MLB Trade Deadline Preview/Rankings

Now that we are in the middle of June, we are almost a month away from the universal trade deadline; there is only one trade deadline this season. Therefore, there should be a lot of action soon, as teams try to position themselves for playoff and World Series pushes by prying away key assets for non-contenders, who are looking to bolster their farm system. So, who could be on the move? Let’s rank the top 35 players who could be traded during the trade deadline, ranking them based on the quality of the player, the amount of club control he has, and how likely his current team would trade him.

#35: UTIL Derek Dietrich, Cincinnati Reds

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Photo Cred: Yahoo Sports

Contract: Club Control Through 2020

Potential Fits: LAD, BOS, PHI, ARI, HOU, CHC

Despite posting a wrc+ over 100 in three straight seasons, the rebuilding Miami Marlins saw utility player Derek Dietrich as a cast-off; they cut ties with him this offseason. Dietrich then had close to zero interest in free agency, leading him to sign a minor league deal with the Reds. That has paid off tremendously for Cincinnati; Dietrich now has a wrc+ of 142, a WAR of 1.8, and has been one of the team’s best overall players. Notably, his walk rate (9.5%) is higher, as is his fly ball rate (49%), and his hard contact rate (40.9%). He’s mostly a platoon player, but given his versatility, he could be a very useful platoon partner at a variety of positions for contending teams. The question is if the Reds, who have him under club control for next season, would consider trading a non-rental; their positive run differential signals that they could contend next season.

#34: SP Tanner Roark, Cincinnati Reds

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Photo Cred: reuters.com

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: NYY, ATL, PHI, ARI, STL

When the Reds acquired Tanner Roark from the Nationals, I saw it as a disaster. He seemed to be on the decline, which made the move to Great American ballpark seem incredibly troublesome. To his credit, Roark has proved me wrong so far; he has 3.45 FIP in 67.1 innings for Cincinnati. His strikeout rate (9.22 K/9) is up, while he’s allowing fewer home runs. However, even with that FIP, I’m not sure Roark’s success is sustainable. His walk rate (3.61 BB/9) has spiked, while his XFIP and Skill-Interactive ERA (SIERA) are in the mid 4.00s. Furthermore, his ground ball rate continues to decrease, while his hard contact allowed has also risen. A team could see him as a veterans innings eater who could fill a back-end spot on a rotation that needs help – for a very cheap price since he’s a rental – but they shouldn’t expect him to be a difference maker in a playoff race.

#33: SP Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

Wheeler
Photo Cred: NY Post

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: NYY, HOU, MIN, STL, MIL, TB

The Mets have disappointed this season, with a sub .500 record and a very negative run differential. A major part of that has been the rotation, and it would seem Zack Wheeler would be a major reason why. After all, he’s posted a 4.87 ERA, which on the surface would look to be a step back from his breakout 2018 season in which he set career highs in nearly every statistic. Don’t worry though, Wheeler is fine. His 3.74 FIP and 3.83 xFIP are a much better indication on the type of pitcher he is, while his strong expected statistics and improved strikeout rate point to future success. The Mets have an “all-in” philosophy under new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, so it’s unclear if he would trade Wheeler, but he’d be an excellent rental addition similar to Nathan Eovaldi with the Red Sox a year ago.

#32: SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

mad bum
Photo Cred: Forbes

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: NYY, MIL, HOU, ATL

No player may be discussed more heavily ahead of the trade deadline then Madison Bumgarner. After all, he’s a known playoff performer who was the 2014 World Series MVP, while the Giants are already out of the playoff picture and should look to the trade the pending free agent. However, Bumgarner’s situation is complicated. For starters, he’s certainly not the pitcher he once was. His 3.89 FIP signals that he’s more of a middle of the rotation starting pitcher than a front-line starting pitcher, while his hard contact rate allowed and ground ball rates continue to go in the wrong direction. He’s also had the benefit of pitching at Oracle Park, which makes his high home run allowed rates somewhat alarming. Plus, he hasn’t pitched in a playoff game since 2016, and pitching in the postseason is a volatile skill; even Bumgarner has faltered in playoff games. San Francisco will need a team to massively overpaid for them to sell trading a franchise heroes to their fans, and if I were a general manager, I would take that as a sign that looking at other starting pitchers in a trade market full of them would be a better idea.

