The 2021 MLB trade deadline is approaching fast, with front offices weighing their biggest needs before 4 p.m. ET Friday arrives.
Will the Chicago Cubs deal away some of their best-known players, including Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo, before they hit the free-agent market this winter? Are the Minnesota Twins ready to make blockbuster trades, sending away Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson or Jose Berrios after dealing 41-year-old Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays? Will more All-Stars be dealt after Joey Gallo and Eduardo Escobar were involved in trades on Wednesday?
Which of the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants will add a big-name star to their rosters?
Whether your favorite club is looking to add or subtract — or stands somewhere in between — here’s the freshest intel we’re hearing, reaction to completed deals and what to know for every team as trade season unfolds.
Grades for every MLB trade deadline deal (ESPN+)
Trades we’d like to see before deadline (ESPN+)
MLB trade deadline buzz
July 29 updates
Could the Mets be on the verge of something big? There’s an anticipation in the market of a big move by the Mets. Rival execs have said that 3B J.D. Davis is available in trades, with some speculating that this move would likely be tied to an addition of Kris Bryant. Other industry sources say Trevor Story fits the bill, which would eat into the playing time of Jonathan Villar and/or Luis Guillorme. There doesn’t appear to be any momentum to either of these major deals right now, but the next big deal for a position player has a good chance of involving the Mets. The Mets have a 78% chance of making the playoffs right now, per FanGraphs, so this would be aimed more toward reinforcements for the playoffs than at making it to the postseason. — Kiley McDaniel
No Bryzzo in Cubs’ Thursday lineup: Both Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant were noticeably absent from the lineup the Cubs posted for Thursday’s game with the Reds — Chicago’s final home game before the deadline. Manager David Ross said that the days off are not related to the trade deadline and that both players are available to pinch hit if needed. — Jesse Rogers
Don’t forget about Gibson: For those teams that bail out on the Max Scherzer or Jose Berrios sweepstakes, Kyle Gibson remains a solid Plan B. The veteran right-hander added a new cutter this season, made the All-Star team and has a 2.87 ERA. He is coming off three poor starts in a row, however, allowing five runs to the Tigers, then eight runs to Detroit, then walking eight against the Astros. He is signed through 2022 (at a reasonable $ 7 million), and the Joey Gallo trade indicates the Rangers have kicked their compete window down the road. Gibson makes a lot of sense for the Mets or Giants (who have four starters hitting free agency after 2021). — David Schoenfield
Where will Berrios land? With several contenders still chasing starting pitching, it seems increasingly likely that Jose Berrios will be moved, with the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reporting that offers “have spiked” as the trade deadline nears. The Padres are definitely looking to add a starter, and Berrios fits A.J. Preller’s pattern of adding players with team control (Berrios isn’t a free agent until after 2022). The Mariners have been mentioned as a possibility, but it would cost them George Kirby or Emerson Hancock, their two top pitching prospects now that Logan Gilbert has ascended to the majors. The Mets are still looking to add rotation help as well. — Schoenfield
Scherzer’s final start with Nats? While his name continues to swirl in trade rumors, Max Scherzer is scheduled to pitch Game 1 of Washington’s doubleheader against the Phillies on Thursday afternoon.
July 28 updates
One popular name on the market right now as teams go hunting for relief pitchers, per sources: Dodgers right-hander Brusdar Graterol. ERA this year is not good, but he still throws 100-mph bowling-ball sinkers, and as Dodgers look to improve other areas, he’s a potential target.
– Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 28, 2021
Where Max Scherzer could land at deadline: Sources say Max Scherzer would approve a trade to any of the West Coast teams pursuing a deal for the Nationals ace, but he has ruled out Houston and Philadelphia as destinations. Scherzer can veto a trade using his 10-and-5 rights (10 years of service, five with the same team). — Jesse Rogers
A Red Sox reunion for Anthony Rizzo? One source indicated the chances of Anthony Rizzo being traded to Boston before the deadline are 50-50. — Rogers
July 27 updates
Why Mariners could go big at the deadline: The Seattle Mariners have been one of the biggest surprises of this season, with a 55-46 record despite a minus-49 run differential — and they intend to try to capitalize on that.
