Five unheralded trade chips that can impact MLB pennant races

By Michael Dixon

Throughout the summer, we’ll hear a lot of talk about big names potentially being on the move. Even if no real hot rumors emerge, guys like Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez will get people talking.

But you don’t need to be a superstar to make a big impact. Every year, smaller acquisitions make huge impacts on the the playoff races and the actual postseason. They get our attention today.

These names may not generate a lot of buzz. But if they are moved, these unheralded players have potential to be make a serious impact on the season’s pennant races.

Fernando Abad, relief pitcher, Minnesota Twins

Relievers, especially non-closers, may not be the sexiest names on the trade market. But if you’re nursing a small lead late in a game against the Boston Red Sox and David Ortiz is coming to plate with men on, Abad is someone that you want facing him.

The Minnesota southpaw has stellar overall numbers this season, but has been particularly rough on his own kind. Lefties are slashing at only .111/.134/.148 with no homers against Abad in 2016.

Still, Abad is far from a one-trick pony Overall, he boasts a 0.89 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 21 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.

Obviously teams with bad bullpens should be trying to hardest to land Abad. In reality, though, he’d be a valuable addition to any team. If for no other reason, acquiring Abad would keep him from facing your star left-handed bats in big games.

Best Fits: Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers

Brandon Phillips, second baseman, Cincinnati Reds

If you’re running a team looking to acquire a third or fourth hitter, Phillips is probably not for you. But if you want to land a guy that can lengthen the lineup and provide good power at the second base position, Phillips is a good option.

The Cincinnati second baseman has never been a high OBP guy and his .303 mark this year is no different. While Phillips won’t draw many walks, he can still hit.

Phillips has a solid .267 batting average and is hitting with power, slugging at .427 with six homers. If given a chance to consistently hit with men on base, he can again be a valuable run producer.

Additionally, the Cincinnati second baseman is still valuable on the bases, as he’s stolen four bags this year and swiped 23 in 2015.

On top of all of that, Phillips is a four-time Gold Glove winner and is still capable of making great plays at the keystone.

Best Fits: Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson, starting pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies were one of baseball’s overachieving teams early in the season and Hellickson was a reason for that. The Philadelphia right-hander has a solid 3.80 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP in 68.2 innings on the season. He’s also struck out 69 while walking just 17.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Phillies’ luck might have run out at this point. They are 7.5 games back in the National League East, and realistically, it’s hard to see them competing with the Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Miami Marlins. That opens Philadelphia to be sellers at the deadline with Hellickson being a valuable commodity.

Granted, those numbers don’t exactly scream “ace,” but aces aren’t the only pitchers that can sway a playoff race with a trade.

Plenty of teams have strong front-end pitching with shaky arms at the bottom of their rotations. Any team in that spot would do well to acquire Hellickson, who is having one of the best seasons of his career.

Best Fits: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers

Fernando Rodney, relief pitcher, San Diego Padres

Rodney’s career has been one gigantic roller coaster ride. He’s had great seasons, dismal seasons, and very few in between.

Since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs in 2015, Rodney has allowed one earned run in 35 appearances.

This year, he has a 0.00 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 21.1 innings over 21 appearances for the Padres. Additionally, Rodney has closing experience, with 247 saves in his career, including 11 this season.

Rodney and Abad should have basically the same teams pursuing them. Rodney gets a few more inclusions because he has significant experience as a closer.

Even with closing experience, Rodney getting traded would probably not grab many headlines. Still, playoff games are often close contests, and in those, you need a good bullpen to succeed.

Best Fits: Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers

Arodys Vizcaino, relief pitcher, Atlanta Braves

The Braves have had a lot of problems over the last two seasons. Their closer, however, has been solid.

The walks are a little high, but not alarmingly so. Vizcaino has been a stud late-inning reliever for the last two years. He’s also stepped into the closer role brilliantly.

Teammates Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran will certainly generate more trade buzz as the deadline gets closer. Whether Atlanta will actually trade either remains to be seen, but they’ll be heavily talked about one way or the other.

Still, even if Freeman, Teheran, and Vizcaino are all moved, it’s entirely possible (or even probable) that Vizcaino would the biggest impact on his new team.

Best Fits: Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers