The Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies completed a trade on Friday, a rarity in this shortened season. While most pundits expect a quiet deadline 9 days from now, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal sees a template in Friday’s deal that might pave the way for more deals: “Desperate buyer. Eager seller. Cold hard cash to seal the deal.” That very well may be an equation that works, but there are a number of complications this trade season – including the identification of those “eager sellers.”
The Red Sox qualify, but it’s fair to wonder how many viable arms they have to move from the league’s worst pitching staff after sending two to Philly. The Angels begrudgingly find themselves with the worst record in the American League. The Mariners should be open for business again this year. The Rangers could have some interesting names if they decide to sell – especially from the rotation – currently 5 1/2 out of the wild card. The Tigers largely have the wrong combination of young players unlikely to move and veterans without much appeal, while the Royals rarely qualify as “eager sellers” no matter their position in the standings. Still, the tastemakers at the top of the American League have begun to pull away just enough to start some conversations with the cellar-dwellers.
It’s a different story in the National League, where the Pirates are the only team more than 2 1/2 games out of a wild card spot. Pittsburgh can dangle Keone Kela – if he’s healthy – and southpaw Derek Holland as well as some of their more controllable players, per MLB.com’s Adam Berry. Josh Bell would be the big fish here, and with a new regime in place and Bell off to a slow start, there could be the makings of a deal, but it’ll likely take some doing to pull him from the steel city. Trevor Williams and Adam Frazier are controllable, but both are 28-years-old and could do more for the Pirates’ future as trade bait. Richard Rodriguez, 30, is off to a great start (14-to-1 K/BB through 10 2/3 innings). Given the league-wide dearth of reliable/healthy bullpen arms, it’d be surprising to see Rodriguez survive trade season.
To illustrate the difficulty of finding an NL seller, we can stay in the same division. The Reds are off to a relatively disappointing 11-13 start, but that still places them just 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. They continue to be all-in this season, and they are hoping to add some talent, per Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Nightengale suggests they could look for a lefty bat to join the infield mix or to fortify their bullpen. The Reds might benefit most, however, from Eugenio Suarez finding his footing and Pedro Strop and Robert Stephenson returning to shore up the bullpen.
The other side of the deadline coin is finding the right prospects to ship out. Without minor league games to scout players, teams are mostly reliant on old or incomplete information. The Astros, for instance, could dangle top prospect Forrest Whitley, but after a disappointing 2019 and an injury early this season, it’s difficult to pinpoint his value. Still, new GM James Click isn’t taking anyone off the trade table for now, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. The Astros would appear to be selling low on Whitley, however, and given the bizarre circumstances of this season, they might see more value waiting to see if he returns to form.