Deadline roundtable: Max, Berríos, NL West

July 26th, 2021

With mere days remaining until the Trade Deadline on Friday at 4 p.m. ET, analysts Mark Feinsand and Jon Paul Morosi gathered to discuss where things stand, where they’re headed and which teams may be ready to pounce.

Alyson Footer, editor/moderator: Every year around this time -- with just a few days to go until the Deadline -- rumors fly in every direction, hinting that there will be a flurry of moves when time’s about to run out. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it’s quieter than expected. But with the Cubs being sellers and the Nats possibly selling as well, it seems almost impossible that this won't be a crazy week. You think this is stacking up to be one of the more interesting Trade Deadlines in recent memory?

Jon Paul Morosi, reporter, Network: I absolutely expect it to be one of the most frenetic we've ever seen.

Mark Feinsand, executive reporter: Absolutely. Add the Twins into that mix, and we potentially have three sellers with multiple assets that could really make a huge impact on the postseason races.

We know the Cubs and Twins are big sellers, but as I wrote today, I think the Nationals are the key to this Deadline. If Max Scherzer becomes available (ducking from Nats fans throwing things at me), he will be the biggest difference-maker moved before the Deadline.

Morosi: One big-picture reason is that trade conversations at last year's Deadline and during the winter were somewhat more muted due to effects of the pandemic.

Feinsand: Last year’s Deadline was 30-something games into the season. This year is more traditional, and since we haven’t seen that in two years, it will feel more hectic than ever.

There are execs who are going through this for the first time (Zack Scott, Perry Minasian, Kim Ng, etc.) in the big chair.

Morosi: Another key factor is that two of the most motivated sellers -- the Twins and Pirates -- already have made significant moves, freeing up bandwidth to pursue other trades.

Also, when I was interviewing Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey Sunday on MLB Network Radio, he acknowledged that there's a greater willingness on the part of GMs to package two or three players together in order to bring back the best possible prospect return.

Feinsand: J.P., your point about packages is spot on. I have heard from multiple execs that package deals are quite possible. Imagine a team dealing for Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel. Or José Berríos and Taylor Rogers. As one exec said, it’s “one-stop shopping.”

Morosi: In Andrew Friedman (Dodgers), Farhan Zaidi (Giants) and A.J. Preller (Padres), you have three leading execs -- in the same division -- who have favored that construct from a buying standpoint. And if the sellers are willing to go there, you've got the environment for a major deal.

Feinsand: The Padres’ trade for Adam Frazier was both surprising and not surprising. Nobody is shocked when A.J. Preller makes an aggressive move, but San Diego already has an All-Star second baseman in Jake Cronenworth, and the Padres are now toeing the CBT threshold.

Ken Rosenthal suggested that Eric Hosmer could be traded, which would be quite a move for a team that is in the Padres’ position. But as I said, nothing Preller does surprises me anymore.

The NL West is fascinating. What happens this week could very well decide the fate of that division.

Morosi: I believe José Berríos is in play for the Dodgers, Giants and Padres. And there's a better chance of Berríos moving than other controllable starters like Germán Márquez or Luis Castillo. Part of the reason for that is how close Berríos is to free agency.

Feinsand: The Twins have some big decisions to make. Extension talks with Byron Buxton have seemingly broken down. His injury makes a trade this week a little more complicated, but the contract situation has to play into Minnesota’s thinking regarding Berrios and Rogers as well.

The fact that both the Dodgers and Giants are targeting Danny Duffy -- who is on the IL and may miss most of August -- shows that these teams are looking at September and October as being the most important time for them.

Morosi: And teams no longer have the August waiver period to access an additional talent pool. The modern Trade Deadline is the sign you pass before driving across Alligator Alley during Spring Training: No gas station for many, many miles. Fill up now!

Footer: I think what gets lost in a lot of Trade Deadline talk is the low return that pending free-agent position players often garner in the trade market. Names like Kris Bryant, Javy Báez, etc., get our attention, but realistically, the returns could be disappointing. Should we expect the Cubs to really trade a haul of their core position players? That does magnify the earlier point about packaging them together for a bigger return.

Morosi: That’s precisely why it's possible that we see Bryant paired with Kimbrel.

Báez is a really interesting case for me. As I type this, he has a .701 OPS since the start of 2020. But he loves to compete, and perhaps a new team will bring out the best in him.

Feinsand: We’ve seen rental position players bring back an underwhelming return, so people have to be realistic about what will come back to the Cubs. Manny Machado and J.D. Martinez were dealt for very modest packages; the same could very well happen for Bryant, Báez, Trevor Story and Starling Marte.

