The MLB “trade deadline” comes with an important caveat: it’s still possible to trade players thereafter — as we explained recently. This year, in particular, August could be a prime time for deals, with numerous possible trade candidates still playing for teams that aren’t in contention. (And that’s all before considering players that could become available as the standings shift; we’ll track any such developments as this ranking evolves over the coming weeks.)
Generally, the most likely August movers are veterans on big contracts and role players (utility infielders and middle relievers) who’ll reach the open market at season’s end. Such players typically clear waivers or are claimed by teams with serious interest, thus facilitating player movement, while more appealing players are typically snared by a waiver claim and pulled back when no deal materializes.
Here’s an initial list of the top August trade candidates — ordered by factoring both their trade likelihood and trade value:
1. Jim Johnson, Braves: Johnson has already been placed on revocable waivers, so we should know shortly whether he made it through or was claimed. Given his affordable $5.5MM salary in 2018 and solid results thus far in 2017, the former AL saves leader could help a contending club in a setup capacity.
2. Marco Estrada, Blue Jays: Estrada’s results have fallen off since early June, but he’s still missing plenty of bats. The Jays may well have to eat some of the remaining $4.5MM of his $14MM salary, but Estrada’s 2015-16 track record could make him an appealing target for clubs looking to stabilize the back of their rotation. Kansas City had interest shortly before the non-waiver deadline.
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, Mets: The Mets are “warming” to the idea of exercising Cabrera’s option, per Newsday’s Marc Carig, but he’s a respectable bat that can help out at three infield positions. He’s a nice insurance piece for a contending club’s bench, at the least, and he can be controlled through the 2018 season.
4. Jay Bruce, Mets: Bruce didn’t garner much interest prior to the non-waiver deadline, but he’s been pretty consistent at the plate throughout the 2017 season. Any club that sees its offense struggle or incurs an injury in the outfield (or at first base) over the next four weeks would probably consider Bruce the best bat on the August trade market.
5. Curtis Granderson, Mets: As was the case in 2016, the Grandy Man has recovered from a terrible start to the season. He’s hitting .280/.404/.578 over his past 198 plate appearances and can help out in either corner spot or in center from time to time. The remaining $4.8MM on his deal should clear waivers.
6. Jed Lowrie, Athletics: Similar to Cabrera, Lowrie is a solid bat that can play all over the infield — even if he’s not a standout defender at any one spot. He’s also hitting .270/.347/.442 this season while playing on a modest $6.5MM salary with a $6MM team option for 2018.
7. Drew Storen, Reds: Cincinnati isn’t going anywhere in 2017, and Storen has been a solid, if unspectacular presence in the Reds’ bullpen. His 7.8 K/9 rate and 3.4 BB/9 rate are both far cries from the dominant levels he posted in 2015, and Storen is also sitting on a 90.4 mph average fastball. The results have been solid, though, and his $3MM salary is affordable. For a team looking at cheap middle relief help, he could fit the bill.
8. Yonder Alonso, Athletics: Alonso’s bat has cooled since his ludicrous run in May, but he’s still hit at a decidedly above-average clip since June 1. There have been some conflicting reports about what type of extension talks (if any) his camp has had with the A’s, but there’s never been any suggestion that a long-term deal is likely.
9. Neil Walker, Mets: Walker has just two hits in 19 plate appearances since returning from a partial hamstring tear and is earning $17.2MM after accepting a qualifying offer last winter. That makes him extremely likely to clear waivers, but he’ll need to pick up the pace with his bat to garner legitimate interest.
10. Lance Lynn, Cardinals: As it stands, the Cards are 4.5 games back from the NL Central lead, making a trade of Lynn tough to imagine. St. Louis reportedly put a big asking price on him at the deadline. But things could certainly look quite a bit different by the end of the month. Interestingly, division rivals have both the potential need and the waiver position to represent strong potential fits for Lynn, which could make for an interesting situation to watch.
11. Jhoulys Chacin, Padres: Chacin has quietly been excellent over his past 10 starts, and the remainder of his $1.75MM salary (~$564K) wouldn’t be a deterrent to any contender. GM A.J. Preller told Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he held Chacin because the Padres’ farm is stocked to the point where there’s no sense in adding a non-prospect just to make a deal. But, if a team is willing to part with a youngster the Pads like, Chacin would represent a low-risk opportunity to stabilize a rotation (and, perhaps, work from a pen in the postseason).
12. Brandon Phillips, Braves: Not many contenders have needs at second base, but Phillips has shifted over to the hot corner in the wake of Ozzie Albies’ promotion, which could add to his appeal if he looks passable there. The Reds are paying all but $1MM of his salary and he’s hit fairly well, so he could be a reasonable bench target for a contending team.
13. Bud Norris, Angels: The Halos’ only trade on deadline day was moving David Hernandez, and they’re currently just three games out of the AL Wild Card race. Norris has given up a pair of grand slams recently but has been stellar for most of the season with career-best strikeout numbers largely supporting his bullpen breakout. If the Angels slide by month’s end, the impending free agent is a logical trade candidate.
14. Yusmeiro Petit, Angels: Petit has been one of the best multi-inning relievers in the game this season — a trait that could be highly beneficial to a contender looking to rest its staff down the stretch without sacrificing much in the way of quality innings. His ability to work multiple innings would be nice to have in the postseason as well.
15. Matt Belisle, Twins: Belisle had a terrible May, was solid in June and didn’t allow a single run in the month of July. He posted a 13-to-2 K/BB ratio in 12 2/3 frames last month and has a 1.80 ERA, 2.99 FIP and 3.86 xFIP dating back to June. He’s earning $2.05MM this year.
16. Brad Ziegler, Marlins: Ziegler is expensive and has been injured, but the Fish would likely pick up part of the tab for submariner. He’s still racking up ground-balls at a premium rate and is still deadly against righties, but he’s owed $11.3MM through 2018.
17. Carlos Gomez, Rangers: Despite trading Yu Darvish, Texas doesn’t seem set to call it a season just yet. Were that to change, Gomez’s above-average bat and solid work in center might intrigue a team in need of help at any of the three outfield spots.
18. Mike Napoli, Rangers: His strikeout rate is higher than ever, and he’s scarcely hitting .200, but Napoli has seven homers in 77 PAs against lefties. His .325 isolated power (slugging minus batting average) against southpaws would fit well on a contender’s bench if the Rangers absorb some salary.
19. Daniel Nava, Phillies: As is par for the course for the switch-hitting Nava, he’s crushed right-handed pitching and struggled mightily against lefties. A team in search of a veteran bat and off the bench could take a look.
20. Tyler Clippard, White Sox: He’s somehow allowed only two runs despite yielding five hits and five walks with a pair of wild pitches in 5 1/3 innings since going to Chicago. Any team taking on Clippard would be looking to buy low on his track record. A team with a deep ’pen, though, could gamble on a return to form for Clippard.
21. Santiago Casilla, Athletics: Casilla recently lost his grip on the ninth inning in Oakland and is owed $6.95MM through the end of the 2018 season. His velocity is still there, though, and he’s averaging 8.6 K/9.
22. Miguel Gonzalez, White Sox: Gonzalez was on a nice little run before the Red Sox shelled him for seven runs in 1 2/3 innings yesterday. He’s not an exciting addition, but he could be a stopgap fifth starter for a contender dealing with injuries.
23. Derek Holland, White Sox: Holland’s control has been a problem all year, and he’s been the most homer-prone starter in baseball this season as well. Getting out of Guaranteed Rate Field and pitching in front of a better defense could help his output, but his strong start to the year is a distant memory.
24. Ervin Santana, Twins: Minnesota traded only rental assets before the deadline, and there wasn’t much talk at all on players controlled beyond the 2017 season (i.e. Santana). A trade doesn’t seem very likely, but he’s on the list solely because he could be a potential difference-maker on a contender if things go really far south for the Twins.
25. Justin Verlander, Tigers: It’s even tougher to see Verlander moved with about $65MM still owed to him through 2019 and a full no-trade clause. But, he was the center of countless rumors last month, and that will continue now that he’s cleared revocable waivers.
Yunel Escobar & Ricky Nolasco (Angels); Rajai Davis & Matt Joyce (Athletics); J.A. Happ & Jose Bautista (Blue Jays); R.A. Dickey, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Kemp & Nick Markakis (Braves); Denard Span, Jeff Samardzija & Nick Hundley (Giants); Giancarlo Stanton, Junichi Tazawa, A.J. Ellis, & Dee Gordon (Marlins); Darren O’Day, Zach Britton & Seth Smith (Orioles); Clayton Richard & Yangervis Solarte (Padres); Hyun Soo Kim (Phillies); Andrew Cashner (Rangers); Ian Kinsler (Tigers); James Shields & Mike Pelfrey (White Sox)