MLB Trade Ideas Based on Latest News, Rumors and Speculation
With the free-agent market largely devoid of impact talent—aside from Max Scherzer and James Shields, that is—general managers around baseball have little choice but to explore trades in order to plug holes or find the upgrade at a position that they've been searching for on their respective rosters.
But in order to swing a deal, a GM must find a willing trade partner, which is often a bigger challenge than coming to an agreement on an actual swap.
Yet there are trades to be made, and based on recent reports from the rumor mill and known team needs, we've come up with a few that make sense for all parties involved. Keep in mind that these deals are pure speculation—there's no indication that any of them have actually been discussed between the teams involved.
Think of it as our crack at playing GM, a pastime that baseball fans have enjoyed for decades, whether it be in their living rooms, ballparks or local watering holes.
Miami Trades Dan Haren to San Diego
Miami Gets: OF Will Venable
San Diego Gets: RHP Dan Haren
Dan Haren hasn't wavered on his desire to pitch for a team closer to his California home, one that holds spring training in Arizona, and according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, he's made his preference clear to the Miami Marlins.
He's pitched for three of MLB's four California-based clubs over the course of his career, and while only one, the Los Angeles Angels, has stated that they wouldn't pursue Haren, neither the Los Angeles Dodgers nor the Oakland Athletics appear to be a good fit.
Lest we forget, it was the Dodgers who traded Haren to Miami in the first place, while the A's are rebuilding and have restocked their system with young arms, many of which could make an impact with the club in 2015.
That leaves only one team, the San Diego Padres, as a possible landing spot.
Luckily for Haren (and the Marlins), the Padres have been searching for a veteran starter to help lead their young rotation. But they were rebuffed by Hiroki Kuroda, who chose to return to Japan, and weren't willing to meet Philadelphia's asking price for Cole Hamels, so the search continues.
Haren may no longer be a mid-rotation arm like Kuroda or an ace like Hamels, but he'd be a solid addition to the back end of San Diego's staff for a number of reasons.
One of baseball's most pronounced fly-ball pitchers—Haren ranks sixth in fly-ball percentage among starters who have thrown at least 2,000 innings since his rookie season of 2003—that would be mitigated by the spacious confines of Petco Park, even with a shaky outfield defense behind him.
Haren has also had success in San Diego over the course of his career, pitching to a 3.63 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 79.1 innings of work. Adding him would allow the club to not rush top pitching prospect Matt Wisler to the big leagues or have to rely on the injury-prone Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow.
Not only is Haren a fit in San Diego, but the Padres, with an excess of outfielders (even after trading Seth Smith), are a fit for the Marlins, who just so happen to be looking for a fourth outfielder.
With San Diego's acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton, both Cameron Maybin and Will Venable—due a combined $11.25 million in 2015—have been relegated to bench duty. That's a lot of money for any team to have wrapped up in a pair of reserves.
While the Padres would probably rather move Maybin, Venable is the more valuable trade chip. A capable defender at all three outfield positions, Venable fits the bill for what the Marlins need, and he would provide the club with an experienced, left-handed bat to use off the bench.
Toronto Trades Dioner Navarro to Arizona
Arizona Gets: C Dioner Navarro
Toronto Gets: RHP Evan Marshall and a player to be named later
Right before Christmas, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweeted that the Toronto Blue Jays, who have been in search of bullpen help (especially in the ninth inning) all winter, were more interested in trading for a reliever than signing one still available via free agency.
That makes sense, especially when you consider that the club can only add about $9 million to its payroll, according to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. With a gaping hole at second base and some additional holes to plug, signing a free-agent reliever would eat up a large chunk of its available cash.
The good news for the Blue Jays is that they happen to have a pretty valuable trade chip in the form of Dioner Navarro, the team's former starting catcher who has been displaced by Russell Martin's arrival and, as Heyman reported in November, requested a trade to a team on which he can start.
While most teams have their catching situation for 2015 figured out, the Arizona Diamondbacks do not. After trading Miguel Montero to the Chicago Cubs, the D-Backs head into 2015 with 31-year-old Tuffy Gosewisch as their starting catcher.
At the winter meetings, Arizona GM Dave Stewart named Navarro as a potential trade target, per the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro, and there's no reason to believe that Stewart still doesn't have his eye on the 30-year-old veteran.
Stewart's counterpart in Toronto, Alex Anthopoulos, also held court at the winter meetings and addressed Navarro's situation with reporters, including Sportsnet's Shi Davidi:
We’re a better team with Dioner Navarro on this team, no doubt about it. [The interest in him] has been consistent. If we can find the right deal for him, he gets every day at-bats as a starter, we’ll look to do that for him. But at the same time, he’s a good player, he’s a valuable piece of this team, we think we can get him playing time, and we’re going to have to feel like it makes the team better because right now he’s a good piece for us.
Navarro would get everyday at-bats in Arizona, where he'd be a massive upgrade over Gosewisch and give Arizona's fairly young rotation a consistent, stable presence behind the plate to work with. Oftentimes, that's more important than the offense that a catcher can provide. In Navarro, the D-Backs get a player who can contribute in both areas.
To pull off a deal, however, Arizona will have to part with one of its young, hard-throwing relievers in 24-year-old Evan Marshall.
While he's not yet gotten a chance to close in the majors, Marshall's mid-90s fastball, along with his ability to keep the ball on the ground and miss bats (54 strikeouts over 49.1 innings in 2014) make him an intriguing addition to the back end of Toronto's bullpen, whether it be as the team's closer or as a primary setup man.
But Marshall alone isn't enough to bring back a starting catcher, so the D-Backs include the always popular "player to be named later" in the deal to make it work for both sides.
Tampa Bay Trades Ben Zobrist to San Francisco
San Francisco Gets: IF/OF Ben Zobrist
Tampa Bay Gets: OF Gary Brown and RHP Keury Mella
Speculation about Ben Zobrist's future in Tampa Bay has only increased since the Rays signed free agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to handle second base duties. With the Rays rebuilding on the fly and Zobrist entering the final year of his contract, a trade seems inevitable.
San Francisco is one of the teams believed to be in pursuit of the versatile veteran, according to The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, who says the Rays seek "at least one top prospect and a mid-level one" in exchange for.
That's an asking price that the Giants can meet.
Named San Francisco's fifth-best prospect heading into 2015 by Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), 20-year-old Keury Mella is hard-throwing right-hander who projects as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in a major league rotation, though he's still a few years away.
Should he falter as a starter as he reaches the upper levels of the minor leagues, he's got the stuff to develop into a shutdown reliever—perhaps as a closer.
It was only a few years ago that Gary Brown was considered to be one of the best prospects in all of baseball, but the 26-year-old has failed to live up to expectations, putting up a mediocre .250/.307/.384 slash line over two full seasons at Triple-A.
Still, Brown has potential, but as Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News tweeted last August, he no longer fits into San Francisco's plans and needs a change of scenery in order to have a shot at making that upside a reality.
Given Tampa Bay's lack of quality outfield prospects in the minors, Brown is a gamble worth taking.
For San Francisco, Zobrist would serve as an immediate upgrade over the team's left field platoon of Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez while providing insurance at second base should Joe Panik be lost to injury.
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