Trade Deadline Predictions


July 21, 2015


Take these with a grain of salt as they are in no way based on inside information. However, they are based on precedent and current needs so they could concievably happen.


1) The Kansas City Royals will not win the AL Central and will, in fact, miss the playoffs. Say what you will about their bullpen, but you can not be among the most used bullpens through the first four months of the season and expect them to be fresh in late September. The teams that have the most used bullpens right now are the Phillies, D-backs, Rays, Rockies and Royals. We already know three of those teams aren’t going anywhere this year. What separates the Rays from the others is that they have starting pitching talent coming back from injury that might be able to give their bullpen a rest. The Royals do not, especially since Yordano Ventura pitched himself back to AAA. No one in the Royals rotation averages more than 5.2 innings per start, which means their bullpen will be used extensively every night. They look great now but come mid-September they will be gassed and vulnerable.


2) Johnny Cueto will be traded to the AL. My guess is to the Blue Jays. Roberto Osuna has settled in as the closer which has firmed up the bullpen hierarchy, so there’s not much need to trade for a closer. What they do need is someone to not only lead the starting staff performance-wise but also to take some of the pressure off the younger starters. Neither Felix Doubront or Marcos Estrada are long term solutions.  Texas might also be an interesting fit because they have several shortstops they could trade (Jurickson Profar, perhaps?), a position where the Reds could definitely use an upgrade. But the Jays have the quality in both position and pitching prospects that could easily facilitate such a deal.  Cueto is especially attractive because he is already experienced pitching in a hitter-friendly environment.


3) Justin Upton will be traded to the Orioles. The Mets are the team that should be trading for him given their desperate need for offense but the Mets are never really interested in winning; they would rather seem smart by not taking on big contracts. The Orioles, on the other hand, are unafraid of taking chances if it will help their team’s chances this year. Last year they traded Eduardo Rodriguez to the Red Sox in order to get Andrew Miller, who was critical to their run to the ALCS. Sure, they’d like to have Rodriguez now, but had it not been for a red hot Royals team, Miller might have pitched Baltimore to a World Series championship.  The Orioles are again close and GM Dan Duquette is immune to the conventional wisdom that says his team needs an ace starter, in part because his team might already have two in Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman. Neither has looked great overall this season but Tillman has been sensational recently and Gausman has always had the talent. That said, the Os’ rank 27th in production from their left fielders; Upton would upgrade that significantly. The Padres, his current team, rank 6th overall in production from their left fielder.


4) The Blue Jays will win the AL East going away, by at least 5 games. One of the reasons is because they’re going to trade for a starting pitcher, or at least they should. I suspect it will be Cueto because trading for Cole Hamels will prove to be such a headache. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has made it clear that he needs to hit a home run with any trade involving Hamels, meaning he is demanding a huge prospect package in return. Most teams don’t have that kind of haul and the ones that do aren’t likely to part with such a huge chunk of value from their farm. I would not be at all surprised to see Hamels still in a Phillies uniform in October. But the other reason that the Jays will run away with the AL East is because their offense is so formidable. They lead the majors in runs scored by almost 20% and they still haven’t had a significant stretch where everyone is healthy. They just inked Joba Chamberlain to help their bullpen so the only glaring need they have is for a starting pitcher.  If they get one like Cueto, they become the favorite to win the World Series because no one has enough pitching to neutralize that offense for four games. In 95 games so far, they’ve been held to one run or less only ten times, and only once in consecutive games. Meanwhile they’ve scored at least 10 runs in a game 14 times. With any kind of solid pitching, they’d be running away with the division already.


5) The San Francisco Giants will miss the postseason. Other than Madison Bumgarner and Chris Heston, their rotation is uninspiring, and their bullpen is showing signs of aging. Their offense and defense are both very solid but that is not enough to offset the arms they need in order to contend. LA just has too much talent and depth. If it were a head-to-head battle, the Giants would win because they seem to have the Dodgers number (9-3 so far this season), but since they both have to play 13 other teams, the odds swing towards LA. I expect that by the end of August the Dodgers will have a 10-game lead on them.


6) The player traded who will have the biggest impact, however, is Chase Utley, who will go to the Yankees and solve their problem at second base. Of course, I’m just spit-balling here. But Utley to the Yanks kind of makes sense. The Yanks love veterans, the Stadium plays well for left-handed power hitters and Utley should come relatively cheaply given how poorly he has played this season. So why would the Yanks trade for a guy who has stunk? Because Utley claims to have found the flaw in his swing that has caused all the troubles. He’s a free agent after this season and unlikely to get enough playing time to meet his vesting option so the Yanks have nothing to lose by acquiring him and the Phillies have stated they aren’t going to let him play so they might as well get something for him. Utley needs playing time for a winter payday and if he does well in NYC, he’ll get it. Everyone in the equation has an incentive to make it happen.


7) The Astros will trade for Jeff Smardzija. The ChiSox need help in their farm system and of the teams that have been rumored to be trading for starting pitching, the Astros have one of the richest farm systems. The Astros definitely need rotation help behind Keuchel and McCullers and getting out of offense-happy US Cellular should help Smardzija. Oddly enough, that park is playing very pitcher friendly this year, moreso than Houston, so the change of scenery might not actually help.


8) The Twins will trade for Mike Leake. Leake is the kind of pitcher that the Twins have gravitated towards for the past two decades: average stuff but pounds the strikezone. Interestingly enough, Leake’s fastball has been gaining velocity steadily for the past five years so this might be the perfect time to lock him into a longer term deal. He’s agile off the mound and shows a strong groundball tendency, which is a good thing given that the Twins outfield defense is below average. Oswaldo Arcia could go back to Cincy in the trade. The Reds need a left fielder long-term (Marlon Byrd can be a free agent at the end of the season) and Arcia has clearly fallen out of favor within the Twins organization. He’s hitting .317/.394/.762 (!) in Triple A this month, yet still has not been recalled to a team that ranks 20th in OPS.


9) The Mets will trade for Juan Uribe. He won’t solve their offensive woes but he won’t be a lodestone either and perhaps more importantly to the Mets’ front office, won’t cost much in terms of prospects. Aramis Ramirez is also available but would likely cost more talent in return. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Angels trade for him. Both the Mets and Angels are in desperate need of offensive production from third base (ranking 27th and 26th respectively) and both have post-season aspirations. Unfortunately, Atlanta and Milwaukee, the teams Uribe and Ramirez are currently toiling for, rank 21st  and 20th, so the upgrade will not be a game-changer. In Uribe’s defense, he’s only been in Atlanta for about a month and while he’s been there he’s posted a rather impressive .822 OPS.

10) Lastly, the Tigers will trade David Price to the Dodgers. I know most people link Hamels to the Dodgers but if that really was going to happen it should have been done already. Amaro’s asking price has been prohibitive and that’s unlikely to change. In his defense, Hamels is under contract for a few more years and is young enough that if the Phillies turn things around in a couple years he could still be part of the renaissance.  The Dodgers need another starting pitcher and are also one of the few teams that have the wherewithal to sign Price long-term after this season. The Tigers need to rebuild and LA has the upper level talent to make that happen relatively quickly. I was tempted to suggest that the Nats would trade for Price because GM Mike Rizzo is not afraid of having too many starting pitchers, but this would be just overkill.