End of Spring Trades That Would Be Win-Wins for Both Sides
It always seems like the trades that make the most sense from both teams’ perspectives are the ones that rarely happen. Team A has bullpen depth and is looking for a right-handed hitting fourth outfielder. Team B has some outfield depth and would like to shore up their bullpen. Simple enough from an outsider’s point of view, right?
Yet, most major leaguer-for-major leaguer trades are hard to pull off because of contract status, salary, and, in many cases, one team is in win-now mode and the other is looking ahead at least one year and might prefer minor league talent in return.
With that said, I’m going to take a stab at coming up with a few that might work. Here are four potential trades in which the players involved would end up on the acquiring team’s 25-man roster to start the season…
Cardinals Trade Eduardo Sanchez to Dodgers for Chris Capuano and Cash
After losing Chris Carpenter for the season, the Cardinals all of a sudden look extremely thin in the starting pitching department, which is why they’re reportedly interested in adding another starter before this spring.
Fifth starter candidates Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly don’t necessarily need any more time in Triple-A, but the Cardinals certainly need someone reliable waiting in the wings, just in case.
Remember that Jaime Garcia opted for rest and rehab on his shoulder instead of offseason surgery to repair a small tear. He seems fine now but the risk appears higher for an injury re-occurring in 2013.
Capuano, who has a 4.12 ERA while averaging 192 innings over the past two seasons, would give the Cards a second lefty in the rotation to start the season. If Miler continues to dominate in Triple-A as he did at the end of last season, they could move Capuano to the ‘pen to make room later in the season.
In Sanchez (pictured), the Dodgers would receive a potential late-inning reliever who struggled in 2012 after an impressive rookie season in 2011. Reports were good on the 24-year-old this spring and he performed well in seven appearances (6.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K), but he’s the odd man out in a deep bullpen that will likely include hard-throwing rookie Trevor Rosenthal.
Orioles Trade Jake Arrieta to Padres for Luke Gregerson and James Darnell
Not only were the Padres trying hard to add starting pitching this offseason, it was just about their only priority.
They made a few minor moves, including the re-signing of Jason Marquis, minor league deals for Freddy Garcia and Tim Stauffer, and the acquisition of Tyson Ross. But with Casey Kelly likely headed for Tommy John surgery, they still seem extremely vulnerable in the rotation and could still be looking to add before the start of the season.
The O’s have three starting pitchers that could be of interest and could be available. Arrieta, Zach Britton and Brian Matusz are all young and controllable pitchers who aren’t guaranteed spots in the Orioles’ starting rotation. Either would be a lock for a spot in San Diego.
Arrieta, who has a 5.33 ERA in 334.1 major league innings, is now 27 years old but has the talent to figure things out over the next couple of seasons. He's pitched scoreless ball in his last two spring outings (8.2 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 3 BB, 7 K).
While the O’s have some pretty good arms setting up for closer Jim Johnson, including Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day, the lack of relievers with a long track record of success is somewhat concerning. In Gregerson, they could have one of the most reliable and consistent setup men in the game pitching in the late innings.
Two arbitration years of a good setup man versus four years of team control for a starter with upside probably isn’t a perfect match, which is why I threw the right-handed hitting Darnell into the mix.
A former prospect who has battled injuries the past few seasons, Darnell could find himself in the mix for a part-time role in 2013 and could battle for the left field job in 2014. The 26-year-old has a career .906 OPS in 392 minor league games.
Rangers Trade Julio Borbon to Royals for Luis Mendoza
Borbon is out of options and like projected starting center fielder Leonys Martin, he’s a left-handed hitter. Right-handed hitting Craig Gentry is probably a better fit on the Rangers’ bench.
While there’s a chance they keep both Borbon and Gentry, using Borbon as trade bait to bring in someone capable of holding down the fifth starter’s job for at least a couple months might be the best way to go if the Rangers aren't going to sign free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse.
Acquiring Borbon seems unnecessary for the Royals with Jarrod Dyson already in the mix as the fourth outfielder. Dyson is also out of options so he can't be optioned to the minors. But his game is all speed and he doesn’t provide much offense (.650 OPS in 330 plate appearances in 2012).
The 27-year-old Borbon can also run but he has more offensive potential and could be a better fit filling in for Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur on occasion. After missing most of 2011 with an injury, Borbon returned last season to post a .783 OPS with 20 stolen bases in 126 Triple-A games.
Mendoza was one of Kansas City’s most reliable starters in 2012 (4.23 ERA, 166 IP, 176 H, 59 BB, 104 K), but the addition of James Shields, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie make him expendable. The 29-year-old could move to the bullpen once Martin Perez (out at least first month of season with fractured forearm) or Colby Lewis (could return in second half after recovering from flexor tendon surgery) are ready to return.
Rockies Trade R. Hernandez, E. Escalona and Prospect to Rays for Jeff Niemann
The Rockies would rather team young catcher Wilin Rosario with non-roster invitee Yorvit Torrealba, who would likely be a much more effective mentor for the defensively challenged 24-year-old.
So it makes sense to shop Hernandez, who is coming off of a rough season in which he played in only 52 games due to injury. He posted a career-low .601 OPS and will be 37 years old in May. Hey, the Rays apparently aren't afraid to take on guys coming off of bad seasons.
And why would the Rays want Hernandez? Their starter, Jose Molina, is one of the better all-around defensive catchers in the game but he isn’t expected to play more than half of the team’s games. He also doesn’t offer much with the bat. The current options to share time with him are Chris Gimenez and Jose Lobaton.
In Hernandez, they’d add another seasoned veteran who is only a year removed from posting a .788 OPS with Cincinnati in 91 games. Their skills could actually complement each other quite nicely if Hernandez still has something left in the tank.
Despite their ability to find guys like Joel Peralta and Francisco Rodney and turn their careers around, the Rays still appear thin in the bullpen. Adding a good young arm like Escalona, who has allowed one run in five spring innings with no walks and six strikeouts, could end up paying dividends.
Niemann’s value as a good starting pitcher with two years left of team control outweighs that of Hernandez and Escalona, which is why I included “prospect” in the trade. For this particular deal, that would probably be a mid-level prospect in the 11-to-15 range of the Rockies’ farm system.
The 30-year-old Niemann , who has a 2.13 ERA in 12.2 spring innings with three walks and nine strikeouts, would likely slot somewhere in the middle of the rotation behind Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, and in front of Jeff Francis.
The Rays have several options to replace Niemann, including Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona), Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi.