The old baseball adage is Memorial Day is when you can begin to obsess over the standings, and this year's division races are unusually close. No division leader had more than a 3 1/2-game lead on Memorial Day this year, and four of the five divisions were within 1 1/2 games. Close division races make for an exciting summer. They also make for an interesting trade deadline.
The trade deadline is July 30 this year -- MLB moved the deadline up one day because July 31 is a Saturday with several day games, making trade logistics a headache -- and the tight division races should make for many motivated buyers. That said, even with all the close division races, there are plenty of rebuilding teams out there with pieces to sell at the deadline.
With that in mind, here are one hitter and one pitcher each team with sub-1.0 percent postseason odds on Memorial Day (per Sportsline) should look to trade prior to the July 30 trade deadline. The teams are listed alphabetically.
Hitter: IF Eduardo Escobar. The .270-ish on-base percentage the last two years is an eyesore, but Escobar is a switch-hitter with power (top 10 in the NL in homers) who can play second and third bases. He's also a rental ($7.5 million salary this year), so there's not much of a reason for the D-Backs to keep him. The case can be make Arizona should listen to trade offers for Ketel Marte and Carson Kelly, though they have long-term control, and keeping them would be justifiable. Escobar has a reputation for being an A+ clubhouse guy and is an obvious trade candidate. The Cubs and Red Sox stand out as potential trade suitors.
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Pitcher: RHP Merrill Kelly. Kelly is sneaky valuable. Even after thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, he's a league average innings guy making relatively little this year ($4.25 million) with an affordable club option for next year ($5.25 million). Kelly is not someone who will swing the balance of power in a postseason race, but he represents an upgrade in the No. 4 or 5 rotation spot for many teams, contenders included. His extreme pop-up ways would fit wonderfully with the Athletics and all the foul territory in RingCentral Coliseum.
Hitter: SS Freddy Galvis. The O's have had a thing for getting better than expected offensive performances from glove-first middle infielders the last few years (Hanser Alberto, José Iglesias, etc.), and Galvis is the latest example. The general rule of thumb is don't pay for outlier performance, and Galvis' offense this year is an outlier compared to the rest of his career. That said, it only takes one desperate team to make a trade. Galvis is on a one-year contract and may have played his way into some trade value. The A's and Reds could use him.
Pitcher: LHP Tanner Scott. Assuming ace John Means is off-limits, Scott is the next best trade chip on the pitching staff. Lefties who touch triple digits are always in demand, and Scott's career-long control issues suggest he's not necessarily someone to build around going forward. Inevitably, there will be teams that believe they can get Scott's command in order and turn him into an elite lefty reliever. He's under control through 2024 and would appeal to contenders and rebuilders alike.
Hitter: SS Trevor Story. The obvious trade candidate. Story is currently on the injured list with an elbow injury, though it doesn't sound like it will sideline him long-term. Although he's having a down year by his standards, Story's track record as a high-end all-around player is well-established, and I'm guessing more than a few contenders would be willing to bet his performance will tick up away from a toxic Rockies environment. Rentals don't fetch massive returns anymore, even elite players, but whatever Colorado can get at the deadline figures to be better than the draft pick they'll receive when Story signs elsewhere this winter. The Athletics jump to mind as a club that could use an upgrade as shortstop, and it would be impossible to upgrade more than with Story.
Pitcher: RHP Jon Gray. At this point every player on Colorado's roster should be available, including ace Germán Márquez. Márquez is under contract through 2023, however, with a club option for 2024, so there's no rush to move him. Gray will become a free agent after the season though, and, at best, he's on the qualifying offer fence. Recouping a draft pick should he sign elsewhere is hardly a guarantee. Gray has rebounded nicely from an ugly, injury-shortened 2020 season, and I'm certain there are several teams eager to see what he looks like outside Coors Field. He's a great under-the-radar target for clubs looking to improve their rotation.
Hitter: OF Robbie Grossman. The Tigers don't have much to offer at this point. Miguel Cabrera's contract is un-tradeable and I don't think they're ready to move younger players like Jeimer Candelario and Harold Castro. Grossman it is. The switch-hitting on-base guy is owed $10 million total from 2021-22, so he's not a rental nor is he expensive, making him a fit for every contender. You could do a lot worse than plugging this guy in as your leadoff hitter. The Braves, White Sox, and Yankees currently have a Grossman-sized hole in their outfield.
