9 trades that make sense at the deadline
By Jon Heyman
Projecting trades is a tricky and generally unrewarding business. But at the risk of sounding like a caller to sports radio, we will give it a shot here.
Pitching once again will be at the forefront of trade talks, as most every contending team could use arms, starters or relievers (and in many cases both!). But while there will be a lot of buyers of arms, there are expected to be only a couple teams looking for bats; the lack of need there is so extreme folks are wondering whether there will be any market at all for all but the very best of position players.
“There won’t be one (significant) position player traded this year,” one executive bold predicted. We inserted the word “significant” since there will surely be some position players dealt, but possibly just no stars.
For the purposes of this exercise, we will include some substantial everyday players even if they aren’t necessarily all that likely to be dealt. Here goes, our nine trades that make sense.
1. Jose Quintana, SP, and Tommy Kahnle, RP, from the White Sox to the Astros for Francis Martes, RHP prospect, and Kyle Tucker, OF prospect.
Some swear the Astros won’t include both their top prospects in a deal for anyone, and maybe they won’t. And word is, they’ve inquired on Julio Teheran and others and are waiting until the end to see if someone even better shakes out (more on that in the AL notes). But in any case, it should take two top-100 prospects to land Quintana, who’s pitching well lately and whose bonus is that he has a very reasonable contract that includes three more years assuming options are picked up. The Astros along with the Pirates and Yankees have been the teams most often connected to Quintana, who could help just about anyone. But the Astros absolutely need to acquire a durable excellent starter to augment their talented but somewhat fragile rotation, and Quintana is as sturdy as they come, by today’s standards, anyway. Beyond that, they’ve never won the World Series, so to quote a great baseball executive: If not now, then when?
2. David Robertson, RP, and Anthony Swarzak, RP, from the White Sox to the Nationals for Drew Ward, 3B prospect, Jesus Luzardo, LHP prospect and Pedro Severino, C prospect.
This is close to the deal that was close to happening at the Winter Meetins (without Swarzak and Severino). But at this point, with Robertson performing well (only one blown save), some money off the books with the first half gone (he makes $12 million this year, $13 million next year) and the Nats presumably much more desperate (their wonderful team is being undermined by MLB’s worst bullpen), the Nats should have to sweeten the deal with Severino, a fine defensive catcher and their No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com. Ward and Luzardo are also in their top 15, but that’s OK, they should be desperate. As for Robertson’s contract, it looks pretty reasonable considering the Nats had been ready to give Mark Melancon a $62-million deal (backloaded, no doubt) this winter and they should have to pay a little extra for pulling the plug on a deal they should have made back in December. Melancon could be available again (assuming he comes off the DL) but the closer market looks like it holds the potential to be less than overwhelming, with Alex Colome unlikely to go anywhere (the Rays are in the race), Roberto Osuna having some issues (he wasn’t ready to pitch a couple days ago, he admitted), Kelvin Herrera not going anywhere (more on that in the AL notes) and the aforementioned Melancon off to a so-so start with the Giants. The Marlins’ A.J. Ramos, the Mets’ Addison Reed, the A’s’ Ryan Madson, the Braves’ Jim Johnson and a couple others of that ilk should be out there, but Robertson is probably the best they can do.
3. Justin Verlander, SP, and $20 million from the Tigers to the Cubs for Thomas Hatch, RHP prospect, Jose Paulino, LHP prospect, and Jose Rosario, RHP prospect.
These three pitching prospects rank in the top 20 for the Cubs, and while this may seem like less than a haul (it is that), with Verlander up and down this year the Tigers probably can’t expect to get top of the line guys. Hatch was a third rounder and Rosario throws close to 100 mph, and they’d help replenish the Tigers’ system. Verlander could revert to 2016 Cy Young form energized in Chicago, but as one rival pointed out, “There are a lot of innings on that arm.” So it’d be a gamble for the Cubs – though we’d always bet on Verlander. The Cubs’ excellent front office prefers pitchers younger than 30, but has done multi-year deals for guys it knows (Jon Lester and John Lackey). Everyone knows Verlander, and while the $28-million salary seems high at the moment, he has just two guaranteed years left, plus one year with a vesting option, plus a no-trade (more on this in the AL notes). Tigers people understand there is no realistic hope to deal Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann or Victor Martinez, and they have been interested in significantly paring a payroll that’s up there with the big boy Yankees and Dodgers. Verlander is the one guy who could put a major dent in that going forward, and word is the Tigers have identified at least four teams (the Red Sox, Astros and Yankees as well as the Cubs) in addition to the Dodgers who have a chance to have interest. The buzz has been that the Cubs could be their best chance, and Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported that they had called. Regardless, that’s a good place to start.
