With the July 31 trade deadline approaching, we asked a panel of our experts to make predictions about where six of the biggest names on the market would end up. For all the rumors and speculation this time of year, there’s only one thing we really want to know — who is changing teams and who is staying put?
Biggest name traded before the July 31 deadline?
David Schoenfield: Yu Darvish. Sure, the Rangers still have a chance at the wild card, but their odds of obtaining that are about 20 percent, so if they can extract a premium prospect for Darvish — as the Yankees did last year with Aroldis Chapman — I think they deal their ace and then attempt to re-sign him in the offseason.
Scott Lauber: Sonny Gray. He’s controllable beyond this season and is back to being a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Given the rotation needs of the Yankees, Astros and even the Dodgers, there’s no time like the present for Billy Beane to make a deal.
Mark Simon: I don’t think that Sonny Gray will get dealt, so the biggest name traded will be Yu Darvish. The Rangers are smart enough to know that even though they are within striking distance of the second wild card, that there are a lot of teams in the mix … teams better than they are. Darvish will net a solid haul, given that there are several teams (hello, Dodgers, Astros and Nationals) with health concerns at the top of their rotation to provide a bidding war with top prospects dangled.
Team that will make biggest splash?
Schoenfield: I’d say whoever lands Darvish, although I could see the Astros trading for a lefty reliever like Zach Britton and also picking up a starting pitcher — maybe not Darvish, but maybe Sonny Gray or maybe a second-tier guy like Dan Straily or Marco Estrada.
Lauber: The Yankees. With their rebuild one year ahead of schedule and the Red Sox dealing with their own problems, the Baby Bombers can go for it by adding an ace and another hitter without depleting their fertile farm system.
Simon: The Astros have been stealth so far, and my guess is they’re going to be ready to pounce. This team has such a great chance to end a (rarely discussed nationally) title drought that dates back to its origins in 1962. Jeff Luhnow did his entire multiyear rebuild for exactly this moment. This is the time to strike.
Best team after the deadline?
Schoenfield: Given the recent struggles of Lance McCullers Jr., who has had three straight bad starts, and the fact that Dallas Keuchel remains on the DL, I’ll stick with the Dodgers over the Astros, even if the Astros make a move or two and the Dodgers don’t make any moves (and they don’t have to). Of course, if we learn that Clayton Kershaw is out for the season, that alters the equation.
Lauber: Dodgers. Nothing changes here.
Simon: It will be extremely close between the Astros and Dodgers, two teams with opposite strengths, who will use the trade deadline to shore up their few remaining holes … and by holes we mean minor deficiencies that separate great teams from being great teams.
Dark horse/surprise player traded?
Schoenfield: Jeff Samardzija. The Giants have been awful going back to the second half of 2016, so it’s possible this is a team in need of a major overhaul and not just a veteran team having a lousy season. If the front office decides that’s the case, their biggest chip is Samardzija, who is having the best worst season you can imagine. His ERA is 5.05, but he also has a 138-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio and is signed through 2020. The Giants may have to eat some of the salary to get a better return.
Lauber: Jose Iglesias. Justin Verlander, Justin Wilson and even Ian Kinsler have been the Tigers players most frequently mentioned in trade rumors, but Iglesias could be available at the right price. Would the Astros consider Iglesias as a short-term replacement for injured Carlos Correa?
Simon: I’ve spent most of the time pondering this answer, crossing out name after name of players who could get traded, but won’t … Andrew McCutchen, Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Justin Verlander. In this day of intense media scrutiny, I don’t see any surprises. In terms of a “forgotten man” (at least from a national perspective), maybe it’s Jose Bautista. Reports are that he won’t waive his no-trade clause, but perhaps a week to think about it will change his mind.
Make one ‘fantasy’ trade — the deal you’d like to see happen but don’t think will
Simon: In our recent survey, I had Zach Britton going to the Red Sox. I’m thinking now that won’t happen. I can’t see Dan Duquette making a trade that would put a division rival (and his former employer, though I don’t think that’s a factor) a step closer to getting to the World Series. But a trade of Britton for two of the Red Sox’s top five prospects would be fascinating on many levels.
Biggest name traded after the deadline — Aug. 1 to Aug. 31?
Schoenfield: I don’t think Justin Verlander gets traded, so … how about a guy like Curtis Granderson? He’s a free agent, the Mets don’t need him this year, and he could be useful as a bench bat for a playoff contender (with the Mets picking up most of his remaining salary).
Simon: I think it will be almost impossible for a big name who doesn’t have multiple years and significant dollars remaining on his deal to slip through to a top contender. In August, often the most important deals are the ones for secondary players who become postseason heroes, such as Matt Stairs to the Phillies in 2008 or the Giants’ waiver claim of Cody Ross in 2010. So I’ll say the most important name traded in this window is a familiar name from last year’s postseason — Rajai Davis — to a team with a need for speed. And maybe this year he gets his ring.