New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman is a big prize and he's on the market. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Troy Tulowitzki and David Price came to Toronto last July and pushed the Blue Jays into the American League Championship Series in 2015.
There are more big names on the market this summer - New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Cincinnati Reds slugger Jay Bruce among them - and plenty of buyers looking to improve their roster before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.
So the question is ... buy or sell? All teams have a decision to make, so we sought advice from The Sports Xchange's national network of baseball writers:
They are sellers and made that clear by trading closer Brad Ziegler to Boston for two prospects, 20-year-old right-hander Jose Almonte and 19-year-old infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe, on Friday. Ziegler will become a free agent this winter, so the deal was no surprise. Daniel Hudson also will be a free agent next winter. While he would like to return, his name will be in play. Tyler Clippard is owed $4.25 million on the second year of a two-year deal in 2017, and he also could draw interest. Either Hudson or Clippard is expected to take over for Ziegler as closer.
Sell, if a young arm can be had. The Braves are willing to trade SS Erick Aybar, OF Nick Markakis, C A.J. Pierzynski, INF Gordon Beckham and RHP Jim Johnson. Aybar has started to rebound from his horrible offensive start (.212), which likely affected his normal stellar defensive play. Markakis has seen his power numbers vanish and his throwing arm deteriorate since 2014 neck surgery, but he has value as a smart hitter who brings a veteran presence. The same can be said for Pierzynski (.205), who gets high marks for handling young pitchers but whose skills behind the plate have eroded. Any of the veterans could be moved for a prospect.
The Orioles are looking for pitching. They've made no bones about it. The team wants to improve their depth in that position. Their starters had a 5.21 ERA heading into Sunday's game, and Baltimore must improve to hold on to first place and/or a playoff spot. Chris Tillman (12-2, 3.41) is the lone starter with more than five wins, and the only one that's shown any type of consistency. Depending on what's on the market, the Orioles might strike early and beat the rush at the end of the month.
Boston Red Sox
Team president Dave Dombrowski made three trades in three days on the final weekend before the break. The Red Sox are stacked with prospects who could go in a deal for a starting pitcher and the Red Sox, who also have the money, will be buyers at the deadline. If Dombrowski can add a big name (or even a Jeremy Hellickson) to David Price, All-Star Steven Wright and Rick Porcello, then getting something for Rodriguez or even Clay Buchholz would make for a solid No. 5
At its best, this is a team with few holes or apparent needs, so any acquisitions would compensate for injuries or unforeseen needs that may yet arise. The Cubs have been deep enough to rotate players into different positions, but three outfielders (Fowler, Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler) remain on the disabled list at the All-Star break. "There's a good chance that we'll make a deal that will help us in the 'pen as well," Cubs general manager Theo Epstein said last week. If the New York Yankees make any of their back-end bullpen arms available, Epstein will be interested and is dealing from a position of strength with a loaded farm system.
Chicago White Sox
Buy. At the right price, the White Sox could look to bolster the bullpen. Right-handers Nate Jones and David Robertson own the eighth and ninth innings but could use some help. The White Sox also could seek a swingman to provide insurance for the starting rotation in case of injuries. The White Sox did not wait until the trade deadline to become buyers. They acquired right-hander James Shields from the San Diego Padres on June 5 in exchange for right-hander Erik Johnson and teenage infielder prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. Four days later, the White Sox signed first baseman/designated hitter Justin Morneau to a one-year, $1 million contract to provide a left-handed power bat for the second half.
The Indians will be buyers, but cautious buyers, at the trade deadline. This is the classic if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it situation. The Indians were so good in the first half that there are no glaring holes to fill, certainly none that would merit trading a key player or prospect to fill. The Indians' "trade" will be the expected return of Michael Brantley off the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break. If they do choose to pursue a trade, it would likely be for a utility player, and/or a left-handed reliever.
