MLB Trade Ideas That Could Actually Happen
The trade market does not generally get going until the summer months, but that does not mean early-season trades don't occur from time to time.
In fact, the Pittsburgh Pirates already pulled off a deal in the first month of the season, landing first baseman Ike Davis in a trade with the New York Mets.
Whether it is a result of injury or a player struggling, key areas of need have already cropped up for some contending teams. At the same time, there are already a handful of teams looking like sellers here in the early going, who would no doubt be willing to listen to trade offers even here in May.
So with that in mind, what follows is a look at seven trade ideas that would legitimately make sense for both teams involved and could potentially happen here in the weeks and months to come.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.
Los Angeles Angels Acquire RP Matt Albers from Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels Get: RP Matt Albers
Houston Astros Get: SP Matt Shoemaker
After getting an MLB-worst 4.92 ERA from their bullpen last year, the Houston Astros signed a handful of veteran arms in the offseason, including Matt Albers on a one-year, $2.45 million deal.
He's currently sidelined with a shoulder tendinitis, but the 31-year-old was off to a good start this year, appearing in eight games and posting a 0.90 ERA over 10 innings of work.
Last year, the Astros parted ways with relievers Jose Veras, Wesley Wright and Travis Blackley during the season, and it would not be at all surprising to see them moving bullpen pieces again this year.
The Los Angeles Angels have already dealt with some issues in their bullpen this season and currently have a 4.08 ERA, which ranks 23rd in the MLB. Adding a proven veteran like Albers would make sense for a team looking to contend.
In return, Matt Shoemaker would give the rebuilding Astros another usable arm who could start or relieve. The 27-year-old has spent the past two seasons in Triple-A, and he was 11-13 with a 4.64 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 184.1 innings of work last year.
A move to the Astros would give him the opportunity that he has not yet earned in Los Angeles, and he could benefit from a change of scenery.
Boston Red Sox Acquire OF Chris Denorfia from the San Diego Padres
Boston Red Sox Get: OF Chris Denorfia
San Diego Padres Get: SP Drake Britton
Outfield production has been an issue for the Boston Red Sox so far this season, and they could look to make a change soon if things don't turn around.
Grady Sizemore, Jonny Gomes, Jackie Bradley Jr, Mike Carp and the demoted Daniel Nava have all put up subpar numbers to this point, and that could be reason enough for the team to explore trade options.
The team showed interest in San Diego Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia back in January, though they didn't see room for him on the roster at the time, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:
While the Red Sox don’t believe they can carry another outfielder, they have expressed some interest in Denorfia, a right-handed bat with a little power who can play center field. The Red Sox might be able to swing a move like this if they deal (Mike) Carp or Daniel Nava somewhere.
Denorfia has hit .292/.318/.387 in 106 at-bats this season, and he has been a terrific part-time outfielder since joining the Padres at the start of the 2010 season. While he's been one of the few bright spots in an abysmal Padres lineup, he's also in the final year of a two-year, $4.25 million deal.
In return, the Padres would be getting a big-league-ready arm in left-hander Drake Britton, who has made the move from starter to reliever since last year.
The former top prospect was 7-7 with a 3.77 ERA as a starter in the minors last season, before pitching to a 3.86 ERA in 18 games out of the Boston bullpen. The 24-year-old has dealt with some control issues in the early going this year, but he still has a ton of upside.
Detroit Tigers Acquire RP Dale Thayer from San Diego Padres
Detroit Tigers Get: RP Dale Thayer
San Diego Padres Get: OF Tyler Collins, RP Calvin Drummond
With Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit departing in free agency, Drew Smyly moving to the starting rotation and Bruce Rondon lost for the season to Tommy John surgery, the Detroit Tigers bullpen has a distinctly different look this season.
During the offseason, Joe Nathan was signed as a free agent to lock down the closer's role, while Joba Chamberlain and Ian Krol were also added to the mix. They have thrown the ball better of late as a group, but the Tigers bullpen still ranks 28th in the MLB with a 5.07 ERA and is lacking in proven veteran arms.
Free agent Joel Hanrahan was signed last week, and once he's healthy he has a chance to be a nice bargain addition, but the team could still be in the market for some veteran bullpen help.
San Diego Padres right-hander Dale Thayer is one player who could be made available, as the 33-year-old will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason. As a result, he will be in line for a sizable raise.