A source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said the Mariners, coming off an exhilarating come-from-behind win against the Houston Astros on Monday night, have inquired with practically every team about short-term players who could help them over these last two months and potentially get them into the postseason for the first time since 2001; Trevor Story has been heavily linked to them in other reports.
The organization believes it owes it to the city, given how it stuck behind the team through a lengthy rebuild under general manager Jerry Dipoto. The Mariners’ trajectory had them starting to become legitimate contenders by 2022, and they were expected to act among the more aggressive teams this coming offseason. But the organization is also trying to see how far it can take this in 2021 — within reason, of course. — Alden Gonzalez
Why the Braves are still looking to add: Atlanta is 49-51 and has lost Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mike Soroka to injury; Marcell Ozuna is out following an arrest on aggravated assault charges being examined under baseball’s domestic violence policy. But the Braves have made it clear to other teams that they will continue to be looking to add leading up to the trade deadline. The question now, following the acquisition of Joc Pederson and Stephen Vogt, is how aggressive they will be. The Braves expect more help is on the way, with starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa and Travis d’Arnaud nearing the conclusion of recovery from their respective injuries. — Buster Olney
Will the Padres make another big move? The San Diego Padres have been linked to practically all of the most coveted starting pitchers as the trade deadline approaches, a list that includes Max Scherzer, Jose Berrios, Jon Gray, Danny Duffy, Kyle Gibson and Kenta Maeda, among others. But Padres general manager A.J. Preller — speaking hours after his trade for All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier was made official — downplayed that pursuit on Monday.
“It’s gotta make sense,” Preller said, noting the presence of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack and Ryan Weathers. Preller said the team is “in a decent spot” with regard to absorbing the additional innings required coming off the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season.
“We’ll keep listening over the course of the next four days,” Preller said. “If there’s somebody out there that helps us kind of get over that hump, gives us a little bit more of an insurance policy, somebody who we feel like continues to help us play in the postseason, we’ll talk about it. But honestly, from our standpoint, [starting pitching is] something that I think we feel really good about over these last couple of months.”
The Padres added Darvish, Snell and Musgrove over the offseason and have seen Weathers emerge as a 21-year-old rookie. But Snell and Paddack in particular have underperformed, and the Padres’ starting rotation as a whole sports a 5.48 ERA in July. There’s also the added element of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants — two teams ahead of the Padres in the NL West — pursuing starting pitching this week. Preller dismissed the significance of that.
“I think you’re cognizant of the fact that, ‘Hey, there’s competition for these players,'” he said. “But I think we’re really focused mainly on what makes sense for us, and I think we’ve shown it. Some years we’ve been really aggressive at the deadline, some years we’ve stood pat and just hasn’t lined up for us. Ultimately I never get caught up in what other clubs are doing. I think that’s when you make mistakes.” — Alden Gonzalez
July 26 updates
What will the Dodgers do at the deadline? The Dodgers are engaged in a multitude of starting-pitching options to begin the week, a list that includes pending free agents, others — most notably Jose Berrios — who are signed through 2022 and also those who might have control beyond that.
The Dodgers expect Clayton Kershaw to be healthy for the stretch run, at which point he will join a rotation that includes Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, David Price and Tony Gonsolin. But the Dodgers don’t know if Trevor Bauer will pitch again this season. They would like another starter — in addition to depth pieces to absorb innings and help them get through the last two months — and will spend these next five days in constant search of that.
In the bullpen, their threshold is a bit higher. If they add a reliever, chances are it would be someone who can help tackle the late innings. The question is whether they’d acquire an established closer such as Craig Kimbrel.
There are concerns, an industry source said, about whether Jansen would continue to be effective if he no longer closes games, a circumstance that might make it difficult to justify paying what will undoubtedly be a very high price for someone who is considered an upgrade over him. The dilemma is basically this: Would it be best to give up a bunch of prospects to have Kimbrel essentially replace Jansen, or would it be better give up lesser prospects for someone they can add alongside Jansen? There is no clear-cut answer there.
