The 2022 deadline has already seen one unlikely winner in Pittsburgh catcher Jason Delay, a 27-year-old who had a 59 wRC+ in 28 AAA games this year when he got the call. Those outcomes obscure his ability though. He’d posted a 123 wRC+ in 13 AAA games last year, but he just hasn’t played all that much professional baseball since being selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Shortly after his debut, the club traded Michael Perez, making Delay the lead man post-haste. The slow-to-arrive backstop has taken well to the gig, slashing .308/.357/.462 and passing the eye test as a defender. I’m already comfortable penciling him in as the club’s starter in 2023, which is kind of the goal here: I’m looking for players whose post-deadline, playing time windfall can carry over into next year and launch them into long-term fantasy relevance.
Washington OF Josh Palacios (27, AAA) has played well all year after the club claimed him off waivers from Toronto, slashing .299/.384/.451 with nine home runs and 19 stolen bases. His plate skills have been impressive: 10.7% BB and 16.0% K, and I can’t see anyone on the roster who should keep Palacios on the sideline after the deadline. The club should be able to move Josh Bell, Nelson Cruz and perhaps even Juan Soto, and while they’ll likely get a high-minors piece or two in exchange, they’d be wise to avoid making the same mistake they made last year in pigeon-holing the kinds of pieces they’d like to get back. Keibert Ruiz is fine, but the team is awful enough with an empty system that it won’t be able to maximize the low-cost windows on Ruiz or Josiah Gray. This team needs a full reset. Best play would be to take as many high upside teeny bopper types as they can get. With all this opportunity incoming, it would be nice to point to several young Nats who could help a fantasy squad if given the chance, but Palacios is pretty much the only game in town unless you count David Dahl, who signed with the club last week.
Mets 1B Dominic Smith and Mets 3B JD Davis could be among those names in Washington’s post-deadline lineup, but only if the club is willing to move Soto, Bell or Cruz within the division, and that feels unlikely to me. Whether they’re in the capital or not, Smith and/or Davis could soon be starters with an inside lane on full-time at bats in 2023. They’ve both shown at times that they’re good enough to be major league regulars.
I started Cubs OF Nelson Velazquez in the 20-team Highlander Dynasty Invitational this week, and I feel like a fool. (Cue the Nelson “HaHa” sound bite). Of course the club would prefer to showcase Rafael Ortega in the final trade week even with Velazquez heating up. No matter. Ian Happ, Willson Contreras, and Ortega will likely be gone by this time next week, and Velazquez will be a lineup fixture this year and next.
The Cubs should also be clearing out as much of the bullpen as possible, making RHP Scott Effross a solid spec snag. He’s a sidewinder who’s been effective against both sides of the plate this season, so while he doesn’t immediately strike the eye as a closer, he picked up his first career save on Tuesday and will collect a few more if the club can move David Robertson and Mychal Givens.
Still in Chicago, Cubs C PJ Higgins is already playing a little at the corners and will probably play a lot, especially if the club moves 3B Patrick Wisdom. His 142 wRC+ isn’t likely to hold over a larger share of plate appearances, but the 29-year-old Higgins has been posting plus lines in the high minors since 2019, so it wouldn’t be wild for him to step in and produce enough to help us in a hybrid first-base-third-base-catcher role.
Orioles RP Felix Bautista is dominant. 95th percentile type stuff. Splitter is among the game’s best. I wouldn’t trade Closer Jorge Lopez if I were running the club, but they’re in line to get some aggressive offers to acquire his services. If they do see an offer they can’t refuse, Bautista immediately enters the top ten closer picture in my opinion. Baltimore is 49-and-48 right now, three games out in the wild card race, but it’s still worth a lap around your leagues to see if he’s on the wire.
People predicting the Red Sox will sell should pump the brakes a bit. The team is 49-and-49 and just 3.5 games out of the wild card as I type this Wednesday, and the front office is saying it hasn’t even discussed the idea of moving Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers. Whether that remains true (assuming it’s true today) over the next week is probably up to the team on the field. Would help if they could get some solid innings out of Brayan Bello, whose 3.87 FIP looks odd next to his 2.50 WHIP.
Texas should be seeking to sell Kole Calhoun to whoever calls, opening some at bats for Nick Solak, Elier Hernandez and/or Bubba Thompson. It’s Bubba who could be the real score for us. I added him last week in the 20-team Highlander league with no dedicated minor league spots, so I’m hoping his time is nigh because he’s started taking some walks and accessing his power. In 74 games at AAA, Thompson has 12 home runs and 46 stolen bases. He’s been caught stealing twice. An outfield of Leody Taveras, Adolis Garcia and Bubba Thompson would be the league’s fastest by a wide margin. Could be a ratio-suppressing, off-season draw for free agent arms who should already be looking in this direction after the breakout of Jon Gray and Martin Perez. He could be on the move, too: Perez, but Owen White would be the most interesting option to replace him, and he just landed on the minor league injured list with forearm fatigue.
Miami 1B Lewin Diaz is already up with the club and is due a trial run for 2023. Team officials say everyone but Sandy Alcantara is on the table, which seems a weird note when you have Jazz Chisholm, but so it goes. Garrett Cooper isn’t a free agent until 2024, and he just went on the injured list with right wrist contusion, so complications exist.
Jesus Aguilar’s contract has a mutual option for next year, but he’s slugging .388 with a .295 on base percentage. Miami is 4.5 games out of the wild card and has enough pitching to be dangerous if they can squeak in. I like the idea of putting everyone on the table and trying to salvage some sort of offense for the stretch run. No clue if that’s their angle, which might be closer to a firesale just parsing the language and thinking about the ownership group. In my opinion, you have the best pitcher in baseball and a snowball’s chance at the playoffs, you hang in as long as you can. Side benefit is it helps Alcantara win the Cy Young. Which would make him cost more but also adds value to the franchise.
Kansas City 2B Michael Massey and OF Nate Eaton are both in the right place at the right time to inherit some of the opportunities left behind by Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi. No guarantee either gets traded. Kansas City’s deadline machinations have typically been hard to predict.
It’s a fun game to play, I think, seeking out the unexpected winners of the trade deadline. Let me know in the comments if someone jumps to mind for you!
Oh and a bit of a PS this week: Baltimore 2B Terrin Vavra got called up, which is good for him and maybe for us too but also signals that perhaps Jordan Westburg and Gunnar Henderson aren’t in the running for a call-up. I might be overrating the butterfly effect here, but the team was playing Jonathan Arrauz at second base, and Vavra (145 wRC+ in AAA) should be better than him, at least with the bat. If he settles into the role, there’ll be no need for a new infielder.
Thanks for reading!
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