MLB Turned NBA: Blockbuster Offseason Trade Ideas to Build 'Superteams'
Today's Major League Baseball isn't all that dissimilar to today's National Basketball Association. They're leagues of haves and have-nots, wherein the latter are tanking while the former are loading up.
Thus, a Hot Stove hypothetical: What would it look like if a few MLB franchises took a cue from the most recent NBA offseason and used the winter trade market to put "superteams" together?
To recap: The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers swapped Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving, the Houston Rockets traded for Chris Paul, and the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. All for the ostensible purpose of taking down the Golden State Warriors, the O.G. NBA superteam.
Could a wave such as this roll over MLB this winter?
Eh, probably not.
But, then again, maybe!
It's plausible enough to entertain a few ideas, anyway. Going in order from least outrageous to most outrageous, let's look at six possible blockbusters that would super-fy six teams.
Michael Fulmer, Ian Kinsler and Shane Greene to the Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs let out 108 years of frustration in 2016, but they took on water in 2017 and now have a few leaks to plug to get back on course.
If they reach out to the Detroit Tigers, they'll be there.
Before they pivoted to Jose Quintana, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reported in July that the Cubs pursued reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer. Since he should recover from elbow surgery in time for spring training, they should turn back to him to fill the hole left by Jake Arrieta's free agency.
Because the Cubs' farm system has been bled dry, they'd have to sacrifice pieces from their major league roster to make it so. The usual suspects are Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ.
But if the Cubs are going to go so far as to deal from that group, they might as well push for some deal-sweeteners. Two that make sense are veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler, for whom 2018 will be a walk year, and Shane Greene, who arose as an effective power reliever in 2017.
Fulmer would slot next to Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester to give the Cubs one of baseball's best rotations. Greene would pad their bullpen depth while also keeping the door open for Wade Davis. Kinsler would add needed stability on the infield in between Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
As a result, the Cubs would look more like their 103-win selves from 2016 than their 92-win selves from 2017.
Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett and Homer Bailey to the New York Yankees
Even after brushing up against the World Series in 2017, the New York Yankees have room to improve. They must shore up their starting rotation and could stand to do the same with their lineup.
A call to the Cincinnati Reds about Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett and Homer Bailey would do the trick.
With good power and a slick glove, Suarez would be an improvement from Chase Headley at third base. Gennett, who broke out with 27 homers in 2017, would be a solid everyday designated hitter or second base platoon partner for Starlin Castro. Despite his recent troubles with injuries and ineffectiveness, Bailey's track record and rejuvenated fastball would make him a worthwhile upside play.
Convincing the Reds to part with Suarez and Gennett would be the hard part. They're good players who are controlled through 2020 and 2019, respectively.
However, the Reds might jump at the chance to poach Gleyber Torres, Chance Adams, Estevan Florial or other pieces from one of MLB's best farm systems to vastly improve their own system. Plus, moving Bailey would mean getting out from under the $49 million he's still owed.
For the Yankees, the primary benefit would be substantial upgrades to a lineup that was already good enough to finish second in runs and first in defensive efficiency in 2017. Their rotation would also get just what it needs behind Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray: an arm good enough to use, but not good enough to call off their pursuit of Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani.
Chris Archer and Brad Miller to the Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians earned 102 wins in 2017, 22 of which came in a single stretch. Many of the pieces that made it possible are still in place. So, yeah, they're already pretty super.
However, there's always the next step up to super-duper.
To get there, Cleveland must at least fill the first base hole opened by Carlos Santana's free agency. It also wouldn't hurt to add a piece to a rotation that's already excellent, but which lacks stability outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer (who's not very stable in his own right).
How about a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are in a position to rebuild?
Ace right-hander Chris Archer would fit Cleveland like a glove. He ranks fourth in strikeouts since 2015, so he'd be yet another reason for opposing hitters to fear a starting rotation that just set an all-time record for strikeouts.
Since Archer's contract controls him at low costs through as far as 2021, the Rays' asking price for him likely includes literal arms and legs. Still, they'd probably be happy with top-ranked catching prospect Francisco Mejia as a centerpiece.