#31: OF Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati Reds

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Photo Cred: sportsnaut.com

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: COL, ARI, PHI

Coming into the season, Yasiel Puig seemed like a prime breakout candidate. After all, with his new team in Cincinnati, he’d get the chance to play every day, while also enjoying the benefits of the very small Great American Ballpark. However, Puig has disappointed with a wrc+ of just 62 and a negative 0.5 WAR, making the decision to acquire him look like a poor decision for the Reds. Puig’s walk rate is down to 5.3%, while his strikeout rate is up to 25.2%. Furthermore, his hard contact rate is slightly down, and though his .239 BABIP should improve, there’s nothing else to indicate a bounce back. Still, he’s an excellent defender (3 drs, 1.3 UZR), still possesses the power and offensive capability to go on a hot streak down the stretch, and should be cheap to acquire given his status as a pending free agent; he could be an interesting buy-low trade target.

#30: OF/DH Hunter Pence, Texas Rangers

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Photo Cred: Yahoo Sports

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: HOU, PHI, CHC

Following another subpar season as a Giant, it looked like Hunter Pence’s MLB career may have been over. He was coming off of a -0.9 WAR season with a 59 wrc+, and with San Francisco moving on, had little interest as a free agent. However, the Rangers gave him a chance by signing him to a minor league deal, and that decision has paid off incredibly. Pence’s wrc+ is up to 141, his WAR is up to 1.6, while his OPS is up to .951. Furthermore, he’s doubled his walk rate to 8%, raised his hard contact rate to 45.9%,  and has elite expected statistics based on the quality of his contact, according to Baseball Savant. There’s no clear indication that this resurgence isn’t legitimate, and if the Rangers fall out of contention, a team may be interested in the 36-year-old’s services as a bench bat, designated hitter, or platoon corner outfielder, though his defense has been poor this season.

#29: RP Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates

liriano
Photo Cred: apnews.com

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: LAD, HOU, BOS, CHC, MIL, MIN, TB, COL, ARI

Another player who signed a minor league deal, Francisco Liriano has exceeded expectations for the Pirates this season after being transitioned to a full-time reliever, currently owning a 2.27 ERA.  However, with a 4.10 FIP, 92.6% left on base rate, and a 4.23 SIERA, regression should soon be expected from the 35-year-old. Still, his expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) is the same as his current wOBA, he possesses high K rates versus lefties and has allowed only 28.7% hard contact. Additionally, his ability to pitch multiple innings is another benefit, and since he should cost practically nothing in terms of prospects, he could be a decent gamble as an extra bullpen arm, though he shouldn’t be expected to continue with his current performance.

#28: UTIL Howie Kendrick, Washington Nationals

kendrick
Photo Cred: WTOP.com

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: CHC, ARI, PHI, COL

With a career 108 wrc+ and 29.8 WAR, Howie Kendrick has always been a very underrated player. This season, he may have reached another level. The 35-year-old currently is at career highs in wrc+ (143), hard contact rate (43.4%), and wOBA (.392). Furthermore, his xwOBA (.427) is actually higher than his wOBA, his chase rate is down, and there are no signs that point to him slowing down at all. Plus, Kendrick’s ability to play second base, first base, third base, and the corner outfield at an average level add to his value, making him a potential useful depth piece for a contending team for the cheap, assuming the Nationals decide to trade their pending free agents.

#27: OF Nicholas Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

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Photo Cred: faketeams.com

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: PHI, COL

With all the trade speculation surrounding him the past couple years, it’s honestly a surprise that Nick Castellanos is still a member of the Tigers. Detroit might have missed the chance to get a decent return for him, however: Castellanos has regressed to a 101 wrc+. Decreases in his hard contact rate and line drive rate are concerning, as his putrid 41.3% chase rate. Additionally, although he’s fared better this season, all metrics rate him as a below average defender, further decreasing his value. He’s an interesting cheap trade target if he can return to his previous form, but as of now, potential fits for him are rightfully slim.

#26: RP Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals

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Photo Cred: MLB Trade Rumors

Contract: Free Agent After 2020, Making $16.5 Million This Year and Next Year

Potential Fits: LAD, STL, MIL, TEX, MIN, BOS

Coming off of two straight seasons with a FIP of 4.61 or over, it looked like Ian Kennedy was a complete bust after signing an $80 million contract with the Royals. In fact, the amount of money he received in free agency is staggering, considering he hadn’t posted a FIP under 4.00 since 2011. Due to a move to the bullpen, however, Kennedy has emerged as a key trade asset for Kansas City. The 34-year-old has a 2.04 FIP and 2.80 SIERA, with a tremendous 8.5 K-BB ratio. To boot, Kennedy has also allowed hard contact at just a 28.9% rate, has improved his ground ball rate to 46.7, and has increased his fastball velocity by 2 MPH. His $16.5 million contract through 2020 is an issue, but the rebuilding Royals likely would be willing on to a huge amount of that money in order to receive a reasonable return for a reliever who is a sneaky addition for contending teams.

