MLB Year-End Awards Predictions

September is finally here. The dog days of summer are over and we’re in the home stretch of the 2017 MLB season. With that comes the postseason, and with the postseason comes the year-end awards for the American and National leagues: Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and Most Valuable Player. Here, I will take a look at each award and it’s presumed contenders and see who I believe will win each award.

American League Manager of the Year: Generally, this award goes to a manager whose team exceeded pre-season expectations. For example, Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians won the award last season, taking the Indians to the World Series following an 81-80 season in 2015. In 2015, Jeff Banister of the Texas Rangers won, as he led the Rangers to the AL West title a year after they were the worst team in the American League. In 2014, Buck Showalter won the award, bringing the Orioles to their first AL East title since 1997. This year, I think the award goes to Paul Molitor of the Minnesota Twins. The Twins currently sit in the second Wild Card spot in the American League despite selling at the trade deadline. This, of course, comes a season after finishing 59-103, the worst record in baseball in 2016.

Honorable Mentions: A.J. Hinch – Houston Astros, John Farrell – Boston Red Sox, Mike Scioscia – Los Angeles Angels

National League Manager of the Year: This one doesn’t really take much thought. To me, Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers seems like a shoo-in to repeat as NL Manager of the Year, as the Dodgers have the best record in baseball at 92-45 and are on pace to win 109 games. Roberts does have some competition in the form of two NL West rivals, though: Bud Black of the Colorado Rockies and Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Rockies, at 73-64, are in the midst of one of their best regular seasons in franchise history (on pace for 86 wins, which would be the third most in franchise history). The Diamondbacks are 80-58 and have won 11 games in a row, including a three game sweep of the Dodgers. Both teams have had a stranglehold on the two NL Wild Card spots for pretty much the entire season.

Honorable Mentions: Joe Maddon – Chicago Cubs, Craig Counsell – Milwaukee Brewers, Don Mattingly – Miami Marlins

American League Rookie of the Year: I don’t see either Rookie of the Year award winner being a shock. In the AL, I think it’s Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. Arriving on the scene as one of the biggest and brightest new stars in the sport, Judge has hit 38 HRs, which leads the AL, and driven in 85 runs this year. It has been the tale of two seasons for Judge this year. Prior to the All-Star break, Judge was a bonafide MVP candidate, slashing .329/.448/.691, with 30 HRs and 66 RBI in 84 games. Since the All-Star break, Judge has slashed .182/.349/.358 with just 8 HRs and 19 RBI in 48 games, including a stretch in which he struck out in 37 consecutive games, a Major League record. He’s less disciplined at the plate following the All-Star break, swinging on breaking pitches out of the zone that he was laying off of in the first half of the season. Despite this dreadful slump, he still sits with a slash-line of .277/.412/.573 for the season, and has walked 103 times (five away of breaking the MLB rookie record held by Ted Williams). Among qualified AL rookies (min. 200 ABs), Judge is first in HRs (38), RBI (85), walks (103), runs (101), OBP (.412), SLG (.573), and OPS (.985).

Honorable Mentions: Trey Mancini – Baltimore Orioles (.290/.337/.504, 23 HRs, 72 RBI), Andrew Benintendi – Boston Red Sox (.276/.360/.438, 19 HRs, 74 RBI), Yuli Gurriel – Houston Astros (.295/.325/.483, 16 HRs, 63 RBI)

National League Rookie of the Year: Again, I don’t think this one is very much competition. I believe the Los Angeles Dodgers will have their second consecutive unanimous winner of this award, this time in the form of Cody Bellinger. Bellinger has been ridiculous in every sense of the word this year, slashing .270/.349/.608. He leads all qualified NL rookies in HRs (36), RBI (82), runs (74), OBP (.349), SLG (.608), OPS (.957). Along with this, he’s third in hits (106), third in walks (48), sixth in AVG (.270), and sixth in doubles (19).

Honorable Mentions: Josh Bell – Pittsburgh Pirates (.264/.343/.495, 24 HRs, 82 RBI), Paul DeJong – St. Louis Cardinals (.287/.323/.543, 21 HRs, 55 RBI), Ian Happ – Chicago Cubs (.256/.330/.529, 21 HRs, 53 RBI)

American League Cy Young Award: The winner of the AL Cy Young Award isn’t as clear-cut as it was maybe a month ago. Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox is one of the front-runners, for sure, though. Sale has pitched out of his mind this year, compiling a 15-7 record with a 2.85 ERA, and striking out an absurd 270 batters in just 189.2 innings of work. In his first year in Boston, the lanky lefty leads all AL pitchers in wins (15), innings pitched (189.2), and strikeouts (270). He is second in the league in ERA (2.85), opponent’s AVG (.201), and WHIP (0.94). Sale certainly makes a good case to bring home his first career Cy Young Award.

The other front-runner would be Corey Kluber of the reigning AL Champion Cleveland Indians. Kluber, gunning for his second career Cy Young Award, has been excellent all year long, pitching to a 14-4 record and an AL-best 2.56 ERA. Since June 1, Kluber is 12-6 with a 1.85 ERA. As mentioned, he leads the AL in ERA, not to mention opponent’s AVG (.194), and WHIP (0.90). Lastly, he is second in the AL in wins (14) and third in strikeouts (222). With his dominant run dating back to before the All-Star break, I think Kluber makes an equally compelling argument to win his second Cy Young Award.

Honorable Mentions: Luis Severino – New York Yankees (12-6, 3.03 ERA), Marcus Stroman – Toronto Blue Jays (11-6, 3.08 ERA), Ervin Santana – Minnesota Twins (14-7, 3.35 ERA)

National League Cy Young Award: This one is tricky. Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is an obvious answer, though he missed all of August with a back injury. Despite that, the three-time Cy Young Winner and one-time NL MVP has a record of 16-2 and an unbelievable 1.95 ERA. With just those two stats, he would seem to be the clear winner. However, missing a month of action will certainly hurt his chances of winning his fourth career Cy Young Award.

Another option would be reigning NL Cy Young Winner Max Scherzer. The Washington Nationals ace also missed two starts in August due to a neck injury, but has replicated his Cy Young winning season from last year, pitching to a 13-5 record and a blistering 2.19 ERA. He leads the NL in WAR (7.3), strikeouts (232), opponent’s AVG (.172), and WHIP (0.85). These could be good enough to allow Scherzer to bring home Cy Young Award number three.

