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Buyers and Sellers at the Trade Deadline: National League Central

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Manny Machado’s trade completed, the rest of baseball can now turn its attention to the non-blue chip players on the market.

Yesterday, in our look-ahead to the second half, we mentioned some of the top players likely to be made available. Today we look at each team to see who is buying, who is selling, what they’re seeking and what they have to offer. Note: almost every contender, always, needs relief help.

As a reminder, the non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31. Players traded after that date but before August 31 need to pass through waivers unclaimed before they can be traded. All players traded before August 31 are eligible to be on their new team’s playoff roster should they make the postseason.

Next up, the National League Central:

Cubs
Status: Buyers
Wanted: They could use a lot of pitching. They could get in-house help in this regard with Yu Darvish coming back, but they have no idea what they’ll get from him at this point. You have to assume they’ll be in the conversation for any starter out there.

Brewers
Status: Buyers. They were another of the finalists on Manny Machado.
Wanted: One of the few teams who does not need bullpen help, the Brewers could really use a bat, either at short or in the outfield.

Cardinals
Staus: I have no idea
Huh?  I mean, they just fired their manager which suggests the season is kind of a loss, but they’re only four games out in the Wild Card race which suggests that, no it is not. On one, vague level they’re like the Rays, who will likely seek good deals regardless of whether they are short term or long term. On another level they’re the Cardinals, and the Cardinals are almost always in win-now mode. If a pitcher can be had, figure they’ll try to grab one.

Pirates
Status: Sellers. They finished hot in the first half and are only 5.5. back in the Wild Card, but this front office does not strike me as one that’s gonna go for broke here.
For Sale: Assuming they fall out of contention, they’ll likely accept offers for any number of veterans, including Jordy MercerDavid FreeseCorey Dickerson and Ivan Nova.

Reds
Status: Sellers, because that awful start kind of buried them, though can we tip our cap to them for the run they’ve been on of late? *tip*
For Sale: They’ve done a pretty good job of making Matt Harvey look respectable, so flipping him seems to make sense. Any number of relievers would make sense. Billy Hamilton seems like a good change-of-scenery candidate who could be a lethal weapon for a playoff contender if judiciously deployed.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.