Nine MLB trade deadline predictions as rumors of likely deals grow
Noah Syndergaard, SP
Prediction: Minnesota Twins
The Twins are going for it.
Along with the Yankees and Dodgers, they have one of the best offenses in the league. Additionally, the Twins have posted the sixth-best ERA (3.95) up to this point in the season, and only four other teams have blown fewer saves (nine). Top it all off with one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball, and you have a team with both the opportunity and assets to make a major play.
The Mets surely would rather not part with the dominant right-hander, but the Twins are one of the teams best capable of offering an attractive package in return. It's going to take a massive haul, but with the Indians suddenly breathing down Minnesota's neck, the time is now for the Twins to make their move. Syndergaard is under team control through the 2021 season, and would give Minnesota a true ace to build around moving forward.
Will Smith, RP
Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Giants and Dodgers have combined for precisely three trades since the teams made the move west from New York in 1958. Smith makes it a fourth.
The relief pitcher market is expected to be robust, which could limit any return the Giants get for their All-Star closer. As such, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi might have to accept prospects at a lower level than he would have in a more depressed market, and what better team to trade with than one that a) has a loaded minor league system, and b) is one that he just happened to spend the last few years help building?
It's possible Zaidi knows just as much, if not more, about the Dodgers' prospects than he does the Giants' prospects. It's unlikely Zaidi will be able to get a massive haul in return for Smith, but if there's a diamond in the rough to be found, he probably knows where to look.
Madison Bumgarner, SP
Prediction: San Francisco Giants
Many teams have and will continue to call, and the Giants will continue to listen. But in the end, circumstances combine to keep Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco for the rest of this season.
Bumgarner has been tremendous as of late, limiting hitters to a .219 average and .343 slugging percentage over his past five starts. He's finding a groove just as the Giants have caught fire, winning 15 of 18 games. Both of those factors seem likely to increase San Francisco's asking price past the point of what teams will be willing to offer.
Add in that Bumgarner has an eight-team no-trade list (which includes four current division-leaders), and that further complicates the dynamics of a potential trade, since he would have to approve those destinations. He's also a free agent at the end of the season, meaning Farhan Zaidi would want a return greater than what San Francisco would get in draft compensation if he departed in free agency.
Given how Bumgarner and the Giants have reinjected life into Bruce Bochy's final season, it's difficult to picture them not finishing it together.
Kirby Yates, RP
Prediction: Atlanta Braves
The Braves sit atop the NL East with one of the best minor league systems in baseball. As such, they have the motivation and assets to make a lot of noise at the trade deadline.
They will inquire about front-line starters like Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner, but assuming they strike out in that department, expect Atlanta to turn its attention to the bullpen, where the Braves could use an influx of top-end arm talent.
Kirby Yates might be the best reliever available, and he's in the midst of a dominant season for the Padres. While the league is on pace to shatter the single-season record for home runs, Yates has allowed just one in 43.0 innings -- and that was at Coors Field -- with 67 strikeouts and a 1.05 ERA.
Sam Dyson, RP
Prediction: Washington Nationals
The bullpen has been a strength of the Giants, and Sam Dyson has been a big reason why. In 48.0 innings this season, he's struck out 47 batters and posted a 2.63 ERA with the best peripherals of his career.
Much like the Giants, the Nationals have rebounded from a putrid start to the season and worked their way into playoff contention. After winning 19 of their first 50 games, they've won 33 of 48 since, and appear to have one of the more well-rounded rosters in the league.
What they could use, though, is considerable bullpen help behind closer Sean Doolittle, as only the lowly Orioles have posted a worse bullpen ERA. Dyson could slide directly into the setup role, and provide insurance in the event Doolittle misses any time.
Trevor Bauer, SP
Prediction: New York Yankees
The Indians are in an interesting spot. They've won 13 of their last 16 to move within 3.0 games of the Twins for the division lead, with Mike Clevinger looking great recently, and Corey Kluber on the mend. Still, Minnesota looks like the favorite to win the AL Central despite the Indians' recent hot streak, and with teams like the Rays, Red Sox and Athletics all fighting for Wild Card spots, Cleveland is by no means a certainty to make the postseason.
Considering Kluber's progress and Bauer's contract status -- his salary could approach $20 million next season depending on his second-half performance -- it might make sense for the Indians to ship him out while he still has 1.5 seasons of team control.
The Yankees aren't nearly as concerned with the financial aspect, and have an abundance of prospects that Cleveland would find intriguing.
Tony Watson, RP
Prediction: San Francisco Giants
Between Will Smith, Sam Dyson and Tony Watson, the Giants have several relievers that will attract considerable interest at the deadline. The bet here, though, is that they don't get rid of all of them.
While Watson's numbers are good -- he's posted a 2.88 ERA in 40.2 innings -- they've typically come in lower-leverage situations than both Smith and Dyson, and his peripherals aren't as great as they've been the last couple seasons. As such, he might not bring back the kind of return that would outweigh his value to the Giants moving forward.
If the Giants do trade away one or more relievers, they'll still need others to fill the resulting void(s). Watson has a proven track record and could help San Francisco maintain a team strength if the Giants try to thread the needle and compete for a Wild Card spot, even after selling off parts.
Shane Greene, RP
Prediction: Washington Nationals
Have we mentioned the Nationals desperately need bullpen help?
Even if Washington does trade for someone like San Francisco's Sam Dyson, the Nationals could still use more. Shane Greene has had a dominant season for the last-place Tigers, and could be exactly the kind of addition Washington needs to fortify the back end.
With 22 saves and a 1.25 ERA, Greene's talents are wasting away in Detroit. While he's not the top closer available -- that would be San Diego's Kirby Yates -- he could provide similar production at a lesser cost.
Hunter Pence, OF/DH
Prediction: Chicago Cubs
Hunter Pence's surprising resurgence has been one of the feel-good stories of the season, and he deserves a chance to carry it into the playoffs. The Rangers seem unlikely to get there, and could do the wily veteran a favor by dealing him to a club more likely to qualify for the postseason.
The Cubs currently hold a slight lead atop the National League Central, but based on their run differential, they appear to be the class of the division. Chicago doesn't need to make a major move, but could use a boost in the outfield, where Kyle Schwarber and Albert Amora Jr. have underwhelmed.
Pence might be a better fit for the American League at this point where he can DH, but he has started 20 games in the outfield -- 16 in left, four in right -- for the Rangers this season, and has yet to commit any errors.
He brings experience and some rediscovered power to the table, and would be a tremendous addition to any contending locker room.