Honorable Mentions: Gio Gonzalez – Washington Nationals (13-6, 2.58 ERA), Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals (11-4, 2.90 ERA), Kenley Jansen (5-0, 1.21 ERA, 36 Saves)

American League Most Valuable Player: My pick for AL MVP is the pint-sized second baseman deep in the heart of Texas, Jose Altuve. Altuve has helped lead the Houston Astros to the best record in the American League, slashing .354/.415/.561 with 21 HRs and 73 RBI. He has the possibility of amassing 30 doubles, 30 home runs, and 30 steals for the season. He is on pace for his third career batting title and his fourth consecutive 200 hit season. Also, he leads the AL in WAR (7.3). There’s not much else to say about Altuve. He’s one of the very best young players in the league, still only 27 years old and with his best years still ahead of him. Altuve finished third in the AL MVP voting last year. I’m predicting that the voters go this way, and Altuve takes that leap forward and brings home the award.

Honorable Mentions: Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels (.329/.464/.662, 27 HRs, 61 RBI), Jose Ramirez – Cleveland Indians (.310/.363/.558, 23 HRs, 67 RBI), Eric Hosmer – Kansas City Royals (.318/.385/.504, 23 HRs, 80 RBI)

National League Most Valuable Player: To me, there are three main candidates for this award. The first is the power-hitting first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt would be a household name if he played anywhere other than Arizona. He is a top-five position player in baseball and it is time he gets his due. His fantastic season is partly responsible for the DBacks success thus far. Slashing .314/.424/.597 with 33 HRs and 109 RBI, he finds himself in the top five in many major offensive categories: second in OBP (.424), third in runs (102), RBI (109), walks (87), fourth in HRs (33), fifth in SLG (.597), in OPS (1.022), and in WAR (6.2, third among position players).

Another candidate would be Joey Votto, who continues to be one of the only bright spots on the Cincinnati Reds (as well as one of the most under-appreciated players in the league, in my opinion). Votto has slashed .312/.448/.588. That .448 is an absurd on-base percentage. To put it into perspective, Votto has 44 more walks than he does strikeouts this season. He is far and wide the most disciplined hitter in all of baseball. Along with those lofty numbers, he has 28 doubles, 34 HRs, and 93 RBI. Votto, as well, is third in the NL in WAR (6.4, second among position players). Could Votto take home his second career MVP award?

The last candidate has been the hottest player in the majors over the last two months. Giancarlo Stanton has hit 29 HRs with 56 RBI over the last 50 games. In that time frame, he is slashing .311/.430/.842. Your math is correct. He has an awe-inspiring 1.272 OPS over the last 50 games. Now, for the season he has a slash line of .286/.381/.657 with 53 HRs and 112 RBI, and he has a WAR of 6.7, good for second in the NL and first among position players. This one is simple in my opinion. If Stanton hits 60 home runs for the season, then it is undoubtedly his award. The Marlins slugger would become just the sixth player in MLB history to hit 60 home runs in a season. So, if Stanton puts his name in the history books, then he deserves the award. But until then, I think it’s a fight between these three men.

Honorable Mentions: Charlie Blackmon – Colorado Rockies (.342/.406/.625, 33 HRs, 86 RBI), Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies (.303/.362/.577, 30 HRs, 111 RBI), Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals (13-5, 2.19 ERA)

These are, of course, my predictions based on stats and general history of how the voters tend to make these decisions. For instance, while the two Colorado Rockies stars (Arenado and Blackmon) are having monster years, the awards voters don’t tend to vote for Rockies players due to the “Coors Field effect,” which is the belief that the dimensions and elevation of Coors Field lend to more offense from it’s players. For instance, a look at the home and away splits for these two players:

Nolan Arenado: 

Home – .331/.385/.639/.1.024, 16 HRs, 70 RBI

Away – .280/.342/.519/.861, 14 HRs, 42 RBI

Charlie Blackmon: 

Home – .390/.466/.781/1.247, 21 HRs, 47 RBI

Away – .292/.340/.469/.808, 12 HRs, 39 RBI

Look at those splits! That’s a drop of over 300 points in slugging percentage from Blackmon! Those are drastic drops in all categories from both players. I’m a fan of both players, but those drop-offs in productivity within the confines of Coors Field and elsewhere are too big to justify a vote over the other candidates. Of course, this is just an example of how I’m basing this from just one of the awards. As I said, I’m basing these predictions off of voter habits in recent years. We’ll certainly see after the postseason how these predictions turned out.

(All stats as of 9/5/17, before game time)

By: Chris Perkowski

The Orioles Might Be Turning A Corner

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The Orioles celebrate after Manny Machado’s walk-off grand slam last night. (Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Don’t look now, but the Orioles are making some noise in a crowded AL Wild Card picture. Through July 28th, the Orioles were 48-54 and 6.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. Somehow, after a 12-8 stretch over their last 20 games, they sit 2.0 games out of the second Wild Card spot with no signs of slowing down. Led by a resurgent Manny Machado (.343/.373/.607 with 11 doubles, 8 HRs, and 34 RBI since the All-Star break), do the O’s have what it takes to withstand a tough AL Wild Card field? After all, eight teams are within three games of a Wild Card spot as of press time. What has been the reason behind the Orioles recent surge?

The aforementioned Manny Machado will likely lead the way. The three-time All-Star third baseman has been having the worst season of his career. Prior to the All-Star break, Machado was hitting a gruesome .230/.296/.445 with 18 HRs and 47 RBI through 83 games. In the 34 games since, he has nearly matched his season total in RBI (47/34) and raised his batting average 34 points (now slashing .264/.319/.494). This is still below his usual standards; In his first five seasons, Machado was a .284/.333/.477 hitter, averaging 28 HRs per year. His recent hot streak is certainly promising though as Baltimore goes forward (.438/.424/.1.063 through his current 7-game hitting streak).

Along with Machado are two breakout stars in their own rights. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop was the lone Oriole in the All-Star game this year, and for good reason. The Curacao-born infielder has been on a tear all year, slashing .299/.349/.535 and an OPS+ of 134. Not to mention, he’s already achieved career highs in HRs and RBI (26/86). On the other hand, you have breakout left fielder Trey Mancini. If it weren’t for Aaron Judge, Mancini may be your AL Rookie of the Year. Among qualified AL Rookies (at least 150 AB), Mancini is fourth in batting average (.287), second in slugging percentage (.512), second in OPS (.849), third in doubles (19), third in home runs (21), and third in RBI (62). Mancini has been above and beyond what the Orioles have needed in the outfield, taking the starting left field job away from Hyun Soo Kim (now with the Phillies). With these two young stars (both are only 25), the Orioles future looks bright.

After a Trade Deadline deal with Tampa Bay, the Orioles seem to have found their franchise shortstop in Tim Beckham. Acquired for minor league reliever Tobias Myers, Beckham has been a godsend for the Birds. In 87 games with Tampa Bay this year, Beckham amassed a slash line of .259/.314/.407 with a WAR of 1.2. In 17 games with Baltimore this year, he has slashed .479/.500/.845 with a WAR of 1.7. That’s right, he has been worth more wins to Baltimore than he was to Tampa Bay in less than 20 percent of the games. Playing well above the production of J.J. Hardy (with an ugly slash line of .211/.248/.308 this season), the Orioles really lucked out with this under-the-radar acquisition.

Though they’ve got a lot of promise in the lineup, ranking second as a team in the AL in batting average (.264), second in slugging percentage (.446), and third in home runs (180), they’ve got a few under-performers as well. Mark Trumbo made waves last season, crushing a league leading 47 HRs along with 108 RBI. It would have been a lot to expect him to live up to those lofty totals, but they were probably hoping for better than 19 HRs and 53 RBI from the slugging DH this season. His totals this year, .240/.301/.716, may be closer to what you’re actually going to get from him. You see, those 47 HRs seem to have been awfully misleading. For example, he was only worth a WAR of 1.6 last season and only had an OPS of .850 last year, as well. How can you hit nearly 50 homers and not crack an OPS of .900? That’s pretty hard to do. If you take a look at the last ten players before Trumbo to hit at least 45 home runs, nine of them had an OPS above .900. I’ll break it down here:

  1. 2015 – Chris Davis: 47 HRs, .923 OPS
  2. 2013 – Chris Davis: 53 HRs, 1.004 OPS
  3. 2010 – Jose Bautista: 54 HRs, .995 OPS
  4. 2009 – Albert Pujols: 47 HRs, 1.101 OPS
  5. 2009 – Prince Fielder: 46 HRs, 1.014 OPS
  6. 2009 – Ryan Howard: 45 HRs, .931 OPS
  7. 2008 – Ryan Howard: 48 HRs, .881 OPS
  8. 2007 – Alex Rodriguez: 54 HRs, 1.067 OPS
  9. 2007 – Prince Fielder: 50 HRs, 1.013 OPS
  10. 2007 – Ryan Howard: 47 HRs, .976 OPS

Of the last ten players to hit 45 HRs in a season, only Ryan Howard had an OPS lower than .900, and at .881, his was still higher than Trumbo’s OPS of .850. If you want to look at OPS+ to compare, Howard’s 125 is also higher than Trumbo’s 123. That’s simply not very good.

Lefty slugger Chris Davis has also been…uh…well, bad. L.E. Miller over at Charm City Sports Network put out an article two weeks ago highlighting Davis’ struggles. Over the last two seasons, Davis has .221/.327/.447 in 1,041 plate appearances. As Miller notes, he has struck out in nearly 40 percent of his at-bats over the last two years. He does have 56 HRs over the last two years, but that can be misleading, as we’ve seen with Trumbo. Slugging just .426 this year, let’s compare that to the rest of the team. To be fair, we’ll look at Orioles with at least 200 ABs this season. By those guidelines, Davis is eighth in slugging percentage among eleven qualified Orioles hitters. Yet manager Buck Showalter refuses to take him out of the clean-up spot! Why? What has he shown that would justify keeping him that high in the order? As Miller notes again, he’s not turning a corner. Since June 1st, he is slashing .211/.304/.381. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly the kind of production I look for from my four-hitter. Good lord.

The pitching isn’t much better. Aside from Beckham, the Orioles made one other deadline deal: Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson was pretty good for the Phillies last year, going 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA, an ERA+ of 113, 154 Ks in 189 innings, plus a 2.9 WAR. It would make a lot sense to acquire a pitcher like that, right, especially when your starting rotation has a combined ERA of 5.75?

No, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense, considering Hellickson has been having arguably the worst year of his career. This year, in 24 starts between Philadelphia and Baltimore, he has an ERA of 5.00, a 7-7 record, just 83 Ks in 135 innings. Not to mention, he’s already given up a career high 28 HRs and we still have more than a month to go in the season. His ERA+ is 86, 14 points below the league average. He also has a career low of 5.5 K/9IP. Why would they trade for him? Aren’t you trying to improve arguably the worst rotation in the league? I sincerely cannot wrap my head around that thinking.

You know I can’t mention bad pitching without bringing up Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez may be the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball. Since 2011, he has averaged a record of 11-14, accumulated an ERA of 4.78 with a WHIP of 1.467. This year alone, he has a 5-8 record, an ERA of 6.47 (how?!) and an ERA+ of 67. He makes $12.5M per year. The Orioles could pay me a fraction of that and I would give them that kind of production. I don’t mean to be crass, but how is he still employed? The Orioles don’t have a single pitching prospect who could step in and replace him in the rotation and even be a little better? He must have some kind of dirt on Orioles GM Dan Duquette. That’s the only explanation.

Hey, at least they didn’t trade closer Zach Britton at the deadline. Britton has saved 59 consecutive games, having not blown a save since September of 2015. Britton headlines a very good bullpen (O’s bullpen has an accumulative 2.86 ERA). Brad Brach did a nice job of relieving Britton, who missed nearly three months of the season with a forearm injury. Brach has a 2.70 ERA with 16 saves and 53 Ks through 50 innings this season. Likewise, Mychal Givens has been lights out this year, pitching to 2.28 ERA with 62 Ks through 59.1 innings.

Is this run sustainable? The short answer: Maybe. With Machado heating up at the perfect time, and breakout stars Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini, and Tim Beckham leading the way (plus veterans Adam JonesWelington Castillo, and Seth Smith enjoying fine seasons), also a really good bullpen, the Orioles may be able to stay in the AL Wild Card race. It would be a big help if manager Buck Showalter would come to his senses and move the lineup around (perhaps you drop Davis down to the six or seven spot in the lineup and move Schoop to cleanup). The catalyst is the rotation. If even one of these pitchers can grab the reins and settle into a groove in the last month of the season, then they may be onto something. But until that happens, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

(All stats as of 8/19/17 before gametime).

By: Chris Perkowski

It’s Always Sonny in the Bronx: Trade Deadline Roundup

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Sonny Gray, the newest Yankee, delivers a pitch. (Credit: USA Today Sports)

The July 31st Trade Deadline finally arrived at 4:00pm on Monday, with teams buying and selling as they prepare for a postseason run or for the distant future. Several rumored deals came to fruition, bolstering lineups, rotations, and bullpens. Let’s take a look at some of the major deals that took place on Monday, and in the days leading up to it.

Sonny Gray: After over a week of speculation, the A’s and Yankees finally came to an agreement, as Gray heads to New York in exchange for three prospects: outfielder Dustin Fowler, pitcher James Kaprielian, and shortstop/outfielder Jorge Mateo. Gray joins a Yankees rotation that has an ERA of 4.06, looking for a jolt after Michael Pineda went down for the season with a UCL tear requiring Tommy John surgery. Gray, enjoying a bounceback season in Oakland (6-5, 3.43 ERA) will help a rotation that also just acquired southpaw Jaime Garcia from the Twins (the Twins acquired Garcia from Atlanta just five days prior).

The prospect package going back to Oakland is lighter than some expected, as the A’s were pestering the Yankees to include Clint Frazier or Gleyber Torres in a deal. James Kaprielian is three months removed from Tommy John surgery to his right throwing elbow, his second elbow injury in two years. Dustin Fowler injured his knee in the first inning of his MLB debut last month, and no one knows what position Jorge Mateo is supposed to play. Even though the Yankees gave up three top 30 prospects (according to MLB.com), they were able to get a front of the rotation arm with two years of team control without giving up any of their top prospects. GM Brian Cashman has to be thrilled about that.

Yu Darvish: The Dodgers acquired the Japanese Ace from the Rangers for second baseman/outfielder Willie Calhoun, pitcher A.J. Alexy, and infielder Brendon Davis. Those three prospects are all listed in the top 30 in the Rangers organization now (according to MLB.com). Los Angeles, in return, adds to their dangerous rotation as they try to win a World Series championship for the first time in almost three decades. Darvish would join the injured Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda in the rotation. Darvish hasn’t been his usual self this year, as the man with a career 3.42 ERA has pitched to a meager 6-9 record with a 4.01 ERA, and a career low K/9 rate (9.7 strikeouts per nine innings this year). Still, he figures to give the Dodgers a boost as they make a run for the post season.

The Dodgers weren’t done there, adding relievers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani in an attempt to improve their bullpen. The Dodgers have a team ERA of 3.01, good for first in the NL, so it’s not like they needed to add to it, but you can never have enough firepower in the ‘pen. Watson was delivered to the Dodgers from the Pirates in exchange for prospects Oneil Cruz and Angel German. MLB.com ranks Cruz as the 16th best prospect in the Pirates organization, now. Cingrani arrived from Cincinnati for outfielder Scott Van Slyke and catching prospect Hendrik Clementina.

Addison Reed: A big storyline heading into deadline day: who will the Mets trade? Along with first baseman Lucas Duda (we’ll get to him), the Mets dealt current closer Addison Reed to the Red Sox in exchange for three pitching prospects: Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan, and Stephen Nogosek, the latter two now ranking in the top 30 prospects in the Mets organization. Reed has been superb for the Mets over the past three seasons, pitching to a sterling 2.09 ERA, striking out 156 batters over 142 frames. He figures to be the set-up man for Boston’s Craig Kimbrel.

Lucas Duda was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays, sitting 2.5 games back for the second AL-Wild Card slot and looking for offensive help. In return, the Mets received pitching prospect Drew Smith, ranking as their 30th best prospect. Duda has enjoyed a solid year at the plate, with 19 HRs and 40 RBI, plus a career high .909 OPS. He will split time at first base and DH for the Rays.

The Nationals bullpen has struggled mightily this season, sporting a team ERA of 4.76. It has been the NL East powerhouse’s only weakness thus far, and they worked hard to improve it at the deadline, adding Minnesota’s closer in Brandon Kintzler. The Twins received minor league hurler Tyler Watson and international pool money in the trade. Kintzler, an All-Star in 2017, has pitched to a 2.94 ERA with 45 saves over 101 frames in one and a half seasons with the Twins.

He joins a formidable duo brought over from the A’s a few weeks ago in Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. The Athletics received reliever Blake Treinen, and prospects Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse, who currently rank as the number 7 and 15 prospects in the A’s system, respectively. Madson missed three seasons due to a major elbow injury between 2012-2014, but has come back strong since, helping the Royals win the World Series in 2015. He’s had a strong year in Oakland, throwing to a 2.06 ERA in 40 games. Doolittle, on the other hand, has been serviceable thus far, pitching to a 3.38 ERA in 23 games. Kintzler, Madson, and Doolittle figure to form a strong combo at the back-end of the Nats bullpen.

The Rockies probably could’ve afforded to add a starter at the deadline (their rotation has a 4.60 ERA) but they felt that they needed to add a set-up man for All-Star closer Greg Holland. Enter Pat Neshek. The two-time All-Star was the only bright spot for the Phillies this year, pitching to a 1.43 ERA in 47 games. He joins Colorado whose team ERA ranks 12th in the NL at 4.71. The Phillies received prospects Jose Gomez (now the number 19 prospect in the Philadelphia system), Alejandro Requena, and J.D. Hammer.

Colorado wasn’t done there, acquiring catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Rangers for a player to be named later. To see why this is noteworthy, let’s rewind one year. At last year’s deadline, the Rangers acquired Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress for outfield prospect Lewis Brinson, pitcher Luis Ortis, and a player to be named later (who turned out to be outfielder Ryan Cordell). Brinson now ranks as the top prospect in the Brewers organization. So, Lucroy went from being the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal to being traded for scraps in just one calendar year. How? Lucroy, a free agent at the end of the season, has been real bad in Texas this year, slashing .242/.297/.338 and just 4 HRs in 77 games. The Rockies are hoping that he simply needed a change of scenery, as he’s been pretty much identical to the production that they’ve received from Ryan Hanigan, Tony Wolters, and Dustin Garneau so far (combined .242/.312/.338).

Lastly, the reigning World Champion Cubs made a splash, acquiring reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila from the Tigers for third base/first base prospect Jeimer Candelario, shortstop prospect Isaac Paredes, and a player to be named later OR future cash considerations. Here, Chicago gets a lefty reliever enjoying the best season of his career (Wilson has a 2.68 ERA and 55 K’s through 40.1 innings with Detroit) and a veteran back-up catcher, which they’ve needed since the Miguel Montero debacle. In return, the Tigers get Candelario and Paredes, who rank third and eighth among prospects in their farm system. Candelario, a highly touted prospect who plays third base and first base, was blocked in the system by All-Stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Now, he projects to battle Nick Castellanos for the third base job in Spring Training next season. Paredes, a shortstop who some believe will fit better at second base, too was blocked by Addison Russel and Javier Baez. Now, there is a clear opening for him in the future (current Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler is a free agent at the end of the year, and shortstop Jose Iglesias is a free agent after next year).

Which one of these moves will pay off the most? Will the defending champion Cubs repeat on the strength of their improved bullpen? Will the Yankees title hopes come sooner than expected after a handful of big moves? Can Colorado surprise after picking up a set-up man and a catcher? Will the Nationals finally make it past the NLDS after building up their bullpen? As always, we’ll see at the end of the season who came out as winners and losers in these trades.

By: Chris Perkowski

The Hot Stove is…well, Hot

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J.D. Martinez celebrates a home run. (Getty Images)

It was first reported at 6:25pm on Tuesday by Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi that the Tigers and Diamondbacks were close to a deal involving star right fielder J.D. Martinez. Shortly after, it became known that the Tigers were receiving three infield prospects in return: Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and Jose King. Now, the second NL Wild Card spot belongs to the Diamondbacks, who have bolstered their already impressive lineup, sporting a three-headed monster of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, third baseman Jake Lamb, and the aforementioned Martinez. Martinez was arguably the best rental bat on the market and was surprisingly cheap to acquire.

None of the three prospects heading to Detroit are listed in the Top 100 Prospects lists of MLB.comFangraphs, or Baseball America. As a matter of fact, heading into the season, Minor League Ball had the Diamondbacks listed as the number 29 farm system in all of Major League Baseball. This was due to Arizona trading the number one overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Dansby Swanson, to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Shelby Miller. Along with Swanson, the D-Backs sent outfielder Ender Inciarte and pitcher Aaron Blair.

To show what the D-Backs lost, Inciarte was named to the NL All-Star team this year and won a Gold Glove award for Atlanta last year. Blair, on the other hand, was…not good in his rookie season last year. He went 2-7 with a 7.59 ERA in 15 starts for the Braves, before being sent down to AAA Gwinnett, where he still finds himself. Swanson was called up in August of last year and set the baseball world on fire, dazzling with the glove and compiling a slash line of .302/.361/.442 in just 38 games. However, he has come back down to earth this year, batting just .220/.297/.321.

Shelby Miller was just plain bad last year. In 20 starts in the desert in 2016, he went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 1.673 WHIP. ERA+ is a stat that adjusts to the players’ ballparks, with 100 being the league average.

Miller’s ERA+ in 2016 was 72.

Seventy-two. 

Now, enough about Arizona’s terrible farm system and onto this trade. The Diamondbacks gave up three middle of the pack infield prospects for an All-Star outfielder. How? Martinez missed the start of the season due to a sprained ligament in his foot, and yet he was the Tigers leader in home runs (16), batting average (.305), slugging percentage (.630), and OPS (1.018) and he played in just 57 of 92 games. He joins a Diamondbacks outfield that had a combined WAR of 2.4. Martinez had a WAR of 1.7, alone. Scouting reports on Lugo and Alcantara from MLB.com show that they are viewed as borderline MLB players, as a utility role is probably their ceiling. To show how highly touted Jose King is as a prospect, I can’t find a single scouting report on him, whatsoever. Tigers GM Al Avila gave up his All-Star right fielder for three prospects that may never be more than bench players in the majors. That’s really something to think about. Seriously, he gave up one of his best players for pretty much nothing.

As I mentioned before, Arizona is getting a huge bat to their already impressive line-up. Martinez gives the D-Backs an immediate upgrade from the, how do I put this nicely, disappointing Yasmany Tomas, who is currently on the 10 day DL. The Cuban defector has been “alright” at-best for Arizona, providing them with a -2.3 WAR over three big league seasons. OPS+, like ERA+, takes into account players’ ballpark factors. The league average is 100, just like for ERA+. Tomas’ career OPS+ is 98, showing he is rated as a slightly below-average player. Not to mention, he has a glove made of stone in the field. He has a career fielding percentage of .973 and a dWAR of -5.1. He has cost the Diamondbacks five games because of his glove over three years. Considering the fact that WAR values a player against a replacement player, Tomas is well below-average here as well.

To be fair, we’ll compare Martinez over the last three seasons with Tomas. Martinez has a WAR of 8.6 over that time period, and OPS+ of 145, a fielding percentage of .982 and a dWAR of -3.7. While not a great defender, he is still an upgrade from Tomas in the field, and he more than makes up for his defensive shortcomings with his bat. Once again, he joins a stacked Diamondbacks lineup consisting of Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, Brandon Drury and Chris Owings (who are both enjoying career years), A.J. Pollock and David Peralta. Peralta likely shifts to left field while Martinez will be plugged in in right field.

I love this deal for the Diamondbacks. They gained a very good hitter and gave up next to nothing for him. You truly can’t ask for anything more.

Offense aside, the pitching staff has been bolstered by a bounceback season from team Ace Zack Greinke (11-4, 2.86 ERA), while All-Star Robbie Ray (9-4, 2.97 ERA), Taijuan Walker (6-4, 3.61 ERA), and Zack Godley (3-4, 3.09 ERA) have been very effective. The only question mark as the Diamondbacks work towards a playoff push would be the bullpen. Closer Fernando Rodney has 20 saves this season, but he also has a 5.58 ERA and a WHIP of 1.337. An upgrade from him could prove to be helpful as the season goes on.

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Todd Frazier rounds third and heads for home. (Matthew Stockton)

The second big trade that occurred on Tuesday night involved the Yankees acquiring third baseman Todd Frazier, and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for outfield prospect Blake Rutherford (the number 30 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com), outfield prospect Tito Polo, pitching prospect Ian Clarkin, and reliever Tyler Clippard. I mentioned Frazier as a possible trade option for the Yankees last month.

While I’m not a huge fan of Frazier, he offers the Yankees more power at the hot corner than they have received from Chase Headley this year. This season, Frazier has a slash line of .206/.329/.431, while Headley has a slash line of .257/.339/.368. That .206 batting average certainly leaves a lot to be desired, but the power numbers are there. Frazier currently sits at 16 HRs and 44 RBI, compared to Headley’s 4 HRs and 37 RBI. Most impressive, though, are Frazier’s numbers outside of Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field. Let’s compare his road stats from 2016-2017 with Nolan Arenado, arguably the best offensive third baseman in baseball:

Frazier: .849 OPS, 35 HRs, 84 RBI

Arenado: .848 OPS, 26 HRs, 80 RBI

The Bronx Bombers will take that production any day as they have struggled recently (they’re in a miserable 10-21 stretch).

A big part of that slip was due to the bullpen’s woes, with Tyler Clippard’s struggles this season being a major factor. Clippard, once a two-time All-Star in Washington, enjoyed a career renaissance with the Yankees last summer, pitching to a 2.49 ERA in 29 games following a mid-season trade to New York. This season, however, he has not been the same pitcher. He has accumulated a 4.95 ERA in 40 appearances. Simply, he became a liability and the Yankees, tight in a wild card and division race, needed an upgrade.

