The Trade Deadline is still two months away, but hey, Opening Day was almost two months ago, and look how fast that went. July 30 will be here before you know it. And really, it’s never too early for some fun trade speculation.
With this in mind, five MLB.com writers played matchmaker and came up with some not-so-crazy summer swaps that could make this year’s postseason races a little more interesting.
Here are five moves we'd like to see. (General managers, feel free to use these for inspiration.)
Max Scherzer to the Blue Jays
Sure, the Nationals are still in the race in the slow-paced National League East and could have a run in them. And even if not, Washington could decline to move Scherzer, who also has the power to veto any deal. But if the Nats can’t get things going, Scherzer will be coveted. The 36-year-old is in the final year of his contract, and he's back in vintage form after a pandemic-shortened 2020 that was subpar by the standards of a three-time Cy Young Award winner. Through 10 starts, Scherzer owns a 2.27 ERA, while ranking in the 93rd percentile of MLB pitchers in strikeout rate and whiff rate, thanks to his ability to miss bats with five different offerings. (Coincidentally, his worst start came against Toronto, including two Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homers).
Mad Max fits just about anywhere -- including with his hometown Cardinals -- but Toronto would be a particularly appealing destination. The Blue Jays have their hands full in a loaded American League East featuring four contenders, but mediocre pitching is dragging down a dynamic offense that will get even stronger when George Springer returns. Toronto starters aside from lefties Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray own a 5.49 ERA, and it’s worth remembering that Ryu has a checkered injury history. This is a team that could really use an elite right-handed starter, especially to go up against the righty-heavy Yankees. And if the Blue Jays end up in a win-or-go-home AL Wild Card Game? Having Scherzer as an ace in the hole sure would be nice for a franchise looking to make its first World Series trip in 28 years.
-- Andrew Simon
Trevor Story to the Reds
Just imagine this lineup:
Eugenio Suárez, 3B
Joey Votto, 1B
Trevor Story, SS
Jesse Winker, LF
Nick Castellanos, RF
Mike Moustakas, 2B
Nick Senzel, CF
Tucker Barnhart, C
That looks pretty good. If the Reds hang around in the National League Central, don’t be shocked if you see Story manning short at Great American Ball Park down the stretch. Oh, and a nice little bonus for Story would be that the slugger would go from one hitter’s paradise to another, Coors Field to GABP. Something like the lineup above, plus Luis Castillo returning to form (yes, that’s a big “if”) and if (another if) Wade Miley can sustain his early-season success, watch out for Cincinnati.
The Reds have a handful of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects, and they’re not in the Rockies’ division (Colorado has reportedly been reluctant to trade within the division), so there could be a match there come July, assuming the right arm tightness that forced Story from Thursday's game doesn't prove to be a major issue.
-- Manny Randhawa
Nelson Cruz to the A’s
Like a West Coast version of the Rays, the A’s are once again defying preseason projections, recovering from an 0-6 start to take first place in the American League West entering Thursday’s action. The A’s offense has been a middle-of-the-pack outfit all season, however, and Matt Chapman’s struggles at the plate have put the onus on Ramón Laureano and Mark Canha to supply much of the right-handed power in the club’s lineup.
Of the players who are expected to be available, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story is arguably the most ideal target for the A’s, who have gotten -1.0 wins above replacement, per Baseball-Reference, out of starting shortstop Elvis Andrus. But Story could cost more, in terms of prospects, than the A’s want to give up for an impending free agent. Enter the Boomstick. Cruz will celebrate his 41st birthday a month before the Trade Deadline, but he continues to crush baseballs like he has for more than a decade. Cruz, too, is eligible for free agency after 2021, but it would likely cost much less to acquire him than to pry Story from Colorado.
If the Twins don’t get back into the AL Central race, they’ll likely look to move some of their veterans on expiring deals. Cruz is a proven postseason performer with 17 career playoff homers, and he’d be a great fit with an A’s club that is looking to get past the AL Division Series for the first time since 2006, which was so long ago that Cruz was still a rookie.
-- Thomas Harrigan
Joey Gallo to the Yankees
Is it too much to dream of Gallo hitting bombs to the short porch at Yankee Stadium? Just imagine his lefty bat slotted in between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. That's three of the most prodigious sluggers in the game potentially hitting back-to-back-to-back in your lineup. So many monster home runs.
A Gallo-to-the-Yankees trade makes lots of sense from a pure baseball perspective. New York could use that extra big left-handed hitter in a righty-heavy lineup. And the Yanks' outfield depth is thin without Aaron Hicks; Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar haven't hit much at all this season.
Gallo would fit right in with the Yankees, actually. He's a solid defensive outfielder -- probably better than you think -- who's capable of handling either corner or even center if needed, as he did in 2019 (not to mention the corner infield, if really, really needed). Even though he doesn't hit for average, he draws walks and tends to have a strong on-base percentage, on top of all the homers. And his home run power can be a game-changing advantage for a lineup. When you talk about hitters built to slug at Yankee Stadium, Gallo is the archetype.
-- David Adler
Mitch Haniger to the Indians
Cleveland has needed outfield help for a few years now, and with the team a game and a half out of both the division lead and the second Wild Card spot heading into Thursday's action, it seems like a good summer for a move. Indians outfielders have an 82 wRC+, third-lowest in the Majors. Haniger is having a resurgent season now that he’s finally back to full health. He has a 141 wRC+ -- that’s 41% better than league average, and boasts 13 home runs for the rebuilding Mariners.
With the Mariners still working toward the future, a Haniger trade could help them stock up for those next great seasons, and the benefit for Cleveland is clear and immediate. The Indians’ offense was projected to have some question marks, especially after the Francisco Lindor trade, and an outfield upgrade could help keep them contending, as the pitching has already done so far this year.
-- Sarah Langs