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Needless to say, right-handed relief pitching is perhaps the most-moved asset during July. Last year, things got started with a swap of righties Carlos Marmol and Matt Guerrier, with Mitchell Boggs, Francisco Rodriguez, Guillermo Moscoso, Jesse Crain, and Jose Veras also moving in July. The August revocable waiver trade period saw John Axford and Vic Black change hands.
Significant movement has already occurred this year, of course, with Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli swapping jerseys. Since that time, quality arms like Joakim Soria, Huston Street, and Jason Frasor have gone to contending clubs. That does not mean that the action is over on this front, however. Let’s see who else might be available:
Koji Uehara (Red Sox), Joaquin Benoit (Padres), Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies), Steve Cishek (Marlins), Brad Ziegler (D’backs), Chad Qualls (Astros), LaTroy Hawkins (Rockies), John Axford (Indians), Grant Balfour (Rays), Jim Johnson (Athletics)
- If the Red Sox decide to market Uehara, rather than holding onto him and either making a qualifying offer or extending him, he would likely be the best arm available. Uehara is the kind of dominating closer that can add huge value down the stretch and in the postseason, and would figure to draw substantial interest from any team with an eye on October. He is owed very little this year, and would be a pure rental.
- Benoit has somewhat quietly been nothing short of dominant over the last two years. He is owed $8MM next year and comes with a $8MM club option ($1.5MM buyout) for 2016. Of course, San Diego has indicated that it will only move its newly-minted closer for a big return, having already dealt away Street.
- Papelbon has actually been quite a bit more effective than one might expect, given all the negativity surrounding his contract and stay in Philadelphia. The 33-year-old’s velocity is down, but so is his ERA (1.91). And while the contract still looks bloated, it no longer seems entirely untradeable. Papelbon’s annual rate is $13MM both this year and next, and he comes with an achievable vesting option for the same price in 2016 (vests with 55 games finished next year or 100 total between 2014-15).
- Cishek is an arb-eligible 28-year-old playing on a $3.8MM Super Two salary. His ERA is at a career-worst 3.32 — he’s allowed less than three earned per nine in every full season of his career — but his FIP is at a career-best 2.06. Though it seems that the Marlins are unwilling to move him, his swiftly rising salary means that you can’t rule out the possibility if the right offer came in.
- Though he has not spent much time in a closing capacity, Ziegler does have some experience there after logging 13 saves last year. More importantly, the 34-year-old has not seen his ERA land above its current 2.84 level since the 2010 season. He is striking out more batters than usual (7.8 K/9), while his walk totals remain in line with his career numbers (3.0 BB/9) and he continues to induce a ridiculous number of ground-balls (66.4%). Owed a reasonable $5MM next year, and coming with a $5.5MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2016, his contract also looks pretty good — although that is also why Arizona is reportedly inclined to keep him.
- Qualls and Hawkins, both veterans of the league, are currently working as closers but would almost certainly be dropped in the pen hierarchy on a contender. The pair has been effective over the past two seasons, and both play for obvious sellers. But the Astros have indicated that they are hesitant to move the more desirable Qualls (who they control for two more years), while the Rockies could also opt for stability rather than a meager return on Hawkins (who will be a free agent and has struck out just 4.4 batters per nine).
- Then we arrive at the highly-paid, deposed closers: Axford, Balfour, and Johnson. The 31-year-old Axford comes with control, but could be a non-tender candidate again this year. Though he is the only one of this trio that has been reasonably productive this year (3.23 ERA, 11.1 K/9 vs. 6.0 BB/9), little in the way of rumors suggest that he is being asked about or shopped. Meanwhile, Balfour and Johnson are both grossly overpaid and underperforming, and could surely be had for a meager return, with their current teams eating most or all of their salaries. (The latter, of course, is in DFA limbo at the moment and could become freely available at league minimum in short order.)
Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica (Red Sox), Juan Carlos Oviedo (Rays), Scott Atchison (Indians), Ronald Belisario and Javy Guerra (White Sox), Casey Fien and Jared Burton (Twins), Neftali Feliz (Rangers), Jose Veras (Astros), Carlos Torres and Daisuke Matsuzaka (Mets), Carlos Villanueva (Cubs), Tim Stauffer and Blaine Boyer (Padres), Matt Belisle (Rockies)
Among these players, only Belisario, Guerra, Torres, and Fien come with control extending beyond 2015. Neither of the ChiSox hurlers has been that good, however, and the Mets and Twins will probably be in no rush to move Torres and Fien since they come with multiple years of control and should remain fairly inexpensive.
The other arms are purely short-term options who could help with depth down the stretch and (in some cases) next year. Feliz has had his struggles and will not be cheap as a project arm, and probably will get a chance to regain his form in Texas. Otherwise, Badenhop is probably the prize of this group after Fien; he has been steady for the third straight year and shouldn’t be expensive (in dollars or prospects) as he prepares to hit the open market. Belisle could be an intriguing buy-low rental, as his numbers continue to be inflated by pitching at Coors Field, though he has also seen his FIP rise to 4.12 on the back of a troubling dip in his strikeout numbers against recent seasons (6.4 K/9 this year after averaging 7.9 K/9 over prior four campaigns).
Last night, the Tigers landed one of the top available relievers on the trade market in Rangers right-hander Joakim Soria. While Soria should go a long way towards shoring up Detroit’s bullpen, many have wondered if Detroit might continue to work the phones for an additional relief option, particularly given the struggles of left-handers Phil Coke and Ian Krol. I asked Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski earlier today if he might go after a southpaw in the next week.
“I don’t know I would get into what we’re specifically addressing, but we’re open-minded to different thought processes. Our bullpen has struggled at times and we want to have people that put up zeroes out there,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve tried a lot of guys at that and we remain open-minded if something makes sense to make us better before the trade deadline.”
The Tigers have been in need of bullpen reinforcements for some time and Dombrowski has been focused on Soria “for a while.” The GM said that he started chatting with Rangers GM Jon Daniels in June and things picked up more and more with time. And while Soria didn’t come cheap — he cost the Tigers promising pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel — he believed that it was a price they could afford to pay thanks to their pitching depth. Soria’s affordable $7MM club option also helped Dombrowski to pull the trigger since he will likely be more than just a rental.
