This is the first update to our annual ranking of top trade candidates in the run-up to the trade deadline, drawing from our power ranking approach to pending free agents. You can check out the original list (and review the methodology) here. Essentially, we’re ordering players based upon our assessment of both their trade value and likelihood of being dealt.
It’s subjective; it’s debatable; and that’s what makes it fun. Without further ado:
1-2. Will Smith, RP & Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants (Last Ranked: 1, 2): Yeah, the Giants are still within shouting distance of Wild Card position — but they still have the NL’s third-worst record. There are a host of teams ahead of them that look better on paper and have greater motivation to keep pressing to contend. The San Francisco club remains well-positioned to take advantage of holding arguably the two best rental chips on the market (along with other trade assets).
3. Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets (LR: 47): With the Mets collapsing since our last ranking, Wheeler flies up the board. We’ll respect the results of our recent survey and list MadBum first, but there are probably some teams that will be more interested in the younger, cheaper, harder-throwing New York hurler. By most standards, Wheeler looks much the same as he did in his eye-opening 2018 campaign. he has allowed a few more long balls and a greater batting average on balls in play while carrying a lower strand rate, which helps explain why his ERA has ballooned from 3.31 to 4.69. He has allowed more hard contact, but Wheeler’s velocity and strikeout rates have headed northward.
4-5. Ken Giles, RP & Marcus Stroman, SP, Blue Jays (LR: INJ, 3): Both Jays hurlers are controlled through the 2020 season, and both are throwing well. In fact, “well” is an understatement for Giles, who has pitched to a sensational 1.45 ERA with better than 15 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Stroman’s numbers aren’t quite so gaudy, but the ground-ball machine is on pace for his third 200-inning season in the past four years while maintaining an ERA in the low 3.00s. Smith and Bumgarner might be the top starter/reliever rental combo on the market, but this duo is the best starter/reliever pair with control beyond the current season.
6. Nicholas Castellanos, OF, Tigers (LR: 8): We noted in our first ranking that the 27-year-old could move up the ladder if he kept up a hot streak, and he has done just that. He sprints into the rental-bat lead after a .354/.420/.532 run over his past twenty games. The return here probably won’t be that strong — even a red-hot J.D. Martinez netted the Tigers a lackluster return as a rental two summers ago — but Castellanos is among the game’s safest bets to be traded.
7-8. Sam Dyson (Giants) & Shane Greene (Tigers), RP (LR: 11, 12): We had this pair of quality relievers stashed a bit further down the list the last time around, owing to the fact that neither absolutely must be traded with another season of arbitration eligibility remaining. But that reasoning increasingly feels strained given the dearth of worthwhile rental relievers on the market this year. The quietly excellent Dyson doesn’t have quite the shiny ERA or recent save numbers of Greene, but he’s arguably as good or better. Both hurlers profile as groundball-heavy setup men for most contenders.
9. Matthew Boyd, SP, Tigers (LR: 9): There’s no rush or need for Detroit to move Boyd, who is controlled all the way through 2022, but interest in him is strong. Boyd’s strikeout rate has exploded in 2019, as he’s averaging 12 strikeouts against just 1.7 walks per nine innings pitched. He’s been plagued by the long ball of late — as has much of the league despite commissioner Rob Manfred’s claim of no intentional alterations to the ball — but Boyd is the best long-term arm that is likely to be available this month. We admittedly may use the term “controllable” too aggressively for players like Stroman, Giles and others signed for only one more season; Boyd is the epitome of a “controllable” trade asset, though.
10-11. Tony Watson (Giants) & Jake Diekman (Royals), RP (LR: 6, 7): Both of these pending-free-agent lefty specialists were tagged in their most recent outings, but teams will take broader views of their merits. They’re among the likeliest players to be dealt in the league.
12. Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees (LR: NR): Every day the Yanks go without another outfielder coming down with yet another injury seems one day closer to the departure of Frazier. It’s easy to imagine Frazier going to a non-contender, but there could also be some interesting scenarios where he ends up on a club that still has hopes of reaching the postseason this year.
