The 2021 season has been cruel to Max Kepler and the Minnesota Twins and therefore made them sellers at the MLB trade deadline. The Twins’ purge began last week with them trading Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays. It could continue with them moving a handful of position players such as the aforementioned Kepler.
Kepler is in the midst of a rough season at the plate, which is partially due to injuries. At the same time, the 28-year-old outfielder swings a power bat from the left side and is adept at playing both right and center field. He’s also under team control through 2024.
- Max Kepler stats (2021): .215/.300/.441, 13 home runs, 39 RBIs and eight stolen bases
More than capable of making a difference on a playoff hopeful, here are three teams that make sense for a Max Kepler trade.
3. Chicago White Sox get Max Kepler
The White Sox are World Series contenders and should be all ears when it comes to upgrading their roster via trade. Kepler would instantly become Chicago’s starting right fielder.
The left-hander adds a power bat to an offense that’s bizarrely 25th in MLB in home runs this season (108). With that in mind, a power hitter like Kepler would add offensive variety to manager Tony La Russa’s order. He could hit second or in the middle of the order with the mindset of driving in the sluggers ahead of him like Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada.
Defensively, Kepler gives the White Sox a smooth right fielder with versatility, which comes into play as their outfield has been crippled by injuries this season. Their depth has improved over the last month, but Kepler is capable of being a potent force and a difference-maker for the White Sox.
What hinders the possibility of an intradivision trade between the Twins and White Sox involving Kepler is individuals like Brian Goodwin and Gavin Sheets swinging the sticks well of late and Eloy Jimenez returning to the field. They can find a role for Kepler but may feel it’s unnecessary to add another outfielder to the mix.
2. New York Yankees acquire Max Kepler
The Yankees need all the offensive help they can get, and rolling the dice on Kepler getting in a groove at the plate is a compelling option for their sake.
This is a win-now team that needs to pick up the slack, and Kepler is a position player in his prime who has a lot to offer the Yankees. For starters, he gives them a threat from the left side, something they’ve been lacking this season. Manager Aaron Boone’s outfield rotation has been ravaged by injuries and health complications (Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar and most recently Aaron Judge). Kepler gives Boone two ways he can align his outfield: 1) play Kepler in center or 2) put Kepler in right and move Judge to center.
All the while, Kepler could start for the Yankees at either outfield position in 2022 and beyond. All New York can do is take a chance on a position of need and see what happens. Kepler checks a lot of boxes for them.
The problem with the Yankees making a move for the 28-year-old? If the Yankees want an upgrade at the plate, they’re likely more inclined to acquire someone who’s hitting well, rather than chancing a player continuing to slump.
1. St. Louis Cardinals trade for Max Kepler
The Cardinals are supposed to be a National League contender, and they don’t have the pieces to begin a full-fledged rebuild. Their only option is to be buyers at the trade deadline. Making a move for Kepler fits the bill.
Manager Mike Shildt’s outfield has been better at the plate with Harrison Bader raking and Tyler O’Neill continuing to be a power threat from the right side. At the same time, the Cardinals could still use an upgrade in the grass. Kepler adds another fundamentally sound player to a somewhat tenured outfield and someone who can improve their offense — albeit Kepler isn’t hitting at a high level himself.
All in all, the Cardinals have one of the most talented yet least productive offenses in MLB. Maybe Kepler can get back to his 2019 ways (he blasted 36 home runs to the tune of an .855 OPS in 2019), providing the Cardinals’ offense with a spark? Meanwhile, he would be their answer in right field for the foreseeable future.
The Cardinals have the talent to run off nine of 10 games. They might as well accumulate players who enhance such a run, and banking on Kepler righting the ship could be a worthwhile gamble for their sake.