July 21, 2024

We’re less than a month away from the July 30 MLB trade deadline, and it’s shaping up to be one of the more unpredictable deadlines in a long time.

On Monday, only 5.5 games separated nine teams for the National League’s final two wild-card places, with only the Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies clearly out of the playoff race. Only three clubs in the American League appear to be out of contention, despite the fact that predicted playoff contenders such as the defending champion Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays are losing quickly and must turn things around.

What happens on the field over the next 28 days will have a significant impact on what occurs off it, let alone how active some of those wild-card contenders will be with their deals. Taking into account where clubs are in the standings, let’s choose one major league player that each team should trade for or away before the deadline.

White Sox: Trade away Garrett Crochet

The White Sox haven’t done much right over the last three seasons, but transitioning Crochet from a reliever to a starter — especially after Tommy John surgery in 2022 — has proven to be one of the more intelligent decisions made by any team in recent years. Crochet was mostly a bullpen pitcher in college at Tennessee, but he has been a revelation as a starter, averaging 97 mph with his fastball and striking out 12.4 batters per nine innings. To put that number in context, just five left-handed pitchers have ever averaged 12 strikeouts per nine while pitching at least 125 innings.

Chris Sale was one of those lefties, and the White Sox found themselves in this situation when they traded him to the Red Sox after the 2016 season, while he still had three seasons on a team-friendly contract. Crochet is available for free agency after 2026, thus he has three seasons left under contract (including 2024), and he is making only $800,000 this season, which increases his trade worth even more.

Of course, Sale was an established star, whereas Crochet has only been at this level for three months. Nonetheless, with 3.8 WAR so far, Crochet compares favorably with the top starters dealt over the previous five deadlines:

2023: Justin Verlander (2.2 WAR)
2022: Luis Castillo (2.9 WAR)
2021: Max Scherzer (3.3 WAR)
2019: Zack Greinke (4.3 WAR)
2018: Cole Hamels (1.3 WAR)

Given Crochet’s salary and the years remaining until free agency, if the White Sox opt to move him, it will shake up the deadline by adding a seldom available top-of-the-rotation starting on a cheap price. Yes, there will be concerns about Crochet’s durability, and the White Sox have already begun to limit his innings — “We’re going to start dwindling his workload down a little bit, and we’ll manage that correctly,” manager Pedro Grifol said last week — but Crochet is projected to make a difference in October.

The White Sox do not have to deal him, but what are the chances of them assembling a postseason contender before Crochet becomes eligible for free agency? Unless they believe there is a chance of signing him to a long-term extension that will take him into his free agent years, his current worth is so high, and the team’s dearth of skill is so acute, it makes sense to try to pull off a blockbuster deal.

Orioles/Dodgers/Brewers/Padres: Trade for Crochet

Which teams are most likely to land Crochet? His salary allows any team to afford him, but history suggests that teams currently in a strong playoff position are more likely to make a deal like this than those struggling to stay in the wild-card race. Consider the pitchers above:

— Verlander: The Astros were a half-game away from first place.

— Castillo: Mariners were far from first place, but they were in a wild-card position and hoping to end a long playoff drought.

— Scherzer: Dodgers were competing with the Giants for the NL West lead.

— Greinke: The Astros had a significant lead and were on their way to 107 victories.

— Hamels: The Cubs were 1.5 games up on the Brewers.

To get Crochet, a team will also want a superior farm system. The Yankees and Phillies don’t need a starting pitcher, thus four teams are most likely to pursue Crochet.

Baltimore is in the best position to make a trade and has a need, with Kyle Bradish and John Means out for the season. The White Sox will want Jackson Holliday, which the Orioles are unlikely to accept, but third baseman Coby Mayo, catcher/first baseman Samuel Basallo, and outfielder Heston Kjerstad were all ranked in Kiley McDaniel’s latest top 50 prospects list, with Mayo at No. 6 and Basallo at No. 16.

 

Garrett Crochet Notches 8 Strikeouts in Win Over Braves | by Chicago White  Sox | Inside the White Sox

 

Dodgers: The Dodgers could use an outfielder, but they may also be concerned about their rotation, with Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Walker Buehler now sidelined, Bobby Miller struggling since his return, and Clayton Kershaw only beginning his minor league rehab. They don’t have a prospect as highly regarded as Holliday, Mayo, or Basallo, but they do have a lot of depth, with major-league-ready pitching help or high-upside position players in the minors like outfielder Josue De Paula and shortstop Joendry Vargas.

Milwaukee leads the NL Central despite having a weak rotation, and Crochet’s pay is within the team’s budget. The problem is that the Brewers’ top two prospects are hard-throwing righty Jacob Misiorowski, who has struggled with control in Double-A and may end up as a reliever, and catcher Jeferson Quero, who has only played one game since injured his shoulder in the season’s first game.

Padres: The Padres aren’t in first place right now, but general manager A.J. Preller is still under a lot of pressure to win, and he may see Crochet as an opportunity to acquire a player they need without increasing payroll — even if it means trading teenage catcher Ethan Salas (the top international prospect in 2023) or shortstop Leo De Vries (the top international prospect in 2024).

Of course, we can’t rule out the Yankees, especially if Carlos Rodon and Luis Gil continue to struggle after hot starts, or if Gerrit Cole continues to allow four home runs per game, but I’d bet on one of the top four clubs.

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