With the deadline just over a month away, the top trade candidate series keeps trucking. I’ll be honest: this post required a re-write after yesterday’s action. The list is in flux with Fernando Rodney (who would’ve been #4) and Bud Norris (he’d have cracked the back of the ranking) changing hands … not to mention Sean Doolittle and Jon Jay hitting the DL, some injured players returning, and others pushing into trade contention. We’re also rolling out our second expansion of the ranking.
Your weekly reminder: we’re not just ranking players by skill alone; we’re looking at overall asset value and trade likelihood. To assess trade value, we’re starting with overall on-field ability — with a premium on the capacity to make an impact in the current season — and then adjusting for contract and market factors. With contenders’ needs in relatively sharp focus, limitations such as future contract status, age, and niche role (platoon bats, relief-only pitchers) tend to have less of a drag on value — though obviously they still matter quite a bit. With regard to the likelihood of a swap, the focus is on potential selling teams’ motivation to deal, with contract status, near and long-term roster fit, and overall competitiveness all weighing heavily. Some teams simply aren’t in a position at present where it makes sense to include their top potential trade chips, but that will evolve over the coming weeks.
Here’s this week’s list:
1. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds — The song remains the same. Teams looking for lefty pop are surely weighing a move for Bruce. His $13MM option for next year is increasingly looking nice, as the coming free agent market isn’t the most exciting. Acquiring teams could pencil Bruce in for 2017 or see that added control as a trade asset to recoup the value given to add him. With Jon Jay seemingly falling out of trade contention due to an unfortunate injury, that only increases the appeal of the other corner outfielders on the market.
2. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers — Not much to add here, either. The question is still whether sufficient demand will develop. From my perspective, it’s hard to imagine that no teams will be truly motivated to add a premium player on a budget deal.
3. Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics — Reddick moves right off the DL and onto this list for the first time. We’ve heard plenty about the possibility of an extension, and that still seems plausible. But players of his quality on expiring contracts with underperforming teams usually end up being traded, and I don’t think that the possibility of a qualifying offer will be much of a factor. Reddick is hitting at career-best rates and is playing on a very reasonable $6.575MM salary.
4. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers — I’m increasingly questioning whether enough demand will develop to motivate Milwaukee here. Braun might be an easier player to deal in the offseason, when he’d represent an alternative to forthcoming free agents like Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista. On the other hand, clubs could see some merit in doing their winter shopping early while adding a premium right-handed bat for the stretch run.
5. Danny Valencia, 3B, Athletics — The OPS still resides comfortably above .900. One important factor in his trade value and likelihood: the presence of several other viable third base options on the market.
6. Zack Cozart, SS, Reds — We just broke down Cozart’s market situation, so read there for more. Teams looking for a useful hitter with a premium glove up the middle probably won’t find a better or more affordable option. That said, demand remains unclear and Cinci doesn’t need to deal him right now.
7. Jake Odorizzi, SP, Rays — Odorizzi makes a big move into the top ten. It’s hardly necessary for Tampa Bay to trade him, of course, as he’ll only reach arb eligibility next year. But with the club falling back of late while dealing with numerous injuries, the appeal of cashing in a sturdy, controllable starter in a seller’s market is increasing. And if the team’s rehabbing starters remain on course, dealing from the rotation might not even be that painful. Especially if the Braves hold firm on Teheran, perhaps Tampa Bay could get a nice return for Odorizzi.
8. Arodys Vizcaino, RP, Braves — Vizcaino hasn’t always had premium strikeout numbers, but they are trending up this season. He has reeled off three straight solid outings since we last checked in, despite a few recent duds, so it’s not so much that he’s moving down the list as it is that the others are moving up.
9. Mark Melancon, RP, Pirates — The Pirates’ closer keeps getting the job done: he hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 15th and has surrendered just two hits in his nine frames this month. Even if Pittsburgh doesn’t move other assets, it’ll have to seriously consider cashing in a player who will be a free agent at the end of the year. While he isn’t as electric as some other top late-inning relievers, and though his peripherals aren’t all that exciting (particularly with his groundball rate diving thus far), Melancon is the type of rental that could bring back a really nice piece in return.
10. Julio Teheran, SP, Braves — GM John Coppolella suggested recently that Teheran is nearly as untouchable as Freddie Freeman, though it remains unclear what body part he’d stake on the righty. (If you don’t get that reference, read here for Coppy’s comments from the offseason.)
11. Rich Hill, SP, Athletics — While he’s still technically on the DL, Hill is set to be activated on Saturday. That said, he won’t reclaim his top-five status on this list until he has shown that he’s at full capacity. Though his groin injury isn’t particularly concerning, the larger injury history and stunning late-career rise will already give some teams pause. Still, the starter rental market is in shambles and he could yet be a prime deadline asset.
12. Drew Pomeranz, SP, Padres — Pomeranz has had some shaky outings that leave you wondering whether he truly has found something. But his most recent outing was a gem, and he’s carrying a 2.76 ERA through 88 frames. The MLBTR staff recently debated whether or not San Diego should deal Pomeranz away. He’s cheap and controllable, which will certainly hold huge appeal for teams that don’t want to burn up prospects for pure rentals, but that also makes him quite useful for the Friars — who could also let him try to build more value and then spin him off over the winter.
13. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Phillies — Hellickson isn’t a guy you add with expectations that he’ll be starting postseason games, but he has certainly pitched well enough to plug a hole in a rotation. There’s a ton of value in that for teams looking to eke out wins in tight races, and he seems rather likely to be dealt before he reaches free agency this fall.
14. Jeremy Jeffress, RP, Brewers — You’re probably not adding Jeffress as a closer, or perhaps even a pure eighth-inning guy, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to draw interest. He has been consistently good for some time now, and teams won’t feel too bad about giving up value for him since there’s reasonably-priced control yet to come (though his saves tallies will eat into that).
15. Yunel Escobar, 3B, Angels — Escobar is a little dinged up, though he’s not yet on the DL. It’s doubtful that other organizations will view him as any kind of savior, but in the right situation he could be a critical stabilizing piece. Plus, he could be plugged into different positions in 2017 or dealt over the winter to offset the initial acquisition cost.
16. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies — Even if a playoff berth remains rather unlikely, I just wonder whether there’s any real possibility of a deal coming together so long as Colorado hangs around .500. But Gonzalez is raking, so he could shoot up this list if and when the team can no longer plausibly claim any hope of contending.
17. Ervin Santana, SP, Twins — As with Hellickson, Santana seems ready to move right into the four or five slot of a contender with back-end rotation issues. The results aren’t exciting, but he has been durable and useful for quite some time now. He’s playing on a $13.5MM salary this year, with another $27MM to come over the next two, so any move would be about Minnesota saving some cash. Nobody is taking that full commitment, though, so the Twins will have to decide whether it’s worth trimming its future obligations or just keeping Santana around to fortify their own rotation for the next couple of seasons.
18. David Freese, 3B, Pirates — The sturdy veteran is hitting at levels he hasn’t seen since 2012, and he’s doing it on a meager $3MM salary. Plus, Pittsburgh could easily cover for his absence, particularly with Jung Ho Kang back and Sean Rodriguez performing, so he could be sold without the organization abandoning all hope of contending.
19. Chris Carter, 1B, Brewers — He’s back! Carter made our first list but fell off after a rough stretch. They say he’s streaky, though, so let’s check in on his total results in June … oh, well. 253/.360/.494 with six home runs. That’ll do. An organization looking to plug some thump into its first base/DH rotation is going to have a tough time finding a more available and affordable option than Carter. The Brewers don’t have to deal him, and there’s not a ton of upside given his many limitations, but he has a place in the trade deadline landscape.
20. Melvin Upton, OF, Padres — Also returning to the list is the elder Upton brother. There are other fourth outfield types, as well as a few infielders and relievers, who also warranted consideration here — most of whom would probably be easier to move given their contracts. But San Diego has been the most aggressive seller thus far, and Upton’s strong work this year could make for an opportune time to dump a decent chunk of his remaining salary obligations.
Keep reading for more names that were considered …
Sonny Gray, Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie, Ryan Madson & Billy Butler (Athletics) — Though the A’s have suggested they aren’t yet ready to pack it in, that’s where this thing is headed barring a miracle. I still don’t see Gray leaving unless a surprising offer comes across the table, but Oakland has some very appealing assets — the best of which are listed among the top twenty.
Will Smith & Aaron Hill (Brewers) — Smith could warrant a spot on the list, but he’s striking out opposing hitters at about half his usual rate. Milwaukee has no reason to sell low on him, so right now he doesn’t have much steam as a trade candidate. Hill has been uneven, but could be a useful utility piece for the right team.
Welington Castillo, Daniel Hudson, Brad Ziegler & Tyler Clippard (Diamondbacks) — GM Dave Stewart says that he wants to keep the bullpen band together if possible, and neither of the pending free agents (Hudson and Ziegler) is looking like a hot commodity at the moment. Hudson has had a very rough stretch of late, coughing up eight earned runs on ten hits over his last four outings. He has recorded just five outs in that span, none via strikeout. Meanwhile, Ziegler just keeps trucking along and would surely draw interest, but isn’t the kind of power arm that teams will give up a haul to get.
Andrew Cashner, Derek Norris & Matt Kemp (Padres) — Cashner is set to return from the DL on Sunday, so we’ll see if he can pitch his way into some interest. Norris is pushing for a seat at the table (er, placement on our list) with his recent productive run at the plate.
David Hernandez & Jeanmar Gomez (Phillies) — Hernandez has been knocked around this month, but Gomez is still humming along with solid results. Odds are, though, he won’t draw any kind of big offers despite the fact that he’s pitching in the ninth inning.
Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, Andrew McCutchen, Juan Nicasio, Neftali Feliz, Tony Watson (Pirates) — It’s awfully tough to put a talented Pittsburgh team into the likely seller camp, but the club may need to be realistic with the Cubs seemingly running away with the division. The Bucs will be much more likely to re-tool for 2017 than anything else, but they have some interesting players on short-term contracts who could be cashed in — particularly if the organization decides the time is right to give a shot to some of its impressive upper-level prospects. Pittsburgh’s role on the market is a major wild card.
Logan Morrison, Matt Moore, Erasmo Ramirez & Xavier Cedeno (Rays) — The rumblings on Moore have increased, but it’s still tough to gauge where there’ll be more motivation to add him than to pursue Odorizzi, who has a better recent track record. Ramirez might just be the next player traded, though he isn’t exactly a major piece.
Mark Reynolds, Nick Hundley, Jorge De La Rosa, Ryan Raburn (Rockies) — There are some potentially useful veteran pieces here, but none that will likely move the needle on the team’s farm system enough to prompt a move from Colorado.
Fernando Abad, Trevor Plouffe & Eduardo Nunez (Twins) — Nunez was probably the last guy not to make the top twenty. He is falling off of his unsustainable pace but is still producing, but the results just haven’t been there for the other two.