Unless you are in a very shallow mixed league, chances are excellent that the major league non-waiver trade deadline will have an impact on your fantasy league. Even if you don’t play fantasy baseball, the deadline is a fun time if you are a baseball fan, but ever since I started playing fantasy baseball, I feel like I pay extra attention to the rumor mill.
What I have compiled for our readers this week is a helpful, at-a-glance, one article look at the potential trade market this month, particularly from the viewpoint of players who might be on the move. 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 that 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 7-8 games back or more in the race for the second wild card in each league and examining what they might do if they do decide to sell. Some of these teams might not pack it in for 2015, but they are worth looking at in case they do.
In some cases, players are not listed below even if they have been the subjects of rumors. For example, Cole Hamels has mentioned as a potential trade target, but the size and length of his contract make him an unlikely target at the deadline.
All contract information in this article comes from the excellent resources at MLB Depth Charts and Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Any errors in contract status or free agent status below are mine. There are a small handful of injured or low level 2015 free agents not included below.
Tampa Bay Rays
2015 Free Agents: Erik Bedard, SP; Juan Carlos Oviedo, RP.
Other Potential Targets: David Price, SP (2015 arbitration, 2016 free agent); Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF (2015 $7.5M club option); Matt Joyce (2015 arbitration, 2016 free agent).
Price is the biggest name possibly on the block. Between the price paid for Jeff Samardzija and the high salary Price is likely to draw in arbitration next winter, the Rays might decide to pull the trigger on a deal. Price is a fantasy ace in any ballpark and the guy fantasy players sitting on FAAB in NL-only are dreaming on this month. Zobrist’s 2015 option is certainly club-friendly, but this is what could make him appealing to mid-budget contenders looking for a middle infielder. The Rays could trade anyone if they do decide to sell, but due to the club’s policy of locking so many players into long-term deals when they’re young there are not that many expensive chips on the roster. Joyce is listed here merely as a possibility due to arbitration escalating his salary next winter. Oviedo is a potential piece for a contender’s bullpen (get used to reading that sentence or something similar as you read through these summaries).
Logan Forsythe is in the lineup now due to Yunel Escobar’s injury and would see more time in the second half if Zobrist were moved. Jeremy Hellickson is due to return this week and the Rays rotation minus Price is the likely alignment if Price goes. Alex Colome and Mike Montgomery are intriguing rotation candidates who could provide some value in deeper mixed if they get the call. Enny Romero has struggled this year in Triple-A and is unlikely to get promoted.
2015 Free Agents: Wil Nieves, C; Kyle Kendrick, SP; Roberto Hernandez, SP.
Other Potential Targets: Marlon Byrd, OF (2015 $8M, 2016 PA vesting option); A.J. Burnett, SP (2015 split mutual option, limited no trade); Jonathan Papelbon, CL (2015 $13M, 2016 GF vesting option); Cliff Lee, SP (2015 $25M, 2016 vesting option, limited no trade); Jimmy Rollins, SS (2015 vesting option will likely vest, 10/5 no-trade rights).
Because of the advanced age of the roster, rumormongers have already sold half of the Phillies off for parts. Of the definitive free agents, only Kendrick would have marginal value, and probably as a no. 5 innings-eating starter at best. The non-free agents are where things could get potentially interesting, but with the exception of Rollins every player on this list has questions. Byrd is killing it in the power department for a second year in a row but would be more appealing as a rental, and that 2016 option isn’t ideal. The 2013 version of Burnett would be a great addition to any staff, but the 2014 version has been erratic and is pitching through a hernia that will likely need surgery in the offseason.
Papelbon, Lee, and Rollins would all make terrific targets, but Papelbon and Lee both have potentially prohibitive contracts. Papelbon’s option is a games finished option of 100 games combined between 2014-2015 or 55 games finished in 2015. If he’s closing somewhere, that option likely stays, and it is unlikely someone will take on that contract to stick him in a set-up role. A healthy Lee would be a great add, but he is still on the road to recovery and there is some health risk—both short and long term—for any potential suitor. Rollins is having a solid year, but can block a trade to any team. He has sent mixed messages about waiving his no-trade clause, although another opportunity at a title could be difficult to pass up.
