Highlighting 5 Possible Last-Minute Impact MLB Waiver Deadline Steals
There figures to be more than a few waiver trades in MLB before the August 31 cutoff date next week. Over the next few slides, we'll take a look at some underrated players who could be steals for prospective teams.
Now, obviously the following players have their flaws—they wouldn't be available for trade if they didn't. But each selection has specific traits that will still interest contenders trying to qualify for the postseason.
For Jonny Gomes, it's leadership and playoff experience. For Addison Reed and John Axford, it's strikeout stuff out of the bullpen. Austin Jackson? Top-tier speed and defense. As for Brock Holt? Versatility and energy.
For contenders, those qualities could be the difference between making the playoffs or watching the festivities from the couch in October. Many fans won't consider adding any of these players as a noteworthy transaction, but we're here to let you know why they should.
In the comments section below, let us know how you feel about our selections. Would you be happy if your team snagged one of these players? Which of the following guys would have the most impact with a new team if traded?
Without further ado, let's jump into our list of possible last-minute MLB waiver deadline steals.
Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks
2015 Stats: 2-2, 38 G, 4.20 ERA, 40.2 IP, 7.52 K/9, 3.10 BB/9
From 2012 to 2014, Addison Reed saved 101 games for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. Reed improved his strikeout percentage in each of those seasons, culminating in a 27.4 mark last year.
However, the right-hander lost his closer job earlier this season and has been unable to reclaim it. In 38 appearances, Reed has a 4.20 ERA and is walking over three batters per nine innings.
But by digging deeper into the stats, it's clear that Reed has actually been much better than it seems. His 3.12 FIP and .344 average on balls in play suggest he's been a victim of poor luck. Reed's hard- and soft-contact percentages are also considerably better than they were a season ago.
A dip in strikeouts isn't ideal, but it's not from a decline in velocity—Reed is still sitting in the mid-to-low 90s with his heater. Instead, the 26-year-old has seen a sharp increase in ground-ball contact. K's are important for relievers, but generating ground balls isn't a bad backup plan.
Finally, Reed is quietly in the midst of a phenomenal second half. In 16.1 innings, he's posted a 1.65 ERA and has lowered his walk rate to under 5 percent.
Reed is set to hit arbitration next season and won't be a free agent until 2018. At just 26, he's still capable of turning around his career and returning to his previous form.
If a bullpen-needy contender looks past his warts, it'll find Reed still has value. He could be a buy-low type of pickup who pays off in both the short and long term.
John Axford, Colorado Rockies
2015 Stats: 4-5, 46 G, 4.43 ERA, 42.2 IP, 18 SV, 9.49 K/9, 5.06 BB/9
At one point this season, John Axford was nearly unhittable. In his first 23 appearances, the right-hander allowed just three earned runs. He also ranked in the top 40 of MLB relievers in first-half ERA with a 2.36 mark.
Despite a stellar first half, Axford has melted down after the All-Star break. The 32-year-old has a 7.88 ERA in 16 innings. He's walking over 16 percent of the batters he's faced, and opponents are hitting .343 against him.
Obviously, contenders don't want to add relievers who can't throw strikes or get people out. Axford's second-half struggles can't be ignored, and they have seriously diminished his value.
But Axford's accomplishments over the season's first months can't be swept under the rug, either. In those outings, he looked like the dominant flamethrower who used to close games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010 and 2011.
The velocity is still there, too. Axford has reached as high as 99 mph this season and has consistently sat around 95-96 mph. His curveball and slider give him two completely different off-speed pitches, generating ground balls and strikeouts, respectively.
More importantly, Axford has allowed only six runs in 12 appearances since a stretch of eight earned runs in five outings at the end of July. He's also struck out 16 batters as opposed to five walks during that span.
Hopefully this doesn't jinx it, but Axford seems to have regained his first-half confidence in recent games. He's eligible for arbitration in 2016 and will hit free agency the winter after that.
With plenty of teams in desperate need of late-inning reinforcements, Axford deserves a look. If he can get hot, he can be as dominant as any reliever in baseball.
Jonny Gomes, Atlanta Braves
2015 Stats: .216/.323/.363, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 27 R, .686 OPS
Jonny Gomes is having a pretty bad season. He's hitting just .216 and is slugging under .400.
