MLB Trades Teams Should Already Be Thinking About for 2017
You don't see many blockbuster MLB trades go down in April.
However, that doesn't mean that teams aren't already doing their due diligence and laying the groundwork for potential summer trades here in the early stages of the season.
So it's only right that we do the same.
Ahead is a look at five significant trades that teams should already be thinking about, even if the wheels aren't set in motion for a few more months.
These trades will address an early need or an expected long-term issue for five perceived contenders.
Offering up a specific return package seemed silly this far removed from when the trades would potentially come to fruition, but an idea of the level of talent it would take to swing a deal was provided.
David Robertson to the Washington Nationals
David Robertson is perhaps the single most likely player to be traded at some point during the 2017 season.
There's always a demand for proven late-inning relievers and the rebuilding Chicago White Sox have little use for a high-priced closer.
The 32-year-old carries a $12 million salary this season and is also on the books for $13 million next year, so it looked this offseason like the White Sox might need to eat some of his remaining money if they hoped to fetch anything of significance in return.
If he keeps pitching like he has so far this year, though, that may no longer be the case.
He's worked five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and zero walks while striking out 10 on his way to nailing down three save chances.
Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals experiment with an unproven back of the bullpen hasn't gone particularly smoothly.
- Blake Treinen: 7 G, 3/4 SV, 6.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 7 K
- Shawn Kelley: 6 G, 0/1 SV, 6.75 ERA, 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
Hard-throwing rookie Koda Glover leads the team with three holds and he's been a bit more effective than that duo, but he's as thin on experience as anyone.
The Nationals have a trio of intriguing catching prospects in Pedro Severino, Jakson Reetz and Raudy Read, and that remains a long-term organizational need for the White Sox.
Robertson wouldn't be enough for the White Sox to pry anyone like Victor Robles, Erick Fedde, Juan Soto, Carter Kieboom or Austin Voth away from what has become a somewhat thin Nationals farm system.
However, a package built around one of those catchers and another mid-level prospect—while unloading the balance of that remaining money—would be another quality move for a rebuilding franchise.
Mike Moustakas to the New York Mets
So far this season, the New York Mets have gotten virtually nothing from the third base position.
Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera have hit a combined .073/.136/.091 with one extra-base hit while manning the hot corner—far and away the worst production of any team at what is a premium offensive position.
There are some potential in-house solutions to the problem.
Prospect Gavin Cecchini has played exclusively up the middle during his pro career, but he has the arm to play third base and could be ready to contribute after hitting .325/.390/.448 in Triple-A last season.
Perhaps a more likely solution would be to promote top prospect Amed Rosario and install him as the everyday shortstop a bit ahead of schedule. That would push veteran Asdrubal Cabrera over to third base, though he'd also be learning on the fly.
If the team prefers an outside addition, Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier represent a pair of intriguing rental options.
Moustakas played just 27 games last season before suffering a season-ending torn ACL, but he's returned strong with a hot start to the 2017 season.
The 28-year-old is hitting .293/.356/.683 with five home runs in 45 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, Frazier is hitting a meager .111/.226/.259 a year after watching his batting average plummet to .225 amid a 40-homer campaign.
The Mets have the prospects to go after either player, and Moustakas could be the preferred target. He not only has the superior numbers but also a significant advantage in terms of playoff experience.
Since they're both rental players, it won't take a blockbuster package to acquire either guy.
Jeremy Hellickson to the New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are on fire right now, rattling off eight straight wins after a 1-4 start.
While the starting rotation has been better than expected and particularly good during the aforementioned winning streak, it still looks like an area of concern as far as sustainable contention is concerned.
Here's a quick look at how the starting staff has performed so far:
- Masahiro Tanaka: 3 GS, 1-1, 8.36 ERA, 1.93 WHIP
- CC Sabathia: 3 GS, 2-0, 1.47 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
- Michael Pineda: 3 GS, 2-1, 3.44 ERA, 0.93 WHIP
- Luis Severino: 2 GS, 1-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
- Jordan Montgomery: 2 GS, 1-0, 4.22 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
The organization has some viable depth with Chad Green and Luis Cessa staying stretched out in Triple-A as opposed to working out of the bullpen as many expected.