The Dodgers have been getting plenty of interest in minor league catcher Keibert Ruiz, as is usually the case given that he has no path to the major league roster. But they don’t want to give him up for a rental piece. — Alden Gonzalez
Potential fits if Twins deal Berrios: Industry sources believe Twins starter Jose Berrios will be traded this week, with the New York Mets, Boston, San Diego and possibly the Dodgers having interest. — Jesse Rogers
Berrios told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently that he has been “waiting six years, almost seven, to get where every player wants to be — a free agent, able to maximize our value.” Berrios isn’t a free agent until after 2022, but the Twins are discussing trading Berrios as a long-term extension becomes less likely.
How about a bidding war among the Dodgers, Padres and maybe even the Giants in the NL West? With Trevor Bauer’s future uncertain and Clayton Kershaw on the IL, the Dodgers could use a starter. Yu Darvish is suddenly struggling (7.32 ERA in July), and trading for Berrios would be akin to general manager A.J. Preller’s move last season in acquiring Mike Clevinger (who unfortunately got injured). The Giants could trade for Berrios just to keep him away from the Dodgers and Padres — and keep in mind that Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood are all free agents, so the Giants will need a starter for 2022. All three teams have the prospect haul it will require to get Berrios, who has a 3.48 ERA. — David Schoenfield
Mariners are hot at the right time: Seattle took three of four against Oakland over the weekend — with all three wins by one run — and is now just 1.5 games behind the A’s for the second wild card, increasing the chances the Mariners will look to add. Whit Merrifield is a hot rumor as he’s a perfect fit at either second base (Mariners second basemen are 28th in the majors in OPS) or center field (rookie Jarred Kelenic continues to be completely overmatched and is hitting .104). Merrifield is signed through 2023 at very team-friendly rates ($ 2.75 million in 2022, $ 6.5 million team option for 2023), so his salary makes him even more attractive — but getting him would require giving up decent prospects, which the Mariners might not want to bite on. — David Schoenfield
Last week’s buzz
July 23 updates
Marlins could be popular trade partner: The Marlins will basically listen to offers on anyone not in their rotation, including players under team control such as Jesus Aguilar and Garrett Cooper. Starling Marte remains the most desirable as he’s at the end of a long-term deal, but there are bullpen arms teams are looking at, including Dylan Floro and closer Yimi Garcia. The latter pitcher will be a free agent at the end of this season. League sources believe the Marlins will be active over the next week. — Jesse Rogers
Will Yankees add relievers? The Yankees have to be looking at bullpen help, as they had another meltdown in Thursday’s loss to the Red Sox. Chad Green blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning and then, after the Yankees scored a run in the top of the 10th, rookie Brooks Kriske came on and somehow chunked up four wild pitches, tying a major league record for most in one inning. Aroldis Chapman had pitched the two previous games, so he was unavailable. The night before, Boone used Nick Nelson — with a WHIP over 2.00 — in a key situation. — David Schoenfield
July 22 updates
Could Yankees add All-Star shortstop? The Yankees are among the teams that have checked in on Trevor Story. Presumably, if they followed through, they’d move Gleyber Torres back to second base. — Buster Olney
A reliever to watch … if the Mariners will trade him: Teams and scouts are intrigued by Seattle reliever Kendall Graveman, but no one is quite sure which direction the Mariners want to go. Seattle is on the outskirts of the wild-card race but could capitalize on a career season by Graveman, who is several years removed from Tommy John surgery.
