Trade deadline be damned, teams are already posturing and have let it be known a close-out sale is pending. Barring a sudden downturn, the Mets and indeed the Yankees figure to be buyers when the trade market opens up. In a first-come, first-served market, here’s a peek at what New York teams are looking at.
No surprise, on Thursday, we learned that Baltimore Orioles GM Dan Duquette is starting to take calls on Manny Machado, the team’s All-Star shortstop, who will become a free agent after the 2018 season. While it’s not a surprise the Orioles are dealing Machado before he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, what is unique is the timing of the announcement, a full seven weeks from the July trade deadline.
The Orioles are not alone in jumping the gun, and the Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, and Kansas City Royals are also on the cusp of opening their doors for a close-out sale, sooner rather than later.
As future buyers, both the Mets and Yankees expect to be actively engaged at the trade deadline, once again adding by subtraction to improve their team. More so than the Mets who lack the trading chips, the Yankees are priming the pump to pull off another Sonny Gray like deal to cement their starting rotation, with the offering of one or two of their top prospects when the right deal comes along.
The Mets, a team who look like they are built to hang in there despite the competition, may be forced to deal from their 25-man roster, which could include a repeat trade involving Jay Bruce and the Cleveland Indians, who are barely a .500 team in a division they should run away with.
Pitching remains a question mark for the Mets, and is mostly dependant on Steven Matz producing some consistency paralleling his last start when his changeup was almost unhittable, and he was throwing it for strikes. Zack Wheeler remains an enigma, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gets the Matt Harvey treatment from Mickey Callaway with an exile to the bullpen in favor of Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo before a deal for another pitcher culminates.
The trouble with these early rising teams who are sending out smoke signals ahead of the trade deadline is they are all woeful teams with dreams of only escaping from the embarrassment of their record. Which, in turn, means, they have few players who are likely to draw the attention of anyone.
Machado is excepted, and he doesn’t matter anyway since the Yankees already have an All-Star shortstop in Didi Gregorius, no matter what this month looks like, and the Mets are not likely to part with the money it’s going to take to sign Machado.
The Texas Rangers, already in double-digits behind the Astros and Angels in the AL West, have Cole Hamels, an intriguing target for many teams, including the Yankees. But his contract is complicated and expensive, and could even push the Yankees over the luxury tax threshold.
The numbers look like this: “Hamels is making $23 million this year, and there’s a $20 million club option or $6 million buyout in his contract for 2019, but a July 31 deal would force just a $13.7 million commitment … a prorated $7.7 million this year plus the $6 million buyout.” Food for thought for any team.
The Rangers will also be trying to sell off 39-year old Adrian Beltre as soon as he comes off the DL. Beltre, who is on his way to Cooperstown has shown no sign of slowing down, but he did draw the line recently saying he had no interest in matching his 45-year old teammate, Bartolo Colon.
Beltre would seem to be a good fit for the Mets, but the front office would have to suffer from their fans chiding their building a geriatric team for the ages in the face of hiring Jose Bautista and Adrian Gonzalez, with soon to be free agent, Hanley Ramirez also in the mix.
The Orioles have Dylan Bundy, who has flashes of brilliance but has come nowhere near the potential the Orioles envisioned for him. He reminds a lot of Sonny Gray‘s checkered past and, therefore, someone the Yankees might be interested in. Bundy has no future in Baltimore, and the team can lose just as quickly without him as with him.
Beyond Bundy, the Orioles will try to move Adam Jones sooner than the trade deadline, while Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo will command zero attention given their lack of production and gazillion dollars owed to them. As an outfielder, Jones is not a fit for either the Mets or Yankees, but starting pitcher, Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.48 ERA with an inferior team) could fit either rotation at the backend.
The Kansas City Royals are, perhaps, the most interesting team in the scurry to beat the trade deadline. Last season, you’ll recall they went against all the odds refusing to trade Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and catcher Sal Perez. The experiment failed, and the Royals missed the playoffs setting the stage for this season’s trade deadline fire sale.
They resigned Moustakas at the last minute during the offseason, but no one can be a miracle maker on this team. Besides these players, the Royals have Danny Duffy to offer as a backend starter. Again, both the Yankees and Mets can be seen at least placing a call to Royals GM, Dayton Moore, sooner rather than later if any of these players pique their interest.
The Mets made a run at Moustakas during the offseason, and he is the type of player who can make Mets fans forget their phantom third-baseman, David Wright in a New York minute.
This is all conjecture, of course, and fans may well differ from the scenarios I’ve put out there. But one thing is certain, the July 31 trade deadline is being moved up this year by a number of teams who are swallowing a dish of reality, and concluding the 2018 season is far beyond their reach.
“The first ones now will later be last” – I’m not so sure of that – at least for how this 2018 MLB season is shaping up.
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