In addition to an aging roster, the Phillies have a thin bench and most of their stronger prospects are in the low minors. John Mayberry would slot in for Marlon Byrd, though this would expose Mayberry’s weaknesses against right-handed pitching. A healthy Darin Ruf would also enter into the outfield equation. Both have power potential for NL-only leagues. Ken Giles is the most electric arm in the Phils pen, but Justin De Fratus might get the first crack at closing if Papelbon goes. The fact that the Phillies have trotted Sean O’Sullivan out there to start this year tells you all you need to know about the fantasy relevance of Philadelphia’s potential Burnett fill-ins.
San Diego Padres
2015 Free Agents: Chase Headley, 3B; Chris Denorfia, OF; Tim Stauffer, SP.
Other Potential Targets: Huston Street, RP (2015 club option $7M); Joaquin Benoit, RP (2015 club option $8M, 2016 club option/vesting option); Carlos Quentin, OF (2015 $8M, 2016 mutual option, no trade clause); Ian Kennedy, SP (2015 arbitration, 2016 free agent).
Potential Action: The Padres could be big movers and shakers at the deadline if they try to move the non-free agents on the list above. Despite a down year, Headley has generated significant interest, with the Yankees and Blue Jays linked to Headley in multiple reports. Edwin Encarnacion’s injury might increase the Jays’ sense of urgency to acquire an infielder. Headley would slot right in as a starter in nearly any trade and would see an immediate boost in value anywhere he went due to the change in venue. Street and Benoit have both been bandied about as possible trade chips, although the Padres have indicated that they are unlikely to move Street. Teams generally don’t overpay for relief commodities, but with multiple contenders having issues with their closers, 2014 could be an exception to this “rule”. Kennedy is a long shot to move, but if the Padres decide to clean house and do a full rebuild starting pitchers almost always fetch a strong price on the market.
If both Benoit and Street go, Dale Thayer is likely the favorite for saves, with Alex Torres as the intriguing dark horse. If there is a trade at all, it is more likely that Street goes and Benoit closes, which is something to keep in mind in 12 or 14-team mixed leagues. Any starting pitcher who might replace Kennedy would be of immediate interest as a home games streamer in all formats at a minimum. If he gets promoted, Matt Wisler could be good enough to be worth starting everyday even in 15-team mixed, but it’s also possible that Andrew Cashner simply returns in August and the Padres leave their current rotation intact. The Padres offense has been brutal this year, and extra playing time for Headley fill-ins or any OF replacements doesn’t guarantee all that much additional value. Old familiar friends Chris Nelson and Tyler Greene are placeholders in the minors who could see promotions if Headley goes. Moving an OF would open up playing time for the outfielders who are left behind. Perhaps Will Venable wakes up from his season-long nap and goes back to performing like a 15-15 player if he is pushed back into regular duty, but I wouldn’t bet my autographed Nate Colbert jersey on it.
Boston Red Sox
2015 Free Agents: Jon Lester, SP; Koji Uehara, RP; A.J. Pierzynski, C; Stephen Drew, SS; Jake Peavy, SP; Jonny Gomes, OF; David Ross, C; Craig Breslow, RP; Andrew Miller, RP
Other Potential Targets: None
Publicly, the Red Sox haven’t made any strong indications regarding whether they will sell, though a Red Sox executive did concede that it is possible. Lester would be the big prize in fantasy if he did move, and worth a break-the-bank bid in NL-only formats. Uehara is the other big prize if he goes somewhere else to close; he is one of the few current closers potentially on the market who wouldn’t automatically get demoted to a set-up role. It is possible that the Red Sox simply hold onto Lester and try to sign him in the offseason, and many rumors indicate this possibility. The lesser chips here aren’t nearly as interesting for fantasy purposes. I love Miller as a potential LOOGY add for a real life contender, but unless you’re playing in a 5×5 AL-only, he’s not particularly fantasy relevant. Pierzynski and Drew could both start elsewhere, but would be consolation prizes compared to some of the higher end pieces potentially on the move.