13-15. Todd Frazier, 3B, Mets; Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants; Justin Smoak, 1B/DH, Blue Jays (LR: NR, 15, 4): As noted with regard to Wheeler, the free-falling Mets are likely to jettison any and all pricey vets on expiring deals. The resurgent Frazier, hitting .256/.340/.443 as of this writing, falls directly into that category, as he’s earning $9MM this season before a return to the open market. Over in San Francisco, the Kung Fu Panda has continued to rake since our last check-in on the game’s top trade chips. That’s less true of Smoak, who has been in a deep funk in recent weeks and hasn’t played up to expectations on the season as a whole. If you’re looking at the last few seasons on the whole, though, Smoak is easily the best bat of this trio of corner-infield rentals.
16. Mike Leake, SP, Mariners (LR: 22): Since last publishing this list, Leake has made two strong starts and two awful ones — highlighted (err… lowlighted?) by a seven-run drubbing at the hands of the Orioles. However, Leake has a superlative 21-to-1 K/BB ratio over 26 innings in that same stretch of time. He’s sitting on a 4.32 ERA and, in an era proliferated by five-inning starts, he’s averaging 6 1/3 frames per outing. Leake won’t front your rotation, but if you need durable innings and ground-balls to round out the starting five, he’s a solid option. The Cardinals are already paying part of his salary, and the Mariners would surely kick in some cash to get a deal finalized for Leake, who’s signed through 2020.
17-18. Mychal Givens, Orioles & Roenis Elias, Mariners, RP (LR: 17, NR): Call it a hunch, but the O’s seem well-positioned to move on Givens. He’s in his first year of arbitration with two more to go, so there’s no rush. And outwardly, the results make this an awkward time, as he has surrendered a home run-driven 4.76 ERA. But Givens has also racked up 20 strikeouts in his last 11 1/3 innings. He fits any budget and seems an obvious candidate to function in late innings for a contender. With the Orioles as far from contention as possible, I’m betting they’ll find a deal for their most talented relief pitcher. As for Elias, we examined him at length earlier. In short, he’s a solid, cheap reliever ($910K) controlled for two more seasons who currently plays on a rebuilding team that is run by Jerry Dipoto. Need we say more?
19. Kirby Yates, RP, Padres (LR: 5): With the Pads continuing to put out word that they’re chasing starting pitching, it’s feeling less and less likely that they’ll seriously pursue deals involving Yates. There’ll be a strong desire to keep him, both for this year and next, so long as the club is in the hunt for a Wild Card bid. But there’ll still be a pull towards a deal, as interest would be huge.
20. Corey Dickerson, OF, Pirates: This is by no means a declaration that we think the Pirates will be sellers. To the contrary, they’re very much in the NL Central and Wild Card races at the moment. But the emergence of Bryan Reynolds simply gives Pittsburgh too many outfielders. It’s the quintessential “good problem to have.” The team’s reported preference is to move Dickerson, a pending free agent making $8.5MM, rather than one of its other outfielders. Doing so could fetch them some needed bullpen help or a back-of-the-rotation arm to help solidify the pitching staff. The Buccos could also just accept a nominal prospect return and then use the saved funds to help take on a pitcher.
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21-22. Hunter Renfroe & Franmil Reyes, OF, Padres (LR: 26, NR): San Diego is willing to consider scenarios involving the majority of its players (non-Tatis/Machado division). Renfroe, in particular, has drawn interest. Both are controllable for the foreseeable future and both would add some thump to any lineup in the game. The Padres aren’t necessarily going to sell, to be clear, but they’ve been hell-bent on getting some controllable pitching and have a known outfield surplus. Moving either burgeoning young slugger could help them achieve that goal by dealing from a surplus.
23. Whit Merrifield, INF/OF, Royals (LR: 10): Signed long-term at an affordable rate? Check. Producing well? Check. A fit in a contender’s lineup? He can play almost anywhere, so… check. Merrifield is hitting .306/.355/.495 in the first season of a four-year, $16.25MM deal and can play second base, first base or any outfield position. There’s basically nothing he doesn’t do well, and while the Royals needn’t feel any rush to trade the All-Star, the 30-year-old Merrifield will be on the tail end of his prime by the time Kansas City is competitive again.
