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August waivers: makeover edition

With the July 31 non-waiver MLB trade deadline in the rear view, it’s time now to keep an eye on the August waiver trade possibilities. Deals that fell through prior to August have a chance to be completed now as long as the targeted player(s) have passed through waivers. There is also the possibility of working out a deal with a team that has claimed a player.

First, to clear up one big misconception…just because your favorite player is on waivers doesn’t mean your team is going to lose him/trade him. It’s standard practice every year to put everyone through waivers to see what may transpire. Yet, every year I see fans panicking on social media. Don’t worry Nats fans, Bryce Harper isn’t going anywhere (for now).

But some real possibilities exist to improve one’s team down the homestretch. And not all August transactions need to be major ones, either. In an attempt to chase down one of the 2014 wildcard spots, the Yankees added Mark Reynolds in mid-August. Though they missed out on the playoffs, Reynolds slugged .455 with 6 HR and 19 RBI in 36 games.
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Luis Sojo served as a utility infielder for the Yankees from 1996 – 1999, but signed a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 2000 season. When August rolled around, second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was still having trouble at the position he once mastered. Seeing Knobby make 15 errors in compiling a .958 fielding percentage, the Yankees went shopping for a guy they knew could handle the pressures of being a Yankee.

Sojo, of course, was the hero of the fifth and final game of the 2000 Subway Series with the New York Mets. It was his “seeing-eye single” through the middle (Mets’ pitcher turned Yankees’ broadcaster Al Leiter jokingly insists it was a “200 hopper”) that snapped a 2-2 tie and gave the Yankees a 4-2 win and their 26th world title.

Offense on Holliday

Until the Yankees seven-run outburst against the Cleveland Indians Sunday afternoon, the offense had been anemic. Prolonged slumps have hit several Yankees since the start of July.  Aaron Judge (.181/.333/.377 since the All-Star break) and Gary Sanchez (.231/.273/.396) are the most prominent Yankees mired in slumps.

Matt Holliday hasn’t been the same since the Epstein-Barr virus weakened him in Mid-June. Until that time, he had been a key contributor in the lineup. Holliday didn’t appear to be at full strength even before he landed on the DL this past Sunday.

On top of that, Todd Frazier has had just 11 hits in 55 at-bats since his acquisition from the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline. The Yankees could definitely use a bat right now. They may not have to go out and get one if Aaron Hicks (on rehab assignment along with Tyler Austin) and Starlin Castro or Greg Bird (who both took batting practice on Tuesday) can return from the DL soon.

Hal Steinbrenner has already said he will not add payroll to the current roster. However, if the Yankees can find a cheap, good addition, GM Brian Cashman might just get the new Boss to approve some extra money. The bigger problem is finding someone to acquire.

Veteran Mike Napoli has had his named attached to rumors involving the Yankees. The chatter has been about Napoli platooning with Chase Headley. However, while Napoli has a robust .544 slugging percentage against left-handers, he’s hit only seven of his 22 home runs against them.

(The Mets outfield duo of Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson both passed through waivers, but the Yankees really don’t have room for an outfielder, even with the regular DH sidelined. Of course, the Yankees and Mets don’t like dealing with each other either. Bruce, a free agent after the season, has put together a 29-HR, 75-RBI campaign and would require major prospects in return. There is also the matter of the remainder of Bruce’s $13MM for this season and who will pay it. And, lastly, the Yankees are on his no-trade list.

UPDATE 8/10: On Wednesday evening (8/9), the Mets dealt Bruce to the Indians for a prospect. The Yankees were said to have had discussion with the Mets about Bruce before the deal was completed.

Granderson, also a pending free agent, is not the player he once was. While he still has power, he’s not enough of a contact hitter anymore. If Castro’s hamstring issues were to linger, the Yankees could add another infielder such as Atlanta’s Brandon Phillips. Of course, he will have to pass through waivers, which isn’t a sure thing. At age 37, he can still play a decent second base and he still swings a pretty good bat. He’s also cost-efficient…he earns $14MM this year, with the Reds picking up $13MM of it from their February trade with Atlanta.

Unless there’s a Phillips-type deal made, it’s likely the Yankees will stand pat.

