Fantasy Baseball Trade Analyzer: Time to deal MLB's saves leader?

Ryan Helsley has 31 saves, which should bring plenty in a trade with any fantasy baseball manager in need of relief help. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

With roughly one month until the MLB trade deadline, wise fantasy baseball managers will look to clear roster space. We will see many players emerge as fantasy factors as the result of deadline deals, and those who have some room on their bench can add those men right away, and in some cases, they may be able to get ahead of the pack by picking up players who could benefit from the most-rumored trades. To make this happen, managers will want to make 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 trades this month, where they give up multiple useful players for one difference maker. And when looking for deals of this nature, here are a few players who could find their names involved.

There should be a strong market to trade Helsley to a team that needs saves. After all, the right-hander leads baseball by a wide margin with 31 saves and also owns a 2.54 ERA. But Helsley has walked a tightrope when securing narrow wins of late, having walked 10 batters in his past 11 appearances. The purpose of including Helsley in this article is not to predict that his season is due to a major downturn. Rather, the suggestion is for managers to trade him for a premium return and then either acquire a less coveted reliever or scour the waiver wire for a replacement. Helsley is a fine reliever, but he has benefited by the Cardinals generating the most save chances (45) of any team. There are clubs with similar records who have generated 10-15 fewer save opportunities.

This is getting ridiculous. Hader has been healthy all season, has held opposing hitters to a .196 average, and has blown just one save. And despite taking care of the business that he can control, the left-hander ranks 16th in baseball with 13 saves. Even a recent hot stretch from the Astros hasn’t helped much, as Hader recorded just five saves in June. Many fantasy managers will look at his lowly save total and mediocre 3.82 ERA and conclude that he is having a down year, but a deeper look shows a remarkable strikeout total of 60, which is the second-highest mark (behind Mason Miller) of anyone who has earned a save this year. It’s easy to envision a scenario where Hader is the most valuable closer in the second half.

Even with the league-wide increase in steals, players who post sizable totals in both homers and swipes are hard to find. For example, just eight players have accumulated at least 10 homers and 15 swipes, and nearly all of those men were selected in the initial three rounds of 2024 drafts. Kim, Brenton Doyle and Jarren Duran are the outliers in the group, and most managers agree that Duran and Doyle are in the midst of breakout seasons. Kim will surely be the easiest man from the group to acquire, and he becomes more appealing when noticing that Statcast assigns him a .251 xBA that is 23 points higher than his actual mark.

As hard as this would have been to envision during draft season, Ozuna has emerged as the best hitter in a star-studded Braves lineup. We shouldn’t be surprised that the 33-year-old is posting eye-popping power numbers, as he is coming off a 40-homer season. And perhaps we shouldn’t be shocked by his .296 average, as he hit .312 in 2017 and .338 in 2020. The key for Ozuna is that he is absolutely crushing the baseball, as his 93-mph average exit velocity equals his mark from the 2020 campaign and is up 1.2 mph from last season. Ozuna trails only Aaron Judge, Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani in xSLG, which accurately depicts his second-half power potential.

Martinez hit well in June (.874 OPS) but likely wasn’t dominant enough to dramatically increase his trade value. The recommendation here is to put a reasonable offer for the 36-year-old, who places ninth in baseball in xSLG and could be one of baseball’s top power hitters this summer. In a perfect world, Martinez is traded this month to a contending team who plays in a bandbox. But even if that doesn’t happen, he can fare well enough in the Mets' surging offense to stay in all fantasy lineups. Martinez missed Tuesday’s game with a sore ankle that was caused by wearing new cleats, and managers will want to see him back in the lineup before making an offer.

Although Bregman hasn’t been awful this year, his underwhelming season has included just nine homers, two steals and a .248 average. Additionally, his .702 OPS is over 100 points lower than his marks in each of the previous two seasons. Statcast suggests that the 30-year-old has thus far been fortunate just to post average statistics, as his xBA (.235) and xSLG (.360) are noticeably lower than his actual marks. This is shaping up as the worst season of the nine-year veteran’s career.