With a week and a half to go before the trade deadline, the AL West-rival A’s and Angels have made the biggest strikes in the trade market. It’d seem to be up to the Mariners to keep pace. They’ve been paired with many of the big names available, most notably David Price and Ben Zobrist of the Rays.
My feeling is that the Mariners should resist the temptation to part with more than Nick Franklin and a second tier prospect or two in a bid to contend this year. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll pass both teams ahead of them in the AL West, making them a wild card at best. Even that would be a nice accomplishment for a team that’s failed to make the playoffs since 2001, but it’s not a goal for which it’s worth mortgaging too much of the future. At this point, GM Jack Zduriencik probably won’t have to worry about his job this winter regardless; he shouldn’t feel pressured to hurt the Mariners’ chances in 2016 and beyond.
All of that said, it’d be no surprise at all to see the Mariners go for it in an attempt to prove to the fanbase they’re serious about winning. That might mean parting with Taijuan Walker and Franklin to get Price. They’ve also talked with the Phillies about Marlon Byrd with the outfield being such a need, but those negotiations seem to be on life support. I’m not sure a run at Billy Butler makes much sense, either. Alex Rios would be a nice fit. Carlos Quentin’s name hasn’t been as bandied about, but if he starts swinging better, he could provide a lift. Should the Red Sox decide to sell, both Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes will become very much available. Matt Kemp? It’d make some sense if the Dodgers ate a healthy portion of his deal.
Franklin is an obvious candidate to go in any Mariners trade; he’s blocked at second, he can’t play short and his bat wouldn’t make him particularly valuable in the outfield. If he goes to the right team, he could have considerable fantasy value in August and September. The Mariners probably won’t part with Walker unless it lands them a top-of-the-rotation starter; there wouldn’t seem to be any outfielders available worth such an outstanding talent. Dustin Ackley, the outfielder the Mariners most need to replace, could be traded, but his stock is at an all-time low. I don’t think it’s all that likely that the Mariners will trade Brad Miller, but they have that option, what with shortstop prospect Chris Taylor seemingly ready for a shot. 2013 first-round pick D.J. Peterson, a third baseman who almost certainly will end up at first, is a better bet to go.
- The Angels’ costly acquisition of Huston Street from the Padres pushed Joe Smith back into a setup role. That’s for the best, even though he had been doing great work in recent weeks. Smith is much improved against left-handed hitters, but he’s still not a great choice to face them with the game on the line. He’s most valuable when he can be spotted against certain parts of the lineup, something that can’t be done in the ninth.
While Street is an injury risk -- he’s the game’s oldest 30-year-old reliever -- it’s fine to drop Smith in mixed leagues. Jason Grilli is no longer worth the speculative roster spot, either.
- In a big surprise, the Angels sent down primary designated hitter C.J. Cron to make room for Street. The invisible Grant Green almost certainly would have been the choice, except Erick Aybar hurt his groin Friday night and the Angels needed the extra infielder around. Cron could come back quickly if he heats back up in Triple-A. I’m not a big fan of his approach at the plate, but the rookie has slugged .480 in 175 at-bats this season. In the meantime, Efren Navarro will start against right-handers.
- It doesn’t sound like Brock Holt will be losing any playing time with Victorino rejoining the Red Sox outfield. That could put the squeeze on Xander Bogaerts until he finally gets things turned around (something that should be happening in Triple-A). Assuming that Victorino has to play most of the time, the Red Sox’s best squad against righties right now likely includes Daniel Nava in left field, Stephen Drew at shortstop and Holt at third base. Holt will likely play shortstop over Drew against lefties, with Jonny Gomes replacing Nava in left.
- It’s a shame the Red Sox didn’t get Mookie Betts more of a chance. In fact, if that was all they were going to with him, they never should have brought him up in the first place. Betts hardly looked overmatched in hitting .235/.278/.382 with one homer in 34 at-bats. He struck out just five times, and while his inexperience showed in the outfield, that’s entirely because he was a terribly inexperienced outfielder. He’ll be back in September, maybe earlier if injuries strike or the Red Sox opt to sell.
- I’m not expecting much from the Orioles’ supposed pursuit of A.J. Burnett. Maybe he could help some, but the Orioles should focus elsewhere unless they can bring in a Game 1-type starter for the postseason. They already have six starters in Wei-Yin Chen, Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, so it only makes sense to add if the addition is going to be a difference-maker. Burnett isn’t someone I’d feel very good about throwing out there against AL lineups in the playoffs.
