10 Big MLB Trades Teams Have to Pull the Trigger On

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJuly 20, 2012

10 Big MLB Trades Teams Have to Pull the Trigger On

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    'Tis the season for deadline trades in Major League Baseball, and you know what that means.

    Yup. It means 'tis also the season for baseball fans everywhere to wonder aloud, "Well, what if [Team X] traded [Player Y] to [Team Z] for [such and such and so and so]."

    Admit it, you've probably already done this once today.

    But hey, it's not just fans who are getting in on the fun. Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory put together a list of five NL trades that must happen for ESPN.com earlier this week. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs followed suit by putting together a list of five AL trades that must happen.

    Neither Szymborski nor Cameron shied away from throwing big names around in their hypothetical trade scenarios. They weren't afraid to be bold.

    Well, three can play at that game. Here's my own rundown of 10 big trades that need to happen ahead of MLB's July 31 trade deadline. 

    I look forward to hearing all of you tell me how nuts I am. Compliments are also welcome if you have them (not likely).

    Note: All stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Blue Jays Trade Yunel Escobar to A's

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    The Modest Proposal: Blue Jays Trade SS Yunel Escobar to A's for RHP Raul Alcantara and 1B/3B Miles Head.

    Why It Makes Sense for the A's

    The word from Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is that the A's are looking for a shortstop upgrade, and that comes as no surprise. A's shortstops are hitting .187/.249/.273 this season. 

    This is mostly Cliff Pennington's fault. He's a very good defensive shortstop, but he's hitting under .200 with a .541 OPS.

    In Escobar, the A's would be getting a shortstop who had an OPS near .800 in 2011 with an OBP of .369. He's struggling this season, but he would still represent a massive offensive upgrade for the A's at shortstop. To boot, he's under contract through 2013 with club options for 2014 and 2015.

    The A's wouldn't be losing much in Raul Alcantara. They have much better pitchers than him in their system, and it's in their interest to trade him now while Alcantara still has the look of a pitcher who could become something special if he harnesses his stuff.

    Head, meanwhile, is a hitter who isn't regarded as an elite prospect, but he certainly has power. Just like with Alcantara, it makes sense for the A's to part with Head now while he still has upside.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Blue Jays

    Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has reported that the Blue Jays want to deal Escobar, and for good reason.

    The Jays can't be happy with Escobar's regression this season, and you get the sense that he's worn out his welcome in Toronto much like he wore out his welcome in Atlanta. Dealing him would relieve some tension both in the clubhouse and in the front office.

    Plus, it would open the door for Adeiny Hechavarria to be moved up from Triple-A to the big leagues. He's currently hitting .315 with an OPS over .800, and Rosenthal noted in his report that the Jays think he's ready.

    In Alcantara and Head, the Jays would be getting two young prospects who could be ready to break into the big leagues around 2015. The Jays should be a major players in the AL East by then.

Mariners Trade Jason Vargas to Cardinals

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    The Modest Proposal: Mariners trade SP Jason Vargas to Cardinals for 1B/3B Matt Carpenter and OF Adron Chambers.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Cardinals

    The Cardinals need to upgrade their starting rotation. Chris Carpenter will not be walking through that door any time soon, and Jaime Garcia isn't due back until August. Even when he does return, help will still be needed.

    The Cards have the prospects to go after pitchers like Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke, but they're not going to do that. They'll settle for a lesser pitcher, and Jason Vargas is a great fit for them. 

    Vargas does not have overpowering stuff. He succeeds by locating and changing speeds. He's a boring pitcher, but that shouldn't deter the Cardinals. Their pitchers tend to be on the boring side.

    Giving up Carpenter for Vargas isn't ideal, as he provides valuable depth at the corners. But with David Freese locked in at third and Allen Craig and Lance Berkman available to play first, they can afford to part with Carpenter.

    As for Chambers, he'd basically be a throw-in. He projects as nothing more than a fourth outfielder in St. Louis.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Mariners

    Jon Paul Morosi noted recently that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik thinks highly of Vargas, calling him "Mr. Consistency."

