The Mets, Phillies, and Jays – and potentially others – have scouts at the Diamondbacks/Cubs game in Chicago today, per Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (via Twitter).
That’s as good a place as any for deadline buyers to do their weekend shopping. Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel are the most notable names present, but there’s plenty of talent dotting Chicago’s roster. Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Zach Davies are the other veterans on expiring contracts, with Davies the most likely of the three to move.
The Cubs also stock affordable, veteran talent, both in the bullpen — where names like Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, and Dan Winkler could help a contender — and in the lineup, where low-cost veterans like Patrick Wisdom, Matt Duffy, and Jake Marisnick could be worth a conversation as well.
The Diamondbacks figure to be an even more fervent seller, though without the high-end talent of the Cubs. Still, Eduardo Escobar continues to be a popular name as a power bat offering defensive versatility on an expiring contract. Asdrubal Cabrera represents a knock-off edition, though the veteran has proven an effective deadline addition before, and he brings a more patient approach with an 11.7 walk rate this season.
Joakim Soria has a 4.45 ERA/3.91 FIP in 28 1/3 innings and a lengthy track record of success. The 14-year veteran is making just $3.5MM, and he, too, will be a free agent at year’s end. He has six saves and 229 for his career, so any acquiring team can rest assured that he’ll keep his composure, if nothing else. The Mets, Phillies, and Blue Jays all need bullpen help and could turn to Soria if Kimbrel proves too rich.
The rest of the Dbacks’ bullpen consists mostly of castoffs or unproven youngsters. Bespectacled vet Tyler Clippard won’t be cowed by the moment, but he’s only recently off the 60-day injured list and has just one appearance on the season. Former Brewers and Rays right-hander Jake Faria is having a decent season — 4.19 ERA, 19 1/3 innings — and would probably come cheap.
Noe Ramirez is worth a look. The 31-year-old sports a 3.31 ERA/3.72 FIP in 16 1/3 innings, but he’s long been undervalued because of pretty severe splits. He has a 3.94 career xFIP and 20.4 percent K-BB% against same-handed hitters, versus a 5.04 xFIP and 9.4 K-BB% against lefties for his career. Deployed judiciously, Ramirez can absolutely add value to a contender.
Merrill Kelly and Caleb Smith could be targeted as back-end rotation upgrades, with Kelly having the better season of the two. Kelly has posted 2.0 fWAR in 20 starts covering 117 innings. He has a 4.46 ERA/3.88 FIP with a 46.2 percent groundball rate, 20.3 percent strikeout rate, and solid 5.5 percent walk rate. He’s also affordable at $4.25MM this year and controllable with a $5.25MM club option for next year.
Kelly will take the mound today. He’s generating “a ton of interest on the trade market,” per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).
Smith is an extreme flyball pitcher controllable through 2023. With a 27.1 percent groundball rate for his career, he’s always going to be homer prone, but he’s nevertheless managed a palatable 4.38 ERA/4.64 FIP in 78 innings. Smith might be a better bet for a fringey contender looking towards the future, as his value lies at least as much in his controllability as it does his present ability to pitch in the back-end of a playoff rotation.