Position-by-position trade deadline preview: First base

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This is the second in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Prince Fielder (Brewers) – Fielder has overcome a slow start in grand fashion: by month, he’s posted OPSs of 741, 880, 956 and now 1074 so far in July. Still, one gets the feeling that his trade value isn’t what it was a year ago. That’s in part because he’s going to be very difficult to get signed to an extension before he becomes a free agent following next season. It also doesn’t help matters that he could ask for about $20 million in arbitration over the winter. Since the offers won’t overwhelm, the Brewers will probably be better off keeping him and hoping for better luck in 2011. The White Sox are thought to be interested, but unless they offer up Gordon Beckham — and they probably won’t — there wouldn’t seem to be a potential match.
Adam Dunn (Nationals) – I led off the NL notes on Rotoworld with my thoughts on a possible Dunn deal. There’s a chance the Nationals will move Dunn if they don’t think he’ll come down from his request for a four-year, $60 million contract. Still, the odds are against it right now. The White Sox and Yankees have shown the most interest.
Derrek Lee (Cubs) – Lee posted the second-best OPS of his career as a 33-year-old in 2009, but at .247/.337/.391 right now, he’s currently on pace to finish below 800 for the first time since 1999. Maybe there is still time for that to change: he’s gone 11-for-26 with five extra-base hits and eight RBI in six games since the All-Star break. Lee has a no-trade clause and likes Chicago, so it’s not simply a matter of the Cubs finding a taker for him. It’s possible he’ll accept a trade, but far from a given. An August deal could be a possibility here.
Lance Berkman (Astros) – Berkman and Lee are basically in the same boat: both are former All-Stars having down years and both have no-trade clauses and no huge desire to move on. The two are also free agents at season’s end, though Berkman has a $2 million buyout attached to a $15 million option for 2011 that makes him a more expensive proposition. Berkman came out last week and said he didn’t expect to be traded, but because of his salary, he’s another player who could potentially be available during August.
Adam LaRoche (Diamondbacks) – LaRoche would seem to have about as much to offer as Lee and Berkman, but with fewer strings attached. He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, and while his contract includes a $1.5 million buyout attached to a mutual option for 2011, he’ll be owed just $1.5 million over the final two months of this season. The Diamondbacks may be willing to pick up a portion of that buyout anyway, since it’s money they expected to be on the hook for all along. LaRoche, typically a second-half player, is hitting .259/.332/.453 at the moment. It seems doubtful that the Giants would bid for him after he spurned them last winter, but he’d make a lot of sense for the Angels.
Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays) – Overbay isn’t going to be anyone’s top choice, but there are worse platoon first basemen around. He’s gotten better every month since a dreadful April, and while his overall .251/.331/.414 line is still pretty unimpressive, he’s hit a respectable .271/.363/.449 against righties. Odds are that he’ll clear waivers and remain available into next month. If the Angels, Giants, Rangers or another contender is sweating its first base situation then, Overbay could be a fit.
Xavier Nady (Cubs) – While Nady could step in at first base for the Cubs if Lee is traded, he’s actually the more likely of the two to get dealt. He’s struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery, but that’s in part due to a lack of at-bats. He’s had just 141 this season, hitting .220/.289/.340 in the process. No contender should be looking to pick him up to play regularly, but he could probably help a team starting three times per week between first base, the outfield and maybe DH.
Russell Branyan (Mariners) – Branyan has been laid up with another back injury of late, making a trade a whole lot less likely. The Mariners, who just picked him up from the Indians last month, weren’t going to get much for him anyway, so they’ll probably just keep him and hope his power will help them avoid a 100-loss season.
Casey Kotchman (Mariners) – It didn’t figure that anyone would want Kotchman a month ago, but he’s bounced back to hit .333/.422/.692 with three homers in 39 at-bats during July. Like Overbay, he’s a potential fallback for a team that fails to get its top choice. It helps his case that he’s the slickest fielder in this group.
Dan Johnson (Rays) – In Johnson and Chris Richard, the Rays have a couple of the International League’s top performers stashed away at Durham. Johnson, 30, is hitting .300/.413/.603 with 25 homers in 307 at-bats, and he’s been playing plenty of third base and left field, which might make him more interesting to teams. The 36-year-old Richard is batting .297/.387/.514 in 286 at-bats. The Rays may yet decide to give Johnson a look as a part-timer, but if he’s not in their plans at all, letting him go to a team that would use him would be the kind thing to do.
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Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.