One trade candidate for each position
As play began Tuesday, 22 teams found themselves within 5 1/2 games of a postseason berth, giving hope to nearly three-quarters of the league that October baseball is well within reach.
With the Trade Deadline -- the one and only such Deadline now that August trades will no longer be allowed -- only four weeks away, teams around the league will kick the tires on potential moves both big and small, looking to bolster their rosters for the final two-plus months of the season.
The rumor mill will be packed with names, some legitimate, others not so much. Where we wind up on July 31 remains to be seen, but with the Draft in the rear-view mirror and the All-Star Game rapidly approaching, the trade market is heating up. Here’s a look at our current “All-Trade-Deadline-Rumor Team” -- 11 names (one for each position) that figure to earn their share of buzz in the coming weeks, along with a scale of just how buzz-worthy they may actually be.
C: Martín Maldonado, Royals
Catchers are always a difficult position to move in July, as a new backstop needs to learn an entire pitching staff on the fly. That said, the 32-year-old Maldonado is a strong presence behind the plate, has an expiring contract that will pay him $1.25 million for the rest of the season, and has recent postseason experience with the Astros last year.
Buzz factor: Low. The Rangers have been one of the league’s biggest surprises this season, but Texas has gotten the third-worst production in the Majors from the catching spot. Maldonado’s .664 OPS isn’t great, but it’s still more than 100 points higher than Texas’ combined catcher OPS.
1B: Justin Smoak, Blue Jays
Smoak recently missed two weeks with a left quad strain, but he returned to action on Friday, then homered twice in Sunday’s game. The 32-year-old has been productive all season, hitting 14 home runs with 37 RBIs and an .801 OPS in 65 games. He’s owed about $3 million the rest of the way and will become a free agent after this season, making him a good value for a team looking for some production at first base or DH.
Buzz factor: Medium. The Blue Jays will be in full-on sell mode this month, so holding on to Smoak makes little sense if a contender comes calling. Just as with the catching spot, the Rangers could use an offensive boost at first base. The Red Sox might also be a fit, and Toronto has shown a willingness to deal within the American League East.
2B: Dee Gordon, Mariners
You didn’t think we’d make a trade list and not include Seattle, did you? Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made the first major move of the 2019 trade season on June 15, shipping Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees. Gordon is owed about $21 million through '20 (including a $1 million buyout of a '21 option), so the Mariners would likely need to pay down part of that salary to move him.
Buzz factor: Medium. Dipoto has always shown a willingness to be creative, and given the sell-off of the past year, it would not be a shock to see Gordon moved by July 31.
SS: Freddy Galvis, Blue Jays
As mentioned above, Toronto figures to be an active seller this month, and Galvis seems to be a good bet to move. With 14 homers, 40 RBIs and a .755 OPS, he’s producing at the plate, while his ability to play second base, third and shortstop should make him appealing to contenders looking for infield help.
Buzz factor: Medium. Galvis is owed $2 million this season and has a $5.5 million option ($1 million buyout) for 2020. The 29-year-old should be a useful player for some contender out there, though his option year means the Blue Jays could wait until the offseason or next year to move him.
3B: Anthony Rendon, Nationals
This seemed like a no-brainer a month ago, but the Nationals put together an 18-8 June, pulling them above .500 and firmly into the National League Wild Card race. Rendon is having a monster season in his walk year, and while it once looked like the Nationals were nearly a lock to re-sign him, the closer it gets to the end of the season, the less likely that looks.
Buzz factor: Medium. Rendon’s future in Washington probably depends on the Nationals’ success over the next few weeks. If the team is in the mix for a postseason spot, general manager Mike Rizzo would be likely to hold on to the star third baseman. Should the Nats stumble and fall out of the race, Rendon would be one of the hottest commodities on the trade market.
OF: Nicholas Castellanos, Tigers
Castellanos’ free-agent season started out with a thud; he didn’t hit his first home run until April 25 and carried a pedestrian .717 OPS as of May 18. Since then, he’s bounced back in impressive fashion, hitting .307/.381/.518 with five homers in 36 games.