Pitcher: LHP Matthew Boyd. Detroit missed the opportunity to trade Boyd for maximum value a few years ago, though he's pitched well enough this year, and his spin rates suggest a more analytically inclined organization can help him get to another level. The fact Boyd is under team control next year as an arbitration-eligible player has added appeal. Just about every contender could use Boyd in the rotation. The Blue Jays have a thing for fixing pitchers (Robbie Ray, most notably) and they did originally draft and develop Boyd, so there's a history here. It's a fit.
Hitter: DH Nelson Cruz. It has to be Cruz, right? He turns 41 next month and is presumably looking to win his first World Series ring, and I have to think the Twins would be willing to help facilitate that should they remain far out of the race come the deadline. Cruz is still an impact hitter and a great clubhouse leader. The only problem is he's limited to DH, which shrinks the pool of potential trade partners. I'd like to see the Blue Jays get in on this. They need pitching, but there's nothing wrong with adding to a strength, and there would still be plenty of at-bats for George Springer, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernández, Randal Grichuk, et al even with a Cruz trade. There's no such thing as too many good players. Rental Andrelton Simmons should be available as well.
Pitcher: RHP Michael Pineda. I would be surprised if the Twins threw in the towel completely and started a rebuild at the deadline. The AL Central looks like it'll be winnable enough next year, and there's enough talent on the roster to contend in 2022. Hanging on to the core pitchers under control beyond 2021, like José Berríos and Kenta Maeda, would be wise. Pineda is a rental, however, and he has far more trade value than fellow rental JA Happ. Pineda is an enigma. He'll look like the best pitcher in one start and un-rosterable the next, but he at least offers the potential to dominate every fifth day, something few rental starters can say.
Hitter: 2B Adam Frazier. New GM Ben Cherington has mostly picked this roster clean, with Frazier and Colin Moran the only notable veterans with trade value. Moran is currently on the injured list with a groin strain, so Frazier gets the nod here. He's having a fantastic season after going backwards from 2018-20, and he's played every position except first base, pitcher, and catcher in his career (he's best at second and in the corner outfield). Frazier is also under team control next year, so he's not a rental. It would not be difficult for most teams to find a place for him on their roster. The Red Sox have really leaned into the super utility type this year (Marwin Gonzalez, Enrique Hernández, Danny Santana, etc.) and could be a fit.
Pitcher: RHP Richard Rodríguez. The last thing a bad, rebuilding team needs is a great closer, and the Pirates have one in Rodríguez. Add in the fact he's already 31 and not, say, 26 or 27, and it's even more reason to trade him. Rodríguez is under team control through 2023 and would make any bullpen better. Any club with its eyes on a postseason spot should ask about him. The Astros, Dodgers, and Red Sox most stand out as contenders that could benefit from adding a high-leverage reliever.
Hitter: OF Joey Gallo. The Rangers are approaching decision time with Gallo. He'll become a free agent after next season, so if they're not going to sign him to a long-term extension (something Gallo says he wants), this would be the time to trade him for maximum value. Gallo is definitely a flawed hitter, especially now that his power production is closer to good than great, though he can change any game with one swing, and he's a sneaky excellent defensive right fielder. His exit velocities will appeal to teams that lean heavily on analytics. I could see the Rays, White Sox, and Cleveland getting involved.
Pitcher: RHP Kyle Gibson. Texas waited to trade Lance Lynn and Mike Minor until they were months away from free agency and went 1 for 2. Minor got hurt in 2020 and fetched a meager return at the deadline. Lynn was excellent in 2020 and they dealt him for Dane Dunning over the winter. You win some and you lose some. Gibson got rocked on Opening Day but has been lights out since, and he's own $7 million next year. Every team could afford that. If you're a contender and you want to solidify the middle of your rotation, Gibson should be among the first pitchers on your wish list. The Rangers should make rental closer Ian Kennedy available at the deadline as well.