“I don’t think it made the deal, but it was a real plus for us,” the GM said.
Of course, if things went differently for the Tigers this season, they might not have had to make a trade like this at all. Dombrowski acknowledged that he’d be in a “different situation” if Bruce Rondon was with the club. They’re also “not counting” on a 2014 return for Joel Hanrahan and the odds were termed as being “highly unlikely.”
While Soria has a long history as a successful closer, Dombrowski is insistent that Joe Nathan will continue to pitch in the ninth-inning despite his struggles this season. When asked what it might take for Soria to possible leapfrog Nathan and close out games, the Tigers GM declined to speculate or set expectations for the 39-year-old. For now, Soria is there to help build a better bridge to Nathan and the veteran appears to be all for it. Before pulling the trigger on the deal, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones asked Nathan and Ian Kinsler about how they feel Soria might fit in with the team. One of the replies they got back was, “Why don’t we have him yet?’“
The trade deadline will be upon us next week, but the 2014-15 free agent class still warrants an early look. My June edition of the 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings can be found here, and the full list of 2015 free agents is here.
1. Max Scherzer. Scherzer overcame a midseason hiccup by posting a 1.87 ERA over his last five starts, bringing him back down to 3.34 on the season. He even picked up the win for the American League in the All-Star Game. It’s been a long time since agent Scott Boras has had a starting pitcher of this caliber as a free agent.
2. Jon Lester. Lester isn’t far behind Scherzer, having allowed three earned runs in 38 2/3 innings since our last set of rankings. Lester owns a 2.50 ERA as well as superb timing, and he’s been better than Scherzer this year. Lester hasn’t whiffed this many batters since 2010, and he’s never shown this level of control. Accounting for performance prior to this year, I still give Scherzer the overall edge. Around late June the Red Sox looked to reignite extension talks with Lester, but the pitcher did not receive a new offer and continues to prefer to table discussions until after the season. With the Red Sox slipping in the standings of late, Lester could be traded by the July 31st deadline and freed of a qualifying offer.
3. Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez’s shoulder and calf have been bothering him, and he’s been hit by pitches three times this month. The 30-year-old avoided the DL and continues to hit well. On the other hand, he’s giving back some runs in the field, and defensive question marks are enough to push him down a few spots in the rankings.
4. James Shields. With a 4.39 ERA since May, Shields has failed to keep pace with Lester. Still, Shields’ 2014 peripheral stats are mostly better than last year’s, which led to a 3.15 ERA. The Royals also seem to be hanging around contention enough that they won’t give serious consideration to trading the big righty. With a new contract that will begin with his age-33 season, Shields will be difficult to price in free agency.
5. Pablo Sandoval. As of May 13th, Sandoval’s OPS was down to .554. He’s at .903 since then, with a .335/.370/.533 line in 230 plate appearances. Just 28 in August, Sandoval has age on his side relative to most free agents.
6. Nelson Cruz. Cruz has stumbled since our last set of rankings, hitting .229/.282/.422 in 117 plate appearances. He still ranks second in all of baseball in home runs and RBI, and could top his career-high of 33 longballs at some point in August. Cruz is another tough free agent to price, as teams will be buying into his age 34-36 seasons (and perhaps age 37, if things go well for the slugger).
7. Victor Martinez. V-Mart’s resurgent contract year has continued unabated. Though he’ll be 36 in December, Martinez’s goal might be a three-year pact. On June 29th, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that while there have been no extension discussions, Martinez would love to remain in Detroit. One complication for the Tigers is that Miguel Cabrera is signed through 2023 and will probably need to move to DH at some point.
8. Yasmani Tomas. A new entrant to this list, Tomas is a different kind of potential free agent. As Ben Badler of Baseball America explained on June 20th, Tomas left Cuba to pursue an MLB contract but still has to clear the usual hurdles before he’s free to sign. A 23-year-old corner outfielder, Badler pegs Tomas’ raw power as a 70. It seems possible Tomas’ actual free agency will coincide with the MLB offseason. Jose Abreu‘s dazzling debut has made his $68MM contract look like a bargain, which should help Tomas score big. It’s worth noting that Tomas isn’t said to be as polished as Abreu and likely doesn’t have the same ceiling. He is younger, however, which helps his cause.
9. Melky Cabrera. Cabrera, 29, is hitting .305/.352/.463 on the season. His ties to Biogenesis cloud the picture, but his injury-shortened 2013 might end up being Cabrera’s only poor season in his last four.
10. Russell Martin. Perhaps Martin can’t maintain his .271 batting average, but he’s in the midst of another solid campaign and doesn’t turn 32 until February. Teams are also placing more and more emphasis on catching defense, and Martin has gunned down 37 percent of attempted base-stealers while ranking sixth in extra strikes added via pitch framing, per Baseball Prospectus.
This month’s Kenta Maeda watch: the 26-year-old Japanese righty is down to a 2.08 ERA in 15 starts. Ervin Santana has been decent of late. Jason Hammel was traded to Oakland and has seen his ERA rise from 2.98 to 3.35 after two starts. Josh Beckett returns from a DL stint for a hip injury tonight.
You likely won’t find a reliever cracking the top 10, but closers David Robertson, Francisco Rodriguez, Casey Janssen and Rafael Soriano have been excellent, while Luke Gregerson and Andrew Miller have been lights out in a setup capacity.
Among position players, Chase Headley, who earlier today was traded to the Yankees, is still not showing any power (though perhaps a move to the hitter-friendly parks of the AL East can change that). Colby Rasmus was placed in something of a platoon role earlier this month. Nick Markakis leads MLB in plate appearances and has been useful this year. Aramis Ramirez, who like Markakis has a mutual option on his deal, is having a nice year at the plate as well. Stephen Drew‘s bat has started to come alive this month after his late start to the season, while Kendrys Morales is hitting .295/.319/.432 over an 11-game hitting streak. Neither Boras client has very appealing overall numbers. Both Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Morse have dropped off the list after sluggish performances since our last edition of the rankings. A strong finish could put either back onto the map.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
We’ve already looked at the trade markets for catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, corner outfielders and center fielders. Up next is starting pitchers, and there’s never any shortage of starters dealt in the summer trade market. Last year, we saw Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Ian Kennedy, Jake Peavy and Matt Garza get dealt to new clubs, and this year, there have already been a few early moves.