But Cleveland shouldn't give up its farm system's crown jewel without angling for more from the Rays. Brad Miller, who hit 30 homers in 2016 and skyrocketed his walk rate in an injury-marred 2017, stands out as a younger, cheaper and potentially just as good fill-in for Santana.
Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Cervelli to the Washington Nationals
Without any assurances that Bryce Harper will stick around after 2018, the Washington Nationals must summon as much firepower as they can for their biggest World Series push yet.
They still largely resemble the squad that won 97 games in 2017, but they would look better with a replacement for Jayson Werth, who's a free agent, and upgrades for their catching and starting pitching depth.
To fill Werth's shoes, the Nats should get back on the horn with the Pittsburgh Pirates and rekindle the trade discussions they had about Andrew McCutchen last winter. He's heading into his walk year after reestablishing himself as a quality hitter in 2017, so the Pirates have even more incentive to deal him this time around.
As ESPN's Buster Olney argued, the Pirates' future is uncertain enough that they should also listen on staff ace Gerrit Cole, who's only two years away from free agency.
Francisco Cervelli, who's signed through 2019, is another trade chip who should appeal to Washington. With a good on-base habit and solid pitch-framing skills, he's basically the anti-Matt Wieters behind the dish.
A three-player haul like this would cost the Nationals, perhaps to the point where—eek!—they'd have to surrender uber-prospect Victor Robles. But it would whittle their list of faults down to just their middle relief corps. That would be a puny hurdle in between them and the World Series.
Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich to the Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers won 104 games and lasted until Game 7 of the World Series in 2017. They did so largely on the strength of their arms, which produced a sparkling 3.38 ERA.
Alas, the Houston Astros ultimately outlasted the Dodgers' good-not-great collection of bats. One team that can help with that this winter is the Miami Marlins, who are set to go full-tank under their new owners.
The name on the tip of everyone's tongue right now rhymes with "Moncarlo Chanton." But that's a reach. The Dodgers are supposedly on a mission to cut payroll. Adding Giancarlo Stanton and the $295 million he's still owed doesn't jive with that.
Instead, how about Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich?
They're more along the lines of players sought by the Dodgers these days: young, controllable, relatively cheap and, above all, multi-talented. Ozuna, 27, is under club control for two more years. Yelich, 25, is signed to a $49.6 million deal that runs as far as 2021. Ozuna has his power, speed and developing eye. Yelich has an uncanny feel for hitting, baserunning and fielding.
They'd fit nicely in the Dodgers outfield and would free up 2017 breakout star Chris Taylor to move back to the infield with an everyday gig at second base. Like that, Los Angeles' lineup would be free of weaknesses.
The acquisition cost would be immense, but that's OK. The Dodgers have plenty of pieces they can sacrifice from their loaded farm system, including Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo and Yadier Alvarez.
Giancarlo Stanton to the Houston Astros
Maybe this is cheating. After all, the Astros just won 101 games and the World Series. They're about as super as super can be.
But, man, just imagine them with Stanton in their lineup.
This is the same lineup that, per weighted runs created plus, was among the best ever regular-season offensive juggernauts even before it wore down the Dodgers in the World Series. Yet there is room to improve it. The Astros have an opening at designated hitter and could arguably use a corner outfielder.
Stanton could fill either role and would bring with him one of the most dangerous bats in the sport. He's hit 267 home runs in just eight major league seasons, including an MLB-high 59 in 2017.
“Don’t think we haven’t thought about how easily the ball would go out in our ballpark," Astros owner Jim Crane told Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Of course, this is if Stanton were to waive his no-trade clause. But in light of his broken-record insistence that winning is his top priority, he surely wouldn't turn down a chance to be for the Astros what Kevin Durant is to the Warriors.
Otherwise, there's not much standing in the way of a trade. The Astros have more spending power than they do long-term commitments, and their list of expendable prospects is headlined by Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher and Forrest Whitley.
It must be said that Stanton would improve any of the suitors in pursuit of his services. But the Astros are one of few who can afford him, and the only one that would stand to gain the best offense in MLB history.