Two factors could make this a very intriguing trade deadline. First, with seven teams within seven games of each other in the Wild Card race in the American League along with 11 teams in the National League, the sellers face tough decisions. Second, due to a rule change, the July 31st trade date will be a hard deadline with no waiver transactions in August. So, the onset of the second half will not only dictate which players may be traded, it could change how teams finish within their divisions.
Knowing the trade deadline create ripples in fantasy, it could also make for strange bed partners in real baseball as Jon Morosi brings to light in his article detailing a potential Giants and Dodgers deal within the division. However, interest in the Giants bullpen does not apply only to the Dodgers. Minnesota, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Oakland all could benefit with pieces from this deep bullpen. Due to so many moving pieces in relief arms market, this piece will do its best to canvas most of the arms presently on the trade block along with potential pivots to preemptively stash.
Giants: No surprise this bullpen gets the headline spot in a trade primer. Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and even Reyes Moronta could be moved prior to the deadline. Odds remain low they will sell all four, but at least two should be dealt to replenish the team’s roster and farm system. Smith’s converted 23 straight saves this year and been scoreless in 17 of his last 19 appearances. Dating back to June 29th of last season, he’s recorded 37 saves of his 40 chances. Eligible for free agency at the end of the year, he makes for a perfect rental option to a litany of teams and could put one in place for World Series contention. Watson’s only issued four walks over 34.2 innings of work. He’s rebounded of late versus left-handed batters limiting them to a .227 average since May 22nd. Watson owns a player option at the end of the year so he’s also a potential free agent for 2020. Dyson flies below the radar and suffers from recency bias as a potential closer. But, his 2.30 ERA comes with a 3.25 xFIP and 57.4 ground ball rate. His last 14 outings yields a 1.20 ERA with 12 strikeouts against two walks. Last, but not least, Moronta’s been scoreless in 14 of his last 15 contests with a 1.10 ERA in 16.1 innings. He needs to improve upon his .310 average allowed to lead-off batters in his appearances but, may own the highest upside in strikeouts if he ascends to closer duties later this year. Feels like Dyson will stay and close, with Moronta setting up, while the team deals both southpaws prior to the deadline.
Blue Jays: Since Ken Giles will be arbitration eligible and Toronto will be in the midst of a rebuild centering around their prospects, moving Giles makes total sense. Giles owns a 1.45 ERA with 13 saves surging to a 43.4 strikeout percentage this year. However, ramping up his usage of the slider also landed him on the injured list on June 12th with elbow inflammation. This could depress his trade value but his average velocity of 97.2 MPH with the fastball will entice a team like Minnesota, who could pair up Giles with Taylor Rogers late in games. Prior to working in three consecutive games between July second through the fourth, Giles only logged three back-to-back outings. Daniel Hudson also could get moved since he will be a free agent at the end of the year. If both Hudson and Giles get traded, this would throw this bullpen in flux. Joe Biagini could get a look in the ninth inning with rookies Justin Shafer and Jordan Romero moving up in the hierarchy.
Tigers: In a resurgent season for Shane Greene, selling high makes sense for Detroit. Greene’s notched 22 saves among the team’s 28 wins with a 1.09 ERA. He’s also saved 54 games dating back to the start of last year. Greene has one year of arbitration remaining, so the team he ends up on could use him as a setup reliever to depress his value at the bargaining table. Stashing Joe Jimenez makes sense, but comes with inherent risk. This year, Jimenez owns a 4.81 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. He’s lost six games with 14 holds and three blown saves. However, he’s turned the corner of late with 14 strikeouts versus two walks his last 10 outings with a 3.25 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. It could be time for the Tigers to find out if he’s their closer of the future or a setup reliever.
White Sox: It’s been their modus operandi to sell relievers high. This would be applicable to Alex Colome. He’s 20 for 21 in save chances this year with a 2.02 ERA despite a reduced strikeout percentage. Colome’s also in his last arbitration season but proved he can work as a setup reliever playing Robin to Edwin Diaz’s Batman last year in Seattle. Heed Colome’s 4.67 xFIP and 87.6 strand rate as a pitcher with regression in the offing. He’s been linked to the Yankees among many other of the contending teams listed above. Most fantasy owners hope Aaron Bummer gets the majority of save chances if Colome gets shipped out. Bummer’s recorded a 1.89 ERA with a 3.36 xFIP, 65 percent ground ball rate and 0.93 WHIP through 33.1 innings this year. Only worry here, how the White Sox used 10 different relievers to get a save last year could create another fluid situational pen after a trade.
Marlins: Sergio Romo turned in a solid first half with 16 saves in 17 opportunities. He also finished with a serviceable 4.13 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Romo’s not going to set the fantasy community afire if he gets traded but his pliability working as an opener last year for Miami adds to his appeal for a team like Oakland. Providing depth in high leverage with experience starting games makes for a perfect pivot for a team in contention adding Romo. As for Miami, a Romo departure could pave the way for Nick Anderson to garner save chances. He’s ascended to the eighth inning while racking up 58 strikeouts in the first half. Only Josh Hader, Edwin Diaz and Felipe Vazquez possess a higher strikeouts per nine rate in the National League among qualified relievers. Also keep tabs on Austin Brice. He’s in the midst of a 10.2 inning scoreless streak and enters the second half with a 1.93 ERA.
Diamondbacks: Perhaps the toughest team to predict will be Arizona. Sort of stuck in neutral, will they go for a playoff spot or decide to sell their ancillary pieces? If they do sell, Greg Holland, Yoshihisa Hirano and Andrew Chafin all could be moved. Holland started the season strong but faded prior to the break converting only five of his last eight save chances. During this stretch, his ERA rose from 1.99 to 3.30 as a result of six earned runs in 8.1 innings including seven walks and seven hits. As a setup reliever, there’s a chance a contender would take on Holland but not as a closer. Hirano’s been streaking with a 1.42 ERA since the start of June. As a pending free agent, he would be alluring providing cheap depth with experience. Chafin excels against left-handed hitters with a .584 on-base plus slugging allowed against them for his career and would work exclusively versus left-handed hitters down the stretch if dealt. Depending on who stays or goes, Yoan Lopez could receive a look at closer if Arizona retools. He’s recorded 11 holds with two blown saves over 34 innings. Note his 1.59 ERA with a 3.91 xFIP and 0.94 WHIP. Lopez could struggle at time with a lower strikeout percentage than most closers but deserves a chance in the role if provided. Some will look to Archie Bradley, but how many chances does he deserve?
Padres: It feels dirty to suggest San Diego could trade Kirby Yates, but past practice suggests it could happen. Brad Hand shipped off to Cleveland two days after the All-Star game last year. Yates surged to 30 saves in 31 chances with a minuscule 1.15 ERA, 2.45 xFIP and 0.79 WHIP while striking out 60 against nine walks in 39 innings. Taken off the scrap heap, Yates revitalized his career behind his nasty splitter and if he hits the market, could yield the Padres a nice haul though they do not need prospects. It’s quite the conundrum. Craig Stammen could also be moved if they decide to sell.
National League Central: With first place and last place separated by less than five games, each team in this division faces a crossroads leading up to the trade deadline. How each team starts could determine their fates when deciding to buy, sell or hold. Two notable relievers could end up being moved, Felipe Vazquez and Raisel Iglesias. As for Vazquez, Pittsburgh could decide to go for the division with the offense peaking, but if they start slow:
How high is #Pirates price on Felipe Vázquez? Sources say Pittsburgh likely would ask #Dodgers for *at least* two of the Keibert Ruiz/Gavin Lux/Dustin May/Will Smith group if talks ever advanced. (And one source said Pirates remain unsure if they sell at all.) @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 10, 2019
As for the Reds, Iglesias finished the first half with back-to-back saves on July third and fourth. He also went between June ninth and the 30th without one. Iglesias continues to struggle with home runs with his ground ball rate dropping to a career low 27.8 percent this year while his xFIP of 4.27 almost aligns with his 4.06 ERA. Could a change of scenery reinvigorate him? Not sure, perhaps a pennant chase will. Stay tuned.
Boston: Knowing Nathan Eovaldi went claimed in most leagues with the news he will close in the second half, fantasy owners will hope he can carry over his experience as a reliever in last year’s run to the World Series. Health and the ability to work in consecutive days could cap his save totals but Eovaldi could stabilize the bullpen along with the return of a healthy Steven Wright. One name to track here, Heath Hembree. He recorded his second save this year in the Red Sox last game before the break. Hembree also spent time on the injured list, but could be the high leverage complement tag team partner with Eovaldi in the second half for leagues where every save matters.
More relievers than the ones listed above could be moved, but in an effort to not go beyond two thousand words, this should suffice. Be on the lookout for the Bullpen Report to return to its daily efforts as the second half resumes and scour the rumors for the opportunity to secure saves.
Avid fantasy baseball player and writer. You can find my work here chasing the next save or as the lead fantasy analyst on Fantasy Alarm. Any questions, hit me up on the Twitter machine, @gjewett9