Baseball

With there being only one trade deadline this season, and for some reason MLB not moving it back to between where the two used to be, there’s some added zeal to July 31st this time around. Teams not only have to scramble to plug holes and needs, but have to plan for any eventuality that could happen in the next two months. The Cubs acquisition of Martin Maldonado is something of an example of this, where they didn’t want to have to deal with an extended Taylor Davis Experience should something happen to Willson Contreras or Victor Caratini (and it kind of did to the former, though very lightly it seems). Even if you don’t have a need somewhere but need cover, teams are going to be chasing that depth that in the past would have been a nothing waiver-wire pickup on August 29th.

Whatever this Cubs season has been, and it’s been a lot of things, they’re still in first place by multiple games and clearly have to have the chase for the postseason their minds. The names are already out there, so let’s run them through.

Nick Castellanos – This one seemed obvious a while ago, made the mainstream papers over the last few days, so you know there’s some fire to go with this smoke. And unlike some other targets, Castellanos is something of a sure thing. You know what you’re getting, which isn’t a miracle worker or a doomsday device but a pretty solid, above-average hitter. Castellanos was much better last year, but the two years previous had wRC+ of 119 and 112 and is at 115 this year, so it’s fair to assume that’s probably what he is. Castellanos has a .361 BABIP last year, some 30 points over his career average, and this year he’s much more in line with his career number. He’s not making as much hard contact this year as he has in the past, but he is hitting more fly balls, which could play better in Wrigley than it does in the vast environs of Comerica Park…at least until the winds shift in September. It can be hardly argued that Castellanos for sure wouldn’t provide a hell of a lot more than Almora, whom you’d guess he would be replacing in the lineup. Almora needs the Hubble just to see average offensive numbers.

The worry with Castellanos, if it even rises to that level, is defense. Mainly in that he can’t play it. Right field in Wrigley we know to be an adventure, and he has trouble with non-adventurous spaces. Heyward just isn’t that good in center, so you’d be taking your outfield defense from decent to borderline bad. There’s a lot of people who don’t seem to care about this, or just dismiss it as being able to put Almora in center in the late innings, as if for some reason teams weren’t allowed to hit balls to the outfield in the 4th inning?

People who do take this seriously live in the Cubs’ front office, however. It’s important to remember that the Cubs starting staff doesn’t really have a big strikeout guy other than Darvish. That said, the Cubs have the highest ground-ball rate in baseball from their pitchers, and the second-lowest fly-ball rate (no, I’m not sure how either but that’s the world we live in), so if there’s any team that can get away with a partial circus clown outfield, it’s the Cubs.

So the question is does the added offense offset your drop in defense? I would say it does, but not as much as some would think, but thanks to the Cubs’ pitching staff and their ways, it’s not as big of a concern as it is for others.

Danny Santana – This is a name that’s popped up in the past couple days due to the full-body dry-heave the Rangers have performed over the past week to drop from playoff contention. As if anyone was really buying them anyway. And this one is a hard no from me. Santana hadn’t been a plus-player in any fashion since his debut with the Twins five seasons ago, and there’s an awful lot of mirrors and smoke with this one. Santana’s BABIP is .399, and I shouldn’t have to say more than that. Yeah, he’s hitting the ball considerably harder than he ever has, so are a lot of people, and he plays several positions. But this is a balloon that could pop at any moment, and then you’re left with another Descalso when one is too many.

Eric Sogard – The chance to just yell, “NERD POWER!” every game makes it worth it for me, but I would hope the Cubs have slightly more qualifications at which they’re looking. But I’m sure Theo and Jed also would look forward to yelling, “NERD POWER!”  He can, in a break glass in case of kind of way, get you out of a game or two in the corner outfield spots or at short for how many offdays they project Javy would need (increasingly looking like none). But you’d do this to shore up your second base spot, which needs it. Sogard himself is having something of an anomalous offensive season, as we’re only a year out from him putting up a 14 wRC+ in 55 games with the Brewers last year. His career-mark is 82. Sogard’s .491 slugging this year has come from literally nowhere, with a career number of .340. And at 33, this is another balloon that could pop at anytime. He’s not that effective defensively, so I’m not convinced this is any better than just riding the Robel miracle and see where that goes.

