Big-Name MLB Trade Targets Who Could Help Decide Playoff Races

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, but MLB trade speculation is alive and well.

    Players can still be dealt via the waiver process, and anyone traded by August 31 will be eligible for the postseason.

    Here, then, are five swaps for big-name players who could help decide playoff races, tipping the balance at the 11th hour.

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The San Francisco Giants are clinging to life at the edge of the National League playoff picture and might opt to ride it out.

    On the other hand, they’ve got multiple teams to leapfrog in both the NL West and NL wild-card races and would be wise to unload assets to rebuild a ho-hum farm system.

    If they go that route, Andrew McCutchen should be the first to go. The veteran outfielder is slashing a respectable .255/.356/.415 and is a noted clubhouse leader.

    As an impending free agent, he’d represent a modest monetary outlay and could help multiple contenders, including the Cleveland Indians, who are running away with the American League Central but will face a tough challenge for Junior Circuit supremacy.

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Someday, Adrian Beltre will be in the Hall of Fame. This season, he’s hitting .278 and has shown flashes of his old self.

    Add several dollops of postseason-tested leadership, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a waiver-period steal.

    “Obviously, it’s going to come down to what works for the team, and what works for me,” Beltre said in July of a potential trade, per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. “A chance for me toif we go down that routea chance for me to actually be part of that team, not just sitting on the bench. A chance for me to play. I’m not going to specifically say, ‘I need to play every day,’ but contribute to that team to win the World Series, if that’s going to happen.”

    Trade partners could include the Philadelphia Phillies, who expressed interest in Beltre before the non-waiver deadline, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com, and could give him reps at third alongside Maikel Franco. Most essentially, Beltre would bring needed experience to a young club that’s locked in a tight race with the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Shin-Soo Choo is hitting .274 with 20 home runs and an .864 OPS for the Texas Rangers. Those numbers would plug nicely into the middle of most contenders’ lineups.

    Now for the rub: Choo is owed $42 million over the next two seasons and is making $20 million this year. If the last-place Rangers hope to unload him, they’ll need to eat some of that money.

    Provided Texas is willing to get financially creative, it could find a suitor. The aforementioned Indians recently placed Edwin Encarnacion on the 10-day disabled list with a hand contusion.

    Maybe he’ll be back, but if Cleveland wants to hedge its bets and maintain contact with the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros in the AL pecking order, a Choo trade could be the ticket.

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    When the New York Mets traded Matt Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds in May, it seemed like the last gasp of a once-promising pitcher’s career.

    Harvey, though, has pitched decently for Cincinnati. In his most recent start Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he tossed seven innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts.

    The Reds are mired in last place and should flip Harvey, an impending free agent, for prospects.

    The division-rival Milwaukee Brewers, who are jostling with the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central crown, are a logical landing spot.

    The Brew Crew’s starting corps owns a ho-hum 4.01 ERA. Harvey would be a lottery ticket and far from a guaranteed ace. But he’d inject an enviable X-factor into a serviceable but uninspiring Milwaukee rotation.

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    Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

    Now we arrive at the waiver period’s most enigmatic trade target.

    Bryce Harper probably isn’t going anywhere. The Washington Nationals will likely hold on to their franchise superstar in his contract year and hope for a late postseason surge. He’s having something of a down year with a .236 average, though he’s also clubbed 28 homers and is arguably MLB’s most compelling personality.

    The Nats are looking up at the Phillies and Braves in the NL East and face an even steeper climb in the wild-card race. Cashing Harper in now before he ditches the nation’s capital for untold riches is the smart play.

    The list of contenders that would benefit from Harper’s stretch-run services is as long as the list of contenders. Imagine him on the Cubs, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, or the New York Yankees, etc. He’d tilt the balance of power wherever he landed.

    Is the safe bet that he’ll remain in D.C.? Sure. Is the fun bet that he’ll go to a World Series hopeful? You betcha.

           

    All statistics current entering play Monday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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