MLB Trade Ideas Based on the Latest News, Rumors and Speculation

Matthew Smith@@MatthewSmithBRCorrespondent IIIDecember 30, 2014

MLB Trade Ideas Based on the Latest News, Rumors and Speculation

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    Ben Zobrist's name has been a fixture on the rumor mill for some time.
    Ben Zobrist's name has been a fixture on the rumor mill for some time.Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    General managers around MLB have reached the point where the available free agents are largely unimpressive, forcing them to focus on trades as a means to improve their rosters.

    Sure, Max Scherzer and James Shields are still on the open market, but other than them, Nori Aoki is largely all that’s left in the way of impact players. Nothing against either of them, of course, but the fact of the matter is that swinging a trade is an attractive alternative for many clubs.

    Here are three MLB scenarios based on actual need and published rumors from the last week. 

    The following proposals are nothing more than speculation. The point here is to build a trade based on someone else's written or spoken word.

    They are balanced deals that are fair for each team, taking into consideration each franchise's strengths and weaknesses. They are also independent of one another. Each trade presented is a singular move and does not take into account any of the other proposals put forward.

Baltimore Orioles Acquire Will Venable from San Diego Padres

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Baltimore Orioles Get: OF Will Venable

    San Diego Padres Get: RHP Mike Wright

    Overview

    Whether through trade or free agency, the Baltimore Orioles are going to add an outfielder.

    On the trade front, the club has interest in both Seth Smith and Will Venable from the San Diego Padres, per The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina. We’ll go with Venable here for three reasons.

    First off, he is fast, swiping as many as 29 bags in a season, and has never been caught more than seven times in any one campaign. Considering that the Orioles just waived Quintin Berry after claiming Ryan Lavarnway, that speed will come in handy.

    Second, 2011 and 2014 are the only two seasons of Venable’s career when he has not finished with an OPS+ over 100, and in 2013 his OPS+ was 126. That means that just two years ago, the left-handed hitter was 26 percent better than the average outfielder.

    Finally, Venable can play all three positions in the outfield. True, he's logged only 52 games in left field over his career, but the ability is still there. And we all know how much manager Buck Showalter loves versatility.

    The cost to acquire him likely won’t be prohibitive, either.

    Sure, Encina wrote that the Padres asked about Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the initial conversation, but as he correctly added, the Orioles will hold the negotiating advantage if they wait out the Padres for a month or so. Simply put, general manager A.J. Preller will have to move one of them just to clear a roster spot.

    That makes a guy like Mike Wright (5-11, 4.61 ERA, 1.402 WHIP at Triple-A Norfolk) an ideal fit.

    He is a large body on the mound and has a plus fastball, but his secondary offerings leave a bit to be desired. And while MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo notes the Orioles think he can develop into a “workhorse starter,” others feel a spot in the bullpen is in his future.

    Either way, Wright is a fine enough prospect to warrant moving Venable, but not so highly touted that the Orioles would be leveraging their future.

San Francisco Giants Acquire Ben Zobrist from Tampa Bay Rays

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    USA TODAY Sports

    San Francisco Giants Get: OF/IF Ben Zobrist

    Tampa Bay Rays Get: C Andrew Susac, LHP Steven Okert, 2B/SS Christian Arroyo

    Overview

    According to Peter Gammons, “several” baseball executives “think the [San Francisco] Giants are going to trade prospects for Ben Zobrist” to add some versatility and offense. And per HardballTalk.com’s Bill Baer, the club “would likely put him in left field ahead of Gregor Blanco.”

    To be sure, the idea isn’t a new one. FanGraphs’ Eno Sarris noted that Zobrist’s name “did come up [at the winter meetings] in San Diego when talking Giants, more than once.”

    So with the veracity of the interest firmly in place, what type of package would be required to pry Zobrist away from the Tampa Bay Rays?

    Well it would have to be significantly greater than the collection of players the Chicago White Sox sent to the Oakland A’s as part of the deal for Jeff Samardzija. After all, Zobrist has been worth a minimum of 5.4 fWAR (FanGraphs' version of wins above replacement) in each of the last four seasons.

