10 Good Players Trying To Play Themselves Off Bad Teams

These 10 players are stuck on bad teams now, but could find themselves on contending clubs by the MLB trade deadline.

Brent Rooker good player bad team
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 14: Brent Rooker #25 of the Oakland Athletics bats against the New York Mets in the bottom of the fourth inning of a major league baseball game at RingCentral Coliseum on April 14, 2023 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

With Memorial Day fast approaching, the 2024 MLB season is no longer young. Sample sizes are becoming large enough to evaluate (on both the player and team side) and with that comes the distinction between contender and pretender, real or fluke.

As always, though, there are good players on good teams, bad players on good teams (less frequent) and bad players on bad teams (yikes).

But what about good players on bad teams? Well, there’s plenty of them too. Let’s look at 10 players who don’t have much to play for other than themselves (until they’re traded, of course).

1. Brent Rooker

Rooker broke out in 2023 with the Oakland Athletics, but you know how the saying goes: if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? In other words, the All-Star designated hitter went (relatively) incognito last season despite his success.

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Of course, that’s no fault of his own, as the Athletics finished 2023 with a forgettable 50-112 record.

The 29-year-old Rooker emerged out of nowhere to swat 30 homers in 526 plate appearances last season, good for a 127 wRC+ and a 2.2 fWAR. And he’s (so far) proving that 2023 wasn’t a fluke, with 11 homers in 159 plate appearances to date in 2024 (172 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR).

Rumored to be a trade candidate last season, Rooker is more than positioning himself to be a viable trade chip once again this year. But will the A’s make a deal this time?

2. Mason Miller

Let’s stay with the Athletics, who also happen to have baseball’s best relief pitcher at the moment.

That’s right: no one’s been more dominant in 2024 than Mason Miller, the fireballing right-hander whom Oakland converted to a closer this season.

Want to read a ludicrous stat about Miller’s performance so far? His FIP this season is -0.16. That’s unheard of for any pitcher, but when you watch the 25-year-old pitch in relief, it becomes clear just how ridiculously talented he is.

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His ERA isn’t too shabby either, sitting at a microscopic 0.89 over 20.1 innings pitched (16 appearances). And his strikeout rate? 56.2%. Even in a strikeout-heavy landscape, that figure is astounding.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Athletics are asking for the moon and the stars in any potential trade involving Miller.

3. Tommy Pham

Just Baseball’s Renee Dechert recently wrote a piece about Tommy Pham’s trade prospects and makes a compelling case for the veteran outfielder to be dealt from the cellar-dwelling Chicago White Sox.

Considering Pham is signed to a minor-league deal and can be flipped as a rental at the upcoming MLB trade deadline in July, there’s no reason to believe Pham will still call the South Side of Chicago home come August.

4. Erick Fedde

The White Sox may have gotten a steal when they signed Fedde to a two-year, $15 million contract after he spent 2023 in Korea with the NC Dinos.

Fedde was previously in MLB with the Washington Nationals, but was below average in his time there, having never finished a season with an ERA lower than 4.30. That is, until he took his talents to the Korean Baseball Organization last year, where he flourished in his new surroundings (2.00 ERA in 30 starts), winning the KBO Triple Crown.

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The 31-year-old right-hander hasn’t been that overpowering in his stateside encore with the White Sox, but he’s still solid nonetheless (10 starts, 3.10 ERA, 4.01 FIP). And he’s certainly been Chicago’s most consistent rotation member thus far (not saying much given the White Sox’ depleted talent reserve, but alas).

When you combine the production with his short and affordable contract, Fedde is precisely the type of player who could be playing himself off the White Sox in due time.

5. Taylor Ward

It’s difficult to replace a Mike Trout-sized hole (let alone a Shohei Ohtani-sized one) on the Los Angeles Angels’ roster, but fellow outfielder Taylor Ward has been making a valiant attempt for several seasons now.

Dating back to 2021, Ward has finished each year as an above-average hitter by wRC+ and he’s doing more of the same in 2024 (121 wRC+ in 212 plate appearances).

Of course, when you’re playing third fiddle behind Ohtani and Trout, it’s hard to get your due. But Ward can’t do it all himself, either, which is why the struggling Halos may be better off dealing the 30-year-old sooner rather than later.

There’s just one problem with that solution, though: The Angels are pretty stubborn, as you may recall from their Ohtani standoff last season. So don’t expect Ward to go anywhere, even if he’s playing himself off Los Angeles’ roster.

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6. Luis Rengifo

An Angels mainstay since 2019, Rengifo has been a steadily improving player during his tenure in Anaheim.

2022 was Rengifo’s first above-average season (103 wRC+), which he followed up in 2023 (114 wRC+). And so far in 2024, he has a 134 wRC+, which fits nicely into the improvement narrative.

If he keeps this level of production up, Rengifo will undoubtedly be viewed as a potential trade candidate come the trade deadline. Adding to the infielder’s overall value is his versatility, which has been on display this season. In fact, Rengifo has started 19 games at second base, 13 at third base and even two at shortstop.

Few teams would turn down the opportunity to acquire a versatile middle infielder with above-average offensive production. Put another way, Rengifo is definitely playing himself off the Angels if the club is inclined to trade him this summer.

7. Cal Quantrill

It’s hard to find many good players on the Colorado Rockies’ roster in 2024, but one of them has (surprisingly) has been a pitcher. Ironic, given that the team calls Coors Field its home for half the season.

Cal Quantrill has proven to be a solid signing for the Rockies so far, becoming the club’s most consistent rotation member amidst an otherwise shaky group.

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Quantrill’s numbers won’t blow you away at first glance (3.59 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 18.6 K%), but remember that he’s started a handful of games in Colorado, where pitchers have a natural disadvantage. Looking at his xFIP of 4.15, he’s actually fared quite well despite the circumstances.

When the Rockies get their hands on a decent pitcher, they’d usually be wise to try retaining him. But in Quantrill’s case, his one-year deal at a cheap price point likely makes him too attractive of a trade candidate to pass up if the right deal emerges. And that means his time in Denver may not last too much longer.

8. Bryan De La Cruz

The Miami Marlins officially gave up on 2024 when they traded two-time batting champion Luis Arraez to the San Diego Padres earlier this month. And that should mean “open for business” on most of their remaining veterans this summer, including outfielder Bryan De La Cruz.

De La Cruz has turned into a serviceable big league regular who has flashed above-average offensive potential since the Marlins acquired him from the Houston Astros in 2021. And thus far in 2024, the 27-year-old outfielder has nine home runs and a 113 wRC+ in 221 plate appearances for Miami.

Given his team control through 2028, don’t expect the Marlins to be super aggressive in finding a trade partner for De La Cruz (he can still be productive on the cheap for several more seasons). But then again, they pulled the trigger on Arraez rather abruptly, which makes anything possible here.

In any case, De La Cruz has certainly been good enough to be dealt from Miami sooner rather than later. Other notable Marlins hitters who could be on the move, Josh Bell will be a free agent after this season, but he’s struggled with the bat so far (95 wRC+) and Jazz Chisolm Jr. who also has plenty of team control (FA in 2027) but could be dealt for the right package.

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9. Tanner Scott

Good relievers don’t usually stay on losing teams for long. That’s what makes the Marlins’ Tanner Scott another likely trade candidate this summer as Miami continues its fire sale.

Scott, a lefty closer, has been excellent in 2024 with a 1.71 ERA across 21 relief appearances. The problem is that the Marlins don’t win many ballgames, thus limiting his save opportunities so far. Still, his value remains high as a southpaw with late-inning stuff.

The Marlins may want to trade Scott sooner rather than later, though, because his xERA sits at 3.30. And his FIP is even less promising at 4.23. That means regression is likely coming, but it’s worth noting that the lefty was effective in Miami’s closer role last season as well. Therefore, he’s earned some benefit of the doubt even if or when said regression potentially arrives.

10. Trevor Williams

If the Washington Nationals aren’t able to stay within reasonable striking distance of a Wild Card spot by the summer (they’ve managed to so far), one of their most obvious trade candidates would be starting pitcher Trevor Williams.

Williams has been effective for the Nats in 2024, with a 2.35 ERA (2.81 FIP) over nine starts. Despite not having an overpowering repertoire, the 32-year-old still gets outs and lots of them. That’ll play on a contending team this summer should Washington decide to sell off.

Signed to a two-year, $13 million contract prior to the 2023 season, Williams’ deal expires at the end of this year, making him an ideal rental piece at an affordable price. But again, much will depend on how the Nationals’ situation unfolds into the summer.

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