July 21, 2024

We are exactly five weeks away from the MLB trade deadline (it’s on July 30 this year), so once a week, we’re going to compile all of our most recent deadline news — rumors, buyers/sellers, and (as they begin to happen) actual trades — to keep you up to date on the trade market.

This year’s trade deadline might be an all-or-nothing — or to be more precise, a nothing-then-all — proposition. With the advent of the third wild-card spot in each league, it has become more difficult to make a call on whether a team will be a buyer or a seller.

Let’s look at the National League for a prime example: In the old format (one wild-card team per league, 1995-2011), the division leaders (Dodgers, Brewers and Phillies from left to right on your map) would currently constitute the usual three playoff positions, with the wild-card Braves rounding out the field of four. The surging Cardinals would be on the outside looking in, 3 1/2 games back, with the Padres and a slew of other teams breathing down their neck.

In the new format, the Cardinals and Padres are currently above the cut, with seven other teams still legitimately in range. The Giants are the third-worst team in the NL, but are only 3 games out.

And don’t forget: Both of last year’s World Series teams (Rangers, Diamondbacks) made the playoffs as wild-card teams.

With more spots available (and with tanking now discouraged by the new draft rules) more teams are, you know, trying to win, which is good for the sport! But in this case, it also means there are literally only two NL teams (Rockies, Marlins) who are obvious sellers.

Of course it’s the Rockies and Marlins. Colorado’s deadline strategy has been inscrutable for the last few years, and three of the Marlins’ top targets are either on the injured list (Jesús Luzardo, Braxton Garrett) or underperforming (Josh Bell). Left-handed reliever Tanner Scott (1.64 ERA) should still be a top target, though his walk rate (6.3 per nine innings) is concerning.

Perhaps, then, it makes more sense to look at the American League, where the White Sox and Athletics are obvious sellers, and it appears the Angels and Blue Jays should follow suit, with the Tigers on the bubble, 6 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot.

So let’s unpack what we’ve learned this week about who’s chasing what, shall we?


The Marlins placed Jesús Luzardo (lumbar stress reaction) on the IL last week. (David Frerker / USA Today)

This week’s news

• In a Q&A with Jen McCaffrey, Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow didn’t commit to a direction, but acknowledged that the Red Sox have some middle-infield depth in the minor leagues that could help them fill big-league needs at the deadline. The surprising Sox are currently 43-36 and their top needs would appear to be another starting pitcher and — ironically — a shortstop.

• Also in need of pitching: the Cleveland Guardians and Baltimore Orioles, both of whom lead their divisions. Each team has lost multiple starters to season-ending injuries. The Braves are in a similar boat, as are the injury-plagued Houston Astros. But … are the Astros a playoff team? Their cold start would suggest otherwise, but they’re 13-7 in June, and swept the Orioles over the weekend, so don’t count them out just yet.

• In the relief pitching market, the easy answer is that every team could use an impact reliever or two, but the Padres stand out as one team to watch — both because they need the help, and because president of baseball operations A.J. Preller simply cannot be left alone with a telephone when it’s tradin’ season.

• On the offensive side, the Cubs could use an impact bat, and it wouldn’t hurt if it were someone who could play a little third base or catcher (Elias Díaz of the Rockies?) And on the topic of executives who love to trade, Jerry Dipoto’s AL-West-leading Mariners have an extremely good starting rotation, but their bats have underperformed.

Trade target value check


If the Blue Jays can’t right the ship, will they move Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? (David Richard / USA Today)

Let’s look at a few names that have been thrown around as likely trade targets and see how they’re increasing (or decreasing) their respective markets.

• OF Luis Robert Jr. (White Sox):  It seems like it should be a slam-dunk that the dynamic center fielder would be on the move this year, but as our reporting team points out, some in the industry believe that new Chicago GM Chris Getz might overvalue Robert — or at least be wary of selling low, as Robert is hitting just .198 (.768 OPS) this season. He is making $12.5 million this year and will make $15 million next year, with $20 million club options in 2026 and 2027. The extra years of control are nice, but with his injury history and mixed results this year, teams might balk at overpaying in prospect capital. 

LHP Garrett Crochet (White Sox): Sorry, yeah, White Sox fans, you might want to avert your eyes. After pitching 5 2/3 shutout innings in Monday night’s eventual 3-0 loss to the Dodgers, Crochet is 6-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings. Possible suitors are: anyone who needs pitching, so… about 60 percent of the league.

