As we get deeper into the MLB season, we get a better sense of who the buyers and sellers are. With that, we can start thinking about who might be traded.
A number of stars could be moved. Some guys, like Madison Bumgarner and Nicholas Castellanos, are obvious candidates. Others are a little more under-the-radar. If teams like the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds fall out of the mix, we could definitely see some big names dealt. A Jacob deGrom trade felt plausible in 2018 but didn’t happen. In 2019, one of his teammates could find himself on the move.
With the MLB trade season right around the corner, these star players could find themselves on the move.
Noah Syndergaard, starting pitcher, New York Mets
Rumors abounded throughout 2018 that Syndergaard or deGrom could be moved. Ultimately, deGrom signed a contract extension in the offseason. So, he’s probably off the trade block. Thor is a little bit of a different story, though. He has two arbitration years remaining before becoming a free agent. So, this isn’t as simple as saying that he’ll be traded if New York’s season goes south. But, Syndergaard’s contract status and the fact that he’s only 26 would only increase a potential trade haul. The Mets farm system could definitely use the replenishing.
Anthony Rendon, third baseman, Washington Nationals
While they’re not buried, the Nationals haven’t enjoyed a particularly strong start to the 2019 season. When a team is struggling, we have to look at the pending free agents — like Rendon — and wonder about a trade. Now, if Washington gets him extended or feels that it’s likely, a trade isn’t coming. But if not, the possibility can’t be dismissed. Even as a rental, Rendon would bring in a big haul. If Washington isn’t contending and doesn’t explore that option, the Nationals will be shortchanging themselves.
Matthew Boyd, starting pitcher, Detroit Tigers
Boyd enjoyed the best year of his career in 2018 and seems to be on his way to topping that in 2019. Unfortunately, the Tigers are stll very much a rebuilding team. The counter is that Boyd is under contract through 2022. And if he was 2-3 years younger, that would be a compelling reason to hang onto him. But Boyd is 28. By the time the Detroit is ready to contend again, he’ll probably be 30 or older. The Tigers can wait for the right deal. But if a Boyd trade can net some key young pieces, it must be at least strongly considered
Justin Smoak, first baseman, Toronto Blue Jays
Smoak is one of the veterans that Toronto is reportedly looking to deal this season. Given that he’s a pending free agent, it makes sense. But while Smoak is a rental, he’s a rental that can supply a great deal of power.
Smoak enjoyed a career year in 2017, hitting .270/.355/.529 with 38 home runs. He did regress in 2018, hitting .242/.350/.457 with 25 home runs. Smoak probably shouldn’t be the best hitter in a lineup. But even if he can only match his 2018 production, his power would be quite useful.
Madison Bumgarner, starting pitcher, San Francisco Giants
It’s awfully hard to imagine the Giants climbing into postseason contention after a slow start. Additionally, the San Francisco organization isn’t exactly loaded with blue chip prospects. Far from it, in fact. It only makes sense for Bumgarner, a pending free agent, to be on the block. He’s not off to a great start to the season. But given his postseason track record and a general lack of quality starting pitching among some contenders, there’s sure to be some interest. Don’t be surprised if the Giants pull the trigger before the trading season really heats up in July.
Whit Merrifield, second baseman, Kansas City Royals
Merrifield is tricky in that he’s signed through 2022 (with a club option for 2023) at a reasonable rate. Generally, small market teams don’t race to trade those players. But he’s also 30 and playing for a team that still has a while before it thinks about contending. Merrifield is a capable home run hitter, but it’s not what he’s known for. In 2018, he hit .304/.367/.438 with 45 steals.
A player like that would fit in best on a contending team that already has power. There are plenty of options and any one would do well to pursue Merrifield.
Marcus Stroman, starting pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays
Like Smoak, the Blue Jays are reportedly shopping Stroman. Unlike Smoak, Stroman isn’t a pending free agent. So, Toronto would net more than a rental fee in return. Stroman will be a free agent following 2020. So, if the Blue Jays really don’t feel that contending is realistic, a trade makes sense. Stroman has had some ups and downs in his career. But 2019 has seen far more positives than negatives. He could be a solid top-three of the rotation arm for most contenders. That, combined with the extra year under contract, would certainly help Toronto get the desired return.
Nicholas Castellanos, right fielder, Detroit Tigers
Castellanos is similar to Bumgarner in that him getting traded has felt likely for months. He is in the final year of his contract. As a rental, Detroit may not get a return that a player of Castellanos’ caliber would normally get in a trade. But as a pending free agent, it just doesn’t make sense for the Tigers not to get something for him. From 2016-2018, Castellanos hit .285/.336/.495. Plenty of contenders could use that output. Additionally, Castellanos is only 27. So, he’s not in decline. The Tigers could absolutely get something decent for him.
Will Smith, relief pitcher/closer, San Francisco Giants
The first year back from Tommy John Surgery is often bumpy for pitchers. But in 2018, Smith posted a 2.55 ERA, 0.981 WHIP, and struck out 71 hitters in 53 innings. In 2019, he’s picked up right where he left off. Like any pending free agent, Smith’s return is lessened by being a rental. But that’s at least partially offset by being a reliever. Even teams with strong bullpens are looking for relief help. That makes a bidding war more likely. Contenders would no doubt like to add a lefty who can close and get righties out consistently. Smith fits that description.
Yasiel Puig, right fielder, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have had a slow start to the season. While there are reasons to be optimistic about a turnaround, we do have to wonder what will happen if Cincinnati continues to struggle. Puig, who will be a free agent at the end of the year, could be dealt. MLB doesn’t lack for contenders who could use Puig’s talent.