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Five MLB Trade Candidates to Monitor

The Landscape

Trades: they're the worst nightmare of AL and NL-Only League owners. But even in standard leagues, a player’s value can drastically change depending on his location. Often, players are traded from a bad team to a good situation. Other times, productive players are put into less important roles – a fantasy killer! Let’s take a look at five possible trade targets and how trades could affect their value.

Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels is the obvious one here; he’s been involved in so many trade rumors that he probably forgot which team gear to wear this spring. Hamels still has four years left plus a team option, so technically the Phillies don’t need to trade him. The likelihood is that the team won't compete enough in the next two years to justify keeping an asset at such a high salary heading into his mid-30s. The Red Sox are a viable landing spot come midseason, but my guess is that there will be a number of interested teams.

If he's dealth, his landing spot is likely the American League. That doesn’t bode well for his peripherals, but Hamels has dominant stuff. Owners shouldn’t be overly concerned about a league switch. In addition, leaving Citizens Bank Park isn’t a big issue as its effects are largely considered neutral. The big change will be the potential for wins. In the last two years, Hamels started 63 games over 424 innings with a 3.06 ERA, yet only has 17 wins to show for it. It’s feasible that he could exceed that amount in one season on a better team. A trade would bode very well for owners in standard leagues, but NL-Only owners beware.

Craig Kimbrel

Has Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Operations, John Hart, thought about trading Craig Kimbrel? “We have never entertained trading [Kimbrel] and have had zero conversations with any clubs about Craig.” Well, those are bold words. But what’s the point of keeping one of the best relievers in baseball on a horrible team, especially when he’s on a relatively friendly contract (he makes $9MM, $11MM, and $13MM over the next three years – a bargain compared to David Robertson's four-year, $46MM deal). We know teams get desperate at the trade deadline and are liable to overpay; Kimbrel could be a great opportunity for the Braves to stock up on prospects.

If a trade occurred, Kimbrel’s value likely remains unchanged, with a potential exception. There’s not a strong correlation between wins and save opportunities, so even if he were to go to a first place team, his value wouldn’t likely change demonstrably. He still managed 47 saves last year after a 79 win season from the Braves. The only way Kimbrel’s value takes a hit is if he gets traded to a team that has a proven closer, but no depth, and they use Kimbrel as a cold-blooded assassin role who comes in any late inning with men on base and just dominates hitters. It's an unlikely scenario. If he’s dealt, he’s also likely heading to the American League.

Jonathan Papelbon

Another closer on this list, Jonathan Papelbon could be traded for the same reasons as his teammate, Cole Hamels. He's much more likely to be dealt than Kimbrel. Papelbon has one year left on his deal, with a $13MM vesting option for 2016 if he finishes 50 games. Given his age and contract, it would be ludicrous if the Phillies didn’t trade him for something.

Although Papelbon would kick and scream, getting moved into an 8th inning role on a contending team is reasonable. The Phillies will be so desperate to trade him that a number of teams will be involved, including some that may already have a closer but lack relief depth. Papelbon may be content to play for a contender again and begrudgingly accept the eighth inning role, which would eviscerate his fantasy value.

Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki is signed to a long term contract, but his name has floated around in the New York markets. With the right offer, the Rockies would absolutely pull the trigger, even though they would never admit it publicly. There seems to be a fatigued relationship between Tulo and the Rockies. He’s tired of losing, and they’re tired of him getting hurt. Don’t be shocked if a team loses a shortstop this year and calls up Colorado.

For his career, Tulo has an incredible .323 average and .962 OPS … in Colorado. On the road, Tulo is a completely different player with a .274 average and still respectable .818 OPS. Surprisingly, if Tulo had an .818 OPS last year, he still would have had the highest OPS for qualified eligible shortstops, narrowly beating Hanley Ramirez. But his average would drop him to sixth, behind Adeiny Hechavarria. All things considered, Tulo’s numbers go from superstar to moderately above pedestrian, from the number one shortstop by a mile (while healthy) to somewhere in tier one. It doesn’t sound like a huge drop, but his value is largely within how much better he is than his peers.

Adrian Beltre

It’s useless to list Adrian Beltre’s age because no matter what, he rakes. (Okay, he’s turning 36.) Beltre has two years left on his existing contract, making $34MM over the next two years. If the Rangers are competitive, there’s no way they move Beltre. After the injuries to Jurickson Profar and Yu Darvish, their season has already taken a turn for the worst – and we’re still weeks away from opening day. The demise of the Rangers season is incredibly premature, but looking towards midseason, they’ll have an interesting choice to make with Beltre. Despite being an ageless wonder, at some point we’ll see more deterioration to his numbers. The Rangers may want to get value while they can.

Beltre’s value following a trade is tough to decipher. If Prince Fielder hits and Shin-Soo Choo gets on base, this lineup doesn’t look too bad. But generally speaking, leaving the Ballpark in Arlington won’t do Beltre any favors as it’s one of the most friendly hitter parks in the league. Considering that some of Beltre’s worst years came in Seattle, it’s concerning to think about where he might land.

 




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