    How about a proposal that includes Andrew Susac, Steven Okert and Christian Arroyo?

    Susac is a high-ceiling catcher who uses plus power "to drive the ball to all areas of the park,” per MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. He slashed out at .273/.326/.466 over the course of 95 plate appearances this past season and is the main piece the Rays will be going after.

    Okert is a reliever who regularly reaches the mid-90s with his fastball and has a fine slider. He is best used as a left-handed specialist at the moment but has the tools to develop into something greater. In 57 appearances across two levels this past season, he pitched to a 2.11 ERA and 1.156 WHIP while averaging 12.1 strikeouts every nine innings.

    Arroyo is a middle infielder who flashed .469 slugging at Low-A Salem-Keizer before earning a promotion to Double-A. He played shortstop at the higher level but will likely end up as a second baseman in the major leagues. It will take him a couple of years to make an impact, but the wait could be worth it.

    True, this is a large package, but Zobrist is an elite talent. His acquisition would give manager Bruce Bochy the versatility to make another run at a World Series. 

    Finally, Asdrubal Cabrera reached agreement on a one-year deal with the Rays on Tuesday, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. How the move impacts Zobrist is unknown, but at the very least, it has to add legitimacy to the idea that his days in Tampa Bay are numbered.

Toronto Blue Jays Get Tyler Clippard from Washington Nationals

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Blue Jays Get: RHP Tyler Clippard

    Washington Nationals Get: C Dioner Navarro and a player to be named later

    Overview

    It is no secret that the Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a closer. Multiple people have reported the rumor, including CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

    It is also common knowledge that the Washington Nationals are interested in moving right-hander Tyler Clippard.

    Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, for example, cited a source who said that general manager Mike Rizzo is “likely” to move the veteran. Rizzo went so far as to say “we’ll listen to any deal for any player we got,” adding that if a move “increases productivity and helps the ballclub, we’re all in,” per James Wagner of The Washington Post.

    With that in mind, a trade involving Dioner Navarro and a player to be named later for Clippard should satisfy both parties.

    Navarro certainly makes the Nationals a better club. In his first season with more than 400 at-bats since 2009, the switch-hitter put up a .274/.317/.395 slash line with 22 doubles and 69 RBI. Production like that will improve a Nationals club that has only one catcher capable of making a legitimate impact—Wilson Ramos.

    Unfortunately for the Nationals, Ramos struggled against right-handers last season when healthy, posting a .249/.285/.375 slash line. Navarro on the other hand, slashed out at .272/.315/.393 against righties. Another thing to keep in mind is that Ramos has missed extensive time in each of the past three seasons, meaning that Navarro provides experience and productive depth.

    Defensively, there is no comparison as Ramos is a superior backstop, but the offense that Navarro provides as part of a platoon with Ramos would certainly help manager Matt Williams.

    And while Navarro has legitimate value on the Blue Jays, he is also a luxury following the addition of Russell Martin via free agency. Simply put, general manager Alex Anthopoulos would be wise to leverage his splits to fill an area of need.

    In Clippard, the Blue Jays are getting one of better relievers over the past five years. Over that stretch, he’s compiled a 2.63 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 1.014 WHIP and has averaged 10.4 strikeouts every nine innings while appearing in at least 70 games per season. He also converted on 32 of 37 save opportunities in 2012, so he has experience handling the ninth inning.

    And it is because of that dominance that the Blue Jays will have to send over another piece to complete the trade. Guys like Mitch Nay and Sean Reid-Foley, among others, are sure to be mentioned.

    To be sure, this deal depends on how badly Rizzo wants to unload Clippard’s contract. As Rosenthal noted, however, he is set to earn between $8 million and $9 million in his final year of arbitration, and the club is deep in right-handed relief. That could be all the impetus Rizzo needs.

    Unless otherwise noted, all traditional, team and advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com. Contract information is from Cot's Contracts. Transaction, injury and game information are courtesy of MLB.com.

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