24-25. Andrew Cashner, Orioles & Jason Vargas, Mets, SP (LR: 20, NR): Cashner is on a legitimately impressive run at the moment. Over his past five starts, he has allowed just five earned runs on 19 base hits and four walks over 32 frames. There are reasons for hesitation, too: he has only 18 strikeouts in that span, owes his 3.83 season ERA in part to a .256 BABIP, and stands out as a Statcast regression candidate (.288 wOBA-against vs. .340 xwOBA-against). Likewise, Vargas has bounced back from a putrid opening and now sits at a 3.77 ERA over 71 2/3 innings on the year. That’s rather remarkable given that the southpaw sits at just 85 mph with his two fastball offerings. ERA estimators do not provide much ground for optimism as to the sustainability of the results (4.37 FIP, 4.98 xFIP, 4.98 SIERA), but teams in need of innings will take a hard look. These two hurlers are not only in somewhat similar positions from an on-field perspective, but also line up in terms of contracts. Both are earning $8MM this year and come with 2020 options. Cashner’s is for $10MM and does not include a buyout; Vargas’s can be exercised for $8MM or bought out for $2MM. (For a bonus overlap, each hurler has also made eyebrow raising comments of late. See here and here.)
26-27. Freddy Galvis & Eric Sogard, INF, Blue Jays (LR: 32, NR): Here we have some sure-handed veteran middle-infielders who have helped turn the Rogers Centre into the game’s leading launching pad. Galvis is up to 15 big flies on the year while Sogard has lofted nine dingers (albeit in questionably sustainable fashion). Both of these rental players are valued as dependable clubhouse members and fielders, so the power is in some sense a bonus. It’s not likely that the offers will be overwhelming, but contenders with a hole to plug will certainly be sending scouts to watch this pair. Galvis comes with the bonus of a rather reasonably priced $5.5MM club option ($1MM buyout).
28-29. Kole Calhoun, Angels & David Peralta, Diamondbacks, OF (LR: NR): These players would rank higher on this board but for the fact that their respective teams don’t seem sure to pack it in so long as they have a fighting chance at claiming a Wild Card. Still, they have to be considered as trade candidates given the unbridgeable division deficits at play. The left-handed-hitting Calhoun has put himself back on the map after a rough 2018 season. He has already matched his home run output from each of the prior two campaigns (19) and owns a career-high .237 isolated power mark. Calhoun isn’t exactly the only player in the league showing newfound pop, but the bottom line is he’s carrying a 109 wRC+, typically strong grades on his outfield glovework, and neutral platoon splits. He’s earning $10.5MM this year. The 2020 club option on Calhoun’s contract seems a bit pricey at $14MM (with a $1MM buyout). As for Peralta, another 31-year-old lefty bat with a reputation for good corner outfield defense, the picture is generally quite similar. He’s a bit cheaper at $7MM with another arb season remaining. Peralta also has a more impressive recent offensive track record owing to a big 2018 campaign. Perhaps the biggest difference is that Peralta’s current 112 wRC+ is attributed to a yawning platoon split. That doesn’t necessarily harm his marketability, as many contenders would be happy to welcome his bat to the lineup alongside a right-handed platoon partner.
30. Noah Syndergaard, SP, Mets (LR: NR): The Mets’ swan dive into oblivion has stoked the embers on the seemingly annual rumors of a Syndergaard swap. “Thor” and his flowing locks aren’t having the best of seasons, but he’s still averaging nearly 98 mph on his heater with a plus swinging-strike rate, above-average control and solid ground-ball tendencies. He’s controlled for two years beyond 2019, so the price will be steep. Rookie GM Brodie Van Wagenen, Syndergaard’s former agent, listened to offers over the winter even as he exuded confidence over his team’s 2019 outlook. Now that the rest of the league has stomped out the Mets’ 2019 hopes, there’s no reason to think he won’t at least entertain offers once again — even if he’s giving public signals that the team doesn’t expect move the exceptionally talented right-hander.
31. Mike Minor, SP, Rangers (LR: 31): So … Minor is still throwing the ball great and the Rangers are still hanging in the postseason mix. It remains awfully difficult to know how this’ll all turn out. The course of play over the coming weeks could dictate the outcome, or perhaps the willingness of other teams to deal quality rotation pieces will shape the market. With the Rangers keeping the door open to a deal involving Minor, we’ll do the same and rank him in the same exact place we put him on the first list.
