The end of August is in sight, which means that final player transaction jockeying is taking place. To this point, we haven’t heard of many players to have cleared waivers, but the details of the process are rarely revealed as they unfold. August maneuvering involves multi-factor strategies that play out largely in the dark; that makes this time of year fascinating, in theory, but generally difficult to examine.
This evening’s reporting has revealed a few intriguing nuggets, though, two of which we’ve already covered (see here and here). And now we can add some new names to our list of players that can be freely traded, according to a report from Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak went through without a claim. While that’s perhaps surprising at first glance, other organizations are surely aware that the Jays won’t be allowing the 31-year-old to walk for nothing. Accordingly, a claim isn’t likely to do much to facilitate an agreement. The switch-hitting slugger has largely carried forward his surprising 2017 output, turning in 487 plate appearances of .257/.363/.465 hitting on the current season. But he’s cheap this year ($4.125MM) and controllable for an affordable rate ($6MM) for 2019. While there’s obviously no reason to believe that Smoak is particularly likely to be dealt, he could still be an interesting chip for the Toronto organization — particularly if other quality hitters don’t make it through the wire.
- The Rays have been rewarded for rolling the dice on first baseman C.J. Cron over the winter, and could now cash him in via trade. Of course, the 28-year-old first baseman cleared waivers in large part because there’s no pressure for the Tampa Bay club to part ways with him. Cron is earning just $2.3MM in 2018 with two more years of arbitration control remaining. He’s sporting a .250/.317/.480 slash with a career-high 24 long balls.
- Elsewhere, Mets infielder Wilmer Flores has long seemed like an interesting target for a club in need of a little defensive versatility and an option against left-handed pitching (though he has, atypically, produced reverse splits this year). He’s earning a reasonable $3.4MM this year and comes with another arb year as well. Flores has been a steadily above-average producer at the plate for the last several years and has taken his plate discipline to another level this season (7.2% walk rate vs. 9.4% strikeout rate). While he has never been loved for his baserunning or glovework, he’s capable of playing anywhere on the infield (at short only in a pinch).
- Former Flores teammate Lucas Duda, on the other hand, finds himself on this list for different reasons. The 32-year-old has struggled this year with the Royals, slashing just .235/.304/.395 with 11 long balls in his 313 plate appearances. But he has still handled right-handed pitching, with a 111 wRC+ when batting with the platoon advantages this year, and has certainly shown more overall in years past. Duda is also earning just $3.5MM this year before reaching free agency.