The Trade Deadline season has began. With the deadline just 30 days away, teams are going to be moving players and prospects at extremely fast rates, trying to either build for the future or improve their team for the stretch run.
Here are six of the most notable players that could be moved at the deadline and predictions for where they will be headed on July 31.
Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers
Hamels is obviously the biggest name available at the deadline with the highest chance of being moved. Considering the sad state of the Phillies, Hamels has an extremely high chance of being on another team on August 1. The Texas Rangers represent a strong fit for Cole Hamels, as they have showed interest in him. Their rotation this season has been good at run prevention, but the analytic stats show that they're not as good as advertised. They view Hamels as an elite upgrade worth getting, and they seem like the team that would pay GM Ruben Amaro Jr.'s price--or at least close to it--in order to get him.
Other possible fits: Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays
Jonathan Papelbon, Toronto Blue Jays
Papelbon, like Hamels, will be another key part of the Phillies' trade deadline season. His contract is more of an obstacle, though, so his deal will likely take longer to progress while all the details are hammered out. The Blue Jays have had plenty of interest in acquiring Papelbon throughout the season and dating all the way back to the offseason. The contract has been the only thing keeping them from actually pulling the trigger, it seems. As the Phillies become more motivated to move their players, asking prices and the amount of contract to be picked up should become lower. The Blue Jays will get this deal done.
Other possible fits: Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzija, Houston Astros
The Astros are going to make a move for a starting pitcher this deadline season, but it remains unclear as to which pitcher they will most heavily pursue. Samardzija looks like a solid fit in Houston. His run prevention numbers have not been great, but the Astros are a team that would definitely look past that, perhaps even viewing that as a way to get Samardzija on the cheap. Samardzija's analytical stats show that his ERA is about a run inflated (check this!!), due to poor luck and defense on the White Sox' part. With the Astros, Samardzija would be moved for the third time in two years, but would fit their system much better, with what is likely to be improved defense. Samardzija's the type of guy the Astros want.
Other possible fits: Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees
Johnny Cueto, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers seemingly never have enough pitching, and the same goes for this year, as the team has lost starters Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy for the entire year. The Reds are likely going to sell after they host the All-Star Game, and when they do so, Johnny Cueto will be the first to go. Cueto's in the last year of his contract, so he will get an opportunity to contend throughout the rest of the season and then get a huge contact for 2016 and beyond. When the Dodgers get Ryu and McCarthy back next year (check to make sure they're under contract), Cueto will be gone, but in the short term, he's definitely a move worth making and one that they will ultimately make.
Other possible fits: Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays
Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs
Zobrist has already been with Cubs' manager Joe Maddon in a clubhouse when the two were with the Tampa Bay Rays together. The Cubs may want to get an upgrade in left field, where Chris Coglan currently resides. Maddon also understands the importance of having a super utility man down the stretch, as that could go a long way if a player gets injured or needs a day off. Zobrist is pretty much a starting-caliber super utility man, which will make him in hot demand at the trade deadline.
Other possible fits: Pretty much any contending team in need of an infielder or outfielder.
Scott Kazmir, Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays and Athletics have already had their trade in past year, with the Josh Donaldson deal over the offseason. However, a second deal could be made this July, as the Blue Jays need starting pitching and the Athletics will likely unload Kazmir. While the two sides haven't been mentioned as anything more than a practical fit, as the arms start going off the board, the Blue Jays may be more likely to make a move. Another plus to Kazmir is that he has just this season left on his contract, perhaps making him a cheaper option at the deadline. Also, when Marcus Stroman comes back from injury in 2016, the Blue Jays will be able to make a quick and easy transition from Kazmir.
Other possible fits: Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees
Jeff Samardzija has been in this position before.
Last season at this time, Samardzija was nearing the end of his career as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He was dealt to Oakland in a multi-player deal in July.
At the time of his trade, Samardzija was one of the best pitchers in the game. He went 2-7 with a 3.03 ERA with the Cubs last year, striking out 100 as opposed to 29 walks in 101 innings.
This time around, Samardzija is in a bit of a different position. He is a member of a Chicago organization -- this time the White Sox -- but is not pitching nearly as well.
He's 5-4 with a 4.53 ERA through 101.1 innings. Despite those "ugly" numbers, Samardzija has had some particularly bad luck, as his 3.67 FIP suggests that with some better defense his ERA would be nearly a run lower. His 84 to 17 strikeout-to-walk ratio also is an indication that things will turn around.
Samardzija has been hurting from a .338 batting average on balls in play, 39 points higher than his career average. Again, with some better defense Samardzija is just as good as he was last year.
When the White Sox, who were one of the bigger spenders this offseason, decide to rebuild following their 32-40 record through their first 72 games, Samardzija should be the first to go.
For teams in the market for starting pitching, like the Astros, Blue Jays, Yankees, Giants, or even Dodgers, this has to be a welcome sight. Samardzija might be the most valuable addition for any club this trade deadline season.
First, he's a free agent this offseason, which means that if the White Sox do decide to move him, he'll be cheaper for acquiring teams than if he had more years of team control.
Second, his numbers aren't stellar. Any team could point to the fact that his 4.53 ERA should keep them from giving up very many top prospects in any deal.
Third, the saber stats do show that, with better defense, Samardzija can be an ace in any staff. So, to recap, a team could be getting a free agent to-be at a discounted price due to poor performances and could end up getting an ace out of it.
He may not be Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, but he's ready to become a key member of a new pitching staff for a contender down the stretch. His name is Jeff Samardzija and your team should go out and trade for him.
"We want to be relevant in August and September, with a chance to play in October," Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said.
The Astros are leading the American League with 20 victories. No, that is not a typo.
This is the same franchise that was considered a Major League laughingstock not too long ago, winning 56, 55, 51, and 70 games over the past four seasons, respectively.
The Astros hot start has many wondering whether they can actually make something of it. Something meaning a postseason birth, or better yet, a division crown.
I, for one, am putting my stock into this 2015 Astros team and am also saying that the best is yet to come for the club.
The Astros' offensive unit is amongst the best in baseball, ranking eighth in weighted runs created plus (wRC+)* with 101. They're second in the big leagues with 45 home runs, and have the third highest walk rate, despite striking out the second most. The Astros also have the second-most stolen bases in baseball.
The Astros' offensive unit has posted 5.2 wins above replacement, seventh in baseball.
The really scary thing about those numbers is that the Astros' team batting average on balls in play (BABIP)** is .275, 23rd in the Major Leagues, and right around struggling offensive units in the Phillies and Reds. The Astros could be even better on the offensive than they are right now. Scary, huh?
Their pitching staff has been closer to how it should be performing than their offense. The Astros staff (bullpen and rotation) as a whole has the eighth-best ERA in baseball at 3.45. As their 3.61 FIP*** and 3.50 xFIP suggest, the Astros pitching is doing pretty much as well as it should be.
"We’ve gotten off to the start that we wanted to," General Manager Jeff Luhnow said during an Astros TV broadcast. "It really is jelling in a way that you get a sense they believe in themselves now. That’s a big difference from this team’s last couple of seasons."
Luhnow has played a big part in the Astros successes this season, bringing in a few key offseason additions. Those include outfielder/catcher Evan Gattis, outfielder Colby Rasmus, shorstop Jed Lawrie (who is injured), and starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez. These cost-effective moves have been effective performers on the field as well.
Luhnow pushed away critics and stuck to his system, even if it meant being one of the worst teams in Major League baseball history three seasons in a row.
As the Astros have a six game lead in the AL West, they're ready to be relevant once again.
*wRC+ measures how well a player (or team) produces runs. However, it is adjusted to park and league factors. A wRC+ of 100 is considered the big league "average," with every point over 100 being worth one percentage point better than the MLB average
**BABIP measures the batting average a player (or team) has when putting the ball in play. A .300 BABIP is considered league-average, so therefore if a player (or team) has a BABIP under .300, they are considered unlucky.
***FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) takes the defense (good or bad) out of a pitcher's performance and bases how their ERA should be plainly on how well they have been limiting walks and getting strikeouts. xFIP is a variation of FIP that normalizes a pitcher's home run rate (home run rates tend to normalize as season goes on) to league-average to give you a better understanding of how lucky that pitcher has been.
Boy, has this season gone by fast. It feels like just yesterday the Boston Red Sox were hoisting the 2013 World Series trophy, and everyone else was waiting for the season to start again. It feels like just yesterday that Opening Day was here and that the teams were back on the field to start a new season with a clean slate. But this first half of the season has gone by fast. Really fast. Now we are at the All-Star break, and it is time to give out some "first-half awards," talk about some surprise teams, and just recap what went on during this fantastic first half of the 2014 season.
American League Awards:
MVP: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Trout can do it all. He can hit for average, hit for power, runs well, plays decent outfield, and has an average arm. He is the closest player in the major leagues to being a true five-tool guy. It's about time that the 22-year-old gets an MVP award, don't you think? Trout is having another fantastic season at the dish, posting the highest fWAR and wRC+ in the major leagues with 5.5 and 181 marks, respectively. He has a 1.005 OPS, which ranks tops in the American League. And he has a .310 average, good for 13th in the majors. If he is not the AL MVP, then who is?
Honorable Mentions: Josh Donaldson, Jose Abreu, and Miguel Cabrera
Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
If Masahiro Tanaka had stayed healthy, it would have been a tough choice for this award. But he couldn't. The 27-year-old Abreu, right out of Cuba, was thrown into the American game of baseball and had to adjust. The adjusting part was likely the easiest for Abreu, who has taken the major leagues by storm. With 29 homers, Abreu leads the American League in bombs, and only needs 20 in the second half to tie Mark McGwire for most home runs in a rookie season. That by itself is deserving of the Rookie of the Year award, but for good measure, Abreu has a .292 batting average and a .630 (!!!) slugging percentage.
Honorable Mentions: Masahiro Tanaka and George Springer
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
This season, Felix has just been plain old Felix. Having perhaps the greatest season of his career, Hernandez is 11-2 with a 2.12 ERA and a 2.04 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). His 5.2 fWAR leads all pitchers, and his 2.43 xFIP ranks second to only Clayton Kershaw, who, as we all know, is a National League pitcher. The amazing thing about Hernandez is that his change-up, the pitch he uses second-most (to his sinker) holds hitters to a minuscule .157 batting average (32-for-142). If Hernandez records just eight more wins, he ties his all-time high.
Honorable Mentions: Jon Lester, David Price, and Garrett Richards
Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia, MGR, Los Angeles Angels
Many people still question the contracts the Angels gave to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and how they have not turned the team into a World Series contender. Well, the contracts are still bad, but the critics have to be quiet, at least for this year. The Los Angeles Angels are getting the job done in the American League West, and both Pujols and Hamilton have performed. Scioscia has managed the Angels since 2000, and he is on pace to finish with the third-highest winning percentage in his managerial career. The Angels are on pace for a record of 98-64.
Honorable Mention: Lloyd McClendon
The National League first-half awards will be announced tomorrow. Here's a teaser: Troy Tulowitzki will not win the MVP award. Be sure to check them all out!
The 2014 MLB All-Star Game is almost here. With only 17 days to the All-Star Game, I have decided to vote for the National and American Leagues' squads. Without further ado, here are my 2014 MLB All-Star Game rosters and why I have selected them.
First Base -- Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt is the best first baseman in the National League. He leads National League first baseman with an .918 OPS, helped by his fourth-highest on-base percentage and the league-lead slugging percentage. Goldschmidt, known as "Goldy," has the highest WAR of any National League first baseman with a 3.0 mark and has posted a 149 wRC+, good for fourth. Not to mention, he is a class act off the field, as he spent a good ten minutes talking baseball with me when I ran into him in New York last year.
Second Base -- Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Utley is enduring one of his best seasons in a long time, and deserves an All-Star appearance to cap it off. His batting average, which was over .300 on June 21, has dipped to .295, but Utley's stats are too good to not net him his sixth All-Star selection. Utley leads all National League second baseman with a 2.6 WAR, has hit a third-highest six home runs, posted the third-highest wRC+, and has the second lowest strikeout percentage. The Phillies second baseman is playing as well as anybody.
Shortstop -- Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
This one is a no-brainer. Tulowitzki has been the first-half's National League MVP, if there was such an award. Forget where he stands against the National League shortstops, Tulowitzki has the highest batting average in the major leagues. His OPS is just as good, as his 1.060 mark leads everyone. Even with the Coors Field effect, Tulowitzki's OPS+ (which is known to take the ballpark effects out of a player) ranks behind only Mike Trout, posting a 176 mark. If Tulowitzki is not voted in as shortstop in the National League, I have no idea why.
Third Base -- Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
Todd Frazier is the best third baseman in the National League. His .284 (5th among NL third baseman)/.350 (4th)/.508 (1st) slash line might not be the best of National League third baseman, but Frazier has done enough to make him worthy of an All-Star nod. How can the leader in National League OPS of third baseman not crack the top five in the voting (as of June 23)? Frazier's strikeout rate is extremely high, but he still has provided the most WAR of any third baseman in the NL and has the highest wRC+. Vote Todd Frazier to the All-Star Game.
Catcher -- Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
I have really enjoyed watching Lucroy tear up any pitching this season. This season, Lucroy has been the best catcher in the National League, hands down. He has a 3.7 WAR (1st among NL catchers) and a 156 wRC+ (1st). His defense is highly underrated. While he might not be Yadier Molina behind the plate, Lucroy has been absolutely invaluable to Brewers' pitching. His .336 batting average alone should be enough to earn him All-Star status, but for good measure he also leads all NL catchers in on-base percentage, and is second to only Evan Gattis in slugging percentage.
Outfield -- Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the best in the National League. There is no doubt in my mind. Besides his fantastic power numbers (21 home runs, .596 slugging percentage; both first among National League outfielders), Stanton is a very underrated all around hitter. His .316 batting average is also tops among NL outfielders, and his on-base percentage is only behind Andrew McCutchen. He actually plays average defense and his overall WAR ranks first in the National League. As of the last update, Stanton ranked fourth among outfielders. That is unacceptable.
Outfield -- Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Gomez is another class act off the field. While he has started some scuffles on the field, I truly believe that is because he is passionate about his job and what he does. Gomez reads my website, and has followed me on Twitter for a long time. Not to mention, he is on my fantasy team. Before bias takes the best of me, look at Gomez's numbers. They are definitely All-Star caliber. He has a .310/.375/.525 triple-slash line, while posting the second-highest WAR, behind only Giancarlo Stanton, among National League outfielders. Gomez is a very good defender and is the cornerstone in the Milwaukee Brewers offense. He is as deserving as anyone for an All-Star appearance.
Outfield -- Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen continues to provide MVP-type numbers in Pittsburgh. His .943 OPS is second among NL outfielders, along with his 167 wRC+. His WAR is good for third, but his UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating; measures how many runs a player is worth on defense) on defense ranks second to last. That could be what really hurts McCutchen's stock and might make the fans choose Yasiel Puig, but I am still a fan of what McCutchen brings to the table every day, and what he has brought to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization as a whole. Nearly single-handedly, he has turned them into a winning organization, which I absolutely applaud.
First Base -- Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
How hard is it to come from a foreign country to the United States and then thrown into a game where as many as 40,000 fans show up to watch you play? That has been the story of Jose Abreu, who has taken the majors by storm. Abreu, 27, was given $68 million to come to the United States and play for the Chicago White Sox and already he has paid dividends. Abreu, even after sitting on the DL for some time, leads the American League (not just first baseman) with 25 home runs and is fourth with a .959 OPS (second among AL first baseman). He strikes out a lot, but as long as he keeps his power numbers high and continues to get on base, there is nobody more deserving than Abreu.
Second Base -- Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Jose Altuve has the most hits in the major leagues, with 113. He is behind only Troy Tulowitzki in batting average, but leads all American Leaguers with a .343 mark. The 5'6" Altuve does not provide top-notch power numbers, as he has only homered twice, but, according to Moneyball, what is most important of any major leaguer? To get on base. With a .383 on-base percentage, Altuve does exactly that. He also leads the American League in stolen bases with 34 to cap it off. Since being signed as an amateur free agent in 2007, Altuve has, and will be, the leader on the Astros.
Shortstop -- Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Just because Derek Jeter is retiring this season does not automatically make him an All-Star. He is batting just .272/.329/.330 this season. Alexei Ramirez, without Jeter in the running, would be the starting shortstop for the American League team, which is why I am voting for him. He has a .295 (1st among AL shortstops)/.327 (4th)/.422 (1st) slash line with eight home runs and 39 RBI. While Jeter has barely stretched 0.5 in the WAR department (he has a 0.6), Ramirez is second in the pack with a 2.0 WAR. Of deserving shortstops for the All-Star Game, Ramirez is number one.
Third Base -- Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
I am so happy that Donaldson has a sizable lead for the All-Star Game. As I wrote not too long ago, Donaldson is the most underrated player in baseball, let alone American League third baseman. He has a good lead in nearly every metric of American League third baseman, including a 3.6 WAR. His wRC+ ranks third at 125. His defense, however, may be his most underrated of all his attributes. His UZR is 11.8, which ranks first over Manny Machado by 7.6 points! That is just, well, fantastic. Donaldson is the best third baseman in the American League, if not in the major leagues.
Catcher -- Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
If Matt Wieters was not hurt, he would be my selection here. But he is, and I believe that Salvador Perez is the best all-around catcher in the American League. His combination of offense and defense is excellent, all while helping to lead the Royals into second place in the American League Central. He has posted a .785 OPS, which ranks third among AL catchers. His 117 wRC+ also ranks third. But it is his defense that truly separates himself. In the overall defense metric, Perez ranks above Yadier Molina for first in the major leagues. That is what sets him apart and what gives him the nod at starting catcher in the American League.
Designated Hitter -- Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
People love the power that Nelson Cruz supplies, but how is Martinez third in the AL designated hitter voting? While Cruz has homered 25 times, Martinez is a close second, with 20 bombs. He also has a .323/.383/.592 triple slash line, which he ranks first in all three categories. Martinez has one of the lowest strikeout percentages in the major leagues, behind only Jose Altuve. He has a 160 wRC+, nine points better than Neslon Cruz's 151. With all these fantastic stats, why is Martinez not leading the voting? Vote for him now and put him as the starting designated hitter.
Outfield -- Mike Trout, Los Angles Angels of Anaheim
Mike Trout is the best outfielder in all of baseball. That's enough said. Regardless, I will continue with the stats. He is atop all outfielders with 18 homers and leads them with a .611 slugging percentage. He is second in both on-base percentage and batting average, but is nearly an entire WAR point ahead of second place Alex Gordon. He also leads all American League outfielders with a 182 wRC+. Trout does not really need a description to show why he is an All-Star, he does that enough on all the highlight reels we see on MLB.com and on ESPN. Trout is a fantastic player and deserves to go to his third consecutive All-Star game.
Outfield -- Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Most people think of Jose Bautista as the guy that homered 54 times back in 2010, but he has completely evolved his game since. He still has power (Bautista has homered 18 times this season thus far.), but Bautista gets on base a lot more than he did, posting an AL-leading .433 on-base percentage. How did he do it? He has brought his strikeout percentage down and his walk percentage up. In 2010, Bautista stuck out in 17% of his plate appearances and walked in just 14.6%. Now, they have practically reversed roles, as he walks in 17.5% of his plate appearances and strikes out in 14.2%. Bautista continues to make adjustments, making himself a better hitter. That is a true All-Star.
Outfield -- Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics
Cespedes' throw of the year sold me for voting for him. Cespedes' UZR ranks 11th in the American League with a 2.7 mark, but his ARM (runs saved via a throw) ranks second with a 6.3 mark. And that is just his defense. Cespedes is one of the primer power hitters in the American League, showing us what he could do in the Home Run Derby last year. Cespedes has 14 home runs this season, which ranks seventh in the AL among outfielders and has a .502 slugging percentage which ranks sixth. His OPS of .827 is also sixth. Cespedes is one of the best pure power hitters in the American League and deserves his first ever All-Star nod.