One Player Every MLB Team Should Buy Low on in 2019 Trade Season
Sometimes, the July 31 MLB trade deadline is about acquiring the best available player. Other times, it's about finding a bargain.
Let's examine the latter category and identify one buy-low player each club should target.
In the case of presumed buyers, it's a big leaguer whose stats aren't smashing but who might provide significant value. In the case of sellers, it's a flawed prospect with ample upside.
In all cases, the squad in question would be wise to roll the dice.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: OF Akil Baddoo
The Orioles are in full-on rebuild mode but aren't flush with trade chips. They could try to deal reliever Mychal Givens, whose 5.00 ERA is offset by his 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings. The Minnesota Twins should be in the market for relief help, considering their 21st-ranked 4.68 bullpen ERA. Givens won't yield any high-level prospects, but he could net a high-upside wild card such as outfielder Akil Baddoo, who underwent season-ending elbow surgery in late May but has the tools to stick as a big league center fielder.
Boston Red Sox: RHP Sergio Romo
Former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel signed with the Chicago Cubs after a protracted free-agency stalemate. The Sox, meanwhile, need to shore up the back end of a bullpen that sports a 4.08 ERA. They don't have the MiLB chips to make a big trade splash but could aim their sights at an experienced arm such as the Miami Marlins' Sergio Romo. Yes, he's got an unsightly 5.48 ERA. He's also struck out 21 in 23 innings, nailed down 11 saves and has extensive postseason experience from his days with the San Francisco Giants.
New York Yankees: RHP Mike Leake
After whiffing on ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel in free agency, the Yankees could go after a top name such as the Giants' Madison Bumgarner. If they want to hoard their prospects, they might aim lower and go for an innings-eater such as the Seattle Mariners Mike Leake (4.30 ERA) to bolster a starting rotation that owns a 3.90 ERA but is missing ace Luis Severino (inflamed rotator cuff).
Tampa Bay Rays: DH/RF Jorge Soler
The Rays are in the thick of the playoff race but could use an injection of power into a lineup that's tied for 17th with 85 home runs. The Kansas City Royals, meanwhile, are "preparing for an early-summer sell-off," per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. Feinsand name-dropped designated hitter-right fielder Jorge Soler, who has cracked 17 homers but might not cost a bushel of prospects in light of his terrible .293 on-base percentage.
Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Riley Pint
The Blue Jays should be in sell mode. Their biggest trade asset is right-hander Marcus Stroman, but they could dangle other players, including first baseman Justin Smoak. The Colorado Rockies make sense as a landing spot for Smoak and could offer right-hander Riley Pint. The fourth overall pick in 2016, Pint's stock has fallen, and he owns a 9.77 ERA at Single-A. That said, the 21-year-old has struck out 20 in 15.2 innings and boasts the stuff of an impactful late-inning reliever.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: RHP Andrew Cashner
At 31-33, the White Sox are on the fringe of the American League playoff picture. If they want to contend this season, they need to upgrade a pitching staff that's 22nd with a 4.82 ERA. Trading top prospects for a Bumgarner-level arm isn't in the cards for the ChiSox, but they could make an ancillary addition such as the Orioles' Andrew Cashner. His 4.73 ERA isn't great, but he's 6-2 and has chewed through 70.1 innings.
Cleveland Indians: DH/RF Jorge Soler
The Indians rank 25th in baseball with a .697 OPS. If they didn't play in the weak AL Central, they'd probably be sunk. As it is, they need to add thump if they hope to compete come October. Provided the Royals are willing to deal within the division, the Tribe could be another logical landing spot for Soler.
Detroit Tigers: SS Luis Garcia
The rebuilding Tigers should try to move right fielder Nicholas Castellanos in his contract year. But the 27-year-old has limited defensive value and owns a ho-hum .313 on-base percentage with six home runs in 60 games. Still, a team such as the Philadelphia Phillies could use him in a depleted outfield and might be willing to part with a high-upside prospect such as 18-year-old shortstop Luis Garcia, who's hitting a scant .187 at Single-A but has the tools to be an everyday MLB middle infielder.
