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MLB: Shortstop trade market could conceivably be filled with rentals

MLB

Last season’s MLB trade market for shortstops wasn’t exactly plentiful.

The deal to send Tim Beckham from the Rays to the Orioles on July 31 was perhaps the most prominent move, but players like Zack Cozart and Jose Iglesias never switched teams.

As it were, the only other shortstops changing squads were Eduardo Nunez, Sean Rodriguez and Adam Rosales.

Only, Nunez Rodriguez and Rosales aren’t full-time shortstops, but more utility men who can play the position if need be.

Things could be much different come July and August 2018.

This is in part due to an influx of upcoming free agents who could conceivably be available as rentals down the stretch.

Sure, there could be non-rentals available. Some team may want to try Starlin Castro at shortstop again. The Blue Jays have a glut of shortstops who could conceivably be flipped if they fall out of contention and want to start clearing space for Bo Bichette.

However, the bulk of the shortstops who are potential trade chips are playing on expiring contracts.

And there’s a lot of them.

The most significant name on the list of potential free agents, and the player who could draw the largest trade return by far, is Manny Machado.

Machado, who owns a lifetime 23.9 fWAR since debuting in the Majors back in 2012, is still just 25.

He’ll likely command a monster contract this winter and is mired on a Baltimore squad that, as is, isn’t good enough to keep up with the Yankees or Red Sox in the American League East.

What’s more, the O’s—a team that is off to a 4-7 start and has an American League-worst -17 run differential—could be buried in a competitive American League Wild Card picture that should also include some combination of Boston, Toronto, Minnesota, Anaheim and Seattle.

If the Orioles sell, Machado is there best trade chip.

It would be interesting to see what Machado would net in a trade, but regardless of the potential return, he’s the top available shortstop.

The rest of the shortstops who could be part of the trade market don’t exactly have Machado’s resume from an fWAR standpoint, but they could help the right team in the right scenario.

Glove-First Types

Freddy Galvis

Jose Iglesias

Adeiny Hechavarria

Alcides Escobar

Among all qualified shortstops since 2015, Galvis (41.3), Iglesias (40.6) and Hechavarria (38.5) rank fourth, fifth and sixth among shortstops in terms of defensive runs above average.

The only players with higher metrics are Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor, San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford and defensive wizard/Anaheim Angel Andrelton Simmons.

Escobar also checks in on that list, coming in at ninth, right below Corey Seager and above Troy Tulowitzki and Xander Bogaerts.

None of the group will win any offensive awards—they aren’t going to turn into Carlos Correa overnight—but they can bring some value at the dish.

They could all be a fit on a contending team with a potent offense that loses its shortstop due to injury and can afford to plug in a glove-first option without taking a prominent hit offensively.

Galvis has developed some pop over the last few seasons, with 32 home runs and respective ISOs of .158 and .127.

Granted those home runs came in a combined 1,287 plate appearances and with elevated home run rates, power isn’t exactly what it used to be. Still, Galvis could be a quality utility infielder with pop on a contender’s bench.

While Iglesias doesn’t bring the same power to the table that Galvis possess, he rarely—if ever—strikes out.

Since 2015, only 10 players have a lower punchout rate than the Tigers’ shortstops, who has a knack for putting the ball in play.

His lifetime 80 wRC+ won’t put him in the Silver Slugger discussion, but Iglesias has finished with a wRC+ of 97 or higher twice before in his career, so he has the potential to play a role offensively.

Hechavarria doesn’t have Galvis’ pop or Iglesias’ contact skills. That being said, he has turned in three seasons with a wRC+ of at least 83 or better since 2014.

That isn’t much to write to write home about. However, when you consider that more than a third (13) of the 37 shortstops with at least 300 plate appearances last season failed to reach that mark, the defensively-reliable Hechavarria could be a useful addition.

Rounding out the list is Escobar, who has Gold Glove and All-Star honors under his belt from the 2015 season.

He won’t stand out offensively (sensing a trend?) but does have a penchant for hitting doubles. Only three shortstops had more in 2017. In fact, since becoming a full-time starter with the Brewers in 2010, Escobar has averaged 25 two-baggers a year.

Brings Some Pop

Jed Lowrie

Asdrubal Cabrera

Jordy Mercer

Galvis also fits into this category because the pop he could bring to a team. The other players on this list my not necessarily be world beaters either, but their offense could be a boost to a contender in the right scenario.

Lowrie hasn’t played shortstop since 2016, but he has logged over 4,200 innings at the position since breaking into the Majors in 2008.

That could conceivably expand the infielder’s trade market for an A’s team that seems to be perpetually rebuilding.

Still, even if the A’s do turn things around in the near future (say 2019), the veteran is on an expiring contract, making $6 million this year, according to Spotrac.

With top prospect Franklin Barreto—who can play both middle-infield positions— making quick work of Triple-A pitching and Marcus Semien on hand, Lowrie could be expendable in Oakland.

The former Red Sox is also coming off of a fine offensive year in the Bay Area, racking up a 119 wRC+, a .347 wOBA, an 11.3% walk rate, a .171 ISO and a .808 OPS in 645 plate appearances.

He’s also off to a torrid start in 2018, with a 177 wRC+, a .418 wOBA and a .954 OPS in his first 49 plate appearances.

Below is a list of shortstops.

Didi Gregorius, Trea Turner, Javier Baez, Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell and Trevor Story.

What do they all have in common?

They all registered a lower wRC+ metric than Asdrubal Cabrera’s 111 outlput last season.

That stat obviously isn’t the be-all-end-all from an offensive standpoint, but it’s worth noting that Cabrera also finished in the top 10 at his position in on-base percentage (.351, fourth), wOBA (seventh, just like wRC+) and OPS (.785, 10th).

New York could go either way—contending or rebuilding—this season. If the Mets’ 2018 campaign ends up tilting more towards a lost season, it would make sense for the National League East franchise to trade away some veterans on expiring deals to replenish a barren farm system.

Jordy Mercer has been a quality player for the Pirates for a number of years now. Generally posting an fWAR in the 1.0 to 2.0 range, the veteran could serve as a useful injury-replacement.

Also with Major League experience at second base, Mercer has double-digit home runs in three of the last four seasons.

It also doesn’t hurt that the 31-year-old has mashed left-handed pitching in his career, with a 125 wRC+, a .165 ISO, a .295 batting average a .360 on-base percentage, a .459 slugging percentage and an .819 OPS and 54 extra-base hits in 578 lifetime plate appearances versus southpaws.

With Pittsburgh having moved on from veterans like Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, John Jaso and Chris Stewart in the offseason, Mercer could conceivably be one of the next names to depart the team if the organization opts for a full-blown rebuild.

Versatile Bench Pieces

Andrew Romine

Sean Rodriguez

Cliff Pennington

Romine would likely only be a trade candidate if the M’s are out of contention by July or August. Same goes for Rodriguez in Pittsburgh.

Both players have extensive experience at all positions not called pitcher and catcher. This could be appealing to a club looking to add a bench piece to back up multiple spots.

In fact, at the end of last season with the Tigers in a game against the Twins, Romine played all nine positions in the same game.

Pennington doesn’t play the outfield, but he’s a reliable defender at second base (+13 DRS, 4.9 UZR/150 in 1,601 innings) and shortstop (+3 DRS, -0.7 UZR/150 in 4,938.2 innings) and can handle third base as well.

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