5 trades that should happen, but won't

July 30th, 2023

As we near Tuesday’s 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, there is a plethora of rumors swirling around many prominent names, as is to be expected. Significant trades have and will be made, and they’ll alter the landscape as we head into the stretch run toward October.

There are trades that “will” happen, and then there are trades that “should” happen, but won’t -- i.e. deals that make sense for both sides but won’t come to fruition for one reason or another.

Here are five trades that you could make a strong case for even though they are very unlikely to materialize.

Rangers bring in a third ace

Rangers get: RHP Luis Castillo
Mariners get: RHP Jacob deGrom, INF/OF Ezequiel Duran, 2B/3B Justin Foscue (Rangers' No. 7 prospect)

Why it should happen: The Rangers got the ace they were looking for in Max Scherzer. But wait -- while Scherzer and Nathan Eovaldi are a great pair of aces, you need more than that in a playoff rotation. So how about they go get another one?

The Rangers got to win-now mode fast, so while deGrom is the best pitcher in the world when he's healthy, they don't have time to wait. Castillo-Scherzer-Eovaldi can win you a World Series immediately. The Mariners have arms to spare, and the Rangers have bats to spare, so they can part with Duran.

The Mariners have lost a little shine this season, and their path to the playoffs is difficult, so here's what they're gonna do: They're gonna go get deGrom. deGrom and Robbie Ray will come back from Tommy John surgery together, and by that time, Seattle's young core of Julio Rodríguez, Jarred Kelenic, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller -- plus the newly acquired Duran from this deal -- will be even better. deGrom will come back just in time to lead an up-and-coming Mariners powerhouse.

The 24-year-old Duran, who's having a breakout season and is extremely versatile, can slot into the Mariners' lineup wherever they need him most, which right now is probably second base but could be in the outfield or at third base, depending on what Seattle does with Eugenio Suárez after next season. And the 24-year-old Foscue adds a bat-first infield prospect who could also grow into one of those roles.

Why it won’t: As great as deGrom is, he's one of the biggest question marks in all of baseball. Castillo is the opposite of that. The Mariners have him locked up for just as long, and on a friendlier contract than deGrom's. And they are in the playoff hunt, even with the American League being such a gauntlet. This trade is a high-risk, high-reward bet for near-future seasons.

Meanwhile, the Rangers may well be satisfied with Scherzer, and Duran is a valuable piece of the team as a super-utilityman, even if Texas would still have a juggernaut lineup without him. Plus, they signed deGrom for a reason, and they may want to wait for him, betting he'll be the same deGrom he was before.

-- David Adler

Yanks swing a hot corner blockbuster

Yankees get: 3B Nolan Arenado
Cardinals get: OF Jasson Domínguez (Yankees' No. 1 prospect/No. 40 overall), RHP Will Warren (No. 7), RHP Randy Vásquez (No. 12), RHP Clayton Beeter (No. 13)

Why it should happen: The Yankees are in desperate need of production at third base -- veteran Josh Donaldson was struggling mightily at the plate before seeing his season cut short by a calf strain. Entering play Saturday, New York had gotten a slash line of .208/.288/.379 from the hot corner this year. That’s not going to get it done for a team that has perpetual championship aspirations. 

Enter one of the game’s elite third basemen, Arenado. The Cardinals came into this season with high hopes, and if you suggested an Arenado trade as a possibility during Spring Training, you’d be laughed right out of the ballpark. But as things stand now, St. Louis is a postseason longshot amid a deeply disappointing season. 

On top of that, Arenado will be owed more than $100 million over his age-33 through age-36 seasons. The age curve turns from friend to foe on long megadeals in virtually every case, and while Arenado keeps himself in great shape, time won’t be on his side as he heads toward the twilight of his career. 

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are in need of MLB-ready or near-ready pitching prospects, of which the Yanks’ farm system is well-stocked. And trading Arenado would enable another Nolan to slide right over to third base -- the slugging Nolan Gorman was a third baseman until getting to the Majors.

On the other side of the equation, with New York’s “win now” mentality, the Yankees could go from fringe postseason contender to a potential World Series candidate by acquiring Arenado now that Aaron Judge is back in the lineup and a Nestor Cortes return to the starting rotation is imminent.

Why it won’t: The Cardinals will be loath to part with Arenado because the franchise hasn’t often been a Trade Deadline seller in recent years and certainly could feel this season is an aberration in the standings. It appears that's what's happening, since general manager John Mozeliak said on Saturday that St. Louis is definitely not moving Arenado right now.

The Yankees will be loath to part with Domínguez, in particular. The 20-year-old outfielder is their No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline (No. 40 overall), and has been compared with the likes of Mickey Mantle, Bo Jackson and Mike Trout at a similar age.

Sure, Arenado would be a tremendous addition in the Bronx, but the cost may be too high in the eyes of general manager Brian Cashman and Co.

-- Manny Randhawa

The Reds get their ace -- for 2023 and beyond

Reds get: RHP Dylan Cease 
White Sox get: 2B Jonathan India, SS Edwin Arroyo (MLB Pipeline’s No. 24 overall prospect), RHP Chase Petty (Reds’ No. 5 prospect), OF Jay Allen II (Reds’ No. 8 prospect)

Why it should happen: For the Reds, this move is as much about 2024 and 2025 as it is about this season. Cincinnati has arrived as a contender sooner than anyone expected, but the club is not at the point where it should be trading prospects for rentals to address its pitching needs. 