Yet, adding the 34-year-old before the end of the waiver trade deadline could be the most important move a contender makes.
Back in July, I interviewed David Price. He answered a hodgepodge of MLB-related questions, but here's what he had to say when asked who his best-ever teammate was:
The best teammate that's always going to have your back, for me that was Jonny Gomes. I've had a ton of really good teammates—Evan Longoria is a really good teammate, as is Miguel Cabrera. But Jonny Gomes, that's what he's known for, and it's not an act. That's him and that's who he is as a person. He doesn't just do that at the big league level, because we were in Triple-A for a while together. He was the exact same way then. Every team needs a guy like that, and Jonny Gomes is a very good one.
Many baseball pundits don't put much stock in chemistry and intangibles these days, but that's what has separated Gomes throughout his career. He was an instrumental component of the 2013 World Series champion Boston Red Sox and has helped cultivate young talent throughout his big league career.
Despite his struggles this season, Gomes has value on the field, too. He has over 160 career homers and is still drawing walks over 12 percent of the time. He also has 17 career extra-base hits as a pinch hitter.
But acquiring Gomes is as much about his locker room presence as it is about on-the-field production. Some guys have it, and Gomes is just one of those players whom contenders want on board when the games matter the most.
Austin Jackson, Seattle Mariners
2015 Stats: .265/.307/.371, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 42 R, 15 SB, .678 OPS
In 2012, Austin Jackson looked like the next big thing in MLB. The outfielder hit .300 with 16 homers and 12 steals with the Detroit Tigers that season.
But since then, Jackson's value has only diminished. The 28-year-old hasn't been able to cut down on his strikeouts and has compounded the problem by suddenly drawing significantly fewer walks.
And yet, as Jon Morosi of Fox Sports has reported, Jackson has been the subject of various trade talks since clearing waivers earlier this month.
Why? The answer is simple. Despite his struggles over the last two seasons, Jackson is still just 28 and has the unique blend of power and speed that's valuable in today's game.
Jackson's batted-ball statistics aren't much different than in previous years. One significant change is a sharp decrease in fly-ball percentage. Jackson's 1.96 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio ranks in the top 25 in MLB and is a big reason why he has such a high BABIP.
Moral of the story? Jackson whiffs plenty, but he has a fantastic shot of getting on base whenever he does put the ball in play.
Another perk of adding Jackson is his outfield defense. Since reaching the majors in 2010, Jackson ranks ninth in defensive runs saved among outfielders. The 28-year-old can still go get it in center and would be even more valuable at a corner spot.
Jackson will be a free agent after the season. The Mariners have all the incentive in the world to trade him and will likely do so before the month is over.
Since there's minimal financial commitment, teams with outfield issues should take a long look at Jackson. His ability to steal a base and play quality defense makes him an ideal fourth outfielder.
Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox
2015 Stats: .287/.359/.396, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 44 R, 7 SB, .755 OPS
Brock Holt enjoyed a quality 2014 campaign, but the 27-year-old has proved he's a valuable major league asset with an American League All-Star Game selection in 2015.
Holt is having a solid season with the Boston Red Sox. He's slashing .287/.359/.396 and has been an important contributor throughout 2015.
So, why would Boston want to get rid of him?
Well, for one, the Red Sox aren't hurting for talented youngsters on their farm system. Secondly, Holt's ceiling is likely that of a super-utility player—one who can be plugged into any position but isn't suited to play every day.
Because of those reasons, Boston placed Holt on waivers to gauge teams' interest. Despite his limitations, Holt is a perfect addition for a team heading to the postseason.
Holt's offensive game isn't flashy, but he's serviceable in every area. He keeps the ball out of the air and uses the whole field. The 27-year-old has also increased his walk percentage this season, which has improved his on-base percentage.
But the majority of Holt's value comes from his defensive versatility. In 2015, Holt has played seven different positions, including first base and shortstop.
Holt is a poor man's Ben Zobrist. He's also under contract through 2020, which only enhances his value.
Boston doesn't have to move him, but it may decide to cash in on what it perceives to be Holt's ceiling. If Holt is traded, his versatility and well-rounded offensive game make him the jack-of-all-trades player who can blossom in October baseball.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs and accurate as of Aug. 28.