With the Chicago Cubs acquiring Jose Quintana from the White Sox last week, the stage has been set for a busy trade market as the July 31st trade deadline approaches. Unlike in recent years, the number of buyers is fairly low, with teams like the Dodgers, Nationals, Diamondbacks, and Astros essentially locking up playoff spots by the All-Star break. However, expect these contenders to do everything they can to further enhance their odds of winning the World Series. That being said, here are the biggest trades I expect to come to fruition over the next two weeks.
Los Angeles Dodgers Receive Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles for Walker Buehler, Drew Jackson, and Andrew Sopko
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been nearly unstoppable in 2017, thanks in part to huge years from Alex Wood, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and eventual Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger. The starting rotation led by Clayton Kershaw has been excellent, and their offense has been dynamic. Jansen is putting together a historically great season as a closer, and Pedro Baez is another efficient reliever who manager Dave Roberts can rely on late in games. If they were to acquire Britton, their team would be the best overall in baseball. Despite missing serious time this year due to a left forearm strain, Britton proved to be one of the best relievers in baseball last season when he posted a .54 ERA in 69 appearances for the Orioles.
Baltimore surely would need a solid return for their closer, and a package headed by Walker Buehler would be a great start. Buehler has serious upside as a number two starter. Over sixteen starts between High A and Double A in 2017, the Vanderbilt product has a sub-3.00 ERA while striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings. His potential could eventually see him become the ace that the Orioles have lacked for so long. In Drew Jackson, the Dodgers would be trading away an elite defender that could man multiple infield positions at Camden Yards for a long time. Andrew Sopko has the upside of a number four or five starter, with the bullpen also a future possibility.
Kansas City Royals Trade Scott Blewett and Donnie Dewees to the San Francisco Giants for Jeff Samardzija
Despite the impending free agency of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain, the Royals are expected to be buyers at the trade deadline. They currently sit just 2.5 games out in both the American League Central and Wild Card. General manager Dayton Moore doesn’t have a ton of highly-touted prospects to trade, so he isn’t equipped to make a deal for a top starting pitcher like Sonny Gray or Gerrit Cole. However, Kansas City could acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Giants. Samardzija has been great at eating up innings this season, lasting at least six frames in fifteen starts in 2017. He would be relatively cheap since a trade would free the Giants of his albatross contract in which he is owed eighteen million dollars annually for the next few years. San Francisco would likely have to eat some of his salary in order to the Royals to make this trade.
Scott Blewett would headline the return for the Giants. Blewett is a 21 year-old right-handed starter who stands in at 6’6″. He has shown promise at times this season, and has the potential to be a back of the rotation starter if he can continue to develop his changeup. Donnie Dewees has upside similar to Red Sox utility man Brock Holt. Dewees projects to hit for a decent average with plus speed. His defense is average at best, but his arm grades out as below average. He could be a left fielder, or even a second baseman in the future due to his athleticism and offensive profile.
Sonny Gray and Ryon Healy to the Houston Astros For Alex Bregman, Derek Fisher, and A.J. Reed
The Oakland Athletics have already begun trading veterans like Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson away for prospects. Sonny Gray is the next to go, and the Houston Astros could be a starting pitcher away from a World Series. However, Houston may have another Athletic in mind in Ryon Healy. The A’s third baseman is just 25 years old, and he’s got some serious pop and hitting ability despite his substandard approach. Healy has 19 home runs this season, while holding a .264 batting average, but just a .299 OBP. Healy could be considered an upgrade over former second overall pick Alex Bregman, the Astros current third baseman.
Bregman and Fisher would headline the return for Oakland. Bregman flashed solid potential last season after a few weeks of major struggles in the big leagues. He’s a good defender at third base, and his bat could help him develop into a player similar to Jake Lamb or Kyle Seager, although with less power. Derek Fisher was briefly called up earlier in this year. He showed why he was a Futures Game selection in his short stint with Houston. In just five games, he blasted two longballs and also stole a base. He is the type of player that the Athletics’ front office covets due to his all-around ability.
A.J. Reed is an interesting piece in this potential swap. Reed entered the 2016 campaign ranked as the number eleven overall prospect in the game by Baseball America but has taken a serious step backwards since. In 45 games with the Astros last year, Reed only managed to hit three home runs, and his OPS was under .550. Houston wanted him to start the 2017 season in Triple A to regain his confidence. But Reed has only further declined in the minors, hitting just .240 through 85 games. He has potential similar to Yonder Alonso or Justin Smoak, making him appealing at his current low cost.
Detroit Tigers Send Michael Fulmer to Atlanta For Package Headlined By Ozzie Albies
This trade would come as a shock to many. The Tigers front office has proven to be reluctant when it comes to tearing down their aging team of veterans including Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. The Atlanta Braves have been a pleasant surprise in 2017, sitting just six games back of the Wild Card just days after the All-Star Game. But based on each team’s current situation and future outlook, this trade could make perfect sense.
In Michael Fulmer, the Atlanta Braves would have a top-tier starting pitcher not just for this year, but for the foreseeable future. Fulmer is under team control for the next six seasons, and won’t reach arbitration until after 2019. In his two seasons with the Tigers, the 24 year-old has posted a 3.06 ERA and also won the American League Rookie of the Year in 2016. He leads all pitchers in HR/9 this season, which would definitely come in handy given how hitter-friendly SunTrust Park has proven to be. With perhaps the deepest farm system in baseball, Atlanta G.M. John Coppolella can afford to part with some pieces in return for a long-term, dependable starter like Fulmer.
The Detroit Tigers certainly would demand a major prospect package in return for their star. Ozzie Albies is the perfect headliner. Albies is ranked as the number twenty-five prospect in baseball by Baseball America. At just twenty years of age, he is hitting .289 in Triple A and he has stolen 21 bases in 83 games. Albies also has above-average defensive skills and could likely play shortstop in the Major Leagues. The Braves would also include right-hander Michael Soroka in the trade. Soroka compares similarly to Fulmer. He uses a low-90’s fastball and a solid repertoire of breaking pitches to manipulate hitters. Soroka doesn’t rely on the strikeout as many young arms do, but that hasn’t hindered his development one bit. The 19 year-old is already in Double A, and he’s been dominating there. In 17 starts, he owns a 2.37 ERA for the Mississippi Braves and has potential to be every bit as good as Fulmer.
Albies and Soroka would be a great starting point, but the haul for Detroit wouldn’t end there. Atlanta could also offer slugging infielder Austin Riley. While he does have a heavy tendency to strikeout, Riley has the power to hit 30 home runs annually at the Major League level. He could wind up moving to first base, but his defensive skills at the hot corner are sufficient enough for him to stay there. Add in Rio Ruiz, who has some time playing for Atlanta under his belt, and the Tigers would likely send Michael Fulmer off to the upstart Braves. In doing so, Detroit would jump-start their rebuild that is years overdue.