#25: RP Tony Watson, San Francisco Giants

watson
Photo Cred: McCovey Chronicles

Contract: 2020 Player Option for $2.5 Million

Potential Fits: ATL, CHC, HOU, TEX, MIN, BOS, STL, LAD, COL, PHI

The Giants have a lot of interesting trade chips, primarily in their bullpen. Though he’s not among their most attractive targets, Tony Watson could be a nice and cheap addition for a contending team’s bullpen. His 3.90 FIP and 3.68 SIERA prove him to be a solid middle relief pitcher, while he continues to induce ground balls at a high rate (46.4%), usually in the way of soft contact (23.5%). He’s also had hitters chasing at 42.9% of pitches outside the strike zone and has barely walked batters (1.01 BB/9), while he hasn’t walked a single left-handed hitter. It’s unclear if Watson will opt into his contract next season, so his price will likely be similar to that of a rental; the Giants should be willing to trade him for a small return, and since many teams could use a left-handed reliever, he could be an appealing option.

#24: 3B Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

rendon
Photo Cred: Yahoo Sports

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: PHI, TB

With so many pending free agents signing extensions, Anthony Rendon looks to be the top free agent heading into this offseason. He’s put himself in a tremendous position to be heavily paid; he has a 169 wrc+ and a 3.0 WAR. Notably, he’s increased his walk rate to 12.9%, has increased his hard contact rate to 52.8%, and has decreased his chase rate to 22%. His .451 xwOBA is actually better than his .439 wOBA, and the same is true with the relationship between his expected slugging percentage (.670) and actual slugging percentage (.645), and his expected batting average (.340) and actual batting average (.315). His defense is average to slightly below average at third base, but his offensive production could be game-changing for a contender, though the amount of teams in need of a third baseman is extremely limited.

#23: OF Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh Pirates

dickerson
Photo Cred: dkpittsburghsports.com

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: ARI, PHI, CHW

Oftentimes, players tend to overachieve in a sense during their contract year, as an effort to earn a massive payday in free agency. However, the opposite has happened for Pirates outfielder Corey Dickerson. The 30-year-old has only played in 12 games due to injury, and now doesn’t have a clear starting spot in the outfield. He’s been his usual self with a 106 wrc+, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Pittsburgh is reportingly desperate to move him. Though he isn’t a fit with the Pirates anymore, Dickerson could be a sneaky addition for the right team. He’s been an above average hitter in terms of wrc+ throughout his career, is coming off of an incredible defensive season (16 drs, 0.8 UZR), and should come at a very cheap price. He does have his limitations – his chase rate is horrid at 44.4% and his walk rate was 3.9% last year – but he’s had consecutive seasons with a WAR over 2.5, and could be very useful for a team in need of a better defense in the outfield or as a platoon player versus righties. All for the likely cost of practically nothing.

#22: SP Lance Lynn, Texas Rangers

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IPhoto Cred: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Contract: First Year of 3 Year $30 Million Contract

Potential Fits: MIL, STL, ARI, COL, PHI, ATL, CHW, NYY

When the Rangers signed starting pitcher Lance Lynn to a three-year contract worth $30 million, many were quick to criticize the deal. It looked like a significant amount for a pitcher with back to back seasons with a FIP over 3.80, and expecting him to succeed in Texas’ band-box stadium seemed ridiculous. Still, to his credit, Lynn has flourished this seasons with a 3.06 FIP and 2.9 WAR. He’s cut his walk rate (2.51 BB/9) is half from last season, has elite fastball spin, is in the 89th percentile in hard-hit rate allowed, and has had success despite a .349 BABIP. He’s also throwing his fastball less and his slider more, and both pitches have seen a massive improvement in their runs above average this season. It’s more likely that Lynn is more of a 3.50 FIP type pitcher than this, but he’s a very consistent pitcher, and if the currently contending Rangers are open to moving him on the first year on his contract, the market for him should be extensive.

#21: 1B Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays

smoak
Photo Cred: sportsnet.ca

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: MIL, HOU, BOS

At this point, it’s pretty obvious that batting average is not the best way to measure a hitter’s capabilities. Justin Smoak is a prime example of this; he has just a .225 batting average, but has a .364 on-base percentage and a 115 wrc+. Notably, his walk rate has increased to 16.5%, his strikeout rate is down to 18%, and his hard contact rate is up massively to 45.5%. His chase rate and contact rate have also improved, which makes his .232 BABIP seem even more outlandish. He’s bound for a huge surge offensively in the second half, and though he’s a slightly below average defender at first base, his all-around offensive profile could benefit contenders is a variety of ways.

