There are still a few days remaining until the start of the MLB season, but the trade deadline is just six weeks away.
While the annual deadline typically falls on July 31, this season is will come exactly one month later. At that point, the Phillies will have already played 35 of their 60 games in the shortened 2020 season.
Given the circumstances, it is difficult to predict how active this year’s deadline will be. The uniqueness of a short season will lend itself to both overaggressive and passive teams, and the issue of money may play a significant role too, with some teams being hurt financially due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Phillies are roughly $2.1 million under the luxury tax threshold in 2020, and have previously expressed that they are eager to exceed the tax unless they feel they have a championship caliber roster.
The Phillies are not likely to buy unless they are in a playoff spot or very close to one. If they are even four or five games out, that will be a tough hill to climb with just a month worth of games left. It’s hard for any team to justify giving up prospects for a rental in that scenario, and the Phillies have been sure to give up as little as possible during the last two trade deadlines when they still had a real mathematical shot at making the playoffs.
If the Phillies were to sell at the trade deadline, it would likely be limited to players who have expiring contracts after this season, which includes Jake Arrieta, Jose Alvarez and J.T. Realmuto.
Based on the strengths and weaknesses of the current roster, the Phillies appear more likely to make upgrades in the rotation and bullpen than they do in the lineup if they are buyers at the deadline. They have depth on the way in the form of Alec Bohm, too, so they appear strong in that regard barring injuries or massive underperformance by multiple position players.
With that in mind, here are some players that could be available prior to the August 31 trade deadline:
The Clevaland Indians are a team that is known to trade their top players before they hit free agency. Recently, they have done it with starting pitchers Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber, and their willingness to deal Lindor is pretty clear.
Lindor is likely going to be owed well north of $20 million in his final year of arbitration before he becomes a free agent. Beyond the issue of the Phillies having the assets to make a move for him (they have very little prospect depth beyond Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm), there is also a question of whether they will be looking to pay him long-term with Bryce Harper and potentially J.T. Realmuto on the books long-term.So, a trade for Lindor would appear extremely unlikely for the Phillies.
For the Phillies, a trade for Bryant would be as unlikely as one for Lindor. It would be a massive upgrade, but might not be one the Phillies would be willing to pull off given their current dearth of assets to exchange for a player of Bryant’s caliber.
Choo is set to be a free agent following the 2020 season, and has remained an above average offensive player throughout his career. In 2019, Choo slashed .265/.371/.455 with 24 home runs, splitting his time between designated hitter and both corner outfield spots.
The Phillies currently have a surplus of DH types with Jay Bruce currently on the change, but an injury could quickly change that. Bringing in Choo at that point could make sense, especially if the team is still in the hunt.
Other names to watch: Corey Dickerson, Jonathan Villar
Ray has been rumored to be on the trading block for years, and with an expiring contract after 2020, this may be the year he finally gets traded.
In 2019, Ray pitched to the tune of a 4.34 ERA but had electric strikeout numbers, striking out 12 batters per nine innings. His stuff is very good, and he could be a valuable addition to any playoff hopeful down the stretch.
The Phillies have been linked to Minor before, and the 32-year-old is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. In 32 starts, Minor had a 3.59 ERA and threw 208.1 innings.
The Rangers are not necessarily going to be bad in 2020, but if they get off to a rocky start, a trade of Minor could make sense. He may be on the pricier side considering his recent success, but would make a valuable addition to any rotation still in the playoff hunt.
Samardzija has had an up and down career, but he is coming off a solid 2019 in which he had a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts. He is set to become a free agent following this season, and with the Giants not expecting to contend, could certainly be moved at the deadline. If the Phillies are in need of a durable starting pitcher midway through the season, Samardzija could make sense.
Other names to watch: Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, Matthew Boyd
The former Phillie had a career year in 2019, and is set to become a free agent following the 2020 season. If the Blue Jays are not in contention, which is likely, a trade of Giles to a playoff hopeful could happen.
Looking at the Phillies current roster, the biggest question mark is the bullpen. A player of Giles’ caliber could help greatly, and would make sense if the Phillies are still in the mix at the deadlines.
The Padres are in a similar position with Yates that the Blue Jays are in with Giles. Yates, who is 33 and set to be a free agent following the 2020 season, was one of the best closers in baseball last year.
Over the last two seasons, Yates has a 1.67 ERA over 125 appearances. He is undoubtedly one of the most dominant relievers in the game, and would certainly help to solidify the back of any team’s bullpen.
The Padres could stay in the mix this season, but if they struggle over the first 30+ games, a trade of Yates to a contender would make sense.
Other names to watch: Alex Colome, Kyle Crick
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