An upgrade is exactly what they got, reuniting with former set-up man David Robertson and one-time Yankees prospect Tommy Kahnle. Robertson was in the middle of his best season as a South Sider, sporting a 2.70 ERA with 13 saves and 47 K’s in 33.1 innings of work. Kahnle is enjoying a breakout season, as he has a 2.43 ERA with 62 K’s in just 37 innings of work. Did I mention these two are also controllable? Robertson is under contract through next season, and Kahnle is under contract through 2020. That is a major boost to the ‘pen as the Yankees continue their youth movement and try to chase a pennant over the next few years. The Yankees pretty much need their starters to give them five quality innings before turning it over to some combination of Kahnle-Betances-Robertson-Chapman to close out the game. Think about that. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Glad to have you back! That’s a pretty scary combo, right?!

Looking at what the Yankees gave up for a rental third baseman and two controllable, high quality relievers, it’s less than you’d expect. Blake Rutherford, the Yankees first round pick in 2016, and the number 30 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com, is the main player going to Chicago in this deal. He became expendable, though, as he doesn’t project to be up until probably 2020, still in A-Ball. Ahead of him in the organizational depth chart would be Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and the injured Dustin Fowler, not to mention Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. Though, the latter duos future roles with the organization remains unknown as the Yankees move toward getting younger and lowering the team payroll. With all of that talent in front of him, Rutherford didn’t really have a major role on the team in the near future. If Fowler can come back from his knee injury and and play quality center field at the big league level, then this losing Rutherford won’t hurt for the Yankees, assuming Robertson and Kahnle can keep it up with the Yanks.

The second prospect in this deal is Ian Clarkin. Clarkin, now the number 18 prospect in the White Sox organization, has been solid at High-A Tampa this year, pitching to a 2.62 ERA and a 4-5 record in 15 games (14 starts). His ceiling seems to be as a mid-rotation starter. The Yankees are loaded with young pitching prospects (they have four pitchers in their top ten prospects, 14 in their top 30), so this made Clarkin expendable, as well. Tito Polo, an outfield prospect, was the third prospect in this trade. He’s viewed as a possible fourth outfielder at the big league level, so that in-and-of itself is not a huge loss. Clippard, as I mentioned, struggled mightily this season, so including him in the deal helped the Yankees, if anything.

I really don’t mind this deal for the Yankees. The idea of losing a prospect the caliber Rutherford may hurt now, but with the addition of two very good relievers (giving the Yankees what I believe to be the best bullpen in the American League) as they continue to build toward a postseason run this year, and in the immediate future, I believe there is a lot to like about this. Reports also indicate that the Yankees are interested in acquiring a controllable starting pitcher (namely Sonny Gray), as well as an upgrade at first base, so they may not be done dealing just yet.

By: Chris Perkowski

Are the Mets About to Clean House?

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A Mets fan reacts following a loss in mid-May.

The news came just this past Friday. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Mets would listen to offers for some of their short-term veterans. This can’t come as much of a surprise to Mets fans. Despite a three-game sweep of the abysmal San Francisco Giants, the Mets enter Monday with a 34-41 record. They sit 11.0 games out of first in the NL East, and 11.5 games out of an NL Wild Card spot. Missing their Ace Noah Syndergaard likely until the end of August with a lat tear, along with multiple injuries to their roster; star left fielder Yoenis Cespedes was sidelined for over a month with a hamstring strain in late April, while Matt Harvey was recently placed on the DL with injuries to his throwing shoulder. This is the latest in a long line of injuries to the former Ace; in Harvey’s breakout 2013 season, he suffered a partially torn UCL in his right elbow which required Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the entire 2014 season. In 2016, Harvey complained of shoulder pain and then had season-ending surgery to relieve a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which is a condition that compresses the nerves from the collarbone to the first rib. Now, Harvey was placed on the DL with a “stress reaction” in his right shoulder.

Not just this, but the Mets have lost Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, and Juan Lagares to varying periods of time due to injuries. Most notably, the Mets have been without captain David Wright for over a year, playing his last game on May 27 of last season. Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2015, and was diagnosed with a right shoulder impingement in February of this year. He has yet to be cleared since then.

Part of the Mets’ recent woes could easily be attributed to these unfortunate setbacks for their players. A big factor is a lack of youth. Baseball Reference offers the average age of each team on each roster page. The average age of the Mets roster is 29.9, the oldest in the National League. In a league that has been lead by a youth movement (the World Series Champion Cubs, Royals, and Giants had average ages of 27.4, 29.2, and 28.5, respectively) the veteran Mets need a youthful jolt. Being the oldest team in the NL may be the reason for these frequent injuries. Or it could be from a terrible strength and conditioning program. Or both! Yay, variety!

With the team near the basement of the NL East and far out of a Wild Card spot, and especially with little reason to think that they may make a comeback, selling seems to be their best choice. Contending teams will always take on a veteran presence in hopes of adding to a postseason run, and the Mets would be able to add prospects, improving the farm system and getting younger: a win-win for both sides. You know what that means, dear reader: I speculate about trades again, so buckle up!

As Buster Olney alluded to on Friday, the Mets are considering selling. One of the more attractive options to contending teams would be Jay Bruce. Bruce would be a great addition to the AL Central leading Minnesota Twins. The Twins, who have surprised everyone this year, have a 0.5 game lead over the reigning American League Champion Cleveland Indians, and could use a boost in the lineup. Starting right fielder Max Kepler has given them a .249/.316/.414 slash line with only 8 HRs and 29 RBI. Likewise, Robbie Grossman has slashed .253/.388/.395 with 6 HRs and 22 RBI in the DH spot. Bruce has had a very strong year, boosting his trade value, hitting .270/.339/.543 with 20 HRs and 52 RBI. Throw those numbers into the Twins lineup, and he would be fourth in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage, and second in slugging percentage. Also, he would lead the team in home runs and tie for the lead in RBI.

The Mets could ask the Twins for catching prospect Ben Rortvedt. According to scouting reports, he has great defensive instincts behind the plate, not to mention a strong arm and raw, powerful bat speed. The Mets could use a young catcher. Travis d’Arnaud has not been effective, to say the least. The oft-injured backstop has topped 100 games in a season once (2014), and when he has been healthy, he hasn’t been very productive: his career slash line is .242/.307/.400. He is a below-average defensive catcher, with a career dWAR of -1.3 and accounts for -23 defensive runs saved for his career. While Rortvedt is still growing as a player, it’s worth taking a shot on a young catcher like him who could be up in the Majors by the start of the 2020 season. d’Arnaud’s contract is up after the 2019 season, which would fit perfectly for the Mets. Another player the Mets can get out of this would be pitching prospect Thomas Hackimer, who the Mets originally drafted in 2015. Hackimer opted not to sign and returned to college, and was drafted by the Twins in 2016. The side-arm throwing Hackimer was recently called up to A+ Fort Myers, and has pitched to a 1.57 ERA with 35 K’s in 34.1 relief innings between two levels this year. If he continues to pitch effectively out of the bullpen, Hackimer can continue to climb up through the minor league ranks and become an effective MLB reliever, throwing an average fastball with late life that fools hitters from his deceptive arm angle.