#20: SP Mike Minor, Texas Rangers

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Photo Cred: ESPN

Contract: Second Year of 3 Year, $28 Million Contract

Potential Fits: ARI, COL, STL, MIL, PHI, ATL, HOU, MIN, NYY

The Rangers seem to have a habit of signing to pitchers to contracts that seem large at the time but turn out to be major steals. When he was signed, Mike Minor hadn’t started a game since 2014 and had only one season as a reliever with the Royals in 2017 as evidence of his abilities after missing all of 2015 and 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was fine, but not spectacular with a 4.43 FIP in 2018, but he’s transformed into an above-average starting pitcher on this Rangers pitching staff with a 3.74 FIP. Minor has improved his K rate (9.31 K/9), has increased his ground ball rate allowed to 44%, and has had a much more effective fastball (8.5 runs above average) this season. That fastball is in the 99th percentile in spin rate, while his exit velocity allowed, curve spin, and expected statistics are all excellent. Plus, he’s making a reasonable $9.5 million through 2020; if the Rangers decide to trade Minor, he’ll be in high demand.

#19: RP Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

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Photo Cred: Sporting News

Contract: $6.5 Million Club Option 2020

Potential Fits: LAD, MIN, HOU, ATL, PHI, MIL, CHC, STL, COL, ARI

When the Nationals acquired reliever Sean Doolittle during the 2017 season, they likely pictured him being a key part of four World Series pushes. However, Washington is trending towards missing the playoffs for a second straight season; it would behoove them to examine the market for Doolittle. Luckily for them, Doolittle should be in high demand. He’s having another great season with a 2.90 FIP and 4.63 K-BB ratio, with a 38.3% chase rate and 30% hard contact allowed. Furthermore, his .276 xwOBA is outstanding, his .364 BABIP illustrates that he’s bound to see his numbers improve, and with a cheap 2020 club option for $6.5 million, he could be an excellent back-end reliever for a World Series contender.

#18: SP Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays

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Photo Cred: Sportsnet

Contract: Club Control Through 2020

Potential Fits: MIN, HOU, TB

When he posted a 3.55 FIP in 2016, Aaron Sanchez looked to be on his way to being a potential future ace for the Blue Jays. However, since then, he’s pitched just 216 innings due to injury and has an awful 5.22 FIP in that span. So, why would a team want to trade for him? Well, Sanchez has all the makings of a reclamation project. He’s inducing ground balls at a 50% rate, and has all the tools with a mid 90s fastball with above-average velocity and spin, and a curveball in the 95th percentile in spin rate. With those two offerings, his K/BB ratio should be much better than 1.51. If a team with a better view analytically on how to get the most out of Sanchez, such as the Twins, Astros, Rays, or Dodgers, were to acquire him, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him become a solid #3 starting pitcher. The price shouldn’t be that much given his struggles, and as Toronto seems desperate to move him, a team should look to acquire him and picture him as a key part of their team next season for sure, but with the chance to possibly be useful for them down the stretch this season as well.

#17: OF Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals

solers
Photo Cred: Royals Review

Contract: $4 Million Guarenteed 2020, Club Control Through 2021

Potential Fits: CLE, CHW, COL, PHI, ARI, CHC, LAD

The Royals are reported to be interested in trading off of almost all their key players. Since they have very little obvious trade assets, they may ship of a young slugger with multiple years of club control: outfielder Jorge Soler. Soler is famously known as a major international signing by the Cubs in 2012, and when he was acquired for closer Wade Davis, the Royals had major hopes that he’d be an integral part of their future. That hasn’t happened; Soler only played in 96 games in his first two seasons with the club due to injury, and although his 107 wrc+ is fine, it’s not exactly ideal for a one-dimensional player. Soler’s on-base percentage (.296) is below .300, as his once terrific walk rate has declined to 6.1%. Meanwhile, he’s striking out 29.6% of the time, is chasing (30.7%) at more pitches, and is once again grading as a well below average defender (6 drs, -2.0 UZR). Still, there are signs that Soler could be a useful asset for clubs. His hard contact rate (42.9%) is above average, which makes his .264 BABIP seem low. His launch angle (14) is also improving, while his .521 xSLG and .351 xWOBA are both also above the league standard. He’s a designated hitter type or just a defensive liability, but if a team is looking for a young slugger with multiple years of club control, Soler could wind up being a trade steal, especially if his walk rate recovers.

