July 21, 2014
The MLB Trade Landscape, Buyers
Two weeks ago, I looked at the potential sellers at the major league trade deadline. Today, I will take a look at potential buyers.
The same caveats from my last article apply. What I have compiled for our readers is a helpful, at-a-glance look at the potential trade market this month, particularly from the vantage point of teams that might be adding players. It is not meant to be an all-encompassing guide; it is possible some rumored targets are not listed below. Since this is a fantasy article, I will focus on fantasy impact but if you are a non-fantasy player and a Baseball Prospectus reader I hope this article proves useful to you as well.
I am not predicting who will buy or sell at the deadline but rather looking at teams that are in contention for the second wild card in each league at a minimum and examining what they might do if they decide to sell. Some of these teams might not pack it in for 2015, but are worth looking at in case they do.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
In Brief: The Huston Street trade fills a need and further empties an already thin farm system. Another starting pitcher would be ideal, but given the Angels thin farm this could be a luxury item now. The best bet would be targeting a pure salary dump, which won’t bring in the kind of impact arm listed above.
Playing Time Risk: Joe Smith moves into a set-up role. He is droppable in all mixed formats. Hector Santiago and/or Matt Shoemaker would be the guys to go if the Angels do manage to grab a starting pitcher. Both are somewhat intriguing as deeper options long term but make me wary if you’re contending for a fantasy title now.
In Brief: It is far more likely that the Tigers make a supplemental move or two as opposed to pulling the trigger on a blockbuster deal. Despite Joe Nathan’s struggles, the organization is more likely to go after a complement to Nathan as opposed to a replacement closer. Earlier this year, it seemed like the Tigers might try to acquire a shortstop, but rookie Eugenio Suarez has been capable. Andy Dirks’s most recent setback puts the Tigers in a position where they might want more outfield depth, but J.D. Martinez’s breakout year makes it unlikely that the team will acquire a starter.
Playing Time Risk: Nathan might not lose his job, but if a high-end reliever is acquired Nathan could lose a few save opportunities. Raj Davis has already lost playing time as a result of Martinez; bringing another outfielder in would hamper Davis’s fantasy value even more.
In Brief: The obvious holes that the Jays had a couple of weeks ago have become gaping chasms, as a combination of injuries and regression have pushed the Jays out of first place in the AL East and at risk of missing the playoffs entirely. The Jays certainly do have the chips to land a major piece, but most of the more logical rumors have floated around players like Headley, who is having a down year and likely won’t cost a mint. Price is mentioned here but even though some suggest the Rays might trade in the division, he seems like a long shot.
Playing Time Risk: The Blue Jays will likely get either a third baseman or a second baseman and add depth elsewhere. In the short-term, this would push Munenori Kawasaki to the bench, but once Brett Lawrie returns Juan Francisco is the player most likely to lose playing time. If the Jays do acquire a starting pitcher, J.A. Happ is the obvious candidate to get bumped, although if there are any plans to limit Marcus Stroman’s innings he could be moved to the bullpen down the stretch.
In Brief: It is hard to tell at times if the Mariners really are interested in Price or if this is a case of the media pushing this rumor hard because it would be such a blockbuster. One reason that Price is a consideration is because even though there is more of a need on offense, the outfield options listed above are not significant upgrades. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported on Thursday that the Mariners are focused more on Zobrist, which might make more sense than Price. Although the Mariners haven’t been linked to any non-Price starters, a smaller deadline deal for a back end piece fits here.
Playing Time Risk: Any one of the Mariners outfielders (Dustin Ackley, Endy Chavez, Michael Saunders, and James Jones) could lose playing time. Jones is the only one at this point with significant value outside of an only format. If you’re banking on Jones for steals, this is something to consider. Roenis Elias has faded since a fast start and is the most likely starter to go. I don’t even trust him in AL-only at this point.
In Brief: Most of the recent rumors linking Papelbon, Price, and Hamels to the Dodgers are of the “no, we’re not interested variety.” The Dodgers public front has been that they don’t want to blow up the farm system, even for a pitcher like Hamels with plenty of cost control. There is a good possibility that the Dodgers either stand pat at the deadline or simply add a small upgrade or two for the bench and bullpen. No names have been floated, but think impending free agents who won’t get qualifying offers from their current teams.
