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Thursday 18th Jan 2018

It is hard to say this is a ho-hum trade deadline period, but, compared to last season, when players--especially big names like Adrian Gonzalez--switched teams and leagues, names like Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano seem like lesser commodities. Which, they may be, but that does not mean neither cannot be of help in your AL-only format (or even Mixed) as we look for pieces to help down the stretch.

Starting with Garza, he is a strikeout pitcher, and that means he can be dominant, and is playing for a team that will certainly be contending down the stretch, and that confluence suggests an arm more than worthy of owning. Garza certainly seems to be over the arm issues that plagued him in 2012, as his 67 strikeouts over 78.1 innings this year (to 20 walks) suggest. In fact, the injury could likely prove to make Garza, still just 29-years old, a better and smarter hurler. Either way, Garza is a strong pickup for your team, even if it means spending your FAAB budget and converting him to something you need, like maybe a hitter.

As for Soriano, the Yankees are closer to their element in trading for him, as at 37, Soriano is another aged fading star who is showing that his dominance is clearly waning. However, that does not mean the team cannot produce some runs, especially if Soriano, who hit 17 homers and knocked in 51 on a team worse than the present Yanks, bats cleanup. Again, the pickings might be thin, but you have to grab the chips you can who could help, while you can.

On the other end of the spectrum, Miami put one good piece of the future on hold with Marcel Ozuna, but brought up another with Christian Yelich. The Marlins' first-round selection in 2010, Yelich stepped up to High-A Jupiter last year, hitting .330-12-48 over 106 games, along with a .922 OPS (.519 SLG, .404 OBP), then moved to Double-A Jacksonville this year and hit .280-7-29 as just a 21-year-old (.883 OPS).

Yelich might endure some struggles in the Majors, certainly, but his minor league .387 OBP (138 walks to 265 whiffs) bodes well, and Miami is making all the “right” rebuilding moves. In fact, in a few years the outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich will help make the Fish more than respectable. Think of the team as modeling their cross-state rivals and their terrific moves the last few years, with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

The Astros are doing their best to follow the same path, as they let go of Ronny Cedeno and handed their shortstop gig to 22-year-old Jonathan Villar. Signed by the Phils in 2008, Villar is a native of the Dominican Republic whom the Phils swapped, along with Anthony Gose and J.A. Happ, to the Astros for Roy Oswalt in 2010. Hitting .277-8-41 this season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Villar has 31 swipes and eight triples, meaning the shortstop has some speed. Of course, the 206 walks to 583 strikeouts (.333 OBP) is of a little concern, though nothing to push you away from him. That is because Villar will be playing every day, and getting the hang in the Majors, and the name of the game right now is at-bats. Take them where you can.

In Oakland, one prospect—Grant Green—simply showed why the Athletics have taken so long to find some place to put the former top prospect. Green was a first-round pick of the A’s in 2009 (and the Padres in 2006, out of Canyon High School in Southern California), and did hit .329-11-49 at Sacramento this year. He also hit .000-0-1 over 16 Oakland at-bats, meaning something is just missing. Expect Eric Sogard and the newly recalled Adam Rosales to grab the keystone at-bats at O.co, barring any late machinations from Billy Beane.

Mind you, the Athletics are a very good and underrated team and they will continue to play their tough underdog role, successfully, until they win another postseason appearance. Then perhaps they will be taken seriously. In the meantime, in an AL-only format, go with Sogard if you need at-bats.

Twins catcher Chris Herrmann has been working behind the dish with Joe Mauer hurt, and he came out of the block fast this time at Target, going .282-2-9. However, Herrmann is probably a guy you want to pass on. Drafted out of Alvin Community College, in Alvin, Texas, in 2009, the now 25-year-old Herrmann did hit .276-10-61 last year, however that was for Double-A New Britain. Meaning that the backstop should succeed against players often two or three years younger. He was hitting .227-2-22 at Rochester this season with a .297 on-base total, and equally anemic .312 slugging percentage. Hot start, maybe. Cold finish, more likely.

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