Talking Trade Targets

The MLB trade deadline can be an exciting time for baseball fans, but it can also bring uncertainty for fantasy players.

Who will be dealt? To whom? And how will that trade affect their role, and ultimately performance?

The uncertain nature of the deadline makes it almost impossible to predict – even if we feel good about the idea that Will Smith will be dealt before August, we don’t know his landing spot and whether that team is in need of a bonfide closer, like the Braves, or if they’re all set in the ninth and just need a good setup man, like the Dodgers – but while we don’t know everything, we do have some information that can get us started in a conversation about who will be on the move at the deadline. And that’s enough for now.

Let’s take a look at some of the players rumored to be on the block, and what a trade might mean for their future value.


Andrew Cashner

Cheating? Maybe. But this can perhaps serve as the official breakdown of a trade that’s already happened, instead of one that might happen. Those not paying attention might wonder what the Red Sox would want in the 32-year-old Cashner, who hasn’t been fantasy relevant in years. A more-than-cursory glance, though, tells a story of a pitcher who has figured something out in recent starts, with Cashner having rattled off five straight impressive outings dating back to the start of June. Baseball Savant tells us a few things are at play: Cashner has moved away from a sinker that was both his most-used pitch and his worst pitch, by xwOBA, in 2018, instead bumping up his four-seamer usage and doubling the number of changeups, a pitch that has been terrific for him this year, he’s throwing. Pitcher List tells us another thing: he started pitching exclusively out of the stretch around the same time he started to run off quality starts. Now with Boston, the right-hander doesn’t get a reprieve from the AL East (although trading in facing the Red Sox for facing the Orioles is a non-negligible difference) but will be pitching for a team that’s better in virtually every way. The move is an unquestionably good one for Cashner, and those on the fence about snatching him up should move quickly now that the secret is out.

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Ian Kennedy

Given that he had some success as a starter in a previous life, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Kennedy has excelled as a reliever. What’s a bit surprising is the fact that he’s excelled to the extent that he has, though. The right-hander took a bit to grab hold of the Royals closer job this year, but in 37 innings he owns a 3.41 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 45 strikeouts and 13 saves. He’s not backing into the success, either — he’s striking out almost 29 percent of batters faced, and his expected batting average and expected wOBA are both near the top of the league at .197 and .255, respectively. Moving to the bullpen has allowed him to remove the governor from his four-seam fastball, with his average velocity jumping from 91.9 mph in 2018 to 93.9 mph this year, and he’s also been able to narrow his pitch mix to three offerings, throwing just the four-seamer, a curveball and a cutter. The result has been terrific and has put him at or near the top of the list for available relievers this month, and like all relievers on the block, the question is what role he might play on a new club. Unfortunately for Kennedy and others, the number of contending teams without a solid ninth inning option are few — depending on how some teams view their chances, the 34-year-old could walk in and close for probably three teams within shouting distance — and while he’s been very good, his season hasn’t been one that could stand on its own without the saves. If he’s dealt to a team with an established closer, it probably spells the end of Kennedy’s fantasy value in 2019.


Nicholas Castellanos

Castellanos has always been a bat-first player, but even more so since his move to the outfield. So when he began the year hitting .244 with a .666 OPS through the season’s first 19 games, he was basically a terrible baseball player. That slump surely concerned Tigers management, which has had designs on dealing the 27-year-old since spring training, but in recent weeks Castellanos has begun to look more like the player we remember. Since May 19 — basically two months’ worth of games — the right fielder is hitting .312/.379/.524 with six homers, 22 RBI and 24 runs scored, bringing his overall line to .282/.342/.469 through Friday’s game. Statcast data says he’s still lagging behind the batted-ball success he’s had in past years, but some of that might be the effects of his early-season struggles. That likely won’t deter potential suitors, and unlike with the closers on bad teams, there aren’t many scenarios where a move from the Tigers proves to be a negative for Castellanos. Playoff hopefuls looking for more offense from their outfielders — the Indians come to mind, among others — would likely slot Castellanos in the middle of their lineups, precipitating a boost to his counting stats. And while Comerica Park plays pretty fair for right-handed hitters, there are scenarios where he ends up in an even better hitting environment as well. Fantasy players should cross their fingers that the Tigers find a suitable deal for Castellanos on or before July 31.