Playing Time Risk: Dan Haren if the Dodgers acquire another starting pitcher.
In Brief: The Brewers are in an odd situation. They most certainly aren’t a juggernaut, but have a balanced team from top to bottom. GM Doug Melvin has stated on multiple occasions that he probably will stand pat, as he views injured relievers Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson as bullpen upgrades when they return. There has been some idle speculation about Milwaukee acquiring Price, but no serious reports linking the Brewers with him.
Playing Time Risk: Jimmy Nelson if the Brewers decide to acquire a starter, but the Brewers are going to give him every opportunity to keep the job. Richie Weeks has been mentioned as a possible trade target for other contenders, but the job sharing arrangement with Scooter Gennett has worked out quite well this year.
*Would be second wild card behind Angels/Mariners if they fell behind both teams in standings.
In Brief: The Athletics made a huge impact with the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, but still use upgrades elsewhere, with second base the biggest need. As is typically the case, Billy Beane’s front office doesn’t have many leaks, so it is difficult to ascertain what players if any the A’s are exploring.
Playing Time Risk: Eric Sogard, Alberto Callaspo (when he returns from the DL), and Stephen Vogt could stand the lost the most playing time. These are all AL-only plays, and not particularly strong ones at that.
In Brief: It is unclear if the Orioles are not linked to bigger starting pitcher names like David Price because they don’t want to deal significant pieces from their farm system for him or if the Rays don’t want to deal Price within the division without getting back even more than they would elsewhere. The Orioles would undoubtedly love to get an upgrade behind the plate, but available catchers are few and far between. The Orioles might not have a better opportunity than this year to make a splash in the playoffs, but it remains to be seen if they will do so.
Playing Time Risk: Whether or not Kevin Gausman is at risk depends on how the Orioles decide to handle him down the stretch. He is the most intriguing pitcher in the rotation in terms of upside. Miguel Gonzalez is probably the other arm that could get replaced if the Orioles decide to keep going with Gausman down the stretch. Jonathan Schoop and the Orioles catching combination of Caleb Joseph, Nick Hundley, and Steve Clevinger are all nothing better than AL-only, with Clevinger not even meriting consideration for that.
In Brief: Most of the Nationals rumors have centered on players that they might trade, such as Danny Espinosa, Denard Span, or Ross Detwiler. The Nationals are similar to the Brewers in that they don’t have a dominant squad but do have a deep team that doesn’t require a huge upgrade.
In Brief: The acquisition of Jason Frasor doesn’t necessarily mean the Royals are done acquiring relievers. Byrd has been linked to the Royals frequently, but they are on his no trade list and it seems unlikely Kansas City would assume Byrd’s 2016 option as a condition to make the trade. Gomes’ contract is more team-friendly and he might be the more realistic piece.
Playing Time Risk: If Byrd is acquired, Norichika Aoki and Raul Ibanez would lose a good amount of playing time (and Ibanez might not survive on the team). If it is Gomes, Aoki and Ibanez would both lose at bats in some kind of platoon. A third baseman is listed above as a need for the Royals, but Mike Moustakas has performed better of late and is very likely to hang on to his job.
In Brief: The Pirates were linked to Street multiple times prior to the Angels acquisition of the reliever on Friday. You can never have enough quality relief pitching, but why the Pirates keep looking for Mark Melancon alternatives is a great mystery. Cost is very likely to be an issue with any acquisition, so while David Price would be a great get, don’t count on this happening. Most of the team’s needs probably won’t be satisfied in this market. Ike Davis didn’t solve the team’s issues at first base, but the market at first base is dry. Jordy Mercer has played better of late; acquiring someone simply for the sake of acquiring someone isn’t particularly sensible.
Playing Time Risk: Vance Worley is the most likely starting pitcher to lose his job if the Pirates do acquire an arm. As mentioned above, it seems doubtful that Mercer or Davis are truly at risk to lose playing time. Reliever rumors are worth watching. Melancon is worth counting on, but if the Pirates are looking for an upgrade, it means that he is a risk to go back into the set up role.
