The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and this year, the stakes are higher than ever.
Historically, July 31 hasn't been a strict cutoff. It was harder to make trades after that point, but it was possible. Teams would do it every year, whether they were contenders looking for a last-minute upgrade or pretenders deciding they couldn't hang after all.
This year, it all goes down on that magical date. Teams have to decide whether they're all-in or all-out, and they have to decide soon. It could mean a flurry of activity is coming our way, or it could mean GMs are more cautious than ever. It's a new reality for everyone, and the truth is nobody knows.
But we do know there are number of obvious trade candidates, and we do know their movement could have a major impact on their Fantasy value. I've identified 10 (with a few others sprinkled in) that I think Fantasy owners should approach with greater care in the coming days.
Will Smith RP
ATL Atlanta • #51 • Age: 31
Every closer for a non-contender is of course a candidate to go, but Will Smith is the most obvious since he's a free agent at season's end. And with the kind of numbers he's put up this season, contenders will be lining up for his services, including those that already have a closer. Smith's ratios stack up with anybody's, but he throws left-handed and won't have developed the same level of trust that the incumbent has with his new manager. Specifically, if he winds up with the Dodgers, which are among the interested parties, his days as a closer are probably over. Ken Giles, Shane Greene, Alex Colome, Roenis Elias, Ian Kennedy and Mychal Givens could also find themselves traded out of the most valuable bullpen role.
Matthew Boyd SP
DET Detroit • #48 • Age: 29
Seeing as he's under team control for three more years, the Tigers could opt to make the breakthrough ace a central part of their rebuild effort. But Matthew Boyd seems to be gaining traction as a trade target, and you know, where there's smoke there's fire. Of particular note is the Astros' reported interest given their tendency to maximize the output of every pitcher they bring into the fold -- not that Boyd needs much help, really. True, his ERA is a bit on the high side thanks to some recent home run issues, but he kills it in the other two FIP measures, ranking fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio. For all his success this year, he has a sub-.500 record, so the improved win potential would help no matter where he goes.
MIN Minnesota • #55 • Age: 29
Will Smith could be traded out of the closer role, sure, or he could assume it from someone else. It just depends where he (or Ken Giles, Shane Greene, etc.) winds up. If Minnesota is the destination, it'd be especially painful given how long it took Taylor Rogers to seize the job for himself. He's been just as good as Smith this year, but it seems like the Twins would prefer to keep him versatile, using him for multiple innings or whenever a higher-leverage situation comes up. It's similar to the way the Brewers prefer to employ Josh Hader, who has had to function as a more traditional closer this year -- and his role too could be in jeopardy if the Brewers happen to land one of the top bullpen arms.
NYM N.Y. Mets • Age: 29
Marcus Stroman has rebounded nicely from a disappointing 2017, but it's obscured by his 5-10 record. And while more discerning Fantasy players probably recognize he's not to blame for it, it doesn't change the fact that a win is the most valuable contribution a pitcher can make in traditional formats. The experience of rostering Stroman hasn't been especially rewarding, in other words, but it could change if he lands with a team more often on the winning side of the ledger, whether it's the Yankees, Twins or someone else he has yet to be linked to. He should be pretty much venue-proof, too, seeing as he thrives on ground balls.
ARI Arizona • #40 • Age: 31
Here's yet another pitcher who deserves to have a better win-loss record than he has, and obviously, moving to a contender would go a long way toward reversing his fortunes. And because Madison Bumgarner is a free agent this offseason, the only reasons the Giants might have to hold onto him are sentimental, meaning not good enough. True, he would almost certainly pitch in a smaller park, which the splits suggest wouldn't be such a great thing, but with his velocity ticking back up this year and his strikeout rate climbing month to month, his best (er ... for 2019, anyway) may be yet to come.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #77 • Age: 25
Clint Frazier hit .283 with 11 homers and an .843 OPS in 191 at-bats as an injury fill-in earlier this year, so the 24-year-old has probably reached the point in his development when he needs his reps at the big-league level. Frazier has at times seemed like an awkward fit in New York, both in terms of finding a job and connecting with fans and the media, so the Yankees may see fit to use him as trade bait. He's almost certainly in the lineup from the day he arrives with his new club, hitting home runs with some regularity.
Bo Bichette SS
TOR Toronto • #11 • Age: 22
Maybe nothing the Blue Jays do at the deadline has any bearing on Bo Bichette's timeline whatsoever. Maybe they don't plan to address it until next season, as was the case for Vladimir Guerrero last season. But Bichette is a couple years older than Guerrero was then, and he has also gone on the record suggesting it's probably time to call him up. In Eric Sogard and Freddy Galvis, the Blue Jays have a couple obvious trade candidates in their infield, and while they may ultimately find they're unable to move the two, they'll no longer have much incentive to showcase them once the deadline is passed, opening the door for them to call up their top prospect anyway. Bichette offers five-category potential as a middle infielder.
Zack Wheeler SP
PHI Philadelphia • #45 • Age: 30
While I don't think a change in supporting cast would help Zack Wheeler as much as it would Matthew Boyd, Marcus Stroman or Madison Bumgarner, it couldn't hurt. And since he's a pending free agent, it also seems inevitable as long as his present bout with shoulder fatigue allows him back soon enough to prove his health (which it should). Whether he stays or goes, though, he's due for an upturn seeing as his FIP is nearly a point lower than his ERA. And with the innings he pitches and the strikeouts he gets, he'll be a borderline ace if it comes to pass.
Isan Diaz 2B
MIA Miami • #1 • Age: 24
Most every publication rated Isan Diaz a top-100 prospect a couple years ago, but there has been no revival of enthusiasm even with his stellar production at Triple-A New Orleans, where he's batting .305 with 22 homers and a .971 OPS. True, those numbers may be inflated by the juiced balls being used there, but considering his strikeout rate is also way down ... well, he's at least positioned himself to be next-in-line at second base. Right now, his only roadblock is Starlin Castro, who the Marlins are presumably looking to move. Whether they do or not, they figure to turn the page to the 23-year-old Diaz in August.
CIN Cincinnati • #2 • Age: 28
Nicholas Castellanos represents the ol' change-of-scenery candidate that's never as predictable as anyone likes to believe but has nonetheless been known to reveal himself from time to time. The reason it's plausible in Castellanos' case is because the 27-year-old was on a strong upward trajectory, having put together three straight productive seasons, before this step back in what's a more offensively charged environment than ever. And actually, a closer look at the numbers reveals that his individual performance is about the same as the past couple years -- down a little, yes, but not drastically so. It's just that the rebuilding Tigers have left him so alone in that lineup that there's no one to drive in or drive him in. A move to a contender would obviously change that.