- Mets Acquire Eric O’Flaherty, Designate Alex Torres
- Dave Dombrowski Out As Tigers GM; Al Avila Named Replacement
- Rangers Release Wandy Rodriguez
- A.J. Burnett Expected To Miss Four Weeks With Flexor Strain
- Athletics Claim Danny Valencia
- Red Sox President Larry Lucchino To Be Replaced
- C.J. Wilson Likely Out For Season
- Dodgers, Braves, Marlins Complete 13-Player Trade
- Blue Jays Designate Danny Valencia, Ezequiel Carerra
- Orioles Designate Chris Parmelee
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- Mets Acquire Eric O’Flaherty, Designate Alex Torres
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- Dave Dombrowski Out As Tigers GM; Al Avila Named Replacement
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- Minor MLB Transactions: 8/3/2015
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The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, but as we explained earlier today, that in no way means that trading is over. Working out trades is now quite a bit more complicated, but if history is any indication, we’ll still see our fair share of notable names exchanged and possibly some under-the-radar swaps that will look like coups with the benefit of hindsight in a few years.
Here’s a look back at some of the more notable deals from the past three Augusts (with a helping hand from MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker)…
2012 (Transaction Tracker link)
- Dodgers acquire Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and cash considerations from Red Sox in exchange for Allen Webster, James Loney, Jerry Sands, Ivan De Jesus and Rubby De La Rosa: One of the most significant trades in recent history (August or otherwise), this trade saw the Red Sox shed more than $250MM in future payroll commitments, positioning GM Ben Cherington for an aggressive offseason on the free agent market that netted Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes — each of whom played a role (some more significant than others) in fueling the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series run. As for the Dodgers, Gonzalez has returned to elite status, while Crawford has quietly rebounded (to some extent) and Beckett delivered 115 2/3 innings of 2.88 ERA ball in 2014 — his final season.
- Athletics acquire Jesse Chavez from Blue Jays for cash considerations, and also acquire Pat Neshek from Orioles for cash considerations: Neither of these deals looked to be of much consequence at the time, but Neshek jumped right into the Oakland bullpen and delivered a 1.37 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. That stretch kicked off a career renaissance of sorts for the side-armer, who is now an integral part of the Houston bullpen. As for Chavez, he’s still with Oakland and has turned in a 3.57 ERA in 318 innings from 2013-15. He’s also controllable through 2016.
2013 (Transaction Tracker link)
- Pirates acquire Marlon Byrd, John Buck from Mets in exchange for Dilson Herrera, Vic Black: Byrd took a minor league deal with the Mets prior to the season, while Buck was viewed as a throw-in in the offseason blockbuster with the Blue Jays, but both put up big numbers with the Mets and netted the team a pair of significant prospects from Pittsburgh. Byrd and Buck helped the Pirates to the playoffs, ending a 21-year playoff drought, and Herrera is now seen as the Mets’ second baseman of the future. Black, too, could play a part on the team for years to come as a setup man if health permits.
- Rangers acquire Alex Rios from White Sox in exchange for Leury Garcia: Rios was one of the biggest names traded in August 2013 (though Chicago’s acquisition of him from the Blue Jays in 2009 may be the more notable August move), and he batted .280/.315/.457 for Texas down the stretch. He’d go on to struggle in 2014 and take a one-year deal with the Royals. Garcia, meanwhile, could eventually make for a nice utility piece in Chicago, but to this point the Rangers have received more from the deal than they gave up.
2014 (Transaction Tracker link)
- Athletics acquire Adam Dunn from White Sox for Nolan Sanburn: An Aug. 31 trade sent the Big Donkey to Oakland, where he caught a fleeting glimpse of playoff baseball before retiring this offseason. Dunn memorably homered in his first at-bat with Oakland.
- Nationals acquire Matt Thornton from Yankees via waiver claim: The Nationals placed a claim on Thornton and, somewhat surprisingly, the Yankees imply elected to pass the remaining tab on his two-year, $7MM contract along to the Nats. No one in D.C. is complaining; Thornton fired 11 1/3 shutout innings for the Nats down the stretch in 2014 and has a 2.19 ERA this sason.
- Orioles acquire Alejandro De Aza from White Sox for Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar: De Aza didn’t hit much for the White Sox in his final year with the team, but he exploded in Baltimore, slashing .293/.341/.537 down the stretch and going 7-for-21 with three doubles in the playoffs. His second year in Baltimore didn’t go as well; the O’s designated him for assignment and flipped him to the Red Sox earlier this year, and Boston has enjoyed nice production from the 31-year-old. De Aza’s hitting .305/.353/.500 with Boston and is once again an August trade candidate.
There were, of course, many more trades made over the past three Augusts (check out the accompanying Transaction Tracker links above for the full lists), and there figure to be many more this season. I doubt we’ll see a nine-player blockbuster in which more than a quarter-billion dollars worth of salary changes hands again, but there are plenty of big names with significant salary owed to them that didn’t move last month. James Shields, Joaquin Benoit, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Mike Napoli, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis and many others could find their names floating around on the rumor mill this month.
Dayton Moore pulled off a major acquisition when he landed ace Johnny Cueto from the Reds on Sunday, but he didn’t rest on his laurels after that trade. Today, he finalized another major deal when he acquired versatile veteran Ben Zobrist from the A’s. Earlier today, I asked the Royals GM if he was under a mandate from ownership to go for broke this summer and make major moves.
“We always have a mandate to put the best team on the field,” Moore told reporters on the conference call. “Certainly the play of our team and how our players have responded gives us more motivation to make moves, but we’ve always tried to do whatever could at the deadline to make our team better for the second half, even when we weren’t competing.”
While Cueto came to K.C. before Zobrist, the GM explained that talks with Oakland actually started before the discussions with Cincinnati. There are still a few days to go until the trade deadline but Moore doesn’t expect to make another blockbuster deal between now and Friday. Like a responsible Christmas shopper, it appears that Moore has avoided the rush to get the top shelf prizes. Interestingly, however, he says the timing of it all was happenstance.
“You’ll have to speak with [Reds GM] Walt [Jocketty] and [A’s GM] Billy [Beane], but for me, they were just satisfied with the package that was offered,” said Moore. “I don’t think anybody is gonna execute a deal unless they’re as satisfied as they can be. When we enter into these types of discussions for a player we want we are very aggressive. We have a good idea of what we want and what we want to provide as far as the package goes and what they desire…No sense in stringing things out and creating unnecessary tension. If you know at the end of the day that you’re going to get to a certain place, you might as well get there.”
Zobrist is expected to join his new teammates “in a day or two,” and when he gets in the mix, he’ll be slotted in left field rather than second base, where he’ll be filling in for the currently injured Alex Gordon. There’s plenty of work ahead for Zobrist, Cueto, and the Royals, but it sounds like their GM is done with the heavy lifting for the week.
“You can never have enough starting pitching.” It’s a refrain we hear often this time of year, and it leads to a lot of deadline deals — even for clubs that don’t strictly “need” to add a starter. We’ve already seen the Royals (acquiring Johnny Cueto) and Astros (acquiring Scott Kazmir) strike deals for highly-rated arms, and they’ll likely be joined by teams such as the Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays among others. Making things even more interesting, we’ve heard a variety of rumors involving more controllable pitching — which could re-frame clubs that have fallen back in the standings (such as the Red Sox, Rangers, and Diamondbacks) as future-oriented buyers.
