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Trade Deadline Primer

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With the trade deadline Monday, which teams are expected to be active?

This year’s trade deadline figures to be an interesting one. With a bunched-up wild card race and only a handful of superpowers at the top, several contenders will be looking to add pieces. Several teams on the opposite side of the spectrum will be looking to offload Major League talent for prospects that will help them return to winning in the seasons to come. Here are just a handful of teams that figure to be active in the coming week.

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Image Credit: CBS Sports

Chicago White Sox


News arrived last Tuesday of Todd Frazier being packaged with David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in a swap with the Yankees. Then just yesterday they traded their next best reliever Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers. The White Sox aren’t finished making moves yet. Despite having already dealt five valuable contributors, the White Sox still have additional trade pieces to further their rebuilding efforts. Currently dead last in the American League Central, and following the Jose Quintana trade, they have fully committed to a rebuild.

Prior to injury Avisail Garcia and Melky Cabrera were two role players that could draw serious interest from other teams. Now that Garcia will miss a few weeks with a strained ligament in his thumb, that just leaves Melky Cabrera as the role player most likely to be dealt. 

The switch hitting Cabrera is a consistent put-the-ball-in-play sort of bat. His overall offensive production is slightly above average (105 wRC+ this season and 102 wRC+ over his career), while his 88.2 contact percentage is the second highest in the American League (behind Dustin Pedroia). He strikes out just 12.7% of the time, and his 87.2 average exit velocity on ground balls is in the upper echelon as well. While his defense leaves much to be desired, there’s a lot to appreciate about having his kind of bat in the lineup. It also helps that he’s a switch hitter, providing managers with lineup flexibility.

The White Sox could continue to bolster their farm system by dealing star first baseman Jose Abreu. They have invested a lot in Abreu’s development, but if they are truly committed to a total rebuild, then moving Abreu could bring a substantial return. He could draw interest from contenders in need of first base help, such as the Dodgers.

Trading for Abreu would keep Cody Bellinger consistently in an outfield spot. Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Bellinger, and Abreu hitting in the two through five spots would arguably make the Dodgers lineup the NL’s strongest (Nationals fans may disagree — if this trade happens we’ll just have to debate this in a future piece). The Dodgers are ahead of the Nationals in both offensive WAR and wRC+. Abreu would provide the firepower that the Dodgers need to blow other NL teams out of the water offensively (similar to what the Astros are doing in the American League).

Given Abreu’s immense power, and future years of team control, the White Sox should be rewarded with a high caliber, multi-prospect haul. 

The White Sox in a couple of years could feasibly see themselves in the position that the Yankees find themselves in today. The Yankees added A-list prospects Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in the Andrew Miller trade, and Gleyber Torre in the Aroldis Chapman trade. Factor in homegrown talents Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, and the Yankees look primed to be one of the best teams in baseball for the foreseeable future.

The White Sox brought in elite prospects Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada in the Chris Sale deal. The Quintana and Frazier deals brought in top prospects Eloy Jimenez, Blake Rutherford, and Dylan Cease. The White Sox also boast recent high draft picks Zack Collins, Jake Burger, and Carson Fulmer. Recent international signee Luis Robert adds to the embarrassment of riches. Depending on which prospect list you use, the White Sox have at least nine of the top 70 prospects in baseball. If they are able to acquire one or two more elite prospects for Abreu, then their future could be even brighter than that of the Yankees.

Boston Red Sox


The Red Sox may not have had the farm system depth to pull off the Frazier deal, but if Dave Dombrowski has demonstrated anything to Red Sox fans so far, it is that he is not afraid to pull the trigger. Dombrowski is likely to make a series of deals involving low caliber minor leaguers because the Red Sox farm system has been virtually depleted of high caliber prospects such as Yoan Moncada, Anderson Espinoza, and Michael Kopech.

One such move happened in the past few days when the Red Sox traded two minor league pitchers to the San Francisco Giants for Eduardo Nunez. The acquisition of Nunez provides the Red Sox with a productive offensive bat in the infield, and gives the Red Sox room to send Rafael Devers back down to the minors for some additional seasoning if they see fit. Nunez has seen significant playing time this season at 3B and LF, and he’s capable of filling in at shortstop as well.

Another affordable deadline option for the Red Sox is Pat Neshek of the Phillies. Neshek is on an expiring deal, and could provide a low-cost setup man for the Boston bullpen. While Boston’s bullpen has the second lowest ERA in the American League (2.97), they lack a trustworthy eighth inning option behind Craig Kimbrel (unless you trust Joe Kelly over a full season). Fernando Abad, Blaine Boyer, Heath Hembree, and Robby Scott all have near-league average FIP, but aren’t the dominant pieces a team needs in a successful postseason relief corps. Neshek’s 1.12 ERA and low 0.57 HR/9 rate would be a boon to the Red Sox’s bullpen in preparation for an October appearance.

Neshek, Kimbrel, Kelly, and Barnes would create a quartet capable of shutting opposing lineups down. Neshek’s lethal fastball-changeup combo will keep opposing sluggers at bay. The addition of Neshek will provide the Red Sox with a fourth reliever capable of earning big time outs. 

UPDATE: Pat Neshek has been traded to the Colorado Rockies, and is thus no longer available.  

