‘Tis the season to be pondering who’s coming or going before or at baseball’s new single trade deadline. I know the deadline isn’t June, but it seems just about every season that June is the month when trade talk becomes as fevered as a Trump tweetstorm. At this moment the temperature is low but sure to climb.
You have to be careful, though. Out there in the press mainstream merely speculating upon who’s liable to change addresses can lead to strange feelings among the speculated-upon. And their current employers. Maybe their employers-to-be. (Renters-to-be?) And it’s always healthy to try keeping the strange as much to the playing field as possible.
Everybody with me so far? OK. Now let’s consider potential candidates, understanding that they’re not officially on the block just yet but that teams with certain needs may cast eyes upon them:
Madison Avenue Dept.—Madison Bumgarner ain’t quite what he used to be, if you don’t count orneriness, but his postseason jacket alone would make him attractive to a contender looking for a) a rental lefthander, and b) a fun policeman, since he hits free agency for the first time after this season. (The Yankees are already rumoured to have eyes for him, and the Brewers may have likewise.) But pay attention, contenders needing bullpen help: the Giants have a sleeper for you. Will Smith, lefthanded closer, 2.19 ERA, 0.73 walks/hits per inning pitched rate, 35 strikeouts and a mere five walks in 24 2/3 innings so far this year.
Surprise Package Dept.—Don’t look now, but Ken Giles—he of the 2017 World Series disasters and the 2018 meltdowns that got him purged from Houston—has resurrected himself very quietly in Toronto. Giles has a 1.08 ERA, a 1.15 FIP, a 6.0 strikeout-to-walk rate, a 15.1 K/9 rate, and a 0.4 HR/9 rate this season. Contenders needing pen help shouldn’t ignore such closers. Bloodied-but-unbowed and otherwise.
On Your Marcus Dept.—Giles’ Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman has a year and a half left on his current deal, and a contender looking for rotation fortification might find him attractive enough to deal for him with eyes upon extending him with plenty of time to work something out. He may be hung with a major league-leading eight losses but those are definitely team efforts considering his 3.31 ERA. A contender needing a middle-of-the-rotation arm with postseason experience could make the Jays an offer they can’t refuse.
Either Thor Dept.—Noah Syndergaard is actually pitching a little better than his 4.45 ERA shows, even if his tendency to just fire may actually be working against him now. (His K/9 rate isn’t the same as it was in 2015-16 and may not be again for a good while.) But if the Mets awaken enough to know they’re not likely to reach even a wild card berth this time around, Syndergaard still has upside (and is under contract through 2021) to bring them back some decent prospects and give a contender a not-so-secret weapon that may not disappear too soon.
Tribal Fission Dept.—Right now the Indians don’t look like the contenders they were thought to be this year—by themselves or by others. They also don’t look like sellers now, but that could change after Cleveland hosts this year’s All-Star Game and if the Indians don’t look like even a wild card outlier after the Game. The likeliest Tribesmen to bring back a haul if the Indians decide to remake/remodel? Pitchers Corey Kluber (assuming his return to health), Trevor Bauer, and Brad Hand; and, shortstop Francisco Lindor. Lindor especially would be the nugget: 25 years old, established star, and continuing upside.
Full of Colome Dept.—Smith and Giles may not be the only attractive relief target for deal-minded contenders. Alex Colome may look just as delicious even though he’s closing for a rebuilding White Sox team. That 2.19 ERA and 0.65 walks/hits per inning pitched rate are just too succulent for contenders needing relief to ignore. And, like Stroman, Colome has a year and a half left on his deal and a contender in need might find the 30-year-old attractive enough to talk extension before the deal expires. Might.
Greene Fields Dept.—Contenders in need of relief might have even bigger eyes for Tigers closer Shane Greene. Like Colome, he’s 30. Like Giles, he has an ERA close to 1.00. (Specifically, 1.04.) Unlike Giles, though, Greene’s FIP is a little north of 3.00. But Greene at this writing has a 4.0 K/BB ratio and leads the American League with nineteen saves, and his 9.0 K/9 rate still makes him a catch.
The Nat’chl Blues Dept.—Like the Mets, the Nationals entered the season viewed as one of four National League East contenders. Like the Mets, the Nats are on the brink of fading away from that. And, like the Mets, the Nats have pieces they might be willing to move. Might. The nuggets: Anthony Rendon, their best position player still and a free agent after the season; and, Sean Doolittle, the only true decently consistent option in their inconsistent bullpen. But Howie Kendrick is also having a splendid season. If the Nats decide to sell, watch those three names.
Hot Seven Dept.—Nothing to do with Louis Armstrong, alas. Like the Nats, nobody knows just yet if the Reds might hang up the for-sale signs. But if they do, they’ve got seven men who become free agents at season’s end: Zach Duke, Scooter Gennett, David Hernandez, Jose Iglesias, Yasiel Puig, Tanner Roark, and Alex Wood. (With Wood, of course, it depends on his health.) For now, just watch. For now.