July 22, 2024

MLB trade deadline report: Key storylines with 1 month to go, plus 3 intriguing targets

Welcome back to our weekly digest of MLB trade deadline updates. With just four weeks until the July 30 deadline, the American League appears to be distilling into a more logical “buyer/seller” binary, while the National League remains a big goopy mess of teams holding up one hand and asking for a little more time before they turn in their tests.

This week’s news and notes

Cody Bellinger is signed through this year and has player options for 2025 and ’26. (Benny Sieu / USA Today)

In Chicago, the White Sox have been bad since before Opening Day, but the Cubs (whose 11-16 June was actually a little better than their 10-18 May) also appear to be running out of time to turn things around. (Even Jed Hoyer has used the phrase, “You have to be a realist.”) One name that has begun to circulate is outfielder Cody Bellinger, who has reportedly drawn interest from the Rangers and Yankees. The former may be less likely to give up much at this point, however — they also went 11-16 in June, which was identical to their May record. There’s a fine line between “our offense could use a Cody Bellinger-type to put it over the top” and “our offense has been so bad that it’s too late for even Bellinger to right the ship.” Meanwhile, the Yankees may need to prioritize pitching before they go bat shopping.

Sticking with the NL Central, C. Trent Rosecrans did us the favor of both-sides-ing the Reds’ situation. Here’s some hope for the hopeful, and here’s a glass of cold water over the head.

In Tampa, there are a number of pitchers who might be available in the coming weeks — that link also checks in on the Mets trending up, which might lead not only to Pete Alonso staying put through the deadline, but also could influence them to acquire a bullpen arm or two to boost their wild-card hopes.

Speaking of the NL East, the Phillies are dealing with injury absences by J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber. None are expected to extend too far past the All-Star break in a couple of weeks, and their lead over the Braves is still eight games. They could pick up a right-handed bat to help hold the line, but while they wait for their stars, the Braves have an opportunity to make up some ground. David O’Brien and Jim Bowden toss around a few ideas on how a trade might help.

Trade target value check: Glass half full?

If you want a broad-scope look at who might be available, Aaron Gleeman and Eno Sarris compiled a ranked list of 92 players who could be on the move between now and the deadline, depending on how the coming weeks unfold. Let’s check in on three who have been underperforming, but might still be attractive targets.

Bo Bichette (SS), Blue Jays: It is still not a certainty that the Blue Jays will sell — these things are not often announced explicitly before the first trade happens — but c’mon. They’re 38-46, putting them 15 (division) and eight (wild-card) games out of a playoff spot. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been on a tear lately, which could increase his trade value, or could motivate the Jays to keep him around. We’ll see! In the meantime, Bichette might be a more logical departure. He’s under team control until after next season, so a team like the Red Sox, who have used up all their shortstops and could really go for another one, might make sense.

The Dodgers have also been mentioned as a destination, since Mookie Betts is on the injured list (and would likely provide more value at second base when he returns). But that’s far from a done deal, given their preference for defensive prowess.

But uh … Bichette’s bat hasn’t exactly been peaking of late either. Bichette hit just .197/.264/.273 (.537 OPS) in June. It’s the eternal conundrum: If your players are playing well, you won’t need to sell at the deadline. If you’re a seller at the deadline, it’s probably because your players aren’t playing that well, which hurts their value.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. smacks an RBI single against the Phillies. (Bill Streicher / USA Today)

Jazz Chisholm Jr. (OF), Marlins: As we pointed out in last week’s report, the Marlins are clear sellers, but a few of their would-be trade chips are either injured or having rough seasons. One player I’ll be interested to keep an eye on is Chisholm. No, he’s not performing to the All-Star level he did in 2022 (when he posted an .860 OPS), but for teams in need of a spark plug, Chisholm could be a second-tier addition. Like Bichette, his defense hasn’t been ideal — he’s at minus-16 defensive runs saved over the last two years since making the move to center field — but in 2021 and 2022, he compiled a 7 DRS at second base (though it was a minus-4 at shortstop).

So, who needs a second baseman with good speed (he’s in the 83rd percentile), who can also fill in at shortstop and center field when needed? That sounds like Yankees bait to me — with Gleyber Torres struggling this year, Chisholm could slide in there, and occasionally spell Aaron Judge in center field. He’s also under control through 2026, but if the Marlins are planning on a quick turnaround, that might be more of an impediment to a trade than an accelerator.

I’m not alone in thinking this. In a recent survey of front office executives, Bowden found Chisholm to be the most popular answer when it came to “position players most likely to be traded.”

While we’re on the topic of the Marlins, the month of June has certainly not dampened Tanner Scott’s market — his ERA sat at 1.57 at the end of May, and it’s 1.50 now. There’s always demand at the deadline for a reliever who is succeeding. Make it a lefty, and you’re bound to have multiple suitors, even if his walk rate (5.8 per nine innings) is a little concerning.

Randy Arozarena (OF), Rays: Like Chisholm, Arozarena won’t hit free agency until after the 2026 season. But he’s also three years older than Chisholm, and if the 29-year-old is dealt by the Rays, who seem to churn through talent with no compunction, he could be a big addition for a team in need of a right-handed bat and corner outfielder.

You can’t ignore this fact: His numbers are down this year. Way down. Coming into 2024, his career slash line was .265/.351/.451 (.802 OPS). This year, it’s .196/.307/.356 (.663) — a shocking fall-off. So, the Rays may opt not to sell low during a slump. But buyers who are considering the investment will surely note that Arozarena has been at his best in big moments. Check out his career postseason line: .336/.414/.690 (1.104). That’s an October star, and any trade for Arozarena would be with that month in mind.

What I’m watching over the next week

Mariners: I saw a funny headline this week that said the Mariners were already engaging in trade talks, with the deadline still a month away. Well, yes. Much like one particular Christmas-themed bar in Nashville, Jerry Dipoto does not operate by the same calendar as the rest of us. Frankly, I’m shocked they haven’t made any big trades already. (I’m going to go out on a limb and say that A.J. Preller of the Padres has also been on the phone a lot lately.) The Mariners need bats — as many as they can get. Their pitching staff is built for October, and they’re currently three games up in the AL West, but the Astros are creeping …

Orioles: Perhaps you missed it, but the Yankees are no longer alone atop the AL East. As they’ve slumped, the Orioles have streaked into a virtual tie. (They technically lead by winning percentage.) The Orioles still need a starting pitcher, and they have the prospect capital to pull off any trade they deem worth it. The question is: How do they define “worth it”? They could push some chips to the middle of the table, or they could sit back, convinced that they have the juice — both in the big leagues and the minors — to be very good for years to come if they keep the core together.

Dodgers: Rookie starting pitcher Landon Knack (1-1, 2.08 ERA) has staunched the bleeding in the rotation, so while there’s interest in White Sox left-hander Garret Crochet, they don’t have to make a panic-buy as they wait for Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and others to return. That might give them the breathing room to focus on another infielder — preferably one who can play shortstop and third base.

(Top photo of Bo Bichette: Mark Blinch / Getty Images)