Billy Hamilton – I’ve seen this suggested a few places, as something of an Almora replacement after he’d dealt to the late-inning glove and speed guy. Or to just stop him from ever beating up on Jon Lester again. He would cost nothing, and he is both of those things mentioned, but the late-inning defensive replacement leaves me a touch cold when you still have seven or eight innings to get through before that. Let’s think harder.

Whit Merrifield – Solves everything, way expensive trade-wise, and almost certainly isn’t happening, especially as the Royals are supposedly asking for three major league-ready players in return and I’m not convinced the Cubs even have that. And the Royals probably want to do better than Ian Happ, whose hot two weeks probably haven’t raised his value as much as Cubs fans would like to think. And even if they did you’d have to add two more names to that.

So those are some bats being mentioned, and now that I’ve done this the Cubs will assuredly trade for someone not on this list. That’s just how these things go.

Everything Else

This one is a bit of a stretch, but we like stretching. Feels good, good for you, keeps you young. Seriously, go to a yoga class if you haven’t. Though preferably one with an instructor with good music taste. You don’t need more Enya-adjace stuff in your life. But you’d be surprised how many do. Anyway, I’m getting off track.

The Cats don’t need to trade Hoffman. They have $23M in space with the news today that Roberto Luongo is retiring. Not even LTIRing into oblivion, retiring. Which fucks over the Canucks a bit, which is highly entertaining if not gratifying, even if it’s because of perhaps the NHL’s dumbest rule–cap recapture penalties. So that means the Panthers have the space to sign both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, and perhaps have a touch of space leftover. It’s probably more likely they’d try and find a home for James Reimer and find a cheaper backup, but again, they don’t really have to do anything. They don’t have anyone they have to re-sign in the next two years, unless they’re higher on MacKenize Weegar than anyone else is and he’ll be stupid cheap anyway. Dadonov gets a raise next summer, but not a huge one at 31.

Still, last season the Panthers asked Hoffman for his 10-team no trade list, so they have thought about it. And with Panarin on the way probably knocking him down to the third line, and with only one year left on his deal, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing to see Florida try and get something back for him.

And Hoffman is a perfect fit into the Hawks top-six, and is coming off a 36-goal season. He’s got that flexibility we love, as he can get you out of a stretch of games playing center if you need. He can play both sides, but has mainly been on the left. Now, that’s where the Hawks have a jam thanks to Saad and DeBrincat, but as we’ve seen Saad actually did his best work hiding on the third line in the weeds. Which could lead to a pretty effective Doomsday line of Hoffman-Toews-Kane if you so chose.

And Hoffman scores. Given an actual center in Barkov saw his numbers soar. In Ottawa he was either with overmatched players like J.G. Pageau or Derick Brassard or shoot-first guys like Matt Duchene. Meaning he had to create all of his own openings. Clearly he took to getting to finish off some others’ creations at times.

While Hoffman is only 6-0 he plays a bigger game than that which would satisfy the Hawks. What satisfies us is he can move too, and would seem to be the perfect blend of the two ideologies.

Financially, Hoffman is only signed for one more year, which means you can reset and see what you have when all is said and done. It also probably keeps his trade cost down a bit. Again, the Panthers have no need to trade him and might be all-in on this season to get back into the playoffs and trading Hoffman isn’t in line with that. Then again, it’s impossible to predict what our namesake Uncle Dale might do. He’s out-thought himself before.

Hoffman’s off-ice issues from last summer seem to have died down, and even if they haven’t that’s entertaining for us, which is all we’re after here.

What do the Panthers need? They probably don’t think much, but I’m no fan of their defense. They already have right-handed Gustafsson in Keith Yandle, except he can actually skate, so that’s probably a no-go. It would be truly cruel to send Connor Murphy back to Joel Quenneville, but perhaps without a point to prove to his GM this time around he might actually give our lovable Irishman a fair shake. If they’re into cost-cutting, one of your magic foursome on the blue line could do the job included with other things.

It’s worth a phone call, and it’s not like Tallon hasn’t dealt with the Hawks before. Even if he tells them to go fuck themselves first, which I’m sure he does.

Everything Else

Before we get started, we didn’t do one of these yesterday because talking about hockey didn’t feel right yesterday. When you’re in this morass, do you really want to even think about next season right now? But anyway, this is our charge now so let’s resume.

Ok, Nazem Kadri is a complete penis. He’s more likely to do something horribly damaging to your team when it matters most than help it. In fact, had he kept his head on straight for once the Leafs might have actually beaten the Bruins. Any future infraction from this dickhead is going to result in a long suspension, and seeing as how you can’t trust him to learn or trust your substitute teacher of a coach to straighten him out, the risks are quite clear.

But here’s the thing. When he’s not trying reenact the Battle Of Saxony by himself, Nazem Kadri is a hell of a player. He has four 50+ point seasons on his resume (one was at that pace in 2013), and he’s done that mostly taking the dungeon shifts as a checking center either as the #3 center behind Matthews and Bozak or Tavares this year. He won 55% of his draws this year, which you know will still make some people in the Hawks’ front office tumescent. He put up 44 points this year mostly playing with a corpse in Marleau and something called Connor Brown. He’ll produce with just about anyone.

And the Hawks have a need, whether they want to admit it or not. As it stands right now, you don’t really want Jonathan Toews taking a massive amount of draws and shift-starts in his own end. But the Hawks only have one other player who can do that in David Kampf. Strome needs to be completely sheltered, and really so does Anisimov until you finally get him off this roster. Swapping in Kadri and punting Arty to wherever will take him for an Edible Arrangement gives you two centers you can leash to the d-zone, allowing Toews to really focus on the offensive end. At this point in his career, it’s one or the other for the most part.

Second, Kadri is cheap. His cap-hit is essentially the same as Anisimov’s, but you get a ton more. You get more skill, more speed, and a far better defensive player. Sure, he’s signed for three more years but at 28 he’s not likely to fall off a cliff before it’s up. And even if the offense starts to dry up you still have a pretty hellacious checking center on your hands. And there’s really nothing in the system at center unless the Hawks take Turcotte (which they’re going to), but you can worry about that shuffle whenever Turcotte is ready. Or you could just not take Turcotte if you swing for Kadri here.

Where this all falls apart is that the Hawks don’t really have anything the Leafs want. The Leafs need NHL-ready d-men. If they were run by a complete jackass, as they were in the past, you could probably really sell them on the offensive production and the cheapness of Gustafsson, which would still allow them to make moves considering he makes nothing. But Kyle Dubas probably isn’t a complete moron. Prospects don’t do the Leafs a whole lot of good as they are all about NOW NOW NOW, unless you could involved a third team for them to swing those prospects to. If you were looking for an actual landing spot for Keith, you might be able to sell him on this given Babcock and their chances but I don’t know that you could sell the Leafs on it. But there’s been no whisper that Keith has asked out or that the Hawks have asked him if he wants out.

Yes, Kadri wouldn’t solve your top six winger deficiency. But if you’re going 19-17-43-64 down the middle you can probably live with some third-line winger moonlighting on the top six. No, he doesn’t help the defense but his cap number is low enough, especially with any jettisoning of Anisimov, that you would retain all the flexibility to do something about that as well.

Yes, the gray matter is a concern. The hope would be that even with an overmatched coach, a leadership stable of Toews, Keith, Seabrook would keep him in a line a ton better than whatever it was in Toronto. The Hawks have made that bet before.

