With the Mets acquisition of Marcus Stroman over the weekend, Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer moves to the top of the list of players that are almost certainly changing teams prior to or at Major League Baseball’s trade deadline Wednesday afternoon.
Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Robbie Ray, Mike Minor, and some top closers could be joining him in putting on new uniforms by next week.
Zack Greinke could be moving, too, although the Arizona Diamondbacks may need to clear a hurdle with his contract.
Throw in some hitters, too — Charlie Blackmon, Yasiel Puig, or Nicholas Castellanos could be headed from deep in the standings to contenders.
Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith? Probably not so much now that the San Francisco Giants have stunned pretty much everyone by jumping from dead in the water all the way into the Wild Card race.
Farhan Zaidi, Giants president of baseball operations, has the biggest decisions to make. His Giants have won 17 of 21 games to move within 3 ½ games of the second Wild Card, with two teams ahead of them. He needs to decide whether to keep both Bumgarner and Smith in order to make a push in Bruce Bochy’s final season as manager.
Remember, Bumgarner started and won the NL Wild Card game in 2014 — when the Giants won their third World Series title in five seasons, with Bumgarner as the MVP — and again in 2016, when the Giants then lost to the Chicago Cubs in the division series during their World Series championship season.
MLB.com reported Thursday that the Giants aren’t planning on trading MadBum, and could actually be buyers. If true, that’s probably good news for Bumgarner, who is won his last start Sunday at San Diego.
The Giants did make a move Friday, sending left-hander Derek Holland, who was demoted to the bullpen in May, to the Chicago Cubs for cash.
There’s not as much Liar’s Poker that goes on approaching the trade deadline as there is in the weeks ahead of the NFL draft, but there certainly are plenty of rumors. And teams need to make it count, because July 31 is the only trade deadline now that MLB has dumped the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline.
From a team standpoint, the New York Yankees are expected to add a starter as they look to strengthen their hold on the American League. According to multiple reports, they’ve been scouting multiple starting pitchers including Stroman, but it was the other team in New York that pulled the trigger on a deal.
What will the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox do as they try to stay in the AL Wild Card hunt? Same goes for the other division leaders, whether it’s Houston, which might add on to its impressive rotation to keep its breathing room in the AL West, or teams trying to hold on to tight leads. Atlanta is trying to hold off Washington and Philadelphia in the NL East and could have been in play for Stroman. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers could be buyers in the tight, tight, tight NL Central. And Minnesota suddenly has Cleveland on its tail in the AL Central.
Even the Los Angeles Dodgers can use some help as they push to get past the disappointment of losing consecutive World Series. Specifically, they can use help in the bullpen, where closer Kenley Jansen has struggled.
Bauer has clearly become the focus approaching the deadline as Stroman no longer available, but there is a good chance with the Indians leading the AL’s top wildcard spot there’s a good chance he may remain.
Following his last start in Toronto, the 28-year-old Stroman said he “definitely wanted to show the crowd some love, because the last seven years that I’ve been a Blue Jay, it’s been unbelievable. I’ve always been emotional. I feel like I’ve had a pretty good tenure as a Blue Jay. … There’s been no willingness from the front office to sign me, so I’ve just kind of come to terms with it and I’m ready to dominate, wherever that may be, absolutely dominate.”
Ignore Stroman’s 6-11 record. He has allowed only one run in his last 14 innings and his 2.96 ERA is third-lowest in the AL. The first-time All-Star is motivated to pitch 200 innings for the third time in four seasons.
Wednesday night’s loss was Stroman’s first since June 20 at Texas, ending a streak of five unbeaten starts.
Stroman made five postseason starts with Toronto in 2015-16, going 1-1 with a 4.40 ERA. He also pitched the United States to victory over Puerto Rico in the championship game of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Two of his former managers told The New York Post that Stroman could handle the glare of pitching in New York.
“I know this is a different place and I know 100 percent don’t work out,” said Jim Leyland, the former big-league skipper who managed the United States in the 2017 WBC. “But if anyone can do it, I think it is (Stroman). I think he would thrive.”
Former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons agreed, telling the Post: “I love the kid. He is a great competitor. He’s volatile and emotional, anyone can see that. He wants the spotlight. If there is a big game to pitch, he wants it. Some guys shy away from it. He has a chip on his shoulder big time. He’s very sharp, intelligent, went to Duke. Yes, most definitely (he can handle New York).”
There has been chatter that Stroman could be sent to the Braves, who already have Dallas Keuchel and hotshot rookie Mike Soroka.
Stroman aside, there are plenty of other intriguing scenarios.
The struggling Mets could have suitors for starting pitchers Syndergaard and Wheeler, who was scheduled to come off the injured list on Friday night and make his first start since July 7, and closer Edwin Díaz.
With the Rangers in a free fall, it’ll be interesting to see if they trade Minor, an All-Star lefty, to the AL West rival Astros.
Minor (8-6, 3.00 ERA) tried to pitch through the distractions but took the loss Wednesday at Seattle, giving up eight hits and four earned runs.
“The trade rumors are not weighing on me. I’m searching to find that rhythm, to try and find the mechanics and find the release point,” Minor told reporters. “I just want to pitch better, so I’m looking forward to my next start.”
Bauer (9-7, 3.49) is in an interesting situation. Teams have inquired about the right-hander, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. The Indians could trade Bauer, or keep him for the stretch run and trade him in the off-season.
Greinke (10-4, 2.93) presents a different situation for suitors. He’s 35 and is due $70 million over the next two seasons. The Diamondbacks are hanging around in the NL Wild Card race and must decide whether to move Greinke or Robbie Ray (9-6, 3.95).
Tampa Bay reportedly might be a buyer in order to stay in the AL Wild Card race, especially now that they’ve lost Blake Snell, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner who needs arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. Oakland, too, as it tries to hold onto a Wild Card spot.
The San Diego Padres had been rumored to be interested in Bauer or Syndergaard, but have lost nine of 12 since the All-Star break to take a tumble in the NL Wild Card chase. That could lead them to trade All-Star closer Kirby Yates, who could help a number of teams, including the Twins. Or general manager A.J. Preller could still be a buyer, since he has the best-stocked farm system in baseball to dip into for trade chips.
There are a few dozen other names dangling out there. Whether teams are looking for rentals or players under control, there are lots of options.
Dominoes should start falling soon. It’ll all be over by Wednesday afternoon.