4. Todd Frazier and $5 million from the White Sox to the Red Sox for Bryan Mata, RHP prospect.
Frazier’s market is not so strong after one and a half years with a lot of homers but not a lot of other hits on the South Side of Chicago. So the White Sox would have to pay the bulk of the remainder of his $12-million salary and only hope to get back one solid prospect. Mata is ranked 26th in Boston’s system, which isn’t up to its usual standards. The Red Sox are believed to like Mike Moustakas best if their current third-base tryout (Pablo Sandoval, Jhonny Peralta, Devin Marrero, Josh Rutledge, Tzu-Wei Lin) doesn’t work out, but the Royals are more like now to be a buyer than a seller (more on that in the AL notes). They could go to old friend Jed Lowrie, respected veteran Martin Prado, under-rated Yangervis Solarte (they’d still deal with the Padres, with Pomeranz looking sound and effective), solid David Freese or others, but Frazier might thrive with the Green Monster and the New Jerseyan surely wouldn’t mind his first foray into the northeast.
5. Matt Adams, 1B, from the Braves to the Yankees for Dominguez Acevedo, RHP, and Drew Finley, RHP.
The Braves are still holding out some hope that the Freddie Freeman to third base experiment could work (which would allow them to retain Adams as their 1B), but if it doesn’t, from here the Yankees are the most logical trade partner. There is no guarantee Greg Bird will be back this year, Tyler Austin is on the DL and Chris Carter has underperformed so far, meaning the Yankees could easily be in the market for a first baseman (more on this in the AL notes). Yonder Alonso will also be out there, and Lucas Duda could be, too, and any of the three would work (though obviously Duda is probably a longer shot than the others since the Yankees and Mets rarely trade). They could also look instead to Lowrie, or one of two former Yankees — Prado or Solarte – or similar, as they’ve had third-base questions as well. But Adams seems like more of an impact guy.
6. Josh Donaldson, 3B, from the Jays to the Cardinals for Alex Reyes, RHP prospect, Delvin Perez, SS prospect, and Magneuris Sierra, OF prospect.
We suggested Donaldson makes sense for the Cardinals in this space last week. However, this one remains a long shot, as it’s hard for some to see the Jays doing something this bold. Whatever the Jays decide, they look like a non-contender from here (they had a brilliant finish after a weak start two years ago but haven’t shown many positive signs so far this year), and this could be a major boost to a potential rebuild, if they are up for it. They didn’t give up this much to get Donaldson in the first place (it was actually the previous regime, led by Alex Anthopoulos that made the trade for Donaldson), and have had use of him for a couple years, but he has only enhanced his value with an MVP performance. One rival exec said Reyes, MLB’s No. 9 overall prospect who missed this year with Tommy John surgery, would almost “have to” be included in any potential Donaldson deal – though perhaps they could do two other top guys in his place, maybe from the nice prospect trio of Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty, two right-handed pitchers, and Harrison Bader, a late-blooming outfielder, in Reyes’ place perhaps. The Cardinals absolutely need a middle of the order presence (and maybe a little attitude) and the gut here tells me Donaldson would be perfect for St. Louis (more on this in the NL notes). Jedd Gyorko, who’s been quite good again, could move to second to accommodate him.
7. Sonny Gray, SP, and Sean Doolittle, RP, from the A’s to the Yankees for Clint Frazier, OF prospect, and Chance Adams, SP prospect.
The Yankees may not think they are ready to win based on their recent play. But if they still believe they are a legit contender, they won’t be afraid to take a chance, and this certainly would qualify as that, with Frazier the No. 17 prospect on the MLB.com list, and Adams No. 94. Gray, if he returns to previous form, would be huge for the rotation, and Doolittle gives the Yankees back their three-headed relief monster (assuming Dellin Betances solves his control issues) from a year ago and a pen to rival the Indians, who have the best in baseball since getting Andrew Miller from the Yankees. Frazier’s carefree personality may be a better fit for the A’s, anyway (it certainly didn’t look great when Frazier, upon his ascension, told the press that his Triple-A manager advised him to be “a good teammate,”); the A’s have a history of free spirits so maybe he’d be an easier fit there. Adams has taken a huge step this year. Oakland could have a terrific sale this July, and this could be the start of it. In fact, yet another A’s player, Yonder Alonso, could work for the Yankees, as well.
8. J.D. Martinez, OF, from the Tigers to the Dodgers for Dustin May, RHP prospect, and Josh Sborz, RHP prospect.
Martinez is an impact bat on an expiring contract, so he should draw something pretty significant eventually. The Dodgers don’t love to part with their prospects, but they have a ton of them. Their hitting has been better vs. lefties this year, but Andre Ethier, Franklin Gutierrez and Andrew Toles all are out with injuries, and so is even Adrian Gonzalez, who’d played the most games of anyone since 2006 before he went out to the sidelines this year (super rookie Cody Bellinger could stay at first base). Sborz looked great this spring, but he’s a reliever.
9. Brad Hand, RP, from the Padres to the Dodgers for Brock Stewart, RHP prospect and Trevor Oaks, RHP prospect.
Hand is having another fine season in the Padres’ pen, to the point where he could draw multiple prospects. The Padres know the Dodgers’ system as well as anyone since top Padres exec Logan White, their former scouting director, drafted half their prospects. These are two of his picks.