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10 MLB star players most likely to be traded at 2021 deadline, ranked

MLB

Major League Baseball’s non-waiver July 30 trade deadline is fast approaching. MLB teams are determining whether they want to ‘sell’ off their star talent in order to acquire young, future assets or ‘buy’ premier talent to contend for a championship this season.

According to reports, the slumping Chicago Cubs are planning on being sellers at the deadline. Third baseman Kris Bryant and closer Craig Kimbrel—both 2021 National League All-Stars—could find themselves wearing new MLB uniforms before month’s end.

In addition to Bryant and Kimbrel, what are other star players are on the MLB market? Rather than rank the best players available for trade, let’s rank the 10 stars that are most likely to be traded at the deadline.

MLB trade candidates:

10. Richard Rodriguez, Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez may not be a household name, but he is performing at an elite level. He has posted a 2.43 ERA and 0.78 WHIP with 11 saves and 27 strikeouts in 33.1 innings pitched this season. The 31-year-old is being sought after by multiple teams, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Rodriguez could be immediately inserted into a setup or closer role on his new MLB club. He makes $1.7 million this year, making him a cheap financial piece. The Pirates are in last in the NL Central and will be motivated to obtain prospects in deals for players of Rodriguez’s caliber. However, he may not be dealt because he is arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons.

9. Joey Gallo, Rangers

Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo earned his second MLB All-Star appearance in the past three seasons. The slugger has mashed 23 homers in 2021. Recently, he homered in five consecutive contests.

Gallo, 27, has always been a player who has hit for low average with plenty of strikeouts. However, his power is nearly unmatched across baseball. He is a highly appealing commodity for an MLB team in need of some pop. Gallo is arbitration-eligible for one more season, so the Rangers—who own the second-worst record across the entire American League—may elect to move him at a later date.

8. Kyle Gibson, Rangers

Kyle Gibson is one of the few well-known starters on the trade block. The Rangers’ veteran right-hander has produced a stellar 2.99 ERA—the second-best mark across the American League.

While Gibson stumbled in 2020 with a career-worst 5.35 earned run average, he has regained his form this year. He is under contract through 2022. However, the Rangers would be wise to move Gibson, who turns 34 in October, in favor of young prospects.

7. Mitch Haniger, Mariners

The Seattle Mariners (46-42) remain in the playoff chase to the surprise of many. This means they may hold onto outfielder Mitch Haniger. The 30-year-old has mashed 21 homers this MLB season. A one-time All-Star, Haniger is still one of Seattle’s most valuable players.

According to reports, Haniger has not been approached by Seattle’s front office about a contract extension. This naturally leads to plenty of trade speculation for the power-hitting outfielder, even with the Mariners in the thick of the MLB postseason hunt.

6. Adam Frazier, Pirates

The National League All-Star Team’s starting second baseman, Adam Frazier will be a coveted player throughout the month. The 29-year-old leads MLB in hits with 109. He is versatile, capable of playing corner outfield in addition to second base. The New York Mets are one of the teams reportedly interested in Frazier’s services.

Frazier is under a team-friendly contract through 2022, but the rebuilding Pirates are probably better off trading him while he is playing the best baseball of his career.

5. Kris Bryant, Cubs

As alluded to earlier, Kris Bryant’s days in Chicago could be numbered. Bryant, the 2016 NL MVP, was recently named to his fourth career All-Star Game. The former Rookie of the Year (2015) is slated for free agency at the end of the year.

In addition to being a sensational hitter, Bryant is also a versatile defender. In this season alone, he’s started 15 games at third base (his primary position), 13 in right field, 10 in left field, eight at first base and four in center field.

There is always the chance the Cubs make multiple trades, but hold onto the 29-year-old Bryant for the long-term. Odds are, however, that the Cubs move Bryant with his market heating up.

4. Nelson Cruz, Twins

Nelson Cruz is 41, but the slugger is still hitting like a superstar. The Minnesota Twins’ designated hitter has belted 18 home runs and 11 doubles with hitting splits of .299/.372/.553. He earned his seventh All-Star appearance this season.

The Twins (36-50) have fallen staggeringly low of expectations and could be prime sellers at the deadline. Cruz, a free agent at season’s end, has been linked to the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics in trade discussions.

3. Eduardo Escobar, Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Eduardo Escobar earned his first-ever MLB All-Star appearance this month. He may have also played his way out of Arizona, which owns the worst record in baseball and is in the midst of a long rebuild.

Escobar struggled last year, batting .212 with just four homers in the pandemic-shortened season. But in 2019, Escobar cranked 35 home runs and an MLB-high 10 triples with 118 RBIs. He is a proven hitter, last year’s stats be damned. A free agent at the end of the season, there’s no reason to believe the Diamondbacks keep Escobar beyond the non-waiver deadline.

2. Trevor Story, Rockies

Trevor Story has spent his entire six-year MLB career with the Colorado Rockies, but his tenure with the franchise will almost certainly not extend beyond this month. The Rockies are 12 games under .500 and are no match in the stacked NL West.

The Rockies host the July 13 MLB All-Star Game and Story is participating in the Home Run Derby, so it makes for the franchise to hold onto the shortstop in the meantime. However, the two-time All-Star and free-agent-to-be has reportedly made it clear he will not re-sign with the Rockies in the offseason.

Story has been linked to the Chicago White Sox in trade rumors.

The White Sox would likely shift Story to second base if they were to acquire him, given that Tim Anderson currently mans the shortstop duties on the South Side.

1. Craig Kimbrel, Cubs

Craig Kimbrel has returned to All-Star form in 2021. The Cubs’ closer has struck out a whopping 54 batters in 31.2 innings. With the Cubs no longer in the MLB playoff chase, they have little incentive to keep the 33-year-old closer. ESPN’s Buster Olney believes Kimbrel will be the most coveted player on the trade market.

Kimbrel’s contract includes a team option of $16 million for 2022, another element that might entice teams to trade for the eight-time MLB All-Star.