Thayer posted a 3.38 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 133 appearances over the past two seasons and has a 0.50 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 19 appearances so far this season for what has been a terrific Padres bullpen.
In return, 23-year-old Tyler Collins would give the Padres a big-league-ready outfield prospect with some pop, while 24-year-old Calvin Drummond is a High-A reliever with strikeout stuff who could make a impact in the major leagues soon as well.
New York Mets Acquire SS Didi Gregorius from Arizona Diamondbacks
New York Mets Get: SS Didi Gregorius
Arizona D'backs Get: SP Jake deGrom, RP Domingo Tapia
Prior to the 2013 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks pulled off a three-team, nine-player trade with the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds to acquire shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius.
The 23-year-old held his own as the everyday guy last year, hitting .252/.332/.373 with 26 extra-base hits in 357 at-bats while also posting a 1.3 WAR thanks in part to his plus defense.
As solid as his future looked, the team had another promising youngster in Chris Owings who hit .330/.359/.482 in Triple-A last year. As a result, the team opted for an open competition this spring, and Owings came away with the job, solidifying himself with NL Rookie of the Month honors in April.
That leaves the Diamondbacks with an attractive trade chip in Gregorius. And with a number of teams in need of an upgrade at shortstop, there's a good chance he'll be moved at some point this year.
Back in March, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports rattled off a list of teams that could be interested in Gregorious, and they are all still possibilities:
some teams the dbacks have thought of as possibilities for SS didi gregorius: reds, pirates, tigers, mets, yanks— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 24, 2014
The Mets balked at the idea of signing Stephen Drew this offseason, and while they could make a run at him following the June draft—when draft-pick compensation is no longer tied to him—Gregorius would be much more of a long-term solution.
In exchange for the shortstop, Jake deGrom would give the Diamondbacks a big-league-ready starter who could step in immediately and help their struggling staff. The 25-year-old climbed three levels last year, and he is currently 4-0 with a 2.58 ERA in seven Triple-A starts this season.
Hard-throwing reliever Domingo Tapia would complete the package, and while he dealt with some control issues last year (5.6 BB/9), the 22-year-old has the stuff to be a plus late-inning arm.
Toronto Blue Jays Acquire SP Kyle Kendrick from the Philadelphia Phillies
Toronto Blue Jays Get: SP Kyle Kendrick
Philadelphia Phillies Get: SP Sean Nolin, SS Kevin Nolan
One of the biggest reasons the Toronto Blue Jays failed to live up to lofty expectations last season was a lack of consistency from their starting rotation. And it's been an issue once again this season, as their starters have a collective 4.05 ERA.
The staff has turned in just 16 quality starts in 35 games, and 10 of those have come from the veteran duo of Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey. Guys like Drew Hutchison and Dustin McGowan have certainly shown flashes, but for a team looking to contend in the AL East, adding a starter may be a necessity.
The team was linked to Jeff Samardzija in the offseason, but he is shaping up to be the prize of the deadline, and the team likely won't be willing to part with top prospects Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez.
That leaves them targeting second-tier guys on the block, and Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick may be the best of that bunch.
Set to hit free agency at season's end after earning $7.675 million in his final year of arbitration, the 29-year-old is 64-58 with a 4.35 ERA over his eight big league seasons. He has a 3.58 ERA in six starts so far this year, and while he's not a staff ace by any means, he's a viable veteran starter than can eat some innings and potentially win double-digit games.
The price of pitching remains high, so Kendrick won't come cheap, but giving up No. 10 prospect Sean Nolin would not be the end of the world for the Blue Jays, especially considering that they have at least three higher-rated pitching prospects and are still looking to win now.
The 24-year-old Nolin does have a bright future, though, as he went 9-4 with a 2.77 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 110.2 innings of work last season. He's 2-1 with a 2.34 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 34.2 innings through his first six Triple-A starts this year.
Shortstop Kevin Nolan would be a throw-in as a part of this trade, but may be someone worth taking a chance on, as he is just two seasons removed from an .855 OPS at the High-A level. At this point, the 26-year-old needs something to jump-start his career, and the Phillies could certainly use the middle infield depth he'd provide if he can get back on track.
San Francisco Giants Acquire 2B Rickie Weeks from Milwaukee Brewers
San Francisco Giants Get: 2B Rickie Weeks, $6 Million
Milwaukee Brewers Get: RP Steven Okert
Not all that long ago—2011, to be exact—Rickie Weeks was one of the better second basemen in the National League. He was an All-Star and a 3.0 WAR-player that season, as he posted an OPS over .800 and 20-plus home runs for the second straight season.
The 31-year-old has steadily fallen off over the past two years, though, hitting just .209/.306/.357 last season before an ankle injury sidelined him at the end of July. That opened the door for Scooter Gennett, and he made the most of the opportunity, hitting .324/.356/.479 in 213 at-bats down the stretch last year.
The two entered the season in a platoon, but Gennett has quickly emerged as the everyday guy, with Weeks tallying just 35 at-bats on the year. Consider that Weeks is making $11 million this season, the Brewers would no doubt love to deal him, and the San Francisco Giants could be a potential fit.
With veteran Marco Scutaro sidelined with a back injury since the start of the season and showing no signs of returning any time soon, the Giants have primarily played Brandon Hicks at second base.
Hicks is hitting a solid .200/.313/.459 with six home runs and 12 RBI, but he's just 3-for-21 over his last five games and may finally be leveling off after a surprising start.
If the Giants were willing to eat a good deal of Weeks' remaining salary—we'll say $6 million—the Giants could make a run at him if Hicks keeps falling off in the weeks to come and Scutaro shows no signs of returning.
Reliever Steven Okert, who played his college ball at the University of Oklahoma, currently has a 1.08 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 16.2 innings of work at High-A San Jose. He has the added value of being left-handed, and he should be a solid big league reliever once he arrives in a couple of years.
It would not be a huge return, but it woud allows the Brewers to shed some salary, freeing up some money for them to pursue other needs at the deadline provided they are still in the thick of things in the NL Central race.
New York Yankees Acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs
New York Yankees Get: SP Jeff Samardzija
Chicago Cubs Get: C Gary Sanchez, SP Ty Hensley, C/3B Peter O'Brien, RP Danny Burawa
As things stand, Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija looks like he could be the prize of the trade deadline. But if the right offer comes along before then, the Cubs could very well move him before the month of July rolls around.
If anyone is going to make an aggressive play to acquire Samardzija here in the first half, the New York Yankees seem like a prime candidate. With Ivan Nova lost for the season, Michael Pineda battling a back injury and CC Sabathia struggling, the Yankees rotation is shaky at best.
Samardzija is winless on the year in seven starts, but a bad supporting cast is almost entirely to blame, as he has a 1.62 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 38 strikeouts in 50 innings of work. He also has the added value of an extra year of team control next year, so he's more than just a rental player, and it's looking more and more likely that he'll be moved, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago:
Samardzija wants to be paid like an ace -- in the neighborhood of a $100 million deal -- but the Cubs won't budge. While Hoyer indicated recently there are no trade talks currently going on with any players, that's expected to change with Samardzija as he drives up his value.
The asking price will be high—just as it was all offseason when the 29-year-old was on the block—but with the AL East up for grabs and the Yankees in a position to seize it, pulling the trigger on a deal for Samardzija could be the difference maker they need.
Any package would have to start with Gary Sanchez, the No. 2 catching prospect and No. 35 prospect overall, according to Baseball America. The 21-year-old posted a .736 OPS with 27 doubles and 15 home runs between High-A and Double-A last year, and he is off to a great start again this year.
Welington Castillo has established himself as a solid defensive backstop with some offensive skills, but he's also already 27 years old, and acquiring Sanchez would give the Cubs a legitimate catcher of the future with All-Star potential.
Ty Hensley was the No. 30 pick in the 2012 draft out of high school, but he missed last season with hip surgery and is currently still recovering. The Cubs have taken a chance on an injured player with upside before in Arodys Vizcaino, and they could look to buy low on Hensley.
Peter O'Brien had an .893 OPS with 39 doubles and 22 home runs between Single-A and High-A last year, and while he still does not have a defensive position—he has been splitting time between catcher, third base and the outfield—his bat is attractive, nonetheless.
Finally, 25-year-old reliever Danny Burawa, who had a 2.59 ERA and 9.0 K/9 in 66 innings of work at Double-A last year, could potentially help out in the majors by the end of the season.
It would be a steep price for the Yankees to pay, no doubt, but looking back at the Matt Garza deal last year as well as the fact that Samardzija has that extra year of team control, it's likely what it would cost to land the market's top arm.