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Monday, September 06, 2021

Offseason trade candidates—it’s a big list

Byron Buxton, CF, Twins
One of the most electrifying players in MLB. One of the most injury-prone players in MLB. So his future value is impossible to ascertain. But having turned down a reported $80 million extension, with free agency looming after 2022, Buxton is a trade candidate for a Twins team trying to figure out where to go next after a messy 2021.

Josh Hader, LHP, Brewers
We don’t have to tell you how important Hader is to the Brew Crew. But we also don’t have to tell you what can happen on small-market clubs when players—especially relievers—get expensive near the end of their term of contractual control. The Brewers have control of Hader for just two more seasons. And because he’s so darned good, he’s going to get pretty darned expensive. So while Hader is an unmistakably important piece of the Brewers’ identity, we can’t rule out a trade here.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 12:09 PM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: byron buxton, eric hosmer, j.d. martinez, josh hader, ketel marte, kevin kiermaier, luis voit, mitch haniger, sonny gray, whit merrifield, wil myers, willson contreras

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: September 06, 2021 at 06:12 PM (#6038495)
On the excerpt: I have to wonder if Buxton is still hurt. It's only 9 games but it's 114/162/171 with a 30% K-rate. For Hader, just how much does a reliever get in arb anyway? Even superstar FA closers top out at $18 so it's hard to see him doing better than 2/$27 over his last two years of arb. That's expensive for a reliever but it's not expensive.

The full list is reasonable I suppose. A lot of them are not a big deal (or, in the case of Yermin Mercedes, "he's a DFA candidate, not a trade candidate"), some are wishful thinking (Myers/Hosmer). The most intriguing one is Ketel Marte, basically the DBacks' only asset. The biggest "why?" is Sonny Gray -- owed only 2/$22 and pitching very well for the newly contending Reds. I understand he could bring a nice return but the Reds aren't going to want to alienate fans.

I did learn that Castellanos has an opt-out after this year. Interesting decision for him.
   2. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 06, 2021 at 07:20 PM (#6038505)
J.D. Martinez, DH, Red Sox
Martinez once again has the ability to opt out of what is now the final year of his deal with the Red Sox, worth $19.4 million. If the National League adopts the DH, as expected, perhaps he will opt out this time. But if he doesn’t, he’s a trade candidate for a Boston team that might be more inclined to bring back Kyle Schwarber for a DH/outfield role.
If the NL adopts the DH, there’s going to be a lot more interest in Schwarber, too. He won’t come cheap, IMHO, although being 5 years younger than Martinez may make him the more attractive option.
   3. The Duke Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:09 PM (#6038519)
Castellanos has already said he’s opting out
   4. The Duke Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:12 PM (#6038521)
Voit and Schwarber and JD and Cruz will soar in value with double the number of teams in play. I’ve never understood why more teams don’t have a full time masher as DH. I don’t like them “everyone rotates through DH on their day off” model.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 06, 2021 at 10:17 PM (#6038525)
I’ve never understood why more teams don’t have a full time masher as DH.

Most "mashers" are washed up guys, well over 30, who were always poor athletes. They usually end up putting up a 110 OPS+ (while is close to replacement level at DH) for $10M. Most teams would rather pass on that. For every David Ortiz and Nelson Cruz you get 10 Billy Butlers.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: September 07, 2021 at 01:38 AM (#6038539)
I finally converted somebody! :-) Thanks Snapper.

Anyway, from 23-27, Butler was perfectly fine as a full-time DH with a 128 OPS+. He just went "off a cliff" at 28 -- which is the point, he was still a league-average hitter but with no defensive value, that just isn't enough with today's rosters. Back in the old days, he might have held on for a few years aa PH/platoon DH or backup 1B. But with only 12 position players on a roster, it's hard to carry a league-average bat that can't play a position.

We also need to keep in mind though that it's always been this way. In the nearly 50 years of the DH, there have only been 153 seasons where a player had at least 500 PA at DH in a season. Thomas, Ortiz, Molitor, Edgar, Chili Davis and Baylor are the only guyw with at least 5 such seasons. That was using stathead's split finder which is not the most flexible thing in the world. Using regular stathead, there have been 228 seasons in which a batter qualified and spent at least 70% of their time at DH. The median age of those 228 seasons is 34. Only 36 of those seasons were by a player under 30. For nearly all of the DH era, the AL has had either 14 or 15 teams so it's worth noting that the median year of those 228 seasons was 1996, pretty much the halfway point. So even when benches were fuller, teams rarely had a dedicated DH.

It's of course immediately obvious that there aren't very many guys who can mash and most of them are capable of playing a position. You could move your mashing 1B to DH and put a no-hit super-glove at 1B but how much is that going to help you? Or you could find some AAAA guy who is capable of putting up a 100 OPS+, maybe even a 110 but has no defensive value ... which leaves you with a backup C, a backup SS and a backup CF to fill out the bench. (It's not as bad as all that, the Cubs carried LaStella for a few years primarily as a PH and DH so it can be done without super effort.)

Obviously doubling the number of DH slots will shift those break-even points somewhat -- either lowering average DH production or lowering average 1B/LF/RF production. Maybe Freddie Freeman to 1B to make room for a Mike Squires at 1B will make sense but I doubt it. It won't lead to more mashers on the field -- well, OK, other than replacing P bats obviously -- it will help prolong the career of somebody like Cristian Walker, a good-fielding 1B with a career 100 OPS+. No masher is being pushed aside for a rotating DH, at worst a 115 OPS+ hitter might be getting pushed aside.

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