Each week our writers go round the table to give their thoughts on the biggest stories or questions in baseball.
What one trade would you like to see before the deadline?
Gabe Isaacson: Nick Swisher to the Diamondbacks
I was appalled by the recent Diamondbacks/Braves trade. The Diamondbacks traded away a viable prospect, Touki Toussaint, just to dump Bronson Arroyo’s 2015 salary and his 2016 buyout. When you’re a non-contender, the prospects have to have more valuable. It’s certainly not as if the Diamondbacks really intend to go out and spend those savings elsewhere.
Unless of course they do.
The only way for the Diamondbacks to save face – in the eyes of their fans, the media, and potentially the Major League Baseball office – is to spend some or all of their savings. If you are not going to spend that money improving your major league club, then you must spend it elsewhere.
Baseball is getting eerily close to returning to the era of buying and selling players. This has happened in past years with trades involving certainly tradable draft picks, and it seems to have happened again with Arroyo.
The Indians, after an abysmal weekend, appear ready to sell. They would love to shed payroll, but they’re certainly not pursuing an all-out rebuild. With a strong young core – albeit one that will be seeking raises in the coming years – they want to offer themselves as much flexibility as possible.
The Diamondbacks should pursue Nick Swisher. Swisher is owed a prorated portion of his $15 million salary for 2015 and his entire $15 million for 2016. If the Diamondbacks release or bench Swisher, they can ensure he will not reach the 550 plate appearances necessary for his 2017 option to vest.
While the Diamondbacks saved under $10 million in their trade with the Braves, they would be taking on over $20 million here. Whether it was their plan or not, their first trade has alienated the public to such an extent that they may need to take on this additional salary to even out the perception. Toussaint was barely a top-100 prospect, so the Diamondbacks should actually be able to recover substantial value here.
Though it’s more likely that the Diamondbacks will simply take their savings and ignore the public backlash, this is the type of trade that I hope they will at least consider. The Indians would value this financial flexibility and likely pay handsomely for it. Ken Kendrick likely told Dave Stewart that he didn’t want to foot such a bill for a 100-game loser, but so is the life of mid-level major league owners.
Darren Helley: Evan Longoria to the Dodgers
The Tampa Bay Rays have started to find offensive contributors beyond their long-time star 3B Evan Longoria and I believe under a new front office this is the time for the unthinkable, bold move to ship the former All-Star. The Dodgers would be a great landing point for Longoria given his all-round ability at the hot corner as well as the clubs’ financial ability to maintain his contract, which runs until 2023.
But for one of the best third basemen in the major leagues, the Dodgers would need to sacrifice a very notable prospect. SS Corey Seager and LHP Julio Urias would be the base for this shocking trade with the possibility of adding either IF Justin Turner or LHP Brett Anderson to the trade in exchange for a Rays top prospect such as C Justin O’Conner or SS Daniel Robertson, who is hitting extremely well in Double-A Montgomery.
The Rays would gain in this trade by acquiring a future phenom and possibly a much-needed left-handed starter following injuries to Drew Smyly and Matt Moore. The Dodgers would gain by acquiring an all-round upgrade to third-base and arguably one of the most established middle-of-the-lineup hitters in the game, as well as the possibility to acquiring a prospect with some serious hitting ability in the 21-year old Robertson. Would it be worth the sacrifice of Corey Seager? Possibly. Could the Rays add a pitching prospect like Advanced-A RHP Brent Honeywell or RHP Taylor Guerrieri and go for the 18-year old Mexian Urias? I say get that future phenom on the mound.
Casey Boguslaw: Jonathon Niese to the Blue Jays
Call me a fan of the underdog, but I am rooting for the Toronto Blue Jays to end their span as the longest-tenured team without a playoff berth. The Blue Jays are, by far, the best offensive team on the continent. Their pitching however – not so much. The American League East is arguably the tightest division race, as four of the five teams are within two games of the leader. The Blue Jays are currently fourth but clearly can make that deficit up in one series. The Jays pitching is considered the team’s weakness at this point and that was predictable as of Opening Day. The injury to Marcus Stroman in Spring Training moved everyone’s position in the rotation up a spot including making disappointing Drew Hutchison the starter for their first game of the 2015 campaign. I believe GM Alex Anthopoulos should be sending scouts all over the league in search for an ace.
It’s tough for me ever to speak ill of Mark Buehrle but at 36 years old, the former White Sox ace is no longer that. Combined with fellow “seasoned veteran” R.A. Dickey, the duo are a great 3-4 combo in a rotation but no longer a 1-2. The previously mentioned Drew Hutchison has been inconsistent this year and has shown some great home splits (2.38 ERA vs 8.92 ERA on the road) and the Blue Jays envision him as a number two starter in the future. Since the Blue Jays will not see Stroman returning this season to be their potential number one starter, they will have to look elsewhere if they are to find one for the 2015 season.
This brings us to the New York Mets. The Mets have been experimenting with a six-man rotation for parts of this season because they truly have an embarrassment of riches. They have the opposite of the Blue Jays in they may actually have six number one or two starters with a couple of prospects already making their way to the big club this season. The Mets also show their contradiction to the Jays by having an offense that has struggled all season. The Jays have a few utility players that even though they do not start in Toronto’s lineup could have a clear path to an everyday spot on the Mets. Danny Valencia and Ezequiel Carrera are both hitting above .300 in over 100 at-bats but are currently in reserve roles. These two may be appealing for the Mets to attract a Jonathon Niese, who would certainly strengthen the Jays rotation. If they were to aim a little bigger to one of the Mets better starters, Justin Smoak or a top prospect would have to be considered.
The Mets are certainly only one of the teams that the Jays are looking at but a trade between these teams could be a win-win for both squads as both do have their eyes on the postseason now rather than the future. Their strengths match the other’s weakness so it would be fun if these two could find a match.
Derek Helling: Aaron Harang to the Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays currently sit just a game out of first place in the American League East division, which they haven’t won since 1993. Additionally, Toronto has one of the best offenses in the game. The Blue Jays lead all Major League Baseball teams in runs scored per game, runs batted in and slugging percentage just to name a few categories.
In the pitching aspect, Toronto ranks 18th so far this season in runs allowed per game, 22nd in earned run average (ERA) and 20th to strikeout to walk ratio. Given the tightness of the AL East standings and the productivity of the offense, it’s fair to hypothesize that an upgrade in pitching could go a long way toward ending the Blue Jays’ near-22-year division championship drought.
Enter Aaron Harang, currently pitching as part of the Philadelphia Phillies’ starting rotation. Through 101 innings pitched in 16 starts, Harang has posted a 3.56 ERA and walked a mere 26 batters. At 37 years old, he appears to have settled into the role of dependable innings-eater who keeps his team in games.
To make acquiring him even more enticing, Harang is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. His salary for the current season is $5 million, making him a bargain in comparison to Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey.
Harang could represent an immediate upgrade for Toronto in the starting rotation. The AL East isn’t full of offensive juggernaut lineups this season, and only Marco Estrada has a lower ERA out of the Blue Jays’ current starting five. Estrada has made six fewer starts than Harang, however. (Note: Aaron Sanchez has a lower ERA on the season than Harang, but he has made five fewer starts than Harang and is currently on the disabled list).
Adding Harang would allow Toronto to move Drew Hutchison, who has been the Blue Jays’ worst starter by the numbers so far this season, into the bullpen or to the minor leagues. It’s also possible that Toronto could send Hutchison, 13 years Harang’s junior, back to Philadelphia as a stop-gap rotation piece for the balance of this season.
It’s nearly impossible that the Phillies would accept Hutchison alone for Harang, however. Besides unloading the remainder of Harang’s contract, Philadelphia will be looking for other value. Enter outfielder Dwight Smith.
Smith is currently listed at No. 9 in the Blue Jays’ Top 30 prospect roster, occupying himself playing the center and left field positions for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. At the Double-A level so far this season, he has a .266/.325/.367 slash line. His ability to get on base has been his greatest offensive tool so far in professional ball. Defensively, he profiles best in left field, where he could eventually become a solution for the Phillies if Cody Asche continues his rollercoaster development.
Other options for the Blue Jays include left-handed pitcher Jairo Labourt and catcher A.J. Jimenez.
Given the opportunity that Toronto has and the obvious need, expect the Blue Jays to make some move for help in the pitching department. Harang represents a good value, and would not demand a top-notch prospect in return.
Patrick Brewer: Aroldis Chapman to the Blue Jays
In terms of trades I want to see happen the one that comes to mind is an Aroldis Chapman trade.
This one is obviously very contingent on where the Reds see themselves at the trade deadline but for all intents and purposes many around the league already see the Reds heading toward the direction of sellers. The Reds will most likely stand pat until at least after the All Star Game given the fact that they don’t want to start a fire sale before hosting an All Star Game. With that being said, they should definitely start selling immediately after the All Star Game whether they see themselves as playoff contenders or not. They have a lot of tradable options from Johnny Cueto to Jay Bruce to Todd Frazier to Aroldis Chapman. Aroldis Chapman would perhaps be the most interesting piece given the fact that he is not a free agent after the season and is widely considered by many to be the most dominant relief pitcher in all of baseball.
Chapman is still arbitration eligible next season and will not be a free agent until 2017. Due to all the factors, the Reds could make an absolute killing if they trade him now when his value is at the highest it will be. Out of all the teams I see as a fit, the Toronto Blue Jays would be the most interesting fit. Many have connected them to Jonathan Papelbon in recent months but Chapman would be a cheaper option financially and a better back of the pen arm. They have long had a stellar offense but have struggled to match that with good starting pitching and a good bullpen. Chapman, along with another starter or two, would be just what the Jays to not only make a playoff run but perhaps a deep playoff run. In terms of what they would need to give up it seems the return would be something astronomical.
I am not entirely sure if the Blue Jays have the pieces or would be willing to trade these pieces but the conversation would perhaps start with a younger pitcher such as Daniel Norris or Miguel Castro or even a big league piece such as Aaron Sanchez and a position player such as Dalton Pompey who is currently in the minor leagues or even Kevin Pillar who is on the big league roster as well. The Blue Jays could afford to take a hit to their offense, given the talent they currently have on the roster, but may not want to part with pitching that they most certainly will need long term. In total the Reds would probably expect a return of 3-4 prospects in return for the services of Chapman. Whether the Reds will consider trading Chapman, and whether the Blue Jays can meet their demands and pull the trigger, remains to be seen.
Joe Commesso: Johnny Cueto to the Yankees
For the first time in a long time, the New York Yankees has developed some talent at the minor league level this year. These young prospects have proved themselves to be valuable trade chips if necessary. The front office remained very conservative last off-season, staying out of bidding wars for big name players like Max Scherzer and James Shields. The frugal nature of their off-season blueprints was heavily attributed to the money they had locked up in Alex Rodriguez.
The Yankees instead brought back Chase Headley and Stephen Drew, and traded for Nate Eovaldi and Didi Gregorius. The Bombers are a half a game out of first place in the AL East, but one thing is for sure; they are not a playoff caliber team at the moment. While I do believe that something must be done about the season long offensive drought the Yankees have in the middle infield (Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius), pitching wins championships. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have shown glimpses of dominance, but they both have also pitched a few clunkers this year. Nate Eovaldi is 7-2, which is extremely misleading due to his 4.81 ERA and his 1.54 WHIP. CC Sabathia has been nothing short of a train wreck this year, going 3-7 with a 5.65 ERA. Perhaps the Yank’s most reliable pitcher as of late, Adam Warren, is facing the possibility of heading back to the bullpen with the arrival of Ivan Nova off the DL.
Although I am not a fan of bringing pitchers from the National League to the American League, I think that Cueto is the perfect guy to be the anchor in the Yankees rotation. At 29 years old, the Cincinnati Red’s pitcher still has a lot of good years ahead of him. He could provide the Yankees with stability, the attribute they are lacking the most in their starting rotation. Although Cueto has not had an ERA over three since 2010, it is my belief that he will not return to the Reds once he hits free agency after this year. With Brandon Phillips aging, I believe the Reds will take interest in the Yankees #4 prospect, second baseman Rob Refsnyder. the middle infielder has proven to be extremely dangerous with the bat, but his shaky defense makes him unlikely to be the Yankees permanent solution at second base. It is possible the Yanks will throw in Garrett Jones, power hitting utility outfielder/first baseman, and a few more top prospects to pull of this deal. Although it will not be easy, due to completion among other teams, I will not be surprised to see Johnny Cueto in pinstripes in the next couple months.
Adam Brown: Scott Kazmir & Ben Zobrist to the Giants
It seems incredible that three championships in five years have done nothing to stop the Giants from being overlooked and afterthoughts. At the point of writing this, they sit half a game behind the Dodgers and boast SEVEN players with over 50 games with an OPS+ over 120. This team is really good.
That being said, after Madison Bumgarner, the starting rotation is stick-thin, Chris Heston has been hit and miss as evidenced by his wide range of game scores (22-98). Elsewhere, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong just haven’t been very good and you’d be a braver person than I to believe in Jake Peavy or Yusmeiro Petit being able to fill the void.
Kazmir makes perfect sense for the Giants, he’s inexpensive (owed $13mm but is a free agent this winter) and won’t cost anywhere near as much as the likes of Cueto or Hamels in terms of prospects. Harvesting a 2.79 ERA and not surrendering more than three runs in any of his last nine starts shows the vital consistency he can provide a rotation. The most important aspect of this acquisition would be foreshadowing a playoff rotation. The Giants rode the coattails of Bumgarner last year, but behind him the pitching was atrocious especially in the latter rounds, and it would be safe to assume with the Dodgers, Nationals and Cardinals waiting to prey, another good starter is paramount for the champions.
Zobrist, potentially the answer to the most overlooked and underappreciated player in baseball isn’t necessarily a glaring need for the Giants, however his versatility if being able to play 6 positions and play solid defence is a valuable addition. His on-base skills and good power numbers (over 50 XBH every year since 2011) would make him a welcome addition in that line-up.
The deal comes to a few issues when it comes to prospects, the Giants farm system isn’t great, but centring a deal around Kyle Crick, the hard-throwing lefty who has electric stuff with really glaring command issues (40 walks in 42IP at AA) has enough potential to be an attractive piece. With Keury Mella, Tyler Beede, Adalberto Meija and Ty Blach, there’s a glut of pitching prospects for the A’s to decipher who fits best. Then add in Christian Arroyo, the middle infield prospect and there could be a deal struck.
The champions adding pieces to take on their biggest rival, colour me excited.
Ed Overend: Ryan Howard to the Angels
One thing the Angels are not short of is cash. One thing they are short of, massively so, is left-handed power.
The usually reliable, against right handers anyway, Matt Joyce has been horrific and Efren Navarro is certainly not the answer. Howard provides a much-needed left-handed bat and the chance of resting Albert Pujols. Pujols might be as healthy as he’s been in a while but the odd day off at first base would certainly be beneficial.
The Angels are one of the few teams likely to take a large chunk of Howard’s horrific contract on board. Getting the underwhelming, yet still young, Rutledge in return could give the Phillies the capacity to shop the next of their ageing superstars, Chase Utley.
Anthony Rescan: Jonathan Lucroy to the Rangers
There are a ton of obvious options out there. Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Gonzalez, and many more guys could be moved at the deadline. One I would like to key in on is Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Generally, the buzz is that he will not be traded and I don’t think the Brewers are in the wrong for keeping him. That said, if made available now or in the offseason, it would be one of the more interesting discussions given his previous success, his down year and his contract situation. The Astros, Rangers, Tigers, Rays, Angels, and, if they want to satisfy my never-ending vendetta against Tyler Flowers, White Sox could be interested in upgrading at catcher. Of those teams, I think it is most worthwhile to focus on the team in Arlington.
A deal involving the Rangers would displace one of Chirinos or Corporan, which should be an easy swap out for them. First off, Joey Gallo is obviously off-limits, so eyes have to turn to the other Ranger bat prospects, primarily Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara. Mazara is a guy that I love. He’s incredibly advanced for a 19-year-old, has huge power and his other tools are coming along nicely. That said, it’s precisely why I don’t think he’s even near the table in these talks. Alfaro, on the other hand has some plate discipline and positional concerns; however, if he sticks at catcher, it’s a bit easier to dream on him. Next, I would assume the Brewers would be targeting one of the Rangers’ top arms in Jake Thompson or Chi Chi Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a bit easier to project given that he has the more developed repertoire, including a plus fastball, and because he’s already in the bigs. Thompson still needs to develop a bit more as a starter, but it’s hard to envision him not making the leap to the big leagues as a mid-rotation arm. The Brewers should also look to ask for one or two of the Rangers’ high upside guys in the lower minors.
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