If all else fails, teams looking for pop can usually shoehorn a slugger into a first base and/or DH role, and it’s easier to carry such players with the knowledge that rosters will expand in fairly short order. Last year, we saw Mike Napoli and Brandon Moss move at the deadline. But is the demand there this time around?
Truth be told, there aren’t a lot of situations that scream for improvement. John Jaso hasn’t been stellar for the Pirates, though Sean Rodriguez has made for a useful companion and the team has top prospect Josh Bell on hand (if it’s willing to trust him in the field). It’s hard to imagine the Nationals giving up on Ryan Zimmerman — and we haven’t heard any chatter to suggest it — but he is hurt and hasn’t been effective, while lefty bench bat Clint Robinson isn’t matching last year’s productivity. Justin Bour has shown well for the Marlins, but he’s not being trusted to face southpaws and could probably stand to be paired with a better platoon mate than the struggling Chris Johnson (though the return of Dee Gordon will effectively deepen the overall infield mix). The Astros haven’t really landed on a first baseman, but the team may have already made its corner infield move with the signing of Yulieski Gurriel. With the loss of Prince Fielder, and the team’s seeming lack of interest in giving Joey Gallo a shot, perhaps the Rangers shouldn’t be counted out.
If those or any other organizations go hunting for new bats, here are some of the names they might consider:
- We considered Pearce in the discussion of second basemen, and he’ll probably also appear as a corner outfield option, but perhaps he’s best considered as a somewhat unique, floating, semi-regular slugger. He’s a health risk, but he’s also very affordable and is flat-out raking this year (.324/.393/.553).
- Morrison and Lind haven’t done a whole heck of a lot at the plate in 2016 — at last look, each carried an 88 OPS+ — but they’re rental pieces that could hold some appeal as lefty bench bats. Much the same holds for Reynolds, albeit from the right side. His .277/.345/.438 batting line is obviously propped up by the advantages of altitude, but he could still garner consideration.
- Lee has been hitting, and doing equal damage against pitchers of both kinds, so it’ll be interesting to see if another organization takes a liking to the 34-year-old slugger — who is owed just $1MM this year. It’s not clear from public reports whether he’ll be controllable after the season, but odds are his minor league contract stipulates that he must be put back into the free agent pool.
- Morneau is a mystery — he has taken just 38 professional plate appearances since his offseason elbow surgery — and he’s 35 years old. There’s not much chance that he’ll do anything in the next ten days to prompt a deal, let alone that the White Sox will look to trade him in that time. But if he starts putting up numbers and Chicago falls back in August, the veteran first bagger could conceivably be moved in August.
- It still seems a bit odd that Morse hasn’t signed since his early-season release by the Bucs, but he is 34 years old and may not be interested in taking a minor league deal. It’s tough to see a contender calling with a MLB offer at this stage.
- Teams looking for pop could well zero in on Carter, who can also be kept around for two more years via arbitration. He’s producing right at his career rates, which means a borderline OBP and loads of long balls.
- Valencia has barely cracked 100 innings at first, but he’s beginning to see a bit of action there and clubs could consider him in that role (at least on a part-time basis) as a way to get the bat in the lineup. Both he and his teammate, Alonso, have another year of arb eligibility remaining. And they are headed in opposite directions, with Valencia slumping through July while Alonso has posted .800+ OPS figures in each of the last two months.
- The Twins don’t seem particularly likely to discuss either of their two young DH candidates, and other organizations don’t seem particularly likely to come calling. San Diego would surely be willing to listen on Wallace, but he hasn’t followed up on last year’s short-sample success and his two years of future control don’t carry any significant value.
- Of the players listed here, Butler might be the likeliest to be traded. He has enjoyed a rebound of sorts over the last two months or so, but overall he has been even less productive this year than last. As a pure DH who is owed $10MM this year and next, it’s far from clear that he’ll be targeted.
- The remaining names are all largely implausible trade pieces for somewhat varied, but somewhat overlapping reasons. All have produced at times since signing their monster contracts, but only Votto (who has emerged from his early-season malaise) is putting up big numbers at present — and he not only has gobs of cash still left on his deal, but possesses a full no-trade clause that he doesn’t seem inclined to waive.
- I feel compelled to mention these three players, if only to check all the boxes, but there are really no plausible scenarios where they end up moving. That’s due in some part to the lack of demand, but also their teams’ stances. Braves GM John Coppolella prefers Freeman to his own right arm; Goldschmidt is one of the most valuable assets in the game and plays for a club that hopes to contend again soon; and Myers constitutes the signature addition of Pads GM A.J. Preller’s tenure. There’s probably at least some minute chance of Myers being dealt, but with possible extension talks on the horizon it’s a poor bet.
- That brings us to Abreu, who is in something of his own category. We’ve heard that the White Sox are prepared to listen on most of its roster, and it doesn’t seem that Abreu is being put behind glass with a select few others. He has turned things around after a rough start, and though he no longer looks to be quite the elite asset that he once was, Abreu would still draw significant interest given his affordable control. But I’m still not convinced that Chicago is going to part with the slugger for an equivalent-value package, so I’m shoe-horning him in this category.