Welcome to July!
We are officially in trade season, though it technically kicked off earlier this week when the Blue Jays acquired Corey Dickerson and Adam Cimber from the Marlins for Joe Panik and Andrew McInvale.
That deal should be just the tip of the iceberg, as contenders around the league will try to supplement their rosters for the stretch run while others look to add young talent for 2022 and beyond.
As always, you can send your trade-related questions to me on Twitter @feinsand.
The Trade Deadline is four weeks from Friday. Let’s do this.
For those who may have missed it, Steinbrenner met the media on Thursday and expressed his dissatisfaction with the 2021 edition of his club, using words like “aggravated,” “frustrated” and “angry” to describe that displeasure.
Steinbrenner also said he would “absolutely consider” blowing by the CBT threshold, which could give general manager Brian Cashman some financial wiggle room to work with leading up to the Deadline.
To me, those words pretty much end any speculation about the Yankees being sellers this month, though I suppose a bad July could always change things.
Could the Yankees make a big move? If they’re able to close the gap between themselves and the teams ahead of them in the AL East, anything is possible.
Forget Scherzer, though; the Nationals are above .500 and threatening to move past the first-place Mets any day now. Story seems like a more realistic option, as the Rockies aren’t going anywhere, and Story has no plans to re-sign in Colorado. As long as Luke Voit is healthy, acquiring Story would necessitate the benching of Gleyber Torres, however, and despite his subpar season, I’m not sure the Yankees are ready to do that.
Would rentals of a top-flight star (Story, Kris Bryant if available) be around the same value more or less as the trade packages that landed Mookie Betts and Manny Machado in the past?
The price for position player rentals never tends to be very high, as teams often send quantity over quality to acquire a star for two or three months. That was the case with Machado, who cost the Dodgers their No. 4 prospect (Yusniel Diaz) and four other players, none of whom were in the club’s Top 25.
Betts wasn’t technically a rental player, as he had a full season of control remaining at the time of the trade rather than a few months, so that’s apples and oranges.
But for impending free-agent position players such as Story and Bryant (who I’m not at all convinced will be traded), the cost should certainly be lower than what we’ve seen teams give up for a star pitcher heading for free agency.
With so many teams contending, which starter will attract the most attention in trade rumors?
Now that it appears Scherzer is staying in Washington, the name that we will hear the most in the coming weeks should be Berríos. The Twins’ ace is under control through 2022, giving an acquiring team another full year of his services.
The Twins could easily decide to hold off and field offers for the right-hander in the offseason, though the dearth of top pitchers available this month makes Berrios one of the most appealing options out there for pitching-needy teams.
The Braves are in a bad spot for this year at this point, but long-term they have to sign Freddie Freeman and probably need a center fielder, possibly a left fielder and some bullpen arms. Wouldn’t it make sense to target a guy like Ketel Marte who has plenty of control left and a friendly contract?
A number of teams would love to add Marte, but it seems as though the D-backs have no plans to move the 27-year-old for the exact reasons you mention. Trading for players with years of control on reasonable contracts isn’t easy, especially when those players are as good as Marte has been. If he was to be made available, the Braves would have a lot of competition for him.
The Trade Deadline is a last chance at fixing a problem. Why does a team like Atlanta, knowing the team needs a right-handed power bat in left field, wait until the 11th hour to take an action it knows it needs right now?
This falls under the same area as the last question: because it’s not easy to take such action. About 60% of the league is still in the postseason picture, leaving only a dozen or so teams as potential sellers right now. Of those teams, many are in rebuilding mode and don’t possess the type of players you’re talking about, and the ones that do are going to ask for the moon and the stars to trade them this far in advance of the Deadline.
Although we’ll see some trades over the next four weeks, the lion’s share of deals will take place on July 30, many of them in that final hour prior to the Deadline. That’s how deadlines work; they create urgency and force teams to compromise in order to reach an agreement. Until that final hour arrives, most teams will try to hold out for the best deal they can make.
What does the top team in each division need right now to help them make a run to the World Series?
I will base this on Thursday’s standings, which have five first-place teams leading their respective divisions by more than one game. The only exception is the AL West, where the Astros entered Thursday leading the Athletics by just one game, so I’ll address both teams.
Red Sox: Starting pitcher and first base
Boston’s rotation should get a boost from the expected return of Chris Sale, but counting on a pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery is always a shaky proposition. The back end of the Red Sox rotation has been an issue, so adding another starter in addition to Sale seems like an obvious move. First base has also been an issue, as their collective .649 OPS at the position ranks 12th in the AL. One possibility could be C.J. Cron, who is having a solid season for the Rockies and is owed only about $500,000 for the remainder of the season.
White Sox: Second base and right-handed reliever
Nick Madrigal’s injury left a hole at second base, and while Chicago has been reportedly working to acquire Eduardo Escobar from the D-backs, no deal has been completed as of Thursday. Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier is another name to watch, though he’s become one of the most sought-after names on this year’s market. As for the bullpen, Codi Heuer, Evan Marshall and Matt Foster have not been able to provide any consistency this season, and while any (or all) of them could turn things around in the second half, the White Sox would benefit from the addition of another high-leverage arm to help get the ball to closer Liam Hendriks.
Astros: Relief pitchers
Houston’s 4.30 bullpen ERA ranks eighth in the AL, leaving the club slightly behind the league average of 4.19, but aside from closer Ryan Pressly (1.69) and Blake Taylor (3.38), no other reliever with at least 15 appearances has an ERA lower than that league average. Adding a reliever or two seems like a no-brainer for the Astros.
Athletics: Shortstop, outfield and designated hitter
After posting a .494 OPS in April and May, Elvis Andrus has been better at the plate for the past month, though his .699 mark since then is still hardly overwhelming. Oakland might not be in the market for a highly paid shortstop such as Story, but that doesn’t mean the Athletics won’t be looking for some type of upgrade. The same goes for right field and DH, where their production has been below league average. Joey Gallo would be a nice fit, but the Rangers might not want to move him within the AL West.
Mets: Starting pitching and center field
The front of the Mets rotation is set with Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker, but the other two spots have been inconsistent. Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard had recent setbacks as they try to return from the injured list, so adding an arm might be the team’s biggest need. The Mets’ center field OPS of .677 ranks 12th in the NL, so an upgrade there could also be in the cards.
Brewers: First base and third base
Milwaukee ranks 13th in first base OPS (.677) and 11th at third base (.692), so upgrades at both corner-infield positions could be in order. The Brewers rank fifth and sixth in rotation and bullpen ERA, respectively, making them one of the few teams that won’t be on the hunt for pitching this month.
Giants: Pitching depth and a right-handed bat
San Francisco is in the best shape of any current first-place team, with no obvious holes that need to be addressed. Starting pitching depth would be the most logical area to address, as Logan Webb -- who is currently on the IL -- has never thrown more than 104 2/3 innings in a season at any level, and that was back in 2018. Another bullpen arm wouldn’t hurt the Giants, either, though a versatile right-handed bat might be a bigger need.