MLB trade deadline: Position-by-position look at teams with holes to fill — and who might be available

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

One baseball-related consequence of the COVID-19 crisis is that the approaching trade deadline has more uncertainty than any deadline that has come before — so much uncertainty, in fact, that as the end-of-the-month deadline creeps closer, our traditional dichotomy of “buyer” and “seller” doesn’t seem to hold up. Instead, as you apply all the factors of uncertainty to possible deals, you come away thinking that the likely outcome of this year’s deadline will be complete transactional paralysis.

Does that mean we won’t see any trades? That could turn out to be exactly what happens, beyond the inevitable bottom-of-the-roster swap or two. Still, a trade market like this could present opportunities for an enterprising general manager, especially if he is backed by an owner who isn’t scared stiff by the ugly financial fallout from the pandemic. In other words, maybe we will be pleasantly surprised by a splashy trade or two, even if matching up clubs right now inspires a bout of vertigo.

Never have there been so many obstacles to making a deal:

  • Teams don’t have cash, which means taking on a contract with any money on it beyond this season might not appeal to a club’s owner.

  • The flip side of that is another barrier: Any prospect who might help another club is hard to part with, because he might help your team in the short term — even if that isn’t until next season — while making the big league minimum.

  • The pool of buyers is expanded because as many as 20 to 25 clubs might be part of this year’s version of a race deep into the season.

  • The expanded playoff format — especially if it is played in a bubble that kills whatever home-field advantage that currently exists — will be so overcome with randomness that there is little point in a team sacrificing a prospect for a short-term roster injection.

  • You can trade only players who are part of each club’s 60-man pool, so the off-the-radar or younger prospects that teams might ordinarily take a flier on can’t be moved.

  • Scouts are not currently allowed to attend games in person, so all assessments have to be done based on video and existing notes.

  • And then there is the larger issue: Should players be traded under these conditions, forcing them to move to an unfamiliar city?

Are there any conditions in which teams could match up? Maybe.

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