The trade deadline is looming, and it gives MLB teams both the chance to reload for the playoff race or unload for the future. The MLB deadline is notorious for being a whirlwind of activity all day, with trades being announced all over social media and television. This article will outline some of the more obvious candidates to be moved as August 1st looms, along with some of the potential returns that could be gained by each team on both sides of the trade.
Jonathan Lucroy is an obvious candidate because he has bounced back from his injury plagued 2015 season to be a 2016 National League All Star for the Brewers. This season his average has been hovering around .300 all season coupled with 13 home runs and being near the top in a number of defensive categories, which displays him as one of the top all-around catchers in the game.
The Brewers are sitting 16.5 games back in the division and are looking to quickly rebuild their team, so Lucroy could be moved to a contender in exchange for prospects. Lucroy’s contract does not hinder a team, with him earning $4 million in 2016 and him having a team option for $5.25 million on his contract for 2017.
The cost would be heavy because he is not in a contract year and he is an elite catcher, so that limits the interested parties to teams that have a deep enough farm system for him. Ultimately, I think the Indians close the deal on him, especially with the troubles facing Yan Gomes all season. It would be a hefty price to pay, but I think the Indians get it done by starting a package around both Bradley Zimmer (Outfielder) and Justus Sheffield (Left-Handed Pitcher), both of whom are top 100 prospects according to mlb.com.
Despite the Brewers having a number of Outfielder prospects already, Zimmer would jump in front of all of them in terms of both getting to the MLB first and in the farm system rankings. Sheffield is a young pitcher who has the potential for three above average pitches by the time he reaches the majors. He has the floor of a mid-rotation guy but could develop into a front-line starter if his development remains strong. The Indians have, arguably, the best young rotation in baseball, so losing Sheffield will not hurt. Zimmer would hurt a little, but the Indians have enough outfield depth in their system that it only stings, especially since Zimmer has not been performing as well as the Indians’ other stud outfield prospect Clint Frazier.
Update: The latest news has the Rangers eyeing Lucroy as an alternative to paying for pitching. Lucroy is an excellent defensive backstop and would help strengthen the rotation from a different perspective. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported the Rangers interest first.
Jay Bruce is another strong candidate to be moved before the deadline comes on the first of August. The right fielder has produced an all-star season for the Cincinnati Reds, hitting .271 and knocking in 79 RBI’s (runs batted in), leading the league at the time of writing. Bruce has always been known as a power left-handed bat, yet many Reds fans were worried about his power outage in the 2nd half of 2015 that maybe he was not the player that was a staple in their playoff lineups through the early 2010’s. All worries have been erased though, and with the Reds sitting comfortably in last place in the National League Central, the time appears ripe to make a deal.
Bruce, just like Lucroy, also has a team option for 2017, so Bruce would not be a rental for a team, but also a contributor for all of next season. His biggest knock is his defensive value this season, with him leading the league in errors in right field.
According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, Bruce still has at least 4 teams interested, including the Mariners, despite the defensive deficiencies. The Reds want at least one top prospect, it is just a matter of how valuable that one top prospect is when all is said and done.
The arms race may drive up the price for Bruce, but I think a deal will be struck between the Reds and the Rangers for a package headlined by Jurickson Profar. Profar was once a top prospect in baseball, before injuries and lack of playing time has diminished his reputation a tad. The Reds would use him in the infield, especially if Zack Cozart and/or Brandon Phillips are traded either at the deadline or in the offseason. Even without a middle infield trade for the Reds, Profar can slot into third base for a slumping Eugenio Suarez and will be expected to handle the middle of the diamond in the future.
The Rangers infield is set for the foreseeable future, especially with Adrian Beltre signing his extension through the 2018 season, so Profar’s loss would not hurt too badly. Bruce would fill the third slot in the outfield for the Rangers and bring some power to a team that is hurting in the outfield. Rookie Nomar Mazara started hot, but has been slumping as late, and the Rangers currently have Shin-Soo Choo on the disabled list.
The #Reds have picked up the pace on Jay Bruce trade discussions. They're talking to at least 4 clubs. Seeking a top prospect in return.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 26, 2016
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 27, 2016
Update: Latest rumors have the Dodgers circling Bruce still. Bruce was rumored to be involved in a 3 way trade with the Dodgers, Rays and Reds, but those talks have stalled according to Jayson Stark of ESPN. Other potential teams, as of now, include the Nationals, Mets, and Mariners.
Jeremy Hellickson is the final player that will be analyzed in this article. Hellickson broke through with the Rays before being traded to the Dbacks in 2015, and then the Phillies in his final year before he hits free agency. Since joining the Phillies, he has displayed ample skill that has led to a 3.65 ERA (Earned Run Average) and a WHIP (Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched) sitting at 1.12. His bounce-back this season has led to the Phillies shopping him around.
The Phillies are out of the playoff race and Hellickson remains their strongest chip to trade. The starting market is rather thin, as evidenced by the return the Padres got for a struggling Andrew Cashner this season. The only other strong rental starting pitcher, Rich Hill, has been hit with nagging injuries over the past couple weeks which has hurt his trade value. The Phillies also have three young starting pitchers that the team will focus on building around and as such, will not have a need for Hellickson in the future.
As previously mentioned, Hellickson will be on the last year of his contract before hitting free agency. A perk of trading for Hellickson is that the receiving team will be able to potentially get a draft pick for him if he signs the other team. Hellickson will be able to receive a qualifying offer from the team, which if turned down, will grant the team a draft pick at the end of the first round in the following amateur draft.
There are a number of teams that could be interested in adding to their rotation including the Rangers, Orioles, Blue Jays and Dodgers. After seeing the return for Andrew Cashner on 7/29, the Phillies will be in a prime position to get at least one stud prospect. I am going to go with the Blue Jays that make the trade for Hellickson, who would slot in to the back-end of the rotation and push Marcus Stroman into the bullpen for the playoff push. The Blue Jays have gotten solid seasons from castaway veterans Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, along with an arguably Cy-Young season from their young stud Aaron Sanchez. Combined with the potent Blue Jays offense, Hellickson could be one of the final pieces to their playoff puzzle.
In exchange, the Phillies would receive a package centered around the pitcher Sean Reid-Foley, who has been dominant at both Low and High A minor league ball this season. The Phillies have a plethora of stud position player prospects in their farm system, but have graduated their handful of stud pitching prospects to the majors already this season. Reid-Foley has a four pitch arsenal, with his fastball, slider, and changeup all grading out to be above-average offerings. He could easily slot in to the middle of the rotation for the Phillies down the road.