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 **
21 Dee Gordon - Seattle Mariners - 2B - F
.269/.301/.359, 79 wRC+, 3 HR, 0.4 WAR
Contract: 5-year $50 Mil(2016-2020) Free Agent: 2021
As the Mariners fire-sale continues, there are quite a few players that could change hands. Dee Gordon is a speedster who clocks in at 28.1 feet per second in sprint speed and has steady hands defensively. His 79 wRC+ is not going to draw a lot of interest, and he will not come close to living up to the value of his contract. With that said, the Mariners have shown they are willing to off-set the financial impact in trades for a greater return. With the Astros having 2B locked up with Jose Altuve, our Super-Utility player in Aledmys Diaz, and a myriad of speedsters waiting for their shot, it’s tough to see any way that Gordon is a potential target.
22 Mike Leake - Seattle Mariners - SP - C
4-5, 4.63 ERA, 4.65 xFIP, 4.63 SIERA, 6.39 K/9, 1.43 BB/9,
Contract: 5-year $80 Mil (2016-2020) + 2021 Mutual Option Free Agent: 2021 (w/o option)
Much like Dee Gordon above him, Leake will not be targeted as a bargain but could get interest from a wide array of teams if the Mariners eat a chunk of his salary. As far as inning eaters go, Leake is a solid but unspectacular option for most rotations. Leake has pitched the 11th most innings since 2011 with a career ERA of 4.06. His approach of low velocity, low spin but excellent control has generally not been something the Astros have targeted in the past. I do see him moving at the deadline, but as mentioned in the last section of the trade candidates I believe the Astros will target a higher end than a simple innings eater.
23 Danny Duffy - Kansas City Royals - SP - F
3-4, 4.43 ERA, 5.10 xFIP, 4.93 SIERA, 7.57 K/9, 3.13 BB/9
Contract: 5-year $65 Mil (2017-2021) Free Agent: 2022
Duffy has fallen significantly since the years of his 1.85 (2013), 2.53 (2014) and 3.51 (2016) ERA days. As a lefty, he will gain more interest than others and may even gain interest as a potential conversion to Relief Pitcher to recapture some of his lost velocity. Unfortunately, his contract is under-water value wise so it would be tough for someone to make that gamble given the extent he’s owed. The peripherals indicate that his 4.43 ERA has been somewhat fortuitous, so it will be interesting to see who if any team is willing to chase him at this time.
24 Jeff Samardzija - San Francisco Giants - SP - F
5-7, 4.32 ERA, 4.98 xFIP, 4.79 SIERA, 7.66 K/9, 2.75 BB/9
Contract: 5-year $90 Mil (2016-2020) Free Agent: 2021
Similar to Danny Duffy, the Shark has fallen from grace, with his 4.32 ERA this year actually being a rebound from last year’s painful 6.25 ERA. With a significant decline in his velocity, one has to wonder how much Samardzija still has in the tank while eyeing the $18 Million a year he is owed. I can’t imagine even with the Giants eating a sizable portion of his contract that he will garner much interest.
25 Trey Mancini - Baltimore Orioles - OF - C
.301/.358/.538, 133 wRC+, 17 HR, 1.8 WAR
Contract:$575.5K (Arb eligible 2020) Free Agent: 2023
The Orioles announced that they were open to listening to offers on all players. Mancini is obviously an extremely valuable piece as he is cost controlled and pre-arbitration at this point. This has been a break-out year for Mancini but even still it would be tough to imagine a fit for him on this Astros team. At his primary position of OF the Astros are overstocked with talent, unable to even find at bats for Kyle Tucker who is tearing up AAA to Yordan Alvarez-esque levels over the past 2 months. You could make the argument that he could be moved to 1B as he does have experience at the position, but you would have to believe another team would value his defensive versatility and thus offer a larger package if he is to be moved.
26 Hunter Renfroe - San Diego Padres - OF - C-
.244/.305/.593, 127 wRC+, 24 HR, 2.0 WAR
Contract: $582K (Arb Eligible 2020) Free Agent: 2024
Hunter Renfroe is similar to Trey Mancini in regards to a young cost-controlled, pre-arbitration star caliber outfielder. With that in mind, most of what is said above in regards to Mancini applies to Renfroe as well. Renfroe had a higher draft pedigree and has an additional year of control so the prospect cost to pry him away from the Padres would even higher than that of Mancini. The Padres are on the other end of the spectrum from the Orioles with eyes on competing in the near term and looking to utilize the prospect capital from their OF depth to reinforce their team. He’d obviously be a great addition to almost any team but I just don’t see a spot for him on our Astros.
27 Craig Stammen - San Diego Padres - RP - C-
5-4, 4 SV, 4.22 ERA, 4.05 xFIP, 3.86 SIERA, 6.96 K/9, 1.48 BB/9
Contract: 2-year $4.5 Mil (2018-2019) Free Agent: 2020
The 35 year old veteran makes sense as a potential candidate to be moved at the deadline with the Padres unlikely to compete this year but looking to reinforce an already strong position for the future. Last year, Stammen had a dominant year with a 2.73 ERA and his K/9 jumping all the way up to 10.03. Although his velocity is actually up this year, he has not been able to replicate those results in 2019. With his current production and being a rental, you have to assume the Padres know it will not require a significant return to acquire Stammen. His pitching profile doesn’t particularly align well and his results are not significantly better than the Astros in-house options so I don’t believe he will be a target for the Astros this year.
28 Francisco Liriano - Pittsburgh Pirates - RP - C
2-1, 2.63 ERA, 5.03 xFIP, 4.56 SIERA, 8.78 K/9, 4.39 BB/9
Contract: 1-year $1.8 Mil Free Agent: 2020
Liriano was acquired by the Astros previously with an attempt to remake him as their Left Handed reliever in the pen with mixed results. This year, Liriano’s sparkling 2.63 ERA seems to be somewhat misleading as all of his peripherals point to his current results being unsustainable. I would not be surprised for another team to value his current performance more than the predictive analytics and making a trade for him especially given his reasonable price tag.
29 David Hernandez - Cincinnati Reds - RP - C-
2-4, 5.40 ERA, 3.97 xFIP, 3.53 SIERA, 11.29 K/9, 3.19 BB/9
Contract: 2-years $5 Mil (2018-2019) Free Agent: 2020
As we continue through the veteran relief corp, we come to David Hernandez. While the Reds are still unsure if they will be sellers at the deadline, Hernandez makes sense as a candidate for one of the more analytically driven teams who see his advanced stats indicating a far more successful season than his tradition ones. Even with that said, there is a legitimate question if he would be a notable upgrade to our bullpen even producing at the advanced stats rates.
30 Jared Hughes - Cincinnati Reds - RP - C
2-2, 3.03 ERA, 4.02 xFIP, 4.04 SIERA, 6.06 K/9, 2.78 BB/9
Contract: 2-years $4.5 Mil (2018-2019) +2020 Club Option Free Agent: 2020
Jared Hughes is an interesting case, across the past 5.5 seasons, he has amassed an incredible 2.47 ERA with a paltry 5.8 K/9 and a comparatively high 2.9 BB/9 out performing his peripherals by almost 1.5. In this time, his highest ERA was 3.03 while his xFIP was averaging much closer to 4, including a season where it peaked at 4.77. None the less, as a relief pitcher, he has consistently produced well for roughly 60 innings per season, providing a solid veteran option for the bullpen. He is cost controlled, and a rental unless the team decides to pick up his option. He actually would make a lot of sense as a potential above average plug in for most bullpen options but he seems to be distinctly different than the Astros approach.
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!