As the MLB creeps toward the postseason, teams are still looking for that one piece to help secure their spot to play in October. The most notable transactions usually occur prior to the trade deadline (e.g., Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox) with the immediate goal of increasing that team’s odds of obtaining the division crown. Winning the division is more important than ever as the one-game wild card playoff places the fate of a team’s entire season on a mere nine innings.
The waiver process starts with one team placing a player on waivers. The team with the worst record gets the first chance to claim the waived player, followed by the second-worst team and so on. Once the player is claimed the teams are given 48 hours to work out a deal. In some cases, the two teams will have discussed a trade in advance. If they cannot construct a trade that appeases both sides, the team who placed the player on waivers can decide to keep him or let him play for this new team. In the scenario that the player clears waivers, the team can release the player or ship him down to the minors, and the player will still receive his salary.
Just two days ago, Alex Rios was sent from the Chicago White Sox to the Texas Rangers in a waiver trade. This is the second time in Rios’s career that he has been moved after the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, the first coming in 2009 when he was in a similar situation on the Blue Jays. The White Sox, after acquiring Rios for the 2009 playoff race, are now on the opposite side of the bargain, looking to get rid of unwanted salary while helping the Rangers to contend. With the recent suspension of Nelson Cruz, the Rangers needed another offensive threat in the lineup to avoid losing serious production; in their minds, Rios represented the best available substitute.
The purpose for the waivers is twofold. Teams hope that they can discard onerous contracts or they can get the bat or arm they need. The Rangers are hardly the only team interested in improving their playoff odds; the Pirates, Indians, Orioles, Yankees, Reds, Diamondbacks, and Rays are all still looking for players who could aid in the playoff push. In contrast, bottom feeders like the Giants and the aforementioned White Sox have other players on sizeable contracts with whom they are more than happy to part ways. I divided the following players into two groups: players who could definitely add value to a postseason contender and players who might help a contender but are clogging up roster space on less competitive teams and need to be moved.
The “Answers” – Players who would be more likely to give a contender a boost
Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants
The skilled outfielder has been dealt at the trade deadline twice in two years and the struggling Giants could conceivably make that a third year in a row. It is unlikely that last year’s World Series champions would consider dealing Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, or Buster Posey, but Pence, nearing the end of a deal worth almost $14 million, is expendable. His .060 walks per plate appearance is a career low for him, indicating a lack of patience at the plate this year. Even on a down year he is still producing great numbers and his offensive WAR of 3.0 indicates that he is certainly capable of contributing in the pennant race. Any team searching for an outfielder should try to talk to Brian Sabean and the Giants; the Pirates could be quite interested.
Erik Bedard, SP, Houston Astros
In his first few starts in Houston, Bedard was getting rocked every time out, averaging nearly an earned run per inning. Since then, his ERA has hovered around three, and he recently gave up no hits in a loss. At 34, he’s not going to help the rebuilding Astros make the playoffs any time soon. He has the ability to help a team in need for a pitcher as his recent play and his 9.32 K/9 innings in July ranks seventh best in the AL for pitchers with a minimum of 20 IP. Bedard is one of several players that have cleared waivers as One possible course of action for the Astros would be a deal with the Indians for one of their AAA prospects like Carlos Carrasco, who is not MLB ready yet but could contribute in future years.
Dioner Navarro, C, Chicago Cubs
The catcher would probably not have a high asking price since he is the backup in Chicago to Wellington Casillo, but following the injury of Yadier Molina, the Cardinals, who displayed interest in a catcher before the deadline, might be willing to pay a little extra due to questions about Molina’s health down the stretch. The case against pursuing Navarro would likely focus on his inability to prevent stolen bases in the limited time he has spent catching for the Cubs this season. He has allowed twenty-eight stolen bases in 34 starts, ten more than Molina’s given up in 93 starts. Offensively, Navarro is having one of his best seasons with a .357 OBP and 8 runs above average, 6 more than his previous career high, and it is possible that the Cardinals would want to bring him in to take some of the load off of Molina, preserving the incumbent All-Star for the playoffs.
Raul Ibanez, OF, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners outfielder on this list could be a difference maker on a contending team. Despite the fact the 41-year-old left fielder recently committed one of the worst errors I’ve ever seen, Ibanez has performed impressively for his age. Although his batting average has not cracked .270 all year, Raul had 24 home runs by the All-Star Break (partially due to a home run rate astronomical by his standards), a rare feat for any player over the age of 40[i]. However, he had not hit a home run since then at the time this was written. Don’t be surprised if a team is willing to take a chance and hope that Ibanez recaptures that first half power. Ibanez could provide some late-inning pop as a pinch hitter for a contender, but it seems like Seattle is uninterested in moving him.
