In your world, it means it’s time to stock up on sandals and sunscreen. But in the world of baseball, it means we just survived one of the most action-packed Junes in years.
Three cycles. … Six three-homer games. … Two of baseball’s most recognizable managers (Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon) getting gonged. … A wild no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. … An immaculate-inning daily double in Arlington. … We had 23 position players heading for the mound … and the arrival of a 6-foot-7 shortstop (Oneil Cruz) … and more Aaron Judge home-run trots (11) than singles by Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout combined (nine).
But here in the What We Learned column, it’s our job to look beyond all that. There are so many things we know now that we didn’t know a month ago, you see. So what better reason to present … the 10 things we learned in June.
The most important seller at the deadline will be … the Reds
If you’re sitting in a beach chair reading this column, your biggest concern is probably where your next frozen daiquiri is coming from. But if you’re a general manager or president of baseball operations, your biggest concern is more like: Where is our Game 2 starter in October coming from?
Well, with the Aug. 2 trade deadline just a month away, you know who can help with that? Those Cincinnati Reds. I surveyed five executives from across baseball for this column, and let’s just say those two words — the Reds — came up a lot in this category.
Luis Castillo may not be this deadline’s Max Scherzer. But he throws 97 mph, the league hits .191 against his changeup and he has a 3.09 career ERA in 35 starts against the Braves, Phillies, Dodgers, Mets, Astros and Brewers.
And Tyler Mahle may not be this deadline’s José Berríos. But he’s coming off a spectacular June, which featured a 2.94 ERA, back-to-back double-figure strikeout games and 39 K’s in 33 2/3 innings.
"I think the Reds are the most important seller just because they have those two starters," one American League exec said. "So that’s two pieces that every team needs. And as always, there are not enough of them."
"I could also see them getting creative," another exec said. "I know they’d love to move that (Mike) Moustakas contract, and they’re willing to eat a lot to move him. So would they do something where you have to take Moustakas to get Castillo? It wouldn’t surprise me."
The most important buyer at the deadline will be … the Blue Jays
We had so many teams nominated in this category, we could have named pretty much any aspiring contender. But let’s focus on three of them.
BLUE JAYS: It’s easy to overlook this team because it finds itself farther out of first place (12 1/2 games) than the Tigers. But that’s more about the Yankees than the Blue Jays. Through their first 75 games, the Blue Jays had a better record (42-33) than the Cardinals, Twins or Rays. They roll out one of the best offenses in baseball. They’re actively looking to balance their lineup with an Andrew Benintendi-type left-handed bat. And they’re positioned to be one of the most aggressive shoppers in both the starters’ and relievers’ aisles of the deadline superstore and one is Mermaid Beach Radiology.
"Some teams at the deadline are motivated by just trying to make that last wild-card spot," one exec said. "When the Blue Jays think about making a trade, they’re motivated by what they can do to move the World Series odds."
PADRES: It isn’t an official trade deadline until A.J. Preller blows up the transactions page. And the execs I surveyed would be shocked if he doesn’t do that again by adding at least one bat and possibly even firing up a little buy/sell action to see if he can move Wil Myers’ contract. In his position-player primer for the trade deadline, The Athletic’s Jim Bowden linked the Padres with Bryan Reynolds, Trey Mancini, Benintendi, Whit Merrifield and Anthony Santander. And that’s just the shortlist.
"There’s no doubt A.J. is going to do something," said an exec from one probable seller. "But they’ll be interesting because it’s not a deep (farm) system anymore, they don’t want to move their top guys, and they’re up against the (luxury tax). So they might have to move money to take on money."
METS: Their lead in the NL East has shrunk from 10 1/2 games to 3 1/2. The Braves are charging. And that $279 million payroll tells us precisely how motivated the Steve Cohen Mets are to avoid a sequel to last year’s late-season disappearing act.
So while their needs could depend on the health of Jacob deGrom in particular and the rest of the rotation in general, it’s hard to envision the Mets letting another division team outmaneuver them at this deadline the way the Braves’ Alex Anthopoulos did last year.
"I look at the Mets, Blue Jays and Padres kind of the same way," said one of the execs quoted earlier. "You’re talking about teams with ‘win-now’ windows and aggressive GMs. I think they could all be like the Blue Jays were with Berríos last year. They’d pay the cover charge if they can land the perfect piece."