MLB players to acquire or deal in trades

This is the first 2022 edition of Trade Tips that includes specific players, and there are plenty of names to choose from. But before we get to the players, we should go over some general advice that will help in most fantasy baseball leagues. Last week, I covered several tips for making April deals. But I would also like to go over an option outside of the standard “buy-low and sell-high” plan.

The “buy-low and sell-high” plan has plenty of merit. After all, taking advantage of panicked managers who aren’t properly valuing the small sample sizes involved in unusual starts can sometimes lead to an advantageous deal. But there are times when a manager wants to sell low, because there are various degrees of selling low, and some players who are off to poor starts are going to see their value decline even further if they don’t soon turn things around. And on the other end of the spectrum, some players who are off to hot starts are going to keep this up and skyrocket even further.

Within today’s group of recommended picks, you will find some traditional “buy-low, sell-high” options and a few players who do not fit that mold. Try to keep an open mind to everyone listed below.

Players to trade for

Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros)

I highlighted Tucker in a recent edition of Closing Time as someone who has endured terrible luck this season. Little has changed over the past few days, and Tucker remains someone who is not getting fully rewarded for performing at a high level. The outfielder is not being overwhelmed by opposing pitchers (0.43 BB:K rate), and although his level of contact could be slightly better, it has been good enough for Statcast to assign Tucker a .303 xBA and a .399 xwOBA. This remains a top-20 talent, but in some leagues he can be acquired for much less than that value.

Kyle Tucker’s slow start might be enough to make some fantasy baseball managers impatient enough to make a trade. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Gavin Lux (2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers)

A longtime prospect, Lux may be breaking out at age 24. He has improved his strikeout and walk rates, and is also hitting the ball harder than ever before (90.6 mph average exit velocity). Statcast data indicates that Lux should have a .328 batting average, and he has also chipped in a couple steals. Lux currently hits at the bottom of a loaded Dodgers lineup and would see his production skyrocket by earning a higher spot in the coming weeks.

Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox)

Abreu is the type of veteran who can be acquired in a buy-low scenario. The veteran is more solid than exciting at this point in his career, and he is no longer a foundational piece on his fantasy teams. Fantasy managers can easily make a case that the 35-year-old is in permanent decline, but there is very little in his early season data to suggest that is the case. The most likely scenario is that Abreu’s batted-ball luck improves with the weather and he returns to being an RBI machine in the near future.

Tyler Mahle (SP, Cincinnati Reds)

Managers may be able to pry away Mahle on the basis of his poor start (6.88 ERA, 1.71 WHIP) and membership on a last-place Reds team. But the right-hander has mostly been victimized by bad luck (.392 BABIP, 51.7 percent strand rate), and all of his ERA indicators (2.97 xERA, 2.43 FIP) show that he continues to be one of the better starters in baseball.

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Players to trade away

Julio Rodriguez (OF, Seattle Mariners)

I’m not confident that Rodriguez will stay in the Majors all season. The rookie has produced one of the highest strikeout rates (39.3 percent) of any qualified player, which is a sign that he isn’t ready for Major League pitchers. Rodriguez has saved some fantasy value by contributing six steals, and he could be marketed to a steals-needy team as someone who will soon come around and become a five-category contributor. I would try to use this premium prospect’s name value to trade him.

Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds)

Votto is the same case as Rodriguez, but at a vastly different stage in his career. I’m recommending the 38-year-old as a sell-low option, as I believe that his name value and solid 2021 season can still fetch something on the trade market. To get things righted Votto will need to currently, turn around a strikeout rate that sits at 33.8 percent. And there is real concern that he won’t find a power stroke that has been inconsistent in recent seasons. Additionally, Votto is now a slow enough runner that he struggles to score many runs, and he won’t be helped by a Reds lineup that is among the worst in baseball. I’m ready to move on.

Zack Greinke (SP, Kansas City Royals)

If you can find anyone who sees Greinke’s solid ratios (2.25 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) and will give you someone (anyone) you want, take the deal. The 38-year-old has been a fun story to open the season, but he has struck out just two batters in 16 innings and will have no chance of limiting scoring going forward with such a low strikeout rate. I wouldn’t want any part of Greinke on a mixed-league roster.

Zach Plesac (SP, Cleveland Guardians)

My plan for trading Plesac is simple: combine his 2022 start (1.53 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) and stellar work in the 2020 shortened season (2.28 ERA, 0.80 WHIP) to make a case that he is a good pitcher who couldn’t get on track last year. My honest take on Plesac is that he is a marginal starter who lacks the swing-and-miss skills (5.1 K/9 rate in 2022) to consistently post low ratios. I would not need a major return to send him packing.

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