The calendar has flipped to June and the countdown to MLB's July 30 Trade Deadline is underway in earnest. Some clubs have begun to separate themselves from the pack while others have embraced planning for the future. In the middle, a gaggle of contenders believe they are one or two pieces away from a trip to the postseason.
With all that said, we asked MLB.com's beat reporters to choose the best trade chip for each team as we head toward the midpoint of the 2021 season.
Here's a look at their selections:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
BLUE JAYS: Catching prospects
The Blue Jays have plenty of position prospects and young arms to deal from in a farm system that’s still very impressive, but the scarcity of catching across baseball could play into their hands. With Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire their current MLB options, and Alejandro Kirk also working his way back off the 60-day, No. 7 prospect Gabriel Moreno and No. 18 prospect Riley Adams will draw interest. Both Moreno and Adams are off to blazing starts in Double-A and Triple-A, respectively, as they each own an OPS north of 1.000, so all they’ve done early in the Minor League season is increase their value.
ORIOLES: 1B Trey Mancini
It’s looking like the rebuilding Orioles will have a few high-profile chips come July, given the sensational seasons John Means and Mancini are having. Means would probably fetch the most on the market, as frontline starters are hot and rare commodities at the Deadline. But the Orioles reportedly turned down offers for Means this winter and he is currently on the IL with a shoulder strain.
General manager Mike Elias has said publicly on multiple occasions he considers the left-hander a long-term piece. He technically never made the same declaration about Mancini, who has re-emerged after a season away beating colon cancer as an even better hitter than he was prior to falling ill. It would be an extremely unpopular move to trade Mancini, the face of the franchise. But would it be in the Orioles’ best long-term interests? This year’s Deadline could present Elias with his most difficult decision yet as GM.
RAYS: Lower-level prospects
The Rays entered the weekend with the best record in the American League and the game’s top-ranked Minor League system. They don’t have to change much. But as they reminded us all by trading shortstop Willy Adames to the Brewers for a pair of relievers, they can and will get creative to upgrade their team. If they call up prospects such as Wander Franco, Vidal Bruján and Josh Lowe within the next two months, maybe they’ll move a big league position player -- an infielder like Mike Brosseau or Yandy Díaz, perhaps, or an outfielder like Manuel Margot -- to acquire even more pitching. But their system is so deep and so talented that they could realistically afford to part with high-end young prospects that other organizations might not deal away, and they have plenty of players who would draw interest from clubs focused on building up their farm systems. The Rays always operate with one eye on the present and the other on the future, so anything’s possible when it’s trading season.
RED SOX: 1B/2B Michael Chavis
Contrary to what people thought before the season, the Red Sox are likely to be more in a buyers’ market than a sellers’ market at the Deadline given their strong start. However, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is taking a methodical approach to put the organization in the best place possible for both the short and long term and his team is brushing up against the luxury tax so his additions are likely to be subtle rather than major.
The Red Sox aren’t going to deal any of their top prospects in an effort to “go for it” this season. One player who seems expendable is the team’s former No. 1 prospect Michael Chavis, who hasn’t lived up to expectations at the big league level and has spent most of this season at Triple-A Worcester. Chavis has plenty of raw power. He just needs to learn how to be more competitive against high fastballs. He can play first and second base and got in tremendous shape coming into this season, which makes him a more athletic player than in the past.
YANKEES: RHP Deivi García
The Yankees are not actively shopping the 22-year-old García, who has pitched to a 5.27 ERA through eight regular season starts over his brief big league career, plus an abbreviated 'opener' assignment in last year's American League Division Series. However, if they wanted to address some of their glaring needs -- a starting center fielder seems to be their most pressing issue at the moment -- dangling García would be a good way to entice opposing clubs to pick up the phone. García is the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and general manager Brian Cashman has previously said that many teams inquired about his availability.
INDIANS: 2B Cesar Hernandez
The next month will help determine which path Cleveland could take heading into the Trade Deadline, but whether they end up being buyers or sellers, Hernandez could be the top name on the trading block. Outfielder Eddie Rosario could be an option, too, but if his bat continues to heat up and the team remains in contention, he may be someone worth holding on to. Hernandez has gotten off to a slower start this year than last, but his track record would indicate that his numbers will even out. With Owen Miller and a handful of other middle infielders waiting in the Minors, Hernandez could be the person moved.