32-33. Zack Greinke & Robbie Ray, SP, Diamondbacks (LR: NR): The good news for the D-backs is that they’re only 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. The bad news is that they’re buried in their division, and six other teams are within five games of that same Wild Card berth. Arizona entered the season in a transitional year and has outpaced expectations, which could prompt them to add some pieces this summer. It’s also possible that even as they seek to add some low-cost upgrades, they also move some current big leaguers for long-term benefit. And, if the Snakes endure a losing streak in the next three weeks, it’s a safe bet that they’ll more aggressively look to trim future payroll while simultaneously bolstering the farm.
34. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians (LR: 49): Cleveland has surged back up the standings to make the AL Central race interesting again. They’ll also be facing payroll constraints once again in the offseason, though, which has prompted speculation that the Tribe could deal Bauer for some pre-arbitration, MLB-ready help. Flipping Bauer for a younger outfielder who could be plugged directly into the lineup wouldn’t necessarily be “selling” in the truest sense, and it’d proactively address some offseason bookkeeping that looms on the horizon. The Indians have a pivotal series against the division-leading Twins beginning tonight, and the outcome of that three-game set could prove critical in determining the team’s deadline approach.
35. Trey Mancini, OF/1B, Orioles (LR: 25): Mancini would be higher if he were a lock to be moved, but it’ll be tough for rookie GM Mike Elias to step in and immediately trade the new face of the franchise when he’s still controlled through 2022. Add in the fact that corner bats have received generally underwhelming returns on the trade market in recent seasons, and the task is even taller. Perhaps that remaining control would allow Elias & Co. to coax an offer that handily tops recent packages for corner outfielders and first basemen, but in a world where C.J. Cron was waived after a 30-homer season, it’s tough to see Mancini fetching a godfather offer — strong as his bat may be. The O’s are reportedly “open to anything” on Mancini, though, so a deal can’t be totally ruled out.
36-37. Kevin Pillar (Giants) & Jarrod Dyson (Diamondbacks), OF (LR: 42, NR): Need a rental fourth outfielder capable of playing center? Pillar offers a right-handed bat who can do just that, while Dyson brings a left-handed bat to the table. Pillar is on a well-timed hot streak and generates most of his offensive contributions through decent power numbers. Dyson, meanwhile, is practically devoid of pop but still possesses one of baseball’s best sets of wheels at 34 years of age.
38-40. Martin Maldonado (Royals), Stephen Vogt (Giants) & Alex Avila (Diamondbacks), C (LR: NR): No need for a center fielder? Can we interest you in a reserve backstop, then? Maldonado is among the game’s premier defenders behind the dish, making him the prototypical defensive-minded backup. (That’s a nice way of saying, ahem, don’t expect him to hit.) Neither Avila nor Vogt can match his defensive chops, but they’re both hitting pretty well. Contractually speaking, all three are rentals.
41-44. Craig Stammen (Padres), Greg Holland (Diamondbacks), Sergio Romo (Marlins) & Daniel Hudson (Blue Jays), RP (LR: 27, NR, NR, NR): Or perhaps you need a quaffable veteran rent-a-reliever? Holland and Romo have been functioning as closers, though the former has had substantial troubles of late. It’s unlikely that anyone from this quartet would become one of a new team’s best relievers, but there’s still value in upgrading the middle relief corps. Plus, no one from this group has a higher base salary than Holland’s $3.25MM, so they’re all plenty affordable.
45. Alex Colome, RP, White Sox (LR: 16): In the first list, we had Colome bunched with Givens. He’s still getting the job done. So why the drop? For one thing, Colome has a shrug-inducing 6:5 K/BB ratio in 13 frames since the start of June. For another, the White Sox are close enough to the Wild Card picture to want to keep their closer. It’s also worth wondering just how highly he’d be valued. Colome’s 2.02 ERA and 20 saves look nice, but he’s averaged just 6.8 K/9 and benefited from a ridiculous .124 BABIP. Colome’s save total will probably push his salary north of $10MM next year in arbitration, and that’s a hefty price for a reliever with some questionable peripheral numbers.
