Imagine being Marcus Stroman right now. He had to be 100 percent certain that he was headed to the Yankees or Astros as the missing piece for a World Series favorite.
Surprise, Marcus! Welcome to the New York Mets, a team that is decidedly not a World Series favorite, with a 50-55 record and odds of making the playoffs at 9.6%, according to FanGraphs. The Mets’ chances of winning the World Series? A microscopic 0.3%.
Toronto, I love you…forever! ??
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) July 28, 2019
While the deal left most (including our Keith Law) scratching their heads, this trade, more than anything else, throws another kink into a completely unpredictable trade deadline that just got even more confusing — and keep in mind that the one and only deadline this year is July 31. There is no backdoor route to deals in August like the Justin Verlander-to-Houston blockbuster of 2017.
Consider the immediate fallout of Stroman going to the Mets for pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson:
— Stroman is not going to the Yankees or Astros, the favorites to land the right-hander with a 2.96 ERA. Stroman is under team control for another season, so the trade would be similar in philosophy to when the Astros acquired Verlander, who was signed through 2018 at the time.
Here’s the latest intel we’re hearing, names to watch, reaction to completed deals and shopping lists for every team as July 31 nears.
MLB trade deadline coverage
— The Mets are apparently going for it, which seemingly would take Noah Syndergaard, one of the best and most intriguing starting pitchers in the rumor mill, off the trade market. In the tight NL wild-card race, things can turn around in a hurry. Four days ago, the Mets were 46-55 with playoff odds of 3.9%. A four-game win streak has made their playoff chances a little more viable, though they’re still six games behind the Cubs, Cardinals and Nationals, who are tied for the NL Central lead and the two wild cards.
— With Stroman traded and Syndergaard apparently (maybe?) staying put, the starting pitching market is suddenly a lot thinner, especially with the increasing likelihood that the Giants will hold on to Madison Bumgarner. The Giants took two of three from the Padres this weekend to win their seventh series in a row and are just 2½ games back in the wild-card race. Are they a playoff team? Probably not — 23 of their next 26 games are against teams currently .500 or better — but I can’t imagine the Giants trading their ace and giving up on Bruce Bochy’s final season when they’re so close to a playoff spot.
— The big winner in the Stroman trade might be the Texas Rangers, as Mike Minor’s trade value probably just got a little higher. There’s no guarantee that the Rangers will trade Minor — he’s signed through 2020 and could be the Opening Day starter in their new park next season — but he now might be the best available starter, sitting on an 8-6 record with a 3.00 ERA in a tough hitter’s park.
Maybe all this leads to what could really make this a crazy trade deadline: What will the Yankees do now? They are arguably one starter away from being a dominant team.
Will anyone take New York’s prospects at the deadline? Domingo German allowed three runs in 5⅓ innings on Sunday, snapping an unfathomably bad run of pitching for the Yankees. They have allowed five-plus runs in nine consecutive games — an average of 9.8 per contest. Even including German’s start, Yankees starters have a 13.50 ERA in their past nine games, allowing 67 hits, 60 runs and 20 home runs in 37⅓ innings.
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Has this nightmare stretch increased Brian Cashman’s blood pressure enough to make him more desperate to make a deal? Add that CC Sabathia landed on the IL with right knee inflammation, and factor in the rotation’s month-by-month ERAs:
You don’t need a doctorate in sabermetrics to know that’s not a good trend. Of course, Cashman doesn’t have to get a starting pitcher. Maybe Sabathia’s IL stint is more precautionary than anything, and maybe Luis Severino makes it back, and maybe James Paxton gets straightened out. German and Masahiro Tanaka have been pretty solid for the most part. Cashman could decide to add more bullpen depth and simply rely on the relievers carrying a big workload in the postseason.
Or he could go after Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks. Or maybe the Indians will be willing to part with Trevor Bauer if they can pry super prospect Deivi Garcia from the Yankees. Or maybe New York will settle for Tanner Roark from the Reds.
All eyes will be on Cashman, but the team that has the most on the line this week might be the Dodgers. After falling short in the World Series the past two seasons, they once again have the best team in the National League, though one with an obvious weakness in late-game bullpen consistency. The Dodgers are ninth in bullpen ERA, but that masks what has been a problem late in games: Their relievers are 25th in the majors in win probability added. It hasn’t been a clutch bullpen, which sounds all too familiar to Dodgers fans.
The Dodgers absolutely should be willing to make a big move to add to their bullpen. If that means giving up a couple of top prospects to get Felipe Vazquez from the Pirates, do it. The Dodgers have acquired Yu Darvish and Brian Dozier the past two seasons at the deadline, but neither required giving up any of their best prospects. L.A. should be willing to do that this year for the right reliever. Vazquez might be the difference between ending a 31-year World Series drought and losing for a third straight year in the Fall Classic.
But it’s not all about the Yankees and Dodgers — they’re just the two teams most likely to turn this into a really crazy deadline. Otherwise, it might be a lot of shuffling of relief pitchers and back-end rotation help. Of course, those small moves could make a difference — the Indians, A’s, Red Sox and Rays are separated by four games for two wild-card spots (and the Indians are just two games behind the Twins in the AL Central). In the NL Central, the Cubs and Cardinals are tied for first, the Brewers are just a game back, and every NL team is within 7½ games of a wild card except the Pirates and Marlins.
What will happen? The clock is ticking.
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