10 Potential MLB Trade-Deadline Busts to Run Away From
Seven hundred and fifty players reside on 25-man Major League Baseball rosters. All of them are world-class athletes who earned their shots at the bigs. Some are fortunate enough to be the best of the best, some carve out solid decadelong careers and some are just happy to grab a cup of coffee.
While these players all reached the pinnacle of their chosen profession, ups and downs exist in every major league career, even ones as storied as Babe Ruth's. Players get moved, go through slumps or remain on losing teams year after year. It happens every season.
As the non-waiver trade deadline looms Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, many players are liable to be dealt. Some will find success with their new teams, while others may experience those aforementioned downs.
Here's a look at players who could fall into the latter category. The reasons vary, from aging superstars who can't reclaim past glory to pitchers due for regression. Others may be bad fits if asked to fill full-time roles.
Ultimately, the following 10 players may find more success in the future, but the guess here is that a deadline move may not work out as planned. Of course, that doesn't preclude them from bouncing back again.
All players on this list were picked from Jeff Todd and Steve Adams' All-Star break list of the top 75 trade candidates on MLB Trade Rumors. All statistics are through games played Tuesday and via Baseball Reference or FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
Texas Rangers SP Cole Hamels
Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels can claim to be one of this century's best starting pitchers, as he's amassed a 3.43 ERA during a 13-year MLB career in which he made four All-Star teams and won the 2008 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies.
However, Hamels has struggled in 2018: Notably, his 5.20 FIP is by far the highest he's experienced in his career.
Granted, he's pitching in a hitter's park in Arlington, Texas, where the heat and humidity can send balls flying on certain summer nights, but nearly half of batted balls against Hamels are being hit hard (44.9 percent, per FanGraphs).
An even bigger concern may be that Hamels' hard-hit rate has steadily increased over the past few years (27.0 percent in 2015, 32.0 percent in 2016 and 36.0 percent in 2017), so that trend may be his new norm.
It's possible Hamels could use a change of scenery, perhaps to a National League club in a pitcher's park, but the hard-hit contact rates are too concerning.
New York Mets OF Jose Bautista
New York Mets outfielder Jose Bautista was one of the game's most proficient sluggers at the beginning of this decade, but time has caught up to the 37-year-old, who is hitting just .211 with seven home runs and 27 RBI this season. Bautista's calling card was his prolific power, but the six-time All-Star's best days are behind him.
The other issue is that Bautista hasn't accumulated a positive defensive WAR since 2013, per Baseball Reference. It's hard to see him fitting with a contending American League team as a designated hitter or a National League team as an everyday player.
It's possible a team looking for added pop off the bench could trade for Bautista, but squads may be better off searching for more positional versatility or a better bat elsewhere.
Cincinnati Reds SP Matt Harvey
Matt Harvey was one of the best pitchers in baseball during the first three years of his career, striking out 449 batters in 427 innings and posting a 2.53 ERA (2.65 FIP) as a New York Met.
However, numerous injuries (including season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016) derailed his career. He had a 5.78 ERA over the past two seasons and went 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in four starts in 2018 before the Mets traded him to the Cincinnati Reds.
Harvey has flashed his old form at times this year, like when he struck out six Milwaukee Brewers in 5.2 shutout innings earlier this month. But he's been inconsistent overall and just gave up eight earned runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. Harvey is also allowing a lot of hard contact (39.6 percent, per Fangraphs), and his swinging strike rate is just 8.3 percent (for context, the league average is 10.7 percent).
If Harvey ever returns close to his old form, he'll be a steal for some team. But right now, trading for him seems like a big risk.
San Diego Padres SP Tyson Ross
Pitchers can get away with being hit hard if they can induce a lot of swings and misses. For example, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer allows a lot of hard contact (41.6 percent), but his 13.5 percent swinging strike rate helps negate that somewhat.
That isn't the case with San Diego Padres starting pitcher Tyson Ross. The 31-year-old has proved to be a durable starter this year, making 20 appearances and striking out nearly a batter per inning. However, he may be due for some regression.
Credit goes to Ross for persevering and putting his struggles behind him from the 2016-17 campaigns, in which he battled injuries and had an 8.12 ERA over 13 appearances. A return to his 2014 All-Star form (2.81 ERA) isn't impossible, but it's hard to see at this rate.
Miami Marlins RP Adam Conley
After struggling as a starting pitcher in 2017 (6.14 ERA in 22 appearances), the Miami Marlins' Adam Conley has successfully reinvented himself as a reliever to the tune of a 2.63 ERA in 27 games. Conley has also struck out 32 batters in 27.1 innings.
However, regression is almost certainly on the way. Per FanGraphs, opposing batters have just a .200 BABIP against Conley this season. The southpaw is also allowing hard contact at a 46.0 percent clip.
