Braves right fielder Nick Markakis, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, White Sox right-hander James Shields and Dodgers southpaw Scott Kazmir have each cleared trade waivers, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Friday (Twitter link). The four players’ teams are now free to trade them to any other major league club.
The only member of the group who’s unsigned beyond this season is Wieters, who’s a starter on an Orioles team that entered Saturday in possession of an American League wild-card spot and only 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays in the AL East. The soon-to-be 31-year-old is amid one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, having posted a .240/.294/.381 batting line with 10 home runs in 340 plate appearances. Wieters has been a roughly league-average hitter throughout his career, including last season (.267/.319/.422 in 282 PAs). Defensively, StatCorner has assigned Wieters negative pitch-framing marks five years running, while Baseball Prospectus hasn’t looked favorably on his work in that department since 2012.
The Orioles tendered a $15.8MM qualifying offer last November to Wieters, who accepted it and is once again scheduled for free agency at the conclusion of this season. Baltimore could give him another qualifying offer (if they’re still around should a new collective bargaining agreement be in place by then), but that doesn’t seem likely to happen. It’s also doubtful the contending Orioles will trade Wieters, who has upward of $3.7MM remaining on his contract, especially given fellow backstop Caleb Joseph’s ugly performance this year.
Like Wieters, Kazmir is also part of a team with championship aspirations. Kazmir, who signed with the Dodgers over the winter, is owed $16MM in each of the next two seasons, but he has the ability to opt out of his deal after this year. Kazmir’s run prevention (4.41 ERA) has been a letdown in 132 2/3 innings this season, although he has recorded an outstanding K/9 (9.02) to go with a 3.32 BB/9 and a superb 15.2 percent infield fly rate. And while Kazmir has regularly dealt with injuries throughout his career, he has been one of the few consistently healthy Dodgers starters this year. As a member of a first-place team that’s in no place to be moving pitching depth, a Kazmir trade probably isn’t in the cards.
Wieters and Kazmir likely aren’t going anywhere, but the same might not be true regarding either Shields or Markakis. Shields was already involved in a trade earlier this year, when the Padres sent him to the White Sox in June. Chicago thought it was receiving a capable mid-rotation piece at the time, but the Shields acquisition has blown up in its face as the club has spiraled out of contention. In his most recent start, the 34-year-old Shields allowed six earned runs on eight hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings of a 9-0 loss to the A’s on Friday. He has now yielded an unsightly 27 earned runs in just 14 innings this month, thereby raising his ERA to 5.98 on the season and 7.62 in 69 2/3 innings with the White Sox.
A former front-of-the-rotation starter, Shields was relatively effective as recently as last season, but his K/9 has fallen precipitously since then (9.61 to 5.98), as have his swinging-strike rate (12.4 percent to 8.7) and first pitch strike percentage (60.6 percent to 54.6). Shields’ contact rate (80.1) is also at its highest level since 2010, and his homer to fly ball ratio (17 percent) is among the majors’ worst for the second straight year. Combine all those damning figures with a 2 mile per hour drop in velocity since 2014, and it’s easy to see why Shields has had such difficulty since his halcyon days with the Rays and Royals.
Considering Shields’ decline, the White Sox might have a particularly tough time finding a contender willing to gamble on a pitcher who brings little other than durability to the table. The Padres took on roughly $31MM of the $58MM remaining on his contract when they dealt him, and the White Sox are on the hook for $10MM per year through 2018.
Markakis has $10.5MM way coming his way both next season and in 2018. He’s not overly pricey, then, but Markakis hasn’t provided much on-field value to the Braves since they signed him to a four-year, $44MM deal in December 2014. The longtime Oriole has increased his power this year since a near-total outage in that department last season, though he still only has nine homers in 518 PAs. Dating back to 2015, Markakis has logged 1,204 plate trips and hit .285/.360/.384 with 12 long balls. There wasn’t a ton of chatter about Markakis prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, but the Royals and “a few” other teams reportedly checked in on him.
The Braves could have an easier time dealing one of Markakis’ teammates, fellow outfielder Jeff Francoeur – whom the Marlins have interest in, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Francoeur cleared waivers Aug. 11 and might make sense as a cheap option ($1MM salary) for any team seeking outfield depth. Miami, which was in on newly minted Ranger Carlos Gomez, fits that bill in the wake of Giancarlo Stanton’s season-ending injury.