Once upon a time, the 2020 trade deadline had the potential to be a lot of fun. That is no longer the case.
The pandemic-delayed start to the season threw everything off-kilter, and with only a month between then and the new trade deadline — Aug. 31, at 4 p.m. ET — it’s fair to wonder what teams will be willing to part with, prospect-wise, for 30 days of impact players. And with 16 of the 30 teams qualifying for the postseason — and no more one-game coin flips — more teams than ever have a realistic chance of October success.
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And then, there’s this: Players we once thought were prime candidates to be traded at the 2020 MLB trade deadline — guys who are/were scheduled to be free agents after the 2020 season — are no longer great options, for various reasons. Some could still be moved, but not in blockbuster deals. It was never likely that Mike Trout or Mookie Betts would have been left to dangle, guarantee-less, by the Angels and Red Sox, respectively, but they’re both off the board.
Other free-agents-to-be: Marcus Stroman opted out of the 2020 season. Starters Robbie Ray and Jake Odorizzi both have 2020 ERAs north of 8.00. Shortstop wizard Andrelton Simmons has been hurt and played just six of the Angels’ 29 games. Marcus Semien has slumped badly at the plate (65 OPS+) after his third-place AL MVP finish last year, but the A’s are rolling and not likely to move him. Marcell Ozuna is too valuable to be moved by Atlanta. Mike Minor has a 6.75 ERA/5.29 FIP. Joc Pederson is batting .183 with an 83 OPS+ and minus-0.1 bWAR.
So who’s left, and who could be moved? Let’s take a look.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Reds
Why he’s here: Bauer’s not likely to be moved, but this season has been disappointing for the Reds, who were expected to contend for the NL Central title but find themselves four games under .500, at 11-15, and the right-hander is a free agent after 2020. Bauer has been incredible on the mound for the Reds this season, posting a 0.68 ERA in four starts, including two seven-inning double-header shutouts. Let’s say this final week before the deadline goes poorly for the Reds — they’re on the road for four at Milwaukee and then host the Cubs four times — and Bauer throws another gem or two. In a season with a ton of pitching injuries and a lack of quality starting trade options on the market, it’s not hard to imagine a potential World Series contender making a quality offer to Cincinnati. The Reds would have to at least consider.
J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies
Why he’s here: Same situation at Bauer and the Reds. Realmuto’s a free agent after the season, and the Phillies had high hopes for 2020, but like the Reds, the Phillies are four games under .500. A bad week leading up to the deadline — three at the Nationals, three at home against the Braves — could convince the front office to move Realmuto, who is one of the most respected catchers in the sport and is having an outstanding season: .960 OPS, eight homers and 22 RBIs in 23 games. Philly fans might revolt if he’s moved; they almost universally want him extended, but that hasn’t happened yet and, like Bauer and the Reds, the Phillies would have to at least consider trade proposals. And, yes, they made a trade last week for bullpen help, but it’s not like they mortgaged the future in that deal.
Lance Lynn, SP, Rangers
Why he’s here: The big right-hander has been an outstanding signing by the Rangers, who inked him to a three-year, $30 million deal after the 2018 season. Lynn finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting last season, and he might be the favorite for the 2020 award at this point, with his 1.37 ERA in six starts. Despite his success, the Rangers are just 10-17 this year (6-15 when anyone other than Lynn starts a game). His biggest trade value, though, is that he’s still under club control for the 2021 season, too, at a very club-friendly $8 million.
Robbie Ray, SP, Diamondbacks
Why he’s here: Once upon a time, trading Ray would have brought back a haul to Arizona. Now? His trade value is at stunningly low levels. He’s still striking out batters at a high level — 35 in 27 innings — but he’s also walking nearly a batter per inning (25 in 27) and he has an 8.33 ERA/7.77 FIP. There will be teams willing to buy low — everyone likes the idea of a strikeout guy in October — but nobody willing to part with much.
Mike Clevinger, SP, Indians
Why he’s here: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Cleveland has lots of great pitching, but not enough hitting. Putting Clevinger on this list isn’t solely about his curfew-breaking issue, but the fact that he might have as much trade value as anyone the front office is willing to move in a quest to upgrade the offense. The right-hander has a 2.92 ERA in 56 starts since the beginning of 2018, and he still has two years of club control (arbitration eligible in 2021 and 2022). Put it this way: Cleveland has the pitching to win a World Series without Clevinger, but the Indians don’t have enough offense to win without some sort of outfield-bat upgrade.
Mitch Moreland, 1B, Red Sox
Why he’s here: Pretty much everyone excepts Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers should be available in Boston’s free-fall of a season, but we’ll just list Moreland because putting 20-something names here would get messy. Moreland’s hitting well and is very affordable, with a $3 million club option ($500K buyout) for 2021. He won’t bring a huge return, but could fit nicely on the larger roster of a contender.
Kevin Gausman, SP, Giants
Why he’s here: He signed a one-year deal with the Giants to help rebuild his value, and he’s done just that. Gausman’s fastball velocity is back up, and he’s struck out 42 batters — against just six walks — in 31 innings, to go with a 3.11 FIP.
Trevor Rosenthal, RP, Royals
Why he’s here: After three seasons lost to injury and ineffectiveness, Rosenthal has been outstanding on a one-year deal with the Royals — 1.59 ERA, 15 Ks in 11 1/3 IP, and his average four-seam fastball checks in at nearly 98 mph.