MLB Trade Deadline: Joey Gallo to the Yankees? Craig Kimbrel to the Phillies? Our Staff’s Favorite Fits for Contenders
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images. Pictured: Joey Gallo
The MLB trade deadline is less than a fortnight away, taking place a day earlier than normal on July 30 at 4 p.m. ET.
The deadline is always an exciting time for baseball fans, as contenders have the opportunity to acquire a piece or two that will help them in their quest for a championship. For bettors, it’s always important to watch the market carefully, as players switching teams can tilt the championship odds in one direction or the other.
There’s a host of big-name players who could be on the move between now and July 30, including Trevor Story, Joey Gallo, Kris Bryant and more, and our analysts have some thoughts on who should go where.
With the betting market always on the forefront of their minds, here is their thoughts on the player-to-team fits they’d like to see happen ahead of the trade deadline.
Odds via DraftKings and as of July 20.
Germán Márquez to the Mets
World Series odds: +850
Pennant odds: +425
Division odds: -250
Sean Zerillo: Trading for a resurgent Kris Bryant — who can either spot their left-handed corner outfielders or take over for J.D. Davis at third base (-18 DRS in 81 games since 2019) — seems like a logical move for the Mets.
However, given the current injury concerns surrounding both Jacob deGrom and a soon-to-return Carlos Carrasco, in addition to some poor indicators (4.69 xERA) for Marcus Stroman, I would prefer to see my Mets acquire a starting pitcher.
Jose Berríos (4.12 xERA, 3.54 xFIP, 3.71 SIERA) and Germán Márquez (3.65 xERA, 3.48 xFIP, 3.92 SIERA) are the two best candidates for a rotation role.
Of the two starters, I prefer Márquez, who is under contract through 2024, while Berríos will hit free agency following the 2022 season. Márquez is younger and has slightly less mileage on his arm (746 2/3 IP vs. 768 1/3 IP for Berríos), but I also think he’s the better pitcher in a vacuum.
Márquez has superior career metrics (3.59 xFIP, 3.86 SIERA, 17.2% K-BB%) compared to Berríos (4.24 xFIP, 4.18 SIERA, 15.9% K-BB%), who is generally overrated in the betting markets.
I have longed to see Márquez pitch an entire season away from Coors Field (.324 wOBA at home, .294 wOBA on the road). He doesn’t pitch better on the road (3.39 xFIP at home vs. 3.78 on the road), but the Coors effect has masked his true potential. While Berríos is in the midst of a career year, I would instead acquire the pitcher who has sustained this level of performance (all indicators sub 4.00) for several seasons.
The Mets have plenty of offensive firepower — particularly once Francisco Lindor returns from the IL. Acquiring a controlled, top-of-the-rotation arm like Márquez could bolster their pitching staff for the next several seasons, raise their floor, and keep them in the hunt even if deGrom misses significant time.
At present, Jerad Eickhoff (5.56 xERA in 2020, 10.28 xERA in 2021) is their No. 4 starter. Starting pitching depth seems like a glaringly obvious need following injuries to depth pieces like David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, Corey Oswalt and Sean Reid-Foley throughout the summer.
Best-case scenario, the Mets enter the 2021 playoffs with a rotation of deGrom, Márquez, Stroman, and Taijuan Walker — with Carrasco and Tylor Megill serving as above-average replacements — and they won’t feel pressured to extend Stroman this offseason.
Craig Kimbrel to the Phillies
World Series odds: +5000
Pennant odds: +2200
Division odds: +425
Anthony Dabbundo: The Phillies lead MLB in blown saves this year with 23 — it’s a continuing problem from last season when their bullpen was one of the worst in MLB history in the shortened season. Héctor Neris held down the closer’s spot for most of the first half of the year until multiple consecutive blown saves cost him the job. Their current closer is Ranger Suárez, who has mostly been a Triple-A starter and MLB long reliever prior to 2021. Suárez has been excellent, but his stuff and history doesn’t project that well as a reliable long-term option in the ninth.
