Trades have dominated the hot stove season so far, and why should that stop in Las Vegas?
Before the winter meetings begin in Sin City, we identified another wave of big-name players who could be on the move and asked ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield and Bradford Doolittle to play general manager in finding a trade fit for every player while also giving you a chance to weigh in on their proposed deals.
The San Francisco Giants should trade Madison Bumgarner to the …
Atlanta Braves for LHP Luiz Gohara and RHP Tristan Beck: The Braves had a solid rotation in 2018 and have a slew of other highly rated pitching prospects on the brink of contributing in the majors, including Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint and Gohara. What the Braves need is that guy you have supreme confidence in for the first game of a playoff series to take the pressure off Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Kevin Gausman.
Bumgarner’s trade value isn’t extraordinarily high right now, as his numbers from 2018 indicate some loss of stuff — a decline in velocity, less movement, lower strikeout rate and higher walk rate — and the San Francisco Giants might decide to keep the franchise icon rather than trade him for a less-than-stellar prospect package. While the stuff might be down, Bumgarner’s rep as a big-game pitcher still makes him an intriguing trade option.
Gohara is a big Brazilian who is still just 22 years old. He looked good in five late-season starts for the Braves in 2017, but his 2018 was a lost season as he pitched just 19 ⅔ innings for the Braves and posted a 4.94 ERA in 12 Triple-A starts. He has a boom-or-bust element to him, but if everything comes together he has top-of-the-rotation potential. The Braves have the depth to deal Gohara, and the San Francisco Giants should take the risk of hitting the lottery with a high-ceiling lefty. Beck was the Braves’ fourth-round pick in 2018 out of Stanford. — Schoenfield
Los Angeles Dodgers … yes, those Los Angeles Dodgers: Valuewise, if you give extra weight to the Dodgers’ win-now mandate, it works out just right for L.A. to ship Alex Verdugo north to be a cornerstone of the Giants’ transition to a younger, more athletic club, while San Francisco sends their long-time ace to ply his trade in rival territory. Sure, the Dodgers have a good deal of rotation depth, but is there ever too much starting pitching?
Anyway, the Dodgers have advanced to the World Series the past two years running; for a team trying desperately to make that last step, who better to acquire than the best postseason pitcher of the past decade? A couple of months ago, I probably wouldn’t even suggest that the Giants would trade Bumgarner to the Dodgers. But then San Francisco hired former Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi to run their baseball ops, so all bets are off. — Doolittle
The Cleveland Indians should trade Corey Kluber to the …
Atlanta Braves for Cristian Pache and Touki Toussaint: What, we’re not counting on comebacks from Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood? I think the Indians can aim higher than Schwarber, who now has over 1,200 plate appearances in the majors and a .228 career average. They should not trade him to one of their AL rivals like the Astros or Yankees. The Braves have seen the Nationals and Mets make big moves, and while Atlanta signed Josh Donaldson, adding a veteran ace to upgrade an already solid rotation makes sense. They can deal from their wealth of young pitchers, and the Indians also get a defense-first center fielder in Pache who is close to the majors. — Schoenfield
Chicago Cubs for Kyle Schwarber (and more): With Jon Lester easing into a new chapter of his career, the Cubs need a No. 1 starter and have a deep roster of big-league position players. The Indians have a surplus of top-end starters but are thin at other positions. This is a good match.
From the Cubs’ perspective, you get three years of Kluber’s deal (three years, $40.5 million remaining including a couple of club options) which should have all sorts of surplus value. Kluber is as consistent as any pitcher in the big leagues. While he’s working on a streak of five straight seasons with over 200 innings pitched, I view that as a proof of durability rather than a red flag. His velocity dropped off a little last season, but as he has increasingly worked in his cutter — and given up his dynamic curveball — I’m confident he’ll have the arsenal to head up the Chicago rotation for at least the duration of his contract. He’s just a special pitcher. Kluber’s deal is cheap enough that the Cubs should still be able to bolster their depth via free agency as the winter progresses.
The Indians’ end of this deal begins with Schwarber, but of course, that would just be a jumping off point, especially because the Indians can leverage all of the Kluber suitors against each other. Schwarber at the very least can be counted on to be a three-win player, such as he was last season, with the potential for a lot more. His left-handed power bat is a great fit for Progressive Field, and in the American League the Indians can find work for him in left field, first base and at designated hitter. In addition to Schwarber, the Cubs could add either Ian Happ or Albert Almora Jr., with my presumption being that Cleveland would place a premium on Happ’s versatility.
In cold, hard numbers, this is a fair-value trade, with Cleveland coming out ahead in the long run because they’d be trading Kluber’s three controllable years for the combined eight of Schwarber and Happ. But because of the crowded cast of teams that would love to add Kluber, the Cubs might have to add a third piece. — Doolittle
Or should the Chicago Cubs instead trade Schwarber to the … ?
Houston Astros for a young pitcher: The Astros need a left-handed hitter. They need a DH. Schwarber can play left field if they want to give Kyle Tucker more time in the minors. The Cubs can trade Schwarber — opening a spot in left field for Bryce Harper. The Cubs should ask for Cionel Perez or Framber Valdez, both of whom reached the majors last year and could help out in the bullpen or as rotation depth. — Schoenfield
The Arizona Diamondbacks should trade Zack Greinke to the …
Atlanta Braves: According to the Athletic, Greinke has the ability to block trades to half of the teams in the majors, including most of the contending teams that could use him. However, reportedly that list does not include the Braves, and Atlanta could use some additional veteran stability for its rotation. In Greinke’s case, all it would cost is a heap of cash. Now that Arizona has traded Paul Goldschmidt, there doesn’t seem to be much hope to attach Greinke to another player, unless the D-backs want to eat into their limited roster of good controllable players. So to move Greinke’s contract, it’ll mean parting with some serious money while lowering their asking price in terms of prospects.
