One of the most exciting stretches of any baseball regular season is nearly upon us, as the 2016 MLB Trade Deadline is right around the corner.
Teams around baseball will be able to make deals up until 4:00 p.m. Eastern on August 1, one day later than in past seasons. While some things will change over the next month plus, pennant races have already started to develop, which will determine each club’s strategy at the deadline.
One important piece has already moved, as the Padres dealt starting pitcher James Shields to the Chicago White Sox earlier in the month. While this deadline isn’t shaping up to be quite as wild as usual, some big names will still likely be with new clubs come August 1.
Matt Kemp, OF, San Diego Padres
Kemp is clearly nowhere near the player he once was, and San Diego is going to have to eat just about all of the $64.5 million remaining on his contract after this year if it hopes to move him. Still, Kemp is a recognized name around the league who might be able to provide a small amount a value to a team, provided he doesn’t have to play the outfield.
Many will remember Kemp for his remarkable 8.3 WAR season in 2011 with the Los Angeles Dodgers that nearly resulted in an MVP award. Since then, Kemp has declined while battling through injury, posting no better than 3.2 WAR the next year.
A nice bounce-back season at the plate in 2014 led to a trade to San Diego, as new GM A.J. Preller tried to quickly build a contender. In a year and a half with the Padres, Kemp has been roughly a league-average hitter, including a .262/.278/.478 line this season.
The big concern is Kemp’s arthritic hips, which have caused him to be a major liability in the field over the past few seasons. However, a team with a need at DH like the Kansas City Royals or White Sox may get some small upgrade if they add Kemp.
San Diego isn’t going to get much of a return for Kemp, apart from maybe a tiny bit of salary relief. The Padres will also look to deal Melvin Upton Jr. and Andrew Cashner before the deadline. Tyson Ross could become one of the bigger names available if he proves his shoulder is healthy over the next month, but that’s a huge question mark for now.
Danny Valencia, 3B, Oakland Athletics
As one of the few true sellers in the American League, the Athletics will look to deal whatever veteran pieces they can. At 32-42, the Athletics are well out of contention in the AL West, and need to do what they can to improve a mid-pack farm system.
Along with a couple of starting pitchers, one of Oakland’s best trade chips is Valencia. While Valencia may not be recognized as a star around the league, he’s turned in three consecutive strong seasons at the plate and should fetch the Athletics a nice return.
Since finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins, Valencia has bounced around between the Baltimore Orioles. Toronto Blue Jays and Athletics. Valencia has quietly been a productive hitter, posting no worse than a 135 wRC+ over the last two and a half years.
The 31-year-old has always been a solid right-handed platoon player with a career 143 wRC+ against lefties. This year, Valencia is hitting much better against righties, leading to a career-best .333/.381/.552 line.
Whether his numbers against right-handed pitching regress or not, Valencia will be a useful player for a contending roster. The New York Mets make the most sense of any team after third baseman David Wright was lost for the year with a back injury.
Jurickson Profar, INF, Texas Rangers
At 48-27, the Rangers have clearly separated themselves as World Series contenders, and will be looking to fill a couple of weaknesses at the deadline. Texas has the added luxury of a great farm system with not enough playing time to go around, which makes a couple of its prospects attractive trade chips.
Along with outfielder Joey Gallo, Profar could be a piece who headlines a package to get one of the bigger names available. After losing nearly two full seasons of his young career to injury, Profar is quickly becoming one of the best comeback stories of 2016.
Profar rose rapidly through the Rangers system after signing with Texas as a teenager in 2009, was rated by many as the top prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2012 season, and reached the Majors in 2013. Unfortunately, Profar missed the entire 2014 season with numerous shoulder problems, and the recurring injury limited him to 32 minor league games last year.
Although Profar is only 23 years old, it was fair to question what sort of future he had in the Majors after the injury problems. With low expectations, Profar hit fairly well in Triple-A to begin the year, and Rougned Odor’s suspension game him an opportunity to start briefly in the Majors.
In 22 games since, Profar has a 136 wRC+ and has accumulated 0.6 WAR according to FanGraphs. With Odor back, Profar has taken on a utility role all around the infield, but still finds himself out of the lineup most days.
There just might not be enough playing time in Texas this year for Profar, and the club could use him to get a star player back, so he will likely at least be floated as a trade chip. Texas needs another starter, along with help in the bullpen and at catcher, meaning Profar might be able to return a package of players.
Josh Reddick, OF, Oakland Athletics
If Reddick can hit well for a couple of weeks upon his return from the disabled list, he will be another nice piece the Athletics can use to bolster their rebuilding effort.
The 29-year-old has been consistent since his strong 2012 season, posting between 2.5 and 3.0 WAR every year according to FanGraphs. Reddick put up an above-average 117 wRC+ in both 2014 and 2015, and while his defense hasn’t graded out well recently, he still offers a terrific arm from the corner outfield.
Oakland appeared to have an excellent trade chip in Reddick early in the season, as he got off to a great start with a 132 wRC+ through 41 games. Unfortunately, the Athletics are suffering from a terrible rash of injuries for the second year in a row, and Reddick went down with a fractured thumb in late May.
The good news for Oakland is that Reddick has progressed well from the injury and is expected to be activated within a day or two. Reddick, who has been injury-prone throughout his career, will need to show he’s fully recovered before the deadline, but could become a valuable piece over the next month.
A few teams are in need of a corner outfielder, and Reddick would be an upgrade for the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, or White Sox. As Reddick is set to be a free agent in a weak class this offseason, the A’s probably won’t be able to re-sign him, and should get what they can if he’s healthy.
Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay has lost 11 consecutive games and is quickly falling out of contention at 31-42 without a good enough lineup to keep up in the AL East. What Tampa Bay does have is a deep and talented starting rotation, which will be useful to it at the deadline.
Given the lack of pitching available, it would be wise for the Rays to try to get another team to overpay for a starter. Of any Rays starting pitcher, Moore is the most likely to go, and would return some good young talent should he be dealt.
Like so many other young pitchers, Moore appeared headed for stardom before being derailed by injuries. Moore turned in an excellent rookie season in 2012, and was named an All-Star the next year while posting a 3.29 ERA (3.95 FIP) and over 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
The 27-year-old then suffered a partially torn UCL early in 2014, and missed much of 2015 as well. Moore is now fully healthy and owns a 5.04 ERA (4.59 FIP) with a strikeout rate approaching 22 percent through 14 starts.
While those overall numbers aren’t great, the stuff is still there for Moore, and he turned in a pair of strong outings in mid-June. The Rays were willing to deal Moore, and he would be one of the bigger starting pitching names in a weak trade market.
Rich Hill, SP, Oakland Athletics
Hill’s unexpected rise over the past year will cumulate with him being one of the hottest names on the market, should he be healthy by the trade deadline.
The 36-year-old Hill made a solid debut with the Chicago Cubs over a decade ago before injuries wrecked his career. Hill bounced around four different organizations, pitching mostly in the minors, and even found himself in independent ball for a stretch.
The Red Sox decided to give Hill a shot near the end of 2015, and he somehow managed to post a 1.55 ERA (2.27 FIP) with 36 strikeouts and five walks in 29 innings. Oakland believed that success could continue, and gave Hill a low-risk one-year contract in the offseason.
Hill has again been brilliant in 2016 behind his curveball, which he throws nearly half the time, with a 2.25 ERA (2.67 FIP) and strikeout rate of 28 percent. Since last August, few pitchers in the Majors outside of Clayton Kershaw have better marks than Hill.
Like so many other A’s, Hill picked up an injury at a bad time, and has been out with a groin injury since the end of May. Hill is set to begin a rehab assignment this week, and will again become of the deadline’s most sought-after pitchers if he gets a couple of healthy starts in.
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