Kansas City Royals: RHP Shane Baz
If the Royals trade Soler to the Rays as suggested, they could ask for right-hander Shane Baz in return. The 19-year-old posted a 4.47 ERA in rookie ball for Tampa Bay last season and is a work in progress, though he's looked sharper with a 1.44 ERA in 25 innings at Single-A this season. Even if he regresses, last-place Kansas City can afford to be patient.
Minnesota Twins: RHP Mychal Givens
The Twins need to buttress their bullpen. Given their small-market status, they aren't going to blow up the budget or raid the farm to do so. Therefore, as suggested, they could pluck Givens and his high-strikeout tendencies from the Orioles in exchange for a flawed if intriguing prospect such as Baddoo.
American League West
Houston Astros: 2B Starlin Castro
The Astros are a pretty darn complete team and have a comfortable lead in the AL West. That said, second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa are on the injured list. To reinforce their up-the-middle dynamic duo, the 'Stros could acquire Starlin Castro from the Marlins. The 29-year-old owns a .233/.266/.313 slash line and thus should come cheap, but he's also a four-time All-Star with postseason experience.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP Jeff Samardzija
Jeff Samardzija is having a decent season for the Giants with a 3.72 ERA in 67.2 innings. He also has a 4.62 FIP and is owed $19.8 million this season and next. The Angels, meanwhile, are clinging to the edges of contention and rank 27th with a 5.07 ERA. If they're willing to eat all or most of Samardzija's contract, the Halos could net a proven innings-eater at a minimal prospect cost.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Mychal Givens
If the Twins don't snag him, Givens seems like a classic Athletics addition. After winning 97 games last season, the A's are hanging around .500 with a shot to make the postseason again. Their bullpen defines mediocrity with a 4.33 ERA. A middling prospect or two could add Givens' experienced, bat-missing arm to the mix.
Seattle Mariners: LHP Brailyn Marquez
The Cubs need a dynamic outfielder-infielder in light of veteran Ben Zobrist's open-ended absence. The Mariners are in last place and should sell under trade-happy general manager Jerry Dipoto. The speedy, versatile Dee Gordon could fill the Cubs' Zobrist-sized hole and net someone such as 20-year-old southpaw Brailyn Marquez, who has a 4.83 ERA at Single-A but boasts electric stuff.
Texas Rangers: RHP Andrew Cashner
The Rangers are above .500 and very much in the Junior Circuit playoff scramble despite a pitching staff that ranks 24th with a 4.89 ERA. Texas could go big or it could go smaller and seek a reunion with Cashner. The righty posted a 3.40 ERA for the Rangers in 2017 and would add veteran moxie at a presumably bargain price.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: RHP Sergio Romo
The Braves added an experienced, ace-level arm to their starting rotation when they signed left-hander Keuchel. Now, they could boost a bullpen that ranks 15th with a 4.27 ERA. Another Keuchel-level splash is unlikely, but the Braves could zero in on an experienced hurler such as Romo, whose versatility and playoff bona fides would strengthen this emerging contender.
Miami Marlins: 1B J.J. Matijevic
If the Marlins ship Castro to the Astros, they could net J.J. Matijevic, a big-swinging first baseman with power potential. Yes, the 23-year-old is hitting .240 with a .293 on-base percentage at Double-A and is limited defensively. But his lefty pop and ability to hit the ball to all fields make him an enticing prospect for a club in full-blown rebuild mode.
New York Mets: RHP Mychal Givens
The Mets are hanging around .500. Will they be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? That remains to be seen, but it's tough to imagine first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen dismantling the roster after he aggressively added pieces this offseason. If the Mets opt to go for it, they'll need to upgrade a bullpen that ranks 24th with a 5.11 ERA. They lack the prospects to engineer a huge trade but could be among multiple clubs in the market for the Orioles' Givens.
Philadelphia Phillies: RF Yasiel Puig
We connected the Phillies to the Tigers' Castellanos. Even if they make that trade, they could also go after the Cincinnati Reds' Yasiel Puig. The mercurial Puig is hitting .207 with a .252 on-base percentage, but his tools are undeniable. With Andrew McCutchen out for the season because of an ACL injury and Odubel Herrera out indefinitely after a domestic violence-related arrest, the Phils need outfield help. Puig might be the toolsy rental they're looking for. Plus, imagine the bat-flipping possibilities if he and Bryce Harper were united.
