Trade Deadline talk: Who are buyers, sellers?

June 23rd, 2021

With the July 30 Trade Deadline approaching (yes, it’s on July 30 this year), editor Matt Meyers sat down with national reporters Mark Feinsand and Jon Paul Morosi to discuss the major storylines of this year’s trade market.

Matt Meyers: We are now just a little more than a month away from the Trade Deadline, and I assume the market is starting to come into focus, especially with a few teams really struggling. Of those struggling teams, who do you think will be the most aggressive "sellers"?

Mark Feinsand: For several weeks now, I have assumed that the Twins were going to be a big seller come July. Nothing that has happened in recent weeks has made me change my mind about that. They have some good assets with expiring contracts, such as slugger Nelson Cruz, and they can also look at people like right-hander José Berríos, outfielder Byron Buxton and left-hander Taylor Rogers, who each has one year left before free agency. Buxton’s left hand fracture will change things, of course, when it comes to him, but the general picture still remains the same.

Jon Paul Morosi: I agree with Mark on the Twins. The Pirates are the team I'm watching. Second baseman Adam Frazier fits with virtually every contender, and right-hander Richard Rodríguez could address the need for a closer on a number of clubs. Left-hander Tyler Anderson is another name from Pittsburgh who has been a little under the radar, but I believe he has value in this market as a depth starter.

Feinsand: Agreed, Jon. The Pirates are clearly in rebuilding mode, while the Twins are a club that is looking to contend again next year after winning two straight American League Central titles in 2019 and '20.

Morosi: The D-backs deserve some mention in this context here. I've always liked outfielder David Peralta's fit with the White Sox, and Chicago manager Tony La Russa knows him from his time in Arizona.

Feinsand: Arizona is definitely in play next month. It has a number of guys who could help teams around the Majors, including Peralta. To me, the biggest question out there is what they do with outfielder Ketel Marte. He’s under control for a few years, but he would fit with a lot of contenders. The D-backs' price is going to be high for him.

Meyers: Going back to the Twins for a moment … Cruz is a really intriguing name to mention. He's obviously only an AL fit. But where?

Feinsand: Cruz would be a good fit with the A’s or the Rays, in my opinion. Both teams could use a little jolt to their lineup and are in position to make the postseason with a good second half.

Morosi: Cruz to the Rays is one possibility I'm monitoring. They've liked him in free agency in the past. The Rays have a deep enough farm system to give up a quality prospect. Financial considerations are a question for Tampa Bay at the Deadline, but the Twins can absorb a greater portion of the salary to improve the return they receive. The same logic applies with the A’s, in that Minnesota can continue paying Cruz's salary in order to obtain the better player and alleviate any payroll concerns from the A's perspective.

Feinsand: The only question for me with Tampa Bay is whether it would be willing to play Austin Meadows in the outfield, where it has a superior group. He has been the Rays' primary DH, and they might choose to stay with that and not sacrifice the defense.

Morosi: The Rays' run prevention is so stellar. Mark, I do wonder if they look to add a depth starter, given the uncertainty surrounding right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who is on the 60-day injured list with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor strain in his right elbow and could be out for the year. Here’s another thought: If Tampa Bay or Minnesota strike a deal for Cruz, do the Rays insist on a starting pitcher as well? If not Berríos, maybe they look at J.A. Happ as someone who could get better with an adjustment or two.

Feinsand: Berríos to the Rays is very intriguing, Jon, but he is approaching an area of his control that the Rays generally trade away, not acquire. His salary situation will be interesting if they decide to acquire him. As for the A’s, it feels like they would be better off adding a bat at shortstop, somebody like Colorado's Trevor Story. But adding Cruz to that Oakland lineup would certainly make it more potent. And A’s execs Billy Beane and David Forst have never been shy about making big moves at the Deadline if they feel they have a chance to contend.

Meyers: The Rays and A's seem to be on the flip side of these "sellers," and they could be among the most aggressive buyers. Would you put them in that category? And if not them, who is?

Feinsand: Tampa Bay and Oakland will likely be among the more aggressive buyers, but don’t count out the Yankees. There’s been a lot of talk about whether they would be better off buying or selling, but given general manager Brian Cashman‘s recent comments, it certainly sounds like he plans to add, not subtract.

Morosi: I look at Houston as an aggressive buyer, too. The Astros may need to add a bat, given the uncertainty surrounding third baseman Alex Bregman's recent left quad strain, and they have an older roster. Their window won't be open forever.

Feinsand: I agree on the Astros. The AL West is there for the taking, and given the uncertainty around shortstop Carlos Correa’s future there, as well as right-handers Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke’s returns, this could be their last best chance.

Meyers: Who will Houston target?

