The Major League Baseball trade deadline is now just more than two months away, and contending teams are already looking ahead to players who could become available between now and the Aug. 1 deadline. I spoke to several general managers to get their feel on players who could get moved in the next two-plus months, and there was a wide range of players mentioned. Of course, a lot will change between now and then in terms of who will be buyers and who will be sellers, but teams can't wait for that to happen. Instead, once the draft is over, teams will turn their attention to the trade deadline and major league scouts will start bearing down on players who could be dealt.
It's hard to know what to expect of this year's trade deadline; it could be a relatively quiet one or it could be an explosion of moves and big names being dealt, like last year's. Most of this will be dependent on which teams are sellers and which are buyers. Imagine if the Blue Jays were to drop back far enough to trade the likes of impending free agents Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista? Or if the Yankees decide to deal their most valuable assets at the back end of their bullpen, led by Aroldis Chapman?
In studying the potential trade market, it's clear where the available surplus lies: corner-outfield bats and bullpen arms. The weakest parts of the trade market appear to be starting pitching, which normally is the most valuable commodity and brings the biggest returns. It's also interesting that there are a lot of bad-contract players that teams would like to move; although those players would have seemed almost impossible to deal in past years, it might be easier with this group of creative GMs, who aren't afraid to pay down salaries to make deals work.
Here is my first take of the year on the best players who could be dealt by Aug. 1.
Sonny Gray, RHP Oakland Athletics: Gray was expected to be the best pitcher traded at the deadline, and the guy who would have brought the biggest return. However, he got off to a terrible start and since has been placed on the DL with a trapezius strain in his right shoulder. It is unlikely that Gray will return in time to deliver enough dominating starts to get traded for the type of return the A's would be expecting, so it's more likely he'll be dealt in the offseason if he has a strong second half. However, with Billy Beane running the operation anything is possible.
Best fit: Los Angeles Dodgers, because they collect injured pitchers more than any other team.
Best fit: Boston Red Sox, because they have the best farm system for the rebuilding Braves to match up with to get what they need.