    But he's in no position to demand an arm and a leg for Vargas. He's a solid major league pitcher who is capable of eating a ton of innings, but his success this season has a lot to do with his work at Safeco Field. Away from home, he's at best an average pitcher.

    The Mariners should take what they can get for Vargas. The key piece for them in this deal would be Carpenter, who they could use in a platoon scenario at first base with the underwhelming Justin Smoak. Eventually, they could cut ties with Smoak and just go with Carpenter at first.

    Chambers, meanwhile, is a guy they could throw into their outfield rotation immediately.

Royals Trade Jonathan Broxton to the Mets

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    The Modest Proposal: Royals trade RHP Jonathan Broxton to the Mets for RHP Michael Fulmer.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Mets

    Have you seen the Mets' bullpen?

    It's atrocious. The Mets' bullpen has blown 16 saves and racked up 19 losses this season. The Mets have lost quite a few games this season that they should have won, all thanks to their bullpen.

    The Mets could stand to upgrade their middle relief options, but their primary need is for a true closer. To this end, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com has reported that the Mets have their eyes on Jonathan Broxton.

    Broxton doesn't have the same stuff that he used to, but he's developed as a pitcher this season. He's shown that he doesn't need to blow hitters away with hard stuff in order to get them out.

    He can still throw hard, though. Per FanGraphs, Broxton's fastball is checking in right around 95 miles per hour this season.

    In Fulmer, the Mets would be giving up a pitcher with killer velocity and a killer slider, but he has a long way to go before he's ready for the big leagues.

    Why it Makes Sense for the Royals

    Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com has reported that Broxton has expressed "some interest" in staying with the Royals beyond this season. There's a chance the Royals could hold on to him and try to re-sign him.

    Or they could realize that Broxton is a valuable trade chip who can be used to boost the team's rebuilding process.

    The Royals have good young hitters coming along, but they need some young arms if they want to be ready to contend in a couple of years. Fulmer should appeal to them because of his nasty raw stuff. If he develops some quality offspeed stuff, he could end up being a solid No. 2 starter by 2015.

    As it is, Fulmer is already opening eyes. He has a 2.67 ERA in 15 Single-A starts, with 72 strikeouts in 81 innings pitched.

Shane Victorino to the Yankees

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    The Modest Proposal: Phillies trade OF Shane Victorino to the Yankees for OF Ravel Santana and RHP Mark Montgomery.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Yankees

    The word from the Associated Press is that Brett Gardner is going to have surgery on his right elbow, most likely ending his season.

    There goes that plan. The question for the Yankees now is whether they want to stick with the Andruw Jones/Raul Ibanez tandem in left field or make a deal for a younger outfielder with more athleticism.

    According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have considered Victorino. He's a perfect fit for them because of how much he would improve their outfield defense, which could certainly use a boost. And though he's having a down season at the plate, Victorino would bring some much-needed versatility to the Yankees' homer-happy batting order.

    In Santana and Montgomery, the Yankees would be parting with a talented young outfielder who still needs a lot of development and a pitcher who is on track to be a reliever. A pretty good pair of prospects, to be sure, but the Yankees have much better youngsters down on their farm.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Phillies

    Victorino is due to be a free agent at the end of the season, and the Phillies don't seem very interested in keeping him. In fact, Heyman wrote a couple weeks ago that Victorino will "almost assuredly" end up signing somewhere else this offseason if he isn't traded.

    The Phillies could hold on to Victorino in hopes that he'll get hot and help them rescue their doomed season, but that's not happening. The Phillies are out of it.

    If the Phillies deal Victorino for Santana and Montgomery, they'll be making a deal that could end up being a steal for them in the long run. Though Santana needs time to develop, he could be a potential 20/20 guy down the road. Montgomery is a guy the Phillies could plug into their bullpen as soon as this season.

Twins Trade Francisco Liriano to Nationals

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    The Modest Proposal: Twins trade SP Francisco Liriano to Nationals for LHP John Lannan and RHP Alex Meyer.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Nationals

    The Nationals have the best starting pitching staff in the major leagues, but everyone knows that their best starter isn't going to be around in a couple of weeks.

    Nats GM Mike Rizzo told ESPN this week that Stephen Strasburg is going to be shut down eventually. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. And when he is shut down, he'll be shut down for good. The postseason is out of the question.

    With the Nats primed to make a deep run into the postseason, Rizzo knows that it's in his interest to acquire a starting pitcher at the deadline. The word from 1500ESPN.com is that Liriano is one of the pitchers Rizzo has scouted, and he makes sense for the Nats for a couple key reasons.

    Most importantly, Liriano won't cost as much as pitchers like Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke. He's been just as good as either of them lately, though, as Liriano has a 2.84 ERA over his last 10 starts. He's keeping his stuff down in the zone more consistently. A move over to the NL could make him even more lethal.

    Parting with Lannan won't hurt. He's been expendable for months now. Parting with Meyer will hurt a little more, as he's a talented pitcher with outstanding stuff. But if the Nats are going to go for it this season, that's exactly the kind of sacrifice they're going to have to make.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Twins

    The Twins know that they need to rebuild, and they know that Liriano is easily their most valuable trade chip. Since he's a free agent at the end of the season, it makes little sense for the Twins to hold on to him.

    According to Scott Miller of CBSSports.com, the Twins are only giving Liriano up for pitching. This proposed deal with the Nats is perfect for them.

    Lannan is a guy the Twins could plug into their rotation right away. He's been toiling in the minors all season, but he has plenty of major league experience under his belt. 

    Meyer would be the real prize, though. He has nasty stuff. All he needs is a little development time. By 2014, he could be ready to do work at the top of Minnesota's starting rotation.

Phillies Trade Jimmy Rollins to Dodgers

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    The Modest Proposal: Phillies trade SS Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers for RHP Allen Webster.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Dodgers

    Dee Gordon wasn't getting it done at shortstop for the Dodgers when he was healthy, as he posted an ugly line of .229/.280/.282 in 78 games.

    Gordon is currently on the disabled list recovering from a thumb injury. He's not due back until late August.

    Danny Knobler was the first to report that they have Jimmy Rollins on their radar. Jon Heyman has also reported that the Dodgers have Rollins on their radar, along with several other notable hitters.

    Rollins is not the player he once was, but he's quietly picked it up at the plate over the last month and a half. In his last 41 games, Rollins has hit .281 with an .883 OPS.

    Webster is one of the Dodgers' top pitching prospects, but they can afford to part with him if it means getting a hitter like Rollins. They can also afford Rollins' contract, a reality that will give them some wiggle room in trade talks with the Phillies.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Phillies

    The Phillies signed Rollins to a three-year contract worth $33 million this past offseason, which looked like a risky play at the time. That's a lot of money to commit to an aging player whose best days are behind him.

    But Rollins still has value on the trade market. That may not be true this time next season, so it makes sense for the Phillies to deal him while they still can.

    The best part about this trade with the Dodgers is that it would allow the Phillies to rid themselves of Rollins' contract. If they were to eat some of his deal, they'd be able to demand more than just Webster in return. If they can jettison all of Rollins' contract, though, they'd be fools to pass up the opportunity to do so.

    Besides, Webster would be a good get. He's nothing special as a pitcher, but he's a strike-thrower who could develop into a solid No. 3 starter down the road.

Cubs Trade Matt Garza and Darwin Barney to the Tigers

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    The Modest Proposal: Cubs trade SP Matt Garza and 2B Darwin Barney to the Tigers for 3B Nick Castellanos, LHP Drew Smyly and RHP Bruce Rondon.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Tigers

    The Tigers know they have a legit No. 1 in Justin Verlander. As they look ahead to the postseason, however, the question is who their No. 2 starter will be. 

    Doug Fister and Max Scherzer have both looked more like No. 3 starters this season, at best. Instead of standing pat with them, the Tigers should go out and get a talented pitcher they could use as a No. 2 behind Verlander.