Morosi: Adam Frazier, like everyone else.

Feinsand: That could be our standard answer for every contender!

Morosi: In all seriousness, Frazier could address the Astros' need for a left-handed bat. Houston's always been pretty right-handed, with the exception of outfielder Michael Brantley.

Feinsand: Center field is a spot I would imagine the Astros could try to improve. Myles Straw has been good, but they can certainly get better there.

Morosi: By the way, note that the Astros started playing better exactly when Brantley came back from the IL. He's such a great player.

Feinsand: Very underrated. The AL would look quite different if Brantley had signed with Toronto last winter, as it looked like he was going to.

Meyers: Who might be a center fielder for Houston to target? And would the Yankees be looking at the same guys, considering Aaron Hicks’ injury? And what about the Marlins' Starling Marte?

Feinsand: Ketel Marte is the dream for all of these teams, but another Marte -- Starling -- is the one far more likely to be traded. He makes more money and is headed for free agency. He will be a popular name during the next month.

Morosi: And remember, the Marlins' system is rich in outfield prospects. They can afford to trade Starling Marte.

Feinsand: The Yankees have some really good outfield prospects as well, but none of them seem like they'll be big league ready in 2021. Starling Marte seems like a good fit for the Yankees, other than that he’s another right-handed hitter.

Morosi: The Marlins aren't contending this year, which is a surprise to me, but their overall organizational plan is still sound. They should move Marte for a young pitcher or two to add even more depth to that area of their club. If the Marlins keep their pitching relatively inexpensive, keep an eye on them making a very specific play for Correa in free agency this winter.

Feinsand: I wonder if the Yankees are going to try to acquire a starting pitcher as well. Right-hander Corey Kluber's future is uncertain, in terms of his return from a right shoulder injury, and other than righty Gerrit Cole, the rotation has hardly been overwhelming.

Morosi: I could see the Yankees making a major bid for Berríos.

Meyers: Would the Yankees make a play for Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, assuming he's healthy?

Morosi: Absolutely, for the Yankees and Scherzer. I also look at left-hander Jon Lester as a great Trade Deadline candidate, if the Nats fall further back in the NL East.

Feinsand: Now we’re going to get Nationals fans mad at us for talking about a potential Scherzer trade. We do this every year: The Nats get off to a bad start, we talk about who they’re going to deal and then they get back in the race. Given where they are right now, I’m going to put the brakes on any potential big trades in Washington.

Meyers: Let's go back to Berríos, who is under team control for another year. Who are some other non-rental pitchers that you think will move? Rockies right-hander Germán Márquez and Rangers righty Kyle Gibson come to mind.

Feinsand: Gibson is the guy for me. Texas is at least a year or two away from contending, and given how he is pitching this year, his value will never be higher. He seems like a no-brainer to move before July 30. Everybody that I speak to insists that Colorado is not looking to move Márquez. Of course, the Rockies could be overwhelmed with a great offer, but I think right-hander Jon Gray -- an impending free agent -- is the more likely pitcher to be traded out of Colorado.

Meyers: Who are the possible suitors for Gibson and Berríos? Any other names to consider on the pitching front?

Feinsand: If the Cubs decide to be buyers, they are certainly going to be in the market for another rotation piece. Thing is, it doesn’t appear that there’s going to be a lot of good starting pitching available on this market, which could change somebody’s mind if an offer comes in that’s too good to turn down. Virtually every contender out there could use another starting pitcher, so I think that list is quite large.

Morosi: I keep coming back to Márquez, who is such an interesting name for this discussion. He’s signed through 2023, at a reasonable number, along with a club option for '24. He's so underrated, and the Rockies need to truly replenish their organization with young, high-end talent. The Nolan Arenado trade didn't achieve that.

Feinsand: And one other note on Márquez and the Rockies: We have seen in recent years that position players don’t tend to bring back the same type of return in July that pitchers do. Just look at what the Orioles received from the Dodgers from Manny Machado at the 2018 Deadline. So if the Rockies are going to truly replenish their system, Story is probably not going to be the trade to get that done.

Meyers: Final thoughts before we wrap?

Morosi: One fascinating question, which we can delve into next time: Do the Orioles move outfielder Cedric Mullins -- a down-ballot AL MVP Award candidate -- at the peak of his value? I believe the answer is no, but I expect other GMs to make some tempting offers in the coming weeks.

Feinsand: No! Baltimore should make some deals, for sure, perhaps for first baseman Trey Mancini or outfielder Anthony Santander, but Mullins and left-hander John Means are under control for three-plus years and should be guys they build around.

Meyers: OK, we have a lead topic for next time!

Feinsand: Perfect.

Morosi: Love it.