Asdrubal Cabrera is another Met who could be shopped before the deadline. As a matter of fact, Cabrera recently requested a trade after being moved to second base. It’s worth noting that Cabrera did not have a problem playing 48 games at second base when he was traded to the Nationals in 2014. So perhaps playing for the Mets has simply caused Cabrera to lose his will to live. Who’s to say? What is clear is that he wants out of Flushing. The Tampa Bay Rays seemed to be an ideal partner, though they just acquired shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Miami Marlins. The Baltimore Orioles find themselves one game under .500 but only 4.5 games out of the AL East lead and 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. With J.J. Hardy injured with a fractured wrist, they could look for an outside replacement. Baltimore may even be thankful that Hardy went down, as his horrid .566 OPS represented a massive hole in the lineup, and replacement Ruben Tejada hasn’t been much better, slashing .182/.250/.242. The veteran switch hitting Cabrera offers a slash line of .263/.343/.405. The 31 year old still gets on base at a good rate, though he won’t set the world on fire with his glove (he has a .938 fielding percentage and -0.8 dWAR this season).

Another area of need for the Orioles is in the bullpen. The Orioles have a team ERA of 5.15, last in the American League, and Addison Reed offers a good solution at the back-end of the bullpen until closer Zach Britton can come back from the DL with a left forearm strain that has cost him much of this season. Reed has enjoyed a career resurgence with the Mets, pitching to a 2.12 ERA, striking out 147 batters compared to just 23 walks in 131.1 innings with the Mets. Compare that to his two years in Arizona where he pitched to a 4.23 ERA with 103 K’s and 29 walks in just 100.0 innings with the D-Backs. Reed has really blossomed in New York, and could take that success to Baltimore in the role of a set-up man, helping to improve that bullpen.

Now, the Mets can package Cabrera and Reed together in a deal for shortstop prospect Ryan Mountcastle and pitching prospect Paul Fry. Mountcastle has plus-bat speed and hand-eye coordination, but some believe that he will not stay at shortstop, as he doesn’t have the arm for it. Second base is a better option for him (and for the Mets, as shortstop prospect Amed Rosario is expected up next season) due to this defensive deficiency. Fry was acquired by the Orioles in a prospect-for-prospect trade earlier this year, and is an interesting player. He is someone that had a lot of hype as he came up in the Mariners system, but after strong seasons in 2014, 2015, and 2016, he has since racked up an ERA of 7.71 and 6.94 over two levels this year. Though, this makes him an interesting bounce back candidate. If he can put it all back together, he could conceivably become a possible lefty specialist in the big leagues. The Mets would take that any day.

The final trade candidate is Lucas Duda. Featuring big lefty pop, Duda is an on-base machine who offers decent defense at first. With a slash line of .251/.362/.553 plus 13 HRs and 29 RBI, Duda could be a big trade target to contenders looking for help at first base. The Yankees or Astros could be ideal trade targets, the Yankees especially looking for help at first base after getting .152/.268/.292 from Chris Carter and Greg Bird up to this point. Though Tyler Austin was recently called up, Duda could be an option for the Yankees if Greg Bird does not return to form when he is activated from the disabled list. With an electric curveball, a plus fastball, and a developing change-up, Drew Finley could be an under-the-radar acquisition for the Mets here. They would likely be able to ask for Hoy Jun Park in return for Duda, or even an established player, like Rob Refsnyder, who could probably benefit from a change of scenery as he does not seem to have a place in the Yankees plans at all.

The Astros may be interested in a bit more production at first base. Yuli Gurriel has had a solid season at the plate (.278/.305/.443), but has only hit 8 HRs and 32 RBI. A platoon with Duda could be big for Houston. In return for Duda, the Astros could offer Riley Ferrell, whom many see as a quality reliever at the big league level, and starting pitching prospect Brady Rodgers, who could help a depleted Mets rotation as early as this summer if included in said hypothetical trade.

Bruce, Cabrera, Reed, and Duda are all free agents after this season (Cabrera has a club option for 2018). The Mets would be able to trade four pending free agents and actually get a return for them before they go elsewhere. Duda and Cabrera do not have a future in Queens, as Top Prospects SS Amed Rosario and 1B Dominic Smith are expected to debut for the Mets at the start of next season. Along with those four, they would lose Curtis Granderson to free agency (who likely wouldn’t draw much interest at the trade deadline as the 36 year old sports a lowly .235/.328/.457 slash line with depleted range in the outfield, with a dWAR of -0.1 this year compared to 4.6 for his career), along with Neil Walker and Jose Reyes, thus clearing up a lot of payroll: $68.98M in total.

This newfound capital allows the Mets to spend in the offseason. Two big name signings could be Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and center fielder Lorenzo Cain. In all likelihood, David Wright isn’t playing again. Moustakas offers the Mets good defense and a strong power bat (I went over Moustakas’ upsides in my last blog post). Cain, who finished third in the AL MVP vote in 2015, offers the Mets a viable starting center fielder. Cain has been one of the best defensive center fielders in all of baseball over the past few years, sporting a dWAR of 9.1 from 2013-2016. The career .287 hitter could be great in the leadoff spot, averaging 28 stolen bases a year in his career, and averaging 33 doubles a year.

The 28 year old Moustakas can be had on a 5 year deal for roughly $72.5M (worth $14.5M per year), while I believe the 31 year old Cain would be available on a 4 year deal for $64M (worth $16M per year). This allows the Mets to play budding star Michael Conforto in a natural corner outfield spot (likely right field), with Yoenis Cespedes in left field and Cain in center field (offering the Mets a natural center fielder who can actually hit for the first time in recent memory). The infield would be made up of Moustakas at third, Rosario at shortstop, possibly giving Wilmer Flores an actual shot to prove himself at second base, and Dominic Smith at first base, with Travis d’Arnaud catching. These trades built up the Mets’ farm system and budding youth movement, while saving a lot of money and being able to spend on valuable pieces who can help the Mets to get back to the postseason immediately. I think these are important moves for the future of the organization.

Or maybe they just need a new strength and conditioning program. The world may never know.