Cueto and Kazmir are taken, but there’s plenty left to choose from:
- If Price is made available — and reports on whether or not that will happen have been conflicting — he’s the prize of the rental market. With all due respect to the excellent Cueto, Price hasn’t had any health scares this year, and he’s simply outperformed all of the other rentals, as one would expect. Price is on nearly any fan or evaluator’s short list of the five to 10 best pitchers in baseball. His latest eight-inning gem dropped his ERA to 2.31 to go along with 8.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. He’s earning an enormous (relative to other arbitration prices, that is) $19.8MM in 2015, of which about $8MM or so remains. That’s a big amount to add midway through a season, so if traded, Price will likely go to a team with both the financial wherewithal to take on a sizable sum and a deep farm system or cache of MLB-ready talent to entice Detroit to part ways with its ace.
- Hamels answered skeptics who questioned his abilities following a pair of ugly starts by turning the best start of his career on Saturday — a 13-strikeout no-hitter against the Cubs. It’d be a storybook ending for one of the greatest pitchers in Phillies history… if he’s moved. Some have questioned whether the Phillies will move him now or move him at the Winter Meetings, once president-to-be Andy MacPhail is running the show and is more acclimated to his new organization. That’d be a risky play, as the winter market could be saturated with arms, though the $73.5MM he’s guaranteed from 2016-18 would be below market value for an arm of Hamels’ caliber at that point.
The Second Tier
- Samardzija hasn’t been as good with the White Sox as he was in 2014 with the Cubs and A’s, but some of that can be pinned on a brutal defense playing behind him. He’s been very good as of late, posting a 2.55 ERA and a 45-to-11 K/BB ratio in 60 innings over his past eight starts. A free agent at season’s end, Samardzija has turned in somewhat of a mixed skill set. His 6.9 K/9 rate is the lowest of his career as a starter, and his ground-ball rate is down nearly 10 percent from its 2014 levels. However, he’s also walking fewer batters than he ever has (1.7 BB/9) and is still averaging better than 94 mph on his fastball.
- The Padres are apparently pushing hard to move Shields and his backloaded contract just five months after signing him to a four-year, $75MM contract. That’s probably a tall order, considering Shields is owed $64MM from 2016-18 and has the power to opt out of his deal following the 2016 season. In other words, if a team pays any kind of premium in terms of talent, they may be sacrificing that talent for just a year and a half of production. But, if Shields declines, they’ve assumed the risk of that weighty contract and could be stuck with an overpriced asset. Recently, though, Shields looks excellent.
- Cashner and Ross are perhaps more desirable than Shields due to their youth, although each is having somewhat of a down season. Cashner’s been more homer-prone than usual and is stranding fewer runners, though in terms of strikeout rate, control and ground-ball rate, he’s largely the same pitcher he was in 2014. He’s a free agent following the 2016 season. Ross is controlled through 2017, and his strikeout and ground-ball rates are both way up in 2015. However, his old control woes look to have resurfaced to some extent (4.2 BB/9).
- Iwakuma’s spent a good chunk of the year on the DL and is a pure rental, but he’s been great over his past three starts and is distancing himself from the bizarre and uncharacteristic homer problems that plagued him upon his return. Iwakuma has a 4.50 ERA, but both xFIP and SIERA feel his skills are more indicative of a 3.50ish ERA. He’s earning $7MM this season, making him very affordable.
- As I noted in profiling Latos earlier this month, he’s been a different pitcher since coming off the DL with a nagging knee injury that likely ties back to the surgery he had in 2014. Latos’ fastball velocity is up more than two miles per hour since coming off the DL, and he’s striking people out in bunches. Since I last examined his stock, he’s allowed four runs in 20 innings with a 19-to-3 K/BB ratio. Overall, he has a 2.96 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 45.2 percent ground-ball rate in 45 2/3 innings since getting healthy. The Mat Latos of old is back, and he might be the most underrated rental on the market.
Mid-Rotation Arms/Innings Eaters/Back-End Starters
Mike Leake (Reds), Dan Haren (Marlins), Yovani Gallardo (Rangers), Ian Kennedy (Padres), Jesse Chavez (Athletics), C.J. Wilson (Angels), Jeremy Hellickson (D-Backs), Colby Lewis (Rangers), Wandy Rodriguez (Rangers), J.A. Happ (Mariners), Kyle Lohse (Brewers), Aaron Harang (Phillies), Jerome Williams (Phillies), Justin Masterson (Red Sox), Mike Pelfrey (Twins), Bud Norris (Orioles), Kyle Kendrick (Rockies), Matt Garza (Brewers), John Danks (White Sox), Jorge De La Rosa (Rockies)
- Leake, Gallardo, Haren, Kennedy and Happ are the top rentals of this group. No one from that group is overpowering. In fact, Kennedy, who strikes out the most batter os the bunch, is having a down season (like the rest of San Diego’s starters, for the most part). Still, any from this group could conceivably be plugged into the middle of most rotations in the Majors. Leake’s probably the best bet to be moved in the next few days.
- Chavez and Wilson can both be controlled through 2016, though Wilson’s $20MM salary for 2016 will probably be roughly four times greater than what Chavez will earn in his final trip through arbitration. Both can help a rotation, but Wilson would probably need to be moved along with some cash or in exchange for another player with an expensive salary. Hellickson, too, is controlled through 2016, though the former top prospect and AL Rookie of the Year has regressed quite a bit in recent seasons. He got off to a poor start with the Snake but has been great over his past four starts.
- Harang probably won’t be moved until August due to an injury, but he joins the likes of Masterson, Pelfrey, Norris, Williams, Kendrick, Lohse, Garza and Danks in the “struggling veteran” category. Pelfrey has decent numbers but he’s been dreadful of late and was never as good as his peripherals indicated this season. All of these arms, with the exception of Danks and Garza, would be rentals. Danks and Garza are both owed sizable commitments beyond 2015.
Controllable Arms With MLB Experience
Carlos Carrasco (Indians), Jon Niese (Mets), Julio Teheran (Braves), Mike Fiers (Brewers), Vance Worley (Pirates), Jeff Locke (Pirates) Tom Koehler (Marlins), David Phelps (Marlins), Dan Straily (Astros)
- Carrasco is probably the most desirable of this bunch, as the strikeout machine is in the first season of an affordable four-year, $22MM extension that contains a pair of club options valued at $9MM and $9.5MM. As such, Carrasco would require an enormous haul. The Blue Jays have expressed interest, and others figure to do so as well. Jeff Todd and I discussed how the Indians could potentially free themselves of the Michael Bourn and/or Nick Swisher contracts by way of a Carrasco trade.
- Niese’s name keeps popping up in trade rumors, but the latest say the Mets don’t want to move him. He’s pitched well and can be controlled for another two years beyond 2015.
- Teheran has surfaced as a surprise trade candidate after struggling with his control in 2015. He’s owed $29.6MM from 2016-19, including a $1MM buyout of a $12MM 2020 option. Struggles aside, it’s difficult to envision the Braves selling too low. They’d likely value him highly due to that control, though plenty of teams would love to get the opportunity to try to turn Teheran around.
- The Blue Jays like Fiers, but the pre-arbitration 30-year-old isn’t someone the Brewers feel inclined to move. He’d require a relatively notable return, though probably not one on par with Carrasco and Teheran.
- Worley and Locke have had their ups and downs as members of the Pittsburgh rotation over the past two seasons. They’re fourth starters at best — probably closer to fifth starters — but either could be on the move if the Bucs make a more substantial roation upgrade.
- Koehler seems unlikely to be moved by Miami, as he’s a usable fourth/fifth starter option that won’t be arb eligible until this offseason. He’s controlled through 2018 and has a career 3.89 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 458 2/3 innings. Phelps is a swingman that has been useful in both the bullpen and rotation for the Yankees and Marlins. His contract status and his overall numbers are similar to Koehler.
