Win-Win Prospect Packages for Top MLB Trade Targets Left on the Market
The MLB offseason has already given trade hounds plenty to chew on.
Much of the action has come courtesy of the Chicago White Sox, who shipped ace lefty Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox and outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals.
Many top targets remain on the board, however, and with the free-agent pool getting shallower, we can expect a few more seismic swaps before winter's end.
With that in mind, let's examine six players whose names have floated through the rumor mill and put together hypothetical win-win prospect packages for each.
Some of what follows is based on confirmed reports, some is pure speculation. All the players listed, however, have been the subject of credible trade chatter and would shift the balance of power if moved.
One notable omission: Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who seems increasingly likely to stay put for the time being, with FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reporting the Bucs have rejected at least one "nice offer" of prospects and are demanding "MLB now or MLB ready" talent.
Washington Nationals and Chicago White Sox
Washington Nationals Get: RHP David Robertson
Chicago White Sox Get: OF Andrew Stevenson, C Pedro Severino
The Nationals have been chasing a closer all winter to no avail.
Incumbent Mark Melancon signed with the San Francisco Giants. Washington came up short in an 11th-hour push to get Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.
The Nats then pursued Kenley Jansen, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, only to see him re-up with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now, Washington may be training its sights on White Sox right-hander David Robertson.
Now, with their options dwindling, they can try to snag Robertson for a fairer price.
Robertson is a notch below the Jansens and Melancons of the world, but he's saved 110 games since becoming a full-time closer in 2014. Last season, he posted a 3.47 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 62.1 innings. There's no question he'd upgrade the back end of the Nationals pen.
The 31-year-old is signed for a combined $25 million through 2018, so he'd be more than a one-year rental.
To land him, Washington could dangle 23-year-old catcher Pedro Severino, who grades out as one of the top defensive backstops in the minors. Severino doesn't hit for much, if any, power, but he hit .321 in 16 big league games last season and fills a glaring hole on the White Sox's depth chart.
Outfielder Andrew Stevenson, the Nats' No. 5 prospect, according to MLB.com, also possesses a plus glove and stole 39 bases last season between Single-A and Double-A.
Washington should resist any pressure to include outfielder Victor Robles or right-hander Erick Fedde, baseball's No. 10 and No. 75 prospects, respectively, per MLB.com. If that's where Chicago's demands begin and end, forget it.
If Chicago is willing to roll on a couple of less touted but high-upside position players, the two sides could match up again.
San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers
San Francisco Giants Get: OF J.D. Martinez
Detroit Tigers Get: RHP Tyler Beede, 1B Chris Shaw
It's possible the Giants are simply out of money after giving four years and $62 million to Melancon. That's what general manager Bobby Evans recently indicated.
"I don't think there's anything more to ask of ownership," Evans said, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's more what I can do with what we have."
If that's the bottom line and not merely leverage-inducing spin, San Francisco will fill its hole in left field with the untested duo of Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker.
If, on the other hand, the Giants find some spare millions in the couch cushions, they should make a play for the Detroit Tigers' J.D. Martinez.
That's not a new idea. The Giants have been linked to Martinez all winter, including in a Dec. 2 dispatch by Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan.
The 29-year-old posted a .307/.373/.535 slash line with 22 home runs last season after a 38-homer, 102-RBI campaign in 2015.
His defense in right field took a huge dive, with his ultimate zone rating plummeting from 7.7 to minus-17.2, per FanGraphs.
That could be an anomalous blip rather than a harbinger of doom given Martinez's age. And the Giants have Hunter Pence to patrol the difficult right field dimensions of AT&T Park.
Martinez has one year and $11.75 million left on his deal, but the Tigers will demand a significant haul.
The Giants' farm system isn't loaded with blue chips, and they should hang on to infielder and organizational No. 1 prospect Christian Arroyo.
Tyler Beede, the No. 98 prospect in baseball, could serve as an interesting centerpiece. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 2.81 ERA in 147.1 innings at Double-A and has developed an effective sinking fastball.
Chris Shaw, another 23-year-old who checks in as San Francisco's No. 3 prospect, clubbed 21 home runs between High-A and Double-A and would add an intriguing power bat to a depleted Detroit farm system Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked No. 25 in the game.
Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers
Los Angeles Dodgers Get: OF Ryan Braun
Milwaukee Brewers Get: 2B Willie Calhoun, C Will Smith
So much for the Dodgers being on a tight budget.
Despite a report from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that the Dodgers were under pressure to cut payroll and rein in their debt, the club added about $200 million in future commitments to bring back left-hander Rich Hill, Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner.
L.A. still has holes to fill, however, including in the outfield.
Joc Pederson is ensconced in center field. At the corners, the Dodgers are counting on an uncertain melange of Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Andre Ethier and Trayce Thompson.