Pirates reliever Tony Watson would also be a good fit for the Red Sox. Watson can provide two things that the Red Sox don’t have: a reliable left hander, and late inning experience. He has allowed just three earned runs to left-handed hitters this year, whereas Red Sox lefties Robby Scott and Fernando Abad have allowed four and five homers respectively, while pitching significantly fewer innings than Watson. But Watson is not just a lefty specialist. While he has struggled against righties this season, in his career lefties and righties are both hitting under .230 against him. He’s had success with three plus pitches, a fastball, changeup, and slider, all with ERA againsts of 2.50 and lower.

Watson’s experience as a closer could serve the Red Sox well, as John Farrell has been notably reluctant to use Kimbrel in high-leverage non save situations.

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Image Credit: Zimbio

Los Angeles Dodgers


The Los Angeles Dodgers have a number of high-end holes that can be filled by this trade deadline cast of available players. An expensive power bat that could be available at this year’s deadline is Khris Davis. He is under team control through 2019, but given Billy Beane‘s trademark willingness to make a deal, and the A’s current location in the cellar of the AL West, Davis could certainly be available.

Still weeks away from a rehab assignment, Adrian Gonzalez’s injury may force the Dodgers to either keep Bellinger at first the rest of the season, or acquire a first baseman on the market (see White Sox section and Jose Abreu). Bellinger is certainly an adequate replacement for Gonzalez, but playing Bellinger at first compromises the Dodgers’ outfield depth, so adding a first baseman or an outfielder could be a deadline priority.

Outside of super utility man Chris Taylor, and the aforementioned Bellinger, Davis would have the highest WAR among the remaining Dodger outfielders. He also offers a power-speed threat that profiles well next to the speed and power of Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig. Davis already has 28 home runs this season, well on pace for another 40+ HR season, while ranking fourth in the American League in RBIs with 69. This trade would leave the Dodgers with two of the MLB home run leaders, well placed next to the high on base percentages of Corey Seager and Justin Turner.

An outfield of Davis, Pederson, and Puig could also be the best defensive outfield in the NL. The trio all have above average BZ ratings, and have all made an exceptional amount of plays outside of their zone. Additionally, Davis’s exceptional Statcast sprint speed of 26.1 feet/second will further his range. His arm is nothing to brag about, but the Dodgers have Puig to handle the right to third base throws. Adding Khris Davis will not only solidify the Dodgers as the best offensive team in the National League, but also one of the best defensive squads.


Of course the Dodgers’ biggest need is starting pitching, and that’s where the cream-of-the-crop rotation arms become priorities. Especially with Clayton Kershaw going on the disabled list, the Dodgers lack a true ace at the top of their rotation (sorry Alex Wood and Rich Hill, but neither of you are Kershaw-caliber). Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray have been the most common names being thrown around as ace-level options, but Lance Lynn and Chris Archer are both potential available arms if their respective teams decide to sell. Archer especially would require a sizeable package, but the Dodgers have the pieces to pull it off if they feel like pulling the trigger.

Houston Astros


Speaking of Sonny Gray, the Astros could be looking for another starter, and Gray fits perfectly into their long-term plans. Under control through 2019, and with Quintana already off the board, Gray is arguably the best non-rental starting pitcher available (and arguably the best overall depending how you feel about Darvish). He is well on his way to putting his injury-plague 2016 season behind him, striking out batters at his highest rate since his rookie season (23.5 K% this season), and contributing a 3.24 FIP. It was only just recently (2015) that Gray finished third place in American League Cy Young voting.

The Astros are clearly in the market for starting pitching, as their staff has had extensive struggles with injuries all season. Aces 1A Dallas Keuchel and 1B Lance McCullers and backend starter Joe Musgrove have seen time on the DL. Collin McHugh just made his return to the rotation, and his season debut, over the weekend after recovering from shoulder injury. Brad Peacock has been a pleasant surprise since he’s entered the rotation, allowing two runs or fewer in nine of his 11 starts. Then the Astros have a choice between the innings eaters of Charlie Morton and Mike Fiers, both solid pitchers, but neither exciting playoff prospects.

Gray could help to anchor an Astros staff that has been full of turmoil, and provide them with a third head of a behemoth October rotation, but of course the expected price tag is high given the team control and high upside. The Astros possess four of Keith Law’s top 100 prospects, and the farm system has depth throughout. Clearly the pieces are there for a trade to happen.

New York Yankees


The Yankees already took care of their third base hole by trading for the aforementioned Frazier, and shored up their bullpen by acquiring Robertson and Kahnle. What’s left for the Yanks to fix is their unreliable starting pitching.

Luis Severino has been enjoying a breakout season, but basically everyone else, including superstar Masahiro Tanaka, has struggled. Tanaka especially has been hit by the long ball fever, giving up nearly two homers per nine innings with a career high 22.7% HR/FB rate. Sonny Gray is an option for this staff, and he rarely allows the longball, as evidenced by his career HR/9 of 0.8. He is primarily a groundball pitcher, which means he has the ability to keep the ball away from the short porches of Yankee Stadium. Gray and Severino would give the Yankees a formidable one-two punch that will keep the Yankees competitive in any postseason series.

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This year’s trade deadline figures to be an exciting one, as there are so many teams in postseason contention. All of the contenders have holes, with fixes available on selling teams. As the trades start to pile up on top of each other, the “right” moves for each team will become more and more convoluted, but the Shark Week-like Frenzy of trades will be enjoyable. 

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Edited by Emily Berman.

SQuiz
Of the players traded at the 2016 MLB Trade Deadline, which one finished the season with the highest fWAR?
Created 7/27/17
  1. Matt Moore
  2. Jonathan Lucroy
  3. Drew Pomeranz
  4. Eduardo Nunez

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