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#pounditFriday, February 3, 2023

Six big-name MLB players who could be traded before the deadline

Justin Verlander

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is nearing, and there is a good chance that several big-name players will be moved as the deadline looms.

While some big trades have already been made, teams are still looking to improve. Several sellers are still dangling pieces — or contemplating whether to move that free agent-to-be — as the market heats up.

Here is a list of six big names who could find themselves on the move within the next week.

1) Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland A’s

Gray is perhaps the most likely member of this list to be traded, as it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that he will not be with the Oakland Athletics on August 1. It’s easy to see why.

The right-hander is still only 27, has a career ERA under three and a half, and most importantly, he will remain under team control through the 2019 season. Whoever gets Gray will have him on board for another two and a half years. And this is a guy who only has one genuinely bad season to his name.

It’s no surprise then that there have been a lot of suitors for Gray. The New York Yankees appear to be at the forefront of negotiations, and the Houston Astros have been frequently linked as well.

Gray will likely be very expensive in terms of prospects, largely due to all that team control he has left, and will likely be moved in one of the deadline’s bigger blockbusters.

2) Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers

One might think that Verlander would be drawing way more interest and publicity less than a week from the deadline, but there are a few reasons why moving him is turning out to be an arduous process for the Detroit Tigers.

First, Verlander is 34 years old. Second, he’s not having the best season — he nearly won the Cy Young Award last year, but his ERA is 4.50, his strikeouts are down, and his walks per nine are at a career-worst 4.1. Third, he’s still owed $56 million through 2019, with a possible $22 million option for 2020. Had the Tigers tried to move Verlander last winter, they may have had more luck, but his sub-par season has made the task more difficult.

Trading Verlander remains possible, however, and there have been indications that the Tigers are motivated to try to do so. The reigning champions have registered an interest, but teams haven’t been banging on Detroit’s door for a shot at the former MVP.

Realistically, if the Tigers want to move Verlander and get a good batch of prospects in return, they will have to eat a significant portion of his remaining salary. If they are serious about a rebuild, it would make a lot of sense for them to do so, but it’s not clear that they’re there yet.

3) Jay Bruce, OF, New York Mets

There aren’t a lot of quality position players on the market after J.D. Martinez moved to the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the New York Mets outfielder could appeal to some teams.

The 30-year-old is the top five in the National League in home runs (he has the same number as Bryce Harper). And, as a free agent after the season on a Mets team that isn’t going to contend, Bruce could probably be obtained for the right price.

Bruce has yet to garner a ton of interest, but there’s always a market for left-handed power, even if the return probably won’t knock the Mets out. He’d be a good fit on the reigning American League champion Indians, who may be interested.

Bruce could be an August waiver trade candidate as well if the Mets can’t get anything done by July 31.

4) Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers

Will the Texas Rangers actually move Darvish? They have not completely shut the door, but for now, they don’t seem entirely motivated to do so. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, though, as the Rangers find themselves in a tough spot.

Darvish is poised to become a free agent at the end of the season, Texas seems resigned to the fact that they won’t be able to afford to keep him, and the team is currently under .500 and several games out of the wild card race.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been the primary suitor for Darvish, but they’re in a position where they don’t have to do something desperate and potentially silly to bring in another starter, even with Clayton Kershaw shelved due to back problems. The Rangers, similarly, aren’t motivated to move Darvish, but would require a compelling offer to pull the trigger. It remains to be seen whether anyone will make one.

5) Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers

Like Verlander, the Detroit Tigers are doubly disappointed with Kinsler’s disappointing season. Not only has he failed to contribute as they would have hoped, but his modest production has made him harder to trade. Kinsler is hitting just .248 — the worst mark of his career — and hasn’t provided much power, either, though his defense has held up alright. He has a $12 million team option for 2018, so Detroit would not be able to demand a huge return for him, in all likelihood.

The Milwaukee Brewers have checked in on Kinsler, and the Tigers sound as if they would be happy to move him if they could find a suitor. Most contenders are settled at second base, however, and Kinsler doesn’t look like the huge upgrade he would have even last year.

This may be a case where the Tigers keep him for now, pick up his option, and try more aggressively to move him in the offseason.

6) Zach Britton, RP, Baltimore Orioles

Britton would easily be the best reliever moved at the deadline if the Baltimore Orioles decide to send him off. He has a 1.47 ERA since becoming a full-time reliever in 2014, and the only question mark surrounding him is whether he’s healthy; his 2017 has been significantly marred by forearm problems that he has only just recently returned from. If contenders aren’t concerned about that, he will attract a huge haul — particularly since he’s under team control for another full season.

The Orioles, though, are an organization that wants to contend, and general manager Dan Duquette may think he can build a team that will do so in 2018. If that’s the case, moving Britton right now isn’t really in his best interests, and it’s not clear how interested the Orioles are in a deal.

If one is made, a huge prospect package will be involved, with the Houston Astros said to be heavily involved in trade discussions for Britton.

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