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  • Writer's pictureTim Moore

Major League Trade Deadline Pandemonium

By Tim Moore -- Sports Speak Live

As the midway point of the 2023 Major League Baseball season comes into frame with just three months to go in the regular season, the summer time has brought many surprises among baseball fans.

Since Major League announced the pitch clock back on September 9, 2022, for the beginning of the 2023 season, the game has brought a fresh rush of charisma and energy. Any doubts from baseball purists about the emotional value being diminished and a lack of "natural progression" not allowing the game to have its own pulse have mostly been diminished. That was proven especially earlier this week, Wednesday, June 28, when New York Yankees pitcher Domingo Germán threw Major League Baseball's 24th Perfect Game in league history, an accomplishment that has not been achieved in nearly eleven years, last achieved Seattle Mariner's ace Félix Hernández on August 15, 2012.

However with change has also brought an element of surprise as many of baseball's World Series favorites heading into the season, such as the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and 2022 National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies all find themselves currently out of playoff position. The American League side also has its fair share of surprises as well, as both the New York Yankees and defending World Series champion Houston Astros who were favorites yet again to control the A.L. again this season, are both currently struggling to maintain wild card position.

The unpredictability has ultimately led to an issue, as teams such as the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, and San Fransisco Giants, all teams that were projected to be sellers in the bottom half of the standings, all find themselves having excellent seasons and easily in the playoff picture. The biggest bust from this stems back to the 2022 season, as many rumors anticipated the movement of upcoming free agent superstar and perennial MVP candidate Shohei Ohtani, who many felt was likely to be dealt before the deadline this season, considering the Angels have not recorded a .500 season since 2015 and did not have a very active offseason.

Ohtani however is not the only game changing superstar off the table, as players such as Luis Arráez who currently leads all of Major League Baseball with a remarkable .390 batting average and defending National League Cy Young award winner of Sandy Alcántara both of the Marlins too find themselves off the market. The other two major names of game changers in past seasons, Zac Gallen and Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks are also not going anywhere.

If that isn't enough, due to unique circumstances, the term "seller" before this seasons trade deadline on August 1st, has found itself complex. On the American League side potential history is being made as for majority of the first half of the season, the entire American League East boasted an above .500 record, something that hasn't been done before. The Boston Red Sox currently find themselves one game below .500 at 41-42, but with the record alone had they played in the American League Central, ultimately would find them tied for the division lead. Despite also being below .500, Boston is just 4.5 games out of a Wild Card position.

In the AL Central, it is anyone but the Kansas City Royal's race to win as the Cleveland Guardians are just 1.0 game back with the Detroit Tigers 5.0 and Chicago White Sox 5.5 games back off the division lead. The Royals also became the first team to officially sell Friday, June 30, as they dealt left handed relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman to the Rangers. However, with both the entire AL East and AL Central in the mix, and the Rangers, Astros, and Angels of the west, and the Mariners fate being on the brink of contention over the coming weeks, the AL currently finds itself two teams as definite sellers, the Oakland Athletics and the already mentioned Royals who own both of Major Leagues worst records this season.

On the National League side things become even more complex, as teams such as the Mets and St. Louis Cardinals, who were projected as potential World Series favorites coming into the season, find themselves struggling deeply out of the playoff race, but are unlikely to deal away their superstars. This is a crucial blow because players such as Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals are in the MVP conversation nearly every season but are likely maintaining course. The Mets also boast the highest organizational payroll in Major League Baseball history of $364 million in 2023, yet will unlikely trade key game changing pieces such as Pete Alonso, Max Scherzer, or 2022 American League Cy Young Award Winner Justin Verlander.

The Central in the National League had a similar issue to its counterpart in the American League as every team is in contention. The Pittsburgh Pirates started out hot leading the division most of the way, but have faded to third 4.5 games back behind Cincinnati Reds who have emerged from out of nowhere after the emergence of rising star and rookie Elly De La Cruz. The Brewers who have been in the mix yearly just sit 1.0 game back and the Cubs who actively got better during the off-season are 5.0 behind.

The NL West also is similar to its counterpart of the American League side, as the Diamondbacks carry a 2.0 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers with the Giants trialing just behind them 2.5 games back off the lead.