Edward Mujica would likely get first crack as closer if Uehara is dealt, but Junichi Tazawa would be a worthy stash in deeper mixed leagues as well in case Mujica can’t get the job done. Ross gets a bump up in at bats if he stays and Pierzynski moves and he does have some pop in his bat. If the Sox can find a taker for Drew, Xander Bogaerts probably moves back to shortstop, and a healthy Will Middlebrooks gets another shot at third. A Lester and/or Peavy move likely opens the door for Felix Doubront down the stretch.
2015 Free Agents: Geovany Soto, C; Colby Lewis, SP; Neal Cotts, RP; Jason Frasor, RP.
Other Potential Targets: Alex Rios, OF (2015 $13.5M club option, limited no trade clause); Joakim Soria, RP (2015 $7M); Elvis Andrus, SS (signed through 2022 with a 2023 option)
While you never should put anything past Jon Daniels, the potential free agents are hardly enticing. Cotts and Frasor would be depth adds for a contender’s bullpen, and Soto still isn’t off of the DL. The intriguing names are the players the Rangers still have under control. Despite a somewhat down year, Rios would be a strong add for nearly any contender, while Soria would make a good bullpen piece. Because of their favorable contracts, the Rangers would be unlikely to move these guys unless they received a pretty strong return. Some believe Andrus is movable because that contract isn’t as onerous as it seemed at first glance, but the Andrus rumors are more like wish casting for those anxious to see a Rougned Odor/Jurickson Profar middle infield than anything substantial.
The only significant fantasy bump would be if Soria goes. Neftali Feliz could get the job, although if Cotts or Frasor stay behind one of them could get a shot or at the very least pick up a few saves here and there.
New York Mets
2015 Free Agents: Chris Young, OF; Bobby Abreu, OF; Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP.
Other Potential Targets: Bartolo Colon, SP (2015 $11M, 2016 free agent); Daniel Murphy, 2B (2015 arbitration, 2016 free agent).
Mets fans hoping for sweeping changes are likely to be disappointed, since most of the players on the team are either young and cost controlled or of marginal value, even to the Mets. Young is more likely to be designated for assignment than traded, and while Abreu’s nominal resurgence has been nice, he won’t net anything worth mentioning via trade. Colon and Murphy are the players who could bring back something. Colon turns 42 next May; he would be more attractive to contenders as a two-month rental but pitching is valuable in this market. Murphy is the guy who could have some decent value given the low quantity of middle infield chips on the market.
Rafael Montero—currently sidelined at Triple-A with an oblique injury—could see time in the rotation again if Colon is moved, although the Mets might simply slide Dillon Gee back into the rotation and let Matsuzaka continue starting. A lot will depend on how serious Jon Niese’s latest injury is. If Murphy gets traded, the Mets might call up Wilfredo Tovar or Omar Quintanilla to man second base. Even in NL-only, these guys are barely worth considering.
Like the Mets, the Diamondbacks don’t have a lot of players worth considering for contenders, particularly with the Joe Thatcher and Brandon McCarthy trades this past holiday weekend. Chavez is the only free agent left on Arizona’s team. Hill and Prado have both been tied to multiple teams in rumors. While Hill has been a disappointment for the Diamondbacks, he is relatively cheap and would be an upgrade for the replacement level talent a few teams have been putting out there. Prado is also having a down year, but his versatility and prior track record could make him one of the stronger adds in this market.
A trade of one of Prado or Hill would allow the Diamondbacks to play both Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings (when Owings comes off of the DL) full time. Owings has the greater fantasy value, though Gregorius might be worth considering in deeper mixed. If both Hill and Prado get traded, Nick Ahmed could see a long-term boost in NL-only leagues due to his speed. Vidal Nuno slots right into the Diamondbacks rotation for McCarthy. He is an NL-only add at best.
