We have a little bit of everything in this week’s article, with a pair of superstars, a few significant players and one option for a smaller move. Smart managers should to continue working every angle on the trade market, as they never know where the next great deal will come from.
Players to acquire
Mookie Betts (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
I always look for windows to acquire superstars for a reasonable return, and such a window may exist for Betts right now. The Dodgers sparkplug is off to a respectable start, but a .258 average, five homers and 31 runs scored through 49 games played is less than his managers expected. Betts is continuing to control the strike zone (0.83 BB-K rate), and while his batted-ball tendencies are slightly worse than last season, they are within the range of normal variance. My guess is that his luck will soon change (.290 BABIP, 7.9 percent HR/FB rate) and Betts will go on a hot streak.
George Springer (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)
The Blue Jays lineup has been awesome this season, ranking second in MLB with a .766 OPS despite playing nearly all their games without their second-best hitter. Meanwhile, Springer has been a consistent source of frustration for fantasy managers, missing all but four games due to oblique and quad injuries. But Springer should return in the next two weeks, at which time he will make a great lineup even better by assuming the leadoff role that was projected for him when he signed a massive six-year contract over the winter. This is a great time to try to deal for one of baseball’s best hitters (career .852 OPS) for a diminished return.
Zach Eflin (SP, Philadelphia Phillies)
Simply put, Eflin has been better than is indicated by his 4.10 ERA. The right-hander has produced an outstanding 21.6 percent K-BB rate while also doing a great job of limiting hard contact. On the basis of his 3.22 FIP and 3.29 xFIP, there is an excellent chance that Eflin will soon look more like a borderline ace than a rotation filler. A look at his Yahoo Trade Market page shows that he has recently been swapped for some very reasonable returns.
Charlie Blackmon (OF, Colorado Rockies)
You rarely see the words “unlucky” and “Coors Field” in the same paragraph, but here we are. From a fantasy perspective, Blackmon hasn’t been good this year. After all, a .268 average and four homers are far below expectations for someone with plenty of power who often hits .300. To make his lack of production even more surprising, Blackmon has made notable plate discipline improvements that include a 10.8 percent walk rate and a 12.7 percent strikeout rate. Overall, Blackmon has struggled because he has been unlucky at home, which is where batted-ball luck has traditionally trended in his favor. With a .491 xSLG, the veteran is showing signs that more homers are coming soon.
Players to trade away
Zack Greinke (SP, Houston Astros)
Managers who can trade away Greinke for a strong return on the basis of his 3.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP should make the move. The 37-year-old has experienced significant swing-and-miss regression this year, resulting in an 18.4 percent strikeout rate that is one of the lowest among qualified pitchers. He has had success in limiting hard contact, but the lack of whiffs limits his fantasy upside and could also lead to some poor performances.
Aaron Civale (SP, Cleveland Indians)
Civale is a similar case to Greinke. The Indians righty owns a lowly 18.3 percent strikeout rate, which both limits his fantasy potential and increases his chances of enduring regression in the future. And unlike Greinke, Civale has another problem. He ranks fifth-worst among qualified pitchers in hard contact allowed (38.5 percent); a stat which comes in stark contrast to his .243 BABIP. Giving up quality contact will soon lead to more base knocks, and Civale doesn’t have the strikeout abilities to work around trouble.
Yordan Alvarez (OF, Houston Astros)
Alvarez has two problems. First, he has stopped drawing walks, posting a 3.6 percent walk rate this year which pales in comparison to his 15 percent mark as a rookie in 2019. He is also struggling to make good contact, experiencing major dips in his hard contact rate (30.8 percent) and average exit velocity (90.2 percent). A .374 BABIP has propped up Alvarez’s batting average, but without some quick improvements he may soon be a slow runner with mediocre power who rarely gets on base. I know that the 23-year-old still has plenty of long-term potential, but he isn’t playing well right now.
Ian Kennedy (RP, Texas Rangers)
Kennedy has been great this year, posting a 2.53 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP while converting 12 of 13 save chances. His terrific success is a catch-22 for fantasy managers, as he has more value right now but is also more likely to be traded to a contending team in late July. And since many of baseball’s best clubs already have a closer, Kennedy has an excellence chance of becoming waiver wire fodder in less than two months. By this time in July, fantasy managers will expect a discount on a Kennedy deal, but the window is still open to get full value for him right now. He has recently been dealt for great returns in Yahoo leagues.