Potential MLB Trade Deadline Steals

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJuly 26, 2013

Potential MLB Trade Deadline Steals

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    Players like Miguel Tejada and Kevin Slowey aren't exactly being discussed as trade targets, but they should be. For teams with small holes to fill or small budgets to work with, sometimes the bargain bin is the best place to look.

    Beyond this sentence, you won't find any mentions of Jake Peavy or Bud Norris here. Even less-touted, oft-mentioned Raul Ibanez and Marlon Byrd didn't make the cut.

    Rather, we're highlighting forgotten names such as Chad Qualls, who is in fact still pitching in the majors and likely comes with a much friendlier asking price than fellow right-handed relievers Jesse Crain and Kevin Gregg.

    We found these 10 players by means of four simple criteria:

    1) Must be a free agent after this season

    2) Must be making less than $3 million in 2013 (according to Spotrac)

    3) Must have a 2013 WAR of at least 0.2 (according to FanGraphs)

    4) Must be playing for a team that's out of the playoff race (according to me)

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs and are accurate through the start of play on Thursday, July 26.

Jeff Francis (Rockies SP)

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    2013 Salary: $1.5 million

    2013 WAR: 0.2

    Jeff Francis is 32 years old. He is prone to the long ball. In nine seasons, he has never posted an ERA below 4.15. Colorado sent him down to Triple-A in mid-June.

    Even though he has pitched relatively well with the Sky Sox, why would anyone want him?

    Though he has the stamina to be a starting pitcher, it's pretty clear at this point that he doesn't have the necessary stuff to go seven innings every five days.

    But what about becoming a left-handed long reliever?

    I believe he could rebrand his career as a Tom Gorzelanny type of pitcher. Save for Gorzelanny, Detroit's Drew Smyly and Baltimore's T.J. McFarland, left-handers who can pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen are few and far between.

    It would at least be worth what's left of Francis' prorated $1.5 million salary to see if he can make it as a middle reliever.

Erik Bedard (Astros SP)

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    2013 Salary: $1.15 million

    2013 WAR: 0.8

    We might as well jump from one aging and frequently struggling left-handed starting pitcher to another, right?

    Erik Bedard is two years older than Jeff Francis, but at least he comes with a little bit of that "Remember how good he used to be?" smell.

    With Bedard, it has never been a question of whether he was good enough. Rather, is he healthy enough to take the mound and actually throw strikes? Back in 2006 and 2007, the answer was yes, and he was the 10th-most valuable pitcher in baseball during that stretch.

    Anyone who has tried to believe in him since then has been vastly disappointed, as his WAR since 2008 is in the same vicinity as that of Edinson Volquez, Brian Duensing and Jonathan Sanchez.

    On the other hand, his salary is extremely budget-friendly, and he did throw 6.1 no-hit innings (with five walks and 10 strikeouts) last week against Seattle.

    He's at least worth a flyer as a potential long reliever and probably wouldn't cost much of anything to get considering there is zero chance the 34-year-old is part of Houston's long-term plans.

Miguel Tejada (Royals 2B)

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    2013 Salary: $1.1 million

    2013 WAR: 0.2

    If you don't want any part of him because of his past connections with steroids, that's fine. Given the intense scrutiny of PEDs in baseball right now, it's logical and acceptable to just distance yourself from any and all potentially implicated players.

    But if you can look past that issue, wouldn't Miguel Tejada be a great addition for a team that could use a platoon-worthy middle infielder with a little bit of pop? (I'm talking to you, Billy Beane.)

    He's certainly not going to hit a ton of home runs, but he is still a good source of on-base percentage and less-than-terrible fielding.

    I made the case earlier this week for Oakland to target Skip Schumaker from the Dodgers if they aren't willing to pay the asking price for Chase Utley. But Tejada's salary is $400,000 less than Schumaker's, and he would actually be a right-handed bat to platoon with lefty Eric Sogard.

    As long as Kansas City eventually caves and becomes a seller at this year's deadline, there are few moves that make more sense than this one. Provided Oakland doesn't have to give up any top prospects, getting two months of Tejada for next to nothing is an absolute steal.

Kevin Slowey (Marlins SP/RP)

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    2013 Salary: $750,000

    2013 WAR: 0.9

    It's been a weird few months for Kevin Slowey.

    After struggling through 2011, Slowey was kicked from Minnesota to Colorado to Cleveland without appearing in a single major league game in 2012.

    The Marlins brought him in for spring training this March, but based on their stats from that month, it's fairly clear that his best-case scenario was as a long relieveruntil both Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi wound up on the 60-day DL.

    Left with no choice but to put Slowey and Alex Sanabia into the rotation in their place, Slowey delivered for the Marlins in a big way for his first seven starts of the season, finishing play on Cinco de Mayo with a 1.81 ERA and a 7.3 K/9.

    Then he got lit up in five of his next six starts and was removed from the rotation. However, he has actually pitched pretty well as a long reliever, allowing six earned runs in 15 innings of work with 17 strikeouts.

    I'm not sure which Slowey I believe in, but I know that at a price of $750,000, I'd be willing to take a chance on him if I were a contender hurting for healthy and/or effective arms.

Rajai Davis (Blue Jays CF)

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    2013 Salary: $2.5 million

    2013 WAR: 0.9

    With hardly a "going out of business" sale price at $2.5 million, the difference between Rajai Davis' value to the Blue Jays and his perceived value to other teams is what makes this one a pretty significant bargain.

    Davis is very much the odd man out in Toronto.

    Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus are each signed through at least the 2014 season, and they have Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra in the outfield pipeline for the near future. Does it really make any sense for Toronto to pony up the necessary dough to re-sign Davis this offseason?

    Assuming we agree the answer to that question is negative, then what's the point in keeping him around now that Cabrera is back from the disabled list and they're 10 games out of the playoff picture? Sure, Davis has value as a pinch runner or a spot starter in the outfield, but his real value is on the open market.

    This season, Davis has a triple slash of .287/.330/.376 with 27 stolen bases in 192 plate appearances. St. Louis' Jon Jay has a triple slash of .249/.329/.339 with three stolen bases in 384 plate appearances. St. Louis also has Oscar Taveras waiting in the wings for next season as one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

    Bringing in Davis gives the Cardinals the luxury of not having to rush Taveras to the majors, while having Taveras gives the Cardinals the luxury of not having to re-sign Davis this offseason. For Toronto, trading Davis now gives it something in return for his departure at the end of the season.

    It's a win-win scenario. On behalf of all of Davis' fantasy owners who are sick of having him on their bench while he steals bases as a pinch runner, let's just hope the general managers see it that way.

Oliver Perez (Mariners RP)

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    2013 Salary: $1.5 million

    2013 WAR: 0.6

    Statistically evaluating relief pitchers during the season is one of the more difficult and fruitless exercises one can undertake. In nearly four months of baseball, Oliver Perez has pitched fewer innings than David Price has pitched in the past 23 days.

    But if we can believe in the sample sizes of relief pitchers, Perez has been roughly equal in value and performance to Tyler Clippard, Rex Brothers and Grant Balfour. And he's done it while making 30 percent of the salary given to Scott Downs.

    If the Mariners are willing to part ways with the nearly 32-year-old left-hander, he would be a better grab than any of the other names that are allegedly floating out there as players Seattle would trade.

    The Mariners have used him somewhat sparinglyperhaps due to the lack of eighth-inning leads to protectbut he could be a great setup guy for a team like Pittsburgh that just suffered a bullpen injury and has some history with Perez from his days as a starting pitcher. He would also fit very nicely into Atlanta's bullpen.

Chad Qualls (Marlins RP)

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    2013 Salary: $1.15 million

    2013 WAR: 0.2

    If we haven't hit the bottom of the bargain bin here, we're certainly close.

    Chad Qualls is far from a hot commodity. Miami is the seventh different team he has pitched for since July 2010. His 7.32 ERA for two teams in 2010 and 5.33 ERA for three teams in 2012 are a pretty good indicator of why he can't seem to stay anywhere for more than a few months.

    Having said that, he's been hot lately. Including his outing on Thursday afternoon, Qualls has a 1.20 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9 over his past 15 innings of work.

    No sense letting those setup innings go to waste in Miami! If the Dodgers are unable to acquire a right-handed reliever elsewhere, Los Angeles could become Qualls' eighth hometown in a span of 37 months.

Pick a Catcher, Any Catcher

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    2013 Numbers

    Dioner Navarro: $1.75 million salary, 0.9 WAR

    Humberto Quintero: $900,000 salary, 0.4 WAR

    Yorvit Torrealba: $1.0 million salary, 0.6 WAR

    First things first, I don't think the Cubs would actually trade Navarro. He fits all of the descriptions for inclusion in this article, but "young" catchers are hard to come byeven though he has already gone from New York to L.A. to Tampa back to L.A. to Cincinnati and to Chicago in his career.

    The Cubs will likely look to re-sign him this offseason, but if they're willing to part with him, he might be the best available catcher of the three.

    Now, we know the Phillies are willing to part with Quintero, as they designated him for assignment on Wednesday. With Carlos Ruiz and Erik Kratz more worthy of being in the majors, Quinterowho turns 34 in a weekshould be quite available to any suitor in need of a veteran, backup backstop.

    Torrealba is also up there in years yet is still irregular in the Rockies' starting lineup. Unless the Rockies are inexplicably ready to call up Will Swanner, they would probably need a catcher in return for Torrealba, which really defeats the purpose of trading for him in the first place.

    My money is on Quintero being the most likely to don a new uniform in August, but it's worth mentioning that the Pirates, Rangers and Yankees could all use a veteran upgrade over their current backup catcher, and each of these guys could solve that problem in a cheap way.

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