The Reds played nine games against the Brewers -- their primary competition for the NL Central title -- this month and lost seven of them. They’ve gone 7-9 in 16 games since they reached a high-water mark of 10 games above .500 on July 6. Point is, while this has been a successful season for Cincinnati, with the emergence of rookies such as Elly De La Cruz, Matt McClain and Andrew Abbott, it’s questionable how ready this team is to make a serious postseason run in 2023.

Cease, who is controllable through 2025, would not only improve the Reds’ chances in 2023, but also give the club a much needed frontline starter for the next two years as its young players mature.

The White Sox reportedly aren’t keen on dealing Cease as part of their Trade Deadline sale, but they’re in need of a serious reboot and likely aren’t going to be contending again until after the 27-year-old righty reaches free agency. So why wouldn’t you trade him now, when he’s close to peak value?

Why it won’t: The White Sox likely will only move Cease if they’re overwhelmed by the return. This package may seem substantial, but it probably wouldn’t be enough, with only one MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospect included and Noelvi Marte, Cincinnati’s No. 1 prospect, not part of the haul.

-- Thomas Harrigan

The Guardians make their move in the AL Central

Guardians get: OF/1B Cody Bellinger and RHP Michael Fulmer
Cubs get: RHP Tanner Burns (Guardians' No. 16 prospect), SS/2B José Tena (No. 17), RHP Hunter Gaddis (No. 21) and RHP Thomas Ponticelli

Why it should happen: Last week, the Guardians kicked open the door on their new timeline with their trade of Amed Rosario to free up playing time for their younger players. With this trade, they’d become the favorites to win the weak AL Central while not disrupting the timeline of their young core.

Bellinger has a 1.044 OPS this season against lefties, which has been Cleveland’s Achilles heel, and he could slide into the team’s outfield alongside Will Brennan and Steven Kwan. That would push the light-hitting Myles Straw to a more suitable role as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, while Fulmer would provide reinforcements to the Guardians’ talented but overworked bullpen.

Burns, who possesses above-average command and has a 3.45 ERA in Double-A this year, would likely enter the Cubs’ rotation next year, while Gaddis (7.68 ERA in 38 2/3 career MLB innings) could immediately enter the rotation. Although Tena is likely a year away from MLB action, he’s a solid, left-handed-swinging middle infielder who can play all over the diamond.

Why it won’t: First of all, the surging Cubs might not sell at all. If they do decide to trade Bellinger, they’ll be inundated with offers from around the league, which could lead to the Guardians quickly getting outbid. While the Guardians possess a plethora of MLB-ready middle-infield depth, it’s hard to believe they would dig into it for a rental player after dealing away Rosario to open up space.

-- Henry Palattella

The Orioles enhance their pitching

Orioles get: LHP Blake Snell, LHP Josh Hader and RHP Seth Lugo
Padres get: 2B/OF Connor Norby (MLB Pipeline's No. 64 overall prospect), 3B Coby Mayo (No. 72), LHP Cade Povich (Orioles' No. 11 prospect), RHP Seth Johnson (Orioles' No. 14 prospect) and OF Jud Fabian (Orioles' No. 15 prospect)

Why it should happen: Let’s start with the Orioles, who currently lead the AL East with a 63-41 record. Baltimore finds itself in an optimal position with a great MLB team littered with young stars such as Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson. What’s more is the team still has a deep, talented farm system, headlined by MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday. If there ever was a time for a team to go for it, now is that time.

Enter Snell, Hader and Lugo, who are all impending free agents. Snell is arguably the top pitcher who will be moved. While Baltimore doesn’t necessarily need another elite reliever, Hader would join Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano as baseball’s most fearsome reliever trio for the stretch run. Lugo is in the midst of a strong season and could be a starter or multi-inning reliever in the playoffs. This trade gives Baltimore a superb pitching staff without sacrificing any of its top five prospects.

The Padres’ 2023 season has been disappointment. With a record below .500 that has them well back of a Wild Card spot, a retool for the '24 season is needed for a team that could use an influx of young, controllable players. What’s great about this trade, though, is the collection of players they’re getting back are all nearly MLB-ready.

Norby has an OPS over .800 at Triple-A this year. Mayo is a potential plus-hitting infielder who could reach the Majors soon. Povich is a 23-year-old lefty with a whopping 33.4% strikeout rate in Double-A. Johnson, out for all of 2023 due to Tommy John surgery, is a roll-of-the-dice prospect who could be a rotation option next year. Fabian’s power-speed combo (16 homers and 24 steals this season) makes him an intriguing final piece of the trade.

Why it won’t: It’s a complicated trade. Beyond that, it’s not one that Baltimore would likely entertain given the delicate process they have operated under. While this type of trade would make them significantly better this year, they’ve already gotten to this point via their current methods. While the Padres would certainly be enticed by this collection of prospects, it’s probably not one Baltimore would consider, even for the immediate talent to help the Orioles win games now. 

-- Brent Maguire