The Reds aren't done dealing, and there are plenty of contenders who have been burning up the cell phones of president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty and general manager Dick Williams. LF Jay Bruce and SS Zack Cozart could be the first to go. Also keep an eye on 2B Brandon Phillips who invoked his 5-10 rights to block a trade to the Washington Nationals during the offseason. The Reds have Phillips' potential replacement in Jose Peraza, but Price has found it difficult to get him playing time.
Selective sellers. Left-handed reliever Boone Logan, who turns 32 in August, and left-handed starter Jorge De La Rosa, 35, will be free agents after this season, and neither is expected to be with the Rockies next season. Left-handed reliever Jake McGee, who turns 30 in August, will be a free agent after the 2017 season. The Rockies will certainly listen to offers for the three pitchers and be willing to move them. 1B Mark Reynolds, who turns 33 in August and is under contract only for this season. OF Carlos Gonzalez can become a free agent after 2017. He's owed just under half of the $17 million he will make this year with a $20 million salary next season. The Rockies have far less financial incentive to trade Gonzalez than they did SS Troy Tulowitzki on July 27, 2015.
Detroit will buy if it can -- and sell if it can as the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. "This is the team we are counting on to win," GM Al Avila said earlier this month. "If we have to make a minor move here or there, we will look into it at that point." The focus will be on improving the pitching, maybe an innings-eating starter or a veteran reliever who can work good middle innings. Anibal Sanchez and Mark Lowe, both greatly underperforming and guaranteed paydays through next season, could be moved if the Tigers can find takers and Detroit is willing to pay most of their salaries. But with no major league-ready prospects in the minors and a pat team on the field, the Tigers are likely to tread water at the deadline. "First of all, we have a huge payroll, one of the biggest in baseball," Avila said. "And we have a team that is set position by position. We aren't going to replace any of those guys, position player-wise."
The Astros enter the break five games in the loss column behind Texas in the AL West, in the thick of the wild-card chase, and carrying a roster with few holes, meaning they can stand pat. First base has been a lingering problem but likely is an easy fix with the pending promotion of stud prospect Alex Bregman, who would shift from shortstop to third base and push Luis Valbuena across the diamond. If RHP Mike Fiers continues to scuffle, bullpen arms Scott Feldman and/or Chris Devenski are capable rotation options.
Kansas City Royals
Buy. Last July, general manager Dayton Moore acquired RHP Johnny Cueto and super utility player Ben Zobrist in trades. Without those two, the Royals likely do not win the 2015 World Series. Moore is looking to make a deal to bolster the starting pitching. He would also like to add an outfield bat. They've had talks with the Athletics about Josh Reddick and Rich Hill. Other names on the Royals' radar include Ervin Santana and Jake Odorizzi, two former Royals, plus Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Andre Cashner. While no pitchers of the ilk of Cueto and David Price, who were both dealt last July, appear to be on the market, there are plenty of suitable arms available that might help the Royals get back to the postseason.
Los Angeles Angels
The New York Mets and San Francisco Giants already inquired about 3B Yunel Escobar, who might be the most marketable commodity. But the Angels are better situated to trading their veteran relievers -- RHPs Huston Street, Joe Smith and Fernando Salas -- if the club believes RHPs Cam Bedrosian, Mike Morin and Deolis Garcia are ready to replace them. Smith, a free agent after the season, can serve a contender as a closer or a setup specialist. Salas, who will join Smith in free agency, pitched in the 2011 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. Street led the American League with 40 saves last year before a strained left groin forced him to miss the final eight games. C Geovany Soto, INF Cliff Pennington and switch-hitting OF Daniel Nava, three more free agents, could provide bench depth for a contender. But injuries limited them to 82 games combined, with Soto playing just 21.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are scouting Oakland Athletics LHP Rich Hill and have been connected with Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce. Andrew Friedman, the director of baseball operations, has not been shy about making major deals. Cases in point: a 13-player trade involving the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins last July, and a seven-player transaction in December with the Reds and Chicago White Sox. In that second trade, the Dodgers acquired OF Trayce Thompson, a prospect who has earned a starting spot. Friedman, however, will not sacrifice his best prospects for immediate help, so teams can forget about SS Corey Seager and LHP Julio Urias. The Philadelphia Phillies asked for both in the Cole Hamels talks last July.