Astronaut Verlander?

While the Yankees aren’t likely to do anything that makes a splash, there could still be some significant moves made in August. The Houston Astros attempted to pry Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers before the deadline, but came up empty.

An immediate issue is Verlander’s no-trade clause. The second issue is the $56MM he is owed over the next two seasons, not to mention the $22MM he can earn in 2020 if he finishes in the Top-5 Cy Young voting in 2019. The Astros have plenty of prospects to use in a deal, and Verlander could be the one player that could be the difference between the team’s first title and another miserable Winter.
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But does Verlander want to go anywhere? He seems happy in Detroit, the only organization he has known in his 13 years in the Majors. It would be a tough sell to get him to waive his no-trade clause.

Jose, No Way

Back in May, former Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira told ESPN radio listeners “The fact of the matter is no one really likes Jose Bautista.” While that may or may not be true, the Blue Jays’ fans and ownership do love/like him. As a free agent this Winter, Bautista inked a one-year, $18MM contract.

The deal also includes a mutual option for 2018 ($17MM/$550K buyout) and a $20MM vesting option for 2019. To reach it, Bautista needs 300 total games played between this year and next, and not have a malady that would keep him from playing in 2019.

Bautista’s OPS has been on a steady decline since 2015:

2015: .913

2016: .817

2017: .705

At this point, the Blue Jays would be crazy to pick up his option next season, especially with such a cheap buyout. However, Bautista has a full no-trade clause and he didn’t want to sign anywhere else this past Winter. So, the chances of him waiving his no-trade now are slim to none. Some players want to stay where they love, even if their team is in last place.

Votto – Do the Reds Have the Guts?

The Cincinnati Reds are going nowhere fast. They sit alone in last place in the NL Central. This is the same spot they occupied when the 2016 season ended. And where they were at the end of the 2015 season? You guessed it, last place. In 2014, they were 4th in a five team division. There’s not a whole lot to look forward to at the Great American Ball Park.
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Joey Votto, the Reds best player for nearly a decade, has already passed through waivers. He’s also set to earn $150MM over the next six years. That’s a giant chunk of change. It would be a wildly unpopular move among Cincy’s fan base, but it’s the best way for the Red to quickly reboot the team.

However, the Reds would get better return in the offseason when teams are resetting for next year.

Sir Lance – a little

At one time, Lance Lynn had a promising future, then he missed all of the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. His timing couldn’t have been worse considering he’s a free agent after the 2017 season. But, Lynn has put some concerns to rest.

The right-hander has made 23 starts this season and he’s thrown 132.2 innings. His K/9 IP is down only slightly from his previous seasons and so far he has produced a career-best WHIP. His Batting Average on Balls in Play (baBIP) is a mere .221, another career-best. The Astros are one of the teams that showed interest in Lynn prior to the July 31st deadline and they may still try to pry him away from the Cardinals.

Ian Kinsler, Bernie Brewer Wants You

The Milwaukee Brewers aren’t looking to replace Bernie Brewer, the lederhosen-wearing mascot that slides into a mug of beer whenever the Brewers hit a home run. But, the Brewers would like to replace their anemic-hitting duo of second basemen Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard.

FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers have an interest in the Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler. Unfortunately, the Brewers would have to convince Kinsler to drop them from his 10-team no-trade clause. One way to do that would be to pick up his $10MM option for next season (it’s only double his $5MM buyout).

The 35-year old isn’t having his best season either – .245/.312/.388 – but he’d still be an improvement over Villar and Sogard. Kinsler also won his first Gold Glove Award last year.

Oh What a Relief it is

Teams have been collecting relievers like survivalists stocking up on canned beans. The Yankees brought in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. The Nationals made deals for Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler. The Red Sox added Addison Reed, who the Mets replaced with AJ Ramos.

Among those who might find new homes in August or even September are: Brad Hand (Padres), Jim Johnson (Braves), Drew Storen (Reds), and Tyler Clippard (White Sox). Hand was very much in demand leading up to the non-waiver deadline.

Will any moves be made? Sure, but they’re likely to be minor tweaks not a Verlander-type blockbuster.

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