NL East Trade Talk: The Nationals and a bunch of crap

FunGraphs detailed the list of buyers and sellers along with hypothetical trades for the AL East teams yesterday. Now it’s the NL East’s turn. In stark contrast to the AL East, which features three competitive teams and two teams that while bad aren’t horrible, the NL East only includes one good team, the Washington Nationals. The remaining teams in the division occupy a spectrum ranging from below average to the worst team in the league.

nl east playoff

Washington Nationals (52-36, 0 Luck Factor)

Is this the year that the Nationals, owner of a winning record every year since 2012, finally break through and move past the NL Division Series? Potentially. Their offensive lineup looks as potent as ever, with four, top 15 players in wRC+. Max Scherzer is arguably the best pitcher in the game and forms the best one-two punch in league with Stephen Strasburg. However, Washington has several glaring weaknesses in their squad. The most obvious is the league’s worst bullpen measured by ERA, second worst by FIP and worst by HR/9. Outside of veteran Matt Albers, the Nationals haven’t received quality innings from any of their relievers and should be in the market for at least one, if not two quality arms. The Nationals’ second big weakness is an unfortunate one. They acquired center fielder Adam Eaton over the offseason for a hefty price tag and he acquitted himself well to start the year before tearing an ACL in late April. Center field is currently being manned by Michael “I strike out 5-6x more than I walk” Taylor. While Taylor has played well this season, his underlying abilities haven’t changed much and Washington could use a rental upgrade.

Playoff Contention: Division Leader
Status: Definite Buyer
Needs: Relief Pitcher, Center Fielder

Hypothetical Trade: Washington trades SS Carter Kieboom to the Chicago White Sox for RP David Robertson. While righty reliever David Robertson isn’t quite the show-stopper he was in New York in the early 2010s, he’s still a high-strikeout bullpen anchor. Robertson is striking out 36.5% of batters this season en-route to a sterling 2.82 ERA, 3.02 FIP and 3.07 xFIP. While Robertson is prone to the occasional walk and his share of blowups, evidenced by 14 blown saves between 2015 and 2016, he would immediately become Washington’s best relief pitcher and likely assume the closer role. Prospect Carter Kieboom, outside of a having a great last name, was the 28th overall selection in 2016 and has raked through rookie and A ball. Kieboom is likely Washington’s second or third best prospect at this point, so the price is high, but the Nationals aren’t going anywhere in the playoffs without an improved bullpen.

Atlanta Braves (42-45, +3 Luck Factor)

While it is a bit perplexing that Atlanta was apparently down to the wire on Jose Quintana before he was dealt to the Cubs, the Braves should firmly be sellers at this year’s trade deadline. While a 42-45 record at the break shows improvement from 2016, their Pythagorean record of 39-48 paints a murkier picture. The team with the best farm system in baseball is close to competing, but not quite yet. They could use an MLB-ready outfield prospect as well as a young starting pitcher, and are flush with assets to sell at the deadline. 36-year old second baseman Brandon Phillips is a free agent after this season and is unlikely to return to Atlanta with Ozzie Albies knocking on the door. First baseman and sometimes left fielder Matt Adams, who has one year of arbitration left before eligibility for free agency in 2019, has had a renaissance season since being dealt to Atlanta from St. Louis. Lefty starter Jaime Garcia has had an up and down season, but will likely be an attractive asset to a team looking for a veteran arm at the back of their rotation.

Playoff Contention: Out
Status: Definite Seller
Needs: MLB-ready Outfielder, Starting Pitcher

Hypothetical Trade: Atlanta trades 1B Matt Adams to Seattle for LF Tyler O’Neill. Matt Adams’ performance has exceeded everyone’s expectations since his late May arrival from St. Louis, raking to the tune of a .947 OPS and .316 isolated slugging percentage since the trade. Adams’ bat has been so good that the Braves moved incumbent first baseman Freddie Freeman to third base upon his return from a wrist fracture in early July. But one can’t help but think the Braves caught lightning in a bottle with Adams and should sell while the price is high. Seattle, currently 43-47 but only 4.0 games out of a wild card spot, could definitely use an upgrade at first base, as the mercurial Danny Valencia is best suited in a platoon role against lefty pitchers. Fortunately, Seattle is replete with good young outfielders, something Atlanta is sorely lacking. Tyler O’Neill, a 22-year old power bat, mashed minor league pitching at every stop and would look good in right field for Atlanta in 2018 (current RF Nick Markakis is signed through next year, but is also likely trade candidate).

Miami Marlins (41-46, -1 Luck Factor)

It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see Jeffrey Loria, absentee owner and selfish human, force GM Michael Hill to shed long-term salary liabilities to assist in Loria’s efforts to sell the team. Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, and Wei-Yen Chen have all been mentioned in trade rumors over the last month. Stanton represents Miami’s biggest financial commitment, but a smart new owner would favor the star power that he brings to the club. Yelich has been the most discussed name, and would probably fetch the most via trade given his very reasonable contract through 2022. Gordon, Prado and Chen all likely have minimal value given their contracts, and Miami would be glad to trade them. Outside of dealing Prado to a team that needs a utility infielder, the most likely scenario is for Miami to trade some of their bullpen arms like AJ Ramos and David Phelps.