Feinsand: The Mets are scouring the market for another starting pitcher -- even after dealing for Rich Hill -- but don’t count them out on Bryant. He’s still a natural fit there, especially with Francisco Lindor out for another month.

Morosi: I also think it's possible the Cubs consider moving Kyle Hendricks.

Feinsand: Hendricks could be moved, but he feels like one of the few players the Cubs will want to hang on to. He’s signed for a few years at a reasonable price.

Morosi: Hendricks could be a Seattle Mariner by Friday. Jerry Dipoto has been looking for a veteran starter who is under control and can mentor a young staff. That's Hendricks.

Feinsand: Like Preller, nothing Dipoto does would shock me. The Mariners are surprisingly in the playoff race, so the idea of them getting guys like Hendricks or Whit Merrifield makes sense.

I keep thinking about Max Scherzer in a Dodgers uniform. That’s the one move that would fascinate me more than any other.

Footer: Do you think Scherzer would accept a trade to Houston if the Astros were interested?

Feinsand: Scherzer is one of the most competitive people in the game. The chance to join the Astros and make a run at a World Series would be difficult for him to pass up.

He knows that he’s a mercenary wherever he goes. If he thinks he can legitimately win a ring, I think he would have to consider it.

Morosi: Great question on Max. I think he would accept a trade to Houston.

Remember this: Max Scherzer pitched for Dusty Baker for two seasons as a National. He won the Cy Young Award both times.

By the way, Dusty is going to make the playoffs for the 11th time in his career. Hall of Fame.

Feinsand: The Nationals’ return for Scherzer might not be as great as we all think it will be. Scherzer’s no-trade rights limit the teams Washington can talk to. It reminds me of the Verlander situation four years ago.

If Scherzer tells them he will approve a deal to two or three specific teams, then Washington will have to settle on the best they can get from that limited market.

Morosi: Good point, Mark, but I also think he's not going to pass up a chance to pursue another World Series title.

Footer: And it might make more sense just to keep him.

Feinsand: I would push back against that. He’s a free agent, and they can always try to re-sign him. Get what you can if you believe this is a lost season. And judging by their 1.0% chance to make the playoffs, it appears to be lost.

Morosi: The qualifying offer is not in play for Max because he rejected one from the Tigers, many ages ago.

In the absence of the QO, a trade is the Nationals' one chance to bring back value.

Footer: I guess I don't see him wanting to re-sign with the Nats if he's traded away. It's not like they're moving in the right direction for the foreseeable future. Wouldn't he want to sign with a contender?

Feinsand: Most likely. Which is even more reason for the Nats to trade him.

Morosi: This is one of the unique cases where I could see Max returning to the Nats as a free agent, even if they trade him. Mike Rizzo drafted him in Arizona. That relationship goes way back.

Feinsand: Rizzo could go to him and say, “We want you here next year, but I’m going to move you in order to bring back some assets that will help us in 2022 and beyond. It will only benefit you if you come back, and it gives you a chance to win a ring this year.”

I know we always bring up Aroldis Chapman, because he’s the only example in recent years, but the precedent is there for a team to trade a player and then re-sign him as a free agent. Don’t you think Chapman was happier to go back to New York with Gleyber Torres wearing pinstripes?

Footer: I guess I'm also suspicious of just what kind of return they can get for him, as noted earlier, given he controls where he goes. The return for Verlander was largely unspectacular.

Feinsand: Relievers are the only players that routinely bring back big returns. But Scherzer is the type of pitcher that a contender might believe is the final piece to a World Series run. Like I said, imagine him in a Dodgers uniform. Or an Astros uniform. Those teams would immediately become the favorites to win the title if they added Scherzer.

And every team needs bullpen help, so competition for relievers is always fierce. I expect this year to be no different. Craig Kimbrel is the most coveted trade piece out there. Especially because he’s under control for 2022 as well.

Morosi: Exactly. Bryant and Kimbrel to the Dodgers would be a sensible blockbuster. Kenley Jansen is a free agent after this year.

Footer: Let’s end this with a bold prediction -- which team will be declared “Trade Deadline Winners” over all of the other teams?

Morosi: I expect the Padres to be the biggest winner. The Adam Frazier move created additional depth among MLB position players from which Preller can deal.

San Diego also has a very strong farm system.

Feinsand: I think the Padres may be the most aggressive simply because of Preller, but I’ll go with the Dodgers as the biggest winner. I think Andrew Friedman makes a big move to thrust the Dodgers back into pole position in the NL West.

Morosi: And so I expect they will add an impact starter like Berríos.

The Padres' prospects are compelling enough that I believe Derek Falvey would prefer to trade Berríos to San Diego, if he's moved at all.