn’t have a great showing at the All-Star Game, striking out with two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth and lining out to left field with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the eighth, but that shouldn’t hurt his trade value. The 2016 National League MVP is a third baseman by trade, but he’s increased his versatility this year, which means he could be a fit even for teams that already have the hot corner covered.
Nelson Cruz, DH, Twins
The market for Cruz will be limited to a handful of teams because the slugger doesn’t play the field, and because most American League clubs either already have an everyday DH or aren’t in contention. But Cruz remains an offensive force at age 41, and he’s surging as the Trade Deadline approaches.
The veteran slugger has hit .351/.439/.622 with eight homers, 21 RBIs, 18 walks and only 19 strikeouts in 133 plate appearances since the beginning of June. Minnesota is 15 games out in the AL Central, so Cruz (on an expiring contract) is likely to be available.
Eduardo Escobar, 2B/3B, D-backs
A first-time All-Star in 2021, Escobar doesn’t reach base all that often (career .308 OBP), but he has legitimate pop from both sides of the plate. Since the start of 2017, Escobar has smacked 103 homers, including 20 this year. Escobar is also a solid defender at multiple positions, recording 3 Outs Above Average at second base and 2 OAA at third this season.
In the final season of a three-year, $21 million contract with the D-backs, who have the worst record in the Majors, the 32-year-old will surely be playing elsewhere after July 30.
Adam Frazier, 2B, Pirates
Frazier is under team control through 2022, so the Pirates could hold off on trading him, but it might be in the organization’s best interest to move him while his value is at its peak. Pittsburgh is at the start of what could be a long rebuild, and Frazier will be 30 years old this December.
Frazier was voted as the starting second baseman for the NL, earning his first career All-Star selection. He posted a .330 average, a .397 OBP and an MLB-leading 115 hits, albeit with just four homers, in the first half.
Joey Gallo, OF, Rangers
Few hitters were hotter than Gallo entering the All-Star break. The left-handed slugger had 13 homers with a 1.542 OPS in his final 18 games of the first half, turning what seemed like a disappointing season into his second career All-Star nod. Gallo not only has 24 homers on the season but also leads the Majors with 72 walks, and his 30.8% strikeout rate, while still high, is a personal best.
Gallo is 27 years old and has another year of club control left after this one, so it would likely take a significant haul to get the Rangers to move him now.
Kyle Gibson, RHP, Rangers
Signed to a three-year, $28 million deal with the Rangers that runs through 2022, Gibson is controllable for another season as well, but he’s much more likely than Gallo to be traded. The right-hander is 33 years old, after all, and his value likely will never be higher. Given the lack of premium options among starting pitchers on the trade market, there should be considerable interest in the veteran, whose 2.29 ERA would be a personal best.
Texas may also be influenced by recent Deadline experiences. The team was in a similar situation with Mike Minor in 2019, when the left-hander was in the midst of an All-Star season at age 31 and had another year on his deal. The Rangers ended up trading him at a significantly reduced price tag last year after Minor struggled out of the gate.
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Cubs
At the Trade Deadline last year, it seemed unthinkable that Kimbrel would be a coveted trade target in 2021. The closer’s first 33 appearances with the Cubs across 2019-20 yielded a 7.53 ERA, a 7.53 BB/9 and a 3.45 HR/9. Opponents had a 1.013 OPS against him in that time. However, since the start of last September, Kimbrel has been nearly flawless, posting a 0.64 ERA with a .316 opponents’ OPS and a 67-to-10 K/BB ratio in 39 innings.
Kimbrel has a $16 million team option ($1 million buyout) for 2022. The original terms of his contract stated that the option would vest if Kimbrel finished a combined 110 games over 2020-21, including at least 55 in ‘21, and passed a physical. Even if you assume that those requirements were prorated to account for the shortened 2020 campaign, he’d still need to get to 75 games finished over ‘20-21, and he’s at 40 right now. It seems unlikely that the option will vest, giving his team the chance to cut him loose at the end of this year for $1 million if it so desires. That said, with the way he’s pitching, picking up his $16 million option could be a no-brainer.