Early Season Trade Talk: Make a move for Mookie

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The reigning AL MVP is struggling right now — which is why you should pounce. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The reigning AL MVP is struggling right now — which is why you should pounce. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

By Fred Zinkie

Special to Yahoo Sports

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This is the perfect time to make bold offers, as one never knows which competitors are willing to make moves that would have been inconceivable a few weeks ago. Trading away overachievers takes plenty of guts, but wise owners will note that Christian Villanueva and Matt Davidson were among the homer leaders on this date a year ago, while Michael A. Taylor was tearing up the basepaths on April 16, 2018.

Buy Low

Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox

The Red Sox lineup is struggling, and Betts appears to be the biggest problem. After all, the outfielder currently owns a triple-slash line that is at least 100 points lower than his 2018 in all three phases. But Betts has been burned by bad luck (.229 BABIP) while still showing solid plate discipline (0.67 BB:K ratio). Owners should be ready to pounce if the Betts owner in their league is willing to trade him for anything less than the value of a top-2 overall asset.

Jesse Winker, OF, Reds

The buy-low window is rapidly closing on Winker, but his low batting average (.186) should keep the opportunity open for a few more days. The leadoff man got off to a slow start this year, which was partially fueled by bad luck (.143 BABIP) but also impacted by a decrease in his trademark plate discipline. Still hitting leadoff, Winker should regain his usual approach at the dish now that his luck is evening out, and he remains someone with the potential to hit .300 with 20 homers and 90 runs scored.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs

Rizzo is off to another slow start, batting .182 with three homers and a .711 OPS. But his batted-ball tendencies indicate that better things are soon in store (50.0 percent hard-contact rate, 50.0 percent fly ball rate), and he has been hampered by a .179 BABIP and a 14.3 percent HR/FB rate. Those who have been left high and dry from their first baseman should try to scoop up Rizzo for a reasonable price.

Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Brewers

Players with short track records of success make the easiest buy-low targets when their seasons go off the rails. And such is the case with Aguilar right now, as bad luck (.189 BABIP, 0.0 percent HR/FB rate) has resulted in him batting .152 with no homers and five RBIs. There is nothing wrong with his 2019 batted ball profile (37.8 percent hard-contact rate, 27.0 percent line drive rate, 40.5 percent fly ball rate), making him an excellent candidate to find his groove in the coming weeks.

Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies

Among the many disappointing aces, Nola may be the one with whom I am the least concerned. His velocity is fine, and he is allowing few line drives and little hard contact. Overall, owners are likely wise to put out buy-low offers on Nola, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Chris Sale right now. In a nutshell, I would pay about 75 cents on the dollar for Nola or Carrasco and 65 cents for Sale and Kluber.

Sell High

Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets

I own Alonso on multiple teams and firmly believe that he is going to hit 30 homers in his rookie year. But freshman tend to be overhyped, and there are likely a couple owners in each league who see his .339 average and assume that he is a potential four-category stud. The lofty batting mark has been boosted by a .438 BABIP, and it is unlikely to be sustained by a young player with a 31.3 percent strikeout rate. The return needs to be significant, but Alonso trades need to be explored.

Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox

Although Jimenez has a brighter long-term future than Alonso, he is two years younger and may take a little longer reach his ceiling. His .268 average makes Jimenez look like he is holding his own, but his luck has been good (.361 BABIP) while his plate discipline has been poor (0.22 BB:K ratio). There is still plenty of time for Jimenez to improve his advanced stats and go on a tear, but his owners may want to explore his trade value while he still owns a helpful batting mark.

German Marquez, SP, Rockies

Marquez appears in this space for the second straight week, as his dazzling performance against a lackluster Giants offense combined with the struggles of many ace starters has his trade value at an all-time high. Don’t get me wrong — this is a talented 24 year old. But his luck has been exceptional thus far (.156 BABIP, 89.3 percent strand rate), and he has rarely worked at his offense-inducing home park.

Luis Castillo, SP, Reds

Like Marquez, Castillo will be a tantalizing target for leaguemates who are getting disappointing results from their aces. And his owners can easily highlight his value in a trade email, as the right-hander was also on fire down the stretch last year. But before we anoint Castillo as an ace, he needs to show that he has ace-like control skills (4.7 BB/9 rate in 2019) and that he can thrive without the aid of unsustainable batted-ball luck (.184 BABIP, 83.3 percent strand rate).

Jake Arrieta, SP, Phillies

While Marquez and Castillo should require a substantial trade return, Arrieta owners should be happy to move him for anyone who can be a lineup fixture. The veteran is succeeding on the surface (2.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) while posting awful advanced stats (0.9 K:BB ratio). Once his luck runs out (.212 BABIP, 90.1 percent strand rate), Arrieta is going to post an ERA that resembles his 4.75 FIP.

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