While most of the baseball world has its focus on Game 6 of the World Series in Cleveland tomorrow night, there are still of course trade talks going on behind the scenes, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that three players who are currently available on the trade market are Astros right-hander Pat Neshek, Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney and Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz. Each of the three players has a club option, and their teams appear open to trading them in the days immediately following the postseason before option decisions are made. Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman wrote last night that teams are already showing interest in Ruiz, who could be moved even if his option is picked up by the Dodgers. (In that scenario, Austin Barnes would get the nod as the backup to Yasmani Grandal.)
Neshek, 36, has a $6.5MM club option on his deal that comes with a $500K buyout. He’s coming off a 3.06 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 33.3 percent ground-ball rate in 47 innings out of the Houston bullpen this season — solid across-the-board numbers that are largely similar to the numbers he posted during his first season with the Astros in 2015. However, Neshek’s role was diminished in 2016, as manager A.J. Hinch frequently shielded him from facing left-handed opponents.
Hinch’s reasoning is easy to see; Neshek has held opposing right-handers to a woeful .193/.235/.336 batting line across the past two seasons, but lefties have knocked him around at a .256/.328/.516 clip. The problem was more glaring in 2016, when lefties had little trouble squaring up against Neshek’s sidearm delivery and slashed .250/.321/.646 against him. Neshek faced 130 right-handed batters and just 55 lefties in 2016, so he’s probably looked at as more of a righty specialist by many clubs, though he did hold left-handed opponents to a .541 OPS as recently as 2014. Getting him at one year and $6.5MM may be more preferable to some teams than exploring the free-agent market and issuing a multi-year deal to one of the many setup men available.
Rodney, who will turn 40 next March, has a more affordable $4.5MM club option but is coming off a worse season on the mound. The veteran righty opened the year as the Padres’ closer and posted a preposterous 0.31 ERA through his first 28 2/3 innings with San Diego. Along the way, he averaged 10.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 to go along with an enormous 59 percent ground-ball rate, but his season crumbled upon being traded to the Marlins. Rodney still averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings and posted a solid-but-diminished 52 percent ground-ball rate in Miami, but his BB/9 rate spiked to 6.8 and he was tagged for a 5.89 ERA in 36 2/3 innings with the Fish. There’s a $400K buyout on his option that the Marlins would pay him if they’re unable to find a trade partner. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has recently reported that the Marlins don’t have any intentions of exercising the option, so if another club values Rodney at $4.5MM on a one-year commitment, they could probably have him for a minimal cost.
As for Ruiz, the 37-year-old (38 in January) spent his entire career with the Phillies before an August trade saw him trade in his red pinstripes for Dodger blue. His contract contains a $4.5MM option for the 2017 season that comes with a $500K buyout for the Dodgers. While he didn’t have a great season at the plate, Ruiz did bat a very respectable .264/.365/.348 with three homers in 233 plate appearances. He also threw out an NL-best 42 percent of opposing base-stealers, though Baseball Prospectus wasn’t much of a fan of his work when it came to framing pitches. Nonetheless, Ruiz is revered as a clubhouse presence and for his work with pitchers, and he hit .271/.407/.386 against lefties this year, suggesting that he could be plenty effective as a backup who sees many of his starts against opposing southpaws. A one-year commitment at $4.5MM is hardly an exorbitant commitment, though it might be a bit steeper than many clubs would prefer to pay for a backup catcher.