4 Impact MLB Trades That Could Go Down in February
The five-player trade between the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics involving Jed Lowrie and Chris Carter, who both went on to have highly productive seasons for their new teams in 2013, was the lone "blockbuster" trade from last February.
It doesn't mean that we won't have an eventful month ahead of us, with the potential for multiple impact trades to happen. Several big names have already been discussed in trades this winter and it wouldn't be a big surprise to see a few of them head into spring training with a new team.
Here are four impact trades that could go down in February.
Chicago Cubs Trade Jeff Samardzija to the Toronto Blue Jays
As was the case with Matt Garza, if a contract extension cannot be reached with Jeff Samardzija (pictured), he'll likely be traded no later than the 2015 trade deadline before he can become a free agent the following offseason.
Trading him now, however, makes a ton of sense when you consider that they're coming off of a 96-loss season and didn't make significant changes this offseason. They're still rebuilding and waiting for their crop of elite prospects to arrive. With or without Samardzija, this isn't a playoff roster.
Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported that the Toronto Blue Jays have been the most aggressive team in pursuit of the 29-year-old right-hander, although that could change if they can land Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana on a free-agent deal, which Jim Bowden of MLB Network says is their expectation.
My opinion is that both free-agent pitchers will have competitive offers from other teams and will opt to not sign a long-term deal to play in Canada. That would leave them with Samardzija, whom they would acquire for outfielder Anthony Gose, reliever Sergio Santos and pitching prospect Daniel Norris.
The 23-year-old Gose might not end up being more than a fourth outfielder on a future Cubs contender, but he has some offensive upside to go along with plus speed and defense. On a non-contender, he should get a chance to play on a semi-regular basis.
Santos missed most of the last two seasons recovering from shoulder and elbow injuries, but looked to return to form when he was activated from the disabled list late in the year (15.2 IP, ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 19 K over last 19 appearances). The 30-year-old right-hander is under team control through 2017, although the last three years are club options. If he stays the entire time, he will have been paid $25.5 million over four seasons, a bargain rate if he can be an effective closer over that span.
Norris could be the key to the deal as the Cubs try to balance out their immense hitting talent on the farm with a high-end pitching prospect. The 20-year-old lefty had a 4.20 ERA with a 4.6 BB/9 and 10.4 K/9 in Low-A in 2013. He's still a few years away, but he could be ready to contribute once the big league team is in a position to contend for the playoffs once again.
The trade would be two years of Jeff Samardzija for potentially four years of closer Sergio Santos, six years of Anthony Gose and six years of Daniel Norris.
Here's a look at the Blue Jays' rotation with Samardzija:
1 R.A. Dickey, RHP
2 Jeff Samardzija, RHP
3 Mark Buehrle, LHP
4 Brandon Morrow, RHP
5 J.A. Happ, LHP
New York Mets Trade Ike Davis to Pittsburgh Pirates
Whether first baseman Ike Davis (pictured) will have a major impact in 2014 is up for debate.
He'll be trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season in which he posted a .661 OPS in 103 games, but if you just pull out his numbers against right-handed pitching (.727 OPS, 8 HR in 248 ABs) and place that production in the Pittsburgh Pirates' lineup in a platoon with Gaby Sanchez, who had a .987 OPS versus left-handed pitching last season, the potential impact could be high.
If the Pirates are unwilling to pay the price for the 26-year-old Davis, they could opt to go with Andrew Lambo as the left-handed hitting portion of a platoon. The 25-year-old had a .922 OPS and 32 homers in 120 games between Triple-A and Double-A last season and is deserving of a big league opportunity at either first base or a corner outfield spot.
But with the uninspiring Jose Tabata penciled into right field, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Lambo get a chance to play there before top prospect Gregory Polanco is ready to take over later in the season.
The Pirates, who will try not to go backwards after their first winning season and first playoff appearance in 21 years, should add as many options as possible and pay the price of what isn't likely to be a top prospect to acquire Davis.
For out-of-options relief pitcher Stolmy Pimentel (9.1 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 9 K during September call-up), who would give the Mets another late-inning setup option for closer Bobby Parnell, and All-Star starting pitcher Jeff Locke, whose brilliant first half was overshadowed by a terrible finish to the season, the Pirates could land a starting first baseman who hit 32 homers in 2012 and is still under club control for three more seasons.
The trade would be three years of Ike Davis for five years of Jeff Locke and six years of Stolmy Pimentel.
Locke would likely slot in as the Mets' No. 5 starter behind Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee.
Here's a look at what the Pirates' lineup would look like with Davis:
1 Starling Marte, LF
2 Jordy Mercer, SS
3 Andrew McCutchen, CF
4 Pedro Alvarez, 3B
5 Neil Walker, 2B
6 Ike Davis/Gaby Sanchez, 1B
7 Russell Martin, C
8 Jose Tabata, RF
Cincinnati Reds Trade Homer Bailey to Texas Rangers
It's hard to replace Shin-Soo Choo, an on-base machine who also hit 21 homers and stole 20 bases in his lone season with the Cincinnati Reds. But inserting a rookie who was the opposite of an "on-base machine" in Triple-A last season (.308 OBP) into his lineup spot isn't likely to end well.
The Reds' offense struggled overall with Choo and now the same core of hitters will try to rebound without one of the most productive players in the game at the top of the lineup.
In fact, a very good pitching staff might not be enough to make up for another poor season at the plate. Balancing out the roster while getting strong value back for a pitcher who is very likely to depart as a free agent after the season, isn't a bad idea.
Re-signing Bronson Arroyo on the heels of this trade would certainly help, although top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson is probably ready to step into a big league rotation now. He'll be just 21 on Opening Day and threw only 114.1 innings in 2013, however, so he could be limited. Bringing Arroyo back would allow them to be patient with their prized prospect.
The 27-year-old Bailey, who has pitched like a No. 1 starter at times over the past two seasons, would be traded to his native Texas, while the Rangers would send back second baseman Rougned Odor, third baseman Joey Gallo and starting pitcher Nicholas Tepesch.
Odor would be the heir apparent to Brandon Phillips, although this move would likely facilitate a trade well before Phillips' current contract runs out after the 2017 season. The 19-year-old Odor, who was recently ranked the top prospect in the Rangers' organization by Baseball Prospectus, is blocked at second base for the unforeseeable future by Jurickson Profar. He'll likely play in Triple-A this season.
Gallo is one of the top power-hitting prospects in the minors, although he's still a few years away and has some holes in his game that could cause him to struggle as a major league hitter. Still, he has huge upside and could become a star if he can improve.
Tepesch, who pitched well as a rookie in 2013, would give the team much-needed depth with Bailey out of the picture and a No. 5 starter should they fail to replace him with Arroyo or another veteran.
The trade would be one year of Homer Bailey for six years of Rougned Odor, six years of Joey Gallo and five years of Nicholas Tepesch.
Bailey would help form a dynamic top-of-the-rotation tandem in Texas with Yu Darvish and give the team a reliable innings-eater with Derek Holland out for at least half the season, Matt Harrison returning from back surgery and the injury-prone Alexi Ogando also slotted into the rotation.
Here's a look at what the Rangers' rotation would look like with Bailey:
1 Yu Darvish, RHP
2 Homer Bailey, RHP
3 Matt Harrison, LHP
4 Alexi Ogando, RHP
5 Martin Perez, LHP
Tampa Bay Rays Trade David Price to Los Angeles Dodgers
For those thinking that the Tampa Bay Rays are less likely to trade David Price this close to spring training, you may be right. But it probably has less to do with the Rays and more to do with teams already having filled out their roster three months into the offseason, content with entering camp with their current group of players before assessing whether a Price trade would be necessary.
It only takes one team to tango, though, and the Rays will continue to keep their ears open in case a team that isn't satisfied with their offseason pitching pursuits decides to pay the price for the 28-year-old ace.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who signed Dan Haren early in the offseason to fill a back-of-the-rotation spot, appear to be just fine in the pitching department. But if they were content, they wouldn't have been trying to sign Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka.
While they were likely interested in his star-power potential, the addition of Price could make the Dodgers the clear World Series favorites for 2014 with one of the most dominant rotations of recent memory.
For Price, the Dodgers would give up 17-year-old lefty Julio Urias and outfielder Joc Pederson, the 35th- and 50th-ranked prospects in baseball, respectively, according to Baseball Prospectus, along with lefty pitching prospect Chris Reed, who would give the Rays another very good pitching prospect for their Triple-A team.
The trade would be two years of David Price for six years of Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and Chris Reed.
Pederson could be on the same path as would-be future outfield-mate Wil Myers, who joined the Rays in mid-June of 2013, giving the team two potential stars under team control for the next several seasons.
Urias could be in the majors by the time he enters his age-20 season in 2016, which would bring back memories of fellow Mexican lefty Fernando Valenzuela, who took the baseball world by storm at age 20.
Here's a look at what the Dodgers' rotation would look like with Price:
1 Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2 David Price, LHP
3 Zack Greinke, RHP
4 Hyun-jin Ryu, LHP
5 Dan Haren, RHP