#16: OF Clint Frazier, New York Yankees

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Photo Cred: NY Post

Contract: Club Control Through 2023

Potential Fits: CLE, TOR, ARI, SF, CHW, TEX

The Yankees have an outfield surplus, and with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge making strides in their rehab, New York had to make the tough decision to option young outfielder Clint Frazier. Frazier was in the midst of a nice offensive season with a 118 wrc+, but it’s clear he doesn’t have a clear role on this team. Therefore, it’s likely that the Yankees, in need of starting pitching and prospect depth, would explore the trade market for Frazier. Given his age (24), prospect pedigree, and offensive success, he could either be the centerpiece for a trade of one of the starting pitchers on this list, or he could actually be shipped for prospects from a team in need of outfield depth. Frazier has always had an issue with strikeouts (28.2%), but it’s a little concerning that his previously strong walk rate is down to 6.2% this year. Furthermore, his hard contact rate is down to 34.8%, his .323 xWOBA isn’t intriguing, and his defense (-7 drs, -2.9 UZR) has been abysmal this season. Still, the positive factors help counter the concerns, and although he’s not a sure thing to be an everyday player in the future, a change of scenery could benefit him tremendously.

#15: 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, Seattle Mariners*

encarnacion
Photo Cred: Sporting News

Contract: $20 Million Club Option 2020

Potential Fits: NYY, TB, HOU, COL

The first major domino of the trade season has fallen; the Yankees have acquired first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion for pitching prospect Juan Then. The 36-year-old slugger is having another terrific season; he has a 139 wrc+, .290 isolated power, and a 1.7 WAR so far this season. He’s made major improvements to his plate discipline, with an increased walk rate (14.2%), a decreased strikeout rate (19%), and a smaller chase rate (23.7%). Moreover, his xwOBA (.385) and xSLG (.523) rank in the 89th percentile or better, and his .220 BABIP is well below where it has been in previous seasons; his production could even improve in New York, especially considering how smaller the dimensions are at Yankee Stadium compared to T-Mobile Park in Seattle. It’s a great trade for the Yankees to add another productive bat to a lethal lineup, and by doing so, they were able to also hurt fellow AL contenders (Astros and Rays) that were interested in acquiring Encarnacion.

#14: RP Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

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Photo Cred: detroitnews.com

Contract: Club Control Through 2020

Potential Fits: LAD, ATL, PHI, MIN, MIL

The Tigers have very few trade chips, with Castellanos, Greene, and the #2 player on this list as their only possible assets to ship off for prospects. With club control through 2020, Detroit will likely try to sell high on Greene, who has a 0.96 ERA so far this season. However, that ERA is not legitimate: Greene’s 3.47 FIP, 4.01 xFIP, and 3.53 SIERA better illustrate that he’s more of a middle reliever than someone that should be pitching in high leverage situations. There’s also his .174 BABIP allowed, and although his 27.8% hard contact rate allowed is strong, his 11.1% soft contact rate allowed is very low as well. However, there’s a lot to like with Greene’s high ground ball rate allowed (51.4%), 3.63 K-BB ratio, and his .286 xwOBA. If a team is short on the number of relievers in their bullpen, Greene should be an appealing option, provided Detroit’s asking price is not significant.

#13: SP Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians

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Photo Cred: USA Today

Contract: Club Control Through 2020

Potential Fits: SD, MIN, ATL, PHI, MIL, STL

Had Trevor Bauer stayed healthy last season, there’s a chance he would have won the AL Cy Young. The 28-year-old shined with a 2.44 FIP and 11.34 K/9, and looked primed to become the ace of the Indians’ pitching staff. Instead, Bauer, like the entire Indians team, has regressed appreciably. His FIP is up to 4.13, his K/9 is down to 9.72, his BB/9 is up to 3.74, and his HR/9 is up to 1.08. Notably, Bauer’s allowing more hard contact (38.5%), is allowing more contact (74%), and is even currently benefitting from a very low .238 BABIP allowed. His slider, which was his best pitch last year, hasn’t been effective with a-2.9 runs above average, and his xWOBA, xSLG, and SIERA have all raised significantly. Still, this was one of the best pitchers in baseball last season, his 3.04 road FIP is intriguing, and has always been very open to changing the way he pitches in order to improve. He’s a classic type of player who immediately improves once traded, though his current struggles should give teams hesitation before caving into Cleveland’s likely high asking price.

