Some trades are motivated by need but just as many are prompted by a surplus of assets at one position. That is precisely the case with Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey, New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis and the entire Los Angeles Dodgers outfield. With the passing of the winter solstice, trade talks are heating up around Major League Baseball, so here's the latest buzz on that trio of surpluses.
Four Dodgers Outfielders for Three Spots
Matt Kemp showed just how fantastic he can be in 2011 with a stellar year across the board and a second-place finish in the MVP balloting. He hit .324, scored 115 runs, notched 126 RBI and barely missed out on a 40-40 season with 39 homers and 40 steals.
Then, he averaged only 89.5 games over the next two seasons, crushing fantasy owners and drastically weakening the Dodgers lineup.
With the emergence of mercurial rookie Yasiel Puig in 2013, the Dodgers now have one more starting-caliber outfielder than available outfield spot. Unless they want to keep a very expensive backup outfielder, it makes sense to trade someone, but the decision will amount to a wager on health.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Dodgers will almost certainly move one of their marquee outfielders.
Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford—the Dodgers may still deal one of them before the start of the season. As teams see where Kemp’s rehab is after shoulder and ankle surgeries, that could heat up in spring training. Ethier could also be in demand, but the Dodgers want to see what they have in Kemp before trading away their excess. Still, the Dodgers will be an intriguing trade partner for some team before all is said and done.
Because of his previous flirtation with the MVP award, Kemp would fetch the highest haul in a trade, but his health is the glaring issue. He needs to prove his health through his play which creates an interesting Catch-22 for the front office.
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com succinctly summarized that bind:
The math still doesn't work, with four quality players...vying for three outfield positions. Also, we haven't seen all of them healthy at the same time. It's a double-edge sword with Kemp—if he's ever healthy enough to trade, he'd be healthy enough to keep.
Ethier has the least upside of the three players, but the Dodgers hope to bring in a starting pitcher who can contribute immediately without giving up top prospects to get him. That means whichever suitor offers the sweetest package might have their pick of the litter.
John Lackey and the Six-Man Rotation
The Red Sox have a lot of pitching; after all, it wins championships. However, they cannot realistically deploy a six-man rotation. So, they've got a logjam at starting pitcher, consisting of John Lackey, John Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront.
The sweepstakes for recently posted Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will likely stall all trade talks regarding pitchers, but the Red Sox will likely take a wait-and-see approach with Lackey. According to Cafardo:
Lackey’s name has come up consistently this winter, but the Red Sox aren’t motivated to deal him. There may come a point when that changes, though his contract is team-friendly with a $15.25 million outlay and only $500,000 in a team option for 2015. Yet if the Red Sox ever got involved in Tanaka, a veteran pitcher or two would likely go. Lackey could bring salary relief this season and also allow the Sox to fill another need and remain under the luxury tax.
Boston could instead try to swap Dempster or Peavy; they could also put Doubront in the bullpen in case the injury bug bites someone.
Ike Davis Still on the Block
Mike Puma of the New York Post blew up the Mets' spot when he tweeted about their failed attempt to swap Ike Davis for a Double-A pitching prospect. They were rebuffed by the Baltimore Orioles, but general manager Sandy Alderson will continue to peddle Davis around the league.
The O's are not the only team to deny Alderson's request for a top pitching prospect in exchange for Davis. According to Puma, the Milwaukee Brewers wouldn't part with right-hander Tyler Thornburg, so now Alderson is attempting to extract Nick Kingham from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Things have been getting worse instead of better for the 26-year-old Davis. After smashing 19 home runs and 71 RBI with a .264 average as a rookie in 2010, Davis exceeded those power numbers in 2012 with 32 homers and 90 RBI, but his average dropped to .227. Last season, he hit just .205 over 317 at-bats and managed only nine long balls. More worrisome were the whopping 101 strikeouts in limited action.
Davis' woeful inconsistency at the plate got him shipped to the minors for a spell in 2013. The Mets would be very lucky to ship him to another team for a promising young pitcher in light of his Triple-A track record of late, but it will be fun to watch Alderson try. Their other capable options at first base are Lucas Duda and Josh Satin.