We’ve been focusing of late on the upper echelon of the summer trade market with our Top Trade Candidate Series — which weighs both availability and value in ranking the top players who might be available. But contenders aren’t only looking for impact; they’re also hunting for reasonably-priced depth pieces that can help shore up areas of need and provide roster flexibility.
As teams comb over the rosters of likely sellers for useful players, these are some under-the-radar names they could consider pursuing:
Brandon Kintzler, RP, Twins — Moving into the closer’s role has raised Kintzler’s profile somewhat, but he still isn’t a name you hear much. But perhaps that should change. He is not and never has been a high-K pitcher, but his impeccable control (0.8 BB/9 this year) and worm-burning tendencies (65.3% groundball rate in 2016) explain why he has managed a 2.28 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. Thing is, this isn’t totally out of the blue: Kintzler owns a 3.25 ERA in over 200 big league frames. He’s dirt cheap and comes with another year of control.
Marc Rzepczynski, RP, Athletics — Scrabble is a pending free agent who should be quite available. He has dominated lefties throughout his career — they own a .223/.289/.300 batting line against him — though this year he has actually been somewhat better against righties, who generally knock him around. That improvement against opposite-handed hitters has helped drive a 2.96 ERA, though Rzepczynski is also coughing up 5.3 free passes per nine to go with his 9.2 K/9 strikeout rate. More importantly, though, he’s still delivering the same velo and nearly the same swinging-strike rate as he has in recent years.
Carlos Torres, RP, Brewers — Torres has been a sturdy reliever in the past, but pitched beneath his peripherals last year for the Mets. He’s now doing something of the opposite, with ERA estimators lagging his 3.29 ERA, but Torres is punching out more than a batter an inning with a career-best 12.0% swinging-strike rate. Organizations looking to add depth to a bullpen will certainly consider the 33-year-old.
Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Rockies — The veteran Colorado lefty was off to an abysmal start and is owed a hefty $12.5MM before hitting the open market. But he has been quite effective since returning to the rotation in mid June: over his last five outings, including a four-inning relief appearance, De La Rosa has allowed just six earned runs on 19 hits over 28 frames. He has surrendered 13 free passes against only 19 punch-outs, but De La Rosa has drawn plenty of trade interest in the past and the Rox may be ready to move on. Teams in need of rotation depth could take a look.
Brad Hand, RP/SP, Padres — After functioning in a swingman role for the Marlins, Hand has been a pure reliever in San Diego, where he’s now running up double-digit K/9 tallies and swinging strike rates (10.8%) for the first time in his career. He’s also walking nearly five batters per nine, but the southpaw is getting solid results (3.38 ERA) with estimators generally viewing him a sturdy option. He’s not going to draw any kind of huge return, but could be a useful piece for the right team, particularly given his background in a multi-inning role.
Eduardo Nunez, INF, Twins — The 29-year-old had never really lived up to his former billing, but he’s carrying a .305/.338/.464 batting line over his last 510 plate appearances in Minnesota dating to the start of 2015. Nunez has hit 15 long balls and added 27 stolen bases in that span. Even after accounting for some ball-in-play luck, both in terms of BABIP (.339 this year) and perhaps HR/FB (12.9%), that’s quite a useful offensive profile for a player who can line up all over the infield and even the corner outfield. With another year of arb eligibility remaining, he’s an interesting target for contenders to mull.
Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics — Now 36 years of age, Crisp is finally healthy and has been putting up league-average offensive numbers. Teams could consider him as a fourth outfielder who is at least plenty experienced in center field, even if he really shouldn’t spend much time there at this stage. Crisp hasn’t been as dynamic on the bases as he once was, so there are some real limits to his function, but he’s the kind of veteran presence that many organizations like to plug in for a stretch run. And in a reduced role, there’d be no concern that he’d trigger a vesting option for next season.
Peter Bourjos, OF, Phillies — As bad as he was in the first two months of the year, Bourjos has been on fire of late — running at about a 1.000 OPS clip for June and early July. The truth, as ever, is somewhere in between, but Bourjos could be a useful bench piece down the stretch given his history of good glovework and wheels on the bases. Plus, he’s playing on an affordable $2MM salary this year and is a pure rental — meaning that the Phils should be plenty motivated to deal.
Yangervis Solarte, IF, Padres — Though he isn’t the kind of utility option that Hernandez is, Solarte is capable of manning second or third and brings more with the bat. He has missed a good bit of time, but owns an excellent .301/.387/.483 batting line over 163 plate appearances and has been a consistently above-average hitter as a big leaguer. He only has two years of control on his ticker, so there’s no rush for San Diego to deal, but this might represent an opportune time to get some value with other trade pieces sidelined by injury.
Robbie Grossman, OF, Twins — The switch-hitting, 26-year-old outfielder has been a breakout, feel-good story for the scuffling Twins after previously failing to make good on his prospect billing. Over 170 trips to the plate, he’s putting up a monster .279/.406/.479 batting line while recording 30 walks against 38 strikeouts. With just over one year of service time entering the year, Grossman could be kept for next to nothing if Minnesota prefers. But he could be an interesting target for teams in need of a patient hitter with a bit of pop who can be held into the future.