Little if any noise has come out of Minnesota in terms of potential trades. Morales is the only player who has even been vaguely rumored to move, and he has been more the subject of general “he could move” rumors. Morales would probably slide right into another team’s starting lineup if moved; Willingham and Suzuki would likely see at least some dip in playing time. Correia is a long shot to move simply because he’s a second division starting pitcher and a marginal improvement at best to a contender’s staff.
Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelee would likely see more playing time at 1B/DH/OF. Josmil Pinto might return if Suzuki goes depending on what happens with Pinto’s hip injury. Alex Meyer could be promoted, but Trevor May is the guy I’d look at for short-term fantasy impact in the unlikely event Correia is moved.
Chicago White Sox
2015 Free Agents: Adam Dunn, DH/1B; Paul Konerko 1B; (10/5 no trade rights) Felipe Paulino, SP; Matt Lindstrom, RP
Other Potential Targets: Alejandro de Aza, OF (2015 arbitration, 2016 free agent); Dayan Viciedo, OF (2015-2017 arbitration, 2018 free agent).
Potential Action: Viciedo and Jose Quintana (not listed above) have generated the only significant rumors. This is understandable given the limited value of the free agents, but both have very favorable contracts for the Sox. Dunn would likely be a platoon player at best for a contender, while it seems unlikely that Konerko would waive his no-trade rights given that he wants to finish his career in Chicago. de Aza’s going to get more expensive in his last go round in arbitration and could be shopped.
Potential Beneficiaries: I’d like to see what Moises Sierra could do given extra playing time, but that’s probably just crazy old me. He’s an AL-only play even as a starter. A Dunn trade would open up a lot more at bats for Konerko at DH, though even then it is doubtful Konerko would get full-time action.
The Rockies could have a very quiet deadline. Cuddyer isn’t healthy and if he gets moved at all it will be in August. de la Rosa would improve in any other park, but the Rockies are believed to want to keep the ability to make a qualifying offer and de la Rosa has expressed interest in staying as well. Stubbs is mentioned because his salary and arbitration status make him a potential non-tender candidate, but his value would plummet away from Coors on some contender’s bench.
The Rockies rotation is already decimated, and if a Jonathan Gray promotion is going to happen this year, it won’t hinge upon a de la Rosa trade. A Cuddyer swap would solidify Corey Dickerson’s playing time in the second half assuming, again, that Cuddyer makes it back in 2014.
This would have been an interesting section to write prior to the Cubs/Athletics blockbuster trade on Friday, but with the exception of a few small parts, the Cubs are likely done. Schierholtz offers a little value to contenders looking for a platoon bat/pinch hitter. If healthy, Bonifacio’s versatility makes him a useful bench option.
The most interesting post All-Star storyline for the Cubs will have more to do with whether or not prospects Arismendy Alcantara and Kris Bryant get promoted to the majors than what happens if the few remaining pieces for the Cubs get traded. A Schierholtz trade would be more intriguing if the Cubs were planning on promoting Bryant in August and moving him to the outfield, but this is idle speculation at best. Justin Ruggiano and Chris Coghlan are the realistic candidates to see a bump in playing time if Schierholtz gets moved.
2015 Free Agents: Jesse Crain, RP; Matt Albers, RP; Jose Veras, RP
Other Potential Targets: Scott Feldman, SP (2015 $10M, 2016 $8M, 2017 free agent); Dexter Fowler (2015 arbitration, 2016 free agent).
It should be a quiet deadline for the Astros. Their payroll is already very low, and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has indicated that the Astros are less likely to simply deal veterans with escalating contracts than they have been in the past. This means that Fowler likely isn’t going anywhere. Crain doesn’t have much time left to establish full health, leaving Albers and prior discard Veras as the only definitive free agents that could be dealt.
In the unlikely event that Chad Qualls gets dealt, the Astros will go through the some closer uncertainty they went through in 2013. It could be a healthy Crain, or it could be Veras if he reestablishes his value. I dislike speculating on saves even in a strong bullpen, so this is a boilerplate fantasy situation to avoid.