After getting pushed to August 31 amid last year's shortened season, Major League Baseball's trade deadline is once again slated for July 31 in 2021.
Since that date will be here before you know it, now's a good time for a preliminary list of the league's best trade chips.
In drafting a list of 10, we considered only guys who play on likely non-contenders. When it came time to rank them, we weighed their trade appeal based on both their talent and their contracts/controllability.
This is not a list of players who have the most trade value. Sure, the value of stars such as Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto is measured in actual oodles. But the odds of them actually being traded this year are basically zilch.
Let's count 'em down.
10. 3B Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
Career Stats: 1324 G, 5547 PA, 207 HR, 52 SB, .256 AVG, .326 OBP, .442 SLG, 114 OPS+, 34.9 rWAR
Signed Through: 2021, with club option for 2022
In fairness to the Seattle Mariners, they're a potential dark-horse contender for 2021. Their youth movement led them to a 27-33 record last year, and there's more young talent on the way this season.
Realistically speaking, though, the Mariners are probably the fourth-best team in the American League West. If that outcome starts becoming unavoidable, they should at least field offers for veterans on expiring deals.
Among that lot is Kyle Seager, who's now several years past his prime as an All-Star and Gold Glover at the hot corner. Yet he enjoyed something of a rebirth with a 115 OPS+ and 32 home runs across 2019 and 2020, and his metrics were legitimately good in the latter year.
Especially if the Mariners are willing to eat some of his $18.5 million salary, Seager will appeal to contenders that need a good left-handed bat for third base and the middle of their lineup.
9. LF David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks
Career Stats: 727 G, 2890 PA, 90 HR, 30 SB, .290 AVG, .345 OBP, .473 SLG, 113 OPS+, 13.2 rWAR
Signed Through: 2022
Whether the Arizona Diamondbacks qualify as a "non-contender" is certainly debatable. But in the context of their last-place finish in 2020 and their projection as an also-ran this season, it seems fair.
If the D-backs do ultimately sell, they're bound to field offers for pending free agents like Eduardo Escobar, Joakim Soria and maybe Kole Calhoun, who has an option for 2022. They also might not hang up on teams that call about David Peralta.
The 30 home runs Peralta hit in 2018 are a clear outlier, yet his .290 career average sums up his hitting acumen. He was also a Gold Glover in 2019, and he kept up the good work with two outs above average in 2020.
Further adding to Peralta's appeal is that he's owed just $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022. He thus might be worth another top-100 prospect for Arizona's system, which already contains four of them.
8. RHP Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Career Stats: 165 G, 0 GS, 164.2 IP, 147 H (26 HR), 190 K, 51 BB, 125 ERA+, 2.9 rWAR
Controlled Through: 2023
Relief-needy teams will surely check in on two-time All-Star Josh Hader throughout the summer. But since the Milwaukee Brewers have their eyes on the National League Central crown, those calls will likely be in vain.
Luckily, there's a pretty good and hypothetically much more available reliever elsewhere in the NL Central: Pittsburgh Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez.
Even if he isn't a household name, he's been a largely effective reliever who took a big step toward elite status in 2020. Aided by a fastball and slider that each boast good movement, he landed in the 92nd percentilefor whiff rate as he struck out 34 of the 93 batters he faced. He also walked only five of them.
Assuming Rodriguez can stay on that track in 2021, contenders will look at him and see a guy who can help in the late innings both now and for two more seasons afterward.
7. UTIL Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
Career Stats: 608 G, 2680 PA, 60 HR, 119 SB, .296 AVG, .343 OBP, .447 SLG, 110 OPS+, 13.5 rWAR
Signed Through: 2022, with 2023 club option
Even as they make progress with their rebuild, the Kansas City Royals still face a tall task in overcoming the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland in the AL Central.
The big question is nonetheless whether the Royals will deal any core stars after refusing to do so in recent seasons. That especially includes Whit Merrifield, for whom general manager Dayton Moore seems to have a soft spot.
Otherwise, Merrifield is basically a perfect trade chip. He can play just about any position on defense, and his offensive skills include the ability to hit .300 with some power and speed. In theory, there's nary a contender with whom he wouldn't fit.
Merrifield is also guaranteed just $9.5 million through 2022 with a $6.5 million option for 2023. So if the Royals do loosen their grip on their stars, he could be out the door for a big haul.
6. DH Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals