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MLB trade deadline: 15 under-the-radar candidates to be moved

These 15 trade candidates aren’t going to make headlines if they’re dealt, but they could provide quality depth to contenders.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Los Angeles Angels Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, you’ve heard plenty about trade candidates like Madison Bumgarner, Trevor Bauer, and Zack Greinke — guys who have the potential to elevate a team from a really good club to a legitimate World Series contender — over the last month. But what about the players who will provide incremental upgrades, adding the necessary depth for teams to survive until October? Some of those guys aren’t getting talked about as much, but we’ll likely see plenty of them dealt at Wednesday’s trade deadline since teams no longer have the option to add extra depth on waiver deals during August.

With that in mind, we’ll take a look here at 15 players who may not be the subjects of frantic trade-rumor tweets by national writers right now, but yet are still candidates to be moved before the deadline. Of course, it’s worth noting that many of these players are under club control beyond this season, so there’s not as much incentive for their teams to move them unless they get representative value in return. With that said, it’s not like these guys are All-Star talents, so the front offices in charge of their respective futures may be satisfied with making their rosters younger and moving money off the payroll.

Hanser Alberto, IF, Orioles: The 26-year-old Alberto is an extremely interesting piece — after changing teams through the waiver wire four times during the offseason and narrowly squeezing his way onto Baltimore’s roster, he ranks 11th in the majors in batting average (.311) and is one of just 19 qualifying hitters with an average over .300. Unfortunately for Alberto, that’s not nearly as big of an accomplishment as it once was, and his .329 OBP and ,405 slugging percentage (six homers) shine light on his imperfections. While Alberto isn’t going to be a massive difference-maker, he’s a natural shortstop who plays solid defense at second and third and has some experience in the outfield, and he’s death on lefties, slashing a ridiculous .406/.414/.529 against them this season. If the Orioles are willing to give up the 26-year-old Alberto while they still have three years of control remaining over him, he could be a really interesting bench piece or platoon player for a contender.

Alex Avila, C, Diamondbacks: There aren’t a whole lot of obvious catching options on the trade market, and yet it seemed that in every year prior to this one — especially during the August waiver-trading window — contenders would trade for backstops as they attempted to build depth for their respective playoff runs. The 32-year-old Avila is a guy who makes all the sense in the world for the fading Diamondbacks to move: He’s been passed up on their depth chart by 25-year-old Carson Kelly, he’s a free agent at the end of the season, and he should be coveted by contenders because of his 35 games of playoff experience with the early-2010s Tigers and the 2017 Cubs. Despite his ugly .211 batting average, he’s actually having a very good offensive season with a .370 OBP and .453 slugging percentage, so he should be the top backup-catching option on the market if any upper-echelon contenders (maybe the Yankees or Astros?) are looking to upgrade.

Joe Biagini, RP, Blue Jays: The 29-year-old Biagini hasn’t been elite since his rookie season, but he’s been pretty good this season (3.75 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over 48 relief appearances), has solid fastball velocity (an average of 94.1 innings), and possesses a trio of qualities that seem to intrigue every front office in 2019: The ability to go multiple innings when needed, a remaining minor-league option that could be used to create greater bullpen flexibility, and long-term controllability (he’s not a free agent until after the 2022 season). It’s unknown how widespread his market is, but The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Monday that the Braves have interest in the Toronto right-hander.

Andrew Chafin, RP, Diamondbacks: Besides the fact that he has arguably the best mustache in baseball, Chafin is also extremely effective against left-handed hitters (.231/.294/.333 against them this season) and could be a valuable weapon in a contender’s bullpen. The 29-year-old left-hander should be particularly valuable to teams that are looking to improve both now and in the future, as he’s arbitration-eligible for next season. That could apply to the Diamondbacks as well, though; GM Mike Hazen has had quite a bit of success with signing bargain-bin relievers on the free-agent market and turning them good again, but does he want to give up a homegrown, already-proven bullpen asset in exchange for a prospect package that isn’t going to be earth-shattering? That remains to be seen.

Jarrod Dyson, OF, Diamondbacks: Though you might not think it’d be the case for a soon-to-be 35-year-old, Dyson remains one of the most impactful baserunners in the majors (he leads the National League with 24 steals this season), and he’s still a solid, versatile outfielder, owning five defensive runs saved in 2017 across all three positions. Since most of the league’s best teams these days essentially have 13-or-14-man floating starting lineups rather than carrying specialists on the bench, it’s not clear if Dyson will have much trade value, as his .251/.336/.358 slash line isn’t good enough for him to be an everyday player on a good team, and he doesn’t have a dominant platoon split. But if a team is willing to juggle him on the 25-man roster for the month of August, he could be a game-changing bit contributor in October, just like he was for the Royals in 2014-15.

Roenis Elías, RP, Mariners: Elías isn’t having a particularly good season, as he owns a 4.50 ERA, has allowed eight homers, and has had a flurry of rough outings during July. But the 30-year-old’s 1.26 WHIP indicates that he probably hasn’t struggled as his ERA would make it seem, he’s coming off a strong season in which he posted a 2.65 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 23 outings (four starts) for Seattle, and he has a multitude of qualities that front offices desire in a reliever — he’s left-handed, he can go multiple innings, and he’s under club control for two more seasons. He might be a more logical trade candidate over the offseason, but for what it’s worth, Rosenthal did report that Elías is “in play” heading into tomorrow’s deadline.

Leury García, IF/OF, White Sox: García could be a sneaky-good option for a team that heavily utilizes platoons, as he has a dominant .325/.362/.463 slash line against lefties this year and is doing a pretty good job of contact hitting overall, owning a .292 batting average, though he has just 16 walks and five homers in total over 409 plate appearances. García is a very-watered-down version of the “poor man’s Ben Zobrist” type player that teams have coveted for years now, and the fact that he’s played solid defense at all three outfield positions and both of the middle-infield spots this year (and has extensive experience at third) should make him somewhat of a desirable commodity. The 28-year-old García has a year of club control remaining, so it’s possible that he could be of interest to a team like the Indians or Giants that doesn’t necessarily want to go all-out at this year’s deadline but wants to add valuable assets for the future.

Billy Hamilton, OF, Royals: Because of his offensive limitations (.211/.275/.264 slash line with no homers this year and a .242/.296/.326 line for his career), Hamilton probably isn’t going to fetch the Royals anything more than cash considerations or an anonymous low-level prospect. But he’s a free agent after the season, Kansas City is motivated to move him with Bubba Starling now being the starting center fielder, and Hamilton has a pair of elite skills that could make him ultra-helpful off a contender’s bench: He plays great defense in center field (nine defensive runs this season) and arguably the fastest player of this generation, having stolen at least 30 bases in every full season of his career — though that streak is in jeopardy as he has 17 steals this year, which is still tied for 10th in the major leagues. Especially in this age of hyper-platooning and many bench players actually being part-time starters, it’s questionable whether a contender will value Hamilton enough to carry him on the 25-man roster for the entire month of August. But he definitely provides intrigue and could be a real weapon if he makes a playoff roster once pitching staffs contract come October

Francisco Liriano, RP, Pirates: The 35-year-old Liriano, who has parlayed a minor-league deal with the Pirates into a pretty good season as a reliever, is a candidate to be moved at the deadline for the third time in the last four seasons. He has a 3.06 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP over 48 relief appearances (50 innings) this season, and though he has reverse splits this season, the fact that Liriano has held lefty hitters to a .603 OPS over his 14-season career will probably cause teams to see him as a guy who can be effective against tough left-handed opponents down the stretch. It all comes down to how many other lefties are moved; if guys like Chafin, Will Smith, and Tony Watson are moved, the market for an older, less dominant lefty like Liriano will likely be lessened.

Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, Orioles: Mancini is the least “under-the-radar” name on this list, but it’s not like he’s been an extremely frequent topic of trade rumors this summer. With that said, the 27-year-old is the best position player on a dreadful Orioles team, and though he’s a poor defender, he could surely make a major impact on a contender’s offense, as he’s hitting .280/.341/.532 with 24 homers. If that team were able to plug him in at first or DH rather than playing him in right field like Baltimore frequently has this season, it’d make him all he more valuable. There’s not a ton of motivation for the Orioles to move him right now because he doesn’t even become arbitration-eligible until this winter, but since Baltimore is at the ground level of a rebuild right now and might not be good for the rest of the time that Mancini’s under control, it may make sense for them to move him while his value is high in the midst of such a good offensive season.

Chris Martin, RP, Rangers: Martin, an Arlington native, has had by far the best season of his four-year career in 2019, posting a 3.08 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP over 38 relief appearances, and with relief pitching being more of a league-wide need than in any year in recent memory, it seems like he should have at least some value on the trade market. With him being a rental and Texas’ wild-card hopes quickly going down the tubes, it’d seem to make sense for them to move him if they can.

Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers: All in all, the 25-year-old Odor is having a bad season, and his career has been a disappointment relative to the expectations set when he broke into the majors at 20 years old and hit 33 homers (back when that was still an accomplishment) at the age of 22. However, Odor should still be able to cut it for a long while (and should actually draw trade interest) as a role player, and since he seems to have worn out his welcome somewhat in Texas, the Rangers should consider dealing him. Odor is a serviceable defender at second base (he has -3 defensive runs saved this year, but that’s arguably fluky since he posted 10 just last season), and though he’s a lefty hitter, he’s been fantastic against lefty pitchers when given the opportunity, splitting .268/.317/.495 against them this year. Odor’s at a low point of his career, posessing a disappointing .200/.260/.421 overall slash line in 2019, but if a platoon-centric team like the Giants is willing to buy low on him and take on most or all of the $36 million remaining on his contract through 2022, valuing his long-term control and relative youth, perhaps he’ll get a fresh start elsewhere.or, 2B, Rangers: All in all, the 25-year-old Odor is having a bad season, and his d Odcareer has been a disappointment relative to the expectations set when he broke into the majors at 20 years old and hit 33 homers (back when that was still an accomplishment) at the age of 22. However, Odor should still be able to cut it for a long while (and should actually draw trade interest) as a role player, and since he seems to have worn out his welcome somewhat in Texas, the Rangers should consider dealing him. Odor is a serviceable defender at second base (he has -3 defensive runs saved this year, but that’s arguably fluky since he posted 10 just last season), and though he’s a lefty hitter, he’s been fantastic against lefty pitchers when given the opportunity, splitting .268/.317/.495 against them this year. Odor’s at a low point of his career, posessing a disappointing .200/.260/.421 overall slash line in 2019, but if a platoon-centric team like the Giants is willing to buy low on him and take on most or all of the $36 million remaining on his contract through 2022, valuing his long-term control and relative youth, perhaps he’ll get a fresh start elsewhere.

Drew Pomeranz, RP, Giants: On the surface, Pomeranz’s numbers look quite miserable this season, as he has a 5.75 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP over 76.2 innings. But there are signs that the big lefty is a better pitcher than his traditional numbers give him credit for. He has a career-high 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. If you erase a dreadful May in which he had a 19.16 ERA from his record, his ERA drops by nearly two whole runs, down to 3.93, and it drops down to a 3.35 mark if you go off what he’s done since June 1. While he had actually pitched rather capably in a rotation role up until mid-July, the Giants recently moved him to the bullpen, and he’s responded by striking out six and allowing just one hit and one walk over 4.1 scoreless innings, reaching into the mid-90s with his fastball. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week that Pomeranz’s success in relief had sparked “sudden interest” in the free-agent-to-be, and the Giants have so much bullpen depth that they probably wouldn’t mind dealing him if it brought back a prospect or two and gave them the extra flexibility to rotate optionable relievers in and out.

Miguel Rojas, IF, Marlins: An early disclaimer here — the Marlins have already torn down enough over the last two years that they shouldn’t be exceptionally motivated to move their best player just because. And according to Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, the 30-year-old Rojas is their best player. On the other hand, though he has a year of club control remaining, the Marlins probably won’t be competitive next year anyway, and aging curves would dictate that he’s nearing the end of his prime. This has been the best season of the longtime utility player’s career, and yet he’s still been a bit below-average offensively, posting a .289/.344/.382 slash line with four homers that equates to a 97 OPS+ over 393 plate appearances. Other than just making themselves more watchable in the present — which is never a bad thing to do, especially for a Marlins team that needs to rebuild trust with its fan base — there doesn’t seem to be a great reason for them to keep Rojas around too much longer, and while he’s probably not going to crack a contender’s everyday lineup, he’d be a great option as a pinch-hitter and a defensive replacement at shortstop, a position where he’s a legitimate Gold Glove contender with 14 defensive runs saved this season.

Danny Santana, IF/OF, Rangers: Santana, who finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting at the age of 23 in 2014 and for a while looked like he was going to be a really good player, seemed stuck in neutral for a while, getting designated for assignment twice in two years and spending time both last year and this year in Triple-A. But since being called up by the Rangers on April 13, the 28-year-old has looked like the player so many people thought he’d become, posting a .324/.355/.588 slash line with 15 homers in 291 plate appearances while playing solid defense at six different positions. Santana is under club control for the next two seasons and could end up being a found asset in a Rangers organiation that hasn’t been too successful in developing its own young talent lately, but considering his struggles in the four seasons between his rookie year and 2019, the Rangers may decide to bet on his success being an abberration and get whatever value they can for him right now.