Those that need a refresher on how August trades work should read our recent post on the subject. You’ll also find some notable examples of revocable waiver swaps in that post.
We’ve already seen a few of the top August trade candidates change uniforms this year. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and pitchers Mike Fiers, Tyson Ross, Jordan Lyles, and Shawn Kelley have all been on the move in the first week of the month.
That doesn’t mean we’ve seen the end of the action, however. We’ll run through the most notable remaining candidates here. As always, the ranking is based upon a combination of trade likelihood and trade value. (Last year, for example, Justin Verlander barely cracked the back end of our final August ranking, because his contract situation made a deal hard to structure even though he otherwise profiled as a significant trade candidate. He ended up being traded in memorable fashion.) After the list, we’ve also rounded up some other potential candidates who are worth keeping an eye on as things develop over the course of the month.
1. Sergio Romo, RP, Rays: He’s carrying a 3.35 ERA on the year, with 10.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 over 51 frames, while working as a late-inning reliever, an “opener,” and even (quite briefly) a third baseman. Romo’s generally stellar swinging-strike rate is down a bit (to a still-strong 12.9%), but he’s still getting the job done and doing so in a manner that ERA estimators believe in (3.50 FIP / 3.75 xFIP / 3.25 SIERA). The veteran is an affordable rental player ($2.5MM salary), though that also means he’s easy to hold onto for a Rays club that may have designs on a reunion next season.
2. Jose Iglesias, SS, Tigers (cleared waivers): Though he’s not much with the bat, Iglesias has been better this year than in recent campaigns. In particular, he has destroyed lefties to the tune of a .931 OPS. And, of course, he remains an exquisite defender. We recently saw that there was a market for a similar, arguably lesser player in Hechavarria. Iglesias, who’s also a pending free agent and comes with a $6.275MM salary, seems reasonably likely to land somewhere before the calendar flips to September.
3. Jim Johnson, RP, Angels: With a 3.27 ERA and 7.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 through 44 innings, Johnson has certainly been worth his $4.5MM salary. He’s no longer a dominant groundball pitcher, but still gets them on about half of the balls put in play against him. While there’s not much reason to think that any team will give up significant value to get Johnson, he would at least be a useful depth piece for a contender. Since the Halos have relatively little motivation to keep the pending free agent, other than to fill up innings, it’s easy to imagine him moving in some way this month.
4. Francisco Liriano, SP/RP, Tigers (cleared waivers): The Astros targeted Liriano last summer, so perhaps it shouldn’t surprise if he’s again viewed as an intriguing piece to add to a staff. Liriano could function as a matchup lefty in the bullpen while also providing some length, since he has worked as a starter this year. He’s currently sporting a 4.37 ERA over 90 2/3 innings, though he’s carrying only a 73:51 K/BB ratio and ERA estimators aren’t enamored with his work this year. It’s worth noting, however, that Liriano has been quite stingy against lefties this year, holding 72 same-handed hitters to a meager .125/.222/.219 slash.
5. Jerry Blevins, RP, Mets: Blevins has lowered his ERA to 4.08 since it sat at 5.30 in late June. His peripherals still aren’t quite as intriguing as they have been in the recent past, he’s struggling against lefties, and he’s generating swinging strikes at only an 8.5% rate on the year. But Blevins has a long history of success against same-handed hitters and is an obvious August trade candidate given that he’s earning a $7MM salary before returning to the open market.
6. Matt Harvey, SP, Reds: With Fiers and Ross already out the door, Harvey is arguably the most appealing rotation piece that’s obviously available. Frankly, though, that isn’t saying much. Harvey hasn’t really impressed of late. Harvey hasn’t lasted six innings in an outing since the beginning of July and has been knocked around in two of his last three starts. In 15 starts with the Reds, he carries a 4.79 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
7. Fernando Rodney, RP, Twins: It came as a mild surprise when the journeying closer wasn’t dealt at the deadline, but it’s also no surprise that the Minnesota organization values its $4.25MM option over Rodney for 2019. He’s earning at the same, amply manageable rate this year. It’s all but certain that the ageless hurler will be claimed, as he owns a 3.09 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 on the year. The question is whether the claim will go to a truly motivated team that can convince the Twins to make a deal.
8. Marco Estrada, SP, Blue Jays: Coming off of an excellent start in which he allowed just one earned run on one hit, Estrada could perhaps still turn into an intriguing trade candidate if he can get on a roll. He is still carrying only a 4.65 ERA on the year and just came back from a long layoff. His $13MM salary is certain to clear waivers, so the Jays will have plenty of options to consider.
9. Devin Mesoraco, C, Mets: Much like the man he was traded for earlier this year (Harvey), Mesoraco rates as an obvious trade candidate who perhaps simply hasn’t generated enough interest yet. Mesoraco hasn’t sustained a hot start at the plate since moving to New York, but still carries a nearly league-average .228/.301/.407 output in 186 plate appearances with the Mets. He could make sense for the right organization, particularly if an injury situation arises.