Buy -- barring a massive losing streak in the next couple of weeks. Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill has already made one "buy" move, trading away one of his top pitching prospects, RHO Chris Paddack, in exchange for All-Star reliever Fernando Rodney. It was a "go for it now" decision, and the Marlins figure to be equally aggressive in finding a fifth starting pitcher, which is the most glaring hole on the team. The Marlins have a thin farm system, but they do have some prospects who could entice, including RHP Luis Castillo, LHP Jarlin Garcia and 1B Josh Naylor. If they are willing to deal some of their high-end prospects, they could find the starter they lack.
Sell, especially if they get a significant offer for their top two trade chips, LF Ryan Braun and C Jonathan Lucroy. Braun had an absolutely terrific first half (.312/.514/.367 with 22 home runs and 51 RBIs), but at age 32 with four years and $76 million left on his contract after this season and a rash of injury issues, interest might be thin. On the other hand, there are plenty of teams that would love to add Lucroy, one of the best defensive catchers in the game who has bounced back from an injury-riddled 2015 campaign. With another year under a team-friendly contract, the asking price is pretty steep, so it is no guarantee that he'll be moved, either.
The Twins don't have many veterans but someone who could generate some interest is Ervin Santana. Santana was a disappointment last season in the first year of his four-year $55 million contract by going 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA in 17 starts following an 80-game PED suspension. Year Two of the deal has not gone well as Santana is 3-7 with a 4.06 ERA. Santana has pitched better recently (2-0, 1.63 ERA in his last four starts). It seems some team in need of a starting pitcher (perhaps the Texas Rangers) might be interested especially if he keeps it up.
New York Mets
Like about 28 other teams, the Mets could use another starting pitcher and some relief help. But what do they have to offer after losing, either via trade, waivers or the Rule 5 draft, nine prospects -- all pitchers -- in the last 12 months? Those trades, plus the promotions of ailing RHP Noah Syndergaard and LHP Steven Matz, depleted the top-end pitching talent in the organization, and management views 22-year-old Triple-A 2B Dilson Herrera as a big league starter in 2017 and 20-year-old Double-A SS Amed Rosario as untouchable. "Our farm system is not quite as healthy today as it was (previously), in part because of all the trades we made," Alderson said in June. "So to the extent that we're active, it may hurt us a little more this year than it did last year."
New York Yankees
It has been a raging debate since about mid-June when the Yankees won six of 11 games and failed to get any traction during the so-called soft schedule against Colorado and Minnesota. The Yankees are technically in the wild card race but many fans would like to see if the team can get some high-end prospects for players like Carlos Beltran and Aroldis Chapman, who will be free agents after this season. Beltran has been traded twice in free agent years (2004 and 2011) and the last time the Mets wound up getting Zach Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants. Chapman has been mostly dominant and teams like the Chicago Cubs could be interested. The Yankees play 10 straight home games against Boston, Baltimore and San Francisco. How they do in those games could indicate if the Yankees sell off a veteran piece for the first time since trading Rickey Henderson to Oakland in June 1989.
Sonny Gray, Sean Manaea ... OK, that pretty much exhausts the list of A's who are untouchable at the trade deadline. There's been talk about giving RF Josh Reddick a contract extension. But it's no coincidence that the A's offer is just short of the slugger's demands. It's Beane's way of saying: We really don't want you long-term, but we don't want to admit that to our fans. Hill is the surest thing to be traded, and 3B Danny Valencia, who seems to have lost interest in the A's, might not be far behind.
With their eyes toward the future, the Phillies will look to sell a few of their veterans to teams in contention. Names such as RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Jeanmar Gomez and OF Peter Bourjos could all be on the table come deadline time. With a sub 4.00 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP, Hellickson should draw interest from teams in need of starting pitcher, while Gomez and his 24 saves certainly will certainly attract closer-starved teams. Bourjos has caught fire of late, producing a .398 average over the past month.
