August Trade Targets to Fight the Post-Deadline Blues

There’s always this moment of reflective depression for me, after July’s non-waiver trade deadline passes and all the autopsies are done, when I wistfully look over the players not traded and sigh at the possibilities that never came to pass. Trades are fun after all, and let’s be honest, they’re also raw meat for loudmouth internet commentators like myself.

August isn’t a completely dead month, however, and trades can be made, especially when there’s a large contract in the mix. Woe be unto the teams that recklessly make a claim on a player with a contract they do not wish to have. And with many of the currently contending, large-payroll teams being run in a manner that demonstrates their cognizance of MLB’s soft salary cap — let’s call things what they are — there’s an opportunity to sneak smaller contracts through in addition to some of the more expensive ones for players that can help a team while not necessarily being worth their contracts.

In 2017 alone, you had Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, Yonder Alonso, Curtis Granderson, and Mike Leake, among others, all notable players that were able to be moved due at least in part to contractual reasons. It’s weird looking at it now, but Verlander completely cleared waivers and the Tigers ate some of his contract to get better prospects than they would have otherwise.

As in most years, there are a number of players who are extreme risks to claim on waivers, as their current teams likely will just say “Done. Thanks!”


Jordan Zimmermann has a full no-trade clause (partial after this season), and while nobody would give him 2 years, $45 million with a partial no-trade, essentially what his contract is for 2019-2020, he’s shown enough this year that if the Tigers are willing to eat enough of his contract, he can help a team in desperate straits. A 4.03 FIP isn’t anything to scoff at, and he’s been effective enough to get his strikeout rate back to his career-highs after a K/9 of 5.6 and 5.8 the past two seasons. He even has a career-best for contact percentage allowed.


With $2 million remaining on his contract and most of the contending teams addressing shortstop already, it’s unlikely Jose Iglesias is claimed capriciously simply given that there’s no team that would likely make him the starter for the final two months of the season. However, a team like the Brewers or Phillies with some weak defenders in the infield ought to have at least some interest in having Iglesias in the mix.


I swear, I’ll talk about non-Tigers soon. Even in a lousy season as a starter, lefties have only gone 7-for-62 with two homers (.113/.214/.210) against Francisco Liriano, so using him as a lefty specialist remains a possibility. The Astros liked said possibility enough to give up an actual prospect in Teoscar Hernandez for Liriano in 2017, and while Liriano won’t fetch anyone of that value, there ought to be some interest in him for that limited role.


Shin-Soo Choo could absolutely help a team considering he’s hitting .278/.388/.486 this year, and who isn’t going to love a player with a 52-game on-base streak? The answer, naturally, is the person who has to pay the remainder of Choo’s contract, which comes out at about $48 million for two-plus years. Not a good deal now, not a good deal the moment it was signed, and not a good deal at any point during the contract, which is why Choo would pass through waivers. I think a team would give him a two-year, $20 million contract if he were a free agent at this moment, so if I’m the Rangers, I try to shop him around with $35-$40 million and try to snag a B prospect in return or some low-level lottery pick.


Call me crazy, but given a calf injury that’s keeping him on the shelf and a rather down .234/.333/.432 season, could Josh Donaldson pass through waivers? At the very least, Donaldson’s $7 million remaining for that uncertainty will certainly keep him unclaimed up until a contending team that’s serious about wanting to make a deal. A willingness to cover that tab by the Jays may net them a better prospect than they can draft following a qualifying offer.


Whether Andrew McCutchen moves depends on the timing of when he’s placed on revocable waivers and whether the Giants fall out of contention. While I think he would pass through revocable waivers given that he’s only league-average with the kindest possible spin on his 2018 and the remaining salary, it’s not a guarantee. Ideally speaking, the Giants would probably like to have him pass through waivers and leave the option to trade him open, but if they placed him on waivers right now and he’s claimed, the team only gets a couple of days to close a deal, and they’re still competitive right now.


OK, this is a gimme. It would be shocking if the Reds didn’t end up trading Matt Harvey at all, given that they did the Devin Mesoraco swap for the expressed, or at least heavily hinted-at, purpose of flipping him this summer if he showed anything at all. Unlike many players the Reds don’t trade, there’s no long-term organizational fondness to stay their hand nor is there likely to be any real benefit to signing him long-term.


Don’t laugh. Nobody’s going to claim him and pick up even the few remaining million that the White Sox owe, but James Shields has at least shown the ability to eat some innings, and with pitchers being the sports equivalent of a vase on a table next to a cat, bad things can happen to pitchers very quickly, and the post-deadline rules make it a trickier task to find a quick replacement. Chicago’s demands are likely to be extremely minimal; I’m not sure he would fetch Fernando Tatis Sr. right now.


I personally don’t see the lure of bringing in Tyler Clippard at this point, but teams sometimes make poor decisions. The Jays don’t have much use for him at this point, and if someone wants him and is willing to pick up a token percentage of his salary, Toronto likely knows they don’t have any leverage here.


Granderson has shown enough in Toronto that I’m betting he gets moved for a second straight August, hopefully with better results for his new team than last year, when he hit .161/.288/.366 for the Dodgers after a respectable mid-summer for the Mets. There are teams that can still use an extra corner outfield bat, like the Phillies or D-backs. The Rockies could as well, but the team being full of lefty hitters and apparently being unaware of any problem probably kills any chances of that happening.


OK, this isn’t happening, but being from Baltimore, it makes me happy to imagine this. Like Bobby Bonilla’s deferred money, I’m doomed to hearing about and making jokes about Chris Davis‘ contract and yearly payments until I’m nearly 60.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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mike sixel
mike sixel

Ervin Santana and Fernando Rodney, and we can dream on Logan Morrison….


Yeah, too bad on the Morrison thing… I’d hoped he’d be a factor for the Twinks


Oh he was definitely a factor in the outcome of the Twins’ season . . .