It’s the end of July and in baseball you know what that means: time to wheel and deal!
With the Deadline coming up expect to see a flurry of activities and the usual deluge of transactions in the last 48 hours: sellers will wait until last minute offers to choose their buyers, particularly when they have a rare asset.
To that extent, I want to shine a light on some interesting players who are not usually talked about but could be valuable additions, providing value at a cheap for contenders and Playoff believers alike.
This first entry of Deadline Deals will be focused on an almost full lineup of hitters everyone can afford without emptying the farm for a Juan Soto. Before starting, some notes:
- There’ll be no DH: Vogelbach and his league lowest Swing% were my choice but the Mets were faster;
- There’ll be no household names: am I really useful if I’m going to talk about Soto, Willson Contreras or Andrew Benintendi?;
- I’ll consider qualified hitters as per 100 PA and 200 innings played for the sake of statistical significance, a purely personal sample size to avoid volatility;
- For each batter I’ll give you one, maybe two, reasons why your team should buy on him. To that it’ll follow a level of so-called availability where I’ll try to gauge whether he’d be easy or hard to trade for and lastly, I’ll proceed to attempt a pricing in terms of prospects and their FV, Future Value, and a possible destination.
Catcher: Jonah Heim
- Why buying: a complete package
For those of you unfamiliar with Heim, watch out: he’s quietly one of the best catchers in all of baseball this year, already over 2 WAR production, and his appearance will fool you on how he brings that amount of value.
At a gargantuan 6'4'’ and a rare switch hitter for his position, Heim looks all the part of a proverbial slugger, and his 12 HR/.200+ ISO would confirm so but…
turns out there’s much more: Heim is actually contact-oriented, albeit chasing a bit he has one of the lowest CSW% among qualified backstops, a good Z-Contact% too. He’s swinging often, but not missing that much.
There’s also another element to Heim’s picture:
Lo and behold, Heim is one of the better framers in all of baseball: while he has trouble blocking baseballs in the dirt and gunning out baserunners, he has soft hands and is amazing at stealing strikes at the corners and up in the zone, just where a lot of pitchers live these days.
- Availability: medium
Arguably the best catcher not named Willson Contreras that could be up for grabs, Texas should consider such a dry market and trade him at his peak: they are actually well positioned in the C department, with Mitch Garver DHing, Sam Huff’s legendary 500 ft blasts and less-fun Willians Astudillo skillset in Yohel Pozo. He’s not going to be cheap: I’d sell him for a 45+/50 FV prospect, a 40 FV and a lottery ticket. That’s a ton, but his power/hit tool/defense combo platter is rare, he’s at league minimum and has 3+ years of control.
- Destination: Houston
While Contreras has a superior bat he’s also quite mediocre in the field and that’s where Heim comes clutch: the Astros are a perfect match, with Jason Castro on his last legs and the sole Maldonado they need a capable catcher to fill in and also DH on a pinch, one that has pop and is good at handling high stuff pitchers. Heim’s traits as a framer suit the Garcia, Urquidy and Javier trio and his bat doesn’t hurt either.
First base: Christian Walker
- Why buying: hard hitting against luck
Walker’s season has been the duality of a hitter: he’s destroying the ball
and getting far less than he should:
His xSLG is better than Paul Goldschmidt, he barrels more than Pete Alonso and runs a sub .200 BABIP: with 22 bombs at his name, good to great defense, a rising BB% and declining K% there’s a lot to like.
- Availability: easy/medium
Arizona has to sell: the team is going nowhere but has future pieces in Swiss Army knife Daulton Varsho, old reliable Ketel Marte and future ace Zac Gallen. Walker is arb eligible for a substantial raise from his $2.6M, not much of a burden so that he can fetch a good 40+/40 FV prospect considering he’s still a pure RHB 1B, and his place can be filled by either Pavin Smith or 80 grade name Seth Beer.
- Destination: Boston
The Red Sox may be faltering, but they are still in the playoff picture. They ought to buy a full rotation of starters and some bullpen help, but they have a glaring hole at first with the hardships of Bobby Dalbec. Walker would fit great along the likes of Devers, Bogaerts, Verdugo and JDM to form a crusher of a lineup.
Second base: Matt Reynolds
- Why buying: quality band-aid
Who? Don’t sleep on the Reds’ super utility: he already played everywhere in the field, even pitcher(…), in 2022 and to a good extent, bat-wise
His contact profile is almost flawless for your customary middle infield plug-and-play: he hits the ball a ton, rarely misses, slashes and dashes on the ground avoiding soft contact while playing average or better defense all over the diamond and outfield, a back-up-the-middle extraordinaire.
- Availability: easy
A savvy MiLB pickup, Matt comes at a minimum salary and is bound to escape the Reds misery for a bench utility spot in a contender. He’s going to be fairly cheap, a 40/35+ FV prospect and not much more.
- Destination: Philadelphia
The Phillies need help defensively pretty much everywhere and Reynolds is up for the task, plus his high contact bat balances well the demolishing, high whiff unit that is the Schwarber/Castellanos/Harper squad.
Shortstop: Jorge Mateo
- Why buying: Gold Glove, baby
Mateo’s bat? Ehm, not good…Mateo’s defense though? The stuff of dreams!
League leader in DRS for a shortstop, range for days, solid arm, elite OAA: Mateo uses his afterburners, 80 grade speed, to cover all of the infield and make both flashy and routine plays in a whim. He also knows how to hit the ball, when he gets to it:
Line drives galore: while he should avoid the air as much as possible given his poor EV numbers, he can roast seeds to the gap for doubles, beat out infield singles and promptly steal second, already 23 SB on the year.
- Availability: easy/medium
While his defense is a boon to Baltimore’s pitchers, the younger generation is coming: Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg are elite up-the-middle prospects close to debut, Terrin Vavra ain’t bad either and they just drafted Jackson Holliday 1/1. Mateo is cheap, just arb eligible and controllable but he’d go for a 40+/40 FV in my book, opening up a 40 man roster spot right on the timeline for Baltimore’s renaissance.
- Destination: St. Louis
Brendan Donovan is better deployed as a utility and Paul DeJong seems like he’s not climbing up from AAA anytime soon, so why not improving such an already great defense?! Edman is elite at 2B and merely good at short, Nolan Gorman should DH and there you have it, the best defensive infield in MLB!
Third Base: Ramon Urias
- Why buying: dual wield
Staying in Baltimore, what about the man at Mateo’s left?
Top 5 HardHit% at third, barrels are there, some swing and miss too but he’s striking out less and putting more flyballs in play, with results that could improve with him not having to face the Great Wall of Camden. Defense? For days!
He may not be Arenado but he’s got range, can also play second and short, the quintessential role player with sneaky pop.
- Availability: medium/hard
His defense/pop skillset, cheap contract and control make him harder than Mateo to grab from the O’s, who could keep him as a utility in the near future. Give them a 45 FV prospect though and he could go.
- Destination: Chicago
The White Sox are running whoever can stand at 2B/3B and while Josh Harrison has been a godsend defensively he’s not hitting but man, Yoan Moncada has been worse on both sides of the ball. Chicago ain’t dead yet, not on that Division, but they need help, and a bat/glove double agent like Urias could be crucial.
Outfield 1: Joc Pederson
- Why buying: pop, and Joctober
Pederson is the same he’s always been: strikes out a bit, walks too, makes decent contact and when he does, ball goes boom:
Would you like a Giancarlo Stanton from the left side, horrible defense included? I’m a taker, particularly when he can do this:
Straight gas, no matter the mph, is Joc’s breakfast: he’s still only a platoon bat, the fat side of it though, but he’s as good as it gets against RHP, and if your team ever goes on to the Playoffs? Joctober!
- Availability: medium
Signed on a 1 year $6M deal by Farhan Zaidi’s Giants, Joc could see his way out with San Fran seriously scuffling to produce wins, the old guard coming to terms with Father Time and one of the most atrocious defenses out there. A 40+ FV prospect may be enough to seal the deal.
- Destination: Toronto
Blue Jays have a hell of a Division to fight in and a potent bat could make the difference in getting a WC against the Rays. TB could also fit the script, Atlanta, now that Duvall is out of commission, could set a reunion too.
Outfield 2: Jose Siri
- Why buying: the best defender no one knows
Who’s the best CF without considering his bat? Maybe Kevin Kiermaier? Nope. Harrison Bader? Close but no cigar:
Holy Mother of Andruw Jones: Jose Siri, with half the innings of many other outfielders, is racking up historic defensive stats! His DRS are top 5 in all of baseball OF, his UZR/150 leads the pack and OAA, a counting stat, comfortably third with half the sample of other competitiors.
Simply put, Siri is a monster out there: his 98th+ percentile Sprint Speed allows him to cover acres in center, his arm is merely decent but he can flat out fly and make 5% Catch Prob plays look ordinary.
He has a problem though: a 35 bat. His maxEV is great but he makes so few contact, chases a ton and hits too many balls on the ground to exploit his 440ft+ HR potential. Still, such a power/speed/defense combination is a 4th OF dream.
- Availability: medium
Houston’s player development program is second to none when it comes to churning MLB position players out of thin air: Myles Straw, Abraham Toro, Teoscar Hernandez to name a few hitters that were never high rated prospects and now are starters in other organizations.
The Astros have the same, good problem to have now: Meyers and McCormick are closing the Houston door to CF and Pedro Leon is showing his toolbox in AAA, with Enmanuel Valdez and Corey Julks also knocking for OF space. Siri could be part of a certified James Click special: a surplus MLB ready position player for a reliever, LHP please, and a 40/35+ FV prospect.
- Destination: Arizona
The Dbacks/Astros connection is solid after the Greinke trade way back in 2018 and Arizona has exactly what Houston needs: a left handed reliever with good peripherals in Joe Mantiply. A one-for-one trade would make a ton of sense, with matching salaries and control.
Next up, rotation and bullpen pieces: I’ll recommend both a RHP and LHP to fit you starting unit and three solid arms for your pen. Until then, may your team make a Chris Archer TB trade!
All stats and graphs from FanGraphs, data up to July 25th.