#12: OF Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Seattle Mariners
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Contract: Club Control Through 2022

Potential Fits: ATL, STL, CLE, CHW, COL

When the Mariners were beginning the process of tearing down their roster in a rebuilding or “reimagining” process, Mitch Haniger was the subject of plenty of trade speculation coming off of a season in which he posted a 138 wrc+ and 4.6 WAR. However, general manager Jerry Dipoto identified him as a face of the rebuild; trade talks regarding Haniger evaporated quickly. However, as the Mariners continue to struggle – they are 18-42 since starting 13-2 – there is always the outside chance Dipoto could opt to trade Haniger for a massive haul of prospects. After all, the 28-year-old is in his prime right now, and by the time Seattle will be ready to contend, will already be in his 30s. Though he just went on the injured list with a ruptured testicle, he’s having another decent year with a 110 wrc+ and 1.2 WAR, though those stats don’t do him justice. His .257 BABIP is hindering his stats currently, but his .244 isolated power and 10.6% walk rate are ideal, while he’s raised his launch angle by 6 degrees on the path to hitting fewer ground balls. His 4 drs and 1.7 UZR in right field demonstrate he’s also an above-average defender and a player who should have a WAR of at least 4.5 for multiple seasons, and a contender could see him making an impact similar to how Tommy Pham has benefited the Rays since being traded last season. The asking price would be steep, but there a certainly a few teams that shouldn’t hesitate to add Haniger to their lineup for 3.5 seasons.

#11: RP Jake Diekman, Kansas City Royals

diekman
Photo Cred: Royals Review

Contract: $5.75 Million Mutual Option 2020

Potential Fits: CHC, LAD, BOS, MIN, ATL, PHI, STL

When the Royals signed reliever Jake Diekman to a one-year contact with a mutual option for 2020 this past winter, few batted an eye. However, Diekman’s been exactly what Kansas City wanted him to become: a trade-chip. Sparked by an impressive 13.34 K/9, Diekman has a 3.49 FIP and 3.57 SIERA, and was excellent in May with a 1.27 FIP. His ground ball rate (45.8%) is once again ideal, and is xBA and xSLG rank in the 95th percentile or better. He also has succeeded versus both righties and lefties, and while his 5.28 BB/9 is high, he’s been able to work through his constant control issue in the past as a result of his ability to miss bats and induce ground balls. He’ll be an excellent addition for any contender and will come at a very cheap price; his availability and production make him one of the most intriguing trade assets.

#10: 1B/OF/DH Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles

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Photo Cred: Camden Chat

Contract: Club Control Through 2022

Potential Fits: COL, HOU, CHW, LAD, TB

The Orioles may be the worst team in baseball in terms of record and run differential, but they do have one bright spot: Trey Mancini. The 27-year-old has been amazing with a 145 wrc+ and 2.1 WAR, and will without a doubt be Baltimore’s All-Star representative. His walk rate (7.9%) has made small improvements every year, while his strikeout rate (19.9%) is also better. His hard contact rate is up to 37.7%, and though his ground ball rate (42%) is still high, his launch angle (7.8 degrees) is higher. His .342 BABIP could point to future regression, but his .375 xWOBA and .534 xSLG both rank in the upper tier, and if moved full-time to his natural position of first base, he could be a fringe top five, but for sure top ten first baseman. Plus, he’s controlled through 2022, and although the Orioles could keep him, his already 27-years-old and doesn’t fit Baltimore’s expected window of contention, which is still probably 3-5 years away at best.

#9: RP Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles

Mychal Givens
Photo Cred: Baltimore Sports and Life

Contract: Club Control Through 2021

Potential Fits: LAD, MIN, STL, MIL, PHI, ATL, COL, ARI, CHW, LAA

Oftentimes, relievers with a 5.49 FIP are not in high demand, but that should be different for Orioles reliever Mychal Givens. The 29-year-old had previously been a consistent presence at the back-end of Baltimore’s bullpen with three straight seasons with a FIP of 3.72 or under, and despite the struggles this season, has been nowhere near as bad as his FIP would indicate. His 12.72 K/9 has improved a lot, while hitters are chasing at 32.2% of his pitches outside the zone this year. Additionally, his 28.6% HR-FB rate will eventually come down in a major way, which would explain why his xFIP is fine at 3.77. He definitely needs to change teams with a current 6.75 FIP and 3.06 HR/9 at home, and with a new team, there’s a great chance that he could be an effective reliever capable of pitching in some high leverage situations for postseason contenders this year and throughout his 2.5 years of remaining club control.

