It’s July now, which means baseball season is heating up. And we don’t just mean on account of the temperature.
July means the trade deadline is looming. July means teams need to start taking stock of things and figuring out if they’re buyers, sellers or just sitting tight and hoping for the best. July means if you’re a player in the final year of his contract, you could very well be playing somewhere else come August.
We have until July 31 for the buyers to figure out who they want and the sellers to figure out their prices. Until then, we have a lot of talk, rumors and gossip to get through. Are the Royals selling? They say they’re not, but things change before August. Are the Pirates ready to give up on some franchise cornerstones? Maybe. Will the Mets send their pieces in all directions? Looks possible. What about Sonny Gray? And Justin Verlander? And Johnny Cueto? All very well could be wearing new uniforms soon enough.
So here are 25 names to know — from big-name stars to difference-making relievers — who could be on the move this month.
1. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: After a slow start, it looked as though the Pirates had erred by hanging on to McCutchen in the offseason. No more. A hot streak has boosted his slash line to .288/.375/.519. That’s just below his peak numbers, and makes him a bargain at his $14 million price tag. McCutchen has an option for 2018, so he wouldn’t be a rental, either. Looks like the Pirates were wise to hold out for more. (Chris Cwik)
2. Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland Athletics: After an injury-riddled year, Gray appears to be back. His 4.09 ERA might be high, but his strikeout rate has returned. That’s significant. Gray’s highest ERA in a year in which he’s had a strikeout rate over 20 percent is just 2.73. The Athletics aren’t going to sell low, but Gray might be worth the cost. (Cwik)
3. Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers: It might not be easy to move Justin Verlander, who is owed $28 million the next two seasons. But Yahoo Sports’ own Jeff Passan reported last week that many teams expect Verlander (5-5, 4.96) to hit the market. The Cubs have been named as a possible destination. (Mike Oz)
4. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: Early trade chatter has the former AL MVP’s name coming up, which would make him a very hot commodity, even if his numbers (.238 with eight homers) aren’t fantastic. The Blue Jays aren’t good this year, but they might not be dipping into a full-on rebuild either. Donaldson, who is 31 and not a free agent until 2019, would be expensive if the Jays opt to go that direction, but you can bet teams would be interested. (Oz)
5. Johnny Cueto, SP, San Francisco Giants: Amazing, isn’t it, to think that the San Francisco Giants might be selling off Cueto (6-7, 4.26) this quickly. After a catastrophic start to the season, the Giants are sellers and getting rid of Cueto might be a prudent move, even if it’s one they haven’t yet committed to. He has an opt-out after this season, so the Giants might as well get something for him. (Oz)
6. Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox: The most desirable remaining member of the White Sox hasn’t exactly helped his case this season. Though Quintana has the highest strikeout rate of his career, it’s come with a career-high 4.45 ERA. Home runs and control issues are worrisome, but Quintana is still a desirable asset. He’s 28, and won’t make $10 million until 2020 (if his extremely cheap options get picked up). He’ll still bring back a nice piece or two in a deal. (Cwik)
7. David Robertson, RP, White Sox: The White Sox are bad. And when you’re not going to win a lot of games, you don’t need an elite closer, especially one who makes $12 million. Robertson has been rumored to be on the block since the offseason, so he seems like a good bet to go. There’s always a market for strong relievers at the deadline, and Robertson has his lowest ERA and highest strikeout rate in years. (Cwik)
8. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pirates: Would the Pirates give up on their former No. 1 overall pick? Cole, 26, has yet to deliver on the Cy Young hype (consider his 4.51 ERA this season), but plenty of people still think he has the makings of a special pitcher. So if the Pirates want to quickly shake things up, Cole could get a big return. (Oz)
9. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals: The Royals are still hanging around the American League Central race, but it might be in their best interest to fall back in the coming weeks. The team has a lot of strong players in the final years of their contracts, and could benefit from dealing them away and grabbing future parts. Hosmer is the biggest name there (though not the best player). He’s having his best season with free agency approaching, hitting .313/.371/.484. Because of that, he’ll definitely test the market in a few months. He’s nothing more than a rental, but he’s a good one. (Cwik)
10. Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds: Cozart’s value has never been higher. The 31-year-old is hitting .313/.394/.541 over 269 plate appearances, and somehow beat Corey Seager in the All-Star voting. If teams are worried this year is a total fluke, well, he’s only under contract through the end of the season. Whatever team acquires him can make that determination while he’s in town. If Cozart can keep it up, they can try to re-sign him. If not, he walks away after helping them during a playoff push. It’s a win-win. (Cwik)