A few weeks ago, rumors surfaced regarding the Pirates potentially selling off assets such as Andrew McCutchen and right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole. That's changed and the Pirates could look to add a piece at the deadline, but probably won't be very active. Multiple reports have pointed to the Pirates shopping left-handed pitcher Jonathan Niese at the deadline, which would likely be the result of his inconsistency and the emergence of Pittsburgh's many pitching prospects, such as Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl.
St. Louis Cardinals
With the second wild-card spot up for grabs and the Chicago Cubs' once-formidable NL Central lead shrinking by the day, the Cardinals will be in buy mode -- within reason. The area GM John Mozeliak is most likely to focus on is the bullpen, which has been shaky because RHP Trevor Rosenthal has pitched this year as though the strike zone is high and outside. St. Louis could make a play for LHP Andrew Miller, if Yankees ownership decides this isn't their year. Mozeliak has been very particular in the kind of player he hunts this time of year, but dividends have been big with the likes of Brandon Moss.
San Diego Padres
Sellers. The only question is how many players can they move? Given their contracts, outfielders Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. might be hard to move, although Upton is having a comeback-player-of-the-year type season. The Padres will have to eat a good share of the Upton and Kemp contracts and the best opportunity to move Kemp might be limited to an American League team needing a DH. Right-handed starter Andrew Cashner and C Derek Norris are also on the market. About the only player not on the market is All-Star 1B Wil Myers. The Padres would also like to move CF Jon Jay, who is out another six weeks with a forearm fracture.
San Francisco Giants
Short of New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman coming available, it is hard to see the Giants doing much at the trade deadline, and if they did it would be out of character. A Michael Morse-type bat for the bench? Maybe. A veteran left-handed reliever to give manager Bruce Bochy even more flexibility in his bullpen? Possible. But with five regulars scheduled to come off the disabled list by the end of July, the Giants' most likely player movement probably will include Triple-A Sacramento, not another major league destination.
The Mariners are going to do whatever they can to make a playoff push, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be shoring up some obvious needs. Getting another quality starter and an arm or two for the bullpen would be no-brainers if Seattle had adequate trade pieces. The problem is, Seattle's minor league system provides very few -- if any -- trade chips. If GM Jerry DiPoto is serious about giving this team a facelift, he might have to get creative and give up some contributors to get something in return.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are certainly sellers -- and with starting pitching a key commodity, they must be smart in getting upside return on assets that are still considered a position of depth. Losing Moore or Odorizzi -- both still young and largely inexpensive -- would be offset if Matt Andriese can sustain the success he had as a starter, or if Alex Cobb returns healthy and Blake Snell continues to develop as a rookie.
Texas general manager Jon Daniels said the team still needs pitching and it's obvious. Only LHPs Cole Hamels and Martin Perez have been in the rotation since Opening Day. Making a move like the club did last year for Hamels is unrealistic but they continue to scout several starters. The bullpen could also use a boost. Texas is already on its second closer of the season, but getting a healthy Keone Kela back could put the focus squarely on the rotation.
Toronto Blue Jays
They will be buyers but don't expect a splurge like last year - when the Jays acquired David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays are targeting pitching depth. They made a move to shore up a struggling bullpen by adding RHP Jason Grilli from the Atlanta Braves. They likely will look for more help for the bullpen and also some depth in the rotation as the innings for RHP Aaron Sanchez mount in his first full season as a major league starter. The Blue Jays don't seem to have the prospects in the minors after using some of their top ones in last year's spectacular deadline dealing. RF Jose Bautista and 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion can be free agents at the end of the season but their tenure allows them to reject a trade and both are comfortable in Toronto.
The Nationals will be buyers again, something GM Mike Rizzo has done in the past with some mixed results. Last year at the deadline, Washington traded minor league RHP Nick Pivetta to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon, who stepped into the closer role as Drew Storen lost the job. Papelbon struggled down the stretch and famously got into a fight with Harper in the dugout in late September. Washington could be looking for a bat, as 1B Ryan Zimmerman was hitting about 60 points below his career average before going on the disabled list Friday with a left rib injury.