Deadline Inbox: Story, Bryant, Buxton & more

July 23rd, 2021

We’re approaching the 100-game mark in the 2021 season, which should be enough for teams to determine their status as buyers or sellers.

Yet with one week to go until the July 30 Trade Deadline, nearly one-third of the league remains on the bubble, uncertain of their approach as trade season nears its conclusion.

The results over the next week will make those decisions easier for most teams, though some will remain in the middle, forcing front offices to make the difficult call on whether to buy, sell or stand pat.

The only thing we know is that the next seven days will go a long way toward defining the 2021 season. It’s go time.

As always, you can send your questions to me on Twitter @feinsand.

(Some questions may be edited for clarity.)

Anything going on with Trevor Story? Seems awfully quiet for a guy who’s about to be a free agent and doesn’t plan on signing with the Rockies.
-- @rich8859

Things have certainly been quiet on the Story front, which has led some executives to wonder whether Colorado will actually trade its best player.

Given the criticism the Rockies faced after dealing Nolan Arenado for an underwhelming return – although Austin Gomber has been very good this year, making the package look a little better than it did at the time of the trade – Colorado is understandably aware of what the reaction would be from its fan base if Story is traded for what is considered to be a poor return.

That said, Story remains one of the better players available, so I fully expect he will be dealt. Teams are getting creative this trade season, so even ones without a need at shortstop have inquired about Story. Don’t be shocked to see him moved to a team that plans to play him at second or third base – or even the outfield.

As one executive told me this week, the requirements for a deal should be very simple for the Rockies.

“You know you’re getting a comp pick if you keep him, so that’s the bar,” the exec said. “You don’t have to get a king’s ransom; you just have to beat that pick.”

Does it make more sense for the Cubs to package some of their assets together to gain a greater prospect, or sell them all off separately to obtain more lottery tickets?
-- @JD214773

Packaging multiple players – and the Cubs have plenty of players to choose from in such a deal – could be the way to go for Chicago, not to mention a number of other sellers.

As one executive told me this week, “It’s one-stop shopping.”

A buyer who can fill multiple holes with one trade might be willing to boost the level of prospect it’s willing to part with. Imagine a team trading for Kris Bryant and Zach Davies, rather than acquiring Bryant alone and having to go elsewhere to find rotation help. Ditto for sellers such as the Pirates (Adam Frazier, Richard Rodríguez, Tyler Anderson), Rangers (Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson, Ian Kennedy) and Rockies (Story, Jon Gray).

Don’t be surprised to see such deals by the end of next week.

Who is a bad contract on the Cubs that can be packaged with Kris Bryant to significantly bring down the prospect cost to acquire him (think player-to-be-named level of prospect)? Certainly Jason Heyward would be too large of a bad contract, right?
-- @fluffsbanker

Heyward is owed roughly $50 million through the end of 2024, so I would think he’s a non-starter. We’ve seen some albatross contracts moved in the past, but for every Vernon Wells, there are 10 Chris Davises or Jacoby Ellsburys.

So if we’re discounting Heyward, the only other players the Cubs have signed beyond 2022 are Kyle Hendricks (owed $14 million in both 2022 and ’23, with a $16 million option for 2024) and David Bote ($12 million total through 2024, plus a $7 million option for 2025 and a $7.6 million option for 2026).

In short, the answer is no, as I don’t see the Cubs dealing Hendricks. Unless Jed Hoyer can magically convince a team to take on Heyward’s contract, there isn’t another player who would fit this category.

Will the Orioles trade Cedric Mullins?
-- @FrankLo9

I have learned to never say never when it comes to potential trades, but I have not spoken with a single person in the game who believes Baltimore will trade Mullins.

Players such as Trey Mancini, Freddy Galvis, Anthony Santander and Maikel Franco could be on the move next week, but Mullins and John Means appear to be in the Orioles’ future plans as building blocks.

Mullins has been a breakout star this season, making his first All-Star team. He’s slated to make the league minimum (or close to it) in 2022, then is arbitration-eligible for three years after that. If the Orioles feel that Mullins’ season isn’t a fluke – and there’s no indication the team believes otherwise – then there is no reason whatsoever to entertain the idea of trading him.

Do you think Kyle Gibson or Alex Cobb get traded to the Dodgers come Deadline day?
-- @dodgerskingsfan

Cobb feels more likely than Gibson for a couple of reasons. First, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has history with the right-hander from their days together in Tampa Bay. Second, the cost to acquire Cobb – who is owed less than $2 million for the rest of the season before becoming a free agent – figures to be less than Texas’ asking price for Gibson, who is signed for a reasonable $7 million in 2022.

Gibson has been a bit of a polarizing figure during trade season. There’s no arguing how effective he’s been this season for the last-place Rangers, pitching to a 2.86 ERA in 18 starts. But he’s 33 years old and entered the season with a career 4.57 ERA in eight seasons, leading some execs to wonder whether 2021 is a fluky outlier.

