To a large handful of baseball executives, scouts and agents, I texted Tuesday morning:
“Happy August.” (I’m friendly like that.)
“Top 5 guys who clear waivers (or not) and could move this month?”
A few, presumably, rolled their eyes and got on with their lives, because not everybody stops his life with my every text. My children, for example. Most apparently were stuck in traffic somewhere and had nothing better to fill their time, and probably they were thinking about the same thing anyway.
That is, what’s next?
For the next month most players will be floated onto what is called revocable trade waivers. Think of it as a massive game of slap jack, mostly. You put a player out there and when someone goes to grab him, you pull him back. In other circumstances, the organization from which the player came can release the player to the claiming team, or can engage the claiming team in trade negotiations for 48 hours. If the player clears waivers, the team is allowed to trade him anywhere. If that happens by September 1, that player is eligible for the postseason.
You probably knew all that.
August waivers are a way of life in the big leagues, particularly if one has the audacity to make money and/or grow older. For the most part, nothing comes of them. That said, Jose Bautista, Jose Canseco, Larry Walker and David Cone once were traded in August. Five summers ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto in August. Last August, Erick Aybar went to Detroit, Jeff Francoeur to Miami, Carlos Ruiz to L.A., Marc Rzepczynski to Washington and Coco Crisp to Cleveland. Crisp had four hits in the World Series.
Point is, it happens. So I sent out my texts, curious as to what good teams, bad teams and mediocre teams had in mind for August.
The names that came back that could clear waivers and be traded or could be claimed and traded wasn’t intended to be a complete list, even a realistic list, only a notion of expectations across a variety of baseball sources. Here they are.
Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers: At 35, his peripheral numbers have declined, but 22 homers, seven of them in 72 at-bats against lefties, make him valuable. Eleven million dollar option, $2.5 million buyout in 2018. Esteemed clubhouse guy.
Curtis Granderson, New York Mets: Well-regarded veteran a good bench piece for a playoff team. Free agent.
Zach Duke, St. Louis Cardinals: Name surfaced on more than one list. Left-handed reliever just returned from Tommy John surgery. Free agent.
Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays: Got a “maybe” on him. Blue Jays’ standing and his coming free agency make it a decent possibility. Twenty-two starts, 5.19 ERA.
Jay Bruce, Mets: Any Met not nailed down pretty much made the list. Bruce, who never seems to get enough love, has 28 homers. Free agent.
Neil Walker, Mets: Free agent, switch-hitter, healthy again.
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: A year from free agency. The Blue Jays have to figure out who they’ll be next year, the year after, and the likelihood they’d re-sign the former MVP.
Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers: Another popular team on the list. Kinsler option worth $12 million in ’18. Down year.
Juan Nicasio, Pittsburgh Pirates: Starter turned workhorse reliever has a 2.42 ERA in 52 appearances. Handles lefties and righties. Free agent.
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: Free agent. Now’s as good a time as any.
Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins: Due $13.5 million in 2018 with a $14 million option in 2019. Great April and May. A little funky since.
Kurt Suzuki, Atlanta Braves: Nice backup catcher having perhaps his best offensive season. Free agent.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Mets: Would really, really like to play shortstop. Free agent.
Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins: Has a lot of money coming through 2020 (about $46 million). Hitting again. But not that much.
Jhoulys Chacin, San Diego Padres: Ten wins and a 4.22 ERA could fill some innings somewhere. Free agent.
Justin Verlander, Tigers: The salary the Tigers would love to dump is Jordan Zimmermann’s. That probably won’t happen. So there’s a good chance they’d listen on Verlander. He’s not the great he once was, but plenty good enough. Owed $28 million next season, $28 million the season after, with a vesting option for another $22 million in 2020.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins: Relatively speaking, doesn’t even start getting expensive until next season’s $25 million. Can opt out after 2020. Contract runs through 2028. A lot of moving parts here, and a lot of money. Also only 27 years old and has 33 home runs. When healthy, one of the better players in the game. Guessing nothing big happens until new ownership arrives.
Yonder Alonso, Oakland A’s: Breakout season tempered by rough July. Still, a left-handed hitter with newfound power. Free agent.
Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals: A popular name at the trade deadline. Posts low ERAs. Wins games. Free agent.
Rajai Davis, A’s: Almost a World Series hero. Steals bases. Free agent.
Jeremy Hellickson, Baltimore Orioles: A curious addition to begin with, Hellickson could become available again later in the month. Free agent.
Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants: Arm issues and blisters have undermined his season. So has the 4.59 ERA. Free agent after the 2021 season, when his six-year, $130 million contract expires, though can opt out after this season. Very long shot.
Jeff Samardzija, Giants: Seems to have pitched better than his 5-11, 4.85 ERA would suggest. Cheaper than Cueto, still due nearly $60 over next three seasons.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers: A familiar trade topic in these parts. Under control through 2021. Guaranteed $60 million until then. He’s been hurt and has had better years, but can still hit.
Justin Upton, Tigers: Having one of his better seasons. If the Tigers are looking to clear salary, however, his $21.125 million annually through 2021 would be a start.
A sneaky good series in St. Pete: the Milwaukee Brewers, clinging to their season, and the Tampa Bay Rays, chasing Yankees and Red Sox and wild cards, both in over-their-market-size heads, both capable.
The Rays had a nice under-the-radar deadline, adding Adeiny Hechavarria, Lucas Duda, Dan Jennings and Steve Cishek. A team that hit in the first half so far hasn’t in the second, part of the reason the Rays have played themselves from ahead of the Yankees to a decent distance back. Hechavarria has hit just .237 as a Ray, but Duda had three homers in his first four games.
The Brewers’ offense also has tumbled, as has their pitching, which is no way to replace and hold off the Cubs in the NL Central. They acquired Anthony Swarzak and Jeremy Jeffress to aid a bullpen that’s popped a 6.49 ERA in the second half.
These are the series the Rays and Brewers have to win from here on.
Friday: Zach Davies vs. Jacob Faria
Saturday: Matt Garza vs. Alex Cobb
Sunday: Jimmy Nelson vs. Chris Archer