TDG Roundtable: Favorite Trade Deadline Move
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. Our great staff reacts to last week’s Trade Deadline and who’s move will be the best.
Kyle Schwarber, OF/1B, Boston Red Sox
Kyle Schwarber and the Red Sox are a perfect match. Acquired by the Sox for young righthander Aldo Ramirez, as long as Schwarber can handle first base duties (and he sounds willing, and should be able), the Red Sox acquired the hottest bat in baseball before a hamstring strain put him on the shelf for a few weeks. Once he returns, watch out. There is a reason Schwarber was the fourth overall selection back in 2014 and was called up the very next season, eventually helping the Cubs win the 2016 World Series. Drafted as a catcher, miscast as an outfielder (due to Anthony Rizzo and Josh Bell), first base is where Schwarber will excel. In the midst of a career season at age 28, he has hit 25 home runs in only 265 at-bats, with a slash line of .253/.340/.570.
His 2021 baseball savant page is all kinds of red, where he is at or above the 91st percentile in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard hit %, xSLG, xwOBA, and barrel percentage. What is more interesting is that these percentiles are very close to what he did in 2020 and 2019, and that was why I was a big fan of his going into 2021. Since Schwarber is now a seven-year veteran, many managers out there may think he is older than he is; rather he is in the midst of his prime. Personally, I think the chubby factor applies here, in that he carries weight in his gut and face (not unlike another personal chubby favorite player of mine, Alejandro Kirk), and that lowers his perceived value in dynasty leagues. If anything, now is the time to acquire him, right before (most) leagues’ trade deadlines, and be ready for a big end-of-August and September.
Jorge Soler, OF, Atlanta Braves and Kasey Kalich, RHP, Kansas City Royals
This last-minute deal between the Royals and Braves really intrigued me. Soler provides the Braves a much-needed righthanded power bat who has been on a power tear in his last 10 games, hitting seven home runs and driving in nine. Soler has been averaging a 92.3 mph exit velocity and even maxed out at 115.1 mph. That goes along with a 51.6 hard-hit percentage. With his power comes a lot of holes in his swing. He strikes out close to a 27% clip. The Braves also acquired Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, and Adam Duvall at the trade deadline, which makes you wonder what kind of playing time Soler will get. With his less-than-stellar defense, Soler will most likely get replaced in the OF late in games and possibly platoon with the other outfielders acquired.
On the other side of the trade, the Royals were able to acquire Kasey Kalich, a bullpen arm in High-A that has the ability to overpower hitters with his elite fastball/slider combo. He most likely ends up as a late-inning reliever. But the return for Soler isn’t necessarily where the Royals made gains. Sending Soler to the Braves opened up a spot for OF prospect Edward Olivares. Hanging out in AAA, he was hitting .322 with 13 home runs, 29 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. He was also sporting a solid 17.2% strikeout rate to go along with those numbers. He did see that strikeout rate increase in his last time up to the show, but he also received limited playing time and not many at-bats. Hopefully with the opening in the outfield, Olivares will get a significant opportunity to show what he’s got. The Royals have nothing to play for at this point and have nothing to lose by giving him the opportunity to adjust to major league pitching. This is the perfect opportunity to see if his tools can play at this level.
Jesús Luzardo, SP, Miami Marlins
The Marlins have an excellent reputation for developing young pitchers, and one example is Trevor Rogers. The 23-year-old southpaw is having a breakout season, with a 2.45 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110 IP. Check out his Baseball Savant page, and the first name listed after “Similar Pitchers to Trevor Rogers Based on Velocity and Movement” is Jesús Luzardo, also 23 and a lefty. The Marlins’ return for Starling Marte is the closest thing possible to a clone of their emerging young ace.
Luzardo is not a literal copy of Rogers, of course. In some ways he’s better. He was ranked higher as a prospect, has better average fastball velocity, and his slurvy breaking ball is more effective than Rogers’ slider. Where Rogers has a huge advantage is the changeup. He throws it 27 percent of the time, and opponents have produced a .190 wOBA off it. Luzardo’s changeup has a .393 wOBA allowed, a big part of his struggles this season.
The Marlins have mastered teaching the changeup – for an in-depth explanation, read this. Luzardo was already a decent post-hype dynasty trade target, and the move to Miami can only help him reach his high ceiling.
I like this deal not just for the Luzardo implications, but also because it’s the first major trade made by MLB’s first female general manager. Kim Ng had a relatively uneventful first several months running the Marlins, but between getting Luzardo for a two-month rental of Marte and the potential draft-day steal of Kahlil Watson, she had a very impressive July.
Adam Frazier, 2B/OF, San Diego Padres
What a deadline this was!! As a baseball fan, I absolutely love it. I cannot remember a single deadline this active, this bizarre, this memorable. As a tortured Padres fan, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I fell for the dreaded national baseball writer’s Twitter trap, leading me to believe that Max Scherzer and Trea Turner were *this* close to heading on over to America’s Finest.
