As the final hours before the trade deadline ticked down this week, an executive for one contender spoke confidently about opportunities to come. "There will be a lot of deals [in August]," he said, "because guys will get through waivers and teams will want to save money."
The Mets' trade of Jay Bruce to the Indians a year ago was a classic example of this. Bruce was in the midst of an excellent season in which he would hit 36 homers, with a .275 batting average, and he passed through waivers without anyone placing a claim. The Mets could have kept him through the end of the season, but in an effort to save about $4 million, they basically gave him away to Cleveland, taking a player in return to dress up the deal -- minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan, a 30th-round draft pick currently in Double-A.
You could make an argument that the Mets, who have a thin farm system, should have used the moment to add a better prospect by assuming more of Bruce's contract. But there is nothing wrong with this: In the midst of a lost season, it's good business for a non-contender to save some money.
We loosely refer to July 31 as the trade deadline, but rest assured, the real deadline is Aug. 31, by which contenders must add players to make them eligible to play in the postseason.
Here are some players who could move this month, either by getting claimed on waivers or by passing through and then being traded.
His four-homer start against the Pirates on July 22 torpedoed his trade value, rival executives thought. But Harvey has allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of his past seven starts, and as injuries inevitably manifest, some contender might grab him for depth. He's making $5.63 million this season, so he's still owed about $1.8 million.
He might not clear waivers, because he's making minimum salary and would cost a claiming team only about $180,000 for the rest of the season. Since joining the Mets, Bautista has a .376 on-base percentage, and he seems like a great candidate to move to another team close to September, when the rosters open up, because of his pinch-hitting potential. He gets on base, and he's a power threat.
He's making $6 million this season, and overall, he's pitched effectively, with a 3.48 ERA in 21 starts. For a contender with some payroll flexibility -- the Red Sox or the Phillies? -- he could make sense as a rotation safety net.
The Giants didn't execute a sell-off before the deadline, but they didn't add either, so they could be right on the edge of moving some players if they continue to lose ground in early August. McCutchen has a .353 on-base percentage and can play an outfield spot at least serviceably. He is owed about $4.5 million for the rest of this season, so it seems likely he would clear waivers. If that happens, his situation could be just like Bruce's last year: The Giants could move him while eating some money, and get a better prospect, or they could try to just dump as much of the contract as possible.
He'll make about $3 million for the next two months, and in a year in which he's batting .206, he'd presumably clear waivers. When -- not if -- a contender loses an infielder to an injury, Forsythe will be available.
One of the reasons the Nationals have struggled this year is because some of their veterans, including Murphy, are still working their way back from injuries. Murphy has been steadily improving; in his past 27 games, he's batting .353 with a .412 on-base percentage, nine extra-base hits, 10 walks and only seven strikeouts.
If the Nationals fade and decide to execute a measured sell-off this month, Murphy could be a great target for a contender in either league. He could be a DH for an AL team. He could play first or second for an NL team. And we've seen how he can thrive in the postseason. Because his contract is back-loaded, Murphy is making $17.5 million this year and is owed about $5.8 million for the final two months. On paper, he would seem to be a great waiver target for the Phillies, given their payroll flexibility.
7. Jose Iglesias, Tigers
He's a nice possibility for a contender that finds itself in need of a shortstop, given his defensive capability and his experience. Iglesias is making $6.28 million this year.
The veteran outfielder is owed about $1.6 million for the rest of this season, and he could be attractive for a lot of reasons: his experience playing all over the outfield, in the postseason and off the bench, his leadership, and his power. Granderson is notoriously streaky in his production, and July was a rough month, in which he batted .192 with a .268 on-base percentage and one homer in 83 plate appearances.
He's owed about $1.3 million for the last two months and, overall, Gomez has had a rough season. But small sample size means more at this time of year than any other; in his past 11 games, Gomez has a .488 on-base percentage. A contender could add him for depth.
10. Victor Martinez, Tigers
Martinez's situation might be a little bit like that of Jim Thome near the end of his career, when Thome welcomed a deal to the Dodgers to serve as a pinch hitter in 2009. The 39-year-old Martinez is making $18 million this year and will clear waivers, and he's having another down year, hitting .241. But he is widely respected for his leadership and his understanding of hitting, and you do wonder if, on Aug. 30 or 31 -- just before the September roster expansion -- some contender might take on a few thousand dollars in salary for his presence in September and October. The Phillies, perhaps, or the Braves.
11. Derek Holland, Giants
He could be a nice cheap option for some team, given he's owed about $600,000 for the rest of the year; it seems unlikely that he would clear waivers. Holland has been a starting pitcher for the Giants this year, but he might be an intriguing bullpen piece because of his excellence against lefties this season -- zero homers in 99 plate appearances and a .193 average.
12. Francisco Liriano, Tigers
The Red Sox discussed the lefty and could revisit that conversation this month. Liriano's overall numbers are not great, a 4.41 ERA, but he has been effective against lefties this season and could be used as a specialist, as he was in the postseason last year. Lefties are batting .113 against him this year, with seven hits in 62 at-bats.