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Checking in on MLB trade candidates, Jonathan Lucroy, Jay Bruce, and Matt Moore

How are some of the early trade candidates performing thus far in the 2016 season?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While the trade deadline is still several months away, that doesn't mean that teams are standing idly by. Going into the season, every organization identifies weak spots, and will closely follow various players that could help them fix areas of need. The Rangers likely need a catcher, a number of teams could use a corner outfielder, and seemingly every contender is always interested in adding a starting pitcher.

Despite having a very limited sample size this early in the season, we can still check in to see how some of the early trade candidates are doing thus far.

Jonathan Lucroy

The Brewers' catcher has been named in trade rumors for what seems like an eternity at this point, yet he remains in Milwaukee. Even Lucroy was surprised to be starting the year with the Brewers.

"Lucroy, so sure he'd be traded by now [March 26th, 2016], still doesn't have a place to live in Milwaukee...

'It's such a weird feeling,' said Lucroy, who has been with the Brewers since 2007. 'You don't know where you're at, what's going on, what the plan is. I felt like I was going to get traded five times this off-season. I don't know why it didn't go down.'"

While he didn't get traded during the months leading up to the regular season, it's hard to imagine him ending the year with Milwaukee; however that undoubtedly depends on how valuable he proves to be over the next few months.

In Lucroy's first 47 plate appearances, he's gotten off to a slow start. His slash line (before today's game against the Twins) is .273/.319/.318 with a wOBA of .286 and a wRC+ of 72. He's contributed 0.0 fWAR, and thus far, his power numbers are surprisingly low (.045 ISO).

However given that this could boil down to nothing more than a 12 game slump, there's no reason to worry about Lucroy just yet. He still ranks as one of MLB's best pitch framers, and if he can return to being an above average hitter, the Brewers will reap an enormous reward.

Jay Bruce

At one point this offseason, it appeared as if Bruce was already a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. That trade ultimately fell through due to medical concerns about one of the prospects in the deal, and Bruce wound up staying in Cincinnati. Like Lucroy, he was surprised about the turn of events that kept him from changing teams, but actually seemed to be in favor of the change in plans.

"I've been here since I was 18 and I always wanted to finish my career here. In a perfect world, I would stay here because this is where I want to be, I mean, this is all I know."

Bruce might prefer a story-book ending to his career in which he spends all 15+ years of his career with one team, but the chances of that happening are remarkably slim.

Through his first 53 PA's, Bruce has picked up where he left 2013. After two subpar seasons, he's finally back to hitting at the pace we'd come to expect. His slash line is .300/.321/.560 with a wOBA of .373 and a wRC+ of 129. His (lack of) defense has hurt his overall fWAR (-0.1) but Bruce's offensive output has been fantastic.

If there's one thing to worry about, it's his walk rate of just 1.9 percent. It's unlikely that he'll end the 2016 season with a value anything close to where it is now, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on.

Matt Moore

Moore came back from Tommy John surgery last season, but didn't resemble the pitcher that the Rays had come to treasure. In 63 innings in 2015, Moore finished with a K/9 of 6.57, a BB/9 of 3.29, a HR/9 of 1.29, along with an ERA of 5.43, and an FIP of 4.82.

However in his first three starts in 2016, Moore looks like a new and improved version of his former self. He's striking out batters at a rate of 10.31 per nine innings (a career high), walking them at a rate of 1.47 (a career low), has an ERA of 2.95, and an FIP of 3.07.

Moore has already eclipsed his 2015 fWAR (0.3) this season (0.4) and if the Rays fall out of contention before the trade deadline, their starting pitcher could become a top target. Tampa has team options on Moore from 2017-2019 that total $26 million (before any incentives kick in), and given that the upcoming free-agent class of starting pitchers is weak, the Rays could ask for quite the prospect haul in any deal.