By Ryan Mayer
The second half of the MLB season is in full swing as we put the All-Star break in the rear view mirror. The next big mile marker of the season is the trade deadline, which is approaching quickly. Instead of the traditional July 31 date for trades, this year teams will get an extra full day to complete their talks with the deadline being set for Aug. 1. As teams make the buy or sell decision, let’s take a look at the top trade targets that are available based on position.
Let’s acknowledge one fact before we start: There are no David Prices, or Zach Greinkes, or anything close on the market this year. That means we’re looking at pitching depth options so these are the best of those guys. They may not win you a World Series but they could help your team get there. The top guy is:
Rich Hill, Oakland Athletics
Hill is a phenomenal story. He pitched in the Atlantic League for the Long Island Ducks before being picked up by the Red Sox and continuing to pitch well. That earned him a contract in Oakland and he’s responded with a 9-3 record 2.25 ERA in 76 innings pitched with a 3.2-to-1 K/BB ratio. At 36, he’s not a long-term option, but if you need a middle of the rotation starter to push for the playoffs, he should get a look.
Other top targets: Jeremy Hellickson (PHI), Matt Moore (TB), Jake Odorizzi (TB)
As dead as the market is for starters, the reliever market, depending on whether or not the Yankees decide to sell, could be robust with top options.
Andrew Miller, New York Yankees
Miller has said that he’d prefer not to be traded. The Yankees are undecided on whether they want to sell, and they have put a high price tag on Miller, and understandably so. Miller is just 31, and in 40.1 innings this season with a 7-to-1 K/BB ratio, batters are hitting .156 against him. And oh, by the way, his contract extends another two years after this season. The price is high, but for a team with a big need in the bullpen, this guy could solidify it for multiple seasons.
Other top targets: Dellin Betances (NYY), Aroldis Chapman (NYY), Ryan Dull (OAK), Alex Colome (TB), Jeremy Jeffress (MIL), Will Smith (MIL)
Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
Lucroy has been in the rumor mill since prior to last year’s trade deadline now since the Brewers are in the midst of their rebuild. The rumors haven’t affected his play at all as he is posting a .303/.363./.493 slash line with 12 homers and 45 RBI this season. Teams that are getting sub-par production out of the catcher spot (Cleveland, Texas, Los Angeles Dodgers, etc.) would benefit greatly from adding a bat of this quality to the line-up.
Other top targets: Kurt Suzuki (MIN), Cameron Rupp (PHI)
First, let’s acknowledge that like the starter market, there aren’t a ton of great options here. Second, the best option, Joey Votto, comes with a hugely onerous contract that makes him unlikely to be dealt. So, while he’s our top target here, it doesn’t mean he’ll be moved.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Votto has hit .261/.391/.451 with 14 homers and 42 RBI. The problem is his contract runs until 2023 (club option for 2024) at about $25 million per. Unless the Reds are willing to pay some of that I doubt he gets moved.
Other top targets: Mark Reynolds (COL)
This is a weird position. There are a couple of younger guys on teams outside of contention that could be moved because there are younger options in the system. I’m speaking of DJ Lemahieu (COL) and Cesar Hernandez (PHI). Lemahieu is 28 and hitting .330/.391/.485 with five homers and 33 RBI and Hernandez is at .283/.321/.367 with two homers and 21 RBI. Both are under team control for the next couple of years while their current teams have young players (Brendan Rodgers/JP Crawford both shortstops with established options in rookie breakout Trevor Story and Freddy Galvis, respectively, ahead of them) that could come up to disrupt the middle infield in the next year or so. So, should their teams sell now or later? That’s the question to keep an eye on.
Logan Forsythe, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are well out of it in both the AL East and the Wild Card (18.5 and 15.5, respectively). They’re going to be open for business for the right price and Forsythe can offer a contender a solid bat in the middle infield or can play outfield as well.
Other top targets: Jed Lowrie (OAK)
Eduardo Nunez, Minnesota Twins
Nunez is 29 and having a breakout season. The unfortunate part is that it’s coming on the Twins who are the worst team in the AL. He’s been good dating back to last year in Minnesota, but judging from how bad and how many holes have shown up on this Twins roster, he likely won’t be performing at this level when the Twins return to contention. So, why not get something for him at the deadline? Granted, the shortstop position is stacked in today’s game and most contenders are set there so the Twins would be dealing from a position of weakness.
Yunel Escobar, Los Angeles Angels
Escobar is one of the few tradeable pieces that the Angels have to try and help build up their horrific farm system short of completely blowing it up and trading Mike Trout. He’s hitting .322/.370/.420 with three homers for 28 RBI in 81 games this season. He comes with a club option in his contract for next season at a reasonable $7 million. Even if the contenders don’t necessarily need a third baseman, Escobar can be a solid bench bat for a team, too.
Other top targets: Danny Valencia (OAK)
We’re lumping the outfield positions into one category here because teams aren’t necessarily looking for specifically a left, center, or right fielder. There’s a lot of shifting around that tends to happen among the three positions. We’ll list three guys here that will likely be available to anyone looking for outfield help at the deadline.
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
Gonzalez is said to be frustrated by the consistent lack of improvement in Colorado and could be seeking a trade. If so, he would return a huge package likely. He is just 30 years old with another year left on his deal for $20 million. Additionally, he’s hitting .316/.421/.567 with 19 homers and 55 RBI this season. Granted, the Rockies will likely hold onto him. But teams have called them, apparently.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Braun is back from being a PED-pariah to being a wanted player in the league. Amazing how that transition happens. He’s hitting .313/.368/.507 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI. The problem is the contract. Four more years between $16-19 million with a club option for 2021 at $15 million. That’s a lot considering he will be 37 by the end of that time.
Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
You’ve probably noticed that the Brewers and Reds have appeared a couple of times on this list. Considering they’re two of the worst teams in the NL in the midst of trying to rebuild it makes sense. Bruce is much more tradeable than Votto. Just one more year on his deal after this season at $13 million and it’s an option year. His name has come up a couple of times already in trade talks so it seems he’s definitely on the market.
Other top targets: John Jay (SD), Melvin Upton Jr (SD), Khris Davis (OAK)
It’s mainly a seller’s market this year with so many teams still within striking range of contention, so it will be interesting to see which, if any, of these guys end up getting moved in the next few weeks.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.