By Sam McPherson
It’s July now, and the 2015 Major League Baseball season is half over. Sure, the All-Star Break doesn’t start until July 13, but now is the time to look through your roster to find tradable assets. There are always owners in every league willing to overpay for stats already in the bank, failing to realize that most players won’t sustain their hot starts to the season. This is where the smart owner makes key moves that end up winning the league.
As a smart owner, you want to identify two kinds of players: The ones on your team likely to decline in the second half and the ones on other teams likely to improve over the final 81 games of the season. When you can swing a trade to dump the former and acquire the latter in one fell swoop, you’ve done doubly well for yourself. That’s the goal right about now in terms of trading and roster management: Improve your team while making the other teams worse off.
Another good tactic, of course, is to know your fellow owners’ favorite team. That way, if you have an overvalued player from that favorite team on your roster, the trade consummation is even more probable. The hometown “discount” you give that owner will make them more willing to give you that poor-performing guy on their own roster. Pull this off with a few different owners in the league, and they may not let you back in for next year to defend your championship!
Hitters to Trade For Now
1. Robinson Canó, 2B, Seattle Mariners: This may be hard to pry him away from someone, especially a New York Yankees fan or Mariners loyalist, but try anyway (within reason—don’t give up too much). His career numbers (.307 average, .847 OPS) look huge compared to his 2015 numbers (.247, .650), but Canó is only 32 years old. He shouldn’t be declining this fast, so expect a big second-half from the Mariners star.
2. Danny Santana, SS, Minnesota Twins: Sophomore slumps happen, and Santana is in the midst of one. Last year, he slashed .319/.353/.824 in 405 at-bats. The numbers are down drastically this season, and even if they just come back to his Triple-A norms (.284/.324/.426), he’s going to be a productive player for you at the position in the second half. After all, he’s still very young (24).
3. Carlos González, OF, Colorado Rockies: This former MVP candidate (2010) is having a rough year so far with just a .245 average and 28 RBI. His numbers this year look a lot like last year’s numbers in the same number of games (70+). But consider from 2010-13, CarGo averaged 27 home runs, 91 RBI and 22 stolen bases. He’s just 29, so that guy has to be hiding in there somewhere, right? Injuries have taken their toll on his body, but González is too good of a hitter to continue hitting .245 for the rest of the season.
4. Aramis Ramírez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers: He is 37 years old, and maybe the decline has begun—but we’re betting against it. Ramírez has had some bad luck, and as Crash Davis once told us, the difference between a .250 hitter and a .300 hitter is one seeing-eye single a week. His power hasn’t declined; just his batting average. No, he’s not going to leg out any infield hits at his age, but in the second half, a lot more of his line drives are going to find the alleys.
Hitters to Trade Away Now
1. Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants: The Giants’ whole infield is overproducing, in truth, but Panik is the most “guilty” in terms of which one will drop fastest in the second half. He can hit for average, but the power is a mirage. Last year, in 269 ABs, Panik hit 10 doubles, two triples and one HR (.368 SLG) while driving in 18 runs. This year in 290 ABs, he’s hit 20 doubles, two triples and six HRs (.459 SLG) while driving in 30. His real value lies somewhere between the two, based on his minor-league slugging percentage (.403).
2. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies: In the minor leagues, Franco hit .280 and slugged .456 over 554 games. He is only 22, but he will not sustain his current .305/.349/.557 slash line. Assuming the Phillies start trading away pieces as well, Franco’s production (10 HRs, 34 RBI in just 174 ABs) is unsustainable for the rest of the year. Sell high!
3. Jimmy Paredes, UTL, Baltimore Orioles: He’s 26 years old and hitting 50 points above his career average right now. Some improvement at this age is normal—but not that much. Paredes had five career HRs before this season, but he’s hit 10 big flies this season. There’s no way he’s going to keep hitting .319 and slugging .520 for the next three months.
4. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals: It may seem sacrilege to suggest this, but Harper’s OPS is 300 points higher this year than his career number. Oh, and he’s basically already hit season highs in home runs (24) and RBI (58). Why? Because he’s injury prone. Let some other owner in your league pay through the teeth to own him in the second half; you can probably get two productive hitters and maybe even a pitcher out of someone who desperately wants Harper on their team. Seriously.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball and fantasy sports for many online sites, including CBS, AXS and Examiner.