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Cooking up 5 2023 MLB Trade Deadline Deals

Contenders need reinforcements, bottom dwellers need prospects, everybody wins!

The 2023 MLB Trade Deadline this season is August 1st, meaning we are about to see a lot of trading madness over the next few weeks. Who stays with their current team? Who’s going? Let’s take a look at and explore some potential trade deadline deals!

Trade 1

Arizona Diamondbacks get: OF Lane Thomas

Washington Nationals get: INF Blaze Alexander and OF Dominic Fletcher

Of all the contending teams that will need to bring in outside help the most, the D-Backs need upgrading at a lot of positions. The rotation is pretty thin once you get past the two aces in Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly and the corner outfield and DH spots have been a source of meek production in a lineup that has heavily relied on star power from Corbin Carroll and Starling Marte. Though Arizona is built well to sustain success for now, they’re not built well enough to withstand a full-strength Dodgers team or a hot Giants squad for another entire half of baseball.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are in a full-swing rebuild ever since the great firesales of Juan Soto, Max Scherzer, and Trea Turner. Unlike the other disastrous teardowns happening in baseball that have led to pathetic displays of the game with not much end in sight (looking at you Oakland), the Nationals have been following a steady course that looks primed to field a competitive team within the next 3 years possibly. If there’s one thing they’ve showcased, it’s growth as a team. Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore, two highly touted prospect pitchers the Nats needed to see improvement from this year, have done just that and make up what looks like the core of their future rotation. CJ Abrams and Luis Garcia have been slow to get much done with the bat at the young points in their career but their defensive value and glimpses of potential will keep them around for more cracks to break out eventually. It’s a young team miles away from contention but they are on the right track to be better sooner than one might think.

This is exactly why hot-hitting outfielder Lane Thomas doesn’t fit into their long-term plans. Yet another Cardinals outfield reject who has found wings of his own since leaving the organization, Thomas has been on a tear this season. He’s slashing .390/.440/.700 against left-handed pitching and his elite arm strength at every outfield position provides immense value in being ductile in an ever-shifting lineup. This would be a major improvement over struggling prospects Jake McCarthy and Alek Thomas who look like they either need more cooking time in Triple-A or a hard reset on a different team.

Going back to Washington would be two offensive prospects in Blaze Alexander and Dominic Fletcher. As Thomas does come with two and a half seasons of team control before hitting free agency, the asking price would be a bit higher than a rental price. That’s why a prospect like Fletcher would need to go along with Alexander to replace Thomas’ playing time in Washington and then they could hopefully see Alexander flourish in the Washington system. Fletcher, with his brilliant contact skills and speed he most certainly honed in with help from contact king and brother David Fletcher, could be a great piece for the Nats. A platooning project with him and Stone Garrett in right field, another project outfielder the Nats are working on, could yield a successful starter for a Nats squad piecing together a stable future core. Alexander has certainly been a prospect to watch this season as he has shown the mark of every great development by being able to handle Triple-A immediately upon arrival. His .323 average and .438 on base paired with 3 homers in just 19 games have made Alexander a front-runner for a starting spot on an MLB roster. This paired with the Nats having no plans to keep current veteran third baseman Candelario around makes this trade a great fit to bring Alexander up and see how he would handle the big league level in Washington.

Trade 2

Tampa Bay Rays get: RP Alex Lange

Detroit Tigers get: P Mason Montgomery, INF Greg Jones, and C Dominic Keegan

Sitting comfortably at the top of the American League as king of the castle right now is Tampa Bay, who have taken the reigns of the gauntlet that is the AL East. They’ve done it through an incredible offense that works in classic Rays fashion by platooning to get ideal matchups and using those matchups to hit home runs galore and steal a ton of bags. The starters have been fantastic as well, with the young Shane McClanahan leading a rotation packed with other flamethrowers like Tyler Glasnow and Taj Bradley. Where they haven’t been able to figure things out as much has been with the bullpen. The usual Rays bullpen formula of using a bunch of no-names in high-leverage spots and discovering the next best secret arms has not been working. 2022 breakout Jason Adam has taken a step back as his control issues have been plaguing his performance and Pete Fairbanks has lost a touch or few on his stuff since last season. With a prospect capital that’s jam-packed with young talent, the Rays have the leverage to be big spenders at the deadline this year.