A contender would probably use him as a setup man rather than a closer. If the Mariners subtract at the deadline, one executive thought Graveman would be the best under-the-radar pickup. “He’s not Craig Kimbrel but he gets outs.” As of Thursday, Graveman has given up just 15 hits in 30 innings this season. — Jesse Rogers
When will the Cubs make their moves? Other teams continue to say that the Cubs haven’t set the hard asks on return for their big names yet, but the expectation is they will before the July 30 deadline. Kris Bryant and the New York Mets are a possible fit. Craig Kimbrel could help lots of teams, and Anthony Rizzo fits the Boston Red Sox perfectly. — Buster Olney
How Castellanos injury could change Reds’ deadline status: All-Star outfielder Nick Castellanos, leading the NL with a .329 average and 29 doubles, revealed that he has a microfracture in his right wrist, an injury that could sideline him for a couple of weeks. Will this change their thinking? They are 6½ games behind the Brewers and have lost five of six since the All-Star break — and also have three key relievers on the IL. Castellanos has an opt-out clause after the season, and he might exercise that given his big year. Castellanos and Luis Castillo would certainly be two of the more interesting trade chips if the Reds do reverse course. Their next seven games, against the Cardinals and Cubs, could decide which direction they go. — David Schoenfield
Red Sox taking big-picture deadline approach: Boston is taking an open-minded approach to the deadline. Don’t expect the team to go all-in on the 2021 season, despite its position atop the American League East. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is keeping his vision of sustained success over a long period of time in mind, so the likelihood of the team trading away top prospects like Triston Casas or Jarren Duran for a short-term rental will likely be slim.
The Red Sox face a big hole at first base in terms of offensive production with Bobby Dalbec struggling throughout the course of the season. Also expect the team to poke around at upgrades around pitching and the outfield. The production of Duran and young starter Tanner Houck will help guide decisions on how to approach trade strategy. Regardless of whether or not they upgrade in the short term to go for a championship in 2021, Boston will explore trades that improve the team’s long-term standing at all positions on the field. — Joon Lee
How does Schoop fit in Detroit’s plans? One of the questions that the Tigers’ front office has to answer is: Does Jonathan Schoop have more value in an asset swap before the July 30 trade deadline or in staying with the Tigers, riding the team’s current wave of success, and continuing to help reset the level of expectation? Schoop, 29, is having a good season, hitting .288 with an OPS of .804. He is swinging well, hitting .328 with 29 extra-base hits in 64 games since May 6. — Buster Olney
July 21 updates
Scouts flock to Cubs-Cardinals series: There were a half-dozen scouts watching the Cubs and Cardinals on Tuesday night, including two from the White Sox. They are in search of some relief help and saw Cubs right-hander Ryan Tepera pitch a clean seventh inning just as White Sox right-hander Ryan Burr was giving up a lead to the Minnesota Twins. Tepera could be on the White Sox’s radar, as could left-hander Andrew Chafin — though their need is more from the right side than the left. The Mets and Phillies were in attendance to see Kris Bryant make a diving catch in the field.
On the other side, St. Louis is less likely to subtract from its team despite being in the same position in the standings as the Cubs. Trading for Nolan Arenado meant competing, not retooling. Getting healthy on the mound is No. 1 on the Cardinals’ minds. — Jesse Rogers
Three California contenders looking for pitching: Sources indicate it’s an arms race in California. From Oakland to San Diego to Los Angeles, contenders are looking for pitching. Cubs starter Zach Davies could end up back on the West Coast, where he pitched for the Padres last season. Expect the Padres, A’s and Dodgers to add starters and relievers by July 30. — Rogers
Completed trade tracker
Yankees and Rangers complete Joey Gallo blockbuster | Trade grades
A’s get Starling Marte from Marlins in trade for Jesus Luzardo
Padres acquire All-Star Frazier from Pirates | Grading the trade
Rays stay busy by trading Rich Hill to Mets | Grades
Rays acquire Nelson Cruz from Twins for pitching prospects | Grades
Cubs trade Joc Pederson to Braves for 1B prospect
Braves acquire Stephen Vogt from D-backs for 1B prospect
MLB trade deadline analysis
Passan: The biggest stars available and teams looking to add
Five teams with toughest trade deadline decision to make
Rogers: How MLB All-Stars are dealing with trade deadline uncertainty
How unique standings will impact this MLB trade deadline
Schoenfield: One player all 30 MLB teams should trade for — or away
Doolittle: MLB trade deadline goals for all 30 teams