Another disappointing team that is likely keeping course comes from the San Diego Padres who seemingly got better during the off-season bringing in shortstop Xander Bogaerts to aid what on paper says to be one of baseballs most electric offenses. Unfortunately the only thing electric this season for the Padres has been it's pitching staff as it has been arguablly among the leagues best, as the offense has held the team back mighty pushing the team behind 11.5 games of the west. The Padres are 9.0 games out of the wildcard and eight games below .500. However don't expect San Diego to deal away Yu Darvish, Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, or Juan Soto.

So who's guaranteed to be selling in the National League? The Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies. That's right four total teams at minimal are a guaranteed seller of its best players, in a thirty team field. So who exactly is the best player available of these teams?

For the Rockies typical conversations will bring up former MVP Kris Bryant and outfielder Charlie Blackmon, but over the last few seasons they have not done much of substance. Age will not bring much value, but an exception can be made when it is a position of value. Catcher Elias Diaz is having a career season at age 32, boasting a .286 average along with 9 home runs and 46 RBI's. While his defense has not been so spectacular, an offensive catcher has been difficult to come by. Also with not many game changing bats being available budget bat during the deadline, as Diaz may be one of the best offensive options.

The Nationals have actively been sellers since their World Series win in 2019 but have dilemma as outfielder Lane Thomas will likely be the key point of conversations. With Thomas not eligible to become an unrestricted free agent until 2026, it is likely teams will have to package prospects for the slugger. Questions though will surround how much teams value his bat, as Thomas is 103rd in outs above average and 104th in runs prevented of 116 qualifying outfielders.

Teams will also likely look into Jeimer Candelario as the 29 year old third baseman is having a strong campaign in 2023. While he's slugged 38 XBH along with 10 HR's, Candelario is actively one of the best defensive infielders at the corner position this season, something he was average at in the past. While he's anticipated to be a free agent come the off-season, Candelario is the best all around player at the deadline and comes with a perk of being a switch hitter.

For the Royals offensively, the center of discussion will continue to be catcher Salvador Pérez. Just two seasons removed from the sensational season, where he led baseball with 48 home runs and 121 RBI's, Salvy's bat still has plenty of pop. While he has not been able to match the .273 average he had in 2021, Pérez has been consistently getting hits twenty five percent of the time, with a .253. It would be surprising if Salvy was dealt however as the seven time all-star has played all twelve years of his career in Kansas City, with him signing an extension the season prior until 2026. If a team wants Pérez, they are going to need to give up a boatload for him, as the bat reliability holds superstar value at 33 years old even if his defensive ability has diminished over time and is recovering from another eye surgery.

The best options in Oakland come on both sides of the ball, as JP Sears who is 27 years old and designated hitter Brent Rooker who is 28 years old are having decently productive seasons. While statically an above 4.00 era and below a .250 average is unappealing for most teams, considering the circumstances of how thin the deadline options are, and just how horrendous the Oakland Athletics have been this season, these numbers appear to be magical. Rooker provides a great sense of power and can easily be a budget bat with an upside, while Sears can be a middle of the rotation guy with the right unit. Sears had a lot of success on the Yankees in 2022 prior to being moved to Oakland for Frankie Montas. Needless to say, both players may not change the tone for the A's in a trade, but they have to start some where other than Las Vegas or selling the team if they want to turn things around and steer the ship back into the right direction.

As for other notable players that may get moved for teams in the mix, keep your eyes on the White Sox as short stop Tim Anderson, and starting pitchers Dylan Cease and Lucas Giolito may be huge options to be on the move. When at their best these three are among the elite in baseball and very well could aid in carrying a team to the promise land.

Tyler O'Neill of the Cardinals may become the next key outfielder out of St. Louis after the Yankees acquired outfielder Harrison Bader before the deadline last season. O'Neill brings elite speed and a decent defense. Injuries however have plagued him this season, so dpedning on how healthy he is may determine if he is dealt or not.

The last notable players that may get delt depending on the outcome of the next few weeks are both outfielder Cody Bellinger and pitcher Marcus Stroman of the Cubs. With both having great seasons regardless of past struggles and the perk of age and reasonable contracts, it is likely that they both will be towards the top of the market come the deadline.

However, if you read through this entirely and are a fan of a contending team and are not a fan of the options available, I do not blame you as this season simply put is a unique one, where valuable players and game changers available can be counted on a single hand. We saw this issue briefly last season with players such as Andrew Benintendi as he was considered an elite option. It seems as if the World Series this season will be won in the 2023 offseason for one of these team, but we will see as August 1st quicky approaches.

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