ROTISSERIE: At trade deadline, don’t forget the ones left behind

This article first appeared in the July 24 issue of USA TODAY SportsWeekly.

Outside of the fantasy context, media coverage of the Major League Baseball trade deadline tends, understandably, to focus on the big names on the move to a contender.

But for fantasy purposes, these players are generally less worthy of our attention. For the most part, an ace will remain an ace, and a slugger will remain a slugger, though perhaps he will go to a marginally more favorable environment. A closer may move into a setup role with a contender, but this is an exception to the general rule that a star’s value will remain relatively constant in a new home (unless you play in an AL- or NL-only league in which you lose a player’s stats when he switches leagues).

Instead, fantasy owners should be thinking about the at-bats and innings and new roles that may be opened up on a team from which a star is being traded away. Here are a few such players who could be just a trade away from fantasy relevance:

American League

The Tigers appear to be shopping outfielder Nick Castellanos (OF, DET), who has cooperated in the team’s marketing efforts by heating up over the last month or so (.333, 3 HR in last 26 games). Detroit’s roster is replete with multi-positional players, and Castellanos’s at-bats may be divvied up among a number of them. But one player who could benefit is Harold Castro (2B, DET).

Castro has been swinging a hot bat since rejoining the Tigers in early June (.321 in 32 games), but his minor league track record suggests he may not be able to keep up such a pace. The Tigers may have hoped that minor league outfielder Daz Cameron would be ready to seize an outfield vacancy by now, but he has suffered through a disappointing campaign at AAA-Toledo (.216/.313/.379 in 83 games).

The Tigers also could move starter Matt Boyd (LHP, DET). Detroit does have some elite starting pitching prospects at AA-Erie in right-handers Matt Manning, who has a 2.81 ERA and 1.08 WHIP through 12 starts, and Casey Mize, who sports a 1.21 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. But the team does not appear to be in a rush to promote them. Instead, the innings would be more likely to go to a fringy starter like Ryan Carpenter (LHP, DET) or Tyson Ross (RHP, DET) if Ross can get healthy.

It may also make some sense for the Royals to jumpstart their rebuilding efforts by trading 30-year-old Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, KC) with three years remaining on his team-friendly contract. Doing so would lock in playing time for Bubba Starling (OF, KC), who already appears to be getting a long look in center field and holding his own (8-for-28 through seven games). But trading Merrifield might also shake loose a few more at-bats for the player he supplanted, Billy Hamilton (OF, KC). Hamilton’s shortcomings as a hitter are well-established by now, but he could be a cheap source of stolen bases as the Royals play out the string.

It’s not quite the same phenomenon, but the fortunes of Clint Frazier (OF, NYY) could also get a boost at the deadline. In New York, Frazier is buried behind a bunch of veterans, but if the Yankees use him as a trade chip to acquire pitching, the team that acquires him may very well install him as an everyday player immediately. Frazier has struggled with the bat since being demoted to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes Barre, but he hit .283 with 11 HR in 191 AB for the Yankees over the first two-and-a-half months of the season.

There are also two American League East save situations worth mentioning.

While closer Ken Giles (RHP, TOR) of the Blue Jays is still under team control for another year, the team is reportedly open to dealing him. Giles had dealt with some minor injury issues, but converted a July 20 save opportunity in dominating fashion (1 IP, 1 H, 3 K), which should reassure potential trade partners.

Toronto does not have a clear-cut Plan B behind Giles, but Daniel Hudson (RHP, TOR) did convert a save opportunity, albeit in shaky fashion, on July 13. If not Hudson, the Jays could take a look at a slightly younger pitcher in Joe Biagini (RHP, TOR) in the role.

The Orioles, too, may be willing to move their closer, Mychal Givens (RHP, BAL), who may attract some interest now that he is past a rough start to the season (1.98 ERA in his last 13.2 IP).  Unfortunately, Baltimore’s bullpen behind Givens is even more muddled than Toronto’s. Shawn Armstrong (RHP, BAL) might get the first shot at whatever meager save chances the Orioles generate, but he may not be the last.


National League

The Giants, who are now only a few games out of the Wild Card, may not sell, but if they do, starter Madison Bumgarner (LHP, SF) figures to be among their primary trade commodities. San Francisco gave a start to 24-year-old Conner Menez (LHP, SF) on July 21, and Menez held his own (5 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 K), which will likely lead to additional opportunities. Menez had struck out 53 batters but walked 16 in 35.1 IP at AAA-Sacramento, where he logged a 3.82 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.

The Giants also have Johnny Cueto (RHP, SF) on the comeback trail, with rehab appearances on tap in early August, so he could log a few innings in the majors before the season is out.

If Zach Wheeler of the Mets can demonstrate his health before the deadline, he could also be on the move. Walker Lockett (RHP, NYM) took Wheeler’s turn in the Mets’ rotation July 20 and secured his first major-league win. Lockett mostly pitched to contact at AAA-Syracuse (3.92 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 21 K in 39 IP). He would seem to be in line to inherit any innings Wheeler relinquishes.

The Pirates are actively seeking to resolve an outfield logjam, with Corey Dickerson (OF, PIT) reportedly the player they would most like to move. However, there may be a bit less urgency now that Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT) has suffered a setback that will keep him out of action until mid-August. The bottom line is that Pittsburgh seems motivated to lock in the playing time for Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT), who has earned it with his performance at the plate (.333, 7 HR in 258 AB).

Speaking of outfield surpluses, the Padres have one as well and are reportedly willing to entertain deals for Hunter Renfroe (OF, SD) or Franmil Reyes (OF, SD) in exchange for pitchers with similar amounts of organizational control.

Such a deal would be marginally helpful to the player who remains, though both are starters already. The main effect would likely be to allow Wil Myers (OF, SD), who has been limited to 11 plate appearances since July 5, a renewed opportunity to get his season on track.

Travis Jankowski (OF, SD) is also a couple of weeks into a rehabilitation assignment at AAA-El Paso, and could be a source of cheap speed, if he rejoins the major league roster.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.