Surprising Breakout Stars Who Could Be Available at 2019 MLB Trade Deadline
The buzz leading up to the MLB trade deadline generally focuses on a handful of established stars who could potentially be traded to a contender for the stretch run.
However, it's often the under-the-radar addition that winds up being the best move of the summer.
Just last year, the Houston Astros acquired controllable reliever Ryan Pressly from the Minnesota Twins in a deal that received little fanfare at the time.
He went on to post a 0.77 ERA and 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 26 appearances following the trade, and he was named to the All-Star team for the first time this year in his first full season in Houston.
Which players have a chance to be this year's under-the-radar impact addition?
Ahead we've highlighted seven players who have put together surprise seasons to this point and have a realistic chance of being moved before the July 31 deadline.
IF Derek Dietrich, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds signed Derek Dietrich to a minor league deal after he was a surprise non-tender by the Miami Marlins following a season when he posted a 109 OPS+ with 26 doubles and 16 home runs while playing five positions defensively.
He won a spot on the Opening Day roster and quickly found himself in an everyday role while starting second baseman Scooter Gennett was sidelined with a severe right groin strain.
While he's hitting just .216 on the year, his power (19 HR) and penchant for getting hit by pitches (NL-leading 22 times) have added up to a .351 on-base percentage and a career-high 124 OPS+.
With Gennett back in the mix, Dietrich has returned to a super-utility role, and he seems like an obvious candidate to be moved with free agency awaiting during the upcoming offseason.
For contenders looking to fill out their bench and add some left-handed pop, he's an excellent target capable of stepping into a regular role if injury strikes.
RP Nick Anderson, Miami Marlins
There are under-the-radar moves, and then there's the trade the Miami Marlins made this past offseason to acquire Nick Anderson from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for infielder Brian Schales.
At the time of the trade, neither player ranked among his team's top 30 prospects and neither had made his MLB debut. It essentially looked like a swap of organizational depth.
Instead, Anderson has emerged as a force out of the Miami bullpen.
The 29-year-old flashed some intriguing swing-and-miss stuff at Triple-A in 2018, racking up 88 strikeouts in 60 innings while posting a 3.30 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, and he has continued to miss bats in his first taste of MLB action.
Armed with a fastball that averages 96.2 mph and a wipeout slider, Anderson has tallied 64 strikeouts in 40.1 innings, good for a 37.2 percent strikeout rate that ranks 12th among pitchers with at least 30 innings.
With team control through the 2024 season, he holds plenty of value, and the Marlins might just opt to sell high on an asset they acquired on the cheap.
IF Eric Sogard, Toronto Blue Jays
Eric Sogard entered the 2019 season as a known commodity.
The 33-year-old has long been the prototypical light-hitting utility infielder, capable of lining up all over the infield without sacrificing anything defensively and unlikely to make an impact offensively.
In 1,743 MLB plate appearances prior to this year, he was a .238/.309/.314 hitter with a 73 OPS+ and 11 career home runs.
He hit just .134/.241/.165 with zero home runs in 113 plate appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers last season and joined the Toronto Blue Jays on a minor league deal with hopes of filling the bench role long held by Ryan Goins.
He's turned out to be one of the best additions of the offseason.
Pushed into the starting second base job when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was demoted and then shifted to left field, Sogard is hitting .305/.369/.491 for a 129 OPS+ with 16 doubles and 10 home runs in 304 plate appearances.
He's hitting the ball in the air more (7.3%) and on the ground less (4.8%), and the result has been a career-high 10.2 percent HR/FB ratio and previously unmatched power production.
Sustainability is an obvious question here, but since a contender will simply be looking for him to serve as a rental bench piece, it does little to impact his trade appeal.
SP Marco Gonzales, Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners would no doubt love to unload veteran starter Mike Leake and whatever they can of the $20 million he is still owed after this season.
However, if they hope to continue adding quality pieces to a farm system on the rise, Marco Gonzales is the starter who could bring back a significant return.
The 27-year-old authored a breakout season of sorts in 2018, posting a 4.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 145 strikeouts in 166.2 innings. His 3.43 FIP painted an even brighter picture of his performance, and he was worth 2.5 WAR as the de facto ace of the Mariners staff.
He has not been quite as effective this year with a 4.48 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 120.2 innings, and his strikeouts are down (7.8 to 6.5 K/9) while his walks have climbed (1.7 to 2.5 BB/9).
Still, there's value in a controllable starter who is capable of eating up innings at a league-average rate. That's exactly what Gonzales is doing this season with a 98 ERA+ and an inning total that ranks inside the top 25 among qualified starters.
The left-hander is not a splashy blockbuster addition. He's the glue guy who stabilizes a staff, and plenty of contenders are looking for exactly that this summer.
IF/OF Danny Santana, Texas Rangers
Remember Danny Santana?
He burst onto the scene for the Minnesota Twins in 2014, hitting .319/.353/.472 with 41 extra-base hits and 20 steals in 101 games to finish seventh in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
That season he was worth 3.9 WAR.
The following season he was worth negative-2.1 WAR, and as quickly as he had arrived, he was gone again. He's spent a good chunk of the past three seasons at Triple-A, and he joined the Texas Rangers in a minor league deal in January.
The 28-year-old has stepped into the super-utility role previously occupied by Jurickson Profar, and he has been a revelation, hitting .320/.352/.566 for a 130 OPS+ with 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 12 steals.
He is capable of playing all four infield positions and all three outfield spots, and with team control through 2021, he's more than just a rental.
Of course, there are some clear red flags.
His .399 BABIP is third-highest among the 224 players with at least 250 plate appearances this season and simply is not sustainable for even the best hitters in baseball.
Still, his speed, defensive versatility and remaining club control will make him an appealing target for teams looking to round out their bench.
RP Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds
Earlier this month, reports surfaced that the Cincinnati Reds were planning to buy at the trade deadline, according to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic.
However, they've gone 3-7 since the All-Star break and are now nine games back in the NL Central cellar.
Will that skid be enough to change their deadline approach?
If they do sell, expect plenty of teams to ask about the availability of left-hander Amir Garrett.
The former top prospect has found a home in the bullpen after struggling as a starter at the onset of his MLB career, posting a pristine 1.66 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 56 strikeouts in 38 innings.
His 35.9 percent strikeout rate ranks 15th among all pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched, and aside from shutting down left-handed hitters (.194 BA, .534 OPS), he's also been tough on right-handed batters (.177 BA, .643 OPS).
With team control through the 2023 season and the electric stuff to continue building on the success he has enjoyed this season, he's a valuable trade chip and a potential difference-making addition to a contender's bullpen.
Will anyone be willing to pay the price?
RF Franmil Reyes, San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres have long been dealing with a roster crunch in the outfield.
Franmil Reyes, Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot are filling starting roles, while Wil Myers has been relegated to the bench and Franchy Cordero is on the injured list nursing an elbow sprain. Prospect Josh Naylor has also seen extended time at the MLB level this year.
At some point, it makes sense for the team to unload at least one of their controllable outfield bats.
Reyes and Renfroe are largely interchangeable players with similar numbers this year:
- Reyes: 119 OPS+, .251/.309/.545, 26 HR
- Renfroe: 131 OPS+, .247/.308/.588, 28 HR
Renfroe is a far superior defensive outfielder, while Reyes is three years younger and comes with an additional year of team control through the 2024 season, which might make him the more attractive trade chip.
The Padres have an embarrassment of riches right now, and if they can build a package around Reyes to acquire a controllable starting pitcher to help take some of the pressure off their young arms, it could go a long way.