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 **
31. Mike Minor - Texas Rangers - SP - C
8-4, 2.54 ERA, 4.42 xFIP, 4.41 SIERA, 8.77 K/9, 3.15 BB/9
Contract: 3-Year $28 Mil (2018-2020) Free Agent: 2021
Mike Minor is another interesting case as his sparkling ERA is not supported by the peripherals. After a down season last year, he has rebounded in his K/9 but has also had an increased BB/9 alongside of it. Minor’s spin rates actually align fairly well with the Astros methodology for improving pitchers, but I think his salary and cost based on perceived performance will likely price him out of the range.
32. Freddy Galvis - Toronton Blue Jays - SS - D
.271/.309/.459, 101 wRC+, 14 HR, 1.2 WAR
Contract: 1-Year $5 Mil + 2020 club option Free Agent: 2020 (2021 with club option)
This has actually been somewhat of a breakout year for Galvis with the bat, getting above league average for the first time in his career. He is an above average defensive shortstop, which has value to a lot of teams. With Correa, Bregman, and Aledmys on the roster, it’s tough to see him bringing value to our roster. Galvis is a good piece especially if someone believes in the offensive season he’s having, but unfortunately I don’t see that fit with the Astros unless there is some major injury issues with Diaz/Correa that we have not heard of as of yet.
33. Derek Dietrich - Cincinnati Reds - IF - B-
.225/.354/.561, 131 wRC+, 18 HR, 1.9 WAR, .373 xwOBA
Contract: Arbitration $2 Mil Free Agent: 2021
Dietrich has been somewhat of a Super utility player (games at 1B, 2B, 3B, and LF) who is having a bounce back season offensively. In 2015-16 he had back to back 120 wRC+ seasons, and his .196 BABIP indicates his performance this year is not a flaw and there be more in the way of average. A cost controlled Super Utility guy is always an excellent asset, so I can’t deny that I’d love to add him to the Astros. The challenge of course is that we really don’t have a place for him to play - and while he’d be an upgrade to one of the back-up positions (such as Kemp’s) - it seems like a luxury more than a necessity like it would be for most others.
34. Tim Beckham - Seattle Mariners - IF - C-
.230/.284/.477, 102 wRC+, 14 HR, 0.4 WAR
Contract: Arbitration $1.75 Mil Free Agent: 2021
Tim Beckham was the #1 pick of the 2008 draft, who never quite lived up to the prospect hype. He did have a break out season putting up a .278/.328/.454 triple slash in 2017 amassing 3.4 WAR, but the advanced stats and BABIP indicated that it was not sustainable. Another cost-controlled super-utility type player. But being a below average career hitter, and no real need for him as depth, I simply can’t see him as someone we would pursue even if he wouldn’t be a bad addition.
35. Jonathan Villar - Baltimore Orioles - IF - C-
.256/.326/.421, 98 wRC+, 10 HR, 1.2 WAR
Contract: Arbitration $4.825 Mil Free Agent: 2021
Villar is the ex-Astros version of Beckham and Dietrich, providing a back-up infielder with some upside and ability to play around the diamond. In 2015-16, it looked like Villar was trending upwards as he followed his 111 wRC+ season with the Astros up with a 120 wRC+ season with the Brewers. Unfortunately he’s fallen back to earth since that time and still holds a below average career hitting line. Just like with Beckham and Dietrich I don’t see a need from the Astros perspective with the depth we have.
36. Ian Kennedy - Kansas City Royals - RP - B-
0-2, 11 SV, 3.18 ERA, 3.75 xFIP, 3.15 SIERA, 10.85 K/9, 1.85 BB/9
Contract: 5-Year $70 Mil (2016-2020) Free Agent: 2021
After years as a starting pitcher with some upside, Ian Kennedy hit some significant stumbling blocks over the last 2 years, leaving many to wonder if he was done. This year, Ian Kennedy has reinvented himself as a solid relief pitcher. His pitching profile actually aligns extremely well with the “Strom Magic” model, pumping in high spin 4-seam fastballs and curveballs. I could easily see the Astros gaining a bit better results out of him if he moved over. With that said, he’s a 34 year old relief pitcher on a very expensive contract. You would have to belief the Royals would need to eat a large chunk of the salary for there to be a chance of moving him. For the Astros, that salary figure would essentially have to be his entire 2020 salary for there to even stand a chance of making this deal work given the challenges of remaining below the salary cap.
37. Mark Melancon - San Francisco Giants - RP - B-
3-2, 3.89 ERA, 3.79 xFIP, 3.88 SIERA, 8.57 K/9, 3.89 BB/9
Contract: 4-Year $62 Mil (2017-2020) Free Agent: 2021
Melancon is another name that will be familiar to the Astros. At one time, Melancon become one of the premier relief arms in the game, which makes sense given the contract he was awarded after his pristine 47 SV, 1.64 ERA season back in 2016. Unfortunately, since then Melancon has experienced a significant decline in performance in both innings pitched and the performance in those innings. Melancon’s current performance is still solid, and his pitching profile does look like it could gain some traction with Strom’s mentorship, but his age and loss in velocity seems to minimize the potential of gain. Similar to Kennedy, the Giants would need to eat a portion of his salary to have a real chance at moving him, and the Astros in particular would need basically his entire 2020 salary absorbed, which limits the potential of a homecoming for the ex-Astro.
38. Felipe Vazquez - Pittsburgh Pirates - RP - A-
2-0, 19 SV, 2.00 ERA, 2.70 xFIP, 2.46 SIERA, 14.25 K/9, 2.50 BB/9
Contract: 4-Year $22 Mil (2018-2021) with club options for 2022 & 2023 Free Agent: 2022
If Vasquez is traded, which is not a sure thing, he will likely be the most valuable relief pitcher on this years market. There’s little to dislike, he is a lefty, his performance is stellar, his contract is a bargain. He’s a match made in heaven especially if you’re a believer that the Astros NEED a left handed reliever. The challenge of course will come down to cost. If the Pirates do move him, the prospect haul will be gut wrenching. If he continues his current performance for the remainder of his contract, he’d have nearly $60 Million in excess value and that’s before you’re getting into the club options. It would likely require a Tucker or Whitley plus a significant additional package to get the deal done. With the Astros having one of the best bullpens in baseball and Osuna/Pressly still locked up going forward, it makes it tougher to see them willing to sell the farm. Even with that said, it’d be tough to argue that Velasquez would not immediately improve the Astros and solidify their bullpen going forward.
39. Raisel Iglesias - Cinncinati Reds - RP - C-
2-7, 4.06 ERA, 4.28 xFIP, 3.85 SIERA, 11.23 K/9, 4.06 BB/9
Contract: 3-Year $24.125 Mil (2019-2021) Free Agent: 2022
Iglesias is perceived as the other top cost-controlled relief option that may be available at this years deadline. After 3 straight seasons of ERA’s of roughly 2.50, Iglesias has had a 2019 to forget. The warning signs were there last year as the peripherals indicated he was pitching more like a 3-4 ERA pitcher. I do believe Iglesias will garner a ton of interest and a less analytically inclined team would probably still overpay for him. He is still on a fairly reasonable contract particularly if he turns the corner back to his previous performance. I find it tough to imagine the Reds selling him, both due to their reluctance to sell overall and the potential of selling very low on an excellent relief arm. I will be intrigued to watch and see if Iglesis changes hands this trade deadline and if the team pays based on his past performance.
40. Brandon Belt - San Francisco Giants - 1B - D
.242/.368/.430, 114 wRC+, 10 HR, 0.7 WAR
Contract: 6-Year $79 Mil (2016-2021) Free Agent: 2022
From 2011-2019, Belt has been a consistent mainstay within the Giants organization, despite struggling with some injuries and missed time, he’s never had a wRC+ below 107 since his rookie year. At 31, it may be safe to say his days of 3.9 WAR seasons may be behind him but there’s still value that could be gained from a team acquiring him particularly as his OBP is still running over the .350 mark consistently. The Astros were rumored to be in on Encarnacion, which was surprising to me to begin with, so maybe I’m underestimating their desire to upgrade their offensive performance at 1B. With that said, I can’t foresee the Astros looking to add the salary necessary especially on a longer term deal with a player like Brandon Belt.
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!