Playoff Contention: Out
Status: Definite Seller
Needs: Infield Prospects

Hypothetical Trade: Miami trades RP AJ Ramos to Texas for 2B Jurickson Profar. AJ Ramos has provided quality relief innings for Miami since 2013 and has been the team’s closer since 2015. Owner of one of the best wipe-out sliders in the game, Ramos has always been able to rack up the strikeouts, however his control is an issue, with BB/9 rates near 5.00 the last two years. With that said, Ramos’ resume is impressive, and even in his “down” 2017 he still has a respectable 3.51 ERA. As a result, the bullpen deprived Texas Rangers could surely use his services. Miami would get back former best-prospect-in-baseball Jurickson Profar, who has struggled mightily at the MLB level thus far in his career. Profar, at 24 years old, is still young enough to turn things around, and presents a high-octane skill-set that Miami lacks within their organization at the middle infield position.

New York Mets (39-47, 0 Luck Factor)

Is there a team plagued by more bad luck than the Mets? They entered 2017 spring training with the best pitching staff in the majors and four months later Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Seth Lugo have all spent extended time on the DL. Fortunately for New York, the pieces are there, with a young rotation that can be dominant when healthy. Michael Conforto is one of the piece best young outfielders in the game, while Amed Rosario looks to be a stud at shortstop. They also possess a lot of aging talent rolling into free agency after 2017, including first baseman Lucas Duda, second baseman Neil Walker, center fielder Curtis Granderson, right fielder Jay Bruce and closer Addison Reed. If the Mets play their cards right at the deadline, they can set themselves up very nicely for the near future.

Playoff Contention: Out
Status: Definite Seller
Needs: MLB-ready corner infielder

Hypothetical Trade: New York Mets trade RF Jay Bruce and RP Addison Reed to Colorado for 1B/3B Ryan McMahon and SP Peter Lambert. Addison Reed likely represents the Mets’ best trade chip at the deadline, with Jay Bruce and his 2017 revival second on the list. This deal sees the Mets trading both to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for corner infielder Ryan McMahon, who is currently blocked Nolan Arenado 3B and Ian Desmond/Mark Reynolds at 1B, and 20-year old pitching prospect Peter Lambert. McMahon would play on the Mets immediately, taking over for a likely traded Lucas Duda at first base. Lambert is still several years away from the majors but displayed strong strikeout rates and decent command in high-A. Rockies right fielders have produced the worst production in the majors this season, so adding Bruce’s power bat to the lineup will help. Bruce has always been taking reps at first base this season, allowing him to potentially platoon with righty Mark Reynolds. Reed would step into the set-up role in Colorado and provide stability to a bullpen that has regressed significantly over the last month.

Philadelphia Phillies (29-58, -5 Luck Factor)

The Philadelphia Phillies, at 29-58 and with myriad holes across their MLB roster, are baseball’s worst team this season. Fortunately, help is on the way, with an impressive array of near MLB-ready prospects that should begin flowing to the big league roster post trade deadline and continuing through 2018. Philadelphia possesses a cadre of mediocre veterans on expiring contracts, including second baseman Howie Kendrick and starter Jeremy Hellickson, who will probably be traded before July 31st. Relievers Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit are also free agents at season’s end and should find new teams in several weeks’ time. But don’t be surprised if the Phillies make a bigger splash than anticipated, dealing some of their prospect cupboard for a youngish, impact MLB roster player. Reports have them interested in both Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, however I wouldn’t expect the Marlins to deal their two best players within the division. Additionally, I’m of the mindset that the Phillies could use a young starting pitcher more than a young position player.

Playoff Contention: Out
Status: Definite Seller
Needs: Young MLB Roster Player, Starting Pitching

Hypothetical Trade: Philadelphia trades C Jorge Alfaro, CF Mickey Moniak, LF Nick Williams, and SP Vince Velasquez to Toronto for SP Marcus Stroman. Yeah, I know this won’t happen. But let’s suspend disbelief for a second. The luster on Philadelphia’s young starting rotation has waned over the last two years with Vince Velasquez and Jared Eickhoff looking more like back-end than front-line starters. Moreover, their top prospects are all position players. If the Phillies intend to compete by 2019, their odds of doing so would increase greatly if they acquire a #1 hurler like Stroman. He, along with Aaron Nola, would form the top end of a formidable rotation, and both are cost- controlled through 2020. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays get their catcher of the future in Alfaro and a young outfielder in Nick Williams to revamp their aging roster right now. Mickey Moniak is one of the best outfield prospects in the game but won’t see MLB time until at least 2020, providing some long-term prospect depth. Velasquez, though injury prone and inconsistent, could find himself in Toronto or potentially be a helpful piece in their bullpen. Odds of like 0.2%, but it would be a fun trade!

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