- Straily’s been excellent at Triple-A this year but has bounced from the A’s to the Cubs to the Astros without getting an extended look in a rotation. He might make sense for a rebuilding team with little upper-level pitching depth that could afford to give him a chance (e.g. Phillies, Rockies).
For a look around the rest of the trade market, check out MLBTR’s rundowns of the market for catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, corner outfielders, center fielders and relief pitchers.
Earlier this evening, the Red Sox and the Angels reached agreement on a deal to send Shane Victorino and cash considerations out west in exchange for infielder Josh Rutledge. In a conference call with reporters, Red Sox Executive Vice President/GM Ben Cherington explained that the talks started only in the last few days.
“The deal kind of came together over the weekend,” Cherington said. “I talked to Shane this afternoon during batting practice about it…He’s been a part of a lot of great moments, not just for the Red Sox, but throughout his career.”
The deal was not an easy one for Cherington to make and it has brought about some mixed emotions for the Flyin’ Hawaiian. Victorino expressed to Cherington that he’s happy to have an opportunity to join up with a contender and play meaningful games down the stretch. On the other hand, the veteran feels that his time in Boston marked a very important part of his career and he is sad to leave his Red Sox teammates behind.
Baseball-wise, the deal opens up space on the Red Sox’s roster, allowing them to get a good look at international signee Rusney Castillo. While Cherington wouldn’t quantify how much that played a role in the Victorino trade, he said that it was “certainly” a consideration. However, there aren’t any immediate plans to make a similar move to accommodate Jackie Bradley Jr.
“Jackie is doing well. There’s merit and consideration in trying to get some opportunities for him too, but today it’s Castillo. We’ll see where it goes after that,” said the GM.
As for Rutledge, Cherington confessed that he has had interest in the infielder “going back to his Colorado days.” With Dustin Pedroia on the DL, the 26-year-old figures to see a good amount of playing time the rest of the way. If he does well, Cherington says he can envision him “being a part of the team going forward.”
Outside of today’s transaction, Cherington kept mum about other possible dealings this week. When asked about the level of interest he’s received in Mike Napoli, he effectively gave a no comment. When another reporter inquired on what’s next, Cherington tersely replied, “[There’s] nothing to announce and nothing is particularly close.”
There’s never any shortage of teams in need of pen arms. As the Cardinals’ early strike for Steve Cishek shows, even high-performing bullpens can often benefit from depth. Of course, we’ve also seen teams benefit in recent seasons by adding premium arms to their late-inning mix, as the Orioles did last year with Andrew Miller. But as that trade also demonstrates, the price for pen arms (in that case, Eduardo Rodriguez) is never higher than at the deadline.
Closers & Premium Set-Up Men
Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies), Francisco Rodriguez & Will Smith (Brewers), Aroldis Chapman (Reds), Craig Kimbrel & Joaquin Benoit (Padres), Koji Uehara & Junichi Tazawa (Red Sox), Tyler Clippard (Athletics), Joakim Soria (Tigers), Jim Johnson (Braves), Brad Ziegler (Diamondbacks), Brad Boxberger & Jake McGee (Rays)
- At this point, Papelbon has largely silenced concerns about his ability to dominate with decreased velocity. At 34 years of age, he no longer racks up the double-digit K/9 tallies that he used to, and he’s outperformed his peripherals somewhat, but Papelbon still owns an outstanding 1.87 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 since the start of 2014. He’s playing on a $13MM salary this year and is close to triggering a vesting option for the same amount next season, but that doesn’t seem an outlandish commitment at this point and the Phils are reportedly willing to keep a good piece of the cost. The major limiting factor on Papelbon’s market is his 17-team no-trade list and perhaps his preference to go to a team that will use him in the ninth inning.
- K-Rod may be the second most obvious closer trade piece. He’s cheaper than Papelbon, but not by as much as you might think (at least in the future). His backloaded deal includes $9.5MM in commitments after this season, including a $2MM buyout of a $6MM club option for 2017. Regardless, that’s a more appealing contract than that of the Phillies closer. And the 33-year-old has been every bit as excellent, with a 1.54 ERA and 10.0 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 on the year.
- Next up: the two best relievers in baseball, Chapman and Kimbrel. Both certainly could be had for the right price, but it remains to be seen how motivated their teams are to sell. Chapman has probably overtaken Kimbrel as the most dominant closer in the game, as he continues to compile truly remarkable strikeout numbers (16.0 per nine on the season) while Kimbrel has cooled down (relatively speaking) to the 13-per-nine range. Chapman is only controllable for one more season after the present, after earning just over $8MM this year through arbitration, while Kimbrel is guaranteed $25MM over the next two seasons and has a club option that could bring the total bill for his services to $37MM from 2016-18. You could debate their relative value at this point, but contenders would probably prefer to slot the Cincinnati lefty into their pen down the stretch.
- Uehara lands in his own category, in large part because it’s unclear how inclined the Red Sox will be to consider moving him. The 40-year-old carries a 2.52 ERA this year, identical to his output last season, and continues to put up double-digit strikeouts while walking well under two batters per nine innings. He’s owed the same reasonable $9MM salary next year that he’s earning in 2015, but that may make Boston inclined to keep him.
- Clippard and Soria are both working as closers, but look like set-up targets for contenders. Both are well-paid this year ($8.3MM and $7MM, respectively), and are pure rentals. It remains to be seen whether the latter will be marketed, but both would figure to draw fairly strong interest. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up (8.8 K/9 against 4.9 BB/9), causing ERA estimators to shudder, but Clippard still carries only a 2.79 ERA. Likewise, though Soria has shown increased velocity and carries a 2.93 ERA, he has fallen back to 7.7 K/9 (against 2.5 BB/9). Rumor has it that a Clippard trade could come as soon as today.
- Johnson, too, could be viewed as a setup man, though he has a lengthy track record as a closer, including a pair of season in which he led the AL in saves. He’s back in the ninth inning following the Braves’ trade of Kimbrel and an injury to Jason Grilli. Johnson has a $1.6MM base salary, and his contract can max out at $2.5MM, which makes him one of the better buy-low pickups of the offseason and means that any team could afford his contract.
- Benoit, Ziegler, and Tazawa all occupy similar positions as long-established late-inning arms on likely sellers who come with an additional season of control. Ziegler is serving as the D’backs closer, and Benoit has closed in the past, but all three profile as potential set-up additions for most teams. The first two are well compensated ($8MM and $5MM annual salaries, respectively), while Tazawa is a bargain at $2.25MM. As for 2016, it’s a similar story, as Benoit comes with a $8MM option, Ziegler’s option will cost $5.5MM, and Tazawa is controllable via arbitration. All three have typically stellar earned run averages, but Tazawa has the best peripherals this year, is by far the youngest of the group, and comes with the most appealing contract situation.
- Smith and McGee represent two of the best late-inning lefties that could potentially be had at the deadline this year. The Brewers may well hold onto Smith, who is nearly certain to reach arbitration eligibility as a Super Two but will still be relatively cheap for some time given his lack of saves (or even holds). He’s put it all together this season, with a 1.75 ERA and 12.5 K/9 vs. 3.5 BB/9. Meanwhile, McGee has a somewhat lengthier track record and has been even better than Smith: he’s down to a 1.14 earned run average with a remarkable 10.7 K:BB ratio on the year. On the other hand, he already costs $3.55MM and will likely get nice raises each of the next two years in arbitration. That’s not as desirable as Smith’s status, but makes him quite a valuable piece — and one that is expensive by Tampa Bay’s standards.