ROYALS: Pitching prospects
The 2018 and ‘19 Draft brought the Royals a plethora of top-tier pitching talent into their farm system. The Royals aren’t going to send away their core, like Brady Singer and Kris Bubic (already in the Majors) or Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar (on the cusp of the Majors). But if they need a boost at the Trade Deadline, they could use young pitchers such as Austin Cox (No. 10 Royals prospect, per MLB Pipeline) Jon Heasley (No. 13), Noah Murdock (No. 16), Zack Haake (No. 19) or Angel Zerpa (No. 29). Many, if not all, of those guys would require more than a rental at the Deadline because they factor into the future in Kansas City. The Royals will first have to decide whether they’ll be buyers, sellers or stay as they are when the end of July comes near.
TIGERS: LHP Matthew Boyd
Is this the year Boyd gets traded? He's eligible for free agency after next season, he's back to eating innings, he has a career-best 3.86 FIP and he's doing a much better job of limiting home runs. Just as important, he's a better pure pitcher than ever, mixing in an effective changeup and curve with his familiar mid-90s fastball and slider combination. In a year when contenders need reliable pitching depth, the 30-year-old lefty is a sneaky-good option.
TWINS: DH Nelson Cruz
If the Twins do indeed continue on their path toward selling at the Trade Deadline -- which they will unless they go on an extended winning streak quite soon -- they’ll need to pivot from thinking as a possible playoff contender to retooling for 2022 and beyond. Among their handful of players on expiring contracts -- including Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, Andrelton Simmons and Hansel Robles -- there’s arguably no better trade chip than Cruz, who posted two of the best seasons of his career at ages 38 and 39 for the Twins and has continued with 10 homers through 51 games at age 40 this year. He only has value for American League clubs, but his 46 games of playoff experience and two runs to the World Series have to make him awfully appealing as a short-term commitment.
WHITE SOX: Young pitching
Many teams will ask about second baseman Nick Madrigal or right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech, who were trade targets at last season’s Deadline, not to mention left-handed pitcher Garrett Crochet, the team’s top pick in the 2020 Draft. But it seems unlikely the White Sox will disrupt the strong core they have built in what they view as a championship-caliber team. With many of their top young players already contributing at the Major League level, that scenario leaves developing pitching talent as the potentially biggest trade chips. Those names would include right-handed pitchers Jared Kelley (No. 1 White Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline), Matthew Thompson (No. 3), Jonathan Stiever (No. 4) and Andrew Dalquist (No. 5).
ANGELS: CP Raisel Iglesias
If the Angels fall out of contention, they could look to trade closer Raisel Iglesias, who is headed for free agency this offseason. Iglesias had a rough start to the year but has been pitching much better recently. He converted a six-out save against the Mariners on Friday that saw him enter in the eighth with the bases loaded, nobody out and the Angels clinging to a one-run lead. The Angels remain hopeful they'll be able to remain in contention, but with superstar Mike Trout out until July, there's a chance they could sell and Iglesias could be an attractive piece for a club looking for a closer or late-inning reliever.
ASTROS: Pitching prospects
The Astros will be in the market for relief pitching in the next few months. Their offense has been one of the highest-scoring in the league and their starting pitching has been really solid. Their bullpen? That’s been another issue. Houston’s farm system isn’t deep, but they have some promising arms at the upper levels who could be used in trade packages to get a reliever, including Jairo Solis, Tyler Ivey and Peter Solomon.
ATHLETICS: Outfield prospects
The A’s are likely to be in the market for relief pitching. Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino have formed a solid back-end trio, but with their great success has also come a heavy workload. Oakland’s strong outfield depth that has been forming in the Minor Leagues over the last few years -- an intriguing group of prospects that includes Luis Barrera, Greg Deichmann, Lazaro Armenteros and Buddy Reed -- could be available to clubs in exchange for a strong setup- or closer-type arm. Though Elvis Andrus has performed well in recent weeks after a rough start, the A’s could also present a package involving some of these outfielders for an upgrade at shortstop.
MARINERS: RF Mitch Haniger
The optics of it would not be great with the fanbase or within the clubhouse, especially with the Mariners losing Kyle Lewis (torn meniscus) this week for an extended period. Haniger is a huge reason Seattle has been teetering on .500, but he also represents their most valuable commodity on the trade market. Contending teams in need of an All-Star-caliber outfield bat -- the White Sox, Padres and Braves come to mind -- might be willing to part with higher-level prospect capital that could be tempting for Mariners management.
RANGERS: RF Joey Gallo or MiLB OF Delino DeShields
Gallo is the obvious answer as he’s come up in trade rumors before and the Rangers are struggling to get back to .500 at this point in the season. But through 58 games this season, Gallo has slashed just .207/.365/.389 for a .754 OPS, and it’s unclear if anybody will offer a package that’s worth Texas’ while for one of the club’s only homegrown talents. Gallo is eligible for arbitration next offseason and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023. General manager Chris Young said it’s no shock to the front office that clubs would inquire about Gallo, but they like where they're at with him at the current time.
Which brings the conversation to Rangers Triple-A outfielder Delino DeShields. He’s currently slashing .341/.408/.495 with a .902 OPS at Round Rock and has six years of big league experience under his belt. With so many clubs in need of healthy outfielders, he could surely be dealt ahead of the Deadline.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
BRAVES: Pitching prospects
Though Mike Soroka might not pitch this year and Huascar Ynoa might not regain the magic he had before breaking his hand, the Braves will likely have to part ways with Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson or Tucker Davidson in order to land a big bat. Wright’s value has diminished over the past few years, but in the right package, he’s a piece that could still bring a decent return. Drew Waters is another option, but his value is down now, and No. 1 prospect Cristian Pache’s struggles already create uncertainty about the club’s future outfield mixes.
MARLINS: CF Starling Marte
The Marlins are trying to stay afloat with key players injured, but if they continue to fall in the standings, their veteran outfield trio of Marte, Adam Duvall and Corey Dickerson could become trade pieces. All three can become free agents this winter, and Marte has yet to test the market in his career. He is a former All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, with a coveted combination of speed and power.
METS: No. 2 prospect Ronny Mauricio
Francisco Lindor’s commitment to stay in Queens through 2031 means Mauricio must either find a new position or a new team. The latter seems more likely, with the Mets potentially using Mauricio as a headlining piece in a future trade. That doesn’t mean it will happen this year. But if the Mets decide they want to spring a Deadline deal for, say, an established starting pitcher, Mauricio is the type of blue-chip prospect the Mets could afford to dangle.
NATIONALS: RHP Max Scherzer
Scherzer is dominating in his 14th season ahead of entering free agency this winter. The right-hander, who turns 37 in July, has posted a 2.22 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in his first 12 starts (5-4). Scherzer’s resume speaks for itself when it comes to how he can help another team, but he has a say in where he will pitch. Scherzer is a 10-and-5 player with no-trade rights.
PHILLIES: 1B Rhys Hoskins
Bryce Harper said a couple weeks ago that he believes Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will add the necessary pieces the Phillies need to contend for their first postseason berth since 2011. But the Phillies exited Sunday 28-30 and four games behind the Mets in the National League East. They will need to play much better over the next several weeks for Dombrowski to trade anything from a thin farm system.
If the Phillies fall from contention, they could try to shake up things and trade Hoskins. It would be a bold move in that Hoskins has been one of the best hitters in baseball since he made his big league debut in Aug. 2017. He also has been a face of the franchise and team leader. But Hoskins could help the Phillies acquire some pitching depth, which they sorely lack.
BREWERS: No. 2 prospect Brice Turang
Two months into the season, it appears the Brewers need at least one impact bat at first base or third base, not just complimentary adds at the Trade Deadline. They entered Sunday last in the National League in wRC+ from their first baseman (65), with Keston Hiura still mired in a deep slump, and third from the bottom in wRC+ at third base (61), with veteran Travis Shaw struggling lately.
To land a potential difference-maker (Trey Mancini from the Orioles? Rhys Hoskins from the Phillies? Trevor Story from the Rockies?), it could require making a painful trade, and with the addition last month of shortstop Willy Adames and the continued belief that 24-year-old Luis Urías can be a very good Major League player, Turang, a shortstop and second baseman, comes from an area of organizational depth. He entered Sunday with a .356 on-base percentage as a 21-year-old at the Double-A level.
CARDINALS: No. 2 prospect Nolan Gorman
When the Cardinals made the splashy acquisition of Nolan Arenado, no one in the organization was impacted more than a fellow Nolan. Gorman was thought to be the third baseman of the future before then. The 21-year-old is learning second base in the Minors and playing some outfield to keep himself indispensable, and the club isn’t exactly eager to deal him, since his bat is so lethal. But should the Cards want to go all-in on a win-now move, Gorman may be what the Cardinals have to include to bring a high-quality talent to St. Louis.
CUBS: CP Craig Kimbrel
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has expressed confidence that the front office will have the financial flexibility to add at the Deadline if the team continues to build on its 19-win May and stays in playoff position. The reality remains, however, that there are more than a dozen players who could potentially hit the open market next winter, making it possible that Hoyer tries to thread the needle between contending now and planning for the next few seasons.
