The first three two and a half weeks of August yielded only a few minor trades, featuring pickups by the Mariners (Arquimedes Caminero and Pat Venditte), a swap of veteran infielders (Erick Aybar and Mike Aviles) and the Marlins adding some left-handed depth to their ’pen (Hunter Cervenka). Since that time, several names have changed hands, though, including Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Ellis, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Francoeur, Daniel Nava, Marc Rzepczynski and Erick Aybar. A trade sending veteran outfielder Coco Crisp to the Indians should be announced on Wednesday as well.
Before diving into the names, a few items bear repeating. The majority of Major League players will be placed on trade waivers this month, with most instances going unreported. There are undoubtedly players (quite a few of them, most likely) who have already cleared waivers but have not been reported to have done so. Players can be traded into September, as well, but only those traded on or before Aug. 31 will be eligible for the postseason with their new teams, so there’s some urgency for contending clubs to complete deals by month’s end. And, of course, for those who aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of waiver trades, MLBTR published a full explanation of how August trades work earlier this month. Onto the known names…
- Ryan Braun (link): Although Braun has slashed an excellent .315/.377/.551 with 24 homers and 14 steals through 454 plate appearances this season, his pricey contract enabled him to slip through waivers. Braun, 32, is owed $76MM through 2021, and any team acquiring him would likely need Milwaukee to pick up a sizable chunk of his contract, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. That doesn’t seem to bode well for the possibility of a trade this month.
- Ervin Santana (link): Santana, 33, is due $13.5MM per year through 2018, which makes him a fairly expensive investment, but he’s in the midst of another fine season. The righty has been among the few bright spots for the last-place Twins, having recorded a 3.54 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.38 BB/9 in 147 1/3 innings. Given that he cleared waivers, the Twins might have to eat some of Santana’s contract if they wish to move him for a decent return. However, Minnesota reportedly needed to be “overwhelmed” to deal Santana in July, and it’s doubtful their bullish opinion of him has changed since then.
- Ryan Howard (link): It seems as if any possibility of a Howard trade has gone out the window with his time with the Phillies drawing to an increasingly pleasant end. But he does still deliver more pure power than most hitters — albeit almost exclusively against righties — with 19 long balls in less than half a season worth of plate appearances.
- Matt Wieters (link): Not only is Wieters expensive ($15.8MM salary this year), but he’s also underperforming both offensively and defensively. Thus, with fellow backstops Kurt Suzuki and Brian McCann having already cleared waivers, it’s no surprise that Wieters did, too. Regardless of his struggles, Wieters is the starting catcher for a playoff contender with no better in-house option in place, making a trade involving the impending free agent all the more unlikely.
- Scott Kazmir (link): Kazmir is owed $16MM in each of the next two seasons, but he has the ability to opt out of his deal after this year. Kazmir’s run prevention (4.41 ERA) has been a letdown in 132 2/3 innings this season, although he has recorded an outstanding K/9 (9.02) to go with a 3.32 BB/9 and a superb 15.2 percent infield fly rate. The positives weren’t enough for anyone to claim Kazmir, though, and it’s doubtful the injury-riddled Dodgers will move out a healthy starter in the middle of a playoff race.
- James Shields (link): The right-hander was previously a high-end option that every team would’ve loved to slot into its rotation. At 34, he’s now pitching like a DFA candidate. The White Sox, who acquired Shields from the Padres earlier this year, owe him $10MM per season through 2018. Thanks largely to a plummeting strikeout rate and a propensity for allowing HRs, Shields has run up a 7.62 ERA in 69 2/3 innings with Chicago. Overall, he has a 5.98 ERA in 137 frames this year. While Shields is on track for a 10th straight 30-start season, there’s no point in trading for someone who isn’t at least keeping his team in games every fifth day.
- Nick Markakis (link): The negatives seem to outweigh the positives with Markakis, who’s on a $10.5MM salary through 2018 and doesn’t bring the offensive value to the table that he used to. Since leaving Baltimore for Atlanta last year, the right fielder has hit .285/.360/.384 with a mere 12 HRs in 1,200-plus plate trips. The average and on-base percentage are clearly pluses. Fact is, though, a corner outfielder who has little power, doesn’t grade well defensively and isn’t all that cheap isn’t too appealing.
- Mitch Moreland (link): Moreland is amid his third straight 20-homer season and isn’t overly expensive ($5.7MM salary) in the last year of his contract, so it wouldn’t have been shocking had someone claimed him. Instead, the lifetime .251/.316/.481 hitter got through waivers and looks likely to remain with World Series-contending Texas for the rest of the season.
- Matt Kemp (link): Once an MVP-level player, the 31-year-old Kemp has fallen off thanks to defensive issues and a decline at the plate. As a roughly league-average hitter on a $21.5MM salary through 2019, he was fully expected to go unclaimed had the Braves placed him on waivers. They did, and that’s exactly what happened. Atlanta’s on the hook for $18MM per year of Kemp’s money for the duration of his contract. The Padres, his previous team, make up the difference. For any deal to happen, the Braves would likely have to eat a hefty portion of that cash.
- Joakim Soria (link): The 32-year-old Soria has become increasingly homer prone and displaying some concerning control issues in 2016, so it’s not surprising that no team risked claiming the remaining $19.72MM that he is owed through the completion of the 2018 season. Soria’s 92.8 mph average fastball is actually a career-high, and his strikeouts and ground-ball rate both remain sound, so perhaps he could be moved if Kansas City were to eat some of the remainder on that deal.
- Eric O’Flaherty (link): Once a powerhouse out of the Braves’ bullpen, O’Flaherty’s second stint with Atlanta hasn’t gone nearly as well. He’s never fully regained his form after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013, and his ERA in 2016 rested just shy of 7.00 when word of his clearing waivers broke. His $1.75MM salary wouldn’t be prohibitive were he pitching well, but even opposing lefties have roughed up O’Flaherty this season, and he’s been positively obliterated by right-handed opponents.
- Kurt Suzuki (link): The Twins’ catcher was reported to have cleared waivers just yesterday. Unlike a number of players that clear waivers in the month of August, Suzuki is relatively affordable, making it something of a surprise that no teams placed a claim on him. While he’s not regarded as a highly skilled defensive backstop, he’s hitting .281/.321/.431, which is quite a step up from the league-average catcher (.242/.311/.380). He doesn’t walk much, but he’s also very tough to strike out (12.9%), and he was owed just $1.54MM through season’s end when he reportedly cleared on Aug. 16.
- Brian McCann (link): It’s no surprise that McCann cleared waivers, as he’s owed a hefty $34MM beyond the 2016 campaign. McCann’s offensive production has wilted a bit in recent weeks, and while his .232/.333/.404 batting line and 15 homers are still solid marks for a catcher, it’s tough to imagine the Yankees moving him without absorbing a fair amount of the money that remains on his contract. Also standing in the way of a potential deal is the fact that teams looking for catching help beyond this year have a fair number of choices on the upcoming free agent market.
One final note: outfielder Jeff Francoeur (link) and catcher Carlos Ruiz (link) were both reported to have cleared waivers as well, but each has already been traded to a new team, with Francoeur going to the Marlins and Ruiz going to the Dodgers.