The Orioles’ top targets should be Zobrist and Chase Utley for second base, though Utley probably won’t become available. Jonathan Schoop will hit eventually, but he’s the team’s weakest link right now. Also, they’ll probably go get another righty for the pen.
- The Yankees are going to get at least one and maybe two starters with CC Sabathia (knee) now officially done for the season. I doubt Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee will be among them, though. The Edwin Jackson idea makes some real sense, given that he’s durable and would cost next to nothing in terms of talent. The Yankees could get him from the Cubs and still have the prospects to acquire Ian Kennedy from the Padres. Lefties Jorge De La Rosa and John Danks are also possibilities; the Yankees would probably have to give up legitimate prospects for them, but they would be able to hang on to top right-hander Luis Severino.
- Joakim Soria is the Rangers player most likely to go, with Rios and Neal Cotts also potentially up for grabs. Ideally, Neftali Feliz would reemerge as the closer if Soria is traded. He hasn’t impressed since his recall, though, with his fastball down about four mph from his heyday. Most likely, they’d go to a committee initially, with Cotts and Steve Tolleson both in the mix for saves. Roman Mendez would be a sleeper; he’s not my idea of a future closer, but he’s pitched seven scoreless innings so far.
- There’s been some talk lately of the Indians moving Asdrubal Cabrera, with the Giants believed to be interested. It’s still a long shot, but I don’t think it’d hurt their postseason hopes to go to Francisco Lindor at shortstop; he’d be a big upgrade defensively. On offense, Lindor is hitting .284/.360/.398 with six homers and 25 steals in 334 at-bats for Double-A Akron. He’s not ready to excel with the bat in the majors, but I think he’d hold his own.
- Danny Salazar is coming back to the majors Tuesday, possibly for only a spot start but perhaps for an audition to win back his rotation spot. Salazar had a 2.32 ERA and a 39/17 K/BB ratio over 31 innings in his last five starts for Triple-A Columbus. The walk rate suggests fantasy leaguers should be wary, but there’s still an awful lot of talent here. He’s worth the flier in any AL-only leagues in which he was dropped.
- Everyone seems mad that Rays manager Joe Maddon used Jake McGee in the eighth and tried to close with Grant Balfour against the Twins on Sunday, but it was really a good idea to use McGee for the middle of the order (he faced the Twins’ 3-6 hitters). Whether Maddon is under orders from the front office or not, it seems clear he won’t use McGee as a conventional closer. Even so, McGee continues to look like a major asset in fantasy leagues, particularly with the Rays playing so well. Maybe that will change if they end up selling Price and Zobrist anyway.
- Detroit’s Austin Jackson is excelling from the leadoff spot of late, though it hasn’t done a whole lot for his fantasy value yet; his last homer came on May 23, and he also has a total of three steals in two months. He still rates as a possible buy-low guy in mixed leagues. He’s not likely to start racking up the steals, but the power numbers should come back a bit and he’s about as good of a bet for runs scored as anyone in the AL (Mike Trout excepted) while leading off.
- Mixed leaguers should reserve George Springer this week. The Astros are saying his knee isn’t a DL situation, but that could yet change.
- Jays closer Casey Janssen was unavailable Saturday due to an illness and probably should have taken Sunday off as well -- he gave up three hits in the ninth and had to be bailed out a jam by Aaron Loup. He still should be fine to use this week.
- How much longer can the Dodgers go without promoting Joc Pederson? Obviously, they really don’t want to have $40 million in dead outfielders in the form of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, but Ethier simply isn’t getting job done in center and Kemp still appears quite limited defensively. At this point, it behooves the Dodgers to do whatever it takes to make one of the contracts go away. Since June 1, Kemp is hitting .285/.354/.431, so he deserves to play. If Don Mattingly has Kemp and Crawford split time in left, he’ll probably end up doing a disservice to both players and the team as a whole.
Since returning from a shoulder injury, Peterson has hit .407 with two homers and more walks (10) than strikeouts (eight) in 27 at-bats in Triple-A. He’s also stolen four bases. Overall, he’s at .327/.451/.587 with 19 homers and 24 steals, and while those numbers are clearly inflated by playing in Albuquerque (he’s at .276/.380/.491 on the road), they’re still awfully impressive. He’d also be a defensive upgrade over Ethier and Scott Van Slyke in center.
