Pros and Cons for Top 2023 MLB Trade Deadline Candidates

Buy or sell? Going all-in or a measured approach? Which players should we target? payroll. prospects. Chemistry in the clubhouse.

have MLB front offices a lot of to consider leading up to the Trade Deadline.

But for all the due diligence a team may exercise with a particular player, the decision of whether or not to proceed with a trade can come down to one of two major factors as the clock ticks towards the Deadline.

Below we’ve broken down some of the key pros and cons that potential suitors are sure to consider when it comes to nine of the top candidates to be shared before Tuesday’s 6pm ET Trade Deadline.

Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
Contract status: club option 2024

Advantages: Anderson is a former AL batting champion who posted averages over .300 in each season from 2019-2022, batting .318/.347/.474 with 51 homers and 53 steals during that span. The 30-year-old is a shortstop in his career, but is reportedly open to a move to second base if traded after playing cornerstone for Team USA at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. could be a boon to its defensive value.

Cons: Anderson has looked better since the All-Star break, hitting .378/.440/.422 over 11 games, but he’s still at .245/.285/.285 on the season and remains without a home run. His ground-ball rate has skyrocketed to 64.7%, adding to his MLB worst slugging percentage.

Advantages: Bellinger’s career has been a roller coaster of incredible highs (his 2019 NL MVP Award) and frustrating lows (his .611 OPS in 2021-22). The outfielder was not offered by the Dodgers last offseason, but he’s on the rise again after signing with the Cubs. In more than 70 games with Chicago, he hit a .312/.360/.545 slash, 15 homers, and just a 16.8% strikeout rate, more than 10 percentage points down from 2022 (27.3%). Still only 28, Bellinger also remains a good defenseman and baserunner.

Cons: Bellinger’s numbers may be in a good spot again, but in terms of his contact quality, this isn’t the same hitter who won the NL MVP four years ago. That season, the left-handed slugger ranked in the 88th percentile in barrel speed, the 86th percentile in hard-hit rate, the 95th percentile in walking speed, and the 100th percentile in projected wOBA. This year he’s in the 34th, 12th, 38th and 48th percentile respectively, so it’s a bit questionable if he can maintain his current level of performance.

Advantages: Another 2022 non-tender who has found new life elsewhere, Candelario has been a bright spot for the Nats this season after being let go by the Tigers. No primary third baseman has produced more extra-base hits (47) than the 29-year-old, and only two have produced more WAR (3.0) per Baseball Reference. He has also made dramatic progress on defense, going from -5 outs above average in 2022 to +4 this season.

Cons: Candelario has been smashing fastballs (.324 BA/.599 SLG) and offspeed pitches (.253 BA/.520 SLG) this season, but he struggles a lot against ball breaking (.131 BA/.242 SLG). No batter (min. 100 PAs ending on breaking balls) has a lower batting average than Candelario against breakers, and only three have a lower slugging percentage. That seems like the kind of weakness a good team can exploit in a postseason series.

Advantages: Flaherty has been throwing better lately, posting a 3.45 ERA, a 3.44 FIP and a 2.48 K/BB ratio over his past 12 starts after posting a 6.18 ERA, 5.65 FIP and 1.44 K/BB in his first eight appearances in 2023. He’s only 27 years old, and interested teams hope a change of scenery helps Flaherty tap into the ability he showed when he finished fourth in the 2019 NL Cy Young race (2.75 ERA, 231 K’s) .

Cons: In the four years since that breakaway season, Flaherty hasn’t come close to recapturing his ace form, posting a 4.12 ERA and a 4.31 FIP since early 2019, while dealing with numerous injuries. He has a 1.55 whip this season, is tied with Patrick Corbin for the highest among qualifying pitchers, and his once elite slider no longer generates whiffs or K’s like it used to.

Tommy Pham, OR, Mets
Contract Status: Pending Free Agent

Advantages: Pham is enjoying a reviving 2023 season after signing a one-year deal with the Mets, and his projected stats are even better than his actual numbers. The veteran outfielder scores in the 90th percentile or better this year in average runout speed, chase speed, xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA.

Cons: A right-handed hitter, Pham has had the platoon advantage in 40% of his at bats this season, up from 26% in the previous three years—a span when he held a .696 OPS—so teams have to wonder what kind of production he’ll provide if he later is exposed to right-handed pitching. Now 35, Pham has been a negative defenseman since 2019. He is tied for third fewest OAA (-25) among outfielders in that span.

Advantages: Rodriguez’s numbers this season are Cy Young Award caliber, including career bests in ERA (2.95), FIP (3.18), WHIP (1.03) and K/BB ratio (4.33). The 30-year-old has shown a consistent ability to limit hard contact throughout his career, and this year is no different. It ranks at the 80th percentile in terms of number of severely affected and 77th in average exit rate.

Cons: Rodriguez was never there this good for that, going into this season with a career 4.15 ERA and 3.89 FIP. The southpaw’s performance has been uneven since he bounced back from a torn pulley in his left index finger earlier this month, resulting in two solid starts and two bad ones. He’s signed through 2026, but he can opt out in the off-season for the final three years of his five-year, $77 million deal.

Blake Fast, SP, Padres
Contract Status: Pending Free Agent

Advantages: After a rocky start to the season, Snell has been incredible over two months, posting a 0.78 ERA with 99 strikeouts and a .483 OPS conceded in 69 innings over his past 12 starts. The 2018 AL Cy Young winner’s curveball, slider, and changeup all generate whiffs at a clip of 49% or better — no other pitcher in the Majors has a whiff rate this high on more than one pitch type (minus .100 swings on that field type).

Cons: Snell throws a lot of pitches from the strike zone. Part of that is intentional, as he tries to get chases with his exceptional breaking things. But such an approach can lead to increased running totals, especially given the southpaw’s less-than-stellar fastball command. Snell has one of the highest run percentages (13.4%) in the Majors this year and he made 22 free passes in 27 innings in July.

Marcus Stroman, SP, Cubs
Contract status: has opted out (still valid for one year)

Advantages: Stroman has a long track record with a 3.28 ERA and a 3.64 FIP over 112 starts since the start of 2019, and he’s allowed just 29 extra-base hits in 520 at bats this season — a product of his exemplary ability to take aim the bottom of the attack zone. The veteran has also been traded with the Deadline before – from the Blue Jays to the Mets in 2019 – so switching teams mid-season shouldn’t surprise him.

Cons: As evidenced by his 18th percentile fastball speed, 24th percentile whiff rate, and 35th percentile strikeout rate, the 5-foot-8 Stroman isn’t a prototypical ace, but he’s expected to be one of the most expensive starters on the market (if the Cubs even decide to to sell at all). He’s also in the middle of a rough patch, having allowed 24 earned runs in his past 27 innings. What’s more, the 32-year-old is essentially a mercenary — he can opt out of the final year of his three-year, $71 million contract — but risks signing up for $21 million after that. years if he is injured.

Justin Verlander, SP, Mets
Contract Status: Signed through 2024 (vesting option in 2025)

Advantages: Verlander is one of the most accomplished pitchers in baseball history, with three Cy Young Awards – including AL honors in 2022 – nine All-Star selections and two World Series titles. The right-hander is starting to look like his old self after being on the injured list for April with a major right-side muscle strain and a 4.50 ERA over his first nine starts. In his past six appearances, he held opponents to a minuscule .168 batting average while recording a 1.46 ERA over 37 innings.

Cons: Verlander’s improved performance of late has not been matched by a higher K-rate — he has struck out just 21.5% of the batters he faced in his past six starts and has a 20.9% score on the year, which would be his lowest on a season since 2014. He’s also 40 years old, has already suffered one injury this season, and owes $43.3 million in 2024 — plus another $35 million in 2025 when he next throws more than 140 innings per year. Any team acquiring the rights would be taking on a significant financial risk, though the Mets could mitigate it a bit by paying a portion of its salary to improve trade returns.

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