Are There Any Legitimate Outfielders for Teams to Target Before Thursday's MLB Trade Deadline?
Offense is down around all of baseball, and the need for bats is great. Specifically, teams are in desperate need of power bats, and many are looking for one ahead of the trade deadline on Thursday afternoon.
The following teams have all been connected to one or some of the available outfielders on the trade market. Their rank among all MLB outfielders is in parenthesis.
|Seattle||.283 (30)||.637 (30)||16 (29)|
|Cincinnati||.297 (28)||.670 (28)||27 (22)|
|St. Louis||.302 (24)||.675 (24)||23 (27)|
|Atlanta||.312 (18)||.702 (17)||37 (11)|
|Kansas City||.313 (16)||.703 (16)||14 (30)|
|New York||.314 (15)||.711 (15)||40 (8)|
|Pittsburgh||.344 (7)||.780 (8)||40 (8)|
Seattle, Cincinnati and St. Louis are the three teams who need the most help. Their outfielders have posted a weighted on-base average (wOBA), on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) and home run totals that are among the worst in baseball. Atlanta, Kansas City, and New York all need some help in the outfield as well, with Pittsburgh's inclusion in the outfield trade market somewhat interesting, given they are in the top 10 in all three categories.
The four best corner outfield candidates on the market are as follows.
Looking strictly at the numbers, Philadelphia's Marlon Byrd is the best of the bunch. He has the highest nERD among the four at 1.12, meaning a lineup full of Marlon Byrds would score 1.12 runs a game more than a league-average player. His fWAR and b-WAR are also tops (Baseball-Reference likes Byrd's defense much more than FanGraphs), and he's also hit more home runs than the other three players, with 20.
Los Angeles' Matt Kemp has the second-highest nERD of the bunch at 0.99, but the worst wins above replacement numbers, which hate his defense with a passion. His other offensive numbers are decent enough, with the second-best batting average and on-base percentage.
Minnesota's Josh Willingham has the third-highest nERD at 0.65 and the second-best WAR among the group. His batting average of .219 is very low, but he's been getting on base, posting the highest on-base percentage of the group.
And finally, there's Texas' Alex Rios, who shockingly has just four home runs in 413 plate appearances, all while playing his games in the offensive hotbox of Arlington. And since 2006, he's hit 17, 24, 15, 17, 21, 13, 25 and 18 homers, which makes this season's power drought even more surprising. It's also the main reason he has the worst nERD of the four, at 0.48.
Still, you can't take the numbers in a vacuum. Teams are looking at cash commitments and contracts. And when that is factored in, the landscape changes drastically.
Byrd is owed $8 million dollars for 2015 and has an $8 million vesting option (general manager Ruben Amaro loves him some vesting options) for 2016 that will be triggered if he reaches a certain number of plate appearances next year. Byrd also has a limited no-trade clause of four teams, two of which are Seattle and Kansas City. Reports are Byrd would want Seattle or Kansas City to guarantee that 2016 season before agreeing to a trade.
Rios and Willingham, meanwhile, are on the final years of their deals. Both are free agents after the season and are rentals, but because of their ages (Rios is 33, Willingham is 35), control after this season is not a concern. Rios is owed a prorated portion of his $12.5 million for this season, while Willingham is owed a prorated portion of his $7 million deal.
Finally, there's Kemp and his monstrous contract. Starting next year, he's owed $107 million through the 2019 season. He's owed $21 million next year, and then $21.5 million every year after that. While he's the youngest member of the crew, still just 29, that contract takes him through his age 34 season.
If Byrd didn't have his vesting option, and wasn't going to force a team into guaranteeing him a contract in his age-38 season, he'd probably already have been traded. He's the best player available and would create the biggest impact on a team's offense for the rest of the season. But that 2016 vesting option and no-trade demand is scaring some teams off, despite his excellent power numbers (tied for fourth in the National League in home runs).
And only a team with lots of money to burn could take a chance on Kemp. As I wrote about recently, it only makes sense to take a chance on a bounce-back candidate if you don't have to pay him gobs of cash to find out. Anyone hoping for a return to former glory with Kemp is doing so armed with nothing more than hope.
For teams in need of some power, Willingham would seem to be the better option than Rios. He's cheaper, and has a better nERD, fWAR, bWAR, wOBA, and OBP, as well as more home runs than Rios.
None of these guys are perfect solutions. But for a team in need of some help in the outfield, they are the best of what's available, and could help a team that is having trouble scoring runs push a few more across the board this season.