Win-Win Trade Ideas for MLB Teams Heading into the 2016 Season
With Opening Day rapidly approaching, MLB teams are beginning to scramble in an attempt to shore up whatever weak spots may exist on their respective rosters, with one eye on the waiver wire and the other on the trade market.
The idea that substantial trades can't take place this close to the start of the regular season is a bogus one. If there's a deal to be made that both teams feel good about, it can take place at any time. After all, it was only a year ago that the Atlanta Braves traded All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres, only hours before the first game of the regular season got underway.
Speaking of San Diego, the rebuilding-on-the-fly Padres factor significantly into the trade ideas we're about to delve into, dealing away a pair of high-profile players while taking one back in return (along with a handful of prospects).
But the Padres aren't the only team in position to pull off a win-win deal before Opening Day. Let's take a look at a handful of players who are in limbo with their current clubs and whose names have floated around the rumor mill and could wind up elsewhere over the next few days.
Keep in mind these proposed deals are only ideas and pure speculation. Unless otherwise noted, there's no indication that any of them has actually been discussed.
Kevin Quackenbush Gets Traded to the Mariners
San Diego Gets: LHP Jake Brentz
Seattle Gets: RHP Kevin Quackenbush
Sources tell The News Tribune's Bob Dutton that San Diego and Seattle have been discussing a potential trade revolving around three relievers: Jon Edwards, Kevin Quackenbush and Nick Vincent.
Why It Makes Sense for the Padres
San Diego would be selling low on Quackenbush, whose ERA rose by more than a run-and-a-half from 2.48 in 2014 to 4.01 last year, but moving a middle reliever for an intriguing starting pitching prospect is a deal the rebuilding Padres can afford to make.
Drafted as a left fielder by Toronto in the 11th round of the 2013 draft, Jake Brentz is still raw on the mound and finding his way as a pitcher. But his fastball consistently sits in the low 90s, touching 96 mph, and he has the makings of a quality breaking ball and changeup as well.
Years away from contributing, Brentz is a project. But he could develop into a quality mid-rotation arm, one that would make this deal look lopsided in San Diego's favor years down the road.
Why It Makes Sense for the Mariners
As previously noted, Quackenbush didn't have a great 2015. But his peripherals remained strong, and per Brooks Baseball, his velocity remained relatively unchanged. That indicates that he was more the victim of bad luck than bad pitching—and San Diego's porous defense certainly didn't help.
The 27-year-old boasts a career 3.28 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 113 relief appearances, with a healthy walk (3.0 BB/9) and strikeout (9.1 K/9) rates. With an improved Seattle defense behind him, it's not a stretch to think Quackenbush could return to his 2014 form.
Matt Joyce Gets Traded to the Orioles
Baltimore Gets: OF Matt Joyce
Pittsburgh Gets: A player to be named later and/or cash considerations
Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets that Baltimore has interest in veteran outfielder Matt Joyce, who has not yet been guaranteed a spot on Pittsburgh's Opening Day roster.
Why It Makes Sense for the Orioles
Matt Joyce was dreadful for the Los Angeles Angels in 2015, hitting only .174 with 18 extra-base hits (five home runs) and a .574 OPS, and he hasn't exactly set the world on fire this spring, hitting .219 (7-for-32), though his .813 OPS indicates there's at least some life left in his bat.
With Baltimore's left field situation still unsettled, Joyce could serve as a left-handed platoon partner for Rule 5 draft pick Joey Rickard, who appears a lock to break camp with the Orioles. A career .242 hitter, Joyce averaged 13 home runs and 47 RBI over parts of six seasons in Tampa Bay.
Why It Makes Sense for the Pirates
Getting something for a player the Pirates may be forced to release (or pay a $100,000 retention bonus so they can hang onto him until June 1) is a better scenario than getting nothing at all.
With Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco locked into starting spots, Joyce has no clear path to playing time with the Pirates.
James Shields and Pablo Sandoval Switch Coasts
Boston Gets: IF Yangervis Solarte and RHP James Shields
San Diego Gets: LHP Trey Ball, 3B Pablo Sandoval and $20 million
MLB Network's Jon Heyman was the first to report that Boston and San Diego had been discussing pitching, naming Shields as a logical target for the Red Sox. According to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, San Diego has scouts watching Sandoval closely in the last week of the exhibition season.
Why It Makes Sense for the Padres
San Diego isn't just going to swap bad contracts, even with Boston throwing in more than the salary difference between the two high-priced veterans.
The Padres need to get at least one young piece back in the deal, and they do in lefty Trey Ball, who has front-line starter upside but has struggled as a professional, pitching to a 4.76 ERA and 1.51 WHIP with an unimpressive rate 4.0 walks and 5.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
While there are legitimate questions about whether Pablo Sandoval can ever return to his pre-Boston form, the oft-maligned hefty switch-hitter is still in the prime of his career. A return to California, away from the pressure of playing in Boston, might be just what he needs to get back on track.
