The MLB trade deadline, which arrives in six days, carries more significance for fantasy baseball than merely the big names that get swapped. It's a time of change, often significant, in player valuations. In fact, this is generally regarded as the final time on the in-season calendar in which said valuations can shift dramatically.
Sure, the season's final two months can bring top prospects to the majors for next-year auditions, and the September weeks can present new opportunities for players as teams either shut down injured performers or those needing rest in advance of the postseason. All those things, however, are fewer and further between -- though we will have to see what happens in the case of prospects under the game's new incentives for promoting rookies, introduced last year -- and far, far more difficult to predict or plan for.
We're often astute at preparing for valuation changes for the players who are actually swapped. What we're often not good at is bracing for the fallout of said moves on other impacted players on big league rosters, generally those with roles adversely impacted by new additions, those facing fatigue in the coming weeks, or those who fit into both categories.
Six days before the deadline, it's a good time to assess players who might see a downturn in fantasy value as a result of potential upcoming moves. They're effectively "hot potatoes" -- players you should aggressively shop now -- because after the deadline passes, you won't want to be stuck with them if their value has been adversely impacted.
It might not end up being the case for all of these players, but the mere possibility makes them sell-high candidates today.
Jonathan India, 2B, Cincinnati Reds: He's in a bit of a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" trade circumstance, as if the Reds hang onto India, he'll remain subject to the team's crowded infield rotation, costing him some at-bats. But if do they trade him, he'll almost assuredly lose the advantage that comes with calling one of the most hitter-friendly environments his home, as India has a career batting average 18 points higher (and an OPS 48 points higher) at Great American Ball Park than on the road. He's also widely regarded a top-10 fantasy second baseman, though his underlying metrics suggest that's a tad generous valuation.
Jarren Duran, OF, Boston Red Sox: Just 1.5 games out of a wild card, yet sitting fourth in the AL East, the Red Sox are in a precarious spot as the trade deadline approaches. To make a serious run at the playoffs, they desperately need to improve their defense, which Baseball Solutions grades as seventh-worst in baseball with minus-15 Defensive Runs Saved. Duran has been one of their bigger liabilities and, since his hitting metrics aren't that special, he's among their hitters who are most in danger of a reduction in playing time if the team makes deadline additions.
As is, he has started only one of the team's last eight games against a left-hander. Duran is in the midst of a 23-game stretch during which he has batted .392, boosting his roster percentage to 24.2%, but the .448 BABIP and .289 Statcast expected batting average beneath it scream "fluky!" Use his current hot spell as an avenue to make him someone else's September problem.
Bobby Miller, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: He has both been a sensation for the rotation-starved Dodgers, as well as a youngster whose workload has been reasonably paced, his 69 IP (on pace for 112) putting him right in line with 2022's 112 1/3. Nevertheless, the Dodgers have been a notoriously conservative team when it comes to pitching workloads in recent seasons. They won't want to push one of their most promising youngsters and, besides, if there's any area where the team might add reinforcements, it's within their rotation.
Miller, who has seemed to fall into more of an adjustment period over his last five starts relative to his first five, has a very promising future for those in dynasty and keeper leagues. However, in redraft scenarios, he's a chip worth cashing in.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Colorado Rockies: He's under contract for $7.25 million next season -- an affordable price that should make him one of Colorado's more marketable trade pieces, considering their window of contention won't arrive until well after the deal's expiration. Cron is one of the more prominent names I expect to be traded, and for fantasy teams, such a move would be disastrous, considering the advantages Coors Field has granted him in his two-plus seasons calling it home. His .411 wOBA at home is third-best in baseball among players with at least 100 games played since the beginning of 2021, and his 113 point home/road wOBA split is easily the widest over that time frame.
Tyler Wells, SP, Baltimore Orioles Starting pitching is a definitive need for the Orioles as the trade deadline approaches, and while Wells is too talented (and too much a probable part of their postseason rotation) to be entirely pushed aside by any acquisition, there's a good chance that any pickup will be designed to help alleviate the hefty load he has already endured. Wells, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2019 and didn't pitch at all during the pandemic-shortened 2020, is already within 8 1/3 innings of his 2018 single-year professional high in the category and is on pace for 178 frames, excluding prospective postseason work.
Understandably, his four-seam fastball hasn't shown quite the same velocity or effectiveness over the past month, nor has he been quite as reliant upon it. Wells has also greatly outpitched his peripherals -- his FIP is 4.89, nearly a run and a quarter higher than his ERA (3.65) -- which is a bad combination when combined with the workload question.
Cody Bellinger, OF/1B, Chicago Cubs: He's a tough hitter to bet against, considering how nicely he has replicated the contact metrics he displayed during his 2019 MVP campaign. I'm of two minds with Bellinger, doubting him but at the same time unsure whether that means fretting over regression in August and September this year or regarding his 2024 repeat prospects. Perhaps questioning the latter is wiser, but his contact-quality metrics aren't anywhere close to those of 2019, as his hard-hit rate is more than 15% lower, his Barrel rate nearly 7% lower, and his expected wOBA (.320) is almost 60 points beneath his actual wOBA (.379) -- all of which are ominous numbers, even for the short term.
Bellinger is one of those names perhaps generating additional attention as a result of his inclusion in trade rumors -- many dream of him winding up in pinstripes -- but I'll argue that change isn't necessarily a great thing for him, considering how near-perfectly everything has clicked for him in Chicago. If there's someone in your league regarding him as a near-MVP once more, or excited by the prospect of a trade to the New York Yankees, this is an ideal time to swap him for a player with better underlying peripherals.