    Garza would be perfect, and the word from Bob Nightengale of USA Today is that the Tigers "would love" to have him. The fact that he's under club control through next season only makes him more appealing.

    According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, the Tigers are also interested in Barney, which is no surprise given how problematic second base has been for them this season.

    Nightengale has tweeted that Castellanos is unavailable in trade talks, but the Tigers should consider giving him up if it means adding both a starting pitcher and a second baseman (especially an excellent defensive second baseman like Barney). 

    They'd have to give the Cubs some young pitching in order to complete the deal. Smyly can go because he's a better fit for the NL than he is for the AL, and Rondon can go too because he's a couple years away from being ready. The Tigers are trying to win now.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Cubs

    There has been talk of the Cubs possibly re-signing Garza to a long-term extension, but dealing him now while his value is still high is a better idea.

    Levine noted in his report that the Cubs are looking to get young pitching in return for Garza, and that a young third baseman would be a bonus. In Castellanos, they'd be getting one of the top third base prospects in baseball.

    In Smyly, the Cubs would be getting a solid lefty who could be a No. 3 starter in the National League. In Rondon, they'd be getting a big right-hander with closer-quality stuff. 

    In all, a pretty impressive haul for the Cubs. 

Marlins Trade Josh Johnson to the Angels

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    The Modest Proposal: Marlins trade SP Josh Johnson and LHP Randy Choate to the Angels for CF Peter Bourjos, SP Ervin Santana, RHP Ariel Pena and 2B Taylor Lindsey.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Angels

    The Angels have been linked to virtually every big-name starting pitcher on the market, including Hamels, Greinke and Liriano.

    And it's not hard to see why. The Angels have two dependable starters in Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, but all bets are off beyond them. Santana has been a nightmare this season, and Dan Haren is on the disabled list with a bad back. The Angels have no way of knowing if Haren will go back to being his old self once he is activated.

    Johnson makes sense for the Angels, and the word from ESPN's Buster Olney is that Johnson will be available if the Marlins decide to sell at the deadline. Johnson has been just OK this season, but he's one of baseball's best starters when he's in a groove. For example, he compiled a 2.47 ERA in 10 starts between early May and late June this year.

    The deal I'm proposing is a big one, but it's a deal the Angels can afford to make. They don't need Bourjos, so dealing him while his value is still high is a no-brainer. They should jump at a chance to get rid of Santana, who has become a total albatross. Pena and Lindsey are both solid prospects, but neither of them is going to help the Angels this season or next season.

    In return, the Angels would be getting an above-average starting pitcher who's under control through next season and an extra lefty for their bullpen.

    Why it Makes Sense for the Marlins

    The Marlins added a lot of girth to their payroll this past offseason, and their roster features quite a few big-name players, but they're a club that has a lot of needs.

    One of the more overlooked needs in Miami is in center field. The Marlins do not have a true center fielder. In particular, they could use a defensive stud who could cover ground in Marlins Park's spacious outfield. Bourjos is just the kind of guy they're looking for.

    In Santana, the Marlins would be getting a pitcher who could benefit from a change of scenery, and he has a team option for 2013 that they could pick up. He could end up being a steal for them, as his struggles this season have nothing to do with his stuff. It's still very good.

    In Pena and Lindsey, the Marlins would be getting a right-hander with a powerful arm and a second baseman who projects as a dependable .300 hitter.

Brewers Trade Zack Greinke to the Braves

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    The Modest Proposal: Brewers trade SP Zack Greinke to Braves for SS Tyler Pastornicky, LHP Sean Gilmartin, RHP J.R. Graham and 1B Joey Terdoslavich.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Braves

    The Braves have a quality team, but it's clear now that they need to go out and find an ace starting pitcher if they want to do anything of note in the postseason. This was true even before Brandon Beachy was lost for the season.

    The Braves have been linked to Zack Greinke for weeks, and it was just a couple days ago that Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweeted that the Braves are still interested in Greinke.

    Greinke's 3.57 ERA is hardly befitting of an ace pitcher, but it's worth noting that he has a FIP of 2.55, according to FanGraphs. That ranks him third among major league pitchers.

    The Braves would have to part with a lot in order to get Greinke. In this scenario, they'd be giving up a prized shortstop prospect, a solid lefty pitching prospect, a righty with filthy natural stuff and a first base prospect with tons of power.

    Frank Wren has a reputation of being stingy with his prospects. But if he realizes just how far his team could go in the postseason with a pitcher like Greinke, this is a deal he'd have to consider making.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Brewers

    There's been a lot of buzz about the Brewers choosing to hold on to Greinke instead of trading him at the deadline. In fact, Jon Heyman reported on Friday that the Brewers have gone so far as to offer him a five-year deal worth $100 million.

    Greinke obviously hasn't accepted that offer yet, and Heyman says that all signs point towards him testing the free-agent waters when the season is over. Apparently, Greinke thinks he can do better.

    If the Brewers are getting these same vibes, choosing to hold on to Greinke would be stubborn and just plain foolish. They need to accept that they're not getting back into the playoff hunt and that they could get a ton of talent in exchange for Greinke in a trade.

    In this deal, the Brewers would be getting a major league-ready shortstop prospect, two high-floor pitchers and a switch-hitting corner infield prospect with as much pop as any hitter in the minors.

    They could use young players like these, and the only way to get them is by dealing Greinke.

Phillies Trade Cliff Lee to the Rangers

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    The Modest Proposal: Phillies trade SP Cliff Lee and LHP Antonio Bastardo to the Rangers for 3B Mike Olt, LHP Robbie Ross, OF Leonys Martin and RHP Cody Buckel.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Rangers

    Yup, you're reading this correctly. Not Cole Hamels. Cliff Lee.

    It's not entirely out of the question, and that has everything to do with Hamels. ESPN's Jayson Stark has reported that the Phillies are making a "major push" to re-sign Hamels before the trade deadline. They're prepared to offer him a six-year deal worth Matt Cain-esque money ($127.5 million).

    If the Phillies do re-sign Hamels, the Rangers will have to cross one of their top starting pitching targets off of their wish list. They could, however, then just turn their attention to Lee.

    Danny Knobler has reported that the Rangers are very much open to the idea of reuniting with Lee, whom they traded for at the deadline back in 2010. They still like him, and they can afford to take on what's left of his massive contract.

    The Rangers would absolutely have to give up Olt in order to do this deal. That's something they don't want to do, according to Ken Rosenthal, but surrendering him would be well worth it in this deal because Lee wouldn't be a rental. He's under contract through 2015 with a vesting option for 2016.

    The Rangers would have go give up more than Olt, though. Ross can go because his value has been boosted by his incredible performance out of Texas' bullpen this season. Martin is the team's top outfield prospect, but they can afford to part with him because he's a couple of years away from being an impact player. Buckel is a solid pitching prospect, but he doesn't project as an ace. The Rangers wouldn't miss him.

    I doubt the Rangers would part with this much talent to get Hamels as a rental. But for Lee, it would be well worth it for them to pull the trigger.

    Why It Makes Sense for the Phillies

    If the Phillies do end up re-signing Hamels, their payroll is going to go through the roof. Jettisoning payroll will immediately become a top priority.

    As Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested in June, parting with Lee wouldn't necessarily kill Philly's ability to contend in 2013. They'll have Hamels if they re-sign him, not to mention a healthy Roy Halladay, a healthy Chase Utley and a healthy Ryan Howard. With a few offseason pickups, the Phillies could easily put themselves in a position to contend in 2013.

    But they'll need payroll flexibility, and trading Lee is the best way for them to gain it. Trading him is also a much better way to accumulate young talent than trading a rental player like Hamels.

    The talent that the Phillies would be getting back in this deal is significant. Olt could be the team's Opening Day third baseman in 2013, Ross could be used either as a starter or a reliever, Martin could be in the team's outfield mix and they'd be free to develop Buckel.

    Everybody wins.

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