The first trade of a major league player in the 2012 regular season didn’t take place until April 21 when the Cubs traded Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox for reliever Michael Bowden and a player to be named later.
The Astros got the ball rolling earlier in 2013 by acquiring Travis Blackley from the A’s for Triple-A outfielder Jake Goebbert on April 4. Exciting, right?
Well, that’s why we have rumors to discuss what might happen as opposed to the reality of how little actually does happen this early in the season.
Here’s some buzz from around the league as we near the end of Week 1 of the regular season.
Dodgers Pitching Staff Update
For the time being, the Dodgers rotation situation is less crowded with Chad Billingsley (finger contusion) and Ted Lilly (recovery from shoulder surgery) on the disabled list. Both have made rehab starts, however, with Billingsley due back as early as next week and Lilly expected back later this month.
As things stand, the Dodgers have Chris Capuano (pictured) and Aaron Harang in the bullpen. Neither has pitched in any of the team’s first four games. Lilly can remain on his rehab assignment for a few more weeks, but he’s also destined for relief work when he returns.
Not only is the bullpen becoming overcrowded, but the veteran trio surely aren’t excited about their roles, and I imagine the risk injury could also increase because they’re not on the work schedules they’ve been accustomed to over the years.
Something has to give. Trading at least one before the end of the month makes a lot of sense. Teams around the league will want to wait at least a couple of turns through the rotation before determining how badly their team might need a Capuano or Harang.
An injury could also speed up the process. So far, Indians lefty Scott Kazmir is the only starting pitcher to land on the disabled list, and they’re covered with Trevor Bauer starting on Saturday and Carlos Carrasco taking over the spot next week. Other teams around the league won't have that luxury if a starter goes down.
Contract Extensions Open Up Trade Possibilities
An early-season wave of contract extensions has not only made future offseasons less interesting in regards to free agency, it opens up speculation about the future of some very talented players.
Now that 20 year-old Jurickson Profar, Baseball Prospectus’ choice for top prospect in baseball, no longer has a future as the Texas Rangers shortstop with Elvis Andrus signed long-term (eight years, $120 million), we can have tons of fun making up fake trade proposals. In fact, I just did this a few days ago.
The Rangers, however, say they have no plans to trade him (per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports) and will plan on making him their starting second baseman in the future with Ian Kinsler likely switching positions. I think they’ll listen closely, however, to teams willing to pay a ton for a potentially great shortstop.
With Adam Wainwright (five years, $97.5 million) and Justin Verlander (five years, $140 million) also inking long-term extensions, the future earning potential of top starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw (pictured) and David Price is through the roof.
If you're Clayton Kershaw or David Price, you owe Justin Verlander a dinner. He just raised the bar.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 29, 2013
While we know that Kershaw’s current team, the Dodgers, can afford to extend him for one of the biggest deals ever before he becomes a free agent after the 2014 season, the Rays are almost certain to be Price-less when he’s eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
Not this wasn’t already a given, but it’s not hard to see Price’s value at around $25 million per year now with a chance it approaches $30 million by 2016.
It’s more likely the Rays wait until at least July 2014 before seriously considering a trade of their ace, but those of us who love trade rumors will be cheering for them to fall out of the race early this season so we can at least speculate away about a possible Price trade in July.
Injuries That Could Lead to Trade Talk
In this day and age, baseball players drop like flies. Strained obliques, hamstrings and groins are daily occurrences that lead to disabled list stints for key players. Some injuries linger. Some injuries are more serious.
Teams try to fill holes internally caused by short-term disabled list stints. For injuries that keep a player out for an extended period, going outside the organization for help becomes more of a possibility.
Some notable injuries early in the season include Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick’s shoulder injury that could lead to a three-month absence, and Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez’s knee injury, which could keep him out for at least a few weeks. Also keep an eye on the first base situation in Miami, where Logan Morrison is on the 60-Day disabled list recovering from knee surgery and his replacement, Casey Kotchman, just went on the 15-Day disabled list with a strained hamstring.
The Reds are going with Chris Heisey to replace Ludwick (pictured), while just about every fantasy baseball player in the world is hoping this expedites the major league arrival of the “fastest man in baseball," Billy Hamilton.
Hamilton is just entering his first season in Triple-A and his first season as a center fielder after a switch from shortstop in the offseason. Realistically, he’s not ready. He might not be ready in 2013. Heisey is a solid player, but what if the Reds are struggling offensively a few weeks into the season?
According to me, they do have enough pitching depth in their farm system to go out and make a trade, if necessary.
In the case of Milwaukee, they are already thin in the infield with Jeff Bianchi and Taylor Green on the disabled list. Alex Gonzalez, who is playing first base for an injured Corey Hart, can shift over to the hot corner if Ramirez misses time, and they could then go with Triple-A first baseman Hunter Morris until Hart returns.
The biggest issue is that Ramirez is the only threat the team has in the middle of the order after Ryan Braun. Trading away one of their young pitching prospects, such as Hiram Burgos, Johnny Hellweg or Tyler Thornburg, might be necessary to fill what could turn out to be a gaping hole.