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In Some Depth: Likely Movers

Ryan Eisner

Ryan Eisner

Ryan has been writing for Rotowire since 2007. He currently writes about baseball and covers the White Sox.

A few weeks ago, I took a look at the worst positions on the league's best teams to suggest the positions that contenders may look to improve upon as their playoff odds become better. I thought it would be fitting to take a look at the other end of the spectrum as we enter the trade rumor-crazy month of July. I took a look at the playoff odds reports at Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, and ESPN, and averaged the odds between the three to identify the five teams in each league with the most remote chances of making the playoffs. I then pulled up their rosters in the hopes of identifying a few men on each team that have been performing exceptionally well and/or have a contract expiring either this year or next (ie: the Twins might be ready to give up on impending free agent Kurt Suzuki, but they probably would not do so for Brian Dozier and no one wants Pedro Florimon). I also suggest a few players lower on the depth chart who could benefit from a vacancy in the lineup.

Without any further ado...

Team

BP odds

FG odds

ESPN odds

Average

Minnesota

4.5%

1.2%

9.3%

5.0%

Chicago

2.5%

1.2%

7.2%

3.6%

Texas

1.6%

2.1%

2.4%

2.0%

Tampa Bay

2.2%

1.5%

2.3%

2.0%

Houston

0.2%

0.1%

1.5%

0.6%



All odds as of the afternoon of June 29

Houston Astros

Sports Illustrated may declare the Astros as the presumptive 2017 World Series Champs, but their chances of making the playoffs out of a difficult AL West in 2014 is virtually null. That being said, it would be tough to envision them dealing much from their current lineup. Spare outfielders like Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes, and Alex Presley could be dealt to contenders in need of outfield depth. Domingo Santana is the obvious guy to get excited about at Triple-A Oklahoma City (.383 OBP, .508 slugging), but the Astros may not want to start his service clock this late in the season. Other outfielders in the minors include Austin Wates (19-for-21 on the basepaths in his first full year at Triple-A) and Preston Tucker (he hit 17 home runs in 261 at-bats for Double-A Corpus Christi, but has struggled in his first two weeks at Oklahoma City). Chris Carter is in the midst of his final pre-arbitration year, so the Astros may decide to jettison him before his home run totals inflate his price. Jesus Guzman and/or Marc Krauss could fill his spot.

Tampa Bay Rays

David Price is likely the biggest target of the mid-season trade market, but I don't discuss pitchers in In Some Depth. Ben Zobrist will be the second most attractive trade target on the Rays. He may be enduring a career-worst year, but he is only due a $500,000 buyout for next season (or a $7 millionish club option) and there is a high need for middle infielders among the league's contending teams (see this space from two weeks ago). His absence would provide Logan Forsythe with a firm hold on the Rays' starting second base gig, and Sean Rodriguez could see some playing time. Former Cub Mike Fontenot is has a .359 OBP at Triple-A Durham, but it has been two years since he has seen playing time at the major league level. Jose Molina has 1.5 years left on his current contract, and the Rays may be able to find a market for his pitch framing skills despite a negative value attached to his bat. Potential minor league replacements include Ali Solis, Curt Casali, and Mayo Acosta. In other words, Ryan Hanigan would see a lot more playing time.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have had a good run of it, but their flurry of injuries has made it nearly impossible to compete in the competitive AL West. Given their expectations for the season, and the way the season has ultimately resulted, it is hard to find batters on their squad who are neither injured nor locked down for several years. Alex Rios is one candidate to depart, given that he still has a plus bat and a $13 million club option ($1 million buyout) for 2015. Michael Choice could take his outfield spot. Bryan Petersen has underwhelmed at Triple-A Round Rock, but he has a few years of minor league outfield experience. Adrian Beltre could attract some interest, but I am not sure as to how motivated the Rangers would be to move him, given his sustained level of production and two more seasons of team control. Candidates for next in line include Adam Rosales, Jason Donald, Brent Lillibridge, and Josh Wilson.

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox just took three of four over the Blue Jays, but they should be sellers sooner rather than later. They have a pair of middle infield properties in Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez who could be attractive on the trade market. Beckham has one more arbitration year before he hits free agency, while Ramirez is due $10 million in 2015 under the final year of his extension. Leury Garcia could replace either on a more regular basis, and I would expect to hear Micah Johnson's name tossed about if Beckham heads to a contender. Other guys who could hit the block include Adam Dunn (free agent this offseason, but probably won't draw much interest) and Alejandro De Aza (one more arbitration year). De Aza's duties could be filled by a mix of Moises Sierra, Jordan Danks, and/or Blake Tekotte.



Minnesota Twins

The Twins' offense buoyed the club to a surprising start to the year, but they are now eight games out of first and the Tigers/Royals should be gaining more distance as the season progresses. Kurt Suzuki said he is open to an extension with the Twins, but the club may want to capitalize on his career year while making room on the active roster for Josmil Pinto to play every day. Pinto could also re-join the roster if the Twins are able to flip the recently signed Kendrys Morales. Josh Willingham is in the final year of his contract, and contenders should be attracted to his .396 on-base and .477 slugging percentage. His departure from the outfield could give Aaron Hicks yet another shot at proving his muster as an MLB regular.

Team

BP odds

FG odds

ESPN odds

Average

Colorado

0.60%

0.90%

5.7%

2.4%

Philadelphia

1.60%

0.50%

2.7%

1.6%

Chicago

0.30%

0.20%

3.9%

1.5%

Arizona

0.20%

0.50%

1.1%

0.6%

San Diego

0.10%

0.60%

0.1%

0.3%



All odds as of the afternoon of June 29

San Diego Padres

The Padres' offense has been the worst in the league this year, even after adjusting for their pitcher friendly home park (see their team 75 OPS+). As such, there isn't much for contending teams to pick from. Chase Headley would probably be the most attractive name on the roster, but his herniated disc may scare some suitors. Alexi Amarista could be the first guy to slot in at third if Headley moves, but either Brooks Conrad and Chris Nelson could arrive from Triple-A El Paso with third base experience. Jace Peterson could be a bit more intriguing than the aforementioned options, but he only has two games of professional experience at third. Seth Smith and Chris Denorfia are also impending free agents. The departure of either or both could prompt the recall of one or more of the following: Jeff Francouer, Travis Buck, and Alex Castellanos.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks spent a franchise-record $112 million for 2014, yet they have become one of the worst teams in the league. Brandon McCarthy and a handful of relievers should be the most active names on the trade market, as many of the team's position players are under contract for at least two more seasons. Aaron Hill could attract some interest at $12 million per year through 2016, and Nick Ahmed or Didi Gregorius could fill his absence. Gregorius could also fill in at third if someone bites on the $22+ million owed to Martin Prado through 2016.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs were not supposed to be good this year. As such, they are not. Jeff Samardizja will likely be the second most-buzzed pitcher on the market after David Price, and Jason Hammel could be this year's signed-and-flipped starting pitcher (see Scott Feldman in 2013, Paul Maholm in 2012). The club also has a pair of cheap, expendable outfielders in Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano and Chris Coghlan, and extraneous middle infielders in Darwin Barney and Emilio Bonifacio. The trade of either of the first two gentlemen will make Twitter/the Internet go crazy about Kris Bryant. Team president Theo Epstein has said Bryant will not be up this season, but it's hard to not get a little intrigued about a guy who has 27 minor league home runs in a market where service time does not matter as much as it does in Tampa Bay or Kansas City. Ryan Kalish, Brett Jackson, and Josh Vitters are all lower-upside, yet more likely, call-ups. Arismendy Alcantara could come up if Barney and/or Bonifacio leaves, but Chris Valaika or Edgar Gonzalez could serve as a temporary fill-in.

Philadelphia Phillies

Like the Rangers, the Phillies' long run of success has come to an end. Unlike the Rangers, the Phillies' dire situation has had more to do with aging than an unfortunate string of injuries. The club has nearly $178 million in contract obligations this season, and much of that will be tough to move. Lifelong Philly Jimmy Rollins could be a free agent after the season, but he also has an $11 million option that kicks in if he hits 434 plate appearances this season (he is already at 340) and a $5 million player option otherwise. Both of those contract situations could scare teams away from a mid-30s shortstop who has OPS'd .680 since the start of 2013. Then again, a lot of teams need middle infield help. Chase Utley should also draw some interest, but he has a full no-trade clause and a trio of vesting options for 2016-2018 (based on reaching 500 plate appearances in the previous season). The Phillies' next options in the middle are not great -- they would probably use some mixture of Cesar Hernandez, Andres Blanco, Reid Brignac, and Freddy Galvis.

Colorado Rockies

For a while, it looked like the Rockies might hang around in the NL West. Then nine players went down, Charlie Blackmon proved mortal, and the Giants/Dodgers took over the division. They are not sellers quite yet, but they should become so soon if they continue to mire 10 games out of the division lead and 7.5 games out of the second Wild Card slot. Pitchers like Jorge De La Rosa, Franklin Morales and LaTroy Hawkins could garner some interest. Barring a complete roster explosion, the only regular members of the lineup I could envision moving would be impending free agent Michael Cuddyer (once he returns in August), Justin Morneau, and Drew Stubbs (only under team control through 2015). Of course, the latter two have experienced an offensive jolt in their first years in Colorado, and their road splits are much impressive. Stubbs, for example, has a 1.009 OPS at home and .597 away from Coors. If some team does roll the dice on him, it would clear up some of the congestion in the outfield.
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