MLB Trade Splashes Contenders Should Make Before Spring Training
Be very, very quiet. We're hunting wabbits general managers—at least any who might still be awake.
If we didn't know any better, we'd think there was a freeze on transactions. For baseball's rumor mill has come to a screeching halt, and there's no reason to be optimistic that things will pick up soon.
While most contenders have already done their heavy lifting and can head into spring training confident in their rosters, a handful of World Series hopefuls still have work left. With pitchers and catchers set to report to camp in a matter of weeks, not months, the glory of spring training will soon be upon us.
What follows is a look at some splashy, impactful trades that a handful of contenders should try to pull off before then. Some of these deals have made the rounds as rumor or speculation. Others have not and are the result of our baseball-starved minds having far too much free time.
Houston Trades for Jose Quintana
Houston has been one of the most active teams during the offseason, adding Nori Aoki, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick to its lineup. But the rotation could still use a boost, even after the club signed veteran hurler Charlie Morton.
Trading for Chicago's Jose Quintana would provide that boost. The Astros and White Sox discussed a potential deal, according to Peter Gammons, but Houston felt Chicago's asking price—pitching prospect Frances Martes, outfield prospect Kyle Tucker and 24-year-old starter Joe Musgrove—was too high.
It's a trade that both sides should revisit.
While Houston doesn't want to continue to dip into its farm system to bolster the big league roster, the Astros have a deep enough crop of young talent to get a deal done. The White Sox, in the midst of a rebuild, need to continue to stockpile as much young, controllable talent as they can.
Due just $15.85 million through 2018 and with affordable $10.5 million and $11.5 million team options in 2019 and 2020, respectively, Quintana has the kind of club-friendly deal that Houston can afford to take on.
San Francisco Trades for J.D. Martinez
San Francisco general manager Bobby Evans has been adamant throughout the offseason that the Giants want to give outfielders Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson a fair shot to prove they belong.
And he's not wrong when he says that the only way for the team to evaluate the pair of youngsters is to give them regular playing time in the big leagues, as he explained in early December during a Baseball Tonight podcast appearance with ESPN's Buster Olney.
But Parker can't hit left-handed pitching, while the right-handed Williamson has reverse platoon splits, finding far more success against right-handed hurlers than he has against southpaws. That's an issue in a division where every team has at least one lefty in its rotation.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants' stiffest competition, potentially have four.
Adding Detroit's J.D. Martinez, whom the Tigers have been shopping, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, would make those left-handed pitchers less of a concern. The 29-year-old has been successful against all pitchers but is especially potent against southpaws.
Entering the final year of his deal, Martinez wouldn't present a long-term obstacle for Parker or Williamson—unless the Giants decide to re-sign him.
Toronto Trades for Brett Gardner
Division rivals don't tend to deal with each other, but in this case, Toronto should be doing whatever it can to convince New York to make an exception. Brett Gardner, for whom the Yankees have been listening to offers on all winter, according to MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, is a perfect fit for the Blue Jays.
He's got the on-base skills and speed that make him a threat at the top of the lineup—something Toronto doesn't hav—and would fill the team's gaping hole in left field, adding another quality defender to take some of the pressure off center fielder Kevin Pillar.
Due $24 million through 2018 and with a $12.5 million team option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout, Gardner wouldn't eat up a massive chunk of the team's current or future payroll. With the Blue Jays built to win now, parting with the prospects the Yankees would be looking for shouldn't be a major issue.
Washington Trades for David Robertson
Washington tried—and failed—to convince Chicago to include closer David Robertson in the trade that sent center fielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. With nearly all of the quality free-agent closers off the market, the Nationals should look to rekindle those talks.
Due $25 million through 2018, Robertson is the kind of high-priced player a rebuilding team like Chicago doesn't need. While he might be expensive, Robertson would fill the void at the back end of Washington's bullpen.
Since the sides have already pulled off one trade and at least discussed the parameters of a potential Robertson deal, it shouldn't be a complicated transaction to complete.
After years of early postseason exits and playing in a rapidly improving NL East, the Nationals can ill afford to enter the regular season without an established closer. Washington needs to win as many games as it can—and have confidence that it can hold the lead in a playoff game.
Robertson isn't on the level of Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, but he is far superior to any in-house option Washington might be considering as a temporary fix.