While San Diego wasn’t as involved as perhaps fans would have hoped, the trade I like for dynasty purposes involved the Pittsburgh Pirates, where the Padres received Adam Frazier (2B/OF) for Tucupita Marcano (SS), Jack Suwinski (OF), and Michell Miliano (RHP). Mr. Frazier is by no means going to help your homer category, but what he lacks in power he makes up for in batting average (.315) and counting stats (95 runs and RBI), the latter being particularly interesting now that he’ll be part of an above-average lineup. Case in point: Frazier ranks sixth in runs scored among second basemen this season, the vast majority of said runs having been accrued with the Pirates. Why is that relevant? Well, the Padres have scored 135 more runs than the Pirates this season, which portends plenty more opportunities for Frazier to run home during the remaining 50-plus games. His RBI totals should remain low as he most likely remains near the leadoff spot, but hey, let’s not underestimate the importance of regular at-bats, runs scored, and batting average stability as we head into crunch time in fantasyland. If someone is panicking over Frazier’s relatively slow start with his new team, it’s probably worth reaching out to see what it would take to acquire him for the stretch run.
The Kids Who (Should) Get Their Chance Now: Josiah Gray, SP/Keibert Ruiz, C, Washington Nationals
In the fury that was the 2021 MLB trade deadline we saw multiple top-100 prospects change teams. The switch in scenery can be viewed as good or bad depending on multiple aspects of the new organization. It’s most exciting when we see the opportunity for a prospect that previously looked buried on the depth chart. to unlock playing time in a new situation.
The headline pieces returning to Washington in the Scherzer/Turner deal were Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz. Both are considered top-50 prospects who were looked at in the Dodgers system as question marks for how soon they would actually be allowed to be major contributors.
Gray made his major league debut a few weeks before the deadline due to the once incredibly deep Dodgers rotation being decimated by injury and administrative leave absences. But even with all of these openings, knowing the Dodgers as we do, I don’t think anyone really expected Gray to simply be given the ball every fifth day as a starter. After the trade, Gray finds himself in an equally needy Nationals rotation on a team in full rebuild mode that should not hesitate to give him a dedicated rotation spot. Gray is extremely athletic, with four average to above-average pitches that should allow him to find success as a mid-rotation starter with All-Star upside. The bigger question now in my mind lies in the Nationals’ player development to help him reach his ceiling potential.
Keibert Ruiz appears to be an up-and-coming star at the catcher position. Scouts have raved about his skills both offensively and defensively. His soft hands make him an excellent receiver of pitches, and he has a strong and accurate arm. Ruiz will also contribute with a plus hit tool and impressive understanding of the strike zone. In his minor league career he has never had a strikeout rate over 15%. Game power has always been a question mark for him, but he has shown some real progress in 2021 with a significant jump to 17 home runs in 53 games. Despite all of this, major league playing time was even more of a concern for Ruiz as the Dodgers already have a young and talented catcher in Will Smith. Before this trade occurred, Ruiz was probably looking at a backup role or split playing time at best over the next several seasons. Ruiz was the most logical trade piece for the Dodgers to use at the deadline due to their organizational depth at the position, and I expect to see him in the starting catcher role with his new team in the near future.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Chicago White Sox / Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Cleveland Guardians
After teaming with Jared Perkins to write up every prospect to change teams at the deadline (AL and NL), I was able to peek a bit deeper at some lesser known names with a new uniform. Konnor Pilkington is one that stood out to me, as a big bodied (6’3, 230 lbs) left-handed pitcher in AA. The delivery is loose, and low effort, but very repeatable. He uses a low to mid 90s fastball with deception, thanks in part to his delivery, and a changeup that’s plus already, with good fade that plays off the fastball well. He also has a curve that flashes potential but he needs to be more consistent with.
Before the trade he had already made big strides, lowering his ERA to 3.48, WHIP to 0.92, and struck out 71 batters in 62 innings against only 21 walks. The pitch mix works well, as he’s getting a swinging strike rate of 16.4%, and a CSW (called and swinging strike rate) rate of 31.3%. The prospect stood out to me right away, but now consider he’s heading to one of, if not the best organization in baseball at developing pitching. The Guardians are incredibly successful at taking under-the-radar, low-pedigree pitching prospects and making successful major league pitchers out of them – at times even Cy Young award winners. His first start with AA Akron, Pilkington put up an encouraging line of fivr innings, three hits, one walk and one earned run, with nine punchouts. Nothing against the White Sox, they have one of the most underrated rotations in baseball, but I still feel encouraged to watch what Pilkington accomplishes with Cleveland.
This isn’t to say the White Sox overpaid at all, as they are clearly trying to make a World Series run. While they’re at the beginning of their ‘window’ I really like that they’re being aggressive, and not taking a wait-and-see approach. In Cesar Hernadez, the Sox got a big power upgrade over Leury Garcia and the injured (then subsequently traded) Nick Madrigal. They also get a veteran who consistently has good at-bats and has a knack for scoring runs (career RS% of 33%, league average is 30%). With Eloy Jimenez already back, and Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal expected back before September, 2B was easily the weak spot in the White Sox lineup. Hernandez may not be a rental player either, as the team has a club option on his contract for 2022 at $6 million, with no buyout due if Chicago chooses to sever ties. While I think Konnor Pilkington was a good prospect for the Guardians to acquire, I also think Hernandez is a great fit for the White Sox. Maybe this isn’t the highest profile trade at the deadline, but I think both teams will benefit in the end, and neither team will regret the deal.