The big-ticket trade chip is Kris Bryant, who is playing at an MVP-caliber level while moving between five positions. In Kimbrel, however, the Cubs have a once-again elite stopper that could impact plenty of clubs. The veteran closer has a $16 million team option for 2022. With a bullpen that has looked deep and talented, it’s possible Kimbrel could present a way to acquire top-tier prospects while not waving a white flag on the ‘21 season. Hoyer has an intriguing Deadline puzzle on his hands given the landscape of his roster.
PIRATES: 2B Adam Frazier
Frazier could be an All-Star come July as he leads MLB with 76 hits and seems to nearly always be on a new hitting streak. There are always teams looking for more production out of their middle infielders, so even with his fifth percentile average exit velocity, Frazier should be a hot commodity come the Deadline. Though he’s committed five errors -- tied for the most by a qualified second baseman with Jean Segura and Nick Madrigal -- he has made a few spectacular Gold Glove-type plays and can play serviceable outfield defense.
REDS: RF Nick Castellanos
This only happens if the Reds fall out of contention; they are still in the race in a weaker division like the NL Central. But there would be reasons to move Castellanos should the situation arise. The right-handed slugger, who leads the NL in batting average and is second in OPS, has a second opt-out in his four-year, $64 million contract after this season. For someone enjoying an MVP-caliber season thus far and who is represented by Scott Boras, the odds of him exercising free agency are high. Cincinnati will have to consider that ahead of the Deadline.
D-BACKS: INF Eduardo Escobar
Escobar was acquired by the D-backs at the Trade Deadline in 2018 after third baseman Jake Lamb went down with an injury. They were so pleased with him that they quickly signed him to a contract extension. That extension runs out at the end of this season and with the D-backs out of the playoff chase, they may try to get what they can for him as they look to start building for the future. Escobar had a down year in 2020 but has bounced back this year. He’s a switch-hitter who can play second and short, ranks among the league leaders in RBIs and is a good influence in the clubhouse.
DODGERS: No. 1 prospect Keibert Ruiz
The Dodgers won’t actively shop Ruiz, but the team is trying to repeat as World Series champions and they could make a splash by adding Ruiz in a package for help at the Deadline. With catchers Austin Barnes and Will Smith on the active roster, there’s no clear path to the Majors for Ruiz. The Dodgers could decide to stick with the depth, given that Ruiz is the next man up if Barnes and Smith have to miss time. But if they feel like the player coming to them via a trade can take them over the top, adding Ruiz to that package would make a lot of sense.
GIANTS: RHP Kevin Gausman
The Giants are looking more like buyers than sellers following their unexpected rise to the top of the National League West, but if they decide to change course at the Trade Deadline, they could consider dealing from their elite starting rotation, as Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Johnny Cueto, Alex Wood and Aaron Sanchez will be eligible for free agency this offseason.
Gausman will likely be the most attractive trade chip given his consistent dominance this year, but if the Giants can sustain their success in the ensuing months, they’ll probably opt to hold onto him and give the club a chance to continue its surprise playoff push this summer.
PADRES: No. 5 prospect Tucupita Marcano
The Padres love Marcano, and why wouldn’t they? He’s a versatile 21-year-old who can play just about anywhere. At the plate, he’s struggled in his big league debut this season, but he hit at every level of the Minors. Still, this is the reality: The Padres have no shortage of talented infielders, and they have a few more coming in the future, including No. 2 prospect CJ Abrams. Marcano is a very useful player. He’s also expendable. The Padres’ roster could use a few upgrades -- to the bullpen, to the rotation, to the bench. Marcano could theoretically be a nice piece in a package for ready-made big league help.
ROCKIES: SS Trevor Story
Interim general manager Bill Schmidt was predictably close-to-the-vest Saturday when asked if it's clear that Story won't be staying in Colorado, saying, “Not necessarily. We’ll see what happens. We are not at that point.” But with the Rockies a long way from a sudden rush to contention, a deal is still logical, with the possibility of improving pitching depth, finding a top-notch young player at a key position and improving their catching. Story is expected to return Tuesday from a right elbow injury.
It’s not as if Story is an unknown -- he’s been one of the best power-hitting shortstops for several seasons and has had incredibly bad luck with hard-hit balls this year -- but expect heavy scouting traffic. The Rockies aren’t expected to make a move until after the All-Star break. With righty starter Jon Gray now nursing a right forearm flexor strain, Story is the Rockies’ biggest chance to score big, although there are some chances that smaller deals will address some needs.