10. Tyler Clippard, RP, Blue Jays: Despite producing strong bottom-line results for much of the season, the veteran reliever has seen his earned-run average cross the 4.00 barrier after some rough recent outings. Still, he’s getting swinging strikes at a healthy 14.1% rate, has a ton of experience in high-leverage situations, and is earning just $1.5MM this season. It’s not hard to imagine a contending team deciding that it’d be nice to have him around down the stretch, much as the Astros did last year.
11. Freddy Galvis, SS, Padres: There’s a split of opinion from UZR and DRS on Galvis’s glovework this year at short, with the former grading him as average and the latter viewing him as an outstanding performer. No matter, the track record shows that Galvis is at least capable of holding his own at short. He also has experience at other infield spots. The switch-hitter has been better this year against lefties, but that’s counter to his career numbers.
12. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Blue Jays: He’s the obvious number one name on this list — if and when he gets back to full health. Still, he warrants mention even though that hasn’t yet occurred. It’s not impossible, after all, that he’ll be dealt even before he’s back in action. That’s especially true if the Toronto org tries to put him through waivers at the outset of his rehab assignment. Click here for a recent breakdown of the potential maneuvering this month involving Donaldson.
13. Jose Bautista, OF, Mets: With a .193/.309/.325 batting line in the month of July, Bautista hasn’t exactly been on fire of late. And there’s no evidence that he’s the feared slugger of yore. Plus, Bautista is striking out in nearly thirty percent of his plate appearances, quite a bit more than ever before. That said, he can still put the ball over the fence and he’s as disciplined at the plate as anyone in the game, with an outstanding 17.1% walk rate. The Mets are said to like the idea of having him around next year, even if they trade him. With Bautista earning only the league minimum salary, the club may want at least some kind of an interesting return to do a deal for a player they’d evidently prefer to keep on their roster. Whether or not that’ll come to pass remains to be seen.
14. Curtis Granderson, OF, Blue Jays: Much like Joey Bats, the Grandy Man has seemed for most of the season like an interesting bench bat target. But he turned in a dreadful month of July (.192/.268/.301). Granderson has been limited almost exclusively to facing right-handed pitching; he owns a respectable but hardly outstanding .243/.338/.433 slash against them for the season. Of course, some clubs may value his veteran presence down the stretch, too, and it shouldn’t be too hard to sort out the remainder of his $5MM salary.
15. Ervin Santana, SP, Twins: He’s only three starts into his return from a long injury layoff and hasn’t been in vintage form. Still, the veteran hurler has some time to show he can still be effective. His hefty $13.5MM salary makes it quite likely he’ll clear waivers; there’s also a $1MM buyout on a $14MM club option for 2019. If the Twins decide they aren’t going to pick that up, then perhaps they’ll seek to get what they can (cost savings and/or prospects) at some point this month.
16. Shin-Soo Choo, OF/DH, Rangers: Choo has been very productive at the plate, but he’s also mostly limited to functioning as a designated hitter, is already 36 years of age, and is not only owed the balance of his $20MM annual salary this year but $42MM more for the coming two seasons. He’d mostly appeal to American League teams, but it’s not clear that any of the current contenders is really positioned to add him.
17. Starlin Castro, 2B, Marlins: A strong run at the plate of late increases Castro’s appeal somewhat, though teams generally know what to expect. He’s a solidly average player earning a bit more than he’d likely command on the open market, with a $10MM salary this year, $11MM owed for 2019, and a $1MM buyout due thereafter. Still, if a sudden infield need arises, he’d be an immediate fill-in option. And the Marlins would surely be open to striking a deal.
18. Logan Morrison, 1B/DH, Twins: Hear me out. True, Morrison has been poor at the plate for most of the season. His $6.5MM salary feels steep given the output, and there’s still a $1MM buyout on a 2019 option. Plus, there are a few other lefty sluggers that could still be added. But none of those other players was as good as Morrison last year and Statcast suggests he’s been a victim of poor fortune in 2018 (.290 wOBA vs. .355 xwOBA). The Twins ought to be motivated to save some cash, and Morrison might be an intriguing bench/platoon bat for the right contender.
19-20. Elvis Andrus, SS & Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers: Andrus is hitting again and could be a free agent at season’s end. But his opt-out situation — he can choose to hit the open market this year or next, or play for at least four more years and $58MM — greatly complicates things. That said, the Tigers managed to deal Justin Upton last year in a generally similar situation, so perhaps a swap can’t be ruled out. As for Beltre, there was interest heading into the deadline. Unlike Adam Jones of the Orioles — another high-priced, highly respected player with full no-trade rights — Beltre never (so far as is publicly known) fully ruled out a deal. While both he and the team are seemingly happy to continue their relationship for the rest of the year, if not beyond, perhaps there’s still a chance that he’s dealt.
Teams To Watch
The American League field has been narrowed substantially, with just six teams battling for five postseason spots. Unless one of those clubs goes through a terrible run over the next few weeks, the divide between buyers and sellers will remain fixed on that side.
It’s quite different in the National League, however. There’s still loads of uncertainty and many possibilities for change in the coming weeks. The Nationals, Cardinals, and Giants all entered the season with expectations of contention, but could still pivot if they fall further back. Likewise, the Pirates could still decide to seek some savings on veterans if things go south. That could make for some fascinating, late-emerging trade candidates. For now, the picture remains unclear.