In-Season MLB Impact Trades Teams Should Already Be Thinking About
Spring training is in full swing. Every team is technically in first place, seeing as we've yet to witness a contest that counts.
Still, it's never too early to start thinking about in-season blockbuster MLB swaps that could boost contenders and restock rebuilders.
With that in mind, here are five trade proposals clubs should already be considering. The July 31 non-waiver deadline may seem like it's a long way off—but it'll creep up sooner than you think.
Washington Nationals Acquire RHP Kelvin Herrera
The Washington Nationals are MLB's most obvious win-now team. They've claimed four of the last six National League East crowns but have never advanced past the Division Series. Franchise icon Bryce Harper is entering his much-anticipated contract year.
This is the moment to shove all the chips in.
The Nats have few glaring weaknesses but could use another impact late-inning arm to set up closer Sean Doolittle. Kansas City Royals right-hander Kelvin Herrera fits the bill.
The two-time All-Star's ERA ballooned to 4.25 last season, yet his average fastball velocity sat at a robust 97.9, per FanGraphs. He's pitched high-leverage postseason innings and helped win a World Series in 2015.
In January, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported the Royals would expect a "huge haul" for Herrera. Outfielder and top Nationals prospect Victor Robles should be off-limits, but a package built around minor league right-hander Erick Fedde should be enough to rent Herrera—an impending free agent—as Washington makes one more push in the Harper era.
Houston Astros Acquire LHP Brad Hand
Since 1979, only two teams have repeated as MLB champions: the 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays and the 1998-2000 New York Yankees. Can the Houston Astros make it three? They've got a fighting chance.
The lineup is stacked, and the January acquisition of former Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole boosted the rotation. The bullpen might be the club's only soft spot.
The 'Stros could use relief reinforcements, particularly from the left side. Their top bullpen southpaw is 34-year-old Tony Sipp, who posted a 5.79 ERA in 2017 and has yielded six hits and four earned runs in 5.2 innings this spring.
The rebuilding San Diego Padres signed lefty reliever Brad Hand to a three-year, $19.75 million deal this winter but could offload him at the deadline or before. Hand, who posted a 2.16 ERA with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings last season, would be an ideal fit for Houston.
If the Friars demand slugging young outfielder Kyle Tucker, forget it. Hard-hitting Cuban Yordan Alvarez (the Astros' No. 4 prospect, per MLB.com) and a couple of ancillary piece might be enough to get it done, however, and set the champs on a repeat course.
Milwaukee Brewers Acquire C J.T. Realmuto
The Milwaukee Brewers already made trade waves by acquiring ex-Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich in January. They could strike another deal with the Fish to upgrade their catching situation.
At present, Milwaukee is counting on Manny Pina (2.0 FanGraphs WAR in 2017) and Stephen Vogt (-0.5 fWAR) to assume behind-the-dish duties. That's not the worst duo in the world, but J.T. Realmuto (3.6 fWAR) would represent a significant upgrade.
The 26-year-old hit .278 with 17 home runs last season for Miami and gunned down 32 percent of would-be base stealers while honing his receiving skills. Plus, he's under team control through 2020.
The Marlins are in everything-must-go mode but would demand a hefty return for Realmuto. Fortunately, Milwaukee has some expendable, high-end pieces, including outfielders Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, either of whom could form the backbone of a win-win exchange.
New York Mets Acquire INF Josh Harrison
The Pittsburgh Pirates initiated a sell-off this winter when they sent Cole to the Astros and franchise icon Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants.
"I spoke what I spoke. I said my feelings, but I can't control certain things," Harrison said, per Kevin Gorman of the Tribune-Review. "All I can control is me."
The odds Harrison will don a new uniform in 2018 are high. One potential fit: the New York Mets.
Yes, the Mets inked veteran Todd Frazier to play third base, have Asdrubal Cabrera penciled in at second and are mostly set in the outfield.
Harrison's versatility means he could roam all over, however. And New York has attractive trade chips, including 24-year-old center fielder Brandon Nimmo, who may be squeezed out by Michael Conforto's impending return from shoulder surgery.
Harrison is controllable through 2020 with a pair of affordable team options, making him a solid fit for the cost-conscious, win-now Mets.
Philadelphia Phillies Acquire RHP Chris Archer
The Philadelphia Phillies put the rest of the NL on notice when they signed right-hander Jake Arrieta for three years and $75 million March 12. They're planning to go for it.
Philadelphia has a fine stash of young talent as well as enviable payroll flexibility. As long as the Phils are bolstering their rotation, why not go all-in on Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer?
The Rays have already traded third baseman Evan Longoria to the Giants, right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins and outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Pirates. Tampa Bay is open for business.
It'll require a king's ransom to acquire Archer, a two-time All-Star who in controllable through 2021 with two friendly club options. The Phillies would need to let go of at least one of their top prospects, such as infielder Scott Kingery or hard-throwing right-hander Sixto Sanchez, along with multiple secondary chips.
If they're serious about rising in the NL East power rankings, this is the type of bold move they should make.