Monday, August 31 at 4:00 pm ET marks the 2020 trade deadline, and in a year where making trades is weirder than ever before, the possibilities are endless.
Rob Bradford of WEEI in Boston uncovered the consensus expectation from multiple MLB executives earlier in the season, which was that coronavirus and all the different technicalities that affect the 2020 season are complicating the process of making trades in multiple ways. There are unknowns that face a player once they're dealt and have to switch teams -- though the Red Sox' and the Phillies' trade involving bullpen pieces seemed to go through without difficulty -- and there's the fact that the shortened season changes things drastically. Trading for a starter with an expiring contract at the deadline means that he may pitch all of five or six games for his new team before opting to look elsewhere. And there's still the chance of a massive breakout that puts a team's season -- or the entire league -- at risk.
It's just weird.
But with all of that taken into consideration, RADIO.COM Sports MLB insider Jon Heyman provided us with a list of notable players whose names have been floating around the cloud of trade buzz as the deadline draws near.
Here's what he came up with in the latest episode of "Big Time Baseball" alongside Tony Gwynn Jr., sorted from least likely to be dealt to most likely.
Percentages indicate how likely Heyman feels they'll be traded. The full episode snippet can be found at the bottom of the page.
Zach Plesac (5%) and Mike Clevinger (15%)
Plesac and Clevinger shook up the Indians organization with their violation of COVID-19 safety protocols, and the two have spent time at the team's alternate site after upsetting several teammates for their irresponsible actions. Heyman doesn't see Plesac as a realistic trade candidate, but gives a slightly higher chance to Clevinger.
Heyman: I think if you're going to pick one or the other, Clevinger was probably more in the wrong because he wasn't found out right away. Plesac was found out, separated, sent home alone. Clevinger pretended he wasn't part of that expedition out of the hotel... and then was found out and I think his teammates were quite upset about it.... Clevinger's name was out there as a potential trade target over the winter. I didn't get it at the time but maybe he had done some things even before then that made them kind of question whether they want to do long-term... you know, they had Bauer for a long time and he's kind of a quirky personality, and they kept him around for quite a while until they decided they couldn't afford to keep him.
Lance Lynn (10%)
Lynn is 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA this year and has been nothing short of immaculate, but the Rangers currently hold a 10-17 record. Still, Heyman doesn't see him moving, though a teammate could very well be a different story... (keep reading!)
Heyman: When they signed him for three years for $30 million, I thought they overpaid... He’s been incredible. Makes $8 million next year so (the) salary goes down a bit... The fact (is) that he’s got another year to go, and I don’t think Texas wants to give up on next year either. I think the chances he’s being dealt are low.
Whit Merrifield (10%)
Merrifield led the league in hits in both 2018 and 2019, and is hear the top in 2020 (No. 5 with 34). Any number of teams would love his services, especially given his contract situation, but Heyman thinks the Royals like him too much to give him away.
Heyman: Very cost-effective, shall we say. $17 million owed through 2023, so whoever gets him gets him for a long time and they’ll be happy with him. His name will be out there because teams are always looking. Kansas City loves him, he’s their guy... but you never know and his name will be mentioned.
Trevor Bauer (20%)
After a rough start to his Cincinnati career in 2019 (2-5, 6.39 ERA), Bauer has completely flipped the switch and has shut down opponents to the tune of a 3-0 record and a devastating 0.68 ERA. However, the Reds are not where they want to be at this point.
Heyman: There’s certainly concern there about this team. I think they’re more likely to (not be) a seller so I don’t think it’s too likely that they will trade him but, look, the team’s not right now playing well, he is a free agent after the year so I’m not going to rule it out. His name’s going to be out there unless they turn it around quickly.
Jorge Soler (20%)
Though Heyman doesn't see Merrifield as a realistic target, Soler is a bit of a different story. He's been solid (6 HR, .250/.339/.480) but hasn't played as well as he did in 2019.
Heyman: I’m going to say a little bit greater chance on him (than Merrifield). He’s not the same type of player. I don’t want to say one-dimensional but he doesn’t have as many dimensions as Merrifield... Could help out contending teams, particularly with DH all over the place for this year, and he's got a year before free agency... We haven't heard his name out there much but I do think Kansas City is one of the few sellers and that's a guy they might be willing to talk about.
Dylan Bundy (20%)
Bundy was one of a few exciting offseason acquisitions for the Angels, and he's lived up to the expectation with a 3-2 record and a 2.58 ERA. However, the Angels have been very disappointing as a whole.
Heyman: How are they this bad, right? It’s shocking. Dylan Bundy has a year to go before he’s a free agent. So I think they’d be disinclined to trade him, but in this market with all the buyers and few sellers they can get a ton for him and I think there’s a chance. I mean, I don’t think they want to sell knowing that they signed Mike Trout for this period... just signing Rendon. I think they want to impress those guys and their fans and I don’t think they’re going to do it but I think there’s a chance.
Xander Bogaerts (20%) and J.D. Martinez (25%)
The Red Sox are 9-20 and are going nowhere fast. Two of their top hitters are guys who Heyman expects to be popular names come the deadline.
Heyman: (Bogaerts) just signed a five-year deal. He does have an opt-out in a couple of years so, interesting contract. He’s performing well under difficult circumstances with a bad team. Obviously this is Chaim Bloom’s team…. He was willing to trade Betts, he’s willing to trade anybody. He’s got, as Ken Rosenthal pointed out, a full no-trade coming up at his seventh year… normally it’s ten years you get full no-trade, but they agreed to make it seven years.. So, I’d say Xander Bogaerts has a shot to be traded...
... J.D. Martinez also has an opt-out and makes $19 million a year. That’s a tough contract for a DH, even though all the teams use a DH this year. You know, I think it’s not going to be that easy to move him but i’ll say it’s a greater likelihood (than Bogaerts).
Josh Hader (25%)
Hader has been lights out as usual in 2020, saving five games in five opportunities without surrendering a single run. The Brewers were willing to listen to offers for Hader before 2020, and that likely is the case now.
Heyman: I think his value is very, very high. He’s also got three more years before he’s a free agent and... he’s arguably one of the most (dominant) relievers, can throw more than one inning at a time and close out games, so there’d be a big price tag. The Brewers have not played great, I still think they have a good chance to make the playoffs...
... I've heard that there are teams who have kind of thrown their hats in the ring... Certainly San Diego, which has lost two relievers at least for now (Pomeranz and Yates), and Arizona... I'd be surprised is he's traded but not shocked.
Johnny Cueto (50%)
Cueto is getting up there in age -- he's 34 years old currently -- but has earned two wins and hasn't lost yet for the surprising 2020 Giants.
Heyman: They (the Giants) are in an interesting spot once again… they’ve been through this before. I personally think they should sell -- I don’t see them as a contender... They’ve got a lot of guys they can move but Cueto is the most interesting, he’s got the big contract obviously, but I think that’s the kind of guy that will move because people are not going to want to trade big prospects, not when you can’t see them (and) they’re at the alternate site.
Mike Minor (75%)
A Cy Young contender for much of 2019, Minor is 0-5 with a 6.75 ERA so far in 2020. As previously mentioned, the Rangers sit near the bottom of the American League to this point.
Heyman: Much more likely (than Lance Lynn) would be Mike Minor, a free agent after the year... not having a particularly great year. I could see the Braves as a potential (team) for Minor -- they need some pitching. I’d say it’s 75 percent chance Minor gets dealt, but a low chance on Lance Lynn because he’s got that extra year on the deal and he’s pitching so, so well.