There's quality among the quantity. The Dodgers, though, aren't merely seeking to contend. They want to bust their 28-years-and-counting championship drought.
That brings us to Ryan Braun. If Braun-to-L.A. sounds familiar, it's because Los Angeles came close to swapping Braun for Puig at the 2016 trade deadline, per USA Today's Nightengale.
That deal probably won't be resuscitated, but the Dodgers could explore other avenues to acquire the Milwaukee Brewers slugger.
Braun hit .305 last season with a .903 OPS, his highest totals in both categories since 2012, when he finished second in National League MVP voting. Add 30 home runs and 91 RBI, and you're looking at a bat that could join Turner, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and reigning NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager to form a stout middle of the order.
The 33-year-old Braun is owed $20 million in 2017, $20 million in 2018, $19 million in 2019, $17 million in 2020 and a $15 million mutual option in 2021 with a $4 million buyout.
That's a pile of cash, but the Dodgers just proved they can absorb it. They're in a win-now window with ace Clayton Kershaw in his prime.
Braun won't be a pure money dump. But if the Dodgers take on his full salary, or most of it, they should be able to keep top prospects such as outfielder Cody Bellinger and right-hander Jose De Leon.
Instead, a package of power-hitting second baseman Willie Calhoun (the game's No. 87 prospect) and athletic, 21-year-old catcher Will Smith would boost the Crew's rebuild while freeing up resources.
Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays
Atlanta Braves Get: RHP Chris Archer
Tampa Bay Rays Get: INF Ozzie Albies, LHP Sean Newcomb, RHP Ian Anderson
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are seeking a package bigger than the one the White Sox got for Sale in exchange for ace right-hander Chris Archer.
That's a titanic ask, especially considering Archer posted a 9-19 record and 4.02 ERA in 2016.
Still, Archer is an elite arm. The 28-year-old eclipsed 200 strikeouts and 200 innings for the second consecutive season. He put up a 3.25 ERA after the All-Star break, and he's locked into an incredibly affordable contract that can extend through 2021 with a pair of team options.
He's a bargain franchise hurler, in other words, and the Rays are right to price him accordingly.
If Tampa Bay demands shortstop Dansby Swanson, the Braves' No. 1 prospect, Atlanta should turn tail.
The Braves, though, can dangle 19-year-old Ozzie Albies, also a shortstop and the game's No. 12 prospect. Albies could slot in as a second baseman, but he's at least partially blocked by Swanson, which makes losing him palatable.
Sean Newcomb, baseball's No. 6 left-handed prospect, has battled control issues but has top-of-the-rotation upside.
Right-hander Ian Anderson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2016, adds another arm with front-line potential.
The Rays would get a middle infielder of the future and two strong young pitchers. Atlanta would get a bona fide ace as it moves into its shiny new stadium.
Tampa Bay isn't wrong to ask for the moon and a few spare stars for a pitcher with Archer's ability and track record. But the Rays have to be careful, as Topkin noted, not to "stubbornly price themselves out of the market and miss out on an opportunity."
Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox
Colorado Rockies Get: LHP Jose Quintana
Chicago White Sox Get: INF Brendan Rodgers, RHP Jeff Hoffman, LHP Kyle Freeland
I've already made the case for White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana as the offseason's most underappreciated ace. Here, I'll go ahead and quote myself:
Between 2013 and 2016, Quintana's 18.1 WAR ranked seventh among pitchers by FanGraphs' measure. He's sandwiched between Jon Lester (18.4) and Madison Bumgarner (18.0), a couple of southpaws you may have heard of.
Quintana has eclipsed 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. Last season, he posted a career-low 3.20 ERA and finished 10th in American League Cy Young Award balloting.
A deal between the White Sox and Houston Astros for Quintana reportedly fell through after Chicago demanded right-hander Francis Martes and outfielder Kyle Tucker, Houston's top two prospects, plus MLB-ready right-hander Joe Musgrove, per baseball insider Peter Gammons.
The 'Stros apparently balked, which opens the door for another suitor to swoop in.
Like, say, the Colorado Rockies. With an enviable offensive core augmented by the signing of Ian Desmond and an emerging starting rotation anchored by Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson, these Rox are for real.
Adding Quintana would solidify Colorado's status as a sleeper contender in the NL West.
To approximate the package the White Sox wanted from Houston, Colorado could begin with shortstop Brendan Rodgers, the No. 6 prospect in baseball. After all, Colorado has Trevor Story, who hit 27 home runs as a rookie last season, to fill the positional void.
Jeff Hoffman, a 23-year-old right-hander and the Rockies' No. 2 prospect, teases triple digits with his fastball and profiles as a potential No. 1 starter. Kyle Freeland, the eighth overall pick in 2014, is an MLB-ready arm comparable to Musgrove.
Losing Rodgers would sting for Colorado. Then again, that's the defining trait of every win-win trade: Both sides feel the pain along with the upside.