By: Chris Perkowski

 

Gleyber Torres’ Injury Offers the Yankees Some Interesting Trade Options

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Top Yankees Prospect Gleyber Torres. (Credit: Getty Images)

On Monday, the New York Yankees announced that their top prospect, also the number two prospect in all of baseball, Gleyber Torres would require Tommy John surgery following an injury suffered to his non-throwing elbow during a headfirst slide into home plate. Many believed that he would be called-up some time this summer to replace Chase Headley as the starting third baseman. Of course, this surgery causes him to miss the rest of the season, so that is no longer in the cards.

There seems to be no cause for concern going forward, as the recovery for a position player undergoing Tommy John surgery is far less severe than that of a pitcher. Matt Wieters, Miguel Sano, and Zack Cozart are three position players who have all had Tommy John surgery and ended up playing at a high-level afterwards. Miguel Sano (.291/.392/.581 with 18 HRs and 52 RBI this year) is currently the leading vote getter among AL Third Baseman for the MLB All-Star game, and Zack Cozart (.320/.404/.562 with 9 HRs and 33 RBI this year) currently leads all NL Shortstops in the All-Star Voting, as well. Wieters, on the other hand, was an All-Star last year following an injury-plagued 2015. These three talented players who have had the same surgery show that Tommy John surgery isn’t the end of the world for a position player.

Still, many believed that Torres would be up sometime this summer, despite Gleyber’s manager, Al Pedrique of the AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre Railriders, saying that the star prospect was not ready to be called-up just yet. It didn’t help matters, though, that Chase Headley had struggled mightily in the month of May, hitting just .165/.211/.235 through the month. Though Headley has been hot so far in June (.279/.395/.361 through 18 games), speculation that Headley could be displaced has still run rampant. As we know now, the presumed successor to the hot corner in the Bronx is now on the shelf for the remainder of the 2017 season. With that hampering the possibility of that big call-up this season, there are still some trade options that do remain, should the Yankees feel a move from Headley is necessary. A recent seven-game skid likely doesn’t help things, either.

One name that I have seen tossed around quite a bit is Todd Frazier. While he is able to drive in runs and hit some homers (40 last year), this is still a guy who is currently hitting .205/.310/.405, with an OPS+ of 92, showing that he is 8% below the league average. Headley, of course, is hitting .245/.335/.362 on the season with an OPS+ of just 83, 17% below the league average. What makes Frazier an attractive option is his power, and the fact that the White Sox don’t seem to be in a position to ask for a lot in exchange for Frazier. The reason I say this is because Chicago can get a good return for Jose Abreu if they choose to move him, along with Melky Cabrera, or pitchers Jose Quintana, even in a down year, or Derek Holland.

These two are very similar players when compared defensively (Frazier has a dWAR of 0.1, while Headley’s is -0.3), but Frazier gets out quite a bit more than Headley, even though he hits for more power. Still, I don’t see this as the best option for the Yankees, as more value is still available. It doesn’t make sense for the Yankees to replace a guy who can’t hit with a guy who can’t hit.

Jed Lowrie is a very attractive option for the Yankees. The Oakland infielder is second in the AL in doubles (23) and sports a slash line of .283/.355/.475 with a terrific OPS+ of 126, 26% above the league average. With just a team option on his contract after this season, Lowrie offers an extremely attractive rental option to many contending teams, the Yankees being a prominent one. Though Lowrie has primarily played second base this season, he’s athletic enough and durable enough to play third. He last played third base consistently in 2015, where he sported a .966 Fielding Percentage, compared to a League Fielding Percentage of .958. He offers the Yankees a good bat at the bottom of the order and solid glove-work at third, should they try to strike a deal.

I’d imagine that he can be had for a few prospects, perhaps pitching prospect Dillon Tate and either second base prospect Nick Solak or shortstop prospect Wilkerman Garcia. However, Tyler Austin could be included as it does not seem that he fits into the Yankees future plans, unless they’d like to use him at first base as an in-house option if Greg Bird does not return to form when he comes off of the DL. This is an interesting way to go for the Yankees, but there is one more option that could include a bidding war with a familiar foe.

Mike Moustakas is one of the bigger names available with the deadline looming, but the question remains which direction Kansas City will go in at the deadline. At 35-36 and 8-2 in their last ten games, they find themselves just 3.5 games out of the Division, and 2.0 games out of a Wild Card spot, so they shouldn’t be considered sellers at the moment. If the Royals begin to falter and lose their footing in the standings, then two AL East teams might come calling for the services of the soon-to-be Free Agent Moustakas; the first place New York Yankees, and the Wild Card leading Boston Red Sox, both with needs at third base.

Boston has mostly had Pablo Sandoval and Josh Rutledge playing at third, and the two have hit a combined .218/.283/.308. Knowing Headley’s numbers already, we see that the two teams atop the AL East have been getting very little production at third base.

Meanwhile, Moustakas is enjoying a very strong season at .276/.314/.549, with a career best .863 OPS and 122 OPS+. Not to mention, he currently sits at 19 HRs, on pace to shatter his personal best 22 HRs in a season, set in 2015. He is a very attractive option for both teams when you look at the production they have gotten from the third base position this year. The man affectionately called “Moose” offers a slightly above average glove at third (.960 Fielding Percentage, compared to a .950 League Fielding Percentage) and a fairly solid arm, but his major draw is his offensive game. His powerful lefty swing could do wonders in the hitter friendly confines of Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, and both teams would salivate at the chance to get one of the best available rental bats on the trade market this July.

The main issue is that the Royals wouldn’t give up Moustakas (or any of their four Free Agents-to be) for peanuts; it’ll cost some attractive prospects. The Yankees would likely have to include Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler in a trade for Moustakas, giving the Royals two prospects ranked in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects List, where they currently have zero. Likewise, the Red Sox (who gutted their Farm System this offseason in an effort to acquire Ace Chris Sale) would probably have to include their number two and three prospects, LHP Jay Groome and first baseman Sam Travis, and possibly even third base prospect Michael Chavis. Groome would be the only KC prospect in the Top 100 Prospects List. This might be too expensive for Boston to bite, and they could instead hope to acquire Frazier or possibly sign Moustakas in the offseason.

Of course, this speculation would depend on Headley’s strong June being a fluke, forcing the Yankees to make a change. If they don’t want to lose prospects, then a call up of Tyler Wade or Miguel Andujar makes a lot of sense. If they do go the trade route, then a rental is all they would be looking for as, thankfully, Torres is expected to be ready by the start of the 2018 season, making a deadline deal all the more likely should they decide to move on from the underwhelming Chase Headley.

By: Chris Perkowski