- Boxberger is an interesting trade chip for the Rays, who are reportedly considering a move involving one or more of their excellent arms. He has been plenty useful this year, though his run prevention and K:BB tallies are not a match for 2014 (when he posted a 2.37 ERA with 14.5 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9, along with a minuscule but BABIP-aided 4.7 hits per nine). There’s no urgency for Tampa Bay to move Boxberger, as he can be controlled through 2019 and will be eligible for arbitration only three times, but the club could be interested in selling high from an area of some surplus.
Right-Handed Middle Relief Targets
John Axford (Rockies), Jason Frasor & David Aardsma (Braves), Jonathan Broxton (Brewers), Kevin Jepsen (Rays), Edward Mujica & Ryan Cook (Athletics), Fernando Rodney, Mark Lowe & Tom Wilhelmsen (Mariners), Shawn Kelley (Padres), Matt Albers (White Sox), Ryan Webb (Indians), Burke Badenhop & Ryan Mattheus (Reds), Jeanmar Gomez (Phillies), Addison Reed (Diamondbacks)
- Axford is a former closer that signed a fairly meager deal as a free agent over the winter, only to find himself back in the 9th inning due to injuries. He’s put up solid results, but ERA estimators value him more as solid-average than a late-inning stud, and contending teams likely will as well. That being said, his affordable contract and good recent work make him an appealing trade targets.
- Otherwise, this group includes a wide array of potentially interesting players, ranging from struggling and expensive power arms (Broxton, Rodney, Reed) to affordable middle relievers with good recent numbers (Jepsen, Lowe, Gomez), with a wide variety of options in between.
Left-Handed Middle Relief Targets
Mike Dunn (Marlins), Oliver Perez (Diamondbacks), Marc Rzepczynski (Indians), Zach Duke (White Sox), Fernando Abad & Eric O’Flaherty (Athletics), Neal Cotts (Brewers), Manny Parra (Reds), Joe Beimel (Mariners)
- Clubs in need of arms capable of registering outs against left-handed hitting will surely look closely at the players on this list, especially if Smith and/or McGee can’t be had at reasonable rates. The first five names on the list were outstanding last season, but they’ve all posted higher earned run averages and worse peripherals. We haven’t heard anything about the White Sox considering a move involving Duke, though it’s hard to imagine many clubs having interest in his big contract. Parra is on the disabled list but could be an August trade candidate.
There’s no shortage of teams with potential interest in the corner outfield market, with the Angels, Mets, Royals, and Orioles all having notable potential needs. Other clubs, too, could see an opportunity to upgrade or add a new bench piece. Note that we’ve already covered some corner outfield possibilities in the center field trade market piece. Contenders certainly may consider moving for players like Gerardo Parra, Will Venable, Ben Revere, or even Carlos Gomez with intentions of using them in a corner role.
Here are some names that could come up in the coming week:
Jay Bruce & Marlon Byrd (Reds), Justin Upton (Padres), Yoenis Cespedes (Tigers), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), Josh Reddick (Athletics), Brandon Moss (Indians), Mark Trumbo (Mariners), Andre Ethier & Carl Crawford (Dodgers), Melky Cabrera (White Sox)
- Bruce and Byrd are both appealing trade pieces, in different ways, for a struggling Cincinnati club that is said to be looking to shed salary. The former is controllable and affordable, with two years and $25.5MM left on his deal after this year (the latter season via club option). And after a rough 2014, he’s back on track for a typical .800+ OPS, thirty-homer, ten-steal, solid defensive campaign. The ageless Byrd, meanwhile, is still delivering impressive power, with a .465 slugging percentage and 16 long balls. He makes plenty of sense as a rental for a team in need of that skillset.
- San Diego is probably out of it, and has a lot of young talent to recoup after its offseason acquisition spree. Upton is slashing a relatively light (for him) .252/.331/.426, though Petco is doing him no favors and he has contributed 15 long balls and 17 stolen bases. He’s probably the best clearly available rental piece.
- It remains to be seen whether Cespedes will be marketed, as the Tigers make their final assessments, but he’d be in high demand. (One recently-reported twist: if Detroit wants to bring him back, it basically must either extend him or trade and re-sign him.) Cespedes is delivering his best overall season thus far, with well-above-average offensive production and quality defensive ratings.
- CarGo’s value is down with ongoing injury concerns and a rough early start, but he’s coming on with big numbers in June (.865 OPS) and July (1.016). His contract is no longer the asset it used to be, but the two years and $37MM remaining after this year are a reasonable price and risk for a player with his track record. Gonzalez does face the same questions as most hitters who succeed at Coors Field, but the bigger concern may be his abysmal numbers against left-handed pitching this year (.162/.222/.176 in 82 plate appearances). And the bigger question, as always, is whether the Rockies are really willing to move one of their more marketable players.
- Reddick may not be available, but the Athletics will surely at least listen with one year of control remaining. He’s put up a strong .283/.337/.456 slash line (considering he plays half his games at the O.Co Coliseum) and has always been a highly-regarded defender, though his metrics are off this year. Given that Reddick will only be building off of a $4.1MM arb salary next year, it’s going to take a legitimate haul to pry him loose.
- Last we heard, Moss won’t be made available by the Indians. He isn’t putting up the big numbers he had in recent campaigns, but seems to have been a bit unlucky on the hard contact he’s made. Like Reddick, he’s affordable ($6.5MM this year) and controllable for another season, making him an asset to a Cleveland team that hopes to contend next season.
- Trumbo falls roughly in the same camp as Reddick and Moss, but he’s not as good an overall player. And the 29-year-old has not hit much (.213/.250/.287) since coming over to Seattle. The Mariners are said to be reluctant to sell, despite having fallen well off the pace in the AL West, so Trumbo seems a good bet to stay.
- The Dodgers aren’t sellers, of course, but Ethier and Crawford are just two of many options for the position-player-rich club. With big dollars remaining on both of their deals, the pair of 33-year-olds will have a limited market. They’ll also have quite different markets, as Ethier has produced at his in-prime level at the plate while Crawford has struggled with injury and performance. That makes the former a much more valuable asset, with the latter factoring more as a salary swap candidate.
- Speaking of offloading salary, Cabrera’s $29MM in post-2015 obligations are not looking too good at present. The up-and-down performer is in the latter camp at present, though he has picked things up of late. It’s not clear that there’s much of a market or much impetus to deal him, but it can’t be ruled out if the White Sox look to free some future salary space.
Platoon Candidates & Backups
Alejandro De Aza, Shane Victorino & Daniel Nava (Red Sox), Jonny Gomes (Braves), David Murphy & Ryan Raburn (Indians), Alex Guerrero & Scott Van Slyke (Dodgers), Dustin Ackley (Mariners), Domonic Brown & Jeff Francoeur (Phillies)
- Boston is probably better served by getting an extended look at other options in the outfield — Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo chief among them — and would find at least some interest in its trio of veterans. De Aza has impressed since coming over earlier in the year, and would be a nice fourth outfield piece elsewhere. Victorino, on the other hand, has struggled with injuries and owns a meager .247/.330/.303 slash, so moving him would likely be a matter of saving a bit of cash at the tail end of his deal. And Nava, who himself only just been activated after a long DL stint, has been even worse (.159/.250/.190). Unlike the others, he has control after this year, though he profiles as a non-tender candidate.
- There are several classic veteran platoon pieces among the next several names on the list that could draw varying levels of interest. Murphy is a veteran righty-masher who’s been successful this year. Gomes and Raburn have good numbers against left-handed pitching and are exactly the type of veteran part-time pieces that contenders often look to add. Francoeur has traditionally done the same, though he’s posted reverse platoon splits this season and was wholly unproductive from 2012-14.
- The other players noted come with additional control, but don’t really look like pieces that a team would expect to plug into a starting role. Guerrero and Van Slyke are both enjoying solid years and are part of a busy mix in Los Angeles, though the former can become a free agent after the year if traded and the latter may be too cheap and flexible a piece for the Dodgers to move him.
- As for Ackley and Brown, there are a fair number of similarities. The 27-year-olds once looked like future stars but have fallen shy of expectations. They are each earning $2.6MM this year with two more arb seasons to go. It’s hard to imagine a contender having a ton of interest, and the non-tender specter looms, but either could in theory be change-of-scenery candidates.
Currently in the Minors
Oswaldo Arcia (Twins), Justin Ruggiano, James Jones, & Stefen Romero (Mariners), Robbie Grossman & Alex Presley (Astros), Alfredo Marte & Roger Kieschnick (Angels), Dayan Viciedo & Ryan Roberts (Athletics), Michael Choice (Rangers), Roger Bernadina (Rockies), Chris Heisey (Dodgers)
There are some reasonably interesting names on this list, including some players who could still have some upside remaining in Arcia, Jones, Grossman, and Choice. It remains to be seen how much patience their organizations have, but any could conceivably factor into various trade scenarios. And for contenders seeking depth or final bench piece options, there are some guys with a good bit of big league experience who are playing well at Triple-A, with Ruggiano representing perhaps the most interesting name in that regard.
You can check out the rest of this ongoing series by using the “2015 Trade Market” tag, or by clicking on these links: Catchers, First Basemen, Second Basemen, Shortstops, Third Basemen, Center Fielders.
There doesn’t appear to be a ton of demand on the market for center fielders, in large part because no team in baseball has suffered through truly awful contributions from its present options. A number of clubs that have fallen back (including the Padres, Rangers, Mariners, Athletics, Phillies, and Braves) could potentially have interest in acquiring future-oriented pieces. But as the above link shows, center has been a position of relative strength for many contenders. The Twins rank at the bottom of the list, thanks largely to the since-departed Jordan Schafer, but seem likely to roll with the resurgent Aaron Hicks (with Byron Buxton also now available at the big league level). It’s a somewhat more interesting situation (at least in theory) for the Cardinals, who sport a controllable combination of Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos that has fallen flat after being rather good last year. On the whole, most deadline buyers seem likely to focus on adding center field-capable players to utilize in a corner spot or as fourth outfielders. Let’s turn to the potentially available targets:
Carlos Gomez (Brewers), Gerardo Parra (Brewers), Ben Revere (Phillies), Cameron Maybin (Braves), Will Venable (Padres), Charlie Blackmon (Rockies), Austin Jackson (Mariners), Rajai Davis (Tigers), Michael Bourn (Indians)
- Gomez has been slowed by hamstring and hip injuries in 2015, but he’s still produced a very strong .271/.338/.442 batting line, homering eight times and stealing 11 bases to go along with standout defense. Gomez has gone from looking like an all-glove center fielder to a solid regular to a borderline superstar over the past few seasons. He was worth about 6.5 wins above replacement in both 2013 and 2014, and he’d be close to that pace were it not for 2015 injuries. Gomez is the rare Scott Boras client that took an extension which bought out free agent years. As such, he’s controlled through next season — his age-28 campaign. He’ll earn just $9MM in 2016 and is owed $3.3MM through the end of the current season.
- Parra is better equipped to serve as a corner outfielder but is capable of handling center field. (He manned center much of the time that Gomez was sidelined.) Defensive metrics have soured on Parra over the past two seasons after ranking him as one of the best defenders in baseball, though his limited work in right field this year grades out quite well. His bat has erupted in 2015 as well, and while there’s some BABIP help at work, he’s also just hitting for far more power than he ever has. Parra’s batting .315/.352/.514 this season and is drawing appeal from many teams. He’s owed about $2.59MM through season’s end, but he’s a pure rental, as he’s eligible for free agency this winter.
- Revere’s another player that is probably best-suited in a the corner — specifically left field due to a poor throwing arm. Revere makes up for that lack of a throwing arm with plenty of range, though, and he’s handled all three outfield positions in some capacity this season. Revere offers virtually no power, but he has blistering speed and consistently hits for a high average. He swiped 49 bases in 2014 and is a career .292 hitter. Revere doesn’t walk much and probably never will, but his .296/.334/.377 batting line would look just fine atop many big league lineups. He’s a Super Two player that is earning $4.1MM in 2015 and is controlled through 2017.
- Maybin entered the season as a candidate to rebound in his new Atlanta digs, and he’s done just that. Maybin’s hitting .284/.350/.403 with eight homers and 16 steals. Defensive metrics are way, way down on Maybin in 2015, though he was generally regarded as a plus defender when healthy in previous seasons. Maybin’s owed about $2.9MM through the rest of the current season, plus $8MM in 2016 and at least a $1MM buyout on his $9MM option for the 2017 season. The Braves reportedly are at least open to moving him, though given the remaining control, I imagine they’ll be asking for a substantial package.
- Venable plays a better corner outfield than center field, but he’s seen a large portion of time in center this season following the additions of Justin Upton and Matt Kemp. He’s a rental that’s earning a very reasonable $4.25MM in 2015, of which about $1.77MM remains. Venable’s been just about league average with the bat in 2015 and throughout his career, when adjusting for the fact that he plays in Petco Park. He’s a career .251/.316/.412 hitter, but those numbers would trend upward if he played his home games elsewhere; Venable’s batted .233/.300/.389 at home and .268/.331/.433 on the road in his career.
- Speaking of home/road splits, Blackmon entered the 2015 season with a large discrepancy between his production at and away from Coors Field (like hundreds of hitters before him). However, he’s closed that gap significantly this season and, in fact, has hit nine of his 12 homers on the road. Blackmon still doesn’t hit lefties much, but he brings a nice combination of speed and power to the table. He’d probably be tough to pry away from Colorado, but he’s controlled through 2018. The Rockies desperately need pitching but do have a large number of promising outfielders in the minors, so perhaps a club with a large number of minor league arms could entice Colorado to move the 29-year-old.
- Jackson’s production at the plate has tanked since being traded to Seattle. He’s rebounded somewhat in 2015, hitting .257/.300/.353, but those numbers aren’t particularly close to the .277/.332/.414 line Jackson posted in parts of five years with Detroit. He’s still above average from a defensive standpoint, though, and a move to another team could help to rejuvenate his bat. He’s owed about $3.16MM through the end of the season and is eligible for free agency this winter.
- Davis’ name has only joined the mix of trade candidates recently, with the news that the Tigers may wind up going the way of seller this summer. The two-year, $10MM contract he signed has proved to be a bargain for Detroit, as Davis hit well in 2014 and is doing so again in 2015 with a .261/.321/.412 batting line to go with 14 steals. Davis has about $2.05MM to go on his contract, and a club looking for speed as well as a potent bat against lefties (career .302/.357/.447) would do well to add the 34-year-old to its ranks.
- Nothing’s gone right for Bourn since he signed a four-year, $48MM contract with the Indians. He’s had multiple hamstring injuries, one of which required surgery and cost him the bulk of the 2014 season. Bourn posted a six-win season with the Braves as he entered free agency, but he’s a shell of his former self now. His average, OBP and slugging percentage are all below .300, he’s not stealing bases, and the hamstring issues look to have caused his defense to deteriorate as well. He’s still owed a whopping $19.5MM through the end of the 2016 season. Bourn is a salary dump candidate for any club that wants to try to “buy” a prospect (as the Braves did with Touki Toussaint) or perhaps agree to take on his contract as a means of persuading Cleveland to part with one of its talented young pitchers. Shedding that contract probably has more value to a tight-budgeted Cleveland team than it would to many other clubs.
Sam Fuld (Athletics), Drew Stubbs (Rockies), Brandon Barnes (Rockies), Matt den Dekker (Nationals), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Mets), Ezequiel Carrera (Blue Jays), Abraham Almonte (Padres), Melvin Upton Jr. (Padres)
- Fuld, Stubbs and Barnes all have extensive big league experience as part-time outfielders in the Majors. Each has decent platoon numbers against opposite-handed pitching (particularly the right-handed hitting Stubbs), although Barnes has curiously struggled against lefties this year. Stubbs and Fuld have five-plus years of service time and can be free agents at season’s end. Stubbs, in particular, is a pricey commodity, as he agreed to a $5.825MM contract this offseason on the heels of a big 2014 season.
- Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker, Carrera and Almonte have been up and down over the past few seasons. All hit left-handed and can handle center field relatively well, though they all offer less offense than the three center fielders listed in the previous bullet. Almonte’s probably the best defender of the bunch.
- Upton, of course, has seen his star fade since signing a five-year, $72.5MM contract with the Braves prior to the 2013 season. His contract is among the most burdensome in the game, and the Padres would undoubtedly be open to creative scenarios in which they could offload some of the commitment. That’s a long shot, of course.
Currently in the Minors
- Castillo and Bradley Jr. may have gotten longer looks in the Majors by now were they on a different team. The jury is out on whether or not Bradley will ever hit in the Majors, but he’s a premium defender with plenty of speed and enough upside that other clubs would love to give him a trial. Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5MM contract with Boston last summer but hasn’t received consistent big league at-bats. He’s also looked injury prone in the minors, though that’s partially due to a very aggressive playing style. It seems doubtful that the Sox would really want to move him so soon after making such a strong commitment, but other teams may have some interest in plugging him into the big league outfield.
- Pompey opened the season as Toronto’s center fielder but struggled in the Majors. He was optioned to Triple-A and struggled a great deal there as well before being demoted to Double-A and getting on track. He’s an MLB-ready piece that could help Toronto land a much-needed rotation upgrade.
- Ozuna had a breakout 2014 season but hasn’t hit much in 2015. Some scouts questioned his conditioning early in the year. He was demoted to Triple-A after failing to show the same power or on-base skills he did last year. Ozuna and agent Scott Boras didn’t feel the time was right to talk extension this offseason — a decision that now looks questionable. The Marlins probably still hope he’s part of the future, but one would think he has to be more available now than he was this winter.
- Ruggiano’s a big league veteran that hits lefties well but is shaky in center field from a defensive standpoint. He’s raked at the Triple-A level since being outrighted following a disappointing run in Seattle’s offense-suppressing park.
- Alcantara’s future may be as a super utility player, but he’s not far removed from ranking as a top prospect. He got his feet wet with the Cubs in the bigs last season but has barely seen time at that level in 2015. He’s hitting for power in the minors but not showing much in terms of average or OBP (.249/.305/.464).
- Gentry is a defensive wizard who just didn’t hit much in his second season with the A’s. He typically handles lefties well, and he has plus speed. He’s similar to Bourjos and could help a club needing to patch a leaky defense.
Shortstop has been a tough position to fill around the league this year, as the average player at the position has averaged just an 83 wRC+. Eight teams have received composite sub-replacement-level production at short, though it’s not clear that any of those clubs — with the possible exception of the Twins (though we’ve not really heard that suggested) — are really in the market at the position. The Dodgers, Nationals, and Cubs have not fared well there, but they all seem likely to stick with their veteran incumbents or turn to other internal options.
All said, then, it’s not clear that there is significant demand at shortstop. The Mets, perhaps, are the clearest buyer, particularly now that they’ve moved Wilmer Flores to second. And the Pirates have at least a short-term need with injuries to Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer. While the Padres certainly have looked at times like they could play in that market, San Diego will (if anything) likely be weighing a long-term option given its place in the standings. Likewise, it’s possible to imagine the Reds as a future-oriented buyer. Other teams that could consider an addition, potentially while shifting their current regulars to other roles, are the Angels and Mariners (if the latter can be considered an acquiring team at this point).
Let’s see where things stand on the supply side:
Alexei Ramirez (White Sox), Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies), Elvis Andrus (Rangers), Jean Segura (Brewers), Asdrubal Cabrera (Rays), Jimmy Rollins (Dodgers), Starlin Castro (Cubs), Brad Miller (Mariners), Chris Owings (Diamondbacks), Freddy Galvis (Phillies)
- The veteran Ramirez may be the single shortstop who is most likely to change hands. Now 33, Ramirez has scuffled to a .224/.251/.298 batting line after a strong campaign last year, and he’s playing on a not-insignificant $10MM salary this season. (Plus, his $10MM option for next year comes with a $1MM buyout). Ramirez makes sense for a team in need of a veteran presence, but he doesn’t have the kind of cachet he might have carried last summer.
- Since hip surgery last year, Tulo has not matched his career output — not to mention his huge first half of 2014 — but he’s still been productive and remains a top-end talent. But with nearly 31 years under his belt and $98MM left on his contract (through 2020, plus an option), it’s far from clear that other teams will give up the kind of premium prospect value that Colorado would demand to even consider moving its franchise icon. And he has made clear that he won’t be publicly requesting a deal.
- Andrus’s struggles have been so pronounced that his $120MM extension (which just kicked in this year) now looks like one of the worst obligations in baseball. He’s not without function on a big league roster, and has yet to turn 27, but at this point Texas will almost certainly hang on and hope for a turnaround before even considering an attempt to move him.
- Segura is controllable through 2018, but he’s about to start getting paid and the Brewers don’t have an immediate replacement. He hasn’t been all that productive since his breakout first half in 2013, so it’s hard to see another club doing what would be necessary to pry him loose from Milwaukee.
- Heading into the season, the major question was whether Cabrera could play a productive enough shortstop to match his sturdy (if unspectacular bat). That script has flipped thus far. Regardless, it seems unlikely that the Rays will move him absent a total collapse over the next ten days.
- Rollins is in an analogous position to Ramirez — an aging, expensive veteran who hasn’t matched his 2014 performance — except that he plays for a definite contender. It would take a bold stroke for the Dodgers to move their shortstop and replace him with younger, higher-upside options, but it isn’t entirely out of the question.
- We’ve heard chatter about the possibility of a trade involving Castro for some time, but nothing has gotten done and his value is down after a mediocre first half. While the solid play of Addison Russell makes it plausible for him to take over at short, the team may not be comfortable relying on other young infielders at second. The odds of an offseason deal seem much better.
- Miller has had his ups and downs, particularly with the glove, and may offer more future than present value. He looked more like a trade piece when it seemed that Seattle might be a buyer than he does with the team struggling to gain traction.
- The Diamondbacks continue to surprise, plugging the less-touted Nick Ahmed at shortstop and seemingly branding him as the long-term solution there. Owings, 23, has not matched his promising previous output in the big leagues, but could have more value to another club that wants to us him at short.
- Galvis is cheap, young, versatile defensively, and reasonably useful. And the Phillies are obvious sellers. But the club may see more value in keeping him on board as a flexible stop-gap than in achieving some relatively meager return.
Clint Barmes & Alexi Amarista (Padres), Jonathan Villar & Marwin Gonzalez (Astros), Eduardo Escobar & Eduardo Nunez (Twins), Ruben Tejada (Mets), Andres Blanco (Phillies), Pedro Ciriaco (Braves), Mike Aviles (Indians)
The first three teams listed possess a series of utility types that are probably available and could conceivably provide some function to other clubs in need of a utility option or temporary fill-in at short. The veteran Barmes has paired a solid .284/.324/.440 slash with his typically sturdy defense, while Villar and Gonzalez may have some upside left that another club might take a chance on (with Houston soon to be lacking a need for either with the ascent of Carlos Correa and nearing return of Jed Lowrie). Nunez has put up career-best batting numbers but has done so only in part-time duty. While Aviles might be a useful veteran piece, it’s unclear that he’d be moved with his daughter dealing with serious health questions in Cleveland.
Currently in the Minors
Players like Marrero, Ramirez, Baez, and Alcantara offer some upside and appear blocked (to greater or lesser extent) within their organizations. They could be involved in deals that send back some prospect value for likely sellers (in the case of the first two) or dangled as bait for MLB-level upgrades (in the case of the two Cubbies). The other players listed look more like utility options at this point, but could conceivably change hands.
The Pirates have lost both Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer to injury, severely compromising their infield depth. It’d make sense to see Pittsburgh connected to a number of third basemen in the coming days. They’re not the only team with uncertainties at the hot corner either, as the Mets still don’t know when David Wright will return. Multiple teams would be open to adding a bench bat/utility option capable of handling third base. And, other clubs, such as the White Sox and Indians, may be interested in adding a controllable option to solidify the position in 2016. Here’s a look around the league at some names that could make sense as trade candidates.
Juan Uribe (Braves), Chris Johnson (Braves), Kelly Johnson (Braves), Aramis Ramirez (Brewers), Martin Prado (Marlins), Cody Asche (Phillies), Will Middlebrooks (Padres), Luis Valbuena (Astros), Brett Lawrie (Athletics)
- The Braves possess a trio of veteran options that could fill a need for any club at third base, though trading Chris Johnson will be extremely difficult due to the remaining $19.99MM that he’s guaranteed through 2017. He’s looked overmatched as a starter more often than not, but Johnson does have a pair of nice seasons under his belt, mostly due to BABIP inflation. At the very least, Johnson handles left-handed pitching well. He could be flipped in a swap of bad contracts or have his contract absorbed by another club to entice Atlanta to part with greater talent in a trade.
- Uribe and Kelly Johnson are both versatile veterans that have performed well with the Braves. Uribe’s hit .279/.346/.456 with seven homers and sound defense since coming over from the Dodgers. Johnson’s return to Atlanta has resulted in a .275/.323/.455 slash line. He can play anywhere on the diamond and hasn’t spent much time at third in 2015, but he does have 539 innings there over the past three seasons. Uribe has $2.73MM remaining on his contract, while Johnson’s remaining $631K is a manageable sum for any team.
- Ramirez falls into the “expensive veteran” category and probably wouldn’t command a significant return due to his contract and early-season struggles. He’s still owed $5.89MM this season, but on the plus side, his bat has come to life over the past month. This is an admittedly arbitrary endpoint, but dating back to June 7, Ramirez is hitting .308/.357/.521 in 34 games. Perhaps that’s enough to pique another club’s interest.
- The Marlins have shown zero interest in trading Prado, but the versatile veteran could slide into a number of teams’ rosters at a variety of positions. He spent a month on the disabled list recently but has looked fine since being activated, collecting five hits (two doubles) in 15 at-bats. A small sample, to be sure, but Prado’s hitting a respectable .275/.317/.375 on the season as a whole, and those numbers would trend upward away from Marlins Park, most likely. He’s controlled through 2016, however, so Miami likely wants to keep him around to take another shot at contending next year.
- Once one of the Phillies’ top prospects, Asche has moved to left field to accommodate the emergent Maikel Franco. Asche was solid, if unspectacular at the plate in 2014, homering 10 times to go along with a .252/.309/.390 batting line (96 OPS+) in 434 plate appearances. However, the 25-year-old’s body of work as a whole in the Majors has produced just a .246/.298/.379 batting line. The Phillies need all the young talent they can get, but perhaps they could swap Asche with another struggling prospect and see if a change of scenery (and, in Asche’s case, a return to his natural position) helps both.
- A change of scenery did little to benefit Middlebrooks, as it’s been more of the same for the 26-year-old in San Diego. He’s still showing some power, but he’s walking less than ever and has just a .213/.242/.362 batting line with the Padres. His strikeout rate is down, so perhaps if he can find the 40 or so points missing from his career BABIP mark, the offense would at least look passable.
- Valbuena’s started at third base all year in Houston and has one of the most bizarre batting lines in baseball this season. At 29 years old, he’s exploded with the most power of his career (19 homers, .228 ISO), but he’s hitting just .207/.290/.435 overall. With Jed Lowrie on the mend, the Astros could conceivably afford to move Valbuena to a team in need of some pop at third base (or at second base).
- Lawrie’s name hasn’t come up as a trade candidate to this point, but if Oakland ends up selling, there’s little reason to think that Billy Beane wouldn’t at least entertain the thought of moving Lawrie. After a slow start, Lawrie’s hitting .298/.331/.444. He’s controllable for two seasons beyond he current campaign, so he’d require a club to part with significant talent in order to land him.
Utility Players/Backups/Displaced Veterans
Alex Guerrero (Dodgers), Alberto Callaspo (Dodgers), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Mike Aviles (Indians), Aaron Hill (Diamondbacks), Cliff Pennington (Diamondbacks), Yangervis Solarte (Padres), Marwin Gonzalez (Astros), Eduardo Escobar (Twins), Eduardo Nunez (Twins), Hernan Perez (Brewers), Joaquin Arias (Giants), Ehire Adrianza (Giants), Conor Gillaspie (White Sox), Casey McGehee (Marlins)
- Guerrero’s been a utility player in L.A. this season and has played sparingly. He’s shown great power when in the lineup, however, homering 10 times in 166 plate appearances. There’s a clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent at season’s end if traded, though at least one report has indicated that he’d waive that clause in order to receive everyday playing time. That seems like a lot of leverage to give up, so I’m skeptical, but he could benefit from a greater role elsewhere.
- Callaspo, Beckham, Aviles, Hill and Pennington each have some money remaining on their deals (well — a ton of money in Hill’s case, as he’s owed $17MM through the end of next season). None of the group is hitting at all in 2015, though Aviles is performing the best at the plate. Aviles and Pennington both have the bonus of being able to play shortstop and second base. Hill, Beckham and Callaspo can all play second or third.
- Solarte, Gonzalez, Escobar and Nunez can all play all over the infield, and both Nunez and Escobar have seen corner outfield time as well. Each of these four has been penciled in as something a bit more than a utility player recently, though no one from this group has showed sustained success at the plate. The Twins and Astros are both contending, so they’d likely need to receive Major League talent back to part with their utility options.
- Perez, Adrianza and Arias are all capable of handling multiple positions as well, but each has posted dismal numbers at the plate this season.
- Gillaspie, who saw the bulk of starts at third base for Chicago over the past few seasons, was recently designated for assignment. He’s not a great defender and doesn’t hit lefties, but he’s a competent bat against right-handed pitching and has shown enough power to hit double-digit homers. McGehee was released by the Giants and returned to Miami, where he resuscitated his career in 2014. However, he hasn’t hit much at either stop this season.
