Execs theorize top trade candidates, and No. 1 is a 2-time champ

May 11th, 2024

The 2024 season is only six weeks old as teams prepare to complete the first quarter of their schedules this weekend.

We’re still more than 11 weeks away from the July 30 Trade Deadline, and obviously a lot can and will happen between now and then.

But last week’s trade of Luis Arraez from the Marlins to the Padres is proof that it’s never too early for us to start thinking of potential deals that could shake up the postseason picture before all is said and done.

We recently posed the following question to two dozen front-office executives: Who will be the biggest name moved by the Trade Deadline? Given the small sample size of the current season, it was not surprising that the answers varied quite a bit.

, Astros (5 votes)
, Mets (3 votes)
, Rays (2 votes)
, Marlins (2 votes) *
, White Sox (2 votes)
, Brewers (1 vote)
, Padres (1 vote)
, Marlins (1 vote)
, Blue Jays (1 vote)
, Cardinals (1 vote)
, Marlins (1 vote)
, Athletics (1 vote)
, Royals (1 vote)
, Astros (1 vote)
, Astros (1 vote)

* Arraez was traded to the Padres one day after poll answers had been collected

Bregman was cited most often by executives, with five of 24 participants (21%) naming the Astros' third baseman. Verlander and Valdez were also named, meaning that 29% of the votes went to Houston players.

The 30-year-old Bregman is in the final year of a five-year, $100 million extension, and while general manager Dana Brown has talked about the desire to extend him, talks have not led to any optimism that a deal will get done.

“The Astros aren’t typically a team that sells at the Deadline, but this hasn’t been a typical Astros season,” a National League executive said. “If they’re out of the race, he could be a difference-maker for another contender.”

An American League executive noted that the Astros could trade Bregman, then try to re-sign him in the offseason, just as the Yankees did in 2016 with Aroldis Chapman.

“His proven playoff bat will be coveted,” the exec said.

Alonso has been the subject of trade rumors for several months because the slugger is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season. The Mets have recovered from their poor start, but with the Braves and Phillies leading the way in the NL East, New York could have a difficult decision to make this summer based on the standings.

Like Bregman, Alonso is represented by agent Scott Boras, who is expected to seek huge deals for both players. Mets owner Steve Cohen has the financial wherewithal to pay whatever he wants to free agents, so if the Mets are out of the race -- or even a borderline NL Wild Card contender -- they could look to bring back some prospects for Alonso, then take a run at him in free agency.

“If a contender is looking to add a power bat, Alonso could be the best one available,” an AL executive said. “The only question is whether the Mets want to keep him, and if they think trading him will fracture the relationship leading up to free agency.”

Arozarena is off to a subpar start, hitting well below .200 with a sub-.600 OPS, but he has a consistent track record in his three full seasons, averaging 148 games, 21 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .792 OPS between 2021-23. He’s also been an outstanding postseason performer, posting an eye-popping 1.104 OPS with 11 home runs in 33 games.

“I expect him to get going again before the Deadline,” an AL executive said. “And the Rays have always shown they are willing to wheel and deal.”

That’s been especially true once players’ salaries begin to escalate. Arozarena is making $8.1 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for two more years, making him an appealing, controllable asset for other clubs.

“I think they’ll be further back of the lead in that division than they typically are at midseason,” an NL executive said. “[The Rays] will make a move -- or moves -- looking at 2025.”

Not including Arraez, the only other player to receive multiple votes was Robert, who is in the fifth year of his six-year, $50 million contract. The 26-year-old -- who is currently on the injured list with a hip flexor strain -- is earning $12.5 million this year, and is owed $15 million in 2025, with a pair of $20 million club options for '26 and '27 (with a $2 million buyout).

“The White Sox need to cash in on Robert sooner rather than later once he returns from injury,” an NL exec said.

Chicago traded Dylan Cease with two years of club control remaining, the first of what many expect to be multiple trades as the White Sox go through a rebuild.

“The White Sox have been hesitant to move [Robert] to this point, but the way this year has started for them may make them realize they’re farther away than they thought,” an NL executive said. “He’s one of the few viable trade chips they have remaining.”

Here’s a sampling of thoughts from executives on some of the other players who received votes:

“Verlander is a possibility. … Baltimore? [The Orioles' front office] won’t have to give up too much in return, which is their MO at the Deadline.” -- AL executive

“Assuming health, [Luzardo] will likely be one of the best starting pitchers on the market and will have two and a half years of control. The Marlins will surely seek to rebuild by moving their healthy pitchers.” -- AL executive