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Marcus Stroman

It’s almost silly to even have to say that Stroman, a ground ball pitcher who plays half his games in one of the two MLB stadiums that still uses artificial turf in 2019, would benefit from virtually any change of scenery that doesn’t involve getting rocky mountain high. For the record, though: Stroman and fantasy players who rely on Stroman should be praying for a move out of Toronto. That the 28-year-old has found the success he has this year, posting a 3.18 ERA through his first 18 starts and being named to the All-Star team, is a small miracle in itself, and speaks to how good he was in the first half. To that end, opponents have barreled the ball against Stroman just 4.4 percent of the time this season, a rate that’s in the top 9 percent of the league. And it’s not just this year — despite some unsavory surface statistics, the right-hander has routinely posted sub-4 FIP and even better xFIP numbers in recent years. So many of his issues have been environmental, and getting off the fast track at Rogers Centre — and potentially away from the couple of starts at fellow AL East domain Tropicana Field, the MLB’s only other artificial turf stadium — would be a big boost. Every year it seems like we see a pitcher or two get traded at the deadline and take off, rolling down the stretch with their new team. It feels like Stroman is a good landing spot away from being that pitcher in 2019.


Shane Greene

Kennedy, Kirby Yates, Alex Colome and Luke Jackson are among the closers who had surprisingly good first halves, but none was as shocking as Greene’s. Consider: In Rotoworld’s staff rankings of relievers heading into the year, Greene was No. 33 based on average ranking. No. 32 was his teammate, Joe Jimenez. Greene wasn’t even expected to be the best reliever on his own team, let alone one of the best in the league. (Full disclosure: Greene was actually ranked on more ballots than Jimenez, but Jimenez was higher on the list by virtue of having received the highest ranking of the two … by me. Oh well. You can’t win ’em all.) Greene is still throwing his sinker 45 percent of the time, but his 2019 success seems to have a lot to do with the mix of his secondary pitches — he has upped his cutter usage and cut back on reliance on his slider, with better results on both fronts. The result has been a 1.09 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 33 innings of work, and 22 saves to go with it. A lot of the same things apply to Greene as with Kennedy, in that the odds of him landing with a team that wants to insert him into the closer role are slim and that, despite some more shiny surface numbers, he would likely also not be a guy worth rostering in most standard mixed leagues if the saves weren’t a component of his value. As with Kennedy, perhaps the best thing that could happen to the 30-year-old is nothing at all.


Domingo Santana

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto did well to pluck Santana from Brewers purgatory this past winter, as Santana had one of the more resurgent first halves anywhere. The 26-year-old has 18 homers, 63 RBI and 52 runs scored to go with six steals and a .283/.352/.492 line, a season more akin to his 2017 breakout than his 2018 dud. As expected, the underlying peripherals prop up this year’s rebound, with Santana ranking in the top 20 percent in the league in hard-hit percentage as he absolutely torches the ball when he makes contact. Swinging and missing, then, is still part of his game, but that’s a trait found in many power hitters these days. With former teammate Edwin Encarnacion now on the Yankees, Santana may find himself as the most coveted hitter at the deadline, offering more upside than Castellanos and likely many other players who might be made available. Unlike Castellanos, Santana’s home park plays a little more pitcher-friendly, too, meaning there are plenty of moves that would result in a better hitting environment for the right fielder down the stretch. Would the Cubs or Rangers or another contending team in a hitter-friendly locale see fit to add another big bat to their lineup for the stretch run? That remains to be seen. If they snagged Santana, though, what a boon that would be for all parties involved.

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