MLB trade deadline: Orioles' Manny Machado, Marlins' J.T. Realmuto among the best of the infield market
Surveying the trade market for infielders ahead of the July 31 deadline
Now that it's July, it's time to start thinking about Major League Baseball's trade deadline. Per usual, teams have until July 31 at p.m. ET to make deals without needing to resort to waivers.
As part of our deadline coverage, we'll be previewing the market in a variety of ways -- that includes a positional overview. For now, let's take a look at the potentially available infielders.
J.T. Realmuto has been a fixture in trade rumors since the Marlins began their teardown. For good reason, as most every team would love to gain his production. He's an offensive-minded backstop currently hitting .306/.359/.544 in his age-27 season. His bat alone makes him worth employing. Yet Realmuto has improved behind the dish, and currently scores as a scratch defender. He has two additional seasons of team control remaining, making him a potential core piece for a team. The Marlins have every reason under the sun to .
With a normal offseason under his belt, Wilson Ramos has taken to hitting like he did in 2016, when he made his first and (for now) only All-Star team. He's always been an asset behind the plate, and he receives high marks for his staff-handling ability. The Rays could in theory extend Ramos, but otherwise they'll presumably move the impending free agent to the highest bidder.
Worth a call
Salvador Perez's defensive reputation has always outpaced his metrics. Still, a team who believes in his mitt (and in his odds of rebounding at the plate) should inquire about his availability. After this season, Perez will have three seasons and about $40 million remaining on his contract. With no hopes of competing in sight, the Royals need all the prospects they can gather. No matter what Perez is unlikely to be part of Kansas City's next winning team.
Justin Bour looks like a beer leaguer and hits like one, too. For his career he's batted .265/.348/.474, albeit with most of the damage coming against righties. Bour is never going to win a Gold Glove, but he's a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter who has two more seasons of team control left after this year. Given the frosty market for first base and DH types the last year-plus, it's possible that the Marlins decide to hang onto him rather than give him away.
The rest of the first-base market is uninspiring. Case in point, Lucas Duda gets mentioned here despite having not performed well since last deadline, when he was moved from the Mets to the Rays. Without hitting for more power it's unlikely that his walk rate will rebound. Add in how he's always a question mark from an availability standpoint, and there's not a lot positive to note here. The Royals, should they find a taker, won't be getting much in return.
Worth a call
The White Sox have so far resisted the urge to trade Jose Abreu during their rebuild. With one season of team control remaining, it's about time for them to make a now-or-never decision. Abreu has been a stud at the plate throughout his career, to the extent that his 119 OPS+ qualifies as disappointing (for reference, the aforementioned Bour's OPS+ this year is 117). He's known as a quality clubhouse presence as well. For Abreu's sake, here's hoping he gets to experience postseason baseball sooner than later -- he deserves that much.
Brian Dozier has earned MVP votes in each of the last three seasons, but that streak is in jeopardy thanks to an uncharacteristic season at the plate that could see him post his first OPS+ below 100 since 2013 (his mark that season was 98). He'll qualify for free agency at season's end, and with prospect Nick Gordon nearing the majors, it's possible the Twins hasten the transition via trade. Teams interested in Dozier will have to absorb what's left on his $9 million salary -- and do so without guarantee he'll return to his well-above-average offensive self.
Dozier is the headliner in terms of name value. In terms of on-the-field production? The title belongs to Whit Merrifield, who just keeps proving he's a quality player. Merrifield has hit .287/.334/.428 for his career while playing an above-average second base. He's a right-hander with a sizable platoon split, making him less desirable than if he were a left-hander with the same gap, but his otherwise well-rounded game makes him appealing -- as does the four additional seasons of team control he has remaining.
Worth a call
As if the Orioles didn't have enough logs on the trade-deadline fire, it's conceivable they'll take calls on Jonathan Schoop, who is a year away from free agency. Schoop is having a poor season at the plate and could find himself moved instead during the winter or at the next deadline. Still, he's a year removed from hitting 32 home runs and his strong arm sure is fun.
Remember how difficult it was for Mike Moustakas to land a contract during the winter? Expect him to be in greater demand at the deadline. His OPS+ is 113, and he's on pace to post an ISO above .200 for a third consecutive year (though, to be fair, he had just 113 plate appearances in '16). Moustakas gets the top spot here because he's owed less than $3 million the rest of the way, and because his contract includes a mutual option for next season that would see him paid $15 milion -- another bargain amount should it be exercised.
Adrian Beltre is in his age-39 season, but he just keeps producing. His OPS+ this season is 117, and he remains an above-average defender at the hot corner. The questions with Beltre are if he can stay healthy and if the Rangers will move him.
Worth a call
Entering the season, Josh Donaldson seemed primed for top billing here. But injuries have left him a question mark, to the point where it's possible the Jays have no choice other than to hold onto him. A team who isn't risk averse could try to get Donaldson on a value deal. A trade would spare Toronto from having to decide whether or not to extend a qualifying offer.
Manny Machado is, almost without rival, the biggest name expected to be moved this deadline. He's an MVP candidate, a soon-to-be 26-year-old on pace to threaten 40 homers and new career-bests in most every meaningful category. Sure, Machado is a free agent at season's end. Yes, his defense at shortstop, his preferred position, isn't otherworldly like his work at the hot corner. But every team in baseball would benefit from adding him to their roster.
Technically, Eduardo Escobar hasn't played a lot of shortstop since April, settling in as the Twins third baseman. But he's played there more than anywhere else in his career, and his bat merits mention somewhere on this list. Escobar has already almost set a new career-high in doubles, and underlying metrics suggest he is making better contact than in the past. He's a free agent at season's end, and his versatility makes him a fit for any number of teams.
Worth a call
The Rockies are still in the wild card race and Trevor Story has been one of their better hitters -- why would they move him? They probably won't, but a nifty scenario would see them trade Story for help elsewhere and then promote prospect Brendan Rodgers, who is hitting .280/.336/.514 in Double-A. It's not going to happen in all likelihood, but it would be a neat trick.
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