As we celebrate our independence this weekend with cookouts and fireworks, we should not lose sight over the fact that the Fantasy Baseball season is approximately half over. That also means the trade deadline is rapidly approaching (Aug. 1 this year). Last week, we discussed five part-time players that deserved to play every day. This week, we are taking a look at five players that need to be liberated from their current teams. A change of scenery can do wonders for Fantasy Baseball performances, just look at the reborn Jean Segura. We’ve already seen Fernando Rodney head to Miami and are likely to see a ton of other relievers change uniforms, perhaps even Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman. We are going to leave relievers out of the discussion since there would be too many to talk about. Julio Teheran is also rumored to be on the block, but I do not get the logic of a rebuilding team trading a 25-year-old stud arm who is signed to a team–friendly contract through 2020. Unless the Braves get an absolute haul, I am guessing he stays in Atlanta.
1. Ryan Braun (OF, Brewers) – While Braun’s teammate (more on that later) is the most likely trade candidate, Braun would be a huge offensive upgrade for a playoff contender. There are, of course, a few issues with Braun, including his massive contract, which might make him tough to deal. There is also that whole PED-inflated peak and a lengthy injury history. Oh, and a no-trade clause to further complicate things. After a relatively quiet 25 HR, 24 SB campaign in 2015 (in 140 games), Braun is crushing it once again. He has been held down by the lineup around him, only scoring 34 Runs despite being on base more than 100 times in 65 games. Both re-draft and dynasty Braun owners would stand to benefit from a trade out of Milwaukee and into a more potent lineup.
2. Yasiel Puig (OF, Dodgers) – I am not exactly sure how likely a trade is, but it is completely necessary for all parties involved. If you have followed The Five Spot over the past couple seasons, you can probably gather that I am a big fan of Puig’s long-term upside. Even as a staunch supporter, it is getting tough to justify putting him among the Top 25 dynasty players you want to own. Puig is under a very reasonable contract, which would likely have the Dodgers with a number of suitors. The 25-year-old has failed to live up to expectations since his breakthrough debut back in 2013. There are questions about his work ethic and maturity, but the talent is evident. If there is a team willing to take a chance on him, Puig could blossom into the superstar we thought he was going to be. While I would be hesitant in redraft unless the price tag is way down, I am certainly buying in dynasty formats, especially if I am a rebuilding team. Hopefully for Fantasy owners, LA punches his ticket out of town.
3. Jay Bruce (OF, Reds) – The shine has certainly worn off, but Bruce is a power-hitting OFer in his prime. There are many that believe he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender. After settling in as a .250-.260-ish hitter, Bruce bottomed out over the past couple seasons with .217 and .226 averages. The power and RBIs kept his value somewhat afloat, but not like the perennial 30-homer campaigns of his mid-20s. He is in the midst of a very strong bounce back and would be a very appealing addition to the middle of a contender’s lineup. With only a club option for 2017, it would make sense for the Reds to part with his services at this point and maximize value in a return.
4. Jonathan Lucroy (C, Brewers) – Lucroy is enjoying a resurgent campaign after an injury-plagued 2015. The 30-year-old backstop is back where he belongs, as a top five Fantasy catcher that hits for average and slightly above-average power. The Brewers have an extremely reasonable $5.25 million option on Lucroy, making him that much more attractive to potential suitors. What won’t be too attractive is the cost to lure him away from Milwaukee. Keep in mind he has experience at first base as well, which could put him in play for a few teams that are not necessarily looking to upgrade at catcher. Lucroy is the exact type of catcher you want for Fantasy; you plug him into your lineup and that’s it. He plays nearly every day and has a track record of strong production. On a contending team, he would get a slight value boost from a better surrounding lineup and more run/RBI opportunities.
5. Prince Fielder (1B, Rangers) – Fielder is not exactly helping his market value with his current performance. He is hitting an uninspiring .219 for the season with just seven HRs. To his credit, he does have 41 RBIs and has hit two homers with a .360 average in the past week, so there is plenty of run for optimism. At 32 years old, he can still be a middle of the order threat for 25 bombs and 100 RBIs. Why would the first place Rangers trade him? Well, he is owed $24 million each season through 2020 and that is a ton of dough for an aging, large designated hitter. However, we only need to look at what David Ortiz continues to do at an advanced age to wonder if there is a chance Fielder can keep it up. The other bonus of trading Fielder would be the possibility of opening up more at-bats for Jurickson Profar or even Joey Gallo. Get yourself out of what could be a bad contract in a couple years and give some young prospects a shot to prove themselves. Win-win. Fielder’s power will translate anywhere, but a new home park might help rejuvenate him.