7 controllable trade targets for contenders

June 14th, 2019

Now more than ever, teams value control. If they’re going to make a trade that robs them of significant prospect pieces, they want to get a player back that they know will be around awhile.

This year’s Trade Deadline rental market is fronted by Madison Bumgarner and maybe Anthony Rendon, if the Nationals fall out contention. The market of players controllable through 2020 is really interesting, with the likes of starters Trevor Bauer, Mike Minor, Robbie Ray and Marcus Stroman, as well as relievers Sean Doolittle, Shane Greene and Kirby Yates among the players that could come available.

But in this piece, we’re going to focus on trade candidates who come equipped with more than two full seasons of contractual control and therefore would command the richest trade returns -- returns that could reshape a franchise.

Here are the best of those options (all contract info is from Baseball-Reference.com):

, LHP, Indians
Under control through 2021 (via a club option)

The Trade Deadline wouldn’t be the Trade Deadline without rumors about Hand. The Padres dangled him in the market for a couple years before finally sending him to Cleveland last July. And now the cash-strapped Indians front office, which is looking way up in the American League Central standings at the Twins, has to decide whether to keep Hand in hand or have Hand change hands again. (That was an all-hands-on-deck kind of sentence, wasn’t it?)

Yes, the Tribe can -- and in all likelihood will -- move Bauer between now and July 31, because his rising arbitration price tag doesn’t mesh particularly well with its payroll. But Hand’s the more valuable commodity right now, given that he’s due to make just $7.6 million next season with a $10 million team option for 2021. And he’s not succeeding through sleight of -- wait for it -- hand. He’s been one of the best relievers in baseball going back to 2016 (12.2 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.02 WHIP and a 2.43 ERA across 270 1/3 innings entering play on Friday). The Indians have to decide whether to keep Hand as a bullpen anchor in what they hope will be a bounce-back 2020 or use him to get the long-term offensive pieces they need.

, LHP, Tigers
Under control through 2022

The Tigers are unsurprisingly open for business and would be wise to take advantage of a market full of clubs starved for relief pitching help by dealing Greene. But Boyd’s even more interesting. Last year, he reshaped his slider, and this year, he’s figured out how to properly deploy it, getting a 40.8 percent whiff rate with it, entering Thursday’s start against the Royals.

The here and now is exciting, but Boyd’s biggest selling point is that he’s still got three full seasons of arbitration control remaining. The Tigers hope to contend as soon as 2021, so they could opt to keep and build a rotation around Boyd. But there’s little doubt -- even in a buyer-friendly market -- that he’d command an intriguing prospect price tag right now.

, OF, Yankees
Under control through 2023

This is a little bit of a different twist on this list, because the acquiring club would, in all likelihood, be giving up a Major League piece (best bet is a starter), as opposed to prospects, and using Frazier as part of an overall transition period at the big league level. He might be worth the gamble.

Frazier wants to be a star, and there have certainly been times in his professional career in which he’s probably been guilty of wanting it too much. His recent spat with the New York media drew a lot of eyerolls in the industry, and the defensive miscues (in a game against the Red Sox on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, no less) that prompted that spat weren’t pretty, either. But this kid can hit. Frazier has a 12.2 percent barrels per batted ball event (i.e. the percentage of his balls put in play that have been struck at the ideal exit velocity and launch angle) rate is well north of the league average. He’s only 24 years old, and if the Yankees really are open to moving Frazier in the right deal (especially with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge coming back), it might behoove a team to take a chance on the raw bat speed and figure out the personality and defensive positioning later.

, RHP, D-backs
Under control through 2021

If money were not a factor, Greinke would have been gone a while ago. But it is a factor -- a big one. Greinke is still owed $35 million in both 2020 and ’21. The difference between now and the offseason, when the D-backs never got a suitable offer for him, is that Greinke has shown additional denial of Father Time with a characteristically great season (2.87 ERA, 154 ERA+) in part by bringing the Bugs Bunny curve back to baseball.

Of course, another thing that has changed is that the D-backs are much better than they were projected to be after trading Paul Goldschmidt. But because of the impact Greinke has on their overall payroll picture, they can’t ignore any legitimate interest in Greinke, should it present itself.

, OF, Padres
Under control through 2023

We’ve seen reports in recent days that other teams are inquiring about Renfroe, and that really shouldn’t be a surprise. The Padres have depth in their outfield, and even if they remain alive in the National League Wild Card race in the coming weeks, they could deal from the Major League roster.

The Padres were open to moving Renfroe over the offseason but never found the right deal for him. On the one hand, his low on-base percentage (.296) remains a limitation in the trade market. But Renfroe’s improved power (his slugging percentage is up from .504 to .597) and improved defense (he’s already accrued more Defensive Runs Saved this season than last) do alter the equation.

, RHP, Mets
Under control through 2021

I’m going to get yelled at by Mets fans for stirring the Thor pot again (they tend to not like that), and it is true that this guy has been the subject of a multitude of trade rumors without any actual action.

But the bottom line is that the Mets did shop Syndergaard last offseason and could again, given that this season has not lived up to their expectations. Syndergaard has underperformed, too, but he’s healthy and numbers such as FIP and xwOBA insist he’s been unlucky, too. He’s got two more years of arbitration eligibility, and the Mets already have big money committed to Jacob deGrom, Robinson Cano and Yoenis Cespedes.

, OF, Mariners
Under control through 2022

General manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have both said the Mariners will focus their rebuild around Haniger instead of making him the latest piece moved as part of the “reimagination” of the roster. Moving Haniger would say a lot not just about how far the M’s have fallen in 2019 but also their intentions for 2020.

Still, with Dealin’ Dipoto, you can never be 100 percent sure. Haniger has seen a big slide in his production this season (his OPS has fallen from .859 to .778), and he’s currently out with … actually, let’s not discuss his injury, as it’s too uncomfortable. But if he recovers fairly quickly and can cut down on his K’s upon his return, perhaps a club will buy in, as Haniger is only a year removed from an All-Star campaign.