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Which players will be potential and pivotal trade pieces at the 2018 MLB deadline?

If you were active in watching acquisitions at the 2017 MLB trade deadline, chances are that your team did something to improve their team, whether it was replenish a farm system or acquire a pivotal piece to make a playoff run. The deadline saw the Dodgers acquire Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray go to the Yankees, Eduardo Nunez to the Red Sox, Jonathan Lucroy was picked up by the Rockies and J.D. Martinez moved from The Motor City to Arizona’s desert. In short, the 2017 deadline was as active as it’s been over the last four seasons. This offseason however has been unique, acting as more of a trade deadline than a free agent signing session. Of course, not all trades could/should happen right now, because many clubs don’t even know who they are yet (i.e. Giants, Twins, Brewers, Padres, Rockies, Diamondbacks, and the Sox among others). As a writer who is scraping for bits to write something –anything– to write about, let’s take a look into which pieces could be on the move in late July.

  1. Khris Davis2017 Stats – 153 Games played, .247/.336/.528, 43 HR, 195 SO, 2.5 WAR

Khris Davis has been the anonymous Athletic’s slugger for the past two years and I have to be honest, I’m surprised he is still in Oakland. Drawbacks are that he strikes out a lot and he doesn’t walk as much as he could. Positive takeaways include 43 home runs (85 in the past two years), two back to back 100+ RBI seasons on a pretty bad team and one error committed in 115 games started in the outfield (so he isn’t exactly a defensive liability as many sluggers tend to be one dimensional players). So why would a team want him at the midpoint of the season? He can add undeniable power to a team lacking so at the risk of striking out a million times. But as we all know, home runs are the new wave of today’s game. Davis will fit right in to the new power era that we stepped into in 2017.

2. Josh Donaldson: 2017 Stats – 113 Games played, .270/.385/.559, 33 HR, .944 OPS

Josh Donaldson started the 2017 season on a bad note, dealing with a calf strain that seemed to have put a damper on his entire 2017 campaign. He only racked up 113 games played in a season that would end up being a horrid time if you were a Blue Jays fan. The former MVP, however, is going into a contract year and Toronto seems to be dipping their toes into a cold body of water called rebuild. Thus, they seem to be in a similar situation as the Baltimore Orioles and Manny Machado. They will be losing Donaldson to free agency after the 2018 season and I cannot see the Jays going after him, so why not get something out of it? The third baseman has been a pillar of dependability, as up until last season he played in 155+ games in the four years he’s been a major league regular. If he puts up the numbers we know he’s capable of, he can be a great rental for a team that can use an overall fantastic player.

3. Manny Machado: 2017 Stats – 156 Games Played, .259/.310/.471, 33 HR, .782 OPS, 95 RBI

The Baltimore Orioles have been about as stagnant as any other team this off-season, and that shockingly includes not being active in shopping their 25 year old MVP caliber third baseman/shortstop. Let’s put it this way: it doesn’t matter what the Orioles do in 2018 apart from winning the World Series, he isn’t coming back next year. Machado is lined up to be one of the biggest winners financially if he plays up to his full potential. The only thing holding up is the O’s front office who, under delusion, think they can compete with the current roster. My prediction at the deadline is that Baltimore’s front office will come to their senses and deal Machado for something that is constructive. Machado will be the best rental available this upcoming season.

4. Freddie Freeman: 2017 Stats – 117 Games Played, .307/.403/.586, 28 HR, .989 OPS

The 28 year old Atlanta Brave is entering the apex of his contract and finds himself in a similar situation as Joey Votto. To put Freeman’s value in context, since 2011 here are his rankings among all qualifying first basemen in the majors: 4th WAR (25.4), 5th wOBA (.374), 4th BABIP (.342), 5th OBP (.377), 6th RBI (585). The names in front of him in the same categories are familiar faces including Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Edwin Encarnacion. Thus, Freeman is in great company in a position that is seeing some of the best hitters of my generation. The Braves can really get a haul for Freddie, especially seeing that they are paying $21.5 million for the release of Adrian Gonzalez.

Freeman can yield truly elite prospects to what most experts believe is the best farm system in the game. Normally, I don’t think Freeman would be on this list but seeing that the Braves were ranked 21st in OPS, 28th in long balls, 21st in runs scored and 24th in ERA, they aren’t exactly in a position to keep Freeman in hopes of turning the team around in one season. So what makes Atlanta’s situation unique is that they can bolster their elite farm system and see what they can do in free agency next off-season. Freeman getting traded may be a stretch opposed to other players on this list, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

5. J.T. Realmuto: 2017 Stats: 141 Games Played, .278/.332/.451, 17 HR, .783 OPS, 3.6 WAR

J.T. Realmuto is a player who really made a statement in 2017 by putting up top three numbers out of all qualifying catchers in the Majors. His performance, like Marcell Ozuna’s, was overshadowed by the likes of 2017 NL MVP winner Giancarlo Stanton’s 59 HR campaign. Looking at the bigger picture, Realmuto has ranked the following since 2015 among all qualifying catchers: 2nd in WAR, 2nd in Defensive WAR, 3rd in AVG and 5th BABIP. The sample size shown may not be overwhelming, but it’s a great start for the 26 year old; he is definitely trending in the right direction.

With J.T. already requesting a trade out of South Beach, coupled with the obvious fact that Derek Jeter and the Marlins will lose Realmuto to free agency in 2021 barring a contract extension, it makes sense that the fish will be active yet again in trading one of baseball’s promising young talents. Sadly, it appears the Marlins will be one of the worst team in the league for the foreseeable future after another ownership group held a league-wide fire sale. As a side note, it is sad in regards to what Marlins fans will have to inevitable endure for the next 5-10 seasons at least, but look at it this way Miami faithful (all 15 of you out there), even the Houston Astros were a 55 win team as recently as 5 years ago. Keep the faith.