The Yankees acquired Brandon McCarthy from the D’Backs in exchange for young southpaw Vidal Nuno, and the A’s pulled off what could end up as the summer’s biggest deal when they landed both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs in exchange for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.
Here’s a look at some of the remaining arms that could hear their names mentioned over the next week-plus (and possibly into August)…
- Trade rumors surrounding Price have been plentiful, but the Rays’ recent surge and the declining success of division rivals might convince Tampa to hang onto its ace. He’s controlled through 2015 (and projects to earn $18-20MM next year), meaning that any team will have to gut its farm to acquire Price. Acquiring Price is a win-now move that is going to hurt his new team’s minor league system in a big way. The A’s gave up a Top 5 prospect in Russell; their 2013 first-rounder in McKinney; and a 25-year-old righty with five-plus years of team control left in Straily. Price will command a similar, if not more significant package, though as Peter Gammons reported yesterday, they’ll wait until the final 48 hours prior to the deadline before deciding to sell.
- Lee’s health is up in the air. He struggled in his return from elbow strain and will make at least one more start before the non-waiver deadline. If he’s healthy, Lee is a difference-maker that can lead a rotation for this year and next, though he’s guaranteed roughly $48MM through the end of next season. Part of that is a $12.5MM buyout on a $27.5MM vesting option for 2016 that will trigger with 200 innings pitched next year. A deep-pocketed team could conceivably add Lee for two-and-a-half seasons, but that contract limits his market.
- Hamels is guaranteed just under $100MM from now through 2018, and he has a $20MM vesting option for 2019 as well. He’s among the game’s most consistently excellent pitchers, and at 30 years of age, he still has some prime years remaining. Hamels can block trades to 20 clubs, but among the deep-pocketed teams to which he cannot block a trade are the Dodgers and Yankees. The Cardinals and Red Sox are two teams with a glut of MLB-ready talent that could put together a package for Hamels as well.
- The odds of Lester being dealt are slim, to say the least, but if the two sides realize that no deal is going to happen until free agency, rival clubs will at least inquire on the possibility of renting Lester for August through October. Boston will be in the mix to sign him as a free agent, regardless, and the return would be significant. Lester has a 2.50 ERA with his best strikeout rate since 2010 and the lowest walk rate of his career.
- Shields, like Lester, is unlikely to be dealt as the Royals maintain hope for a strong second half that would propel them into the postseason. It would take something like a 10-game losing streak for the Royals to really entertain the thought of dealing Shields, and even then, the team may prefer to simply hang onto him and make a qualifying offer at season’s end.
Mid-Rotation Arms/Innings Eaters/Back-End Starters
Ian Kennedy (Padres), Bartolo Colon (Mets), Jake Peavy (Red Sox), John Lackey (Red Sox), A.J. Burnett (Phillies), Roberto Hernandez (Phillies), Kyle Kendrick (Phillies), Kevin Correia (Twins), Jorge De La Rosa (Rockies), Scott Feldman (Astros), Erik Bedard (Rays), John Danks (White Sox), Justin Masterson (Indians), Brandon McCarthy (Yankees), Colby Lewis (Rangers), Edwin Jackson (Cubs), Ross Detwiler (Nationals), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Mets), Marco Estrada (Brewers)
- Kennedy has reemerged as a strong starting option, and some may consider him eligible for the previous section of this post based on his strong numbers in 2014. A 3.68 ERA, 2.98 FIP and a career-best strikeout rate (9.5 K/9) combined with team control through 2015 make him an outstanding trade chip for San Diego. The asking price will be lofty, and certainly more than head-scratching package of Joe Thatcher, Matt Stites and a Competitive Balance pick that San Diego sent to Arizona last summer to acquire him.
- Colon is known to be available, and despite his age and body type, he’s having a strong first season in Queens. The Mets might not trade many pieces this summer, but Colon is the most likely to go, and with a 4.12 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 126 2/3 innings, his two-year, $20MM contract looks like a reasonable price. If a team simply needs some above-average innings behind its front-line starters, Colon is a great fit.
- Peavy’s name has been popular lately, and while his velocity is down and most of his stats are declining, he’s a serviceable right-hander that can slot into the back of a rotation — particularly in the NL. He’s owed about $6MM through season’s end, and Boston could sweeten the pot by eating some salary. With ready-made replacements like Rubby De La Rosa in-house, the Sox should be motivated to move him.
- Lackey’s contract has a ridiculously cheap $500K option for 2015 that triggered after he missed a season with Tommy John surgery, and that will be highly appealing to rival clubs. There’s been talk that he could simply retire rather than play for that amount, but that seems unlikely when he clearly has plenty left in the tank.
- Burnett has a limited no-trade clause, and his stats have declined along with his velocity in 2014. Still, he’s posted a 4.08 ERA and would be of interest to teams looking for a mid-rotation piece to bolster the back of a potential playoff rotation. Burnett has a player option on his deal that he doesn’t seem likely to exercise, barring a poor finish to the season.
- Hernandez has walked way too many hitters this season, but control hasn’t been an issue with him since 2010, so a different team might think it can help him get back to his low-walk ways. He gets plenty of ground-balls and has whiffed better than six per nine over the past two seasons. With a cheap price tag, he could have some appeal to another club for a very modest return.
- Kendrick is somewhat similar to Hernandez. He generates fewer grounders and strikeouts but comes with better command, albeit at a higher price tag ($7.7MM in 2014). He’s a free agent at year’s end and won’t be receiving a qualifying offer, so the Phils would seemingly be open to dealing him. Given his down season (4.87 ERA), however, the return wouldn’t be much.
- Correia’s overall numbers don’t look great, but he’s quietly pitched to an excellent 2.87 ERA over his past eight starts, and he has a 3.96 ERA dating back to May 1. However, his K/9 rate is the lowest in baseball among qualified starters, and he comes with limited upside. A team with a need in the fifth spot of its rotation could do worse, and his modest $5.5MM salary isn’t as burdensome as some similar starters (e.g. Kendrick).
