Unlike in last year’s abbreviated season, teams around the Majors will have four months to establish themselves as contenders or pretenders prior to this year's July 30 Trade Deadline.
But with the first of those months behind them, it’s only natural to begin speculating about some of the players who might be on the move before too long.
With that in mind, MLB.com polled 25 executives with the following question: Who will be the biggest name moved before the Trade Deadline?
The top two vote-getters were hardly a surprise, as Trevor Story of the Rockies and Kris Bryant of the Cubs received the vast majority of votes. Some named more than one player, hence the 27 votes cast by the 25 executives.
Trevor Story, SS, Rockies (12 votes)
From the moment the Rockies traded Nolan Arenado this offseason, the expectation has been that Story would be the next star on his way out of Colorado.
“The Rockies should move him well before [July 30] to maximize return,” a National League executive said. “They need to get what they can before he leaves for free agency.”
Story is off to a solid start this season, slashing .284/.348/.520 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 28 games -- numbers that line up with his career averages. The team results have not matched the shortstop’s production, however; Colorado is 11-19 heading into Wednesday, good for last place in the NL West and the second-worst record in the Majors behind Detroit.
Multiple executives pointed to Story’s expiring contract and the Rockies’ perceived rebuilding effort as the primary reasons Story would be on the move this summer.
“Colorado has to move him, right?” another NL executive said.
One American League executive picked Story as his choice, though he questioned the timing of a potential trade while giving his answer.
“It’s Story,” the AL exec said, “unless he’s traded so early that it doesn’t count as a Deadline move.”
Kris Bryant, 3B/LF, Cubs (10 votes)
If it feels like Bryant’s name has appeared on every trade-candidate list for the past couple years, it’s because it has. The 2016 NL MVP has been rumored to be dealt for a couple years, but nearly half of the executives polled believe this is the summer that the Cubs will finally move Bryant, who is in his contract year.
“The Cubs aren’t scared to make big moves,” one NL executive said. “I think they will look to make sure they get value for him before he hits free agency.”
That Bryant is off to a hot start is only fueling the fire when it comes to a potential trade. Chicago off-loaded salary this winter with the trade of Yu Darvish to the Padres and the decision to non-tender Kyle Schwarber, and even if the Cubs are on the fringe of the postseason race, the likelihood of adding salary before the Deadline seems remote.
Given the Cubs’ slow start and salary restraints, an AL executive believes Chicago could be active beyond Bryant between now and July 30, continuing to remake the roster with an eye toward 2022 and beyond.
Following the Cubs' doubleheader sweep of the Dodgers on Tuesday, Bryant led the Majors in doubles (12) and trailed only Ronald Acuña Jr. among the NL leaders in home runs (9), slugging percentage (.699) and OPS (1.102). Bryant's 1.8 fWAR entering Tuesday was also second to only Acuña in the NL.
The 29-year-old’s injury history -- he missed a total of 101 games between 2018-20 -- was cited by two execs as a reason for the Cubs to take advantage of Bryant’s solid start, moving the versatile slugger sooner rather than later.
“His production has been good so far, and he seems healthy,” a second NL exec said. “The Cubs are going to look to move him ASAP.”
Max Scherzer, RHP, Nationals (2 votes)
Scherzer is among an impressive group of aging veterans due to become free agents this winter, joining Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. The Nationals are off to a middling start this season, though that’s been enough to keep them near the top of an underperforming NL East.
Scherzer will turn 37 just days before the Deadline, but he’s been outstanding through his first six starts, posting a 2.54 ERA over 39 innings.
“He’s on an expiring contract and the Nationals are an aging club that needs to get younger and acquire more depth on their roster,” one AL executive said. The exec also noted that a Scherzer trade wouldn’t preclude the three-time Cy Young Award winner from signing back with Washington after the season, just as Aroldis Chapman did in 2016, signing with the Yankees just months after New York dealt him to the Cubs.
Washington chose not to trade Bryce Harper three years ago as he approached free agency, and given what Scherzer means to the club, GM Mike Rizzo could ultimately decide to do the same with Scherzer.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Rays (1 vote)
We have reached the “Hey, it could happen” portion of our list. Glasnow is off to a phenomenal start this season (4-1, 2.06 ERA in seven starts), but the Rays are under .500 in games started by all other pitchers.
Tampa Bay should continue to contend in a bunched-up AL East throughout the summer, but if things turn south, this might be the Rays’ chance to bring back a haul for the 27-year-old.
Glasnow is earning just $4 million this season, but he’s arbitration-eligible for two more years before reaching free agency, the type of window Tampa Bay has used in the past when dealing pitchers such as David Price and James Shields.
“They have never suggested they would trade him,” an AL executive said. “But you never can tell with the Rays.”
The NL executive who mentioned these two players did so with the caveat that the Mets would have to be out of the race to move either or both. New York is off to a mediocre start, though as mentioned earlier, the same can be said for the entire NL East.
Given the Mets’ expectation to contend for a postseason spot, a move of either Conforto or Syndergaard feels like a long shot, but should the club fall out of the race, these two impending free agents could have “significant impact” for another team, the executive said.
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (1 vote)
This one was admittedly a stretch, but the NL executive who named Seager brought up an interesting point.
“I wonder if there was a deal there that could make the Dodgers consider it,” the exec said. “They would still have a winning team without him on the roster. The problem would be that they would be helping a team they could potentially be competing with in October. But that front office is pretty creative and is willing to take chances.”
Seager is slated to become a free agent after the season, and most believe that the Dodgers will ultimately wind up re-signing him, making this scenario an unlikely one. Still, if Los Angeles has its eye on one of the other free-agent shortstops -- Story, Javier Báez and Carlos Correa are also headed for free agency -- then a Seager deal could be an interesting option. Don’t count on it, though.