There will be a lot of names talked about between now and the July 31 trade deadline. But there are a number of great players who probably won’t be in a new uniform anytime soon, even though trading them would be the smartest move their teams could make.
Other teams say Baltimore has indicated it is prepared to sell off what has been the best part of its team — its relievers, from Brad Brach to Darren O’Day to All-Star closer Zach Britton. So the logical question that should follow is: If the Orioles are ready to start the badly needed rebuilding process, why wouldn’t they be taking offers now for Machado and other veterans who are nearing free agency?
Machado is eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, and you can’t find anyone in the industry who believes the Orioles will preemptively sign him before he hits the open market. So it would make sense for Baltimore to at least take offers for him over the next 13 days. As has been reported here before, it’s not a great time to be marketing position players, but Machado is a regarded as such a transcendent talent — even in an off year for him — that the Orioles are bound to get good offers at a time he could help a contender in 2017 and 2018. And the team’s front office is well aware that any potential return for him will plummet after July 31.
The Orioles didn’t engage the Nationals before Washington made its bullpen deal for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Baltimore should move beyond this bad business practice whenever they get around to marketing Machado. For example: The team with the biggest need at third base right now is Boston, and if the O’s put Machado on the table, the Orioles could ask for the best prospect in the Red Sox system, slugger Rafael Devers, as the anchor to any deal.
The worst thing that could happen for the Orioles organization would be for Machado to reach free agency without any trade return, and right now, it appears that is the direction in which the O’s are drifting.
Behind closed doors, Detroit’s leadership knows what its priorities are at this moment. Is it bolstering the farm system? Is it reducing payroll? Well, Fulmer could be used to accomplish both in a trade to one of the many teams looking for someone like him — the Atlanta Braves, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, the Chicago Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cleveland Indians. Fulmer would be so perfect for a number of teams — as a very young, controllable starter good enough to front a rotation — that the Tigers could insist that any Fulmer deal include one of their more expensive veterans whom they could not otherwise move — such as outfielder Justin Upton or pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. The Braves used Craig Kimbrel in this manner, sending him to San Diego with the condition that Melvin Upton Jr. be included in the deal. And the Tigers could get decent prospects in return.
But Chris Ilitch, who has taken over from his late father to lead the Tigers, has to know this as a fledgling owner: Any trade that includes Fulmer is going to be really, really tough to sell to a fan base that has grown accustomed to success through an outsized payroll. Mike Ilitch did not follow a classic baseball business model in running the Tigers, essentially spending out of his pocket in an effort to win, and there probably will be backlash following any move toward efficiency.
Stroman would fetch a big return in the current market, from the Astros or some other team looking for a starting pitcher. And if Toronto chooses a path toward rebuilding, the Jays should move Stroman for the same reasons the Oakland Athletics will move Sonny Gray. But there is no indication, yet, that Toronto is ready to move anybody beyond veterans in the last year of their respective contracts.
Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays
No group of players in baseball has performance volatility quite like relievers, and with that in mind, the Jays should dangle Osuna in the midst of what is a weak market of bullpen pieces. The 22-year-old All-Star will have arbitration eligibility for the first time next winter, and because he has been a closer for almost his entire career, he will quickly become a lot more expensive — and his rising salary will gradually cut into his trade value.
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
Again with the Orioles: It makes no sense for them to take half-measures at this stage in their history. Once they break up the bullpen, then they should consider moving all of their experienced players who are closing in on free agency. Jones turns 32 on Aug. 1, and he is signed through 2018 for $17.33 million. Because few contenders appear to be in the market for outfielders, the Orioles might not get that much in return for Jones this summer, but they can always ask for offers and hear what other teams are thinking.