Washington Nationals: RHP Mychal Givens
Givens' name pops up yet again because buy-low, high-upside relief arms are in demand come the trade deadline. Assuming the Nationals don't go into sell mode, they'll need to upgrade a bullpen that ranks dead last with a 6.53 ERA. Givens wouldn't be a panacea, but he wouldn't cost any top prospects, and he could hardly make things worse.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: 2B Dee Gordon
We mentioned the Cubs may be without the services of Zobrist and that the Mariners may be ready to move Gordon. They aren't perfectly analogous players. Gordon has less power and poorer on-base capabilities. But he's got impressive speed, can play the infield and outfield and would give Chicago manager Joe Maddon an intriguing mix-and-match option.
Cincinnati Reds: LHP JoJo Romero
If the Reds rent Puig to the Phillies, they could ask for a package headlined by southpaw JoJo Romero. The 22-year-old has an 8.88 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A but possesses a sinking low-90s fastball and an emerging breaking ball and changeup that profile as above-average offerings. Assuming the Reds are able to refine his game, he'd be a solid return.
Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Andrew Cashner
The Brewers should go big and try to acquire Bumgarner at the deadline as they seek to defend their National League Central crown and make a deep postseason run. More modestly, they could aim for Cashner, whose experience as a starter and reliever would bolster a pitching staff that ranks 18th with a 4.48 ERA and could be the Brew Crew's undoing.
Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Josh Lowe
As mentioned, the Rays could use a proven power bat as they jostle for AL East supremacy. The Pirates' Melky Cabrera has an .831 OPS yet is 34 years old and in a contract year. If the Bucs embrace a sell-off, they could shop Cabrera to Tampa Bay for outfielder Josh Lowe, who is hitting a modest .232 at Double-A but has the speed and defensive capabilities to stick in center field.
St. Louis Cardinals: DH/RF Jorge Soler
The Cardinals could stand to improve an offense that ranks 19th with a .733 OPS. They're a less likely suitor for the Royals' Soler considering they can't regularly employ him as a designated hitter, but they could add him to the outfield mix as a valuable power bat who wouldn't cost any top-tier prospects.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Mike Leake
The Diamondbacks are above .500 and contending in the crowded NL West. If they opt to go for it, they could use more reliable veteran arms. Hence a rumor, floated Saturday, that linked them to the Mariners' Leake, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. As he would for the Yankees, Leake wouldn't be the sexiest pickup for Arizona, but he could add value to a staff that owns a 4.01 ERA.
Colorado Rockies: 1B Justin Smoak
Despite playing their home games at Coors Field, the Rockies rank 13th in baseball with a .770 OPS. The Blue Jays' Smoak was an All-Star as recently as 2017 and has 12 homers and an .824 OPS in 2019. He's also hitting .237 and will be a free agent this offseason. We mentioned Rockies pitching prospect Pint as a possible return, which could be a win-win for the Jays and Rox.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Sergio Romo
The Dodgers don't have many glaring weaknesses. They could, however, improve a bullpen that ranks 19th with a 4.47 ERA. There are glitzier options, but L.A. could acquire Romo, a Southern California native with extensive experience in the NL West from his time with the Giants and brief stint with the Dodgers in 2017.
San Diego Padres: RHP Andrew Cashner
Cashner spent four-plus seasons with the Padres and could reunite with his old club if it opts to add at the deadline. The Pads are hanging around .500 and have a shot at the postseason if they can put together a hot streak. They'd improve their chances with a veteran arm such as Cashner, who would bolster a staff that owns a 4.18 ERA.
San Francisco Giants: LHP Patrick Sandoval
The Giants will be sellers at the deadline, with Bumgarner, closer Will Smith and others on the block. If, as previously discussed, they swap Samardzija to the Angels, they could snatch up lefty Patrick Sandoval. The 22-year-old has a 4.35 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A but has fanned 53 in 39.1 innings and has the upside of a frontline starter. Even if it means eating a bit of Samardzija's remaining contract, this would be a worthwhile deal for San Francisco as it heads toward a needed rebuild.
All statistics accurate as of Monday and courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.