1Bs Pete Alonso (Mets), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays): At the beginning of the season, it would have seemed ludicrous that either guy would be on the market. Alonso might no longer be, as the Mets are 13-6 in June, and have jumped from third-worst to tied-for-best among NL teams not currently in a playoff position. Toronto, on the other hand, keeps slipping further and further into a failed season, at 35-43 — 7 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot. Would they part ways with Guerrero? (Cubs take note: He can still play third base.)

• RHP Jack Flaherty (Tigers): After a bumpy post-trade stint with the Orioles last year, Flaherty seems to have recovered nicely in Detroit, save for a minor back issue earlier this month. He’s 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA, posting 108 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings, which makes him a desirable target in a market that craves starting pitching. As Cody Stavenhagen points out, Flaherty is eligible to receive a qualifying offer this offseason. If Detroit doesn’t trade him, they could offer him the “QO,” and if he signs elsewhere, they would receive a compensation draft pick. Which choice is better? It depends on when Detroit believes its window of contention will open.

RHP Mason Miller, (A’s): The holy grail of bullpen additions, Miller is easily the best relief pitcher who could be available this year, with 60 strikeouts and 13 walks in 34 2/3 innings. But the buzz around the industry is that the A’s are asking a king’s ransom. With the team moving to Las Vegas (by way of three years in Sacramento), it makes sense for them to aim for 2028 to contend. Miller doesn’t hit free agency until after the 2029 season, so the A’s don’t have to trade him, but if someone blinks and pays a premium in prospects, it could set them up well for the future.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

MLB trade deadline watch: White Sox scout contenders, Mason Miller’s value and more

First time, long time

Among the teams who could still make a push for a playoff spot: recent punching bags Pittsburgh, Washington and Kansas City. None of the three are necessarily favorites to emerge as wild-card teams this year, but all are within 2 1/2 games of the final wild-card position.

Pittsburgh: With the arrival of Paul Skenes (and the ascendance of Jared Jones), the Pirates are more exciting than they’ve been since … what, 2015? But their offense could use a boost, particularly in the outfield.

Pirates Outfield Production

Player ABs AVG OBP SLG OPS

344

.275

.343

.466

.809

266

.239

.316

.395

.711

206

.170

.259

.302

.561

169

.192

.242

.252

.494

165

.224

.291

.354

.645

26

.208

.269

.208

.478

*Bae was activated from the IL on Monday, and optioned to Triple A. All stats through Sunday’s games.

Washington: As Jim Bowden points out, the Nationals could make more sense as a seller than a buyer this year, as they’re a little ahead of schedule on contending, and have a few veterans on expiring contracts who could be dealt to bolster the system for a longer run starting next season. But they’re only 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, and for a fan base that has seen some awful baseball since the World Series win in 2019, throwing in the towel would be a hard — pun noted — sell.

Kansas City: After a hot start, the Royals have come back to earth a bit in recent weeks, going 3-7 in their last 10 games. Like Washington, they’re a little ahead of schedule after losing 106 games in 2023. If their recent skid extends into the coming weeks, one interesting story to keep an eye on could be how they handle Seth Lugo, who has been very good this year (10-2, 2.42 ERA). He’s signed through 2025 (with a player option for 2026), so if the Royals believe they’re on the brink of contention, it might make more sense to keep him around. If they think the window truly opens in 2026, he could be an exceptionally valuable trade chip.

Of course, they could also go on another hot streak and end up as buyers. In that case, the bullpen and an outfield bat would seem the most logical shopping list.

What I’m watching over the next week


As players such as Max Scherzer return, will the Rangers make a run? (Jim Cowsert / USA Today)

Texas Rangers: They finally got their first sweep of the season, dispatching the Royals in three games last weekend. This week, they’re facing the division-leading Brewers and Orioles. As players start to trickle back in from the IL, this week could be a massive make-or-break road trip for the defending champs.

Houston Astros: Currently one game up on Texas and riding high after that Baltimore sweep, this might be the Astros’ best chance to ride a wave of momentum out of Seller’s Alley before the deadline. Further, if they do go on a run, will that mean the rotation at first base is working, or will it just be a green light to make a deal to solidify the position?

Ben Rice (Yankees): New York’s playoff hopes are light years ahead of Houston’s, but a similar question lingers: Can Rice, called up a week ago to fill in for the injured Anthony Rizzo, provide value at first base? Whether the answer is yes or no, I’ll be interested in the follow-up question: What happens when Anthony Rizzo is ready to come off the IL?

Reds/Pirates: This has some to do with the NL wild-card chase, but more to do with the fact that Elly De La Cruz and Oneil Cruz are playing in the same game, and that’s always worth watching.

(Top photo of Mason Miller: Eakin Howard / Getty Images)

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