The non-waiver trade deadline is over but there remains a number of players who could still be moved and have an impact on a number of pennant races.
Jay Bruce was a fairly popular name at the trade deadline. Though Bruce is having a very good year, this surge in recognition may be more centered on how the Mets handled their deadline dealings, particularly with Milwaukee. That said, behind all that blue and orange smoke, there’s a player, as I said, who is performing well on a team that will not be playing in the postseason.
Bruce brings to the table something that was scarce on the market at the trade deadline, a quality bat. Last year was Bruce’s worst of his career as he was nagged with injuries, but played through them. This year he has turned things around. Bruce currently boasts a .354 wOBA and 124 wRC+, which have him slotted 7th in both spots among AL and NL right fielders. Bruce has helped himself a ton by being more patient at the plate by bumping up his walk rate 2.8% and dropping his strikeout rate 5.6% from his subpar year last season. All in all, Bruce provides a pretty compete package for a team needing a rental right fielder for their stretch run.
Ian Kennedy and Will Venable
After AJ Preller went bananas in the offseason, one would have expected a bit more of a show on the trade deadline. Unfortunately, Preller is still working under the delusion that the Padres are a strong contender for the wild card. That leaves the strong likelihood that a few free agents to be will return nothing if he doesn’t strike a waiver deal. The two most intriguing of this group are Ian Kennedy and Will Venable.
Kennedy has not been himself this season. With a FIP over 5 and an ERA sitting in the mid 4’s, Kennedy has failed to produce for the Padres up to this point. However, predictive stats are more forgiving to him as his xFIP sits at a very manageable 3.88. One would think that his astronomical 20.2% HR/FB rate, which just amazes me given that he pitches in PETCO of all places, will come down. So, he may be a slight risk for someone shoring up the back-end of their rotation, but numbers seem to be on his side to produce in the stretch run.
Will Venable has been of the opposite of Kennedy this season. Though he’s not producing at career highs or setting the world on fire, Venable has settled into a very good role with the Padres and turned it around from his dismal season last year. Venable has become a very productive bat against right-handed pitchers off the bench. Venable also has the added ability of being able to play all three outfield spots. For teams seeking to solidify their lineup cheaply by creating a platoon in the outfield or adding a supersub in the outfield, Venable would be a perfect fit.
Unlike Venable and Kennedy, Upton would be expected to provide the Padres with some value this offseason. A clear qualifying offer candidate, Upton would likely return that pick, unless he were to resign with San Diego. Even so, I’m of the ilk that believes if you’re not competing now, that’s not a good reason to hold onto a player. So, as the Padres continue to fall out of the race, I assume Upton will become available.
Upton has been one of the more sought after players in baseball over the past few seasons when he has entered trade discussions. Given that he is about to turn 28, he’s one of the younger players to hit the market both times he has been traded and will be in free agency. He also boasts the title of being a former MVP candidate and multiple time All-Star. This season, Upton has not played quite up to his career norms. However, I have trouble thinking that any right-handed hitter in PETCO will have similar success to what he has had elsewhere. Upton may be better served himself to go elsewhere and there will definitely be a market for him if he can slide far enough through waivers.
Remember when Chase Utley was great? Back when he was a consistent 7-8+ win player everyone would have given up the farm to acquire him. Well, he’s not that anymore. Now, he’s a 36-year-old second baseman with injury history who is having the absolute worst year of his career. That said, Utley may be due for a bit of a tick upward in performance with his low strikeout rate, good walk rate, and BABIP under .200. Though he may not be himself anymore, he could definitely be a target for a team seeking a cheap up the middle option with some upside.
Carlos Gonzalez is another rebound darling like Venable. Though, unlike Venable, he has a pretty sterling track record of being one of the better right fielders in baseball. After a season that netted him a whopping -.5 WAR and underlined his history of injuries, Gonzalez came back healthy and ready to play. Gonzalez produces similar value with the bat with a wOBA ranking 5th among right fielders and a wRC+ ranking 10th. Gonzalez also has the caveat of being locked up for two more seasons at $17 and $20 million dollars in each year, which would take him through his age 31 season. In a day in age where teams are desperate for controlled players, Gonzalez may fit that niche. But, do teams really want to shell out $37 million over two years to a guy with injury problems that’s also leaving Coors Field? This creates an interesting market for Gonzalez. There’s a lot to like about him, but there’s also a lot you have to believe in to convince yourself that he’s worth the risk. It should definitely be interesting to see where he lands or if he even gets claimed at all.