Is there a team that can put together a good enough trade package to entice the Marlins?
Trade rumors are fun, especially when they involve big-name players. But, realistically, most of those rumors involving the best players in the game aren't happening.
It's not that the big names aren't available. Unless there is a full no-trade clause in place, any player can be had for the right price. Even Mike Trout. Even Clayton Kershaw. Yeah, seriously.
But the right price would be a package of talent that teams either don't have or one that would completely deplete the team's farm system and/or create bigger holes on the major league roster. It's almost like buying an amazing house, but the high price that you paid isn't going to allow you to have furniture or eat or pay for cable.
I've put together what I think are perfect trade packages for five big-name players that will be targeted by teams this winter. By "perfect," I mean that it's a trade that would help both teams involved.
Keep in mind that these are really good players, and it should take a lot to pry these players away from their respective teams. Quality over quantity is a key.
A rumor was floated around by Philadelphia radio host Howard Eskin two nights ago that the Blue Jays and Phillies were discussing a "Jose Bautista-for-Domonic Brown and more" trade, although it didn't really have any legs and never was even mentioned on MLBTradeRumors.com, the most reputable rumors aggregator in the business.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos' quote the next day said it all, per Steve Buffery of The Toronto Sun.
"Totally false, fabricated, ridiculous. Use every adjective you want," Anthopoulos said. "I understand if rumors have some legs to it, I get that. But the tough part is when they're completely fabricated, that's the hardest part."
This doesn't mean that Bautista isn't on the block. I've mentioned the possibility multiple times over the past month that the Jays will try to shake up their roster and replenish some of their minor league talent that depleted the system after two blockbuster trades last offseason.
Acquiring a younger, less expensive player like Brown, a 2013 All-Star, to go along with a couple of good prospects isn't a bad idea.
The 26-year-old Brown is still under club control for four more seasons and won't be eligible for arbitration until next offseason. But in this particular case, it wouldn't be as important because Bautista is under contract through 2016, his ages 33-35 seasons, at a very team-friendly rate ($14 million per season) and is still one of the best hitters in the game.
With money not being an issue in a case involving two big-market teams, most teams would probably take three years of Bautista over four years of Brown. I'm guessing that the Jays are in a similar boat.
Thus, a swap of Bautista and Brown would have to involve two of the Phillies' best prospects, possibly starting pitcher Jesse Biddle and third baseman Maikel Franco. And the Phillies, with the weak state of their farm system, cannot afford that.
Here's a better idea.
Blue Jays trade Jose Bautista to the Diamondbacks for starting pitcher Archie Bradley, outfielder Adam Eaton and infielder Chris Owings.
Bautista gives the D'backs the power bat they're seeking and another star hitter to pair with Paul Goldschmidt. The Jays get one of the top pitching prospects in the game, a speedy No. 1 or 2 hitter who can play any spot in the outfield and a toolsy shortstop who has the ability to fill the Jays' hole at second base for the next several seasons.
Bradley, a potential No. 1 starter who should reach the majors at some point in 2014, is the key, although Eaton and Owings could pay dividends right away.
Out of the three outfielders that the Dodgers are expected to shop this offseason, I came to the conclusion that they'd be best served to trade Andre Ethier.
While I feel that Matt Kemp would get them the best return, his value isn't anywhere near what it would be had he been healthy in 2013.
But what if a team out there was on the same page as I am and is willing to offer the Dodgers a trade package worthy of a 29-year-old who is under contract for the next six seasons and was, not too long ago, considered one of the best all-around players in the game?
The Mariners are one team that's interested in Kemp, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, and they would appear to be a solid trade partner for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers trade Matt Kemp to the Mariners for third baseman Kyle Seager, right-hander Carter Capps and left-hander Luiz Gohara.
While the move would put the Mariners in the market for a third baseman with Seager's departure, there are stop-gaps available to bridge the gap until their top draft pick in 2013, D.J. Peterson, is ready to take over. The 21-year-old Peterson could arrive in Seattle by early 2015.
The Dodgers, in the meantime, would fill a gaping hole at the hot corner with Seager, as well as create the future potential of brothers playing together on the left side of the infield. Shortstop Corey Seager, who is the Dodgers' top prospect and Kyle's brother, is only 19 years of age, but he could be in Los Angeles by late 2015 or 2016.
This scenario means absolutely nothing in regard to the trade matchup, but it's interesting, nevertheless.
Gohara, a 17-year-old out of Brazil, would team with top prospect Julio Urias, who dominated in Low-A as a 16-year-old in 2013, to give the Dodgers two of the best young lefty pitching prospects in the game. Or one of them could be sent to Tampa Bay in a trade package for David Price.
Capps, who can reach triple digits with his fastball, would give the Dodgers another late-inning option to help fill the void left by Brian Wilson's likely departure. Capps and Chris Withrow setting up for Kenley Jansen will present a late-inning matchup that won't be much fun for opposing hitters.
And not that the Dodgers need any more help financially, but it's quite possible that they'd go right back into the free-agent market and re-invest the savings into one of the top starters available.
One front office executive told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports that Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is "gone," meaning they're expected to trade him this offseason.
While giving the teams the notion that you really want to trade a player probably isn't the best idea, given that it could take away some bargaining power, Phillips' all-around talent and player-friendly contract ensures that it won't hurt too much.
Despite a poor second half that dropped his overall numbers into career-worst production in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, Phillips is only 32 years of age and should continue to average close to 20 homers and 20 stolen bases per season while making just $12.5 million per season through 2017.