Chad Qualls, RP, Miami Marlins
The reliever, 34, has definitely exceeded the expectations of the minor league contract he signed at the beginning of 2013. Despite struggles in recent years, Qualls has posted a 2.64 ERA this season, making him a seemingly hot commodity as clubs look to bolster their bullpens for the stretch run. Strangely, the Marlins seemed to avoid making a deal for the upcoming free agent, who is unlikely to re-sign with them next year. Miami, which finds itself in the basement of the National League, could benefit in the long term by receiving a prospect or two for Qualls. In addition, there are always teams looking for bullpen help, like the Orioles[ii], which would drive up the veteran’s market value.
The “Anchors”- Veterans who might help a contender but are likely to be gone even if their current teams can’t get anything in return.
John Buck, C, New York Mets
The thirty-three year-old appears to have a limited future with a young Mets roster and waiving him would save a million dollars while allowing some minor leaguers the chance to play behind home plate. The most frustrating part for the Mets is that Buck’s season numbers are unappealing, and even that is being generous, making it difficult. His dWAR, which compares a player’s defensive ability to that of a replacement level defensive player in the MLB, is -0.4. Offensively, his on-base percentage lies below .300 and ranks in the bottom three for almost every qualified catcher. The simple explanation for his lack of production starts with the large amount he has played: he has started more games than every other catcher aside from Wieters and Mauer. At this stage of the season, a backup catcher who can play at Buck’s level would certainly help a contender. With more days of rest, Buck may become more effective and make some timely plays down the stretch. The Yankees, who fell victim to the Biogenesis scandal and lost Franciso Cervelli for 50 games, and the Diamondbacks, with Miguel Montero ailing, may try to claim him.
Paul Konerko, 1B/DH, Chicago White Sox
The White Sox must be disappointed in Konerko’s production this season. His .298 batting average and .371 OBP from 2012 have decreased significantly, down to .242 and .307 respectively in 2013. On top of that, Konerko is on pace for career lows in HR (8) and RBI (38) for a season. The seventeen-year veteran may just need a change of scenery to produce closer to his career numbers, but part of the decline can probably be attributed to his age. His sizable salary of 12.5 million dollars still has a little over three million left on it for this season, a price the White Sox do not want to pay for a player who has the worst wins above replacement in the AL for 1B/DH at -1.4. Rather than spend the extra $2 million on a season that has no hope, they may be able to scourge up a few prospects, cut the salary and possibly benefit a team in need of a bat.[iii]
Marco Scutaro, 2B, San Francisco Giants
The 37-year old is getting on base at a high rate (.357) and helping the Giants win games, but odds are good that Scutaro will not maintain this production through 2015. The $14 million dollars owed to the second baseman is a bit too pricy given that he is nearing the end of his career and will not be a part of the next contender in San Francisco. While he may be hitting for a high overall average, his secondary average, the amount of total bases per at-bat, illuminates Scutaro’s lack of power and large concentration of singles. His .167 secondary average, a measurement similar to batting average that adds weight to extra-base hits, walks and steals, is a National League low, and his two home runs do not help his case either. The Giants will try to find a trade partner for Scutaro, but it does not look like he would provide a major upgrade at second base for any of the true contenders.
Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
The first baseman has been past his prime for several years now and is still collecting $14 million per year from the Minnesota Twins. He looked to regain his old form early in the season, batting .291 through June, but in July, he hit just .175. The Twins failed to collect any value in return for Morneau before the trade deadline, and he just recently cleared waivers, making him available for a trade. His number of at-bats per home run is the second-highest of his career, indicating that the power that once won him a Home Run Derby is in serious decline. As a result, it is unlikely that the Twins will be able to get much more than a low-level prospect in return.
Michael Young, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Most teams expected the former Rangers star to be moved by the trade deadline, but the Phillies failed to find a suitable deal for the aging third baseman. The 36-year-old could possibly help a contender and the 51-62 Phillies need more assets to be competitive in the 2014 season. He showed signs of a drop off in ability last year and his -1.8 dWAR makes him a liability in the field. He stated before the deadline that he would only waive his no-trade clause for the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, but Philadelphia’s current situation may force him to be more flexible. Some people would scoff at the idea of categorizing the infielder as an “anchor,” but the Phillies, the team with the fourth highest payroll, recently spent $50 million on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Young is due $20 million from now through 2014, and Cody Asche is the third baseman of the future, making Young very expendable.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN and baseball-reference.com.
[i] His 24 home runs is the fourth most in a season for a player forty-one or older. Barry Bonds (twice) and Ted Williams are the only other players to do so.
[ii] Despite acquiring Francisco Rodriguez before the trade deadline, the bullpen is still incredibly shaky.
[iii] Adam Dunn put up similar numbers this season and has already cleared waivers, which may decrease the odds of Konerko leaving the Windy City this August.
Georgetown University Class of 2017
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