As we near the middle of June, we’re about 1/3 through the 2016 MLB season. Crazy how the time flies so quickly, isn’t it? They say the season is a marathon and not a sprint, but it sure goes by fast.
With that being said, we’re nearing one of the most exciting times of the year for baseball fans…
As we near the midsummer classic in San Diego, teams will be assessing their performance and wading out the contenders from the pretenders. With a plethora of teams in the hunt for a playoff berth, there’s an expectation that this year’s July 31 trade deadline could be among the most star-studded in recent history. Teams will be looking for the missing cogs to a championship caliber roster in hopes of a deep October run.
But which players are available? Time will tell, but with teams falling further and further out of contention, certain players are looking more and more like they’ll be changing addresses. We’ve already seen a few deals happen (Jhoulys Chacin to LAA, James Shields to CHW), but don’t expect those to be the last.
Here are five trade candidates that every team should covet as we near the deadline:
5. Julio Teheran – RHP, Atlanta Braves
One of the more intriguing available starting pitchers on the market, there should be no shortage of teams calling the Braves to check the price for Teheran. At just 25 years old, the young right-hander – who once drew Pedro Martinez comparisons – offers not only youth, but affordability as well: he’s signed through the 2019 season in the midst of a six-year, $32.4 million deal. While his 1-6 record isn’t pretty (a lack of run support playing on a historically dreadful 16-41 squad), Teheran has posted a 2.92 ERA in 12 starts, allowing just 27 runs on 56 hits in 74 IP. The price would likely be steep for a pitcher with a combination of youth, affordability, and effectiveness like Teheran has, but putting up the numbers he has on a winning team could be the final cog for a contender.
Call ’em up: Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers
4. Andrew Miller – LHP, New York Yankees
Best exemplified by the Kansas City Royals, we’ve seen what a strong bullpen can do for a team once October comes around. The Yankees went into the 2016 campaign with exactly that same mindset, only to see their offense sputter, injuries take place, and playoff hopes dwindle. Enter Andrew Miller, who might be the best/most valuable reliever in the major leagues. Since joining New York last season, Miller has been the subject of trade rumors and figures to be one of the most coveted bullpen arms. Last year’s Mariano Rivera Award winner for the AL’s best reliever has followed up his strong 2015 with an even better 2016 since moving to the set-up role for newcomer Aroldis Chapman, posting a 1.09 ERA in 24 appearances to go along with a staggering 16.4 K/9 rate. The 31-year old lefty is also in the 2nd year of a four-year, $36 million deal and offers more than just a rental. The price will be high (NYY reportedly asked the Astros for Lance McCullers & Vincent Velazquez over the summer), but we’ve seen just how important bullpen arms are in the postseason.
Call ’em up: San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs
3. Ryan Braun – OF, Milwaukee Brewers
While Braun’s received a bad reputation, all he’s done is continue to play at a high-level. Now in his 10th season with the Brew Crew, the 32-year old Braun is having an All-Star caliber season posting a line of .337/.406/.522 with 9 HR and 33 RBIs in 46 games. The Brewers have been irrelevant for several years now, and reports indicate this could be the season they leverage what they could get for the face of their franchise. Braun’s signed through 2020 with an option for 2021 on a five-year, $105 million deal, so unlike many other bats, he’s more than just a rental. A move to the AL could prove beneficial for Braun, who at times is a liability in the field, and has shown to be somewhat injury prone.
Call ’em up: Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals
2. Jonathan Lucroy – C, Milwaukee Brewers
From one Brewers’ superstar to the next, Jonathan Lucroy is easily the more likely of the two candidates to be dealt. One of the league’s top offensive catchers, Lucroy looks to be headed to his second All-Star game on the strength of 9 HRs, 28 RBIs, and a .316/.372/.539 slash line. Don’t forget about his effectiveness on the defensive side either – he’s thrown out 24 of 32 baserunners, good for a 43% clip which ranks 4th best in the league. At just 29 years old, Lucroy is also in the last year of his contract with Milwaukee (there’s a team option for 2017). He’s a potential rental, but one that is worth the price for teams looking to upgrade their backstop.
Call ’em up: Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros
1. Aroldis Chapman – LHP, New York Yankees
The most electric closer in the big leagues, Aroldis Chapman has only been a Yankee for about a New York minute and could already be getting ready for another change of scenery. The 28-year old free-agent-to-be has been nothing short of dominant since his return from a 30-game suspension, posting 2.08 ERA and 10 saves in 14 appearances as the closer in pinstripes. He’s got no-hit stuff, easily averaging over 100 MPH per pitch, and is a coveted left-handed reliever. Like his teammate Andrew Miller, he’s been one of the top performing relievers in the league over the past few seasons (career 15.3 K/9) and is the key to a lock-down bullpen. Despite their struggles, the Yankees seem intent to hold on to Chapman until they’ve deemed themselves out of the race – which could be as early as the beginning of July. While the baggage is there, there’s no doubt about what contributions he can make to the back-end of the bullpen. Chapman will most likely cost the most of any reliever on the market – for good reason – but is a pure rental.
Call ’em up: San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Texas Rangers