MLB Trade Ideas Based on the Latest News, Rumors and Speculation
As the MLB season continues its march toward the chaos that accompanies the non-waiver trade deadline, a couple of things are becoming quite clear.
First, Jeff Samardzija is the most popular pitcher in the game and no one has any idea where he is going to land when the dust settles. That is, of course, if he lands anywhere at all.
Second, the trade banter around MLB is only going to increase in intensity with each passing week as teams either come to the realization that they will not be playing postseason baseball or become absolute in their resolve to do whatever it takes to improve.
Here are four MLB trade proposals based on actual need or published rumors from the week ending Sunday, June 1.
As a standard note, the following trade proposals are nothing more than postulation. They are balanced deals that are fair for each team, taking into consideration each franchise's strengths and weaknesses.
Boston Red Sox Acquire Center Fielder Dexter Fowler from the Houston Astros
Boston Red Sox Get: CF Dexter Fowler
Houston Astros Get: SP Anthony Ranaudo, RHP Simon Mercedes
Even though the Boston Red Sox had won seven games in a row following a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend, it’s no secret that they need to improve offensively. Going into action on Monday, the team had a cumulative .246/.330/.377 slash line and was ninth in the American League with 231 runs scored.
That makes adding Houston Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler a logical move. True, Rob Bradford from WEEI noted that “no deal is imminent,” but he also cited an “industry source” when he wrote that “the Red Sox continue to explore the outfield trade market, particularly possible center field help that might be able to take some of the pressure off of Jackie Bradley.”
Now, the reason Fowler is specifically mentioned is twofold.
First, the Red Sox need a center fielder in the worst way. On the season, the combination of Grady Sizemore and Bradley has delivered a .192/.290/.301 slash line with, at best, mediocre defense. Simply put, losing Jacoby Ellsbury hurt the lineup a lot more than most people anticipated.
The second reason Fowler is mentioned is that he “figures to be available,” per Matt Sullivan of MLB Daily Dish. And making him available makes sense for the Astros, as he is a third-year arbitration-eligible (Super Two) player currently earning $7.350 million dollars.
Given the aggressive youth movement in Houston, any increase in salary for a veteran player may not be part of the plan. Also, don’t forget that rookie right fielder George Springer played 247 games in center field during his four seasons in the minor leagues, so Fowler’s replacement in already on the roster.
Ranaudo is used here because he appears to be able to crack the starting rotation sooner than the Red Sox's other top-rated pitching prospects, Matt Barnes or Henry Owens. As a matter of fact, Ranaudo is likely their top chip to use this year given Barnes’ struggles (1-3, 5.35 ERA, 1.472 WHIP) and the fact that they will likely hold on to Owens for dear life.
Mercedes (2-5, 3.76 ERA, 1.254 WHIP, 10 G, 5 GS) is a flame-throwing right-hander whose “arm profiles as a reliever at the moment,” according to Marc Normandin of SB Nation’s Over the Monster. True, he has made a handful of starts at High-A Salem and could develop into a starting pitcher, but the bullpen seems to be a safer assumption for now.
Either way, the Red Sox are going to have to make a choice.
They can’t destroy the farm system by adding both a high-profile starter and a position player. If they choose to improve the offense, Fowler fills a position of need and is under team control through next season. He also wouldn’t require a package so expansive that it limits what they can do the rest of this season and into the future.
Baltimore Orioles Acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs
Baltimore Orioles Get: SP Jeff Samardzija
Chicago Cubs Get: SP Dylan Bundy, SP Kevin Gausman
The Baltimore Orioles are in the thick of a pennant race and need to improve their rotation, which has struggled. Going into Monday, for example, the O’s starters ranked 12th in the American League with a 4.44 ERA, according to ESPN.com. The simple fact is that they’ve underperformed for a majority of the season.
So it comes as no surprise that general manager Dan Duquette is interested in Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. Per CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine:
With the American League East up for grabs, the Orioles could separate themselves from the pack with a pre-emptive move before the [non-waiver] trading deadline on July 31.
The Orioles have premium young pitching that the Cubs will insist on if they are going to move their ace. Right handed pitchers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey and left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez top the list of young arms the Cubs are scouting.
All of them are highly rated, so picking two is difficult, but we’ll go with Bundy and Gausman.
Bundy, who underwent Tommy John surgery last June, is close to returning. So close, in fact, that The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly noted that “it remains a possibility that” the right-hander “could help the Orioles in the second half." In other words, his return to form appears to simply be a matter of time.
Even though Connolly is optimistic about Bundy’s ability to contribute this season, Bundy probably won't be a full-time starter until next year, at the earliest. Currently ranked as MLB.com’s No. 17 prospect, Bundy appeared in two games for the Orioles during his first professional season in 2012. It’s truly remarkable how good he is.
Gausman, on the other hand, is ready to pitch in the major leagues right now. True, he is currently at Triple-A after getting demoted following a rough outing versus the Detroit Tigers, but he has a nice fastball and an above-average changeup to go with a “developing breaking ball,” per Jon Meoli, also of The Baltimore Sun.
Meoli went on to note that if things go the right way, Gausman’s “next trip to Baltimore could be permanent." That is, of course, if he isn’t in Chicago first.
To be sure, it's a high price to pay, but Samardzija offers much more in terms of ability to help the Orioles win now, and he has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining. That means that even if the team struggles in 2015, he could net a large return at next season’s trade deadline or draft compensation as a potential Type A free agent.
Toronto Blue Jays Acquire James Shields from the Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays Get: SP James Shields
Kansas City Royals Get: SP Sean Nolin, 3B Mitch Nay, 3B Juan Francisco
Of course, he mentioned several other names, including Justin Masterson and Francisco Liriano, but Shields was noted to be an interesting option for the Blue Jays because of “his pedigree in the tough AL East.”
Getting rid of Shields may simply be a matter of time for Royals general manager Dayton Moore. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports opined, this “disappointing season is barreling toward” the inevitable departure of the big right-hander.
Nolin, whom Baseball America rated as having the organization’s best changeup, is a promising starter with plenty of potential. Currently ranked No. 5 in Toronto's system, Nolin figures to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the future, per MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
After Nolin, Moore will be looking to improve the woeful offense, making Nay and Francisco nice additions.
Nay—ranked as the Blue Jays’ No. 17 prospect—is a power-hitting third baseman with the ability to “make consistent, hard contact,” according to Mayo. He is a couple of years away but would be a nice piece to have developing in the system.
Francisco, on the other hand, has been a revelation this season. The third baseman was hitting .277 with a stellar .963 OPS when play began on Monday. And unlike Nay, who needs time to reach his potential, Francisco will contribute immediately.
It is going to be difficult to trade Francisco, but with Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista picking up the slack, the loss of offense might be negligible. And if the Blue Jays want to make a deep run into the postseason, having a four-deep starting rotation will get them there.
It takes two to pull off any trade, though, and as Passan noted, “Shields isn’t going anywhere” right now. If the Royals fall further out of contention in the AL Central and in the wild-card race, however, a trade to the Blue Jays makes a lot of sense.
St. Louis Cardinals Acquire David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays
St. Louis Cardinals Get: SP David Price
Tampa Bay Rays Get: CF James Ramsey, SP Marco Gonzalez, SP Rob Kaminsky
He wondered whether general manager John Mozeliak would take advantage of “the surplus of coveted outfield prospects and some young power arms who could entice potential trade partners.” In other words, will the Cardinals shore up a relative area of weakness—the rotation—for a run at the postseason?
The idea that the Cards will add a pitcher has some legs. Per Miklasz:
But one baseball scout who tracks the Cardinals offered an interesting opinion when I spoke with him Friday: If the Cardinals go for a big move, they’ll try to acquire a formidable starting pitcher so they can go into a postseason series lined up with Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and the elite-level Pitcher to be Acquired Later. Nothing against Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller or the others, the scout said. But if they fade out, the Cardinals would regret not having a third big-gun pitcher to go with Waino and Wacha.
There are multiple ways to look at Price’s availability, but B/R’s Scott Miller cited a “longtime American League scout” who said that “the chances of David Price getting moved are good.” That is, of course, if the right offer is presented.
So what would the Cardinals have to offer for Price?
How about outfielder James Ramsey and left-handers Marco Gonzalez and Rob Kaminsky?
Ramsey is lighting it up at Double-A, hitting .305 with 11 home runs, 28 RBI and a .976 OPS. Ramsey would be a perfect complement for Wil Myers in right field. The Florida State University product is currently ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the organization.
Gonzalez is at Double-A, and Kaminsky is at Single-A, but each could be ready to contribute as early as next year or the year after. Gonzalez (No. 5 prospect) throws a fastball in the low 90s and has plus secondary pitches, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Kaminsky (No. 8) brings a bit more heat and could end up as a reliever in the big leagues.
To be balanced, Miller also noted that “when the Rays lost Matt Moore for the year in April, many industry insiders thought it increased the odds the Rays, who viewed themselves as contenders entering the season, would keep Price for the year.”
More will be revealed, of course, but if the Cardinals come up with an offer like the one outlined here, the Rays would have to strongly consider it.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are accurate as of game time on Monday, June 2. Transaction, injury, scouting reports, prospect rankings and game information are courtesy of MLB.com. Contract information was pulled from Cot’s Contracts.