The Dodgers currently owe Crawford about $69 million through 2017, Ethier $61.5 million through 2017 and Kemp $115 million through 2019. They might have to eat at least two-thirds of what Crawford is owed to move him, but that’d still make the most sense. Kemp, at least, has been useful of late and is the one of the group with the best chance of being a real asset offensively going forward. The Dodgers wouldn’t have to absorb quite as much money to trade Ethier, but he does give them a fallback in center field and he’s more durable than Crawford. Ned Colletti’s mission is clear: pay someone handsomely to take Crawford (Cincinnati? Toronto?), make Ethier a reserve and call up Pederson to start.
- Oscar Taveras has started just two of the Cardinals’ last six games, making one wonder how much longer he’ll be sticking around. Manager Mike Matheny clearly isn’t ready to give up on Allen Craig, even though Craig entered Sunday’s game just 5-for-35 this month. Taveras, for his part, is 8-for-41. With the job share not working out, the Cardinals need to pick one and stick with him. I’m guessing Craig will be Matheny’s choice, pushing Taveras back to Triple-A until September.
- On the subject of struggling recent callups, Gregory Polanco is hitting .194 with one homer in 62 at-bats this month. Still, his approach seems fine, and the Pirates are showing plenty of patience. It’s certainly worth holding on to Polanco in mixed leagues. The Pirates will eventually have to decide how best to proceed against left-handers, with Josh Harrison capable of starting over either Polanco in right field or Pedro Alvarez at third base. Alvarez is more deserving of the benching right now, largely because of how bad his defense has been. Still, Polanco will do more sitting against southpaws if he continues to struggle against them, with Jose Tabata potentially coming back to the majors to help out.
- Drew Stubbs is a name that hasn’t been coming up as a trade candidate, but even as effective as he’s been, I don’t imagine he’s particularly attractive to the Rockies as a $5 million part-time outfielder next year. He could, on the other hand, help any number of contenders as a starter against left-handed pitchers (the Blue Jays could certainly use either Stubbs or San Diego’s Chris Denorfia). I expect that he’ll go, which would help Charlie Blackmon’s fantasy value some, since he’s sit against fewer lefties. Brandon Barnes would also pick up at-bats.
- The Padres’ farm system got quite a boost in the Street trade, but no one acquired figures to make an impact in fantasy leagues this year. Second baseman Taylor Lindsey and reliever R.J. Alvarez both made last week’s 2015 position rankings while still with the Angels and would be higher now. Lindsey has had a disappointing season in Triple-A, but he has decent pop for a second baseman and a history of hitting for average. Unfortunately, Petco takes away a lot of his upside, but at least now he has a much clearer path to the majors, with Chase Headley likely to depart and Jedd Gyorko presumably moving back to third base next year.
Alvarez is the more intriguing fantasy property, as he has the fastball and slider to become an excellent closer in time. He could debut in the second half of this year and move into a position to close by next summer.
The Padres also got shortstop Jose Rondon and right-hander Elliot Morris in the deal. Rondon is a couple of years off, but he has a chance to become a better player than Lindsey in the long haul. Morris is more of a fringe prospect.
- Obviously, the Padres will use Joaquin Benoit to close with Street gone. However, Benoit is also a candidate to be traded if anyone wants to send over a couple of quality prospects. My guess is that he stays, since the Padres will expect a similar haul to the one they got for Street, but if not, Dale Thayer would be next in line to close. Thayer is another trade candidate, but it’s highly unlikely the Padres will move both he and Benoit (in that event, Kevin Quackenbush might get a shot).
- I’m hoping the Cubs keep Arismendy Alcantara around, but my guess is that the Cubs send him down for 10 days, then bring him back after the trade deadline opens up some room.
- There’s enough need for second base help in the majors than Dan Uggla should latch on pretty quickly after being released by the Braves, assuming that he wouldn’t just prefer to take the rest of the year off. It’d make sense for the team that signs him to give him 2-3 weeks of regular at-bats in the minors, but perhaps the Reds would rush him back to the majors earlier than that.
- Brandon Belt can’t catch a break this year, as he’s going back on the disabled list with a concussion. Hopefully the Giants give Adam Duvall a look at first base this time. He deserves it after hitting .303/.361/.626 with 26 homers in 310 at-bats for Triple-A Fresno.
- Jordany Valdespin is back in the majors with the Marlins and getting a shot at second base with Derek Dietrich (wrist) and Rafael Furcal (hamstring) on the disabled list. He hit five homers and stole four bases in 15 games for Triple-A New Orleans this month, so he’s worth a flier in NL-only leagues.