Let's be honest up front: Many of the big, blockbuster things fans want to see at this Trade Deadline aren't going to happen. Not with so many teams in the postseason race. Not with so few days left in the 2020 season. Not with so little real-time information about organizational prospects. And not with so little spare cash laying around.
But fear not, friends: Trades will happen between now and the close of business on Monday. Here are five trade proposals that would make sense for all involved in these conditions, even if they probably won't happen.
1) Royals left-hander Danny Duffy and right-handers Trevor Rosenthal and Josh Staumont to the Yankees for third baseman Miguel Andújar and right-hander Nick Nelson.
Given the unusual circumstances, some teams in the playoff mix might not have the inclination or finances to make the kind of Deadline push they might have in more ordinary times. But because of the inter-organizational expectations, that rationale would not necessarily apply to the Yankees, who will be looking for ways to meaningfully impact a pitching staff dealing with season-ending injuries to Luis Severino and Tommy Kahnle.
Duffy is off to a solid start in 2020 (116 ERA+, 0.99 WHIP), rates above-average in Statcast's expected outcomes (based on quality of contact) and is owed $15.5 million in the final year of his contract in 2021. The Yankees can absorb that salary with Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton both entering free agency at year's end. And they have a working history with Rosenthal, who they picked up off the scrap heap last summer when he was dealing with monumental control issues and tried to re-sign this winter. While Rosenthal's big 2020 turnaround has made him one of the most highly prized relievers in this market, Staumont is the key piece here, given that he's under control through 2025, has an average fastball velocity of 98.5 mph and is striking out 46.9% of batters faced.
Position players whose value primarily resides in their bat have lost polish in the trade market, and Andújar's struggles in a small sample in 2020 haven't helped his stock. But with the rebuilding Royals, he has the potential to be a genuine building block, while Nelson, the Yankees' No. 17 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is another controllable asset who can also contribute at the big league level immediately. And one thing we have to understand about this particular Deadline (and the upcoming winter) is that moving the kind of money Duffy makes is no small thing.
Oh, OK, I guess we could say a little more -- like that Cobb has seemingly righted himself (3.73 ERA, 122 ERA+ through six starts) after last year's injury issues, and his contract is no longer the dead weight it once appeared to be. That contract guarantees him $15 million for 2021, and the Orioles, despite the over-their-skis start to the season, are expected to try to move what's left of that deal at this Deadline.
I am absolutely positive Braves fans would love to see a sexier name come aboard and help a rotation battered by injuries and other struggles this season. But this is just not a Deadline ripe with sexy names. Cobb's contract can essentially assume most of the money freed up when Cole Hamels (who was originally signed for one year, $18 million) reaches free agency. And his ability to change speeds and eye levels could make him an October weapon (as we saw in the 2013 AL Wild Card Game).
In this deal, the Orioles move a nice chunk of change (again, no small thing in these conditions) and get back at least five full seasons of control of Ynoa, the Braves' No. 11 prospect who has made a handful of big league appearances the past two years.
3) Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger to Angels for outfielders Brandon Marsh and Brian Goodwin.
The potential fallout from Clevinger and Zach Plesac's breach of protocol will be one of the most fascinating subplots of this Trade Deadline. Obviously, the Tribe doesn't have to deal either guy, but their skills are currently underutilized at the club's alternate training site due to the discord they created in the big league clubhouse. Clevinger's violation was especially egregious, as he didn't immediately confess to his mates at a team meeting after Plesac's breach became public.
If the Indians ultimately feel they can't bring Clevinger (who won't be a free agent until after 2022, at the earliest) back and maintain harmony, sending him back to the Angels' organization that drafted him and is constantly searching for starting stability makes a lot of sense. After all, the Halos are deep in the area where Cleveland is sorely lacking -- the outfield. The 29-year-old left-handed-hitting Goodwin gives the Tribe an instant boost in the strong side of a platoon in left field, but the key to the deal is Marsh, the Angels' No. 2 prospect behind the recently promoted Jo Adell. Though Marsh doesn't necessarily have Adell's upside, Marsh has a plus bat, speed and arm and would likely be playing in the bigs right now for a lot of other clubs, the Indians included.
4) D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray to the White Sox for right-hander Codi Heuer.
Ray is a lefty with a tantalizing fastball that features elite spin. But … he's walking nearly a batter per inning (a Major League-high 25 free passes in 27 innings) and has been battered to the tune of a 1.005 OPS against and 8.33 ERA. He's a pending free agent, and things would have to improve dramatically for the D-backs to justify extending him a qualifying offer at season's end. They might be better served to try to get something for Ray now, and he certainly looks like a change-of-scenery candidate.
The White Sox have been battered by injuries to Aaron Bummer, Carlos Rodón and Reynaldo López but are very much in the race. They're not in a great position to take on future salary commitments, so a rental like Ray might make sense. They could employ him in either a rotation or bullpen role, with the hope that pitching coach Don Cooper can sort him out.
Chicago has a few interesting young arms who have contributed in the bullpen this year, including Heuer, Zack Burdi, Ian Hamilton and Matt Foster. Any of them might function as a trade piece in a move like this, as there is immediate opportunity in the bullpen for an Arizona team that's still alive in the National League race.
5) Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez to the Rays for left-handers Shane McClanahan and Ben Brecht and right-hander Paul Campbell.
With no Minor League season (and no scouts at alternate training sites), this is a weird environment in which to make a prospect-oriented deal. But Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom obviously knows the Rays' system intimately, which would help get this intra-division trade off the ground. The Red Sox are a clear seller that should be open to any deal that supports a system especially light on upper-level pitching help, and, in Vazquez, they have an especially valuable trade chip, given the dearth of catcher production across the bigs. This deal gets them what they need most -- controllable arms. McClanahan, the Rays' No. 7 prospect, is the only one of the three at the Rays' alternate training site, but Brecht and Campbell are shown here as representative samples of the kind of arms that could be included as players to be named later. There are plenty other names in the Tampa Bay system where those came from.
Whatever the exact concoction, the Rays have one of the deepest systems in baseball, and, with a legit opportunity to dethrone the Yankees in the American League East (and to make noise in a reformatted postseason), there is no time like the present to put it to use as trade capital. Vázquez is not only an excellent defender and the rare catcher who can legitimately produce at the plate, but he's on a reasonable contract (he'll make $6.25 million next season, with a $7 million team option for 2022). He's a clear upgrade over Mike Zunino.