Gibson has pitched one postseason inning in his career, allowing three runs against the Yankees in a 2019 ALDS relief appearance. Is that the guy you want to trust to take the ball in a big playoff game?

Several front-office folks I have spoken to believe that regression is inevitable, so the idea of giving up solid prospect capital for him is a bit unnerving.

With all the injuries to pitchers on their staff, do the Tigers have anyone of value to trade outside of Schoop?
-- @dboyaj14

Schoop is far and away the best trade chip for the Tigers, who have just two other players signed to guaranteed contracts beyond 2021. One is Miguel Cabrera, whose contract (he’s owed roughly $82 million through 2023 when you factor in an $8 million buyout for his 2024 option) makes Heyward look like a bargain.

The other is Robbie Grossman, who is owed less than $2 million this season and is signed for $5 million in 2022. Grossman has been productive this season, posting a .759 OPS with 14 home runs, so he could be an option for buyers looking for inexpensive outfield help.

Matthew Boyd, Michael Fulmer and José Ureña would have all been potential trade candidates, but their respective injuries have all but taken them off the table.

One other name to watch: José Cisnero.

The hard-throwing right-hander has been excellent since the start of 2020, and at age 32, he’s unlikely to be a part of Detroit’s long-term future. Unlike All-Star Gregory Soto, who is 26 and under control through 2025, Cisnero is arbitration-eligible for two more years, making him a tradeable asset who would be appealing to bullpen-needy contenders both for his performance – he’s in the 87th percentile in hard-hit percentage, 93rd percentile in fastball velocity and 79th percentile in average exit velocity – and club control.

Relievers should bring back solid returns for sellers, so don’t be surprised if Detroit fields some calls about Cisnero.

Is it smarter for contending teams to help their starting rotations at the Deadline rather than their bullpens?
-- @Mayer_Casas2025

Given the lack of quality starters on the trade market (at least as of this moment), the competition for starting pitchers will be intense. The relief market will also be ultra-competitive, but there are several more relievers available via trade this season than there are starters.

We have seen teams take the bullpen-first approach before, so it won’t be surprising to see them do so again. If you have starters who typically go five innings, then having a lockdown bullpen that can routinely cover four-plus innings is the obvious route to go. I expect to see more relievers dealt than any other position between now and July 30.

Do the Twins trade Byron Buxton or hope he re-signs?

Buxton’s fractured left hand has complicated his trade value, but that doesn’t mean the Twins aren’t fielding calls for the talented center fielder.

Minnesota would love to ink Buxton to an extension in the same range as the seven-year, $70 million deal that Aaron Hicks (a former Twin) signed with the Yankees in February 2019. It remains to be seen just how far apart the two sides are on an extension, but if the Twins sense that the gap is sizeable, they could opt to trade Buxton either in the coming week or this offseason.

The Twins are in a similar situation with José Berríos and Taylor Rogers, giving them three quality players heading for free agency at the end of the 2022 season. It’s highly unlikely that Minnesota will be able to sign all three (or even two) players, so it could come down to which player – and we’re really talking about Buxton and Berríos – they will prioritize, but the other could be on the move by the end of the month.

Can the Yankees stay quiet at the Deadline and still sell the postseason dream to their fans?
-- @DamonSalerno

New York has nine games remaining with Boston, so there are plenty of opportunities for the Yankees to make up ground on the first-place Red Sox. Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela will be back from the COVID IL soon, which will help the offense. Gleyber Torres has come out of his first-half funk, posting a .905 OPS with three home runs in his past 10 games after hitting just three homers with a .635 OPS over his first 72 games.

Jameson Taillon is 4-0 with a 2.86 ERA in his past six starts, turning around what appeared to be a lost season. Corey Kluber should also return eventually, giving the rotation a boost, as well.

Will it be enough if the Yankees stand pat? Maybe not enough to win the competitive AL East (the Rays aren’t going anywhere, either, only adding to that notion by trading for Nelson Cruz on Thursday), but New York is well within striking distance of a Wild Card spot, giving the Bombers another path to the postseason.

The Yankees’ roster has plenty of talent to get there if guys like Torres and DJ LeMahieu play to their capabilities over the final two months. I would guess that they’ll make some incremental upgrades (more on that in a moment), but it would not be a surprise if Brian Cashman had the restraint not to make a huge move.

How much of a chance do the Yankees have to get a guy like Joey Gallo or Starling Marte?
-- @beira_carlos

Gallo would fall into the “huge move” category, and while he would be a great fit in the Yankees’ righty-heavy lineup, the price to acquire the slugger figures to be costly given his additional year of control.

Marte, on the other hand, is headed for free agency at the end of the season and should be far more affordable. He would solve the Yankees’ problem in center field, and although he’s a right-handed hitter, he would be a good fit at the top of New York’s lineup. Assuming that Marte and the Marlins are unable to agree to an extension, he’s a near-lock to be traded, making the Yankees as likely a destination as any other team in the league.