Suárez has a 1.22 ERA but a 3.33 FIP and 2.68 xERA suggest some regression is coming. He’s never had an xERA below four prior to this year. José Alvarado walks 18.2% of hitters he faces and Neris is prone to some blow ups.
Philadelphia has other holes, including center field and the backend of the rotation that they could try to fill at the deadline, but no one would improve the Phillies’ bullpen more than Chicago’s Craig Kimbrel. He’s struck out 58 batters and walked 11 in 35 innings, posted a 0.53 ERA and 1.09 FIP and tallied 21 saves for Chicago.
The addition of a high-end closer would shift Neris, Suárez and Alvarado to seventh and eighth inning roles, where they have been more comfortable in the past. If they want to make a run at the division to cash the +660 division future I took at the All-Star break, Kimbrel is a great start. The Phillies only went 26-27 in the first half in Zack Wheeler/Aaron Nola/Zach Eflin starts, despite their combined 3.48 ERA. An improved bullpen would be enough to get Philadelphia its first playoff spot since 2011.
Joey Gallo to the Yankees
World Series odds: +1800
Pennant odds: +850
Division odds: +750
Mike Ianniello: Everybody knows the Yankees desperately need to add a left-handed bat to their lineup. They have the fewest amount of left-handed at bats in the entire league and have the worst batting average in the league from that side of the plate at just .192.
Despite having the benefit of the short porch in right field, just 314 feet away, they have just 17 home runs from left-handed batters all year.
The other area the Yankees desperately need help is the outfield. With Aaron Hicks out for the season and Clint Frazier and Brett Gardner struggling, the Yankees rank dead last in the league with a .182 average and .601 OPS from their center fielders. They also rank 21st in batting average and 26th in OPS from their left fielders this year.
Enter Joey Gallo. The two-time All-Star has 24 home runs this season and a .396 wOBA and 153 wRC+ this season, all of which would lead the Yankees. While he has played right field this season, he has spent a good chunk of his career in left field, playing 156 games and he also has 55 career games in center field.
Most importantly, Gallo is a lefty. With his power, he would feast at Yankees Stadium. Gallo has 24 home runs this season, but according to Baseball Savant, if he played at Yankees Stadium he would have 28. The most expected home runs for him at any park in the league.
Another reason Gallo is the best option for New York is his contract. He has one more year remaining before he becomes a free agent in 2023. He would not be a true rental like Starling Marte would be, but also not under team control as long as somebody like Ketel Marte or Bryan Reynolds is, which would drive the price up.
Imagine a lineup with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Gary Sanchez and Joey Gallo. That would improve this team and fill two glaring holes, giving them the left-handed outfielder they so desperately need to make a run at the postseason.
Joey Gallo to the White Sox
World Series odds: +800
Pennant odds: +300
Division odds: -2500
Jeff Hicks: The Chicago White Sox acquiring Joey Gallo checks multiple boxes for them and against other AL favorites. First, the Sox get a left-handed power hitter. Yasmani Grandal — when he returns — has more power from the right side, and Yoan Moncada has not been hitting for enough power.
Gallo also fills the right field void and strengthens the outfield, allowing Eloy Jimenez DH days when he returns. Adam Engel is more than serviceable as a fourth outfielder and Brian Goodwin can be a lefty off the bench.
Nelson Cruz to the Mariners
World Series odds: +30000
Pennant odds: +9000
Division odds: +4000
Kenny Ducey: The Mariners? Buyers? Well, it’s not really that farfetched an idea. Seattle is just 6.5 games back of the struggling Astros in the AL West, and sitting 50-44 entering Tuesday are very much in the mix for a wild-card spot at the very least.
Enter old friend Nelson Cruz, who is still raking at age 41 but wasting another fantastic year in Minnesota, where just about everything has gone wrong. The Boomstick, who played four great years in Seattle and donned a Mariners cap in three All-Star Games, has lived up to his name in 2021 with a career-best 54.6% hard-hit rate (albeit the metric has only existed since 2015) and 19 homers in 83 games. Yet another 40-homer season seems to be well within reach, and it’d be glorious to see him do it out in the Pacific Northwest.