A team giving extra weight to short-term wins can justify an expectation of getting above-water value from Greinke, provided he maintains around a 3-WAR pace over the duration of his massive contract. However, to make it palatable, I’d want the D-backs to eat around $40 million of Greinke’s remaining deal. I’d even throw in a lower-tier prospect for the trouble. — Doolittle
Houston Astros: Brad is right; the Diamondbacks are going to have eat a large of the $100 million-plus remaining on the final three years of his contract if they want to trade Greinke and get something back in return. The Astros are another team not on Greinke’s reported no-trade list, and they need to replace Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and the injured Lance McCullers Jr. in the rotation (assuming they don’t re-sign Keuchel or Morton).
The Astros have some interesting young starter prospects like Josh James, Forrest Whitley and Framber Valdez, but I don’t think they’ll want three rookies in the rotation. Greinke would give them some veteran certainty and also hedge against losing Justin Verlander, a free agent after 2019. — Schoenfield
The Miami Marlins should trade J.T. Realmuto to the …
Los Angeles Dodgers for a catching prospect and more: Realmuto wants out of the Miami rebuild, and after watching former teammates like Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna play in meaningful late-season games for their new teams, who can blame him? The Marlins will need a replacement behind the plate, which is why they match up so well with the Dodgers. Los Angeles has both a short-term need behind the plate because of Yasmani Grandal’s free agency and excellent depth at the position in their system, with Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz both rating among the top 50 prospects in the majors. Obviously a deal between the two clubs begins there, probably with Smith, with the Dodgers adding a lower-tier prospect and a lottery-pick guy from the low minors. — Doolittle
New York Mets for a top prospect and more: Sending Realmuto to the Dodgers makes the most sense — Dodgers catchers have hit .144/.250/.231 the past two postseasons (and .132/.190/.158 in the World Series) — but almost every team could use Realmuto, so the Marlins will be flooded with offers. New GM Brodie Van Wagenen has made it clear the Mets are all-in for the immediate future, but somehow, they’re still counting on some combo of Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate. A deal would probably have to start with shortstop Andres Gimenez, now the Mets’ top prospect, with a couple secondary pieces (the Mets can throw in Plawecki as well). Trades within the division are rare, but Van Wagenen has already proven he likes the action to make this happen. — Schoenfield
The Kansas City Royals should trade Whit Merrifield to the …
Los Angeles Dodgers for OF Alex Verdugo, LHP Caleb Ferguson and RHP Mitchell White: Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore has said he’s not going to trade Merrifield, but the second baseman’s trade value will never be higher. He’s coming off a season in which he hit .304/.367/.438 while leading the AL with 45 steals and 192 hits. He’s also entering his age-30 season, however, and by the time Royals are hopefully competitive again he might be 32 or 33. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have had a revolving door at second base, with nine different regulars over the past 11 seasons — and that doesn’t even include Brian Dozier, their 2018 in-season acquisition. Merrifield is under team control for four more seasons and isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2020, so the Dodgers get a player who was worth 5.1 WAR in 2018, won’t eat into the payroll and adds an exciting element to their lineup.
Verdugo would be the key to the trade for the Royals. The young outfielder is regarded as the Dodgers’ top prospect, but there isn’t an obvious fit for him right now in Los Angeles — especially with the team also potentially pursuing Bryce Harper in free agency. Verdugo projects as a high-average, line-drive hitter, a perfect fit for the big alleys in Kansas City. Ferguson is a 22-year-old lefty who pitched well out of the bullpen as a rookie in 2018 but flashed starter potential in 2017 at Class A when he fanned 140 in 122 ⅓ innings. White is a hard-throwing righty who pitched in Double-A in 2018 and at least projects as a good bullpen arm if he doesn’t make it as a starter. — Schoenfield
New York Yankees as part of a six-player deal: It’s true that there are a lot of second basemen on the free-agent market, and it’s true that Merrifield will be playing his age-30 season next year. But this is a guy coming off a five-WAR season who still has another season left before he even becomes arbitration-eligible. Even more than that, Merrifield would help add diversity to the New York attack with his ability to steal bases and make contact. The Yankees could move him around some, but I’d envision him as their everyday second baseman. New York could then move Didi Gregorius to a utility role or trade him once he comes back from his Tommy John rehab, or slide Miguel Andujar to first base and Gleyber Torres to third.
What the Yankees can offer the Royals is both cash relief and the kind of controllable, MLB-ready young players Kansas City would favor given Moore’s preference for a short timeline on his rebuilding effort. The Royals could attach Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy to Merrifield, along with some cash. The Yankees could send back Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade and pitching prospect Albert Abreu, who has been dropping a bit on the prospect lists but has the upside to entice K.C. to fold some cash into the transaction. Kennedy would be an expensive depth piece, of course, but he did post 1.0 WAR last season and came up through the Yankee system, so he has some familiarity going for him. Duffy is an excellent bounce-back candidate who could deepen the New York rotation.
The Yanks would be taking on some cash, but Merrifield is a bargain, and Duffy could end up providing surplus value as well for a team angling to keep pace with the Red Sox. Plus, they’re the Yankees, and it’s only cash. — Doolittle