It’s never too early to start talking trades in Major League Baseball, sort of like the Christmas commercials hitting the airwaves right after Halloween. That’s because shopping season in both industries is big business, and even with the July 31 non-waiver deadline feeling distant, some of the separation happening — you know, tanking — should have GMs making those calls sooner rather than later.
As of Friday, six teams in the American League but only two in the National League — the woeful Reds and Marlins — faced double-digit deficits in their divisions. A few were closer in the wild-card hunt, though not legit contenders in those races, so the idea of using talent to potentially restock the farm system would easily outweigh any illusion of October baseball.
With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look at the top players with the potential to switch addresses by late July, if not earlier. There will always be surprises, of course. But based on the current trajectories of their clubs and their contract situations, they could be on the move any day now.
(By the way, before we get started, you won’t find Jacob deGrom on this list).
1. Manny Machado
A handful of teams already took a run at Machado during the offseason, given his pending free-agent status at season’s end, but the Orioles figured January was a bit too early to jettison the 2018 season. Now sounds about right, however. Machado will want to test the market, so the Orioles’ haul will be kept in check some by the rental — another reason why Baltimore could get more dealing him ASAP.
2. Josh Donaldson
3B, Blue Jays
Bottom line, the Blue Jays aren’t overtaking either the Red Sox or the Yankees in the AL East, and they’re already nine games out of the wild card, so holding on to Donaldson for his last few months before free agency doesn’t make much sense. Donaldson went on the DL Friday with calf tightness and is not putting up MVP numbers, but if the Blue Jays traded him, they could get something back — and save a few bucks on his $23-million salary.
3. Mike Moustakas
When the Royals brought back Moustakas on a one-year, $6.5-million deal — signing him on March 11 — they had to have flipping him in mind, and he’s increasing his value by the day. Through Friday, Moustakas was hitting .276 with 12 home runs and an .835 OPS in 57 games. Relatively small money, solid power production. That should get something back for Kansas City.
4. Cole Hamels
The 34-year-old lefty already is being linked to the Yankees as the premier arm almost certain to be available, but there are complications. Hamels would be owed the prorated portion of his $22.5-million salary — roughly $14.4 million — plus the guaranteed $6-million buyout of his $20-million option for next season. That’s steep for a team to take on, and he also has an extensive no-trade list that includes the Yankees.
5. J.T. Realmuto
The question here is just how far Derek Jeter wants to go with his construction project in Miami. Realmuto, a superb-hitting catcher with a cannon arm and excellent glove, is the perfect building block for a team in the Marlins’ position, and Jeter already has dumped everyone else. Still, there’s going to be some tempting proposals in the coming weeks.
6. Kelvin Herrera
Right around the deadline, nothing is more valuable than a shutdown reliever (see 2016 Yankees), and Herrera, another pending KC free agent, should bring back a great return with the season he’s having. Herrera, who has roughly $5 million left on this year’s salary, had an 0.79 ERA and 0.71 WHIP in 24 appearances through Friday.
7. Jose Abreu
1B, White Sox
Sort of an intriguing case here. The White Sox have been in rebuilding mode for a while now, and Abreu has one more arbitration year left before hitting free agency, putting him in the sweet spot to maximize his value in a swap. Abreu, earning $13 million this season, was hitting .300 with nine homers and an .881 OPS through Friday.
8. Zach Britton
It doesn’t get any better than Britton in the reliever market, so the Orioles should be sitting on a gold mine if he comes back from his Achilles tear in top form. Before a 2017 dip, Britton had a combined 1.38 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over the three previous seasons, and he’s headed for free agency this offseason. With a mid-June return expected, he’ll have time to convince suitors of his value.
9. Brian Dozier
This is a tough one for the Twins. They held a fire sale last season, then stunned the sport by rallying for a wild-card berth. This year, the Twins are lagging again and Dozier is up for free agency, a costly proposition come the offseason. If a top team ends up with an opening at the position, Minnesota could get what it wants in a swap.
10. Matt Harvey
Reds GM Dick Williams already has said he’s looking to flip Harvey if the former Met turns himself into a marketable commodity by the banks of the Ohio River, and it’s within the realm of possibility. Harvey has a 3.72 ERA in four starts for the Reds, but he’ll have to do better than that to get teams biting by the deadline. If the Mets could get a revived Devin Mesoraco for Harvey, maybe there’s hope for the Reds, too.
11. Bartolo Colon
Just the thought of teams fighting over the 45-year-old Colon seems ridiculous, but if he’s going to keep pitching like this, why not? Colon has a 3.70 ERA and 0.96 WHIP as a starter, averaging more than 6 1⁄3 innings in those nine games. And he can always operate as a swingman, too, if the bullpen needs help.
12. Chris Archer
Archer is signed to a very team-friendly contract. He’s due roughly $12 million through 2019, but his deal includes two more team options beyond that — $9 million for 2020 and $11 million for 2021. Since 2016, Archer has pitched to a 4.09 ERA (in the tough American League East) but has averaged 202 innings and more than 30 starts since ’14 with a 10.1 K/9 ratio. Would the frugal Rays cut bait on such a cost-efficient pitcher? Could take a lot to convince them.
TRIBUTE TO SHANNON FORDE
The inaugural first pitch was thrown Saturday at Shannon Forde Field, the Little League ballpark named for the beloved Mets executive who passed away in March of 2016 after a long fight with breast cancer.
Major League Baseball conducted a nationwide auction to help fund the field, which was dedicated last June, and opened with two softball games Saturday down the road from where she grew up in Little Ferry, New Jersey
“I played on a lot of great teams during my career and I don’t remember any of us who have fields named after us,” said Ron Darling, the former Mets great and SNY analyst who was there for Saturday’s ceremony. “This field speaks to the kind of person Shannon was. She could relate to players, media, coaches and anyone in sports. Having a field named after her in her hometown is a perfect legacy for her.”