In Brief: Marco Scutaro is back, but the Giants are unsure if he’ll stay healthy over the day-to-day grind of the rest of the season. Zobrist would be a great get, but the affordable 2015 club option means he won’t come cheaply. Uggla will clear waivers, but while the Giants have had a good track record of revitalizing past-their-prime veterans, this signing would be a Hail Mary. As was the case with a lot of teams in on Street, his cost certainty was part of the appeal. It is extremely unlikely the Giants would grab Papelbon. The Giants are considered a dark horse in the Price “sweepstakes” but shouldn’t be ruled out completely.
Playing Time Risk: Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo are both potentially at risk depending on how the ninth inning shakes out. Scutaro obviously is a candidate to get bumped, though if you were sleeping on Joe Panik in NL-only you can forget about him if the Giants somehow land Zobrist.
In Brief: Peavy is the first player I have crossed out in this article who hasn’t been traded. Multiple reports have indicated that the Braves are unlikely to add payroll, which is why every name on the list above is an affordable middle reliever. The team will probably stick with Tommy LaStella at second unless someone falls in the team’s lap.
Playing Time Risk: A few marginal relievers with little or any fantasy value are at risk. There are some whispers that Atlanta might cut B.J. Upton, which would give Jordan Schafer some sneaky steals value if the Braves don’t import an outfielder.
In Brief: Like many teams on this list, the Reds have payroll limitations, but Brandon Phillips’ injury highlights the need for the club to grab a second baseman. Zobrist is the lone second baseman linked to the club, though someone like David Murphy (who has not been in any Reds rumors) could fit the team’s payroll as well. It is unknown whether or not the Reds would be willing to surrender premium prospects for someone like Zobrist.
Playing Time Risk: Ramon Santiago is a utility player who is currently stretched out as a starter. Chris Heisey has picked it up at the plate of late, which might minimize the Reds need to grab another outfielder like Willingham.
In Brief: Even before Shelby Miller’s removal from the rotation, the Cardinals already seemed like a logical target for David Price. St. Louis has a surplus of outfielders and a strong farm system. It seems extremely doubtful that the club would move Oscar Taveras though, so one wonders if a package involving Stephen Piscotty as the outfield headliner would get it done. The Cardinals might want a window to negotitate an extension with Price if he is acquired. The Yadier Molina injury creates a pretty significant hole for the Cardinals, but it sounds far more likely they would bring in a complementary player (like Jose Molina) and simply wait for Yadier to return during the stretch run.
Playing Time Risk: George Kottaras and Tony Cruz would be the guys to watch if the Cardinals get another catcher. Kottaras has slightly more fantasy upside but Cruz is the one more likely to stick. Miller might simply stay in the pen if the Cardinals get a starter, but Carlos Martinez is also at risk.
In Brief: Even the normally liberal rumor mill seems to recognize that while the Yankees certainly have the payroll to fill a need, they don’t have a strong system from which to deal. Jackson probably makes sense because his contract is prohibitively expensive and the Yankees could give the Cubs salary relief, but a marginal arm like Kyle Kendrick or Kevin Correia would cost less money and couldn’t be much worse. This is a bad year for the Yankees from a trade perspective, as there isn’t an obvious player on the market who fits their needs in a salary dump and their minor league pipeline is thin.
Playing Time Risk: If the Yankees do get a starting pitcher, Shane Greene and Chase Whitley are the biggest risks to get demoted. Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson are both deep league plays that have done little this season. Keep an eye on Johnson if he does stay. His power /speed combination could reemergence even if there is only a slight boost in the second half.
In Brief: Price was mentioned in passing, but recent rumors seem to suggest the Indians will aim lower. The Indians were far more on the bubble a couple of weeks ago and not committing to buying or selling. The rumor mill hasn’t talked much about the Indians as a result. They could still use a starter or a corner outfielder, but this doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily make a trade to get one.
Playing Time Risk: It is uncertain which direction the Indians will go, so no risks at the moment.