Sandoval has been so awful in a Red Sox uniform that it's easy to forget he's a career .288 hitter with a .791 OPS, one who has had success as a visitor to Petco Park. If he's able to come close to his career numbers, the Padres will have landed the impact corner infielder they need.
Why It Makes Sense for the Red Sox
Like Sandoval, James Shields found that switching leagues isn't for everyone. A return to the American League—specifically the American League East, where he spent the bulk of his career with Tampa Bay—could rejuvenate the 34-year-old.
Shields had one of the worst years of his career in 2015, but his 3.91 ERA and 1.33 WHIP weren't terrible. As durable a starter as you'll find, with nine consecutive 200-inning seasons under his belt, he'd give the Red Sox another workhorse atop the rotation alongside former teammate David Price.
Yangervis Solarte isn't a superstar by any stretch, but the 28-year-old has worked his way into a solid third baseman, one who could split time at the hot corner with Travis Shaw, who would also benefit from a deal that ships Sandoval elsewhere.
Jay Bruce Gets Traded to the Angels
Cincinnati Gets: OF Chad Hinshaw, RHP Kyle McGowin and a player to be named later
Los Angeles Gets: OF Jay Bruce and $8 million
Los Angeles' interest in Jay Bruce dates to last July, per Fox Sports' Jon Morosi, and Cincinnati is motivated to move the slugger.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Reds were prepared to pick up $8 million of Bruce's $12.5 million salary in a failed three-team deal between the Reds, Angels and Toronto earlier in the offseason.
Why It Works for the Angels
Bruce has looked healthy this spring, hitting .286 with six extra-base hits and nine RBI over 16 games, and he offers far more upside than either of Los Angeles' current left field options, Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava.
He will have to slide over to left field in Los Angeles, with Kole Calhoun having right field locked down, but the slugger, who is entering his age-29 season, brings some balance to the Angels lineup with his left-handed bat.
With a 2016 cost of only $4.5 million to the Angels, Bruce could prove to be a huge bargain—and with a $13 million team option for 2017, he could be more than a one-year rental for the Angels.
Why It Works for the Reds
Cincinnati clears Bruce's contract off its books and adds a pair of potentially useful youngsters for its rebuilding process.
Chad Hinshaw's game is built around contact, speed and defense. He has little to offer in the power department, but the 25-year-old has the skills to play all three outfield positions and, at the very least, brings value as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner.
Kyle McGowin, 24, attacks hitters down in the zone, inducing a fair number of ground balls in the process, which is a plus for a team that plays half its games in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark. He has the makings of a reliable innings-eater in the middle of the rotation.
Derek Norris Gets Traded to Texas
San Diego Gets: 1B Ronald Guzman, RHP Ariel Jurado, LHP Yohander Mendez and RHP Luis Ortiz
Texas Gets: C Derek Norris
Sources tell Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News that Texas continues to search for a new catcher before Opening Day, with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal adding the team thinks it "has an outside chance" of doing so. Grant names Detroit's Bryan Holaday and San Diego's Derek Norris as players the team has looked into acquiring.
Why It Makes Sense for the Padres
Moving Norris clears a path for Christian Bethancourt or Austin Hedges to take over behind the plate in San Diego and helps the Padres continue to restock their farm system. They add four quality prospects in this deal, including one in MLB.com's top 100, No. 73 Luis Ortiz.
Ortiz, 20, has a high floor (No. 3 starter) and even higher ceiling (front-of-the-rotation arm) with an easy, repeatable delivery that allows him to pound the strike zone with ease. He uses a three-pitch mix to keep batters off balance, including a mid-90s fastball that touches 97 mph and could eventually hit triple digits as he adds more strength to his frame.
Like Ortiz, both Ariel Jurado, 20 and Yohander Mendez, 21, have high floors, though their ceilings aren't quite as high. The pair has dominated batters in the lower levels of the minors and could reach Double-A before the end of 2016.
Ronald Guzman, 21, seemed to stall out in the low minors before tearing the cover off the ball this spring, hitting .500 (10-for-21) with four extra-base hits and 11 RBI in 12 exhibition games for the Rangers. A first baseman, he could eventually serve as a left-handed platoon partner for Wil Myers.
Why It Makes Sense for the Rangers
With all due respect to Robinson Chirinos, Norris would serve as a massive upgrade behind the plate in Texas. Not only is Norris four years younger than Chirinos, but he's a superior pitch-framer, per Baseball Prospectus, and was far more successful at controlling the opposition's running game.
A career .248/.325/.396 hitter, Norris has pop in his bat (14 home runs in 2015), is in the prime of his career (he's 27) and comes with three years of relatively inexpensive team control, as he's due only $2.925 million in 2016.
Hit me up on Twitter to talk the Hot Stove League and all things baseball: @RickWeinerBR.