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The 2018 MLB non-waiver trade deadline will arrive one week from Tuesday, and the rumor mill has long been in full swing as we gear up for a flurry of activity.
For contenders, it’s a chance to address any glaring needs and put the finishing touches on their rosters before the stretch run.
For non-contenders, it’s an equally crucial time; they can turn established MLB talent into prospects who may play critical roles on their next contending squads.
It’s a time of great excitement for teams, players and fans alike, but it’s also a time when mistakes are made, whether it’s a rebuilding team failing to make the most of a trade chip or a contender giving up too much in search of an upgrade.
With that in mind, ahead is a look at five deadline mistakes that might go down during the upcoming week.
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Asdrubal Cabrera is generating widespread interest from teams looking to add middle infield help.
The Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies were linked to the veteran by Buster Olney of ESPN.
For the Brewers (.235 BA, .642 OPS) and Indians (.218 BA, .652 OPS), Cabrera would represent a significant offensive upgrade at second base.
The Phillies likely prefer him at third base (.250 BA, .744 OPS), while the Diamondbacks could shift Ketel Marte from second to shortstop to accommodate him. As Ehalt noted, the Mariners may be seeking second base help as a contingency plan since Robinson Cano is ineligible for the postseason.
The 32-year-old Cabrera is hitting .280/.332/.487 with 21 doubles, 17 home runs and 53 RBI, and he’s making a reasonable $8.3 million in the final year of his contract.
Much of his offensive value, however, has been canceled out by his horrendous defense.
He’s a 1.0 WAR player, and it would be a mistake for any of the aforementioned contenders to give up anything more than a couple of low-level prospects to acquire him.
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Kyle Barraclough has posted elite strikeout numbers out of the Miami Marlins bullpen since his debut in 2015.
The 28-year-old boasts a career mark of 11.7 whiffs per nine innings, good for 18th among relievers who have appeared in at least 100 games during that span.
There’s a catch, however.
He’s also walked hitters at a rate of 5.4 per nine innings—the second-highest mark among that same group—and while he’s made progress in that department this season (4.9 BB/9), it’s still an area of concern.
That’s not to say Barraclough can’t be an impact addition to a contender’s bullpen.
He’s pitching to a 2.45 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 10 saves in 14 chances, and he’s holding opposing hitters to a meager .150 average.
Still, teams should think long and hard about meeting the Marlins’ asking price.
Joe Frisaro of MLB.com wrote, “The Marlins are basically looking for another club’s top prospect, or among their top prospects, to be included in any trade.”
Barraclough is a good reliever who’s under team control through the 2021 season.
But he’s not Andrew Miller. He’s not Aroldis Chapman. He’s not Brad Hand.
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On the surface, Whit Merrifield is exactly the type of player the rebuilding Kansas City Royals should be looking to acquire.
He’s not arbitration-eligible until next offseason, he’s under team control through 2022, and he has steadily improved in each of his three MLB seasons.
However, he’s also already 29 years old.
With a long rebuild forthcoming, there’s a good chance Merrifield will not be part of the next contending Royals team, so it makes sense for Kansas City to sell high now.
It will take a reasonable asking price for someone to bite, though.
One executive told Robert Murray of The Athletic it will require “three higher-end prospects, at least” to pry Merrifield loose ahead of the deadline.
That’s likely more than anyone will pay, even for a player who’s hitting .302/.371/.424 with 17 stolen bases and 2.9 WAR.
Truth be told, if the Royals can turn the late-blooming Merrifield into one top-tier prospect and a couple of mid-level guys with upside, it would be a worthwhile move to help a thin farm system.
Holding to that unreasonably high asking price could mean missing the best window to trade one of the few remaining assets on the big league roster.
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Cole Hamels carries more name value than on-field value at this point in his career.
The prize of the 2015 trade deadline when he went from Philadelphia to Texas, Hamels is now 34 years old and no longer the frontline starter he was in his prime. He is 5-8 with a 4.36 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 109.1 innings.
Those middling numbers are accompanied by a 5.06 FIP that suggests he’s actually been the beneficiary of some good luck, and he’s struggled mightily of late, with a 9.53 ERA in his last four starts.
So where does that leave the Texas Rangers and the market for Hamels?
Texas appears to be headed for a retooling period and has little use for the veteran starter, who is making $23.5 million this year and has a $20 million team option with a $6 million buyout for 2019.
Anything the Rangers can do to unload him and save money would be a win.
As for his market, Hamels is still capable of being a solid addition for a number of contenders, but a deal for him has to come with the right expectations.
He can’t be plugged in to the No. 2 spot in a rotation and counted on to make a significant impact in the postseason. Instead, he’s best suited as a back-end starter and innings eater who perhaps gets the ball in a Game 4 with a short leash.
The lack of options on this year’s starting pitching market could lead a team to acquire Hamels and ask him to do more than he’s capable of.
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It’s shaping up to be a tough summer for contenders in search of starting pitching help.
Veterans Hamels and J.A. Happ are the top names on the rental market, while Matt Harvey, Tyson Ross and Nathan Eovaldi are also expected to be on the move.
Mike Fiers’ stock has trended upward in recent weeks, and someone might be willing to take a chance on James Shields if the Chicago White Sox chip in some money.
But that’s about it.
Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have been popular names on the rumor mill, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that either pitcher will be moved by the New York Mets.
So, it’s a seller’s market, and there are several rebuilding teams that would be wise to take advantage by shopping the following pitchers:
- Baltimore: Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman
- Detroit: Michael Fulmer and Matthew Boyd
- Kansas City: Danny Duffy
- Miami: Dan Straily and Jose Urena
- New York (NL): Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler
- Pittsburgh: Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova
- Tampa Bay: Chris Archer
If the deadline comes and goes without at least a couple of those pitchers changing teams, it’ll mark a huge missed opportunity for rebuilding clubs as a whole to cash in on a favorable market.