Currently in the Minors
Lonnie Chisenhall (Indians), Matt Davidson (White Sox), Mike Olt (Cubs), Erisbel Arruebarrena (Dodgers), Matt Dominguez (Brewers), Elian Herrera (Brewers), Kevin Frandsen (Giants), Ryan Roberts (A’s), Steve Lombardozzi (Pirates)
As I did in looking at second basemen, I kept the “currently in the minors” section to players who have some degree of big league experience already. Chisenhall was a starter as recently as last season, but he’s never strung together any consistent success, is a poor defender and has struggled against left-handed pitching. Davidson and Olt both graced Top 100 prospect lists a couple of years ago, but both have issues making contact. Arruebarena’s a defensive specialist at shortstop that is owed about $14.26MM through 2018. Dominguez hasn’t hit at Triple-A with the Brewers or Astros in 2015, though he’s still just 25 years old and has shown 20-homer pop in the Majors before. Herrera’s a utility option that is hitting well at Triple-A but hasn’t hit in 470 big league plate appearances. Frandsen, 33, and the 34-year-old Roberts are both veteran righty bats that can play multiple positions. Each is hitting well in the minors. Lombardozzi represents another versatile option that’s never hit much in the Majors.
With less than two weeks until the trade deadline, a number of clubs find themselves in need of infield help. The Yankees, Royals and Angels, in particular, stand out as first-place clubs that have gotten little production out of the second base position. Though the Cubs and Nationals don’t presently appear to have a spot open, either club could shift other assets around and move its incumbent second baseman to another spot in order to improve its overall lineup production. Here’s a look around the league at some players that could at least theoretically make sense as trade options…
- Zobrist is the most interesting name on the second base trade market and has been for quite some time, though reports out of Oakland have consistently indicated a reluctance to sell. Zobrist is a free agent at year’s end, however, and his versatile nature (he can play virtually any position) and solid bat make him a very appealing trade chip for the A’s. Because he can play anywhere, one could reasonably present a case to be made for 20 teams to show interest in Zobrist, who will be one of the only credible infield bats on this year’s trade market.
- A number of road blocks stand in the way of trading Phillips. First and foremost, the veteran and longtime Red has 10-and-5 rights, meaning he’d have to personally approve any trade to another club. Secondly, he’s still owed about $5.5MM in 2015 and $32.5MM through the 2017 season. The trouble with that, of course, is that Phillips is no longer the offensive threat he once was. While the 34-year-old still is considered a plus defender at second, he’s batted just .271/.311/.370 since Opening Day 2014 despite playing his home games in one of the better hitting environments in Major League Baseball. (His OPS+ of 89 this season matches his 2014 output exactly.) Expensive, aging assets with declining skills at the plate are tough sells on the trade market.
- There’s been nothing to this point that would indicate that LeMahieu is available, but the 27-year-old’s value isn’t likely to get much higher than it presently is. LeMahieu is not yet arbitration eligible but will be this winter. He’s a premium defender in the midst of a career year at the plate. While many teams won’t be sold on his offense — and rightfully so; his home OPS is 216 points higher than his road mark — there’s probably enough bat and certainly enough speed/defense here for the last place Rockies to receive a solid offer or two.
- The Diamondbacks’ middle infielders have drawn consistent interest, and Owings could be viewed by some as a long-term piece at shortstop or at second base. He’s not hitting in 2015 (.231/.261./.328), but he was a Rookie of the Year candidate prior to getting hurt in 2014 and is controllable through 2019.
- Gyorko’s stock peaked at the end of the 2013 season, resulting in a five-year, $35MM extension. It’s been all downhill from there, as Gyorko has followed up a 23-homer, .249/.301/.444 rookie season with a .214/.283/.334 triple slash in 171 games. He was signed by San Diego’s former front office, so it’s possible that the new regime isn’t as fond of him as former GM Josh Byrnes and Co. (Byrnes is now with the Dodgers.) Gyorko’s still just 26 and is not far removed from ranking as one of the game’s top prospects, so perhaps a team with a need at second can dream on Gyorko a bit and buy low on the change-of-scenery candidate. Getting out of Petco Park would certainly help any hitter.
- Utley, like Phillips, has 10-and-5 rights that allow him to veto a trade to any club. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has already stated that he doesn’t think Utley is his team’s best second baseman (though Amaro walked those comments back somewhat), so perhaps that potentially abrasive statement will make Utley more amenable to a trade. Of course, a team would still have to express interest in Utley, which may not be likely. He’s slashing .179/.257/.275 and earning $15MM in 2015.
- The Royals shopped Infante for much of the offseason and would undoubtedly like to escape from the remaining $3.44MM on Infante’s 2015 salary — to say nothing of the $17.75MM he’s owed in 2016-17. It’s tough to envision a taker, given Infante’s .232/.245/.303 batting line, though. I would think he could be moved in a swap of bad contracts or that a rebuilding club could take on what’s left of his deal in order to entice Kansas City to part with more talent in a trade.
Current Backups/Utility Options
Alex Guerrero (Dodgers), Brad Miller (Mariners), Grant Green (Angels), Derek Dietrich (Marlins), Aaron Hill (D-Backs), Cliff Pennington (D-Backs), Stephen Drew (Yankees), Emilio Bonifacio (White Sox), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Brock Holt (Red Sox), Eric Sogard (A’s), Yangervis Solarte (Padres), Dan Uggla (Nationals), Adam Rosales (Rangers), Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Eduardo Escobar (Twins), Eduardo Nunez (Twins), Ryan Raburn (Indians), Pete Kozma (Cardinals)
- Guerrero may be the most interesting name here. He’s come up in trade rumors on numerous occasions and shown excellent power in a pitcher-friendly environment. However, he also gains the right to become a free agent at season’s end if he’s traded at any point throughout his deal.
- Miller is young and has the upside remaining to profile as a starter for interested teams (though possibly at shortstop and not second base). He’d probably be difficult for the Mariners to move, but they have Robinson Cano at second base and other internal shortstop options such as Chris Taylor and the currently injured Ketel Marte.
- Green and Dietrich have been looked at as potential starters in the past and have been productive Triple-A bats with limited success in the Majors. Neither exactly fits the mold of top prospect, but a team looking for controllable infield depth could inquire on either. Dietrich is hitting well for the Marlins this season, but he grades out poorly from a defensive standpoint at both second base and his current position, third base. He’s already 26, and if the Marlins hang onto Martin Prado, he’d be left without a starting spot for 2016.
- There’s been nothing to suggest that Holt is available in trades, but from a purely speculative standpoint, his versatility would make him appealing to other clubs if the 42-49 Red Sox are open to dealing from their big league roster.
- Hill falls into the “overpriced veteran” territory, as does Drew (to a lesser extent). The rest of the list consists of utility types (Solarte, Bonifacio, Pennington) and/or defensive specialists (Goins, Kozma).
Currently in the Minors
I kept the list of players at the minor league level to those that have experience in the Majors already, as listing every productive minor league second baseman that could be dealt opens an extremely wide range of speculation — even for the purposes of a post like this. Baez’s name is the most highly regarded in this bunch. His power and bat speed are well known, but so, too, is his proclivity for strikeouts. He’d still probably have to be a return for a pretty notable piece in order to be traded. Alcantara and Franklin have both been viewed as potential starters in the past, while Pirela’s probably more of a utility option. Arruebarrena is an expensive defensive specialist that has seemingly fallen out of favor with his organization.