The Trade Counsel: Pre-empting the MLB Trade Deadline

by Simon Jones

Last week in my Overrated/Underrated column, I made reference to K-Rod being overvalued due to the potential of the Mets trading him away. It’s now a week later and K-Rod’s value has been slashed after his trade to the Brewers. In fact, things could have been much worse for K-Rod owners as there is still the potential that he encounters another 15 save opportunities through the rest of the season. However this made me consider other players whose value might be impacted by a real-life trade in the next few weeks.

Leo Nunez
It has widely been speculated that the Marlins will try to trade Nunez by the deadline. Obviously central to this theory is the Marlins unwillingness to pay $5 million plus through the last year of arbitration eligibility. Also the Marlins must be keen to cash in on a closer who is mediocre at best and could probably be easily replaced. If Nunez gets traded then it’s almost certain that he moves into a setup role and his value disappears almost immediately. Nunez is definitely not Jonny Venters and his value is tied up entirely in saves. If and when Nunez is traded, the smart money is on Mike Dunn to assume the closer role. However one less vaunted name to consider is Steve Cishek. He’s probably more remembered for the wild pitch on the intentional walk a few weeks back, but he did get a save when Nunez was sidelined back in June. 

Wandy Rodriguez
Actually I could also talk about Brett Myers too, but I think Wandy is the bigger trade target and has more to gain from a trade. The Astros are languishing in last place and 2011 is another lost year. We could see any number of veterans traded in the next few weeks. Wandy has been hit over the last few years by a terrible lack of run support. His 2009 3.02 ERA yielded only a 14-12 record, his 2010 3.60 ERA gave him only 11 wins and this year he’s stuck on 6 wins despite a 3.52 ERA. People will always look to his home/road splits, but this might be attributable to familiarity rather than any ballpark effect.

Aaron Harang
Harang has managed to put the disasters of 2008-10 behind him and appears to have got his career back on track with the Padres, putting up decent fantasy stats for 2011. His low salary means he could be an attractive low-end pick up for a contender. It was thought that PetCo would be an ideal home for him given his high FB%, but it’s interesting to note that his GB% has risen to over 40% for the first time since 2004. However I would still be scared of him moving to a more hitter-friendly park and the chance of falling into his bad old ways. If Harang is traded, it will be intriguing as to whether the Padres promote someone like hot prospect Casey Kelly to the majors.

Carlos Beltran
I don’t think even the most ardent Beltran believer would have thought he would rebound from injury so well in 2011. Now that the Mets have tipped their hand with the K-Rod trade, it is only natural Beltran’s name would be connected to a host of teams. Foremost amongst the names mentioned are the Giants, and you would have to think that that sort of move wouldn’t greatly impact Beltran’s fantasy worth – still a pitcher’s park and not an elite batting line-up. However, the intriguing name that has come up is the Red Sox. The thought of Beltran hitting amongst Gonzo, Youk, Pedroia and co is more than enticing. Obviously you should consider whether Beltran’s body will hold up throughout the rest of the season.

Heath Bell
It seems that Bell has been the subject of deadline day rumors for as long as I can remember. If he gets traded this year, it’s likely that he will keep the closer role, maybe somewhere like Cincinnati. As such I don’t see a big change to his value – possibly a few more save opportunities, but pitching in a worse park. The big change will be to his new team’s current closer (making it imperative to monitor the trade rumors closely) and to whoever stepped into the closer role in San Diego. Mike Adams would look like the obvious choice at the moment, but the one caveat to that would be if the Padres traded Adams too. In deeper leagues there may be value in stashing Luke Gregerson. Remember, he doesn’t actually have to become closer to have fantasy trade value. Someone just needs to believe that he might get some saves in order to give him that perceived value.

Matt Garza
This is a long shot, but I have seen it mentioned in a couple of places. I actually forecast Garza to struggle with the Cubs this year. I didn’t think he was a good fit for Wrigley Field or the Cubs’ defense. Well it seems I was half right. Garza has managed to limit home runs and increase his GB% significantly, but that has actually caused him more problems as the Cubs’ errors and missed double plays have played a big part in his inflated ERA and WHIP. You’d have to feel that a trade would help Garza’s numbers significantly – better run support, a much better defense behind him and potentially a more pitching friendly environment. Like I say, I don’t think this will happen, but it is one to watch closely just in case.

Joakim Soria
I only put him here to put my view that I think he’s VERY unlikely to be traded. I’ve seen his name mentioned in some places and I’ve spotted Aaron Crow being added in a couple of my leagues. However in recent days, it appears that Soria has added pretty much every team that might want to trade for him to his no-trade list. That list now includes the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Rockies and Dodgers. The Royals don’t have an overwhelming need to trade Soria anyway, but this should further diminish any lingering thoughts.

Remember, as with all other fantasy trades, the value is in the perception. A prospect doesn’t need to actually get promoted to have perceived value. Similarly a setup man doesn’t need to become a closer – you just need to find a buyer who feels he might become the closer. Even a small chip can tip a multiplayer deal in your favor.

The Trade Counsel is a weekly trade column – please leave feedback or any trade questions below.

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