The Mariners hoped Jarred Kelenic would give them that last bit of spunk that was really necessary to take this offense from slightly above-average to playoff-worthy, but it appears he’s not quite ready yet. Cruz would not only provide power a team that has ranked 16th in baseball with a .161 ISO, he’d also help solve the issue of hitting left-handed pitching. Cruz has demolished southpaws this year, but Seattle has not, with the eighth-worst wRC+ in that split.
The time is now to capitalize on great seasons from guys like Mitch Haniger and Ty France, and Cruz would provide much-needed support.
Adam Frazier to the Brewers
World Series odds: +1200
Pennant odds: +550
Division odds: -750
Tanner McGrath: While the offense has really come around in recent weeks, I think the Brewers still need a bat. The question is: Which bat would be best?
The Brewers walks a lot (10.2% walk rate, sixth in MLB) so their OBP isn’t awful (.315, 16th in MLB). Additionally, they have OK power stats (.160 ISO, 17th in MLB; 114 HRs, 15th in MLB), so a walk-power guy probably isn’t the biggest need.
Where Milwaukee really struggles is putting balls in play. Behind the fifth-lowest zone contact rate (79%) and the second-lowest chase contact rate (51.9%), the Brewers have produced the fourth-highest whiff rate (28.2%). Thus, the Brewers have the second-lowest batting average (.223) and third-lowest expected batting average (.223).
The Milwaukee front office needs to bring in a contact hitter to put towards the top of the lineup. Pair one more guy with Kolten Wong (.298 BA) and Omar Navarez (.293 BA) while having Christian Yelich behind them to drive ‘em all in.
How about Adam Frazier? The 29-year-old Pirate got his average up above .300 on May 14 and it hasn’t dropped below since. He’s arbitration-eligible again this offseason, too, and wouldn’t hit free agency until 2023.
Frazier does not produce a lot of hard-hit balls, but he’s elite at smacking it around the park. He’s produced a 92.6% zone contact rate and a 75.3% chase contact rate, and thus strikes out only 10% of the time, which puts him in the 98th percentile among hitters.
His .296 expected batting average would be the highest in the Brewers’ lineup by a whopping 30 points, and I believe it’s exactly what the Brewers would need to get over the top. With just how good the pitching staff is, a little more help on offense and Milwaukee is a legit World Series contender.
While you couldn’t have him at second base, you could probably stick Frazier in an outfield spot. The only issue is trading him within the division, which might drive the price up for Frazier. However, the Brewers and Pirates have shown willingness to work together before, so I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility.
Kyle Gibson to the Blue Jays
World Series odds: +2500
Pennant odds: +1100
Division odds: +900
Collin Whitchurch: My colleague Collin Wilson spoke on Payoff Pitch this week about the Blue Jays as a team worth buying in the futures market heading into the final two months of the season, and I am entirely on board.
The Jays have one of the most exciting offenses in baseball, powered by MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez and more. Their pitching is, well … “lacking” might be too kind of a word.
Still, even with Hyun-Jin Ryu putting together an uneven season and having to rely on the likes of Steven Matz and Ross Stripling on a regular basis, Toronto is in the thick of things, seven games behind Boston in the AL East and 3.5 out of the wild card as of this writing.
Kyle Gibson is having a career year for a fledgling Rangers team. His 2.86 ERA is among the best in the league, and while the advanced stats (3.58 xERA, 3.94 xFIP) call for some regression, he’d still be a boost to this rotation and not likely come at a premium cost.
The Blue Jays are already getting a career year out of another arm in Robbie Ray. Gibson wouldn’t step in and become the ace, but he’d give Toronto a trio of arms with which to make a postseason push. You could do a lot worse than Ryu/Ray/Gibson as your rotation entering September and — potentially — the postseason.