The 2025 free agent class suggests a big trade deadline is coming in July

May 2, 2024

It’s never too early to talk trades, right? The internet could spend infinitesimal amounts of energy galaxy-braining trade idea for the ether to review (and destroy). The trade deadline is perhaps the most exciting time on the baseball calendar for most sports fans outside of October. It represents another avenue toward hope in the form of new player acquisition, both in terms of help-now for contenders, and prospects for the future for rebuilding organizations.

The cost of doing business has never been more expensive for contenders. The added playoff spots combined with a never-higher premium on control years has the price of doing business at the deadline steep.

But the deadline also represents one of the few opportunities for middling payroll organizations to control their own destiny when trying to acquire talent. After all, there’s a significant swatch of teams who care not spend big dollars on the free agent market each winter.

Take the 2023 deadline as an example. The Angels acquired guys like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez to help make a push toward the playoffs. The Cubs went out and acquired Jeimer Candelario. The Orioles snagged Jack Flaherty. The Brewers landed Mark Canha. These are all organizations, certainly in varying degrees, that went out and acquired talent they may not have thought they would be able to afford on the open market this winter.

Perhaps the biggest example in recent memory is the Seattle Mariners going out and acquiring Luis Castillo in the summer of 2022 for a prospect haul from the Cincinnati Reds. While the Mariners have since been able to extend Castillo, it’s unlikely they would have come out on top in a winter bidding war with so many other teams, including the New York Yankees, having expressed interest at the trade deadline two years ago.

The 2025 offseason has plenty of guys on the precipice of hitting the open market playing for teams who are unlikely to contend in 2024. They’re the perfect rental candidates for contenders at the deadline.

Catchers are always highly sought pieces. Colorado Rockies backstop Elias Diaz, 33, is off to a hot start this season slashing .293/.350/.402 at time of publish after hitting 14 homers in 2023. He’s due to become a free agent this winter and is currently making $6 million in 2024.

First base has a chance to be a premium position on the trade market with guys like Paul Goldschmidt, 36, and Pete Alonso set to become free agents this winter. It’s been a slow start to Goldschmidt’s 2024 campaign but he would unquestionably provide value to a team looking for first base help down the stretch. He’ll make $26 million this season, close to $9.1 million of which is due from August 1 onward.

The Cardinals are once again off to a sluggish start and if they continue to underachieve this summer, Goldschmidt will likely be a name on the move.

Alonso, 29, is due $20.5 million this season and will be a free agent this winter. The Mets have expressed a desire to extend him. At 15-14 at the time of publication, the Mets season could go several directions. If it crumbles as it did in 2023, Alonso could be moved at the deadline.

Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros are off to a brutal start in 2024. Bregman has been a model of consistency throughout his career never posting a wRC+ below 114. He just turned 30 before the season started and is slated to hit free agency this winter. He’s due north of $30 million this year and will almost certainly be moved if the Astros cannot get the train back on the tracks before August hits.

J.D. Davis is off to a slow start marred by injury with the Oakland Athletics, but assuming the A’s don’t content this summer, Davis is likely to be on the move if he performs, especially as he’s due just $2.5 million this year.

The outfield is a crowded bunch of guys with one year left on their deals, though most of them currently play for teams that are contending or intend to contend this summer. Guys like Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo and Cody Bellinger are unlikely to be traded playing for teams in the thick of it. Minnesota’s Max Kepler will be an enticing name for teams looking for left-handed help.

The Twins are off to a topsy-turvy start. Who knows what direction they’ll go. The Mets could flip Harrison Bader to a team looking for defensive help in CF. The Tigers could move Canha if they stumble in the summer months. The White Sox could ship out Eloy Jimenez if he gets his career back on a more favorable trajectory.

On the mound, guys like Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell have opt-outs, but neither currently projects to leave their current situation. Sean Manaea has an opt-out and if he performs it wouldn’t surprise many if the Mets move him with the expectation of an even larger pay day coming. Lance Lynn and and Kyle Gibson both have club options for 2025. They could be trade candidates in a light summer for arms. Others like Flaherty, Nick Pivetta, Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Quintana are all possibilities for relocation.

Joe Doyle
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