However, adding another veteran arm to the staff may become a necessity if this team is, in fact, going to make a run at contending this season.
Jose Quintana will be a popular name on the rumor mill and there's no question they have the prospects to swing a deal. That's not what they've been building toward, though, and in the end, it might mean mortgaging too much of the future.
Instead, going after a second-tier rental option like Jeremy Hellickson could make more sense as a short-term solution for a team that still has one eye on the future.
Hellickson is off to another strong start after accepting a qualifying offer in the offseason, going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in his first three starts.
It will mean giving up a quality prospect or two, and that will only make sense if the Yankees are squarely in the hunt when the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline rolls around.
It shouldn't take any of the team's elite-level young talent to get a deal done, though.
Ryan Braun to the San Francisco Giants
Adding another right-handed bat with power wouldn't be the worst idea for the Dodgers, but a hot start from Yasiel Puig has made a trade for Braun more of a luxury than a glaring need.
Instead, it's the division rival San Franciso Giants who are scrambling to fill a spot in the outfield.
So far this season, Giants' left fielders have hit a combined .146/.208/.250 with two extra-base hits, and Jarrett Parker will now miss significant time after suffering a fractured clavicle earlier this week.
That leaves some combination of Chris Marrero, Gorkys Hernandez and Aaron Hill to man the position among the current roster options, while Justin Ruggiano, Michael Morse, Drew Stubbs and Melvin Upton Jr. are all suiting up for the club's Triple-A squad.
That's a lot of mediocrity.
While Braun would certainly be a welcome addition, what's left of his $20 million salary this season would not be one for a Giants team that is already up against the luxury threshold with a payroll north of $186 million, per Roster Resource.
The remaining three years and $56 million of his deal would be a challenge as well, but with Matt Cain's contract finally coming off the books this winter, they will be afforded some flexibility.
If the Brewers were willing to take on some of his remaining money this season, the Giants might be willing to meet their asking price.
The Giants will do everything they can to hold onto Christian Arroyo, but a package built around Tyler Beede and Chris Shaw might be enough to get a deal done.
It would hurt robbing what is already a fairly weak farm system of two of its top prospects, but the Giants' window to win another title is open right now and this is the type of all-in move that could push them over the top.
Jose Quintana to the Houston Astros
The Jose Quintana-to-the-Houston Astros rumor is one that figures to persist until it finally comes to fruition or until Quintana is officially traded elsewhere.
It just makes too much sense.
The Astros have a loaded farm system and a clear need for a front-line pitcher to anchor what is a good, but not great, starting rotation.
Here's how the starters have performed so far:
- Dallas Keuchel: 3 GS, 2-0, 0.86 ERA, 0.62 WHIP
- Lance McCullers: 3 GS, 1-0, 4.67 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
- Charlie Morton: 3 GS, 1-1, 2.81 ERA, 1.44 WHIP
- Joe Musgrove: 2 GS, 1-0, 4.35 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
- Mike Fiers: 2 GS, 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
The whole "Astros don't have an ace" narrative might have an expiration date if Keuchel keeps pitching like he has so far this season.
However, even if he does, there's still the question of whether this staff is deep enough to legitimately contend for a title without adding another front-line arm.
MLB writer Peter Gammons reported in December that the White Sox were asking for top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker, as well as Musgrove, in exchange for Quintana.
My guess is, Martes is going to be a non-starter in these talks.
The 21-year-old is one of the top 10 pitching prospects in baseball and he has a chance to be the long-term ace of the Houston staff.
That said, a package built around Tucker, Musgrove and pitching prospect David Paulino—with a high-ceiling lower-level prospect or two sprinkled in to round out the package—would still be a tough offer for other teams to top.