Most Likely to be Traded: Relievers
With the Aug. 31 trade deadline approaching, we’re taking a look at which MLB-level players might be shopped on the market. In the final installment of this three-part series, we focus on relief pitchers (see also: Starting Pitchers and Position Players). Here’s our list:
High Probability: Rentals on teams likely to be sellers:
- Anthony Bass 
- Ian Kennedy  *
- Trevor Rosenthal 
-  [UPDATE: Traded 8/21]
Medium probability: Relievers with 1+ years left of control, on teams likely to be sellers:
- Matt Barnes [-0.2]
- Ryan Brasier [0.8]
- Carl Edwards Jr. [-0.9]
- Mychal Givens 
- Heath Hembree  [UPDATE: Traded 8/21]
- Joe Jimenez [2.3]
Low probability: Rentals on likely contending teams who could be moved in the right deals, and/or if their teams fall out of contention:
- Brad Brach 
- Andrew Chafin [6.1]
- Alex Colome 
-  *
- Sean Doolittle 
- Shane Greene 
- Liam Hendriks [0.9]
- Tommy Hunter 
- Trevor May [-3.1]
- Mark Melancon [-7.2] *
- Justin Wilson [-0.1]
Low probability: Mostly strong performers, mostly on contending teams, with more control years, but whose clocks are ticking:
- Archie Bradley 
- Edwin Diaz [-9.1]
- Brad Hand [1.5]
- Daniel Hudson [0.4] *
- Raisel Iglesias [2.9]
- Craig Kimbrel [1.1] *
- Chris Martin [0.3] *
- Hector Neris [2.7]
- Ryan Pressly [7.8] *
- Hansel Robles 
*Cash or equivalent player value would need to be added to offset negative value.
A few observations about this list:
As with both of our other lists, there are no obvious big names in the high-probability bucket. The biggest missing name here is Ken Giles, who is nursing an elbow injury. We think it’s unlikely he’ll be on the market given that injury concern. Otherwise, he’d be an obvious inclusion given that he’s a rental on a team that is likely to be selling.
One reason relief pitchers are often moved at the deadline is because their price tags are low. Contending teams don’t typically have to give up a lot (the Aroldis Chapman trade is the exception that proves the rule) to get back-end help, because reliever trade values tend to hover in the single digits — which means you can often get a decent one for the cost of a minor prospect.
But since the playoff format has been expanded to 16 teams this year, it figures that there will be fewer sellers and more buyers. So on the one hand, we could see prices going up as a result of that supply/demand imbalance. On the other hand, since there is still some uncertainty around the completion of this season, it seems less likely teams will part with any significant prospect capital for a rental — not to mention the heightened injury risks around pitchers this year.
Further, there just aren’t any needle movers among the rentals. Keone Kela has been out with COVID-19. Trevor Rosenthal’s sample size is still too small to be trusted. Ian Kennedy’s contract is underwater. Tony Watson has been mediocre at best lately. Brandon Workman or Anthony Bass, anyone?
So if we do see bidding wars, we think it’s more likely to be around names with more control, such as Mychal Givens or maybe Joe Jimenez. Matt Barnes seems like a good bet to be moved, since he’s being wasted on a retooling Boston team, but he’s not a closer.
And if the Diamondbacks throw in the towel, Archie Bradley would generate some interest. Edwin Diaz and Hansel Robles would be buy-low opportunities, if their respective teams fall out of the race and a contending team wants to take a shot at a turnaround. Craig Kimbrel probably isn’t going anywhere, because his contract is severely underwater, he’s pitching terribly, and the Cubs are contenders who might want to just ride it out for now.
So it’s a mixed bag. As always with relievers at the deadline, there will be deals — but they’re more likely to be of the smaller variety.
Most Likely to be Traded: Starting Pitchers