As we’re coming out of the All-Star break, and we are nearing the trade deadline, there are always those teams that are right there on the bubble. And, it seems as though there are always a couple teams that miss their chance to capitalize on the opportunity to build for the future. Teams like the 2017 Kansas City Royals who decided to hold on to several players that were headed to free agency, only to finish the season below .500, and 5 games out of the Wild Card race. And, today, they have the worst record in the AL, and they don’t have a single prospect in the top 100.
Imagine what the Royals could have picked up in trade for the likes of Hosmer, Moustakas, Cain, etc. But, because they thought they still had one last playoff run left in them, they missed out on their chance to begin building a team that could compete sooner rather than later. And, the way I see it, there are two teams that are in danger of making the same mistake in 2018. I would have included the Angels and Cardinals here, because they both probably need to admit they aren’t in legitimate playoff contention. But, they also don’t really have tradable pieces that would make a significant difference to a contender, with perhaps the lone exception of Ian Kinsler. So, here are the two teams that – barring an incredible run in the next week – need to stop fooling themselves, and plan for the future.
San Francisco Giants
Yes, they currently have a winning record. But, they’re in 4th place in the division, and are trailing by 4 games in the Wild Card with 5 teams ahead of them. Meanwhile, they have some very appealing pieces that, if traded, could give this team a boost into the next year or two.
Andrew McCutchen plays a premium position, and currently has a .764 OPS in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark. Nick Hundley would be a nice pick-up for a team needing some help at catcher. Derek Holland hasn’t been lights out, but he could add depth to a contender’s bullpen. All of these will be free agents at the end of this season.
If you really wanted to go into rebuild mode, and start planning for 2020, can you imagine the haul the Giants could get for Madison Bumgarner (who has one year left after this one before becoming a free agent)?? Relievers Will Smith and Tony Watson would also fetch a nice price on the trade market, and they will be free agents after 2019. The Giants have a nice long-term core in Posey, Longoria, Cueto, Crawford, and Belt. But, they also have a payroll over $190 million, and only one prospect in the top 100. If now isn’t the time to start building momentum for the future, then I’m not sure when is.
The Nationals, more than any other team, are almost exactly where the Royals were a year ago. They have several key pieces that will be free agents at the end of the year. They have recent postseason experience. And, they’re not technically out of the race this year. But, let’s be realistic…
They’re 5.5 games behind the Phillies, who are likely going to make a trade to get even better before the trade deadline. They’re 5 games out of the Wild Card, with half a dozen teams ahead of them. And, since the end of May, they’ve gone 15-25. This is not a team that is headed in the right direction.
But, take a look at the players that will be free agents at the end of this year:
- Gio Gonzalez
- Daniel Murphy
- Ryan Madson
- Shawn Kelley
- Kelvin Herrera
- Matt Adams
- Jeremy Hellickson
- And … hmmm … I keep thinking I’m forgetting someone … oh yeah … BRYCE HARPER!
With the exception of perhaps Madson and Murphy, every one of these names would be appealing to contending teams. The Nats have a great young core in place with Trea Turner, Juan Soto, and Michael Taylor. Plus, Victor Robles is on his way. Add to that the prospects they could rake in by trading away these names … never mind “rebuild.” The Nationals could be ready to compete again in 2019!
Well, that is, if they don’t make the same mistake as the 2017 Royals.