Buzz factor: High. The 27-year-old Castellanos hired agent Scott Boras in April, usually a good sign that a player plans to test free agency. Given that the Tigers remain in the early stages of a rebuilding process, Castellanos appears to be a near-lock to be dealt in the coming weeks.
OF: Clint Frazier, Yankees
Three years ago, Frazier was the centerpiece in the trade that sent Andrew Miller from the Yankees to the Indians. The 24-year-old proved this season that he can hit big league pitching, slashing .283/.330/.513 with 11 homers and 34 RBIs in 53 games for New York, but a crowded outfield situation -- the Yankees have Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton under control for the next three-plus seasons and top prospect Estevan Florial on the way -- might make Frazier expendable.
Buzz factor: High. The Yankees will be one of the more aggressive teams in the Majors when it comes to adding a starting pitcher, so the ability to dangle a Major League-ready player such as Frazier will be a big plus. There have already been plenty of rumors that Cleveland would love to get its hands on Frazier again, spurring buzz about a Trevor Bauer-to-New York possibility.
OF: Hunter Renfroe, Padres
San Diego’s outfield situation is crowded to say the least; Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Franmil Reyes, Wil Myers and Josh Naylor have all seen playing time this season, though Myers has been the odd man out of late. Still, Myers’ contract -- he’s owed $67.5 million through 2022 with an option for '23 – makes him very difficult to move. Renfroe, on the other hand, will have the first of four arbitration-eligible years in '20, making him appealing to both small- and big-market teams.
Buzz factor: Medium. Despite his low on-base percentage, Renfroe’s power is sure to attract some potential suitors; he has 24 homers and a .905 OPS in 265 plate appearances, and although 17 of those home runs have come against righties, he owns a 1.243 OPS against lefties, too. San Diego is in the envious position of not needing to move Renfroe, though if the Padres can land a controllable starter in return, it would make sense.
DH: José Abreu, White Sox
Abreu appeared to be an obvious trade candidate when the season started, but the White Sox have let it be known that they hope to bring the first baseman back when his contract expires. Abreu is on pace to set a new career high in home runs in 2019, hitting 19 in 81 games this season, and at 32 years old, Chicago obviously believes there’s plenty of pop left in his bat.
Buzz factor: Low. Unless the White Sox feel they won’t be able to re-sign Abreu this winter (or get a contract extension done during the season), he seems a good bet to remain in the Windy City.
SP: Madison Bumgarner, Giants
No player in the Majors has generated more trade buzz than Bumgarner, the left-hander who has proven to be one of the best postseason performers of all time. His numbers this season haven’t been Bumgarner-esque -- he owns a 4.02 ERA through 18 starts, allowing 17 home runs in the process -- but many believe that a move to a contender would rejuvenate him.
Buzz factor: High. Bumgarner turns 30 on the day after the Trade Deadline, so age is not an issue here. What could be an issue is his no-trade clause, which allows him to block deals to eight teams -- all contenders -- giving him some control over his immediate future. Of course, with more than 20 clubs still in the postseason picture, that means 12 teams can make a deal without him signing off. He’s going to get dealt; it’s just a matter of which team makes the move to acquire him.
RP: Will Smith, Giants
Unlike the summer of 2016, when Aroldis Chapman and Miller changed teams, there doesn’t appear to be a big-name reliever out there to be had. But Smith’s recent track record shows he can be every bit the race-changer that Chapman and Miller proved to be. He carries a 2.16 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and has struck out 13.8 batters per nine innings, giving the Giants another huge trade chip as they look to rebuild their farm system.
Buzz factor: High. Smith has been among the most consistent and dominant relief arms in the league this season, and given his reasonable salary (he’s owed about $2.1 million for the rest of the season) and expiring contract, he should fetch as much as any rental reliever out there.