With the second half of the season upon us, attention will be heavy, not just on teams making a push toward October, but also on the individuals positioned to most impact those races.
Which is why, in this week’s divisional notebook, MLB.com has identified players who warrant a little extra attention over the next few weeks. It could be because of the value a player can bring on the trade market, or perhaps the role his play will have in dictating a team’s needs as the July 31 Trade Deadline nears. Here is one such player from each of the American League Central clubs:
Player to watch: RHP Trevor Bauer
A month ago it seemed probable that Bauer would be gone from Cleveland before the Trade Deadline. But that was before the Indians finished the first half on a 15-5 run that pulled them into the second AL Wild Card spot and within striking distance of the division-leading Twins. So where does that leave Bauer?
Bauer will spend the rest of July pitching while his name simultaneously swirls in the rumor mill. There’s certain to be interest in a pitcher who is coming off a sixth-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award vote and who won’t become a free agent until after the 2020 season. Of course, a strong finish to the month by Bauer could also solidify Cleveland’s place as a postseason contender and could potentially put the club in position to hang onto its assets.
Player to watch: RHP Homer Bailey
The rebuilding Royals would like to be able to turn Bailey into a tradable asset, though his value may well depend on how he does over these next three weeks. His season numbers are decent -- a 7-6 record and 4.80 ERA in 18 starts -- but he closed out the first half even better. Over his last five starts, Bailey has posted a 2.48 ERA while allowing a .213 opponents’ batting average. A strong second half of the month will only increase interest.
Bailey’s value is also helped by the fact that he’d come at basically no financial cost, as he is earning the Major League minimum over the remainder of the season, as the Dodgers are paying the rest of his contract. While Bailey wouldn’t bring the Royals a sizeable return, Kansas City will take a flyer on anyone who could develop into a future asset.
Player to watch: LHP Matthew Boyd
Boyd’s 13-strikeout, zero-walk performance against the White Sox on July 4 couldn’t have come at a better time for the Tigers, who have set a high price for teams interested in trading for a left-hander with three years of team control to go. The outing also represented a needed bounce-back for Boyd following consecutive starts in which he served up three home runs.
The Tigers will open the second half with 10 games against the Royals, Indians and Blue Jays, which would seem to set Boyd up for a chance to build on that momentum. The trade market is deep in starting pitching, and general manager Al Avila is looking to maximize the club’s prospect return in any midseason deals. That could mean that Boyd lingers in limbo up until the Deadline.
Player to watch: RHP Cody Allen
The Twins are going to be in the market for relief help this July. That much is clear. Just how much help they need could depend on how their reclamation project goes with Allen, who was released by the Angels, picked up by the Twins and sent to Class A Advanced Fort Myers to see if he could get himself right. Since coming to the organization, he’s struck out four and allowed three hits over four scoreless innings.
It’s the sort of low-risk, high-reward addition that could pay dividends for the division-leading Twins, who need to build out their bullpen depth. They head toward the Deadline seeking an experienced reliever for high-leverage situations and view the 30-year-old Allen, who saved 149 games during seven seasons with the Indians, as a candidate to fill that void. If he can’t, it’ll become one more item on the Twins’ Trade Deadline to-do list.
Player to watch: RHP Alex Colomé
The right-hander has converted 20 of 21 save opportunities and has anchored a vastly improved bullpen that helped the White Sox to a stronger-than-projected first half. That makes Colome a bit of a conundrum. Because the 30-year-old is under contractual control through 2020, the White Sox don’t feel pressure to deal him away in the same way they did with veterans on expiring contracts in recent years. He can be a part of the team’s continuing rebuild.
But Colome also figures to be their greatest trade chip. The White Sox, who sit seven games out of an AL Wild Card berth, should and will set the bar high for a return. And with the team not figuring to be in postseason contention this year, Chicago will move him if that price is met.