By: Chris Larson
Every year around this time, you can start to pinpoint what a common theme or two of the upcoming July 31st Trade Deadline might be. Most of the time, the storyline revolves around contending teams looking to bulk up on bullpen help, while other times the storyline involves teams going after that one superstar available on the trade market in an attempt, to lean on that particular player to, help them in their postseason race.
Going into this season, many contending teams are in the market for relief help with a few select teams such as the Chicago Cubs looking for an additional bat to put at the leadoff spot and preferably one that can play multiple positions (looking at you, Whit Merrifield). However, amid the storylines in the pitching market is the idea of contending teams acquiring not only a starting pitcher or a reliever, but both in the same package deal from teams that are expected to be sellers.
As you start to survey teams that have a shot at making the postseason, many of them have a need to add substance to their starting rotation along with a need for an additional arm in their bullpen. The teams that seem to fall into that category the most include the: Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, and the New York Yankees. Every single one of those teams could afford to add depth in one way or the other to their starting rotations and bullpen.
The good news is that there are plenty of sellers where every single one of those teams can do one stop shopping and address their needs in one fell swoop. Granted, a few of the teams listed below might prefer to deal away the two pitchers named in separate deals for a larger return, but the idea remains the same - that a contender can find a starting pitcher to add to their rotation and a reliever to add to their bullpen in one singular deal. Here are 7 teams that present such a scenario:
1. Toronto Blue Jays (SP Marcus Stroman and RP Ken Giles) - Over the past few weeks, there have been reports that both the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins are interested in doing a package deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for both Marcus Stroman and Ken Giles. On the surface, both completely make sense as Stroman and Giles would address needs on both the Yankees and Twins 25-man rosters. Any team that acquires Marcus Stroman would have him under control through next season with Ken Giles slated to hit free agency at the same time. That is more than enough time for that contender to attempt, to play as deep into the postseason as possible, with Stroman and Giles as part of their pitching staff.
2. Baltimore Orioles (SP Dylan Bundy and RP Mychal Givens) - Both Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens haven't received the same level of attention as many of the other names on this list, but both would fit the needs of some of these contending teams. One example of a time where a contender took on a struggling, power-throwing reliever (similar to what Mychal Givens represents currently) was the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs ended up trading Steve Clevinger and Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange of starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, and reliever, Pedro Strop. At the time, many scouts weren't high on Strop and didn't think that he would ultimately pan out the way he has. The same theory would apply here as the contending team would take on a struggling starter in Dylan Bundy, while getting an impactful, power arm for their bullpen in Mychal Givens.
3. Miami Marlins (SP Caleb Smith and RP Sergio Romo) - The Miami Marlins might ultimately elect to hang onto starting pitcher, Caleb Smith, but when you look at their farm system, Miami has a lot of pitching prospects with very few exciting offensive prospects coming up the pipeline. Therefore, with the lack of impactful starting pitching names that will likely be dealt, now might be the time for the Marlins to capitalize. In addition to Smith, the Marlins might be wise to include reliever, Sergio Romo and his slider to the deal as well. In all likelihood, the Marlins would probably prefer to deal Sergio Romo away for something in return, given that he will be a free agent at seasons end, but dealing away Romo in a singular deal probably wouldn't net much of an impactful return for the Marlins. If they package him with an intriguing young pitcher like Caleb Smith, that could certainly change things.
4. Cincinnati Reds (SP Tanner Roark and RP Amir Garrett) - Cincinnati Reds fans might read this and immediately think to themselves, "Are you nuts?!" Well, maybe a little given that reliever, Amir Garrett, is under control through 2023, but the idea is here is the Reds packaging starting pitcher, Tanner Roark who is set to hit free agency at the end of this season, with an attractive relief option in Garrett. Essentially, a contending team would get Tanner Roark to add depth to their starting rotation for down the stretch and come October, while adding a tremendously impactful piece to their bullpen. One stellar fit for something like this is the Los Angeles Dodgers who are in need of a left-handed reliever. Starting pitching might not be an immediate need for the Dodgers, but if they are able to lengthen their starting rotation with Tanner Roark and have a power arm in Garrett in their bullpen, then it might be more than worth it.
5. Detroit Tigers (SP Matt Boyd and RP Shane Greene) - Out of all of the potential package deals on this list, this is likely to be the one that is going to cost the most in terms of prospects and players heading back to Detroit. As has been widely reported, the Tigers have placed a tremendously high asking price on starting pitcher, Matt Boyd (think what the Cubs gave up for Jose Quintana a few years ago), and are looking for their next star in the return for reliever, Shane Greene. However, if a contending team with a deep farm system (looking at you, Atlanta Braves) is able to pull a deal of this magnitude off, it immediately makes them a threat to make it to represent the National League in the World Series. One good thing is that Braves General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos, is not afraid to make a big splash and this would be a really big one, if Detroit is open to dealing away Matt Boyd and Shane Greene, in the same deal.
6. Texas Rangers (SP Mike Minor and RP Jose Leclerc) - Just last week at this time, many expected the Texas Rangers to eventually fall into the buyer category, but with the way they have played recently, things certainly aren't trending in that direction. Therefore, Texas is going to likely sell off some pieces and the two best pieces they can deal away are starting pitcher, Mike Minor, and reliever, Jose Leclerc. Minor is having a very good season at age-31 and is under control for the remainder of this season and next, while Jose Leclerc is an impactful reliever under control through the 2022 season. That means that the price is going to be very high to acquire Leclerc in the same deal, but this might be one way for the Texas Rangers to extract the most value for both guys.
7. Seattle Mariners (SP Mike Leake and RP Roenis Elias) - A few weeks ago, the Seattle Mariners were very close to dealing starting pitcher, Mike Leake, away to the Arizona Diamondbacks and they are going to be committed to looking to deal him over the next week leading up to the Trade Deadline. While they might face some hesitation from a contending team because of Leake's overall pedigree and numbers, one way they can sweeten the pot to make a deal happen is by coupling reliever, Roenis Elias, with him. Elias is a high strikeout guy who will hit free agency one year after Leake (2022). Among potential fits for this type of deal are the Houston Astros and while they play in the same division as the Seattle Mariners, the Astros might prefer this type of deal because of the overall cost and with the quality of prospects that Houston has in their farm system, Seattle might just feel too overwhelmed to say no.
* Depending on what the San Francisco Giants end up doing, another potential package deal could formulate with (SP Madison Bumgarner and RP Will Smith). Only time will tell what San Francisco ends up doing. *