Trades MLB Teams Should Already Be Thinking About for 2016
Though they're rare, trades in the first few weeks of an MLB season do occasionally take place. We need only look back to last season for evidence, as Atlanta traded All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to San Diego just a few games after Opening Day.
So it's never too early to start looking at potential swaps, even with the rumor mill still enjoying a lengthy nap after a hectic offseason. What follows is a look at five trades teams should be thinking about making in the not-so-distant future for a variety of reasons that we'll delve into.
Keep in mind that teams mentioned as potential landing spots and players mentioned as potential targets are just that: potential landing spots and potential targets. Unless otherwise noted, there's no indication that said players are currently being shopped or that trade discussions have taken place. It's pure speculation.
Cleveland Indians: Add at Least One Left-Handed Reliever
Don't count Ross Detwiler among those who believe three is the magic number.
The nine-year veteran has allowed three hits, three earned runs, walked three and—you guessed it—struck out three in 2.2 mostly ineffective innings of relief for Cleveland, leading to calls for the Indians to add another southpaw to the bullpen.
"[The Indians] have to find a quality lefty for the pen," tweeted former MLB.com scribe Bernie Pleskoff. "Can't go on [with] only one lefty. Games are on the line and Indians are short one lefty."
Detwiler, who hasn't pitched to a sub-4.00 regular-season ERA since 2012—and posted a combined 5.00 ERA from 2013 to 2015—beat out the likes of Tom Gorzelanny and Joe Thatcher for a roster spot this spring due in part to his experience as a starting pitcher, according to Cleveland.com's Paul Hoynes.
While Thatcher was released and recently signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gorzelanny remains in the organization, biding his time at Triple-A Columbus. But promoting Gorzelanny alone won't solve Cleveland's problem—the Indians need a second left-handed reliever other than Detwiler.
Ryan Buchter (SD), Brad Hand (SD), Marc Rzepczynski (OAK)
Atlanta Braves: Trade Nick Markakis
If you couldn't tell from his gaudy .333/.423/.533 triple-slash line, nine doubles and 12 RBI in a dozen games, Nick Markakis is in a completely different place, both in terms of health and productivity, than he was in 2015.
"He's healthy," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He's a different player. First day I saw him come in at spring training you could tell he was stronger. He's moving around great, arm strength looks a lot better than last year."
Entering his age-32 season, Markakis is still young enough to have a couple of years of quality baseball left in the tank, though he's past the age where he can be considered a cornerstone piece for a rebuilding Braves team.
That's why the Braves should make the most of his good health and hot start to the season by trading him as soon as possible. Giving him away isn't an option—Markakis has value, even with a contract that pays him $33 million though the 2018 season.
But if general manager John Coppolella can find a team willing to part with a pair of intriguing prospects to obtain the veteran right fielder, he should agree to a deal before his counterpart on the other end of the phone has a chance to change their mind.
Potential Landing Spots
Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals
Baltimore Orioles: Add an Innings-Eating Starter
The number one not only stands for Baltimore's place in the American League East standings, but also for the number of quality starts the Orioles have received from their rotation, which is the fewest in baseball.
The Orioles aren't getting any length out of their starters—only Miami's rotation has thrown fewer innings—and it's forcing manager Buck Showalter to lean on his bullpen early and often.
That kind of workload simply isn't sustainable over the course of a 162-game season, no matter how good a bullpen may be.
While the return of a healthy Kevin Gausman should help to bolster the rotation, injuries have always been an issue for the 25-year-old, who has never exceeded the 115-inning mark as a professional. Questions about his durability remain.
It's one of the reasons that, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman, the Orioles are among the teams expressing interest in veteran free agent Kyle Lohse. With the team's high-powered offense, it doesn't necessarily need to add a front-line starter, though doing so would obviously be ideal.
An established innings-eater who can keep things close is all the Orioles really need.
Andrew Cashner (SD), John Danks (CHW), Wily Peralta (MIL)
Milwaukee Brewers: Trade Jonathan Lucroy
Back in January, CBS Sports' Mike Axisa warned the Milwaukee Brewers that failing to trade former All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy before the season began would be a mistake.
"Teams right now want to buy low on Lucroy and acquire him for two full seasons," Axisa wrote. "If the Brewers wait until the deadline, they're only selling one-and-a-half seasons of Lucroy. Teams won't be willing to pay as much."
While Lucroy has stayed healthy through the early part of the regular season, a pedestrian .273 batting average, .637 OPS and lack of discernible power have done nothing to increase his value as a trade chip. That he's already gone on the record asking for a trade hasn't helped matters either.
"I want to win and I don't see us winning in the foreseeable future," Lucroy told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shortly after Axisa's advice came out. "I want to go to a World Series. That's what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy."
The longer the Brewers wait to trade him, the greater the chance he'll suffer an injury that would render him an immovable object. With a number of teams in need of upgrades behind the plate, Milwaukee would have no problem finding a willing trade partner before the calendar flips to May.
Potential Landing Spots
Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels: Trade for Jay Bruce
While Los Angeles has a number of needs, finding an everyday left fielder remains at or near the top of the list. Swinging a deal for Cincinnati's Jay Bruce would plug that hole and allow the Angels to focus on strengthening other areas of their roster that need attention.
"But Bruce is a right fielder," you say.
True, but the 29-year-old is capable of handling things in left field, and he'd represent a significant offensive upgrade over the team's current options, which include Ji-Man Choi, Craig Gentry, Rafael Ortega and the injured Daniel Nava.
His left-handed bat would also bring some balance to a lineup full of right-handed hitters.
As for the $12.5 million Bruce is due in 2016 and the $13 million team option on his deal for 2017, Angels owner Arte Moreno was adamant in a February interview with MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez that the team had the ability and flexibility to add payroll if necessary.
The Angels aren't bad enough to land a high draft pick in order to restock a fairly barren farm system, but they're not good enough to embark on a deep playoff run as presently constituted. Their ability to take on salary, which would relieve the rebuilding Reds of that burden, is their biggest trade chip.
It's one they shouldn't hesitate to play.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, and they are current through April 18. All contract information courtesy of Cot's Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus).
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