Teams looking for an upgrade at second base could prefer acquiring Phillips over paying free agent Omar Infante what could be close to the same amount that Phillips is due.
The Cincinnati Reds trade Brandon Phillips to the Kansas City Royals for second Johnny Giavotella, outfielder Jarrod Dyson, right-hander Kelvin Herrera and left-hander Sam Selman.
This is a trade that appears to be more of a "quantity over quality" deal, but there is more to it than just the players involved.
While that package might not be very impressive on paper, what it also does is free up some payroll space for the Reds to possibly re-sign Shin-Soo Choo or pursue another free-agent hitter to replace Choo's production.
The addition of Phillips to a young Royals lineup fills a major void at second base, along with a boost of power, speed and defense. As they continue on their quest to overtake the Tigers in the AL Central, adding a veteran with Phillips' resume could be the next major step.
Two of the players headed to Cincinnati, Giavotella and Dyson, aren't a major part of the deal, but they are options to fill holes at second base and in center field, at least temporarily.
The addition of Herrera gives the Reds another power arm for the late innings, which would give them more protection in case they move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation.
Selman isn't anywhere near the class of Royals pitching prospects Yordano Ventura or Kyle Zimmer, but he's a pitching prospect on the rise. The 23-year-old should pitch in Double-A next season and should slot in as one of the best prospects in the Reds organization behind potential "No. 1 starter of the future" Robert Stephenson.
In exchange for two years of their second-best starter, James Shields, and Wade Davis, the Rays received four minor leaguers from the Royals—top prospect Wil Myers, a very good mid-level pitching prospect in right-hander Jake Odorizzi, former prospect Mike Montgomery, a lefty starter whose value was on the decline because of recent struggles, and Patrick Leonard, a lower-level third baseman with some upside.
Fast forward a year and Myers is the AL Rookie of the Year, Odorizzi will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation next season, Montgomery still appears to be a non-factor and Leonard is off the radar after struggling in Low-A ball while playing mostly first base.
Now substitute Shields for David Price, who also has two years left of team club control but also has much more value. The Rays' asking price will be much higher, as expected. Not too many teams will have what it takes. The Pirates just might be able to pull it off, though.
The Rays trade David Price to the Pittsburgh Pirates for center fielder Gregory Polanco, right-hander Jameson Taillon and right-hander Tyler Glasnow.
No messing around on this deal. The Pirates give up their top two prospects in Polanco and Taillon, and possibly their third-best in Glasnow, a hard-throwing 21-year-old who had a 2.18 ERA with 164 strikeouts in 111.1 innings pitched in Low-A this season.
As for Polanco and Taillon, they are considered elite prospects. They'll each be 22 years old at the start of the 2014 season and could find regular roles in Tampa Bay by midseason as Myers did in 2013.
For a potential two-year rental, a team acquiring Price better be close to being World Series contenders already. The Bucs could be an ace starter away. That's the only time you give a prospect trio of this caliber.
A lot of Pirates fans probably think this is too much to give up. You may be right. But if you're right, a deal probably won't get done. It's a risk that they'll have to be willing to take.
The Marlins continue to insist that star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton isn't going anywhere this offseason. But after last year's trade that sent three of the team's best players, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, to Toronto for a package of young players, and put Stanton in a foul mood, wouldn't it be a good idea to squash any rumors right away?
If they were open to trading him, which they probably are, how content would Stanton be after hearing his name in trade rumors throughout the offseason only to stay put and have to put a Marlins uniform on in 2014? Not very content. And that's not a good situation for a team to have its best player unhappy.
So any trade talks involving Stanton are likely to be very low key and with as few back-and-forth negotiations as possible. The team that doesn't beat around the bush and comes at Marlins general manager Dan Jennings with a serious offer that knocks him off of his feet is the team that could land the 23-year-old slugger.
The Marlins trade Giancarlo Stanton to the Red Sox for catcher Christian Vazquez, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., right-hander Anthony Ranaudo and right-hander Allen Webster.
How often do you see a five-for-one deal? Almost never. But the Marlins aren't giving up Stanton unless they receive a lot of high-end talent in return. The Sox are one of the few teams that can afford to give up five very talented major league ready, or close to major league ready, players.
Middlebrooks becomes the Marlins starting third baseman right away. If third baseman Colin Moran, the team's first-round draft pick in 2013, moves quickly, Middlebrooks could shift over to first base in a year or two.
In Bradley, they land their leadoff hitter and starting center fielder, which would allow Christian Yelich to move down into the third spot in the lineup.
Vazquez could compete for a spot in 2014, although he's more likely to be in the mix in 2015. Webster and Ranaudo would both compete for rotation spots in 2014.
With the impressive pitching depth the team is building up, the hard-throwing Webster could even end up in a late-inning role down the road.
Ranaudo, a former standout at Louisiana State University, had a breakout season for Boston with a 2.96 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 8.2 K/9 between Triple-A and Double-A.
This particular trade would open up a new hole at either third base or shortstop (Xander Bogaerts could fill either spot) for the Sox, in addition to their needs at catcher and possibly first base. They could also bring in another outfielder, possibly even one of the big names on the free-agent market.
They are in good shape-payroll wise so it wouldn't be a stretch to think they could have a Carlos Beltran or Nelson Cruz roaming the outfield alongside Stanton and Shane Victorino in 2013.