- De La Rosa, a free agent at season’s end, is sporting a 4.39 ERA that doesn’t look highly impressive on the surface. However, his fastball velocity, ground-ball rate and strikeout rate are all up this year. A move from Coors Field would be beneficial, and he’s already been connected to the Orioles. Other teams have undoubtedly noticed some of his improvements this year, even if a slight increase in walks and decrease in strand rate have hurt his ERA.
- It’d be a surprise to see Houston deal Feldman just three months into a three-year deal, but the Astros have recently shown a willingness to deal almost anyone. Feldman is having a marginal season, but the Astros did front-load his contract, perhaps making it slightly more appealing in trades.
- Bedard’s strikeout rate this year isn’t what it once was, and he’s recently shifted to the bullpen for the Rays. A move out of the AL East might benefit him some (he’s been rocked by Toronto and Baltimore), but every division has some tough lineups. The asking price figures to be minimal, but the former ace isn’t much more than a No. 5 option at this point.
- The roughly $34MM still owed to Danks through the 2016 season drags down his value, but also figures to substantially lower Chicago’s asking price. Danks has a 3.41 ERA over his past 11 starts as well, suggesting that he may be recovered from shoulder surgery that cost him a calendar year from May 2012 to May 2013.
- Masterson has had a brutal year, thanks in part to a fastball that has dipped by 2.5 mph and a BB/9 rate that has spiked north of 5.00. Currently on the DL for a knee issue, he could possibly be acquired by a team that thinks resting his knee will return him to the form that made him one of the top projected free agents prior to this season. Of course, Cleveland may not be willing to sell low on its former ace.
- McCarthy has been a sabermetric darling this year, as his 4.8063 ERA doesn’t line up with his 2.87 xFIP or 2.98 SIERA. McCarthy has the best strikeout and ground-ball rates of his career to go along with excellent command. If the Yankees decide they can’t recover from Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury, they could flip McCarthy, perhaps for more than they gave up, as Vidal Nuno wasn’t too steep a price to pay.
- Solid strikeout and walk rates have helped Lewis post a reasonable 4.11 FIP, but his 6.37 ERA doesn’t look anywhere near as appealing. Lewis’ .413 BABIP will come down, but a contender might not want to wait for his luck to turn around. Needless to say, the asking price wouldn’t be much for any team looking to buy low.
- Another pitcher whose FIP (4.27), xFIP (3.95) and SIERA (4.13) all suggest that Jackson has been better than his 5.61 ERA, the Cubs would almost certainly be happy to move some of his remaining $26.4MM, but it’s tough to envision too many interested parties, despite a career-best 8.1 K/9.
- Detwiler has been shifted to the bullpen this year following the Doug Fister trade, despite the fact that he performed well as a starter with the Nats over the past few years. He now sports a 3.61 ERA out of the ‘pen, and he’s controllable through next season. Earning just $3MM this season, he won’t be too expensive after his final round of arbitration.
- Matsuzaka hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in his return to the Mets, but he’s been a solid swingman, making nine starts (4.24 ERA) and 18 relief appearances (2.45 ERA). His strikeout rate is a strong 8.6 per nine innings, but he’s shown his usual control problems (5.5 BB/9).
- Estrada hasn’t pitched particularly well in 2014, as his strikeout rate has dropped while his walk rate has increased substantially. Always homer-prone, he’s averaged more than two long balls per nine innings this season. He’s controlled through 2015, so a team could buy low on him as a rotation option for this year and next, while the Brewers replace him with Jimmy Nelson (of course, that scenario is just speculation).
Controllable/Young Arms with MLB Experience
- Delgado’s name was somewhat curiously absent from Arizona’s list of untouchable players. Despite being a key piece to the 2013 Justin Upton trade, he seems to have fallen out of favor with the organization, to an extent. Rather than give him a shot in the rotation, the D’Backs inked Bronson Arroyo in the offseason. And now, even with the rotation in disarray, Delgado is in the bullpen. He’s posted a 3.99 ERA and 11.7 K/9 as a reliever, but some clubs may look at the former Top 50 prospect as a buy-low rotation candidate. He’s controlled through 2018.
- Ross, too, is unlikely to be dealt, as he’s controlled through 2017 as a Super Two player and has broken out over the past calendar year with the Friars. The 27-year-old has the lowest contact rate among all qualified starters (hat tip: Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune on Twitter), and he’s posted an even 3.00 ERA since Opening Day 2013.
- Also controlled through 2017, Milone lost his roster spot when Oakland acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. That’s a harsh reality for a southpaw with a career 3.84 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 468 2/3 innings. O.Co Coliseum has no doubt helped his ERA, but Milone profiles as a controllable back-of-the-rotation starter (if not more) and is seemingly without a rotation spot this year or next (when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin will return). Milone’s name will undoubtedly be popular after yesterday’s reports that he asked the A’s to trade him. It’s tough to see the A’s moving him without a pretty strong return, however.
- With a 4.72 ERA in a dozen starts, Santiago hasn’t fortified the rotation as the Angels has hoped. The 26-year-old lefty has a career 3.61 ERA with 8.7 K/9, but poor control (4.3 BB/9) and some good fortune on balls in play have led FIP, xFIP and SIERA to project something in the low to mid-4.00 range. He’s controlled through 2017 as well.
- Doubront has been shuffled back and forth between Boston’s bullpen and rotation over the past few seasons, and the 26-year-old could ultimately benefit from a change of scenery. Doubront has seen his fastball velocity decline rapidly since 2012, and his strikeout rate has fallen accordingly. That might dissuade teams that would’ve been interested a year ago from looking him up now. Like many others on this list, he’s controlled through 2017.
- A former first-rounder and the centerpiece of Miami’s trade of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, Turner may have fallen out of the Marlins’ rotation plans. With Jose Fernandez, Andrew Heaney, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi looking like the future front four, Turner would be competing with a host of other prospects for the fifth slot. He’s posted a 6.22 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 63 2/3 innings in 2014 and has been in the bullpen since mid-June. Turner is controlled through 2018.
- Miller was recently shifted to the bullpen after posting a 5.65 ERA over a 10-start stretch. Overall, his ERA is a seemingly passable 4.25, but a 4.79 FIP and 4.88 xFIP suggest that he’s been fortunate to keep it that low. Miller was once one of baseball’s top prospects and was outstanding for most of 2013, which would make him an excellent buy-low candidate. St. Louis may be hesitant to include him in a deal for an impact player, but he’d still be plenty intriguing to other clubs.
A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week:
- MLBTR continued to break down the 2014 trade market position-by-position with Charlie Wilmoth’s look at corner outfielders, Jeff Todd’s survey of first basemen, and Steve Adams’ study of third basemen and center fielders.
- Brad Johnson asked MLBTR readers whether the Phillies will swing a deadline deal. More than 82% of you believe Ruben Amaro Jr. will make a trade before either the non-waiver Trade Deadline (July 31) or during the August waiver trading period.
- Steve hosted this week’s live chat.
- Zach Links assembled the best of the baseball blogosphere for you in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.
Last year’s first base market was a quiet one, with Justin Morneau the only true full-time option to change hands. Of course, he was not dealt until the end of August. Several other players that have logged some innings at first also were swapped, including Michael Morse, Alberto Callaspo, and Michael Young, but none spent significant time at the position for their new clubs in 2013.
Will this year see more sluggers join contenders? Classifying the potentially available first baggers poses something of a challenge, but let’s see who might be available:
Justin Morneau (Rockies), Allen Craig and Matt Adams (Cardinals), James Loney Rays), Garrett Jones (Marlins), Ryan Howard (Phillies), Carlos Pena (Rangers), Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez (Pirates), Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison (Mariners), Yonder Alonso (Padres)
- Morneau could well become the most impactful first bagger to be dealt for a second consecutive year — if, that is, the Rockies are willing to move him. Owner Dick Monfort has expressed a general unwillingness to part with the club’s veterans, though the recently-signed Morneau has not been singled out as being off limits. The veteran owns an .846 OPS, by far his best mark since a concussion derailed his run as one of the game’s premier hitters back in 2010. He is only owed the remainder of a $5MM salary this year, and comes with a $6.75MM guarantee for 2015 along with a $9MM mutual buyout ($750K buyout) for 2016.
- Speculation has it that the Cardinals might consider moving one of the team’s two cost-controlled first base bats, owing in part to something of a roster logjam. Trouble is, Craig has stopped hitting (.648 OPS on the year) and the $26.5MM he is owed from 2015-18 (including a buyout of a $13MM option in the last season) no longer looks terribly appealing. The opposite is true of Adams, who owns an .876 OPS and will not even be arb-eligible until 2016, but surely St. Louis would hesitate to deal him for anything less than an impactful return in the midst of a pennant chase.
- Loney, who owns a .275/.333/.372 line midway through the first season of a three-year, $21MM pact, seems fairly unlikely to be dealt by the Rays. That is especially true given that the club is said to be disinclined to conduct a sell-off that might prevent it from contending next year (if not this season as well). On the other hand, if things go south over the next two weeks and the demand is there — or, perhaps, if the Rays add a younger, MLB-ready replacement through some other moves — a Loney deal is not out of the question.
- Even if the Marlins’ contention hopes appear to be fading somewhat, the club seems inclined to keep a competitive product on the field. That could make Jones unavailable, and he would generate limited interest regardless. Jones has been useful at the plate this year against righties (.806 OPS), though he hovers at replacement level as a full-time first baseman. He is owed $5MM next year, as well.
- Howard, meanwhile, has continued to fall off and now owns a .220/.300/.381 triple-slash that is by far the worst mark of his career. Though he could have some appeal as a platoon partner and bench bat, he is actually performing worse against righties than lefties at this point (.671 OPS vs. .711 OPS). More importantly, the $60MM guarantee left on his contract after this season serves as something of a deterrent, to say the least. Odds remain low that he will be dealt, for that reason, but surely Philadelphia would listen if any other club showed any interest in taking any part of that deal.
- Pena has been poor in his first 16 games with Texas (.136/.190/.237) after inking a mid-season minor league deal to fill in for the injured Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland. But surely the Rangers would be willing to move him as a bench piece if he can elicit interest with a turnaround.
- Thus begins the slippery slope in identifying possible first base trade targets. (“Well, if we include him, then surely … .”) Not one of the remaining names listed carries an OPS of above .700, and none appear particularly likely to be dealt as things stand. But all have shown promise at times in the past, and depending upon how their teams proceed and view these players’ future prospects, it is not inconceivable that they could be moved.
DH/Nominal First Basemen
While each of these players could conceivably take the field at first, any club acquiring them would hope to keep them in batting gloves. The first three all appear somewhat over-paid for their current production levels, though Dunn (.798 OPS, $15MM annual salary) has at least been hitting, Morales (.582, $12MM) could be expected to improve after his late start to the year, and Butler (.679, $8MM plus $1MM buyout for 2015) is the cheapest of the trio and might offer a hint of upside through his deal’s $12.5MM club option if he has a big second half. (Of course, it remains to be seen whether Kansas City will be interested in dealing a one-time core player, but otherwise the price should be low to acquire one of these established bats.) Then, there is Carter, set to qualify for Super Two in his age-28 season, whose immense power (.465 slugging, 18 home runs) is as tantalizing as his whiff rate is discouraging (.281 OBP, 32.7% K%).
Buy-Low Candidates/Reserves/Bench Bats
As with several players bunched at the end of the “current starters” category, many of these players fall in a grey area between intriguing former prospect and decent bench bat. Those currently playing on winning clubs might conceivably be included in a minor deal for a contender looking to add a reliever or more versatile bench piece, or as part of a larger swap. The others could present some appeal for teams hoping to add pop off the bench or take a chance on a future turnaround. (All the players listed here have multiple seasons of control remaining, though Carp, Parmelee, and Mayberry are already out of options.)
Last summer’s trade market didn’t feature much in the way of center fielders on the move, though Justin Maxwell did head from Houston to Kansas City, and David DeJesus found himself traded twice. A year prior, names like Shane Victorino and Scott Podsednik had new jerseys as well.
With this summer’s trade deadline less than three weeks away, here’s a rundown of some center field options whose name could appear on the rumor circuit…
Dexter Fowler (Astros), Gerardo Parra (D’Backs), Denard Span (Nationals), Desmond Jennings (Rays), Drew Stubbs (Rockies), Cameron Maybin (Padres), Ben Revere (Phillies), Marcell Ozuna (Marlins), Peter Bourjos (Cardinals), Jon Jay (Cardinals), Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Matt Kemp (Dodgers)
- Fowler’s numbers are very similar to the ones he posted last season prior to being acquired by Houston, and while that might initially suggest consistency, in this case, it’s probably an improvement due to the change in home environment. Fowler’s .263/.369/.407 batting line translated to a 103 OPS+ and a 105 wRC+ — both of which are park-adjusted. His current .270/.377/.396 line translates to a 117 OPS+ and 122 wRC+, suggesting he’s been well above average at the plate. Earning $7.35MM, he’s arbitration eligible for the last time following the season.
- Parra has played more corner outfield than center in his career, but defensive metrics love him at every outfield position. He’s hitting just .253/.301/.353 this season, however, and his issues against left-handed pitching have long been a problem. Parra is controlled through 2015 and would be a good addition to a strong offensive club that needed a defensive boost.
- It seems counter-intuitive for a contending club to deal its starting center fielder, but Ryan Zimmerman‘s shoulder is a liability at third base now. They could go with an outfield alignment of Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the event of a Span trade. Span is hitting a respectable .269/.319/.385 and has long been considered a strong defender. He’s earning $6.5MM in 2014 and has a $9MM option for 2015.
- Jennings is hitting .246/.337/.391 and well on his way to another three- or even four-WAR season. He’s controlled through 2017, but as a Scott Boras client, a long-term deal for Jennings isn’t likely, and Kevin Kiermaier has looked the part of a capable replacement thus far. There’s no rush for the Rays to move Jennings, however, so the acquisition price would be very steep.
- The move to Coors Field has been kind to Stubbs, but his production isn’t solely a product of his new home park. He still struggles against right-handed pitching (.284 OBP), but he’s playing his best baseball since 2011. Stubbs is earning $4.1MM in 2014 and is arbitration eligible for the final time this winter.
- Maybin is still owed $18MM through the 2016 season and has almost as much time on the DL as on the field since signing an extension with the Friars. He’s still a plus defender, and at age 27, a team could buy low with the hope that he’s young enough to rediscover the form he had in his excellent 2011 season with the Padres.
- Revere is starting for the Phillies, but with a .295/.316/.354 batting line, some clubs may prefer to use him in a reserve role. Despite his excellent speed and penchant for highlight-reel catches, defensive metrics don’t love his work in center and feel he’s better suited for the corners (even with his poor throwing arm). Revere is controlled through 2017 as a Super Two player.
- Ozuna would represent a long-term piece for any club that acquired him, as he’s controlled through 2019 and is not yet arb-eligible. That gives the Marlins the right to ask for a lot, but with Christian Yelich in left, Giancarlo Stanton in right and a capable replacement in the minors in Jake Marisnick, the team could conceivably afford to part with the 24-year-old Ozuna.
- Bourjos is one of baseball’s best defensive players, and he’s shown glimpses of offensive potential as well, but he hasn’t found sustained success in the Majors yet. Inconsistent playing time in both Anaheim and St. Louis probably hasn’t done him any favors. With such a logjam in the outfield for the Cardinals, Bourjos could be moved to a club with a long-term center field need. He’s controlled through 2016.
- Jay could find himself on the block for the same reasons as Bourjos; St. Louis is trying to find a way to get Bourjos, Jay, Oscar Taveras, Allen Craig and Matt Adams playing time between center, right field and first base, and there just aren’t enough at-bats to go around. He’s under control through 2016 as well and comes with a lesser defensive reputation but more offense than teammate Bourjos.
- There’s no way for the Dodgers to move Ethier without eating a significant chunk of the roughly $62.5MM that remains on his contract. He’s hitting a pedestrian .253/.315/.379 with four homers on the season and has long had platoon issues.
- Like Ethier, Kemp’s contract is a massive deterrent for any club with interest in acquiring the former MVP candidate. Kemp has spent a good deal of time in left field this year and his hitting .269/.330/.430. He’s owed about $116MM through the 2019 season, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported last month that any trade involving him was unlikely during the season.
Ryan Sweeney (Cubs), Justin Ruggiano (Cubs), Chris Young (Mets), Alex Presley (Astros), Sam Fuld (Twins), Brandon Barnes (Rockies), Jose Tabata (Pirates), Grady Sizemore (Phillies), Alejandro De Aza (White Sox)
Most of these players come with either defensive question marks, platoon issues, or both. Sizemore has already been released once this year and is probably better suited to play an outfield corner at this stage of his career. De Aza has seen his stock drop with a stark offensive decline in 2014, and he, too, is a better fit at a corner outfield spot.
The cost to acquire any of these players would figure to be relatively inexpensive, though Fuld and Barnes could be viewed as long-term reserves and therefore carry a bit more value to their current clubs. Others, such as Young (DFA candidate) and Tabata (already outrighted) could probably be had simply by taking on some of the remaining salary.
With the exception of Pederson, each of these players has already reached the Majors at some point. Grichuk may be better suited to handle a corner spot in the long run (he has more minor league experience in right field), but he’s played a good deal of center field as well. Pederson could likely only be had in a blockbuster-style trade in a bold move for the Dodgers. Marisnick isn’t as well-regarded but comes with a sterling defensive reputation, and could be deemed expendable if the Marlins decide that Ozuna is their center fielder of the future. Gose has about a season’s worth of big league at-bats and is also an excellent defender, but he’s currently refining his swing in the minors.
In addition to all of the names mentioned in this post, several of the players highlighted by Charlie Wilmoth in MLBTR’s look at the trade market for corner outfielders could step into center in a pinch. Will Venable, Alex Rios and Marlon Byrd are just a few examples of such players.
Multiple third base options were traded in the summer months of 2013, including veterans Michael Young, Alberto Callaspo, Juan Francisco and Jamey Carroll. This season’s crop of third base trade candidates includes some more impressive names, though it’s far from a certainty that they’ll all be moved. Here’s a look at some of the names that could be circulating on the rumor mill in the coming weeks…
Chase Headley (Padres), Martin Prado (D’Backs), Juan Uribe (Dodgers), Luis Valbuena (Cubs), Cody Asche (Phillies), Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Trevor Plouffe (Twins), Will Middlebrooks (Red Sox), Casey McGehee (Marlins), Matt Dominguez (Astros), Conor Gillaspie (White Sox)
- Headley’s name has been on the rumor circuit for years, and with three months to go before free agency, he could finally get dealt. Unfortunately for San Diego, he’s hitting a career-worst .226/.296/.350 and is dealing with back issues. He’s hit well since an epidural injection, however, and the Blue Jays are said to have interest.
- The 30-year-old Prado is owed about $27MM through the end of the 2016 season and isn’t hitting much in 2014, but he’s an excellent defender at third base and a Swiss army knife on the field, capable of playing third, short, second and left field.
- Uribe’s a bit of an out-of-the-box suggestion, admittedly, but the Dodgers could prefer to slide Hanley Ramirez over to third and go with a defensively superior option like Erisbel Arruebarrena at short. Uribe is hitting well but has missed time on the DL and is owed $6.5MM next year in his age-36 season.
- Valbuena is playing well, but he’s not a long-term piece for the Cubs which makes him plenty susceptible to a trade. The 28-year-old is controlled through 2016 and earning just $1.7MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the first time last winter. The Cubs’ wealth of infield prospects makes Valbuena expendable.
- Asche’s another unconventional trade candidate, as it stands to reason that the rebuilding Phillies would want to keep their young, controllable assets. However top prospect Maikel Franco is a better hitter and blocked at first base by Ryan Howard‘s immovable contract. The Phils could conceivably dangle Asche in an attempt to acquire a young outfield option, then go with Franco at third to make the team younger.
- Beltre is among the best all-around players in the game and would require a king’s ransom to pry away from the Rangers, who hope to contend in 2015 when the club is healthy. GM Jon Daniels has said he hasn’t considered trading the potential Hall of Famer, so a deal seems unlikely. Still, with Joey Gallo‘s 75- to 80-grade power looming in the minors, the Rangers do have a fallback option if they’re blown away by a Beltre offer.
- The 28-year-old Plouffe is providing league-average offense with improved defense. A former first-round pick, he’s under control through 2017 as a Super Two player. The Twins’ long-term solution at third is Miguel Sano, so it stands to reason that Plouffe could be had in the right deal now, with one of Eduardo Nunez or Eduardo Escobar playing stopgap while Sano mends from Tommy John surgery.
- Middlebrooks is currently on the shelf with a fractured finger, but he’s on a minor league rehab assignment and should be healthy by month’s end. He’s shown flashes of his high potential but has been inconsistent, and with Garin Cecchini nearly ready for the show as well, Boston could entertain offers on Middlebrooks, though the Sox would admittedly be selling very low.
- As of this writing, it’s not that likely that the highly affordable McGehee ($1.1MM salary) will be on the move. The Marlins are still within striking distance in the NL East, and as such aren’t motivated to deal McGehee. However, an extended skid for the Fish could make McGehee, who is under team control through 2015, an attractive commodity for contenders.
- The Astros have shown a willingness to deal virtually anyone in recent years (with a few notable exceptions), and while spring extension talks with Dominguez suggest they’d like to keep him long-term, the fact that a deal didn’t happen could make them more willing to trade him. They’d be selling low, as Dominguez isn’t hitting much this year. He did have a similarly poor first half in 2013 before finishing strong.
- Gillaspie has four more years of team control remaining and is hitting well in 2014, while offseason acquisition Matt Davidson is floundering in Triple-A. That may make it tough for GM Rick Hahn to deal him, but Gillaspie’s name hasn’t been included among Chicago’s four supposedly unavailable players. The Sox may look at Gillaspie and see unsustainable production (.370 BABIP) coupled with platoon issues and think this is a good time to sell high.
The above players are all capable of playing multiple positions, though some would be tougher to acquire than others. Turner has been an excellent signing for the Dodgers, who are firmly in contention, but they have the infield depth to move him and/or Figgins if it improves another area of the team. Wheeler has plenty of team control remaining, but Nolan Arenado is clearly the long-term mainstay at the hot corner. Both of the Twins’ Eduardos are playing well this season, and I’d imagine Escobar would be the more difficult of the two to acquire, given his superior glove and extra team control.
Last summer, Alfonso Soriano and Scott Hairston were among the corner outfielders traded near the July deadline, with Alex Rios and Marlon Byrd changing teams in August. This year, Rios and Byrd could be on the move again, and a variety of other names could enter the mix as well, with the Mariners perhaps being the team most likely to make a move to upgrade at one of the corner outfield spots.
The tight playoff picture in both leagues makes it difficult to determine which players will be dealt, and there could be players not listed here who enter the market if their teams fall out of contention in late July or August. (David Murphy of the Indians might be one such possibility.) With that in mind, here’s a look at possible corner outfield trade candidates in the current market, some of whom are more likely to be dealt than others.
Regulars Or Semi-Regulars
Josh Willingham (Twins); Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown (Phillies); Alex Rios (Rangers); Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist (Rays); Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo (White Sox); Carlos Quentin, Chris Denorfia and Will Venable (Padres); Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier (Dodgers); Chris Young (Mets); Nate Schierholtz (Cubs); Ichiro Suzuki (Yankees); Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins); Mark Trumbo (Diamondbacks); Allen Craig (Cardinals)
- Willingham is a good hitter (despite his low batting averages) whose contract expires after the season, so he should be an attractive fit for a team like the Mariners in need of right-handed power. His reasonable $7MM salary should not impede a trade.
- Byrd could also help a team in need of a right-hander, although he’s signed through 2015 with a team/vesting option for 2016. With 18 home runs this year, he’s having a strong follow-up season after his terrific 2013. The Mariners reportedly have significant interest in him, with Byrd apparently being willing to waive the no-trade clause that allows him to block trades to Seattle and three other teams.
- Rios, one of the few members of the Rangers roster to stay healthy all year, returns to the trade market for a second straight season. Like Willingham and Byrd, he’s a good right-handed option — at .302/.332/.435, he’s having a strong offensive year. He’s making $12.5MM this year, with a $13.5MM team option or a $1MM buyout for 2015.
- Brown has had a dismal season, with a line of .225/.277/.328 to go with his usual poor defense. Given that he’s only 26 and hit very well last season, the Phillies’ best course might be to hold onto him, although his name has already appeared in rumors about a potential change-of-scenery trade.
- Rays outfielders Joyce (who is eligible for free agency after 2015) and Zobrist (who’s making just $7MM in 2014 and has a reasonable 2015 team option) could be desirable trade pieces. Zobrist, a strong offensive player who can also play second base, should fetch a nice return if he’s traded. The Giants, Mariners and Reds have reportedly shown interest in Zobrist. Joyce, a consistently above-average hitter, would be a good fit for a contender looking for a left-handed bat.
- De Aza and Viciedo are both hovering around replacement level, so it’s hard to see them netting much of a return, although De Aza’s ability to play center field might make him somewhat desirable as a fourth outfielder. Viciedo is just 25 and isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season, so it might make sense for the White Sox to keep him, although he’s already been connected to the Mariners and Giants.
- The Padres have three outfielders potentially available in Quentin, Denorfia and Venable. (Seth Smith might have been another, but he recently signed a two-year extension to stay with the team.) Dealing Quentin might mean selling low for San Diego, since he’s off to a poor start after missing the first six weeks of the season due to injury. He has a no-trade clause, but might be willing to waive it, and an AL team might be a better fit for him anyway. The lefty Venable, who has lately played sparingly for San Diego, might represent an interesting buy-low opportunity to augment a contender’s bench with a lefty bat — he’s only one year removed from a 2.9 WAR 2013 season. Teams might not like that he’s owed $4.25MM next year, however.
- The Dodgers currently have a logjam in their outfield, although Crawford’s enormous contract (he’s owed about $62MM from 2015 through 2017) is an obstacle to trading him. Ethier is in a similar boat — he’s signed through 2017 with a team/vesting option for 2018, and he’s in the midst of a poor season, so he would probably be difficult to move. Trading either of them would, however, clear space for top prospect Joc Pederson, who is hitting .324/.445/.572 for Triple-A Albuquerque.
- Young and Schierholtz have been disappointments in 2014 for the Mets and Cubs, respectively. Both are eligible for free agency after the season. Either or both of them could be traded, but it’s hard to see any team paying much.
- Ichiro has started 45 games in right field for a contending team this season and doesn’t appear to be a likely trade candidate, given Carlos Beltran‘s injury issues. But there were rumors before the season about the Yankees trading Ichiro, so it’s possible he could be dealt, particularly if other trades change their outfield picture.
- Stanton isn’t likely to be traded, but as one of the biggest names in baseball, his name will surely appear in plenty of rumors.
- Trumbo only recently returned from a foot injury and was a key offseason acquisition for the Diamondbacks, so he isn’t likely to be dealt either, but with Arizona far out of the race, it can’t be ruled out. He’s hitting .209/.261/.488 in 92 plate appearances in his first season in the desert.
- Craig is a starter for a contending team and is signed to a long-term contract, so a deal is probably unlikely, particularly since trading him in the midst of a .243/.293/.357 season would be selling low for the Cardinals. Moving him could help the Cards clear space for Oscar Taveras, however.
Justin Ruggiano and Chris Coghlan (Cubs); Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava (Red Sox); Chris Parmelee (Twins); John Mayberry and Tony Gwynn Jr. (Phillies); Bobby Abreu and Eric Young Jr. (Mets); Brandon Barnes (Rockies); Cody Ross (Diamondbacks)
- Ruggiano has had a strong season so far and could be good fits for teams looking for right-handed hitters, particularly if the prices for outfielders like Willingham, Byrd and Rios prove too high. (Drew Stubbs, who has played center field in Colorado but played mostly right field in Cleveland, could be a possibility in a similar vein.) The Cubs have shown obvious willingness to trade veterans, so it would not be at all surprising to see them trade the 32-year-old Ruggiano. The same goes for the left-handed Coghlan, who’s having a strong season in 166 plate appearances so far.
- The Red Sox might have been able to get a nice return for Carp before the season, but both he and Gomes (who is eligible for free agency after the season) have struggled relative to 2013. Trading Nava might also be a possibility, but perhaps less of one, since he isn’t even eligible for arbitration until after the season.
- Parmelee, Mayberry, Gwynn, Abreu, Young, Barnes, and Ross are all potential lower-cost possibilities. Of the group, Barnes might be the most interesting, due to his defense.
Big-League-Ready Minor Leaguers
- The Pirates recently outrighted Tabata and would surely have to eat some of the approximately $10MM remaining on his contract to trade him, but he’s still listed as being just 25 and has been a passable, though frustrating, performer in the big leagues.
- The Cardinals have gotten good performances from their Triple-A outfield, and Pham and Grichuk, who are both still fairly young and should be ready for the big leagues, could be attractive targets. Dealing one of them would help relieve a Cardinals outfield logjam that exists not only in the big leagues, but in the minors as well.
- Shuck and Souza are good Triple-A hitters who might be able to help right away. Of the two, Souza would likely cost more, since he’s still only 25 and had a strong offensive track record before this season.
A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:
- Steve Adams examined the trade market for second basemen and Jeff Todd did likewise for shortstops.
- The agent for Jerome Williams told Zach Links he believes his client will have another opportunity to be a Major League starter. Three days later, the right-hander signed a minor league deal with the Rangers.
- Zach was the first to report the Phillies signed left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes to a minor league contract.
- Brad Johnson asked MLBTR readers which All-Stars will be traded. Nearly one-third of you see the Rays dealing David Price this summer.
- Steve hosted the weekly live chat.
- Zach gathered the best the baseball corner of the web had to offer in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.