#8: 2B/OF Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals

Whit Merrifield
Photo Cred: kckingdom.com

Contract: $5 Million 2020, $6.75 Million 2021, $2.75 Million 2022, $10.5 Million Club Option 2023

Potential Fits: LAD, STL, CHC, OAK

For some identified reason, the Royals have been reluctant to trade second baseman Whit Merrifield. The 30-year-old clearly isn’t part of their future plans given his age, and coming off of a season in which he had a 5.2 WAR, was at his peak trade value. Kansas City instead kept him and locked up the rest of his controlled years with a reasonable four-year, $16 million contract, but now may be their last chance to get optimal trade value for Merrifield. His 121 wrc+ and 2 drs illustrate the all-around contributor he is, but the older he gets, the less value he’ll have. Still, the benefit he could have to a contender is huge. As mentioned, he’s an above-average hitter and fielder, is once again putting the ball in play often with an 81.8% contact rate, and can play every infield and outfield position. His increased 42.3% hard contact rate is also encouraging, and with his versatility, all-around skill set, and high contact rates, he’s meant to be a key contributor for a World Series contender (his fit with the Dodgers is obvious). The price will be heavy, but for the right team, it’d be worth it. That is, if the Royals finally wise up and aggressively shop him on the trade market.

#7: RP Sam Dyson, San Francisco Giants

Sam+Dyson+Chicago+Cubs+v+San+Francisco+Giants+cl0Tc-e9Hynl
Photo Cred: Zimbio

Contract: Club Control Through 2020

Potential Fits: MIL, STL, COL, ATL, PHI, MIN

The Giants have many intriguing trade assets, with Bumgarner being the most talked about. However, Sam Dyson is rarely talked about as a valuable trade target, which doesn’t make sense. The 31-year-old is thriving this season with a 2.78 FIP and 3.06 SIERA, and possesses all the necessary tools to be an excellent option out of the bullpen for a contender. He’s rarely walking batters (1.41 BB/9), has a terrific 6 K-BB ratio, is inducing ground balls at a 59.3% rate, and is only allowing hard contact at a 27.3% rate. Frankly, there’s nothing to suggest that he’ll slow down anytime soon; he looks to be a complete, yet underrated reliever. With an additional year of club control, Dyson can be a key part of two World Series pushes for a team and should be an extremely intriguing target on the trade market.

#6: RP Will Smith, San Francisco Giants

will smith
Photo Cred: McCovey Chronicles

Contract: Pending Free Agent

Potential Fits: ATL, PHI, MIL, CHC, STL, MIN, BOS, TB

Without a doubt, the top rental trade target is reliever Will Smith. The 29-year-old has dominated this season; he possesses a 2.23 FIP,  a 13.35 K/9, a 6.29 K-BB ratio, and a 2.17 SIERA. He’s also only allowing contact at a 68.9% rate, is forcing hitters to chase at 35.8% of his pitches, is getting ground balls at a 40.7% rate, and has a soft contact allowed rate at over 20%. Smith’s slider, meanwhile, is nearly unhittable with a 7.4 runs above average, so it’s no surprise he’s throwing it 41.9% of the time. His xWOBA (.236) ranks in the 99th percentile, while he’s excelled versus righties and lefties. A closing pitcher of Smith’s caliber hasn’t been available mid-season since Aroldis Chapman in 2016, when the Cubs acquired him in a package centered around Gleyber Torres. Smith may not bring back that type of return for the Giants, but practically every contender should be lining up for his services.

#5: SP Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays
Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Contract: Club Control Through 2020

Potential Fits: MIN, NYY, STL, SD, LAA, HOU, ATL, PHI, MIL, ARI, COL

Since being called up in 2014, Marcus Stroman has been a fan favorite in Toronto; he’s embodied playing for the city and has been the team’s top pitcher for multiple seasons. However, with rumors spreading that Toronto is in complete “sell mode”, it looks like Stroman’s time with the franchise is coming to a close. Luckily for Toronto, Stroman has had another solid season with a 3.62 FIP and is one of the most, if not the most, appealing starting pitcher on the trade market. His sinker-slider combination is fantastic; his sinker has 15% more vertical movement than average, while his slider has 103% more horizontal movement than average. He’s an old-school type pitcher than attacks hitters with his sinker, which is evident with his 57.5% ground ball rate allowed and fine walk rate (2.87 BB/9), though he doesn’t strike many batters out (6.98 K/9). Still, Stroman’s xWOBA (.289) and xSLG (.354)  rank in the 74th percentile or better, while his 4% barrel rate allowed ranks in the top nine percent of the league. With another year of arbitration after this year as well, any contender, especially one with a strong infield defense, should be racing to acquire Stroman; he’s very consistent and an excellent #2 or #3 starting pitcher.