The Detroit Tigers have an intriguing arm to offer in the form of Alex Lange. The centerpiece of the Cubs Nick Castellanos deal back in 2019, Lange has been a rock-steady bullpen presence in a turbulent Detroit club that is having trouble establishing any sense of winning direction. When the Tigers will be a contending team again is a mystery, as their highly touted draft picks have yet to break out and the free agent signings to help the youth movement have also come with mixed results, especially the five-year pact Javier Baez signed. A reliever like Lange makes sense on a team pushing to win a World Series, but not on the Tigers where they will once again be in the cellar of baseball’s losers.

The value they could get for him would be pretty decent as well. Mason Montgomery has been a fast-rising pitching prospect in the Tampa Bay system whose use of a killer fastball/changeup combo at a high strike rate has proved a successful formula. He’s currently handling the transition to Double-A at age 23 very well, pitching to a 3.68 ERA across 63.2 innings, and is primed to pitch at the big league level quite soon. Greg Jones is a Rays’ former first-round pick who is not smashing expectations, yet meeting them just well enough. He’s the ideal utility man in the sense that he can play shortstop and infield very well with flexibility in left field. His switch-hitting approach is based less on power and more on driving the ball to the gaps. At best, he could be a Brock Holt type of utility man who’s near big-league ready.

Trade 3

Baltimore Orioles get: SP Lucas Giolito

Chicago White Sox get: INF Jordan Westburg and C Silas Ardoin

It most certainly looks like the Chicago White Sox will be sellers this season. In what has turned into one of the most disappointing teams in baseball the past few years, the White Sox have turned a young core that boasted so much potential into a dumpster fire of drama and regression. The problems didn’t lay just in La Russa’s asleep-at-the-wheel managing style, but also within a young core of Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez that has fizzled out considerably from their 2021 peaks. Now the team has money tied up in various long contracts, a fanbase that’s viscerally fed up with ownership, and the time is now on what must be done to steer the team in any positive way.

One way to start on that goal would be to cash in on some pending free agents such as Lucas Giolito. He has the advantage of being 28 years old and comes along with the prospect pedigree of a former first-round pick. These circumstances paired with him being a rental for the 2023 season would usually make any starting pitcher like him in his contract year worth a pretty penny, but due to his recent struggles, it’s hard to tell. Giolito has a history of inconsistency, and his performance is currently showing both flashes of his prime self combined with when he posted the worst ERA among all qualified starters. To say which version a team would get from him is hard to tell and will dampen his value.

So, while his value certainly will be lost a bit, it is still high enough to net a prospect like Jordan Westburg. Currently the 32nd-ranked prospect in all of baseball, Westburg has skyrocketed up the prospect rankings lately due to a projectable major league skillset with a safe set of tools that should translate pretty quickly. While many other prospects will be heralded for their outrageous athleticism and tools, Westburg shines because of how good he is at a more basic level. He’s no Elly De La Cruz with insane raw power and blazing speed but he has above-average power, discipline, pitch recognition, and defense; the type of complete package any manager would love to have on their roster.

Baltimore, though, is winning like crazy and has a good problem with their infield where they simply have an influx of talent with not enough spots. Ramon Urias, Jorge Mateo, Gunnar Henderson, and Ryan Mountcastle all need playing time and Westburg will not likely be getting the starting jobs to those spots anytime soon. So, instead of wasting him away in the minors where he proved he could mash already, it would be worthwhile to cash in and go for a top deadline arm in Giolito.

