Previously, we took a look at the first base market. Today, we’ll take a look at the corner infield slots that could see movement by this Friday. Of course, one of the key things to remember is that Friday will not mean the end of the trading period. After Friday, we move into the waiver trading period. Teams will put players on waivers. The waiver period usually lasts three days. If a player is claimed, the team has the option of pulling the player back or simply letting the player be claimed.
If a player passes through waivers without being claimed, then he can be traded just like before the non-waiver deadline. We usually see a handful of players traded after August 1st and we see an occasional player that is claimed. Teams sometimes allow a player to be claimed if they want to clear his salary off the books. The most famous waiver claim in our lifetime occurred when the Padres claimed Randy Myers from the Reds. They already had Trevor Hoffman, so they claimed Myers just to keep him from going to a contender. The Reds called their bluff.
For this week, we will look at the top six teams in the standings from each league and look at what they have at first base and third base. From there, we will look at the top three available first basemen and third basemen and see where they could possibly end up. This article can’t replace the true rumor mongering one can get from MLB Trade Rumors (MLBTR), but we will use logic to determine a possible market.
Contenders American League
New York Yankees: 1B Mark Teixeira, 3B Chase Headley
Kansas City Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas
Los Angeles Angels: 1B Albert Pujols, 3B Conor Gillaspie
Houston Astros: 1B Chris Carter, 3B Luis Valbuena
Minnesota Twins: 1B Joe Mauer, 3B Trevor Plouffe
Toronto Blue Jays: 1B Edwin Encarnacion, 3B Josh Donaldson
Contenders National League
Washington Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman*, 3B Anthony Rendon*
St. Louis Cardinals: 1B Mark Reynolds, 3B Matt Carpenter
Los Angeles Dodgers: 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 3B Justin Turner
Pittsburgh Pirates: 1B Pedro Alvarez, 3B Aramis Ramirez
Chicago Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Kris Bryant
San Francisco Giants: 1B Brandon Belt, 3B Matt Duffy
- asterisks= Disabled List
Possible First Base Openings
There appears to be a pretty sizeable first base market before the deadline. As usual, sellers are probably more in control than buyers at this point. As many as three teams could be actively looking for a starting first basemen before the deadline. The headliner is probably the St. Louis Cardinals. When Matt Adams went down for the season, they appeared to be the top buyers. Mark Reynolds has been okay, but they are the unquestioned top team in baseball and they may be looking to finish off the competition. The Houston Astros would be the second team. Chris Carter has -0.4 WAR on the season in spite of his 16 home runs. Jonathan Singleton hasn’t been better in his limited action. The Pirates might also be interested given Pedro Alvarez’s defensive struggles this season.
Marketable First Basemen
Adam Lind— Milwaukee Brewers (.286, 16 HR, 41 Runs, 58 RBI)
Lind marries the value of a hitter that is currently performing well (.868 OPS) with a player with a favorable contract. He is signed through the end of the season with a team option for 2016. So, he could be a rental if a team has a situation that will fix itself before the start of 2016 (like the Cardinals), or he can add a year of insurance for a team that has a shaky first base situation beyond 2015 (like the Astros). The one downside has been a level of inconsistency over the course of his career, but he probably is a decent short term option at least through the end of the season.
Joey Votto— Cincinnati Reds (.302, 18 HR, 50 Runs, 46 RBI)
There are two statistics that make Votto’s situation much more complicated. On the positive end, he has 65 walks as of July 25th. That means he is on pace to have another season with 100 or more walks. He’s led the league in on base percentage four times and walks three times. That’s the good news. The bad news is the other number: 2023. That is the soonest the Reds (or the receiving team) could get out of his contract. He’s slated to earn between 20 and 25 million each season until then. Then, the Reds have an option for 2024 with a seven million buyout. Obviously, this complicates any deal considerably. The Reds may want out of that contract, but they’ll likely have to chip in to get it done. The good news is that the contract makes it a certainty that he would clear waivers in August. July 31st wouldn’t be the end of this saga.
Ryan Howard— Philadelphia Phillies (.219, 16 HR, 30 Runs, 48 RBI)
Howard is essentially Chris Carter times ten in terms of salary. Ruben Amaro has agreed to pay off the salary if another team will take him. Imagine that for a second. Essentially, they would be giving him the Josh Hamilton treatment. Is there anyone out there with a first base situation desperate enough to take him on even without the contract? It’s sad how the mighty have fallen.
Possible Third Base Openings
The third base market is not nearly as open as the first base market. A part of that happened when the Pirates acquired Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers. Another part occurred when the Mets acquired Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves. When we look at the contenders, we’re left with the Angels. They just acquired Conor Gillaspie to cover the hole that David Freese’s broken finger creates. Anyone that has taken a look at Gillaspie’s numbers lately realizes the Angels may not be done.
Marketable Third Basemen
Luis Valbuena— Houston Astros (.201, 19 HR, 43 Runs, 40 RBI)
This is one of those role reversal kind of deals. The Astros are clearly a contender, but Valbuena is redundant. Jed Lowrie is coming off of the disabled list, and Marwin Gonzalez has also played his way into the lineup. Valbuena could be dealt in a package with younger players to bring in a first baseman, corner outfielder, or relief arm. His .198 BABIP is clearly an issue as it pertains to his .201 average. Another team can bet on him continuing his power stroke and hope for improvement on the BABIP front. On the flip side, he could become a fantasy factor again if he gets regular playing time.
Chris Johnson— Atlanta Braves (.244, 1 HR, 9 runs, 9 RBI)
English Rocker Adam Ant had one huge hit back in the 1980s. In “Goody Two Shoes” he asked, “don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” In baseball circles we could ask the same of Johnson. He doesn’t field well. He doesn’t run well. He doesn’t hit for power. He doesn’t draw walks. He doesn’t make consistent contact. He only does one thing well. When he does make contact he consistently hits line drives. Line drives lead to higher batting averages on balls in play. That has sustained his career to this point. He has spurts where he hits for average because of a high BABIP. The trade of Uribe and Johnson will open the door for more playing time, but Atlanta would love to get rid of his contract (through 2017 with an option for 2018).
Lonnie Chisenhall— Cleveland Indians (.209, 4 HR, 19 Runs, 19 RBI)
Chisenhall had a very good finish in 2014 (he hit .280 with good power), and he’s putting up good numbers in AAA this season (.301/.348/.452). He may not have done well at the big league level this season, but he showed he could catch fire last season. Since he is still under club control, he could be a cheap option for a team trying to catch lightning in a bottle.