It was preposterous a month ago, and perhaps makes little sense now, but if the New York Yankees don’t start turning their fate around, why couldn’t they be sellers at the trade deadline, even if it’s just listening to offers for outfielder Aaron Judge?
The San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox all opened the year in different phases of a rebuild, but barring a collapse in the next month, how can they possibly trade Kevin Gausman, Kris Bryant or Nick Pivetta, respectively?
The Tampa Bay Rays were sellers in the winter, dumping Cy Young winner Blake Snell. But here they are now six months later with the best record in the American League (39-24). Will they be buyers now at the deadline in hopes of returning to the World Series?
The Minnesota Twins were built to win right now, and the Arizona Diamondbacks were confident they could contend for at least a wild-card spot, but two months into the season, they are one month from selling out.
The non-waiver trade deadline is exactly 50 days away Thursday, and although GMs and executives don’t believe we’ll see a rash of trades until the final days of July, there appears to be action, even if only 10 teams are eligible for postseason berths compared to 16 a year ago.
Yet, just who is going to buy, and what price are they willing to pay?
Here are the biggest names who could be moved by the July 30 deadline:
Best available starter
RHP Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
There’s not a contender who wouldn’t want the future Hall of Famer at the front of the rotation, knowing he’s still one of the game’s premier pitchers, winning three Cy Young awards and finishing in the top 5 in Cy Young balloting in each of the last seven full seasons. He may be 37 in July, but he still leads the National League with 104 strikeouts in 77 innings to go along with his 2.22 ERA.
The perfect fit is with the St. Louis Cardinals, who passed on the hometown hero as a free agent.
The Cardinals, with three-fifths of their starting rotation on the injured list – including ace Jack Flaherty who could be out two months with his oblique injury – are in desperate need for a starter. Scherzer is a free agent at the season’s conclusion, and with his family still living in the St. Louis area, they would have a huge advantage retaining him.
The Cardinals, after getting All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado in February, could easily package top third-base prospect Nolan Gorman.
Best available reliever
RHP Craig Kimbrel, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have yet to inform teams that their closer is on the block, but they plan to listen, no matter where they’re sitting in the standings.
Simply, Kimbrel could bring back the prospects they need to bolster their farm system while staying in the race at the same time.
He has never pitched better since joining the Cubs three years ago, yielding a 0.72 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 25 innings. He has vast postseason experience and if a team desires, can pick up his $16 million club option in 2022.
The Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers could certainly be calling.
Best available infielder
SS Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
Story is telling friends that he isn’t coming back to Colorado, and with his free agency and at least a $250 million paycheck looming, the Rockies haven’t bothered to negotiate in an attempt to keep him.
Story has been out since May 28 with a right elbow inflammation, but he’s returning this week.
He’d be an ideal fit for the A’s, who are paying the price for not trying to keep Marcus Semien. Story falls within their budget, too, with about $5.9 million remaining in his $17.5 million salary.
When the Rockies start talking seriously, teams will ask about starters German Marquez and Jon Gray, too. Gray is a free agent at the season’s conclusion and certainly will be available while Marquez would require a steep package considering his team-friendly deal paying him $7.5 million this year, $11 million in 2022, $15 million in 2023 and a $16 million club option in 2024.
Best available outfielder
OF Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds
If Castellanos keeps performing like this, keeping the Reds afloat in the NL Central, the Reds may decide to hang onto him.
Castellanos, who originally signed a four-year, $64 million deal, is having the finest year of his career. He’s hitting a league-leading .355 with a .412 on-base-percentage and .622 slugging percentage to go along with his 12 homers and 33 RBI.
But the way he’s hitting, he likely will opt out of the final two years, $32 million of his contract. The Reds, if out of the race, could get a nice package for him before he hits free agency again.
Best available versatile player
UT Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh Pirates
If the Cubs completely collapsed, Bryant would easily be the most versatile player on the market.
Yet, Bryant is playing so well these days, he’s making himself untradeable.
The Pirates, who are in the infancy stages of their rebuild, know they have a prized trade chip in Frazier, who has a .329/.392/.468 slash line while playing second base and left field.
The Pirates also will be shopping pitchers Bryan Reynolds, Richard Rodriguez and Trevor Cahill.
Team with most prized players
The Twins certainly didn’t intend to go this route, built to win their third consecutive AL Central title.
They instead have had an epic collapse, and they already are 13 games out of first place with a 24-37 record.
You name them, they’re available.
You want a pitcher? Take your pick between Jose Berrios, J.A. Happ, Michael Pineda, Matt Shoemaker, Hansel Robles and Alex Colome.
You need an infielder? Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is your man.
You need a power-hitting DH? Few come better than Nelson Cruz.
You need an outfielder? The price may be steep, but talented center fielder Byron Buxton could fix a whole lot of problems.
Most uncertain team buying, selling
New York Yankees
They are an offensive mess.
They can’t score, averaging 3.87 runs a game, on pace for the fewest by a Yankee team since 1990.
The Yankees are in third place, 33-29, losing 10 of their last 15 games and sliding into obscurity.
Do they still go for it, hoping a switch-hitting outfielder like Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks or left-handed slugger Joey Gallo can give them a significant boost, with the 0.1 WAR from their outfielders the lowest in baseball?
Do they sell for the first time since 2016, finally giving up on catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielder Clint Frazier, trading Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela, and even listening on right fielder Aaron Judge?
Or do they simply stay pat?
There are 50 days left before teams have to officially decide whether they keep shopping, start selling, or simply wait until the next sale this winter.
Stay tuned for a potential shopping spree coming to a city near you.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB trade deadline 2021 rumors: Best players on the market