Trade 4

Cincinnati Reds get: OF Alex Verdugo

Boston Red Sox get: CI Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Jay Allen

The Reds are ahead of schedule, and GM Nick Krall should use the opportunity to push his team to a postseason appearance many thought wouldn’t come for a couple more years. The team is very young with their positive record riding on a youthful and energetic core of players like the electrifying Elly De La Cruz, but over a long way to go, that energy might not keep up. They’re now at the point in their rebuild where they can make the finishing touches to what looks like a great, solid core by acquiring older talent that will be able to stick around for the next few years.

The perfect match for that description would be outfielder Alex Verdugo, who has been a steady force on an up-and-down Red Sox team. With the Red Sox, the plan is not all too clear right now. The division is absolutely stacked and looks to stay that way for the next couple of years with how young and on the rise each other team is except Boston. If they want to try to win right now, they’ll have to go all in on talent with shallow minor league depth, which just wouldn’t be the way long-term thinker Chaim Bloom would play his cards. The next alternative is to think about who to trade, and while it might pain some Sox fans to trade away the beloved Verdugo, it makes sense for both sides here.

Cincinnati would get a more stable veteran presence in right field to play every day and put up solid production at a position that has seen flux there lately. Meanwhile, Boston would be getting great prospect return in the form of Encarnacion-Strand and Jay Allen. EC (Encarnacion-Strand) has been possibly one of the best hitters in all of Triple-A this season, as his ridiculous .321 average and .391 on base paired with 18 bombs are turning heads from scouts all over. Those types of numbers at the Triple-A level usually foreshadow close or similar production at the MLB level and EC might be one of the more polished MLB-ready guys around as he comes close to his major league debut. He’s the type of player that would make sense then for a Boston team that’s looking to get back to their winning ways sooner than later because of such an expectant fanbase and any team should feel comfortable giving him a starting job within this year.

Trade 5

Los Angeles Angels get: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

St. Louis Cardinals get: C Edgar Quero, INF Livan Soto, SP Sam Bachman

Has the Cardinals’ devil magic run out? In what was supposed to be a cakewalk in the weak NL Central, the Cardinals have somehow turned a winning squad into a dud. One of the strangest parts about all of it is that there is no one point of blame to point when analyzing the Cardinals’ struggles this year. The starting squad has been pretty healthy with last year’s MVP front runners Arenado and Goldy continuing to play every day, and every other supporting hitter and starting pitcher has too been producing. For some reason though, the production has been awful. Adam Wainwright has been possibly the worst pitcher in baseball. New acquisition Willson Contreras looks to be a signing the Cardinals wish they could go take back, as he certainly is not filling in Yadier Molina’s shoes. And a majority of the other major role players from last year’s squad like Lars Nootbar, Brendan Donovan, Tommy Edman, and Dylan Carlson have taken considerable steps back. Whatever the issue is that’s currently plaguing the Cardinals seems to be one that runs deep in the organization, and some major changes are expected to follow this disastrous season. But one thing they can still try to do is salvage a prospect or two from this disastrous squad.

The only reason that is needed for the Angels to go all in on a Paul Goldschmidt trade is that this is the last year of the famed Trout-Ohtani combo that will surely be split up after this season. The fact that this historic duo will probably never be seen again is a painful one to think about, seeing that Anaheim has done nothing during their time with both of them. Fans will think back on the time they had as one of the greatest wasted potentials in sports, and if the Angels want to say they at least tried, this Goldschmidt trade would prove just that.

The gamble they would need to take though is by trading away what makes up most of their future. Quero, Bachman, and Soto are some of their most promising prospects that have the potential to be cornerstones of a franchise, but the problem with that way of thinking is that there really is no gleaming future once Ohtani leaves and it’s back to Trout having to do the heavy lifting. So, they’re left with a really tough decision on putting all the chips in on a wild card push with stars Ohtani, Trout, and Goldschmidt or letting this season waste away to watch the greatest sports duo go out with a whimper.

It certainly would be risky for Anaheim, but the time is right now for something to happen with this core of unmatched star power.

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