It hinges on just how sick the Leafs are of his bullshit. You get the sense if you could have made this trade in April they would have given him to you for a song. But now that time has let everything cool, it’ll be harder. But it makes sense, if the Hawks want to get creative.

Everything Else

It would seem odd that the Flames would want to detract from the strength of their team, which is their blue line. However, with $14M in cap space, and a now very expensive Garbage Son Tkachuk to re-sign, the Flames might be looking to jettison either Travis Hamonic or TJ Brodie to make room. Especially with Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson both up next year and big parts of the future, if everything works out. There have been rumors the Flames are kicking the tires on what they can get for each. And because they’re looking only to get rid of money, they’re probably a little more open to just getting picks and/or prospects back and not too worried about something that can go straight on the roster.

We’ll start with TJ Brodie. Seemingly he is more of what the Hawks need than say Ryan Murray or Jacob Trouba. He has feet, can push the play, and is left-handed. Generally though he has preferred to play the right side, as he did all of last year being paired with likely Norris winner Mark Giordano.

And that’s the rub with Brodie. It’s kind of hard to know what he is because generally, he’s sucked when away from Mark Giordano and been really good with him. So yeah, his metrics from this year are pretty glittering, when he was paired with #5 all season. The season previous, when it was Dougie Hamilton with Giordano and Brodie with Hamonic, very much less glittering. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2015-2016 to find the last season Brodie had where he was above the team-rate in possession and expected goals, and wouldn’t you know it that was the last season previous to this one where he was paired with Giordano for most of it.

I hate to break this to you, but there’s no Mark Giordano here. The Hawks might think there is, they might even think that Duncan Keith is still Mark Giordano, but he’s not. Now, perhaps Keith can claw back some of his faded glory with a mobile partner who can clean up the greater amount of messes he leaves around these days, and Brodie is certainly mobile. But Brodie hasn’t responded well to doing most of the puck-carrying in the past, when paired with Hamonic or Big Money Wides, as he was in the past. Keith doesn’t really handle the puck up the ice, or at least shouldn’t, preferring to try and make plays happen at the line still (which he can’t do nearly as well but we’ve had that talk). So Brodie is an odd fit.

Hamonic is clearly a different player. Much more stationary, much more the road grater, and even more of what the Hawks probably don’t need. He had a much improved season last year in Calgary, but he still was behind the team-rate in the metrics we look at. He was paired with Noah Hanifin, who everyone agreed has a very rough season in Alberta, but Hanifin’s numbers improve away from Hamonic, so you deal with that. Hamonic’s metrics are always going to suffer because he’s been used in the defensive zone the most of any team he’s been on for the most part, and he’s not a puck-mover. Neither is Hanifin, but Brodie was supposed to be in ’17-’18 and that didn’t go well for anybody. Then again, the Flames were coached by a moron then in Glengarry Glenn Galutzan, but Hamonic has been around now for a while and we know what he is.

If you could put a left-sided puck-mover with Hamonic, it’s just crazy enough to work. Again, the Hawks might think that’s Keith, and Hamonic would be an improvement on Seabrook in that area, but that’s also a pairing asking for a ton of trouble. He’d be the perfect partner for Gusatfsson if Gus actually had feet, which he does not. He’s basically slower Connor Murphy, which the Hawks don’t need.

Still, there are appeals. One, both are on the last year of their deals and neither are very expensive. Brodie clocks in at $4.6M and Hamonic at $3.8M. Given their contact status, and age, they really wouldn’t be that expensive in a trade. Maybe a lower round pick and a non-Boqvist prospect is enough to get it done. Then you get a year to see what it looks like, if you’re not really planning on doing much this year anyway (which the Hawks still might be), and if it doesn’t work you send them on their way with the cap space in tow.

But again, these are middle of the road moves that don’t address the top of the roster which needs addressing. The Hawks don’t have the pieces that would help Brodie or Hamonic maximize their usefulness, which is now why I totally expect this to happen.