Major League Baseball's trade deadline, in a normal season, would be set for today, July 31. But there will not be a flurry of trades on July 31, 2020 -- the eighth day of a highly unusual 60-game season that has already been jeopardized by a coronavirus outbreak. MLB is will try to play out the shortened season, and yes, it still comes with a trade deadline. This year's edition will fall on Aug. 31 -- about the midway point in the schedule.
Without the usual late July talk of buyers and sellers, we still wanted to play into the idea of thinking like 2020 general managers. As such, here's an article on seven players who could be on the market come August.
Do note that, for the sake of brevity, we've omitted two kinds of players:
- Veterans who signed one-year deals over the winter, like C.J. Cron and Kevin Gausman
- Superstars who feel more like offseason trade candidates, be it Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, or even Kris Bryant.
Now, let's proceed.
League sources indicated to CBS Sports during the winter that the Royals were going to keep Whit Merrifield until at least summertime, when they would then reevaluate his market. The pandemic has interferred with those plans, though perhaps only in timing. Merrifield, now 31, is a throwback player. His career ISO is .149 and he doesn't walk a ton, but he's been a plus hitter over the last three seasons because he's batted .298 while the league as a whole has batted .254. Merrifield has also proven to be a basestealing threat, having swiped 99 bases at a 78 percent success rate since 2017. Defensive metrics are torn on his glovework, yet his perceived versatility -- and, let's face it, his cheap contract -- makes him a fit for almost every contender.
Another mainstay in these pieces, Mychal Givens is now 29 and just over a season away from free agency. He still has a high-velocity, high-spin fastball, but he might have a different out pitch these days. He threw his changeup at a career-high frequency in 2019, and by season's end he was using it more often than his signature slider. The results validated the tweak: opponents hit .176 against the change and swung through it more than 44 percent of the time. If Givens can find similar success in 2020, with the altered approach or otherwise, he should appeal to teams looking for an experienced late-inning arm for the next year-plus.
Matthew Boyd knows what it's like to boost one's stock by making a change. He improved his slider and went from an afterthought of a back-end starter to an above-average starter over his last 63 starts. He's posted a 104 ERA+ and 3.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those appearances, though he's been too home-run-prone for comfort, especially considering his home ballpark's pitcher-friendly reputation. Boyd won't qualify for free agency until after the 2022 season, making him a potential long-term fit in the middle to back-end of a rotation.
Boyd isn't the only Tigers pitcher worth monitoring. Joe Jimenez, who has three years of control left after this season, possesses many of the innate and underlying attributes of an elite reliever. He misses a ton of bats with his mid-90s fastball and slider combination, and last season he posted a career-high 3.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Jimenez has always struggled with his command, but he could see his Q rating improve if the ball is de-juiced and his home-run rate drops. The Tigers have turned away inquiries on Jimenez in the past. A first-half breakout might result in better offers and an increased willingness on Detroit's part to make a deal.
From a performance-only perspective, Keone Kela should be one of the game's more sought-after relievers whenever he returns from a bout with COVID-19. He pitched to the tune of a 2.40 ERA in a season-and-a-half since joining the Pirates. Unfortunately, Kela's stint in Pittsburgh has been marred by character issues, including a scuffle last season with a coach. Maturity issues have been a concern with Kela throughout his career. Here's hoping he can make a quick and full recovery, and that he can turn over a new leaf as he nears his 28th birthday.
It wasn't long ago that Jeff Samardzija's contract seemed immovable. He improved his standing with a rebound 2019, during which he started 32 or more games for the sixth time in seven tries, and he could appeal to contenders as a rental veteran starter. Samardzija's remaining outlay is less than $7 million for the season, but the Giants would seem willing to pay down that figure if needed. Remember, Farhan Zaidi leveraged his financial might over the winter to acquire a prospect (Will Wilson) in exchange for eating Zack Cozart's contract.
We'll end with Jordan Yamamoto, who wouldn't seem to belong in this group. Although he has less than a year of big-league service time under his belt, the Marlins were said to be open to moving him over the winter. Obviously Mike Hill didn't find a deal to his liking, but Miami has enough young pitching on the way that it shouldn't surprise anyone if that changes by the end of August.