Eventually, more of those hard-hit balls are going to find gaps, and that BABIP number will rise toward .300.
It's feasible that Conley will carve out a nice career as a left-handed reliever: On the plus side, he is inducing a lot of ground balls (45.2 percent). But teams expecting to get a pitcher with a sub-three ERA long-term may not get that value in return.
New York Mets IF Wilmer Flores
If a team is looking for a utility player off the bench who can mash lefties, then New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores is a good choice. The 26-year-old has managed an .805 OPS against lefties for his career, and he can play all four infield positions.
However, if a team is looking for anything more than that as it gears up for the stretch run, then that's not a great proposition. On the minus side, Flores is below-average for his career against right-handers (.701 OPS), and he's never had a positive defensive WAR since entering the bigs in 2013.
Flores plays at Citi Field, an extreme pitcher's park, so that has likely taken away some hits here and there. However, he is best used as an every-other-day player, one who could be called on in certain situations. If a playoff team asks for more than that following a trade, it could be a dicey proposition.
New York Mets SP Zack Wheeler
New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler was a highly touted prospect out of high school who was drafted sixth overall by the San Francisco Giants in 2009.
He eventually made his way to New York when the Mets dealt outfielder Carlos Beltran and cash to the Giants for him. His first two years in the bigs (2013 and 2014) were promising, as he posted ERA marks of 3.42 and 3.54, respectively.
Unfortunately, Wheeler suffered a torn UCL and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in March 2015, which kept him out of action for two years. The 28-year-old has completed his comeback and made it back to the bigs, but he hasn't been the same pitcher since returning in 2017, accumulating a 4.71 ERA over the past two years.
On the plus side, he has struck out just under one batter per inning, and he is inducing a lot of soft contact (25.8 percent, per FanGraphs). His .304 BABIP also indicates he's been on the wrong side of luck.
However, Wheeler is also on the wrong side of blowouts every so often: Of note, he's allowed six or more earned runs three times this year. That fact would be tough for any contending team to look past as it gears up for the postseason.
Ultimately, Wheeler could be a season away from returning to his old form, but he's not there just yet.
Minnesota Twins SP Lance Lynn
When he was with the St. Louis Cardinals, starting pitcher Lance Lynn was quite good: Over his first five years, he amassed 61 wins and a 3.37 ERA (3.36 FIP). He also struck out nearly a batter per inning.
Unfortunately, Lynn underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the 2016 season. While he posted a 3.43 ERA in 2017, there were some troubling signs, including a career-low strikeout rate (19.7 percent) and a career-high walk rate (10.1 percent). Of note, his FIP of 4.82 was almost a run-and-a-half larger than his ERA.
After signing a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Twins, Lynn has struggled more. The walk rate has jumped to 13.8 percent, and he's allowing the most hard contact (37.9 percent) of his career by far (prior to 2018, his previous high was 33.5 percent).
A team may look to get Lynn at a discount and hope he returns to his previous form, but he's only had one quality start in his past six outings. The 31-year-old may bounce back at some point, but he's hard to trust now.
Minnesota Twins SP Jake Odorizzi
Like his teammate Lynn, Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi is having trouble finding the plate this year, as he's walked 9.9 percent of batters faced, per FanGraphs.
On the plus side, he's struck out an above-average number of batters (24.3 percent), and he sports a solid 11.3 percent swinging-strike rate. The 28-year-old has also been durable over the course of his career, making anywhere from 28 to 33 starts over his past four full seasons.
However, Odorizzi is averaging just over five innings per start this year, and he hasn't pitched more than six full frames in any of his 21 appearances. He also allows a good amount of hard contact (35.5 percent) and fly balls (48.1 percent), which can lead to issues with the home run ball (1.35 per nine innings this year and 1.88 per nine frames last season).
Ultimately, Odorizzi is a solid pitcher, but teams may want to look elsewhere if they are searching for someone to pitch deeper into games.
Cincinnati Reds OF Billy Hamilton
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton is a human highlight reel on the basepaths and in center field. It's a blast watching him leg out a triple or snare another home run away from a hitter.
However, Hamilton's struggles at the dish have stunted his career, and he's regressed this season. Over the course of six years, he's managed only a .628 OPS. Power was never going to be the 6'0", 160-pounder's calling card, but a career on-base percentage of just .298 even with his speed is concerning.
Unfortunately, Hamilton is arguably having his worst offensive season to date. He has 22 more strikeouts than hits (91 to 69) and is hitting a career-low .222. He's also on pace to steal a career-low amount of bases (he's at 22 now and has never swiped fewer than 56, excepting 2013, when he only saw action in 13 games).
Hamilton could fit with a team looking for a utility outfielder and pinch runner in late-game situations, but asking him to plug center field in the middle of a pennant race may not be the best bet at this time.