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Three Under-the-Radar Trade Candidates Contenders Should Target

Some of the best trade deadline deals are not for the hottest names on the block. Here are three potential under-the-radar moves for contenders.

It’s no secret that Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler and Marcus Stroman are among the players likely to be traded this month. We’ve been hearing their names all season, along with other high-profile starters Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard and even Max Scherzer (although Mad Max will not be moved this season).

So then it was no surprise this weekend when the first two starters to be dealt this trade season were Andrew Cashner (Orioles to Red Sox) and Homer Bailey (Royals to Athletics), right? Well, maybe not. But both Cashner and Bailey could be exactly what their new teams need down the stretch this season, and there are plenty more lesser trade candidates who, if traded, could be low-cost, high-impact additions for several playoff contenders.

Here are three potential under-the-radar moves that make sense for these deadline buyers:

Cubs acquire Starlin Castro from Marlins

With Ben Zobrist’s return to the diamond this season in doubt and Addison Russell struggling since returning from his suspension, the Cubs could look to add some middle infield depth this month. Russell is hitting .242 with five homers and a .714 OPS, and Chicago is 12-22 in games he has started this season. (The Cubs are 29-30 since Russell returned on May 8, making them 17-8 when he hasn’t started in that span.) 

The best option could be for the Cubs to look outside their organization for a low-cost second baseman. Enter Starlin Castro, who played his first six seasons at Wrigley Field before he was traded to the Yankees in December 2015. Castro likely would be a hotter trade target right now ... if not for being in the midst of a career-worst campaign. But Castro’s woes could be a benefit to the Cubs, who perhaps could land him for unspectacular prospect(s), though they may have to take on some of the approximately $6 million he’s still owed this year and the $1 million buyout on his 2020 team option.

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Why would the Cubs want Castro, who’s hitting .250 with a .619 OPS this year? He’s been much better lately, slashing .311/.324/.447 since June 14 (25 games), and is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak with a .421 average (16-for-38) in that span.

Rangers get Todd Frazier from Mets

The Rangers have been one of the biggest surprises this season, with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor emerging as one of the best one-two starters in the game. For the most part their lineup has been a wonderful blend of power (Joey Gallo) and speed (Elvis Andrus). Texas’s weakness on offense, though, has been at third base, where both Asdrubal Cabrera and Logan Forsythe have struggled.

Frazier has surged offensively since returning from the injured list in late April. He’s slashing .251/.335/.442 with 12 homers and would provide both depth and experience to the Rangers in their quest for a wild-card berth. Frazier is a free agent at the end of the year and wouldn’t cost the Rangers too much to pry from the Mets, whose asking prices for Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard reportedly remain high. GM Brodie Van Wagenen said New York will be selling off players in the last year of their contracts. Frazier will be dealt, and Texas makes a ton of sense.

Dodgers trade for Roenis Elías from Mariners

Like a number of other contenders, the Dodgers need bullpen help. They have little depth behind closer Kenley Jansen and the inconsistent Pedro Báez, who allowed a combined five earned runs in two games against the Red Sox this past weekend, and have turned to using starter Julio Urías in relief. Aside from him, Zac Rosscup was the only lefthander in the Los Angeles bullpen but was DFA'd Monday afternoon. The Dodgers called up righty Casey Sadler.

Mariners southpaw Roenis Elías makes a ton of sense for the Dodgers, then, as a reliable reliever who’s quietly had a solid season. He's both affordable and controllable, collecting $910,000 this year while being under contract for another two seasons. The Mariners would be smart to move him considering his age (he turns 31 on Aug. 1) and their commitment to rebuilding, while the Dodgers could deliver Seattle a quality prospect.

Elías is 2-1 with a 4.07 ERA, though he’s struggled as of late (6.43 ERA in his last seven games). However, there are reasons for the Dodgers to be high on Elías. He’s improved his spin rate on both his four-seam fastball and curveball over the past two seasons, per Statcast, with the added life on both pitches contributing to an increased strikeout rate.