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#pounditTuesday, September 29, 2020

Top 10 MLB trade deadline candidates

Madison Bumgarner

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is roughly a month and a half away, but trade season appears to have started in earnest with the Seattle Mariners shipping Jay Bruce to the Philadelphia Phillies. While the trades won’t exactly come fast and furious from this point on, it is essentially a starting gun for a trade deadline that looks like a potential buyer’s market given the number of teams that will probably be willing to make players available.

Who will be on the move? Here are ten names to watch leading up to July 31.

10. Trevor Bauer, P, Indians

Bauer was perhaps surprisingly floated in trade talks during the offseason, but Cleveland ultimately opted to keep him while they make another run at a division title. That run has not gone well so far, with the Indians falling well behind the runaway Minnesota Twins. In Bauer’s case, again, it’s likely that things will have to get worse over the next month and a half for them to trade him. The Indians still want to try to get back into wild card contention, at the very least. However, if they floated the possibility of trading him once, they may float it again if circumstances dictate.

9. Zack Wheeler, P, Mets

It doesn’t sound likely at the moment that the Mets will trade Wheeler, but if things don’t turn around for them between now and late July, they’re going to have some decisions to make. The 29-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season, is finally healthy, and is racking up strikeouts despite a somewhat underwhelming ERA. Starting pitchers with strikeout stuff are valuable commodities, and it’s easy to see Wheeler as a cheaper alternative to the likes of Madison Bumgarner if the Mets give in and make him available.

8. Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox

On paper, Abreu ticks all the boxes of an ideal trade candidate. He’s 32 years old, in the final year of his contract, and a member of a team that won’t be contending in 2019. So why so low a probability of him being traded? The White Sox have repeatedly signaled their interest in keeping and re-signing Abreu to a new deal, and the organization thinks extremely highly of him. So while Abreu has the profile of a trade candidate, the White Sox seem to have different ideas. He still bears watching, but this one doesn’t look too likely right now.

7. Whit Merrifield, IF, Royals

Merrifield signed a long-term deal with the Royals in January, but the exceedingly team-friendly pact might only serve to increase his trade value. Mayfield is a solid hitter, a base-stealer, and a utility player who can play five positions. The team has given signals that he’s available, and it would be easy to see Merrifield fulfilling the sort of role that deadline acquisition Ben Zobrist occupied when the Royals won the World Series in 2015.

6. Marcus Stroman, P, Blue Jays

Stroman has been the subject of near-constant trade rumors for some time now, and there is very little reason for Toronto to hold onto him past July 31. Stroman has done a lot to enhance his value, posting a sub-3 ERA over the first two months of the year. Stroman is still only 28 and has another year of team control after this one, which may drive his cost higher, and he hasn’t always been consistent in the past. He’s pitching well right now, however, and that’s the most important part for teams that may be acquiring him.

5. Alex Gordon, OF, Royals

The longest-tenured Kansas City Royal may finally be coming toward the end of his reign, with the team in full rebuilding mode. Gordon is 35 and doesn’t have a ton left, and he’s coming off three really poor offensive seasons, though his batting numbers have significantly improved in 2019. He’s also a good defender who’s still winning Gold Gloves, and he’s in the final guaranteed year of his contract, ensuring that there will be no long-term commitment. Gordon can still bring veteran knowledge and talent to a contender that needs another outfielder.

4. Will Smith, P, Giants

It’s no secret that the Giants will almost certainly be active for the trade deadline, and while he may not be the obvious name, Smith is an obvious trade candidate with a lot of upside. He’s a left-handed reliever who can also get right-handers out, which is an immensely valuable commodity. He limits walks and strikes out opponents at a high rate, and has even started to accumulate some closer experience, racking up double-digit saves for two seasons in a row. An impending free agent, the Giants more or less have to move him, and he could have a huge impact on a contending bullpen.

3. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Mariners

Encarnacion looks set to move to his third team in two years, with the Mariners open for business and eager to move anyone with value. The first baseman and DH is on his way to what would be his eighth consecutive 30 home run season. You know what you’re getting with Encarnacion — he’s not a great defender or a high-average hitter, but he will deliver home runs. Any team needing a power boost to their lineup will be looking his way.

2. Shane Greene, P, Tigers

There are few things in baseball more useless than a good closer on a bad team, and when that happens, the closer tends to get traded quite quickly. That appears to be what’s going to happen to Greene, as the Tigers look to add more assets during what may be a long rebuild. Greene has taken a significant step forward this season, posting a sub-2 ERA and striking out over 10 batters per nine for the first time in his career. Under team control through 2020, Greene will likely command a hefty price. He doesn’t have a long track record as a top-flight reliever, but he’s done enough this year to warrant a lot of looks from a lot of contenders.

1. Madison Bumgarner, P, Giants

It has felt inevitable since the offseason that Bumgarner will be on the move at some point before July 31. The Giants’ ace is in the final year of his contract, and there’s no reason for him to stick around during a rebuild. To say he’s a proven playoff performer would be an understatement, and any team in need of a starter to win a big game need look no further than the left-hander. He’s not having his best season, but a move to a contender should re-energize him. The only question is which contender it will be, with Bumgarner having a lot of power to choose his destination.

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