As the 2018 MLB season saunters toward Memorial Day, we here at FAM decided it might be high time to take a look at the standings and see who can already safe to say that… Well, this just isn’t going to be their year.
Some may say that a shade under 25% of the way through the season may be too early to decide definitively to sell, but these clubs can all be safely assumed to be in SELL, SELL, SELL mode as mid-summer approaches and the playoff races come more clearly into focus. Today, we’ll take a look at the American League clubs.
13-28 record, last in AL East
So it’s no real surprise that the Orioles have been bad… But they’re really, really bad. At 13-28, they currently carry the second worst record in all of baseball and, with baseball’s two best teams riding at the top of their own division, a more clear seller there may not be. The big question is whether or not the O’s will deal star SS Manny Machado, but ownership has shown a stubborn reluctance to let go of their beloved back to last season even when it was known that Baltimore wasn’t going to contend before he reached free agency. For the good of the future of the franchise, Baltimore absolutely has to let go of Machado and hope that they don’t regret not dealing him last year. As he’s a pure rental now (a free agent for the first time after this year), the return simply will not be what it could have been last summer, or even last offseason.
Past Machado, the O’s frankly should be in complete tear-down mode. No one is going to take Chris Davis or Mark Trumbo, but past them young starters Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman should get some looks as well as veteran OF Adam Jones. Jones is off to a little bit of a rough start with the bat though (81 wRC+ through 40 games) and is a free agent at the end of the year, so he would be a pure rental and may not return too much. No matter who the O’s deal though, if they don’t tear down and begin their rebuild in earnest, they’ll be doing their fans a huge disservice.
17-22 record, third in AL Central
So the Tigers probably actually haven’t been as horrible as expected. But their division is very soft (first place Cleveland is just 20-19), and Detroit has no realistic expectation of competing long term with the club as it currently sits. Team ace Michael Fulmer was a prime trade candidate back to last season, but the Tigers were asking for a King’s ransom then, and Fulmer hasn’t been all that great (4.37 ERA 4.34 FIP 3.92 xFIP) so far in 2018. Should he rebound to his 2017 performance, he’d likely be a pretty highly sought after commodity and could go a long way toward Detroit reloading a very middling farm system.
Looking deeper, someone like center fielder Leonys Martin could be an intriguing acquisition for a contender looking for outfield help. The 30 year old Cuban is enjoying a career year thus far (.294/.355/.508, 131 wRC+), but he would be a pure rental and the return Detroit would get likely wouldn’t be huge, even if he keeps up his current production. I’m sure the Tigers would love to trade Miguel Cabrera, and he’s bee a bit better this year, but his contract is an absolutely immovable albatross.
Kansas City Royals
13-27 record, fourth in AL Central
The run on the AL Central continues (it’s not done, either). The Royals came in 2018 seemingly unsure as to what they thought they were doing. They allowed Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain to walk in free agency, which signaled the beginning of a rebuild, but then they retained both Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas, which didn’t. But now, the proof is in the pudding. The Royals are bad, and it’s time to tear it down. Moustakas, who had an exceptionally difficult time finding employment in this offense before returning to KC, has been quite exceptional so far (.296/.329/.553, 130 wRC+) and could be a good fit for a team in playoff contention who needs help at DH or the hot corner. He’s signed pretty cheaply this year, and his new deal with KC carries a mutual option of 15 mill for next season. The fact that he’s not purely a rental could help, but he IS a Boras client, after all.
Should KC really decide to tear down though, catcher Salvador Perez would be an option that would likely turn many teams on their ear. Catchers are always very difficult to come by and Perez is signed through 2021 while putting up solid offensive production and remaining one of the best defensive catchers in the game. OF Jorge Soler, who looks like he’s finally rounded into form, could be an intriguing piece for a contender as well as he’s signed cheaply through 2020.
Chicago White Sox
10-27 record, last in AL Central
The White Sox, again, were expected to be bad. But as a team that’s working to turn the corner on their already well underway rebuild, they’re suffering because they’re very young for the most part. That’s not to say that they’re entirely devoid of trade candidates, but they’re in an awkward position from this perspective to where their veterans aren’t very good, and the rest of their team is comprised of young guys who they’re not going to trade.
Incumbent 1B Jose Abreu will likely draw some trade interest though, as he’s arbitration eligible once more in 2019 before hitting free agency for the first time in 2020. His .284/.350/.489 slash line would be attractive to a team who needs some help at 1B or DH. Additionally, veteran catcher Wellington Castillo and his 104 wRC+ could make him attractive to a contender who’s in desperate need for help behind the dish.
16-26 record, last in AL West
The Rangers, like the Royals, came into the season in a little bit of an uncertain place. Trying to contend, or needing to rebuilding? Like with KC, the answer in Arlington is also fairly clear at this juncture. For a team who’s generally been carried by offense, the Rangers are fourth from the bottom of the AL in runs scored. It’s not all been doom & gloom though, as SS Elvis Andrus is having a solid season, but his contract (signed through 2023 at 14+ mill per year), could make him problematic to trade unless Texas is willing to take on a large chunk of his salary.
Elsewhere on the infield, ageless wonder Adrian Beltre is still kicking and posting a respectable slash line of .314/.375/.422 at age 39. He does have limited no-trade protection (and is a pure rental), but a team who needs some help at DH or 3B and seeks some top shelf veteran leadership should absolutely kick the tires. I’m sure they’d love to find someone to take Cole Hamels off their hands, but he’s not been all that great so far this year (3.48 ERA, 4.83 FIP, 4.13 xFIP) and he’s owed 20 mill next season. He has been considerably better so far on the road this season though, so maybe a change of scenery and eating a healthy chunk of his deal could allow the Rangers to send him down the road to a contender who needs a solid, veteran lefty to bolster their chances at an October run.
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