Owners who want to make a big splash on the trade market likely have little time to do so, as even the most liberal trade deadlines are usually at the end of this month. But the truth is that sometimes contending teams do not need a major deal in order to make the necessary improvements. For many owners, keeping their core together and finding better complementary pieces on the trade market (along with working effectively on the waiver wire) is the boring, but best path to victory.
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Ryan Zimmerman, First baseman (Nationals): The price tag on Zimmerman is likely quite reasonable right now. After all, the 33-year-old owns an unremarkable .257 average, has crossed home plate just 18 times across 179 at-bats and has a modest homer total of 10. Additionally, his owners have to be constantly worried about the presence of Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds, who can take playing time away from Zimmerman at any time. But Zimmerman has the skills to hold off his competitors. He was a major part of the team’s lineup last year (.303 average, 36 homers, 108 RBIs), and he has hit .346 with a 1.074 OPS while dancing around multiple injuries since May 1. Zimmerman should be a big part of the Nats’ stretch-run lineup.
Edwin Encarnacion, First baseman (Indians): This is a great time to pick up a discounted Encarnacion while he is on the disabled list. The veteran is likely not set for an extended absence, and he remains an excellent source of power numbers (25 homers, 81 RBIs across 104 games played). In fact, by virtue of hitting behind superstars Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, Encarnacion has the potential to lead the Majors in RBIs from the date of his return through the end of the season. He has also been unlucky at the dish this year (.237 BABIP) and he and his teammates are set to enjoy a hitter-friendly schedule down the stretch that is made up primarily of also-run clubs.
Taylor Ward, Third baseman (Angels): Admittedly, Ward belongs in waiver-wire articles at this point. But owners who have already lost the race to the waiver wire to acquire his services should immediately make a reasonable offer in hopes of locking him up before his value climbs any higher. For those who are unfamiliar with Ward, he possesses catcher eligibility in most leagues despite moving to third base this season, a position switch that has seemingly freed him up to develop outstanding hitting skills. The 24-year-old has been simply stellar from an offensive perspective in the Minors this year (.349 average, 14 homers, 18 steals) and is going to make a major impact on fantasy teams who need a catcher. At this point, offering a low-end closer or respectable starter should easily be enough to acquire his services.
Felipe Vazquez, Reliever (Pirates): Vazquez owners may have forgotten that they own the Bucs’ stopper by now. After all, the right-hander has collected just three saves since July 15. To put that dry spell in perspective, 20 hurlers have compiled more saves than Vazquez across that stretch and another 10 can match his total. But the lack of saves isn’t related to any skill deficiencies, as Vazquez has allowed just two earned runs while compiling eight strikeouts and two walks since the middle of July. The Pirates continue to float around .500, and they should soon start providing Vazquez with save chances at a normal rate.
Gary Sanchez, Catcher (Yankees): Sanchez has been a massive disappointment this season, and many of his owners would likely be happy to trade him away for a minimal return right now. His stats are abysmal (.188 average, .699 OPS), he has been injured for most of the summer and he endured one of the most embarrassing games of any player this season before beginning his current stint on the DL. But the fact remains that a healthy, motivated Sanchez can impact a fantasy league like few others, as he wields his booming bat (career .527 SLG) from fantasy baseball’s most premium position. When he returns later this month, the 25-year-old should be highly motivated to reclaim his good name and prove that he can be a major part of the team’s postseason push.
Wil Myers, Outfielder (Padres): Myers recently returned from the disabled list, which could present an excellent selling opportunity for those who can find a league-mate with a desperate need for a power-speed asset. After all, Myers provides plenty of fodder for a trade offer, having compiled 58 homers and 48 steals across 2016-17, and nine homers and seven swipes across 48 games this season. But Myers has shown diminished plate discipline this year (0.25 BB:K ratio) and batting in an unproductive Padres lineup puts a strain on his counting-stat potential.
Adalberto Mondesi, Shortstop (Royals): Every roto league has owners who are desperate for steals right now, which makes Mondesi an easy player to sell on the trade market. After all, the 23-year-old is presumably coming into his own as a Major Leaguer by batting .286 with 10 steals across 19 games since the All-Star break. In fact, no player in baseball has swiped more bags than Mondesi since play resumed in the second half. But his recent success is a mirage, as the youngster has shown terrible plate discipline in the second half (1:18 BB:K ratio) while largely succeeding on the strength of a .386 BABIP. When his luck soon runs out, Mondesi will be a one-category contributor … at best.
Shane Greene, Reliever (Tigers): Greene ranks 10th in the Majors with 25 saves, which gives him plenty of trade value at this point in the season. But his saves total is hiding a marginal skill set that could soon catch up with him. In June, Greene converted all six of his save chances despite logging a 5.06 ERA. And in July, he did not blow a save while posting a 4.50 ERA. Finally, he is perfect in converting save chances so far this month despite recording nearly as many walks (three) as whiffs (four). Beyond the skill deficiencies, Greene could soon go through a dry spell by virtue of pitching for a team that ranks last in the American League in runs scored during the second half. This could be a good time for Greene owners to cash out and get what they can for him.
Willson Contreras, Catcher (Cubs): Contreras still carries plenty of fantasy stature by virtue of posting a solid .272 average after being drafted as a top-three catcher in March. But the 26-year-old has shown a pretty dreary skill set this year. His fly-ball rate is unremarkable (33.7 percent) and his hard-contact rate is poor (31.2 percent), which makes his low homer total (nine) pretty predictable. According to Statcast, his solid batting mark should be much closer to his lowly .233 xBA. In fact, Contreras owners would be wise to trade his services for a promising youngster like Taylor Ward and a useful second piece.
Eddie Rosario, Outfielder (Twins): The old adage that a strong start to the season can hide a dreary summer definitely applies to Rosario. The 26-year-old still owns outstanding numbers overall in 2018 (21 homers, 69 RBIs, 77 runs scored, seven steals) but a closer look shows that he has been pretty average (three homers, 17 RBIs, 21 runs scored, one steal, .257 average) across 41 games since the calendar flipped to July. Overall, Rosario likely punched above his weight during the first half, as his Statcast xBA is .251 and his plate discipline is no better than it was last year. Rosario is a good player, but he isn’t as good as his potential trade return.