Brett TalleyFantasy Baseball

Looking Ahead to the July Trade Deadline in February For No Reason at All

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America
Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

There’s absolutely no reason to look ahead to the July trade deadline in February, but let’s do it anyway.

Who could get moved?

To answer this question I took a look at the 2014 Free Agent list over at mlbtraderumors.com. I was looking for above average players that are currently on teams who could be out of the race by July. Four outfielders, two first basemen and two starters stuck out.

The Outfielders

Jacoby Ellsbury, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Gomez, and Chris Young all actually play on fairly good teams. In fact, all of their teams should finish above .500. None of these guys quite fit the bill of being on a bad team looking to move any expiring assets for youth. But Cruz and Young play for teams with smart management who will be able (and willing) to read the writing on the wall. If they’re a little too far behind the wild card leaders, the Rangers and A’s might be smart enough to get what they can. The Red Sox and Brewers might not be that smart, but they’re also not as good as the Rangers and the A’s and are more likely to be further out of the hunt in July. Plus, trade rumors have surrounded Ellsbury for some time now, and Gomez may have some sell high potential.

The First Basemen

Justin Morneau plays on a bad team. Paul Konerko’s team was in it until the final week of the season last year, but it would be a surprise if they don’t regress somewhat. As a result, both of these veteran sluggers fit the profile. Bad team, almost no time left on the contract.

The Pitchers

Considering his average draft position, not too many people are buying into Jason Hammel’s 2012 season (3.43 ERA, 1.24 WHIP). But I don’t think it was a fluke. He was 5th in the league in ISO allowed and 37th in K%-BB%. Numbers like that make me think what he did was for real and fairly repeatable. But what I do think was a fluke was the Orioles winning 93 games and having the 7th highest winning percentage in the league. They won an unsustainably high percentage of one-run games and had only the 15th best run differential. New York, Toronto, and Tampa Bay all appear to be significantly better in my opinion. If Hammel can do close to what he did last year, he could have value to someone. And it would make sense for Baltimore to get some youth in return for that value if their luck doesn’t carry over into this season.

The more interesting name is Roy Halladay. Philly was just a .500 team last year. Part of that was because of Halladay’s injury as well as games missed from Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But even if healthy, Howard and Utley aren’t what they once were. And Washington and Atlanta figure to be better than Philly no matter how healthy the Phillies can be.

The tricky thing with Halladay is his contract situation. He has a vesting option for 2014 that gives him a $20MM salary if he pitches 225 innings this year. If he’s not on pace for 225 and the Phillies are out of it, maybe they trade him to get something before he’s a free agent. And if he is on track for 225, maybe they trade him anyway to avoid being the hook for another $20MM.

Chase Utley is also a free agent after the season. This is obviously a very speculative article, but if Utley was healthy, maybe some team would be willing to take on quite a bit of cash in the back half of the season to get both and really make a push.

What teams might make a move and go for it?

The Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers, Rangers, Angels, Nationals, Reds, Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers strike me as the teams that have both the potential to be in it around the trade deadline and the resources and balls to pull off a deal.

So who needs what?

Of those ten teams, I could see all but the Blue Jays, Angels, and Reds being interested in outfielders. Three of the four outfielders mentioned above were center fielders and the Yankees, Tigers and Dodgers are set in center, so they could be players for Cruz. The other four, the Rangers, Nationals, Cardinals, and Giants could be interested in the center fielders.

Quite obviously, being traded to the Rangers would have the most positive impact for any of the hitters, and going to San Francisco would have the biggest negative impact. Washington and St. Louis both have solid lineups and ballparks that are somewhat neutral, so a trade to one of those teams might not have a huge impact one way or the other.

As for first basemen, the Rangers and Giants seem to have the biggest need at that position. The Yankees could also be in the mix for a DH. Again, Texas and New York would be better for the hitters, and San Francisco would suck.

And pitching, well, everyone needs pitching. If Halladay isn’t on pace for 225 innings but is healthy around the deadline, you’d imagine every team with any resources would be interested. As a fantasy owner, just hope an NL team steps up. Washington, San Francisco and the Dodgers seem like the most likely NL teams to be able to take on his remaining salary.

If Halladay is on pace for 225 and in line for that $20MM in 2014, that will cut down the number of interested parties significantly. The Yankees and Dodgers have the money, and the Angels also strike me as desperate enough to win that they might go for it.

Ultimately, there’s not a ton of fantasy knowledge to be gained by this exercise. Even after trades actually happen we probably imply more of a change in fantasy value than there actually is because the quality of the player has more to do with his value than these other factors we throw into the equation. But just in case you were wondering, those are some guys that might get moved midseason.

You can find Brett on Twitter @TheRealTAL.

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