We are in the final days of June, which means the baseball (and fantasy baseball) season is entering its second half. This is when teams usually decide if they are buyers or sellers at the MLB trade deadline, as well as which pieces they deem expendable to help them improve this season or in future years.
A good indicator to see if a player may get dealt is if he’s in the last year of a contract and his team is doing poorly. Still, it can be a delicate dance, because a front office needs to be mindful of the message trading away a high-performing player sends to the rest of the team … and its fanbase.
For a team like the Kansas City Royals, it doesn’t much matter. They are having an awful year, and the fans would prefer trading away pieces to help them down the line. They are dreadful, historically bad. They are sitting at 22-58, not even on pace to win 45 games this season.
They have two relievers who should both be moving by the trade deadline of August 1st. Closer Scott Barlow is making $5.3M this year with one more year of arbitration left. There is no way the Royals will want to pay him next season … he’s as good as gone. He has nine saves on the year with a very solid strikeout rate of 12.7/9IP. He can definitely help a contender’s bullpen.
His counterpart, who has mostly been used in a set-up role, Aroldis Chapman, is an even more interesting player to watch. He’s only making $3.75M this season and is a free agent at the end of the year. A team should definitely be in on him for under $2M the rest of the way. He’s 3-2 with two saves on the year. He has his usual Chapman-esque high strikeout ratio at 16.3/9IP. And his other ratios are fantastic, with a 1.27 WHIP and a 2.54 ERA. He should be heading to a team like the Cubs, who are 4.5 games out of the division lead, or the Phillies, who are two games out of a wild card spot. He could also head to the Marlins or Yankees, who would both be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
And then there are the players on teams who should have never put themselves in a position to be sellers but are. The poster team for this is the San Diego Padres. They are woefully underachieving and must sell. It will be tough to pitch to their fans, but it’s the right move. They find themselves in fourth place in the NL West, 11 games out of first and eight games behind the last wildcard spot. They would have to leapfrog the Dodgers, Phillies, Cubs, Pirates and Brewers in order to make the playoffs. I want to scream like the Duke brothers in the movie Trading Places, “Sell, Sell, Sell!”
There are many pieces they could sell off. Juan Soto comes to mind, who has one more year left under arbitration and stands to earn close to $30M next season. But this is an article about relievers … which means closer Josh Hader.
Hader is making $14.1M this season and is at the top of his game. He’s been one of the best closers over the past half-decade and could be the final piece to put a team over the top. In 30 appearances this season, he has 18 saves with 42 Ks over 28.2 innings. He has a sub-1.00 WHIP at 0.94 with a ridiculously low 1.26 ERA.
Hader also just recorded his 150th career save and boasts a career strikeout rate of 15/9IP. He is far too valuable to be languishing on this shipwreck that is the Padres 2023 season. Hader won’t be the only casualty here; heads should roll. Manager Bob Melvin won’t make it past this season, and even though he still has three years left on his deal, GM A.J. Preller will most likely be fired.
The biggest issue to be mindful of with any of these deadline deals is if you are in an Only-League. If you are in an AL-Only league and have Chapman, and he gets traded to an NL team, you may lose his stats depending on how your league is set up. The same is true for Hader if he’s traded to an AL team and you roster him in an NL-Only league.