#4: OF Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres

renfore
Photo Cred: latimes.com

Contract: Club Control Through 2022

Potential Fits: CLE, CHW, TOR, ATL, OAK

According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Padres are “willing” to trade outfielder Hunter Renfroe. The 27-year-old has finally become the player San Diego hoped he’d be when they selected him 13th overall in 2013; he has a 142 wrc+, 23 home runs, and a 2.2 WAR. He’ll never be much in the way of plate discipline – he has a 6.8% walk rate and a 26.9% strikeout rate – but the value he presents nonetheless greatly outweighs that negative. Renfroe’s batted ball profile is impressive; he has a 51.3% hard contact rate, ranks in the top 7 percent of the league with a 15.3% barrel rate, and his exit velocity (91.3 MPH) ranks in the 84th percentile. Furthermore, Renfroe’s also a valuable defender with 7 drs, a 4.2 UZR, while he has one of the league’s best reaction grades (0.9). His power-defense combination is extremely valuable, and it’s strange that San Diego wants to trade him. They have a cluster of outfielders, but Renfroe’s defense makes him more valuable than Franmil Reyes, while he’s a much better player than the likes of Will Myers, Josh Naylor, and others. He could be part of a package for a starting pitcher (Bauer or Stroman) or could be shipped for more young talent, but either way, he should be in high demand on the trade market.

#3: RP Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays

ken-giles
Photo Cred: TSN

Contract: Club Control Through 2020

Potential Fits: MIN, MIL, ATL, PHI, STL, COL, LAD

As a result of his postseason struggles in 2017 and character issues that came in effect last year during his time with the Astros, Ken Giles has established a poor reputation. That’s a shame; Giles has actually been a very consistent reliever with a FIP of 3.08 or lower in each seasons since he was called up in 2014 and has shined this seasons with a 1.18 FIP and 2.05 SIERA. Giles’ strikeout rate (15.12 K/9) has exploded, while he also isn’t walking many batters (2.52 BB/9). He also gets hitters to chase at 38.4% of his pitches, induces ground balls at 42% rate, and has a whiff rate of 43.8%. His fastball-slider combination has proved to be unhittable, while his fastball velocity, xWOBA (.243), xSLG (.310), and xBA (.188) are all in the 91st percentile or better. He’s currently on the injured list with a minor elbow injury, but once he comes back, he should be heavily coveted by contenders as either a shutdown set-up reliever or an excellent closing pitcher.

#2: SP Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers

 

boyd
Photo Cred: Sporting News

 

Contract: Club Control Through 2022

Potential Fits: SD, ATL, PHI, NYY, MIN, MIL, ARI, COL, HOU, LAD

After posting a 4.45 FIP last year, Matthew Boyd was seen as a fine, but mediocre starting pitcher that would help eat up innings for the rebuilding Tigers. However, Boyd has emerged as a front-line starting pitcher this season; he has a 3.01 FIP, 3.25 SIERA, and 2.8 WAR. The improvements Boyd have made are notable; his strikeouts are way up (11.37 K/9), his walks are down (1.73 BB/9), he’s forcing more ground balls (37.4%), and has much higher chase rate (35%). His whiff rate (30.1%) is also much higher, while his .282 xWOBA is impressive. It’s unclear what is the cause of Boyd’s breakout, but it’s notable he’s throwing his curveball less, and his fastball and slider slightly more. Considering his curveball has always been an ineffective pitch, that’s encouraging. With an extra 1 MPH on his fastball, it has been a great offering with a 6.5 runs above average, while his slider has also been strong with a 3.5 runs above average. There’s a lot to like with Boyd, who looks to be either an excellent #2 starter or even a lower-level ace. Plus, he comes with 3.5 years of club control, and since his age (28) doesn’t fit Detroit’s timeline of contention, expect Boyd to switch teams next month. The price will be huge – Detroit is rumored to be looking for an impact young hitter- – but for multiple teams, he’d certainly be worth it.

#1: RP Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians

hand
Photo Cred: WKYC.com

Contract: $7 Million 2020, $10 Million Club Option 2021

Potential Fits: LAD, TB, MIL, MIN, ATL, PHI, STL

For the second straight season in a row, Brad Hand looks to be a very appealing trade target. The 29-year-old was sent to Cleveland from San Diego for top prospect Francisco Mejia last summer, and with the Indians already ten games out of the division, it’s very likely he could be traded this summer. His stock has only risen this season; he has a 1.58 FIP, a 2.27 SIERA, a 13.5 K/9, and a 5.75 K-BB ratio. His xWOBA (.240) and xSLG (.279) both are in the 98th percentile, and his 1.7% barrel rate allowed ranks in the top 1% of the league. His chase rate (33.6%) is up, his fastball and slider both have elite horizontal movement, and although his low BABIP allowed (.246) and high left on base rate (93.2%) won’t last, a case can be made that he’s the best reliever in the sport. To get one of the few consistently elite relievers still under a cheap contract through 2021 is a rare opportunity for contenders, who should without a doubt do everything they can to pry him out of Cleveland.

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