11. J.D. Martinez, OF, Tigers: Martinez, a 29-year-old Detroit Tigers outfielder, could be one of the top rental bats on the market. He’s a free agent after this season, so he’s a tried-and-true July deal waiting to happen — a big slugging bat (.299, 14 homers) that can plug into a contender’s lineup. (Oz)
12. Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals: Cain is the best player who the Royals could make available at the deadline. Eric Hosmer may have the better batting line, but Cain is the better all-around player. He also plays a more difficult position, and rates well as a defender. Like many Royals, Cain is in the final year of his contract and may have priced himself out of the team’s future plans. It’s better for both sides if he goes elsewhere and makes a ton of money in free agency. (Cwik)
13. Alex Cobb, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: Do you really think the Rays are going to let a player walk in free agency? Haha, try again. Cobb may be dealing with diminished numbers, but he can still bring something useful back in a deal. He could be a strong fallback option for teams that miss out on elite starters on the market. While he won’t get huge money in free agency, he’s already priced out of the Rays’ future plans. They can at least get something for him by shipping him out at the deadline. (Cwik)
14. Yonder Alonso, 1B, A’s: He’s having a breakout season with the A’s. Finally. With a .283 average and 19 homers, the A’s might try to extend Alonso, who is a free agent after this season. But if not, the A’s are nothing if not prudent and could send him out of town early in exchange for a few minor leaguers. (Oz)
15. Marcus Stroman, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: Put Stroman in the “it’s-weird-to-see-him-on-this-list” category, because it is. He’s 26, good and under team control until 2021 — the type of player you want to have around. But we don’t know what the Blue Jays are doing at this point and Stroman’s name has come up in rumors, so it’s not impossible. (Oz)
16. Alex Avila, C, Tigers: Avila won’t attract the same attention as teammate J.D. Martinez, but he could be quite helpful for a team that needs a catcher with some pop. Avila has been mashing this season (.308 with 11 homers) and hits right-handed pitching especially well. Perhaps most interesting, he’s the son of Tigers GM Al Avila, so will that make it tougher to trade him? Either way, he’s a free agent after this season. (Oz)
17. Todd Frazier, 3B, White Sox: Oh yes, the White Sox again. They’re obviously rebuilding and Frazier is a free agent after this season. His 15 homers are attractive. His .214 average isn’t. But he’d cost a whole lot less than Donaldson. (Oz)
18. A.J. Ramos, RP, Marlins: Let’s just dig into more relievers here, since they’re always important this time of year and many of them will be sought. Ramos, 30, can be had now that the Marlins have opened up shop. He’s been their closer since 2015 and has saved 86 games in that time. This season he has 14. He won’t be the top reliever on the market, but he can certainly help a contender. (Oz)
19. Pat Neshek, RP, Philadelphia Phillies: When healthy, Neshek is still dominant. His strikeout rate remains strong, and Neshek has seen his walk rate plummet to elite levels. That explains his excellent 1.39 ERA. Neshek is set to hit free agency at the end of the year, and he’s certainly not going to help the Phillies in the second half. He’ll go, and the Phillies will get a future piece back for him. That was the team’s plan the instant they picked him up on a one-year deal in the offseason. (Cwik)
20. Justin Wilson, RP, Detroit Tigers: The Tigers bullpen is generally a wreck. But Wilson is one of the bright spots this season. He’s done pretty well in just about any role Detroit has needed him, including saving nine games. He has a 2.56 ERA in 31 innings. He’s arbitration-eligible after this season, so he wouldn’t be a rental either. (Oz)
21. Sean Doolittle, RP, A’s: It seems like Doolittle makes this list every season, and there are good reasons for that. Doolittle is effective when healthy, comes relatively cheap, is left-handed and has closer experience. He could put up David Robertson numbers at a fraction of the cost. Getting Doolittle as a consolation prize isn’t a bad thing. (Cwik)
22. Addison Reed, RP, Mets: The Mets turned to Reed in June to close games and he’s been pretty good. He had six saves with a 1.42 ERA and has added a seventh in July. Just in time to get shipped out of town? Maybe. He’s in his walk year. (Oz)
23. Jay Bruce, OF, Mets: We’re out of the relief-pitcher portion of the list and into the Mets portion of the list. Bruce, 30, is on the cusp of free agency and is having another nice first half. His 21 homers and .256 average are why the Mets traded for him last year. Then he was a second-half disaster, so there’s a little bit of buyer-beware here. Still, there’s enough to like about Bruce at the moment that a team might take the plunge. (Oz)
24. Asdrubel Cabrera, SS/2B, Mets: Here’s one scenario where the Mets may not have as much leverage as they’d like. Cabrera (.260/.341/.420) recently publicly demanded a trade after being shifted to second base. He’s backed away from that somewhat, but he still could be on the way out, especially now that he’s playing in troubled waters. (Oz)
25. Jed Lowrie, 2B, A’s: Lowrie, 33, is headed into free agency after this season. He’s not going to be anyone’s prized July acquisition, but he could very well help a team over the hump. He’s versatile and consistent (.278/.350/.467), and that’s what helps the most come crunch time. (Oz)
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – –