MLB trade rumors are picking up, so let's dive into the role of fantasy GM's and see what we can put together to help some contenders get to the postseason.
We've moved past the one-third mark of the season and the division races are starting to sort out which teams will become buyers and which teams will become sellers.
Several contenders, as well as would-be contenders, could help themselves out by swapping stars to fill their voids.
Blockbuster trades aren't quite what they once were. These days, when a star player is included in a blockbuster trade, it usually means one star is on the move while several high-level prospects are the return price for his services.
It has become a bit of a rarity to see two stars traded for each other.
Not to say that any of these trades stand any chance of actually coming to fruition, but here are a few swaps that at least make sense for the teams involved.
Different variations of a David Wright-to-the-A's trade have been floated around the internet over the past few months.
The Athletics' struggles at the hot-corner have just fueled those trade rumors leading up to Wright landing on the disabled list.
The Mets are now almost assuredly going to shed payroll after Fred Wilpon's comments regarding the team and their payroll made their rounds on the internet and blogosphere recently.
The A's need offense and veteran leadership—something David Wright would provide.
The Mets need cost-controllable young players capable of producing at the major league level, something that Gio Gonzalez would provide instantly. (Any member of the A's pitching staff could essentially be substituted here, as it is unlikely to happen despite the need it would fill for both teams).
This trade is unlikely to happen. The Mets would likely prefer to receive a package of three to four top-level prospects—plus a major league player still under team control—in exchange for the face of their franchise.
The A's are reluctant to include any member of their "Big Three" in a trade, so that adds to the difficulty in pulling off a one-for-one blockbuster including Wright, but at least on paper it makes sense.
Remember, we just traded David Wright away for a starting pitcher, so the Mets need someone to man the hot-corner now.
Okay, that's not really how I rationalized this one, but it did fit following that last slide.
The Rangers need bullpen depth and someone capable of closing games if Neftali Feliz goes down with another injury.
K-Rod recently stated that he is willing to work as a setup man in the right situation. K-Rod also has plenty of experience closing out games in the AL West, where he started his career for the LA Angels.
This trade would likely only work in the situation where David Wright had already been shipped elsewhere, but it fits the Mets' need to cut payroll while adding affordable players to their club.
Michael Young could step right in for the Mets and contribute to their offense. Young could conceivably be converted to the outfield if the Mets decided to hang on to David Wright for the remainder of the 2011 season.
He would provide them with the option to explore a Wright trade during the offseason as well.
I've got a feeling this will be a very unpopular proposal to both fanbases, but in terms of team needs, it does make sense.
The Twins have fallen out of contention and could look to rebuild. Mauer would obviously net a large return in terms of high-level prospects. Sticking with the one-for-one format, though, he would be deserving of one of the Giants' top pitchers in an equal swap.
The Twins would probably start by asking for Tim Lincecum, but probably would not get far in those discussions.
Matt Cain could be a more realistic target, though. Cain is every bit as important to the Giants as Lincecum, but he lacks the gate-appeal and star power that Lincecum possesses.
Cain is as reliable and dominant of a pitcher as there is the majors and he was downright unhittable last postseason as the Giants advanced to become world champions.
The Giants have depth in the rotation, though, with Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner behind Lincecum. Barry Zito should return from the disabled list soon and Ryan Vogelsong has pitched well as Zito's replacement. Losing Cain would sting, but the Giants could absorb the loss with the added offense that Mauer would provide.
With the season-ending injury to backstop Buster Posey, the Giants need a catcher. Joe Mauer has had his own season shortened due to injuries, but will be back and likely productive much sooner than Posey.
If the Giants attempt to convince their young star to switch positions, they will need a long-term solution behind the plate. There are few, if any, better options behind the dish than Mauer.
Mauer at catcher, Posey at first and Brandon Belt in the outfield solves the Giants' lineup problems for a long time.
Mauer is expensive, at $23 million per year through 2018, but the Giants can afford to take on his contract.
Meanwhile, if the Twins do opt to rebuild, Cain is much more affordable at $7 million in 2011 and $15 million in 2012.
If the Twins were able to extend Cain beyond 2012, he could be the ace the Twins build their rotation around to compete in the AL Central.
Would Minnesota take a one-for-one swap for Mauer? Even if it were for a pitcher of Cain's caliber, I am not sure. On paper, at least, it makes sense, though.
It's hard to imagine two division rivals making a trade to help each other out, but the two teams do have pieces that the other needs.
The Mets could use more reliable starting pitching—something the Phillies have plenty of.
The Phillies could use another power bat in the outfield to replace the production lost when Jayson Werth signed with the Nationals.
The Mets would like to shed themselves of Carlos Beltran's giant contract this season. He would fit nicely into the Phillies lineup and help them improve their already favorable odds of winning the NL East division title.
Of the Phillies' four aces, Roy Oswalt has likely lost some confidence within the Phillies front office after his disappearing act earlier this season and the disabled list appearance that followed. (His reasons for leaving the team are respectable, if not down right honorable, but that matters little when your responsibility is to the other 24 men on the roster and the fans that support you).
The salary differences between Carlos Beltran and Roy Oswalt are minimal—Beltran makes just $2 million more than Oswalt this season.
If Jason Bay starts to heat up, then the Mets could afford to lose Beltran from their lineup and take the $2 million savings plus the rotation help.
That move alone is probably not enough to propel the Mets into contention in 2011, though, so the move seems less likely to be done from the Mets' standpoint than the Phillies'.
Since we're essentially dealing within the realm of fantasy right now, though, it does fill a need on both teams.
This is probably about as far-fetched as we can get, but hear me out.
The Dodgers likely will need to shed payroll if Frank McCourt is going to retain ownership of the franchise. Even in the event that Major League Baseball takes over the club from the McCourts, the team will likely wind up trading some of their higher-priced talent in exchange for younger players in a rebuild.
Prince Fielder does not represent younger or cheaper talent by any means, but he does offer the Dodgers arguably equal production as Matt Kemp for the remainder of 2011. Since he is a free agent at the end of the season, he also offers them some financial flexibility in the offseason while giving them a compensation pick in the 2012 draft.
The Brewers would instantly replace Fielder's offensive contributions, while strengthening their outfield in center field.
Kemp will remain under club control for the 2012 season, giving the Brewers time to explore an extension with him. Since he is represented by Dave Stewart—and not Scott Boras—an extension is more likely before he hits the open market.
The Dodgers are one of the clubs that would normally be in play for Prince Fielder, so if they fix their financial issues before the end of the season, they could look to re-sign him in the offseason and keep him in Los Angeles.
Okay, we are delving into the land of fantasy trades here, but stick with me for a minute.
Kendrys Morales is out again for the season and may or may not be able to return to be the player he was before his ankle injury. Mark Trumbo has performed nicely, but is he really the long-term answer at first base if Morales cannot return to his previous form?
The Angels have an abundance of starting pitching and can afford to part with one of their starters.
The St. Louis Cardinals likely do not want to trade the face of their franchise and—arguably—the best player in baseball. Pujols has 10-5 rights and can veto any trade, a stance he has vowed to take if presented with a trade this season.
An Angels-Cardinals trade, though, could be the perfect situation for both clubs.
The Cardinals had been rumored to have interest in their former pitcher, Dan Haren, prior to this season. Haren is still a top pitcher in the majors and would be a huge boost to the Cardinals rotation this season and beyond.
The Angels are likely going to target Pujols in the offseason and could free up some salary early in an attempt to sign the slugger.
The Angels could also seek to extend Pujols before the offseason and prevent him from reaching free agency.
In a down year for Pujols, the Cardinals would not exactly be losing out on the huge offensive force that he usually represents.
As my colleague here on Bleacher Report, "Albert Pujols to the L.A. Angels: Match Made in Heaven Without a Chance in Hell.", wrote back in February:
But hey, it's fun to speculate!