It's early July, baseball fans, and that means the MLB trade rumor mill is going to be kicking into full swing, and soon! Next year's free agency class is stacked to the brim, which means teams that hold the expiring contracts of star players could seek to move them in deals by or before July 31 in hopes of not losing them for nothing come the winter.
In Baltimore, star shortstop Manny Machado has attracted the interest of several teams in both the American and National Leagues, but all signs thus far have pointed to the Orioles' asking price being too high. Will the three-time All-Star have a new home before the end of the month, or will Baltimore be forced to watch him leave in free agency and receive just a draft pick in return?
Next, we'll head north of the border to Toronto for a look at Blue Jays lefty JA Happ. He'd be a fine rental for teams in need of an arm, but can the 'Jays expect a big haul for someone 35-years old?
Oh, and what's the deal with the Minnesota Twins?
Buckle up, baseball fans. This is the first edition of the RealSport MLB Trade Rumor Roundup!
Manny Machado's suitors
It's not a secret Manny Machado is the most in-demand name on this year's trade market. The man turns 26 tomorrow and is batting .308 with 21 home runs and 59 RBI on the year. Machado is also earning $16m this year and has posted a respectable 3.0 WAR for the last-place Orioles this year. He is expected to earn a contract well north of $300m next offseason and it's not a matter of if Baltimore will trade him, but when.
But the question remains; where will Manny Machado be playing by the end of the season? Well, that's anyone's guess at this point. Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweeted yesterday that talks between Baltimore and the Arizona Diamondbacks have been "consistent," and Morosi also pointed out that Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic named both Arizona and Cleveland as "the most motivated suitors."
Arizona currently holds a slim 1.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in a tight NL West race, and Machado would be a great upgrade at shortstop over Nick Ahmed, who is batting just .223 on the year despite slugging 10 homers with 33 RBI.
Cleveland, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated in terms of overall fit. The Tribe have a fine young shortstop in switch-hitter Francisco Lindor, who is batting .297 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI this season. Similarly, at third base, the Indians have Jose Ramirez at third base and he is batting .294 with 24 homers and 56 RBI. That leaves second baseman Jason Kipnis and his .215 batting average as the odd man out, and he could theoretically be flipped to Baltimore, but the Orioles are said to be looking for young and controllable arms in any Machado deal, and the only MLB-ready prospect Cleveland has who fits that mold is righty Shane Bieber (4-0, 2.97 ERA).
That said, until reports of intensified talks come out, where Machado ends up is still anybody's guess.
Is JA Happ Bronx-bound?
The Blue Jays would love to trade lefty starter JA Happ and what remains of his $13m salary this year, and Jon Heyman of Fancred is reporting the New York Yankees as being the "main player" for the 35-year-old at this stage of the game. It's no secret the Yankees could use another top arm in their starting rotation as the race for the AL East heats up, but is Happ the guy?
Let's take a look at the numbers. Happ is 10-4 with a 4.03 ERA and 1.11 WHIP on the season, and that's not bad considering he plays in a hard-hitting division with both the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Opposing hitters are also batting just .223 off of Happ, which makes him even more attractive a trade target even if he is just a rental.
However, there is still the other side of the coin to consider. Happ's groundball rate (GB%) is at just 44.4%, which is actually four points above his career mark of 40.4%. The man simply isn't a groundball pitcher and has seen his hard contact allowed go from 26.7% last year to 28.9% in 2018. His flyball rate has jumped from 33.7% to 40.7%. Nothing against Happ, but that doesn't bode well for him in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
The good news for the Yankees is even if Happ ends up in pinstripes, GM Brian Cashman will surely get him at a bargain. The Blue Jays are just trying to cut salary in dealing him, and that combined with his age will mean he won't bring in top prospects from any trade partner.
Minnesota prepping to sell?
The Minnesota Twins have gone from being an AL Wild Card team last year to prime sellers in 2018. The team has dropped eight of its last nine games and currently sits at 35-48 on the year, third in the AL Central and 12 games behind the first-place Indians. Per Morosi, the front office is ready to deal the following impending free agents: infielders Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, starter Lance Lynn, and lefty reliever Zach Duke. Morosi also mentioned first baseman Joe Mauer, but noted he has a full no-trade clause.
No matter how you spin it, at least one of these players will be out of Minnesota by the end of the month. Dozier has only hit .220 with 12 home runs and 34 RBI this year, but he still mashed 34 homers last year and 42 in 2016, which should help him fetch a nice band of prospects in return. Escobar could also demand a nice haul, especially with him being a switch-hitter currently batting .277 on the year with 13 homers and 50 RBI.
Lynn, however, is someone on whom the Twins will have to sell low. Signed to a one-year deal as a free agent, he has gone 5-7 with a 5.49 ERA on the year, though he has pitched to a 2.70 ERA at pitcher-friendly Target Field. Still, that he has such a hard time away from home will drive his price down, so the Twins could be forced to take what they can get for him as they prepare to cut their losses.
That said, as the deadline draws closer, keep an eye on the Twins and their latest effort to restock the farm system.