The MLB trade deadline is not just about superstar players changing teams in blockbuster trades.
High-profile trade chips like Kris Bryant, Trevor Story and Max Scherzer will dominate the rumor mill and the headlines in the days leading up to the 2021 MLB trade deadline, but plenty of complementary players could also bolster a contender for the stretch run.
Here, we've highlighted 10 under-the-radar trade targets who could help contenders. It's a mix of quietly effective relief pitchers, underrated starting pitchers, versatile bench pieces and even a few former MLB contributors currently shining at the Triple-A level.
RP Andrew Chafin, Chicago Cubs
With Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Craig Kimbrel all expected to hit the trade block, it's no surprise that under-the-radar lefty reliever Andrew Chafin hasn't received much attention.
However, he could be an extremely valuable addition to a contender's bullpen.
The 31-year-old has a 1.37 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 8.5 K/9 with 17 holds in 42 appearances as one of the primary setup relievers in the Cubs bullpen.
He also has a $5.25 million mutual option for the 2022 season, so he could be more than just a two-month rental if he lands somewhere he feels comfortable.
The Cubs could consider packaging him alongside one of their stars, but he also stands on his own as a viable trade target for teams looking to add a quality southpaw to their relief corps.
RP Jharel Cotton, Texas Rangers
Once upon a time, Jharel Cotton was a promising young starter in the Oakland Athletics rotation.
Acquired from the 2016 deadline deal that sent Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, he made his MLB debut that September and posted a 2.15 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 29.1 innings spanning five starts.
He failed to duplicate that level of success the following year with a 5.58 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 129 innings as a regular member of the Oakland rotation, but he was only 25 years old.
Unfortunately, injuries have since derailed his career. He missed all of 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery and the bulk of 2019 recovering from hamstring surgery before spending the 2020 season at the Chicago Cubs alternate site.
The Texas Rangers signed him to a minor league deal during the offseason, and he has been lights out pitching primarily out of the bullpen at Triple-A Round Rock. The 29-year-old has a 3.08 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a terrific 53-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 innings, and he has recorded more than three outs in 14 of his 22 appearances.
For a contender looking to add a low-cost, multi-inning bullpen arm, Cotton would be worth a flier as he looks to return to the majors.