46-52. Dee Gordon, 2B, Mariners; Danny Duffy, SP, Royals; Jeff Samardzija, SP, Giants; Ian Kennedy, RP, Royals; Mark Melancon, RP, Giants; Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants; Wil Myers, OF/1B, Padres (LR: 21, 22, 23, 24, 36, 37, 40, 41): For the sake of efficiency, we’re going to consolidate some rather expensive veterans here into their own grouping. Frankly, the broad strokes are similar in all cases. There’s reason to think that each of these players is still a useful big leaguer, but they’re also all owed far more than they’re worth.
53-54. Wilson Ramos, C & Justin Wilson, RP, Mets (LR: NR): Each of these mid-range free agent signees is a candidate to be moved if the New York org decides it wants to shed some extra salary (this year and next) and there’s a willing buyer. Ramos has hit well but defensive questions have only gotten louder. Wilson is still topping 95 mph from the left side, but has missed much of the season with injury. It’s still hard to know where the market will go on these two players, but both certainly will be considered.
55-56. Tim Beckham (Mariners) & Jonathan Villar (Orioles), INF (LR: 34, 35): Here we have a pair of reasonably youthful middle infielders who come with affordable control for 2020. Each has had his share of ups and downs over the years, but has turned in league-average hitting in extended action this year.
57-58. Reyes Moronta (Giants) & Joe Jimenez (Tigers) (LR: NR): Future closer or immediate trade chip? These young hurlers’ rebuilding teams will need to decide, now or in the near-term. Both have the big heater and strikeout numbers needed to wear the closer’s crown. Neither will reach arbitration eligibility until 2021. Though Moronta has a better track record of results, Jimenez is younger and comes with a loftier current swinging-strike rate. Teams that want these hurlers will need to come with significant offers, but there’s good reason to believe their respective organizations will be willing to turn them into prospects if the offer is significant enough.
59. Caleb Smith, SP, Marlins (LR: NR): We’re told that the Fish don’t want to deal Smith. But the club can’t rule out the possibility entirely, not when the breakout lefty has reached a value point that seemed all but impossible when he was acquired. Smith is already closing in on his 28th birthday, so he’s not exceptionally youthful. That dings his value to a Miami organization that is one of the furthest from contention in all of baseball. Meanwhile, even marginal contenders can fancy themselves pursuers of Smith, who won’t even reach arbitration until 2021. Entering his outing today, Smith carried a 3.50 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. He’s sporting a strong 14.6% swinging-strike rate and 35.3% chase rate. While he’s struggling a bit with the long ball — and who isn’t? — Statcast doesn’t exhibit any glaring reason to worry about regression in terms of batted balls. The total package is quite appealing, blending the potential for immediate impact with a hefty dose of long-term value. Come to think of it, Smith is almost beginning to remind us of another long-unheralded, late-developing NL East hurler …
60. Jacob deGrom, SP, Mets (LR: NR): With Max Scherzer out of the deadline picture (not that he was ever really in it), deGrom is the most alluring conceivable starting pitcher for a win-now team. The contract is big but still fairly affordable for a big-market team; the fact that deGrom can be controlled for another four years ultimately boosts his value. Though he hasn’t matched his 2018 season for the ages, deGrom is somehow still adding velocity at 31 years of age and is unquestionably still one of the game’s very best pitchers. Most respondents in a recent MLBTR poll advocated for the Mets to listen to offers, only moving deGrom if they can secure a massive haul in return. That seems a sensible approach. The mere possibility of a blockbuster earns deGrom the final spot on this list, even if it’s rather unlikely he’ll be moved.
Tanner Roark, David Hernandez, Jared Hughes, Raisel Iglesias & Derek Dietrich (Reds); Jordan Lyles, Melky Cabrera, Francisco Liriano & Felipe Vazquez (Pirates); Billy Hamilton & Alex Gordon (Royals); Jose Abreu (White Sox); Adam Duvall (Braves); Brad Hand (Indians); Anthony Rendon (Nationals)
Cubs: Ian Happ