The industry perception of the J.D. Martinez trade is that the Tigers didn’t get a whole lot of substance from the Diamondbacks in return for a slugger batting .305, with an OPS of over 1.000. When the Mets swapped veteran first baseman Lucas Duda to the Rays on Thursday, they got a 23-year-old pitcher who was Tampa Bay’s 30th-ranked pitcher at the start of the year. The real substance that New York got in the deal was about $2.5 million in salary savings.
These trades are just a couple of examples of how this is a buyer's market for position players, and how perhaps the best that sellers can hope to do is get some money off their books. Part of the reason for this is that a lot of the contending teams are mostly set in their everyday lineups -- the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals don’t really have much need, for example, and the Boston Red Sox added third baseman Eduardo Nunez to plug their hole.
And there are plenty of power hitters already in place. As of Thursday evening, there are 55 hitters who have 18 or more homers, which means they are flirting with a pace of 29-30 homers. No wonder the greatest demand in these last hours leading up to the deadline is for pitching, pitching and more pitching.
But there are some position players who may get moved before Monday's deadline.
The veteran infielder looked awful earlier this year, carrying an OPS of .672 through June 11, leading evaluators to wonder if Cabrera’s days as an effective major leaguer were over. But Cabrera has played better over the past six weeks, batting .278 with a .366 on-base percentage and 11 extra-base hits. He has experience at second, shortstop and third base (albeit just five games at third), so presumably, he could play first base with some ease, if asked. The switch-hitter is batting .347 with an .833 OPS against lefties.
He’ll be a free agent in the fall and is making $8.25 million in salary this year with a $2 million buyout on a 2018 option, meaning that the Mets almost certainly would have to kick in some dollars in order to facilitate a move.
Jay Bruce, New York Mets
Year after year, it feels like Bruce is held hostage to rumors at the trade deadline -- which is a good thing. “He’s a good player who would help somebody,” one executive said Thursday. Bruce has 26 homers and a .521 slugging percentage, with an .907 OPS away from Citi Field. He has a reputation as a great teammate and has demonstrated that he can at least fill in at first base.
It would be interesting to see if the Yankees and Mets, crosstown rivals who rarely trade, could work out a deal involving Bruce, who has the highest rate of fly balls and hard-hit balls in his career this season. Those skills would translate well in Yankee Stadium. Bruce is owed about $5 million for the remainder of the season. As of Thursday evening, there had been no contact between the clubs about Bruce.
The shortstop is making $4.1 million this season, and with a slash line of .257/.287/.355, he will be a candidate to be non-tendered this winter. Perhaps in an effort to get ahead of this -- and to save a little money -- Detroit is said to be open to moving him now. The problem for the Tigers is that so many of the contenders are set at shortstop. If the Padres are looking for a shortstop solution for next year, he could be a fit for San Diego, which just lost Erick Aybar to a fractured foot for the rest of the season.
He was voted as a starter for the National League in the All-Star Game, won a donkey and talked about being open to the concept of working out a new deal with the Reds. But rival evaluators say Cincinnati has pushed him to the market, looking to move him. That doesn’t necessarily preclude his return to the Reds, by the way; Cincinnati could always deal him to a contender and then look to re-sign him in the offseason. But Cozart injured a quad earlier this week, so any team adding him would have to take him with the hope that he would regain his health down the stretch.
There isn’t a great market for position players, and in particular, not much demand for first basemen. But with Greg Bird out indefinitely, the Yankees have a need for a left-handed-hitting first baseman. Alonso could become an option, particularly if New York gets deep into talks for Sonny Gray; Alonso could be the chit that the Athletics tack on to an offer.
He was the Athletics’ representative at the All-Star Game after hitting 20 homers with a .934 OPS in the first half. But Alonso has been sliding of late, with an average of .216 with seven homers in 185 at-bats since the start of June.