MLB trade deadline: Ranking the top 10 hitters who could move, including Yasiel Puig and Whit Merrifield
The trade deadline will fall on July 31 and the hitter's market isn't so lively this year
We've spent the month of July examining which players might be on the move ahead of the trade deadline. Now, with less than 10 days until July 31 passes, we wanted to provide ordinal rankings of the players we deem to be the best hitters and pitchers who stand a realistic chance of being dealt. Remember: beginning this season, there will be no August waiver-trade period. As such, we may be too high (or too low) on the chances of this or that team deciding to sell.
We also have a list on thewho could be dealt and a look at for the 2019 deadline.
Also remember: these rankings are subjective and based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: how the player has played this season and in the recent past, what their underlying measures and projection systems indicate about their true-talent level, and how scouts and analysts view their skills and tools -- both now and heading forward.
With that stated, let's get to the fireworks.
10. Ian Happ
This is a weak class for hitters -- to the extent that we're beginning with Ian Happ (you can go with Clint Frazier or someone else if you so desire), who hasn't played in the majors this year. Happ has been an above-average hitter for his big-league career thanks to his strength and willingness to walk. Him being able to at least stand at multiple up-the-middle positions boosts his value, too. Still, this is more evidence that it's a bad year for hitting-needy buyers.
9. James McCann
It remains to be seen if the White Sox will make James McCann available. If they do, they could be selling high on an unlikely All-Star catcher -- one who was non-tendered by the Tigers last winter. McCann again tinkered with his hitting mechanics, and has seemingly found a combination that works for him. It better keep working, since he's a negative defensively.
8. Omar Narvaez
As with McCann, we're not certain Omar Narvaez is available. The Mariners are big-time sellers, however, and it stands to reason they'd at least listen. Narvaez is sort of the best-case scenario for McCann, in that he's a good bet to provide a steady on-base percentage while giving away value on the defensive end. Unlike McCann -- a free agent after next season -- Narvaez is under team control until after the 2022 season.
7. Wilson Ramos
One more time: will Wilson Ramos actually be made available? It's not clear. He's older than either McCann and Narvaez, and it's probably not a great sign for him that Mets pitchers prefer working with Tomas Nido. All the same, Ramos can still hit a bit and he's enjoyed a good defensive reputation in the past. He's under contract for $10 million next season, so the Mets may have to kick in some coin if they want something nifty in return.
6. Hunter Pence
Coming into the spring, it didn't seem likely that Hunter Pence would crack the Rangers' 25-man roster. Naturally, he's sporting his highest OPS+ since his first full season with the Giants. Pence is a highly likable player who put in the work to remake his swing at an age when most would be content retiring and enjoying the rest of their lives. In return, he's hitting the ball harder and at a higher launch angle than in the past. Can Pence keep this up? There's no telling for sure, but he ought to appeal to most any contender seeking another right-handed stick.
5. Justin Smoak
From one player who has upped their stock to another who has seen theirs dip. Justin Smoak's value is as a hitter, and he's having a down year relative to his past two. If you're an optimist, you're wondering how Smoak would fare in a better lineup -- where he's not being pitched around as often. If you're a pessimist, you're wondering if he's going through the normal decline phase associated with older first basemen. Either way, he's probably still worth calling about if you're a team who could use a league-average hitter at first base or DH.
Most of the above applies to Nicholas Castellanos, too. He's a negative defender (albeit a good athlete) who isn't on that J.D. Martinez plane as a hitter. There's value in adding him as a DH, but the Tigers are said to be asking for a lot in exchange. Given how few teams are in the market for a DH, we wish Detroit luck in extracting their desired return.
3. Luis Urias
The perception around the league is that Luis Urias is available -- but, perhaps, only in a deal for a front-of-the-rotation starter. Fair enough. Urias is small, yet he can really hit. He's tapped into some surprising raw power this season, and heading forward he should be able to bat near the top of his employers' lineup. He should probably already be the Padres' second baseman.
2. Yasiel Puig
You can't have a conversation about Yasiel Puig without acknowledging that he can be grating and streaky. That established, he's been on a tear as of late. It's probably too much to ask for him to continue producing like a star the rest of the way. But look at the rest of the market -- even if he has another slump before year's end, he's still one of the top available hitters.
The problem with Whit Merrifield is that it's almost impossible to get fair value for him in a trade. He's a four-win player with enough defensive versatility to play anywhere and he's locked in to an extremely team-friendly contract for the rest of his prime. The Royals have every right to ask for the moon, the stars, and a planet to be named later in return. They just probably won't get it.
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