You may have seen MLBTradeRumors’ article listing out the top 50 Trade Candidates, using a methodology that was a combination of trade value and likelihood of being traded. It’s definitely worth checking out as they dig in to each a little. We’re going to take a look at their list, strictly from an Astros perspective. I’ve put a grade next to each player based on my personal belief on how strong of a potential trade target they would be for the team. My evaluation will be based on 3 components, 1.) Team Need 2.) Contract Status 3.) Cost to Acquire.
The ideal targets would either be rentals or long term cost controlled assets that fit where the Astros have a gap.
**As a side note, I did an article in regards to the Astros salary and the challenges they will be facing to remain under the Competitive Tax Balance Threshold (as Crane stated we would). We currently only have ~$14 Million to replace or re-sign 7 players (Cole, McHugh, Miley, Chirinos, Harris, Rondon, Smith) in 2020 **
11.) Sam Dyson- San Francisco Giants - RP - B-
2-1, 2.54 ERA, 3.46 xFIP, 3.37 SIERA, 7.62 K/9, 1.38 BB/9, .295 xwOBA
Contract: Arbitration $5 Mil Free Agent: 2021
Another reliever out of the Giants relief corp, Sam Dyson brings a unique profile. In 5 of the past 6 seasons, he has had a glimmering sub-3 ERA which was not supported by any of the advanced stats or peripherals. It would require more research than I have time for now to dig into the root cause, but none the less - Dyson has been a fairly consistent set-up man with control for another season after this year. He doesn’t seem to fit the Astros mold of high K-relief pitchers but does show off some spectacular control. He does possess elite spin rates on his slider and decent spin rates on his 4-seamer and both pitches are rarely used -so he could work well as a “Strom Magic” candidate. His salary does become a bit prohibitive in his final year of arbitration for a non-elite closer type pitcher in an already strong bullpen. Truthfully, with the salary challenges going into next year it’s tough to see us making it work.
12.) Shane Greene - Detroit Tigers - RP - D
0-2, 0.87 ERA, 4.00 xFIP, 3.58 SIERA, 9.29 K/9, 2.61 BB/9, .273 xwOBA
Contract: Arbitration $4 Mil Free Agent: 2021
Shane Greene is similar to Dyson in regards to contract status and cost, ultimately leading us to a similar conclusion. Greene’s 0.87 ERA is unsustainable for nearly any pitcher, but all of his peripherals indicate he is heading towards some significant regression. This is definitely the best time for the Tigers to sell high and hope someone buys in despite his rocky/inconsistent past. His pitches do not align well with the “Strom Model”. I don’t foresee him as a fit.
13. Tanner Roark - Cincinnati Reds - SP - C
5-6, 3.51 ERA, 4.41 xFIP, 4.41 SIERA, 8.97 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, .332 xwOBA
Contract: 1 Year $10 Mil Free Agent: 2020
MLBTR noted this, but it’s still not a given that the Reds see themselves as a seller this trade deadline. Roark is a 1-year rental and is having somewhat of a renaissance year, posting an ERA below 4 for the first time since 2016. TCB’s Theo Gerome wrote an article looking at the potential for a Roark acquisition. In which he summarized with:
“All in all, Tanner Roark strikes me as the most economical target for the Astros this summer. He’s not the best pitcher they could acquire, but he should be one of the easier targets to shake loose and he wouldn’t be a bad choice to start a playoff game. And given the unique direction the Reds seem to be taking, the Astros might be able to get him for just extra depth that they don’t have space for. He’s not as shiny and projectable as someone like Marcus Stroman or Matt Boyd, but he still noticeably improves the 2019 Astros.”
My personal belief is the Astros focus if they’re looking for a rental is either a higher caliber starter or an elite reliever to help shorten the games in the playoffs. Roark would fill the void left in the rotation without a negative impact to our overall future from a prospect or salary perspective.
14. Jordan Lyles - Pittsburgh Pirates - SP - C
5-4, 3.71 ERA, 4.20 xFIP, 4.40 SIERA, 9.09 K/9, 3.33 BB/9, .312 xwOBA
Contract: 1 Year $2.05 Mil Free Agent: 2020
Once the crown jewel of the Astros farm system, Lyles has bounced between teams accumulating a 5.15 ERA so far in his career. Lyles is an alternative option if you are looking to fill the void in the rotation with a back of the rotation arm. His spin rates do not align well with the Strom Model, so I don’t foresee the magic we hope to achieve on a buy low type candidate. Obviously his prospect cost and salary should not be a concern to the future of the Astros but I’m still in the mind-set that the Astros would give their prospects a shot to fill the void prior to bringing in a veteran simply to fill the gap in the rotation.
15. Pablo Sandoval - San Francisco Giants - 3B - C
.282/.319/.553, 122 wRC+, 10 HR, 1.1 WAR, .362 xwOBA
Contract: 5 Year $95 Mil (2015-2019) Free Agent: 2020
The Panda has had a rebound year posting his best wRC+ since 2011 which is actually supported by the advanced stats (his wOBA (.366) vs xwOBA (.362) is not showing major signs of regression to come). The Astros do not have a need for a 3B unless Correa’s is unable to recover from his injury. The Panda does have some experience playing 1B so there’s a possibility that he could be viewed in a similar light to Encarnacion, but Sandoval unlike Encarnacion has been a poor hitter for the past 4 seasons before this one. The prospect cost for Sandoval should be very minimal and he is a rental, but Sandoval isn’t a natural fit for the Astros.
16. Alex Colome - Chicago White Sox - RP - C-
18 SV, 2.16 ERA, 4.83 xFIP, 4.36 SIERA, 7.02 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, .321 xwOBA
Contract: Arbitration $7.325 Mil Free Agent: 2021
Alex Colome comes with 4 years of closing experience, even racking up 47 in 2017 with a career 3.03 ERA. Normally, Colome would be an excellent candidate for reinforcing our bullpen given his past success, with that said despite the sparkling ERA, his peripherals all indicate a significant regression. His xwOBA (.321) vs wOBA (.198) is one of the largest differentials in baseball, and SIERA/xFIP see him more as a mid-high 4’s ERA pitcher than the closer many will think of based on his past success. His $7 Million dollar salary will escalate again next year to $10+, taking up a large portion of the ~$14 Million remaining before we hit the competitive balance threshold.
17. Mychal Givens - Baltimore Orioles - RP - B
6 SV, 4.91 ERA, 3.62 xFIP, 3.28 SIERA, 13.36 K/9, 4.36 BB/9, .303 xwOBA
Contract: Arbitration $2.15 Mil Free Agent: 2022
Man, I’m picturing the comments now of people with pitchforks on my analysis between Alex Colome and Mychal Givens, which will all boil down to if people are believers in the advanced stats vs the traditional ones. Givens is controlled for another 2.5 seasons, which will also drive the prospect cost higher than many people will believe given the lack of “star status”. It’s times like this that I wish Mike Elias had not taken over the Orioles front office as he’s far more likely to recognize the abilities of Givens than the previous Front Office. Givens high ERA is largely driven through a completely unsustainable HR/FB. Givens has dominated from a strike-out perspective but has struggled with control. Givens will be interesting for me to follow this trade deadline as the Orioles do not have a need for him so they may pursue a trade with an educated team despite the optics of his current performance.
18. Corey Dickerson - Pittsburgh Pirates - OF - F
.293/.341/.520, 119 wRC+, 2 HR, 0.5 WAR, .267 xwOBA
Contract: 1 Year - $8.5 Mil Free Agent: 2020
Dickerson has been an above average hitter worth roughly 2.5 WAR / season over the past few years. He is a relative bargain from that perspective although he has had limited playing time this year. His xwOBA is a smaller sample (only 25 games played so far this year), so he seems like a solid slightly above average player to insert into your outfield to fill a gap. For the Astros, there’s not really a need for this type of player. Our outfield consists of 3 legitimate All-Star caliber players (based on player voting), with an overflow of talent. With Alvarez in need of playing time and Tucker still waiting in the wings, it’s tough to see the Astros trade for a player like Dickerson.
19. Melky Cabrera - Pittsburgh Pirates - OF - F
.306/.339/.431, 101 wRC+, 0.1 WAR, .301 xwOBA
Contract: 1-year $1.15 Mil Free Agent: 2020
Similar to Dickerson, there’s simply no need for Cabrera on the Astros, especially given his current offensive performance. His BABIP and xwOBA both indicate he’s been a bit fortunate to achieve the level of results he has thus far this season, and even that is basically a league average hitter.
20. Andrew Cashner - Baltimore Orioles - SP - D
8-3, 4.03 ERA, 4.99 xFIP, 5.08 SIERA, 6.25 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, .350 xwOBA
Contract: 2-Year $16 Mil (2018-19) + Vesting Option Free Agent: 2020 (or 2021 if vested)
MLBTR wrote an article about the potential of converting Cashner to a relief option and had noted that it is believed the Orioles would be willing to absorb basically the entirety of Cashner’s salary to move him. A move to the pen would obviously eliminate the concern of his option vesting removing that from the equation. His results the first time through the order are actually well above average and with the assumed increase in velocity for shorter stints in pitching makes it a more intriguing option. With that said, Cashner’s profile does not fit well with the Astros model as he sports low spin rates, and his low - K rates do not have the benefit of being off-set by pinpoint control. As a back of rotation starter, he has been fortunate to achieve the results he has so far based on the advanced stats and the concern of vesting his 2020 option limits his value as an innings eater.
Theo wrote an article with his thoughts on a Cashner acquisition which he summarized with:
“Overall, I still don’t think Cashner would be my top priority, but fewer pitchers are going to come at a lower price, which is nice. If injuries continue to hinder depth, or if plans to get a better pitcher fall though, or even if those plans don’t but another emergency arm is needed, he wouldn’t be a bad second option. And the added potential for him to move to the bullpen is intriguing, since he might be able to contribute in the postseason even if he finishes the year mostly as a fifth starter or swing man spotting for young arms to manage their workload. All in all, that makes him one of the more interesting names to keep in mind going forward.”
Tell us your thoughts. Do you agree with my grading? Who do you want the Astros to pursue? We will go through the rest of the Top 50 in upcoming articles, and luckily with how they did the rankings wasn’t based purely on player value so each of the articles should have some exciting players!