Five Under-the-Radar Deals for Contenders to Make Before the Trade Deadline
The last few weeks have been all about bold predictions and critical needs, but with less than 48 hours until the trade deadline, it’s time for teams to also consider some smaller moves. Because there is no longer a August waiver deadline, general managers will also need to pounce now on not just the flashy names—teams fighting for a wild-card spot and maybe trying to make a run at the division need players who could round out a rotation or complement a bench.
With that in mind, here are a few potential under-the-radar moves that could at least help those times play their way into October:
Nationals trade for Giants RP Sam Dyson
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Washington needs bullpen help. The Nationals’ relievers have combined for an MLB-worst 6.07 ERA in 313.0 innings, much of which is buoyed by closer Sean Doolittle. Wander Suero has been better as of late, yet beyond those two, there really isn’t a third reliable relief option for Dave Martinez.
Dyson is on the older side at 31, but he’s got another year of arbitration and has flown under the radar in San Francisco with Will Smith in the spotlight as the Giants’ closer. Dyson has a 2.47 ERA and a 0.902 WHIP over 51 innings.
Phillies trade for Reds SP Tanner Roark
Some things don’t go as planned. Then there’s the Phillies’ pitching in 2019. They’ve had to deal with high-priced relievers David Robertson, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter spending the majority of the season on the injured list. Jake Arrieta is pitching through a marble-sized bone spur. Zach Eflin is currently dealing with what’s been described as a “heavy body.”
Aaron Nola is Philadelphia’s anchor on the bump. Still, somebody has to pitch the other four days. Eflin and Arrieta could soldier on the rest of the year, and Drew Smyly could prove to be a solid free-agent addition. It also helps that on Tuesday the Phillies traded for Mets lefthander Jason Vargas, who's having a bounceback campaign after a dreadful 2018. Still, another solid arm and innings-eater could go along way. Roark is just that, averaging about 5.1 innings per start, plus he knows the NL East (having played for the Nationals up until this season) with a career ERA of 3.04 against the Braves, the team that Philadelphia will look to chase down these last two months.
Brewers trade for Mariners SP Mike Leake
The situation is similar for the Brewers. Their rotation has taken multiple hits in just the last week, with Brandon Woodruff going on the IL due to an oblique strain and Gio Gonzalez departing his last start early with shoulder tightness. Milwaukee’s problem is it doesn't have much to give up in a deal—at least in terms of prospects. On Tuesday, the Brewers added Pirates righthander Jordan Lyles, whom they acquired from the Padres at last year's deadline and used out of the bullpen, but he has a 10.00 ERA over his seven starts in June and July.
Leake has a massive contract (at least relative to his performance), but Seattle has already indicated it's willing to eat some of the money for both this season and next. The Brewers have room to absorb some of Leake’s contract and could get a slightly above league average starter (103 ERA+) without having to surrender anything beyond a low-level prospect.
Indians trade for Mariners OF Domingo Santana
Outfield has been an area of concern for the Indians all season, and now that they've climbed back in the AL Central race, it's a position that could make or break their postseason chances. Rookie Oscar Mercado has been their most consistent outfielder (.295/.342/.473), while Tyler Naquin and Jordan Luplow have combined for a nice lefty-righty platoon, but another offensive force in the lineup would be ideal.
Domingo Santana is another player who could come on the cheap as part of the Seattle sell-off. The 26-year-old would definitely deepen Cleveland's lineup; he's slashing .273/.342/.475 with 20 homers and 66 RBI. However, he's a liability in the field (-18 defensive runs saved). If the Indians are comfortable with the upside he brings with his bat—considering they also have the option of using him at DH—he’d add some pop to their lineup from the right side.
Red Sox trade for Toronto RP Daniel Hudson
If it were feasible, Boston might try to swing a deal for San Diego’s Kirby Yates. However, there are two problems. One is the fact that the Red Sox and Padres have an interesting trade history, to say the least. It was in 2016 when San Diego GM A.J. Preller was suspended 30 games for withholding medical records in a deal that sent Drew Pomeranz to Boston.
The bigger issue, however, is that the Red Sox have almost nobody in their farm system the Padres would want to acquire in exchange for Yates. After trading for Nathan Eovaldi last season and for Chris Sale prior to the 2017 season, there are no clear blue-chip prospects that could land a bigger fish for Boston. That’s why Hudson would be a reasonable pickup—he’s got a 2.87 ERA in 44 appearances for the Blue Jays. Although Hudson’s walk rate isn’t great and he doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, he’d at least give the Red Sox another reliable option in relief, which is something they desperately need.