Potential Packages for MLB's Top Trade Targets
With May drawing to a close, MLB's trade season is creeping ever closer.
So who's ready to imagine what deals for the top available stars might look like?
The idea here is to take educated guesses at potential trade packages based on each star's talent and controllability, their possible suitors and what said suitors have to offer.
This is complicated stuff with lots of ins, outs and what-have-yous. So rather than draw up possible packages for every available star, our focus will be on six types of stars: a veteran upside play, the top right-handed and left-handed bats, the top closer, the top controllable ace and the top rental ace.
Let's get to it.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
It wasn't a given that Andrew McCutchen would end up back on the block after he was nearly dealt over the winter. But with the Pittsburgh Pirates in last place in the NL Central, it's a distinct possibility.
The trouble for the Pirates is that McCutchen, 30, isn't rebuilding his value following a down year in 2016.
He's once again struggling to be even a replacement-level player, so he has more appeal as a change-of-scenery candidate than an MVP-caliber center fielder. If he's moved, it'll be in a smaller-scale blockbuster than the six-player deal involving Carlos Gomez back in 2015.
The obvious suitor for McCutchen is the team that tried to trade—Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports has the details—for him during the offseason: the Washington Nationals.
The Nats could have McCutchen fill in for the injured Adam Eaton in center field this year and then exercise his $14.75 million option and have him replace Jayson Werth in left field in 2018. And since McCutchen's value has fallen, the Nats can hold back on top prospects unless they get a deal-sweetener.
Lefty closer and free-agent-to-be Tony Watson would work. He and McCutchen should be enough for right-hander Erick Fedde, MLB.com's No. 52 prospect as well as an upside-play prospect. Projectable lefty Jesus Luzardo, who's recovering from Tommy John surgery but is only 19, would work.
The Trade: Andrew McCutchen and Tony Watson to Washington for Erick Fedde and Jesus Luzardo
J.D. Martinez, OF, Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers decided to go for one last hurrah in 2017. It's not working out, so they should be expected to cut their losses by selling off assets.
J.D. Martinez will be the easiest to move. He's had injury trouble, but he's nonetheless been one of the five best right-handed hitters in MLB since 2014. And with his free agency approaching, the Tigers stand to make a good deal with a team in need of a talented yet affordable slugger.
Fittingly, the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers to the New York Mets in 2015 is a good comp.
That brought back right-hander Michael Fulmer, a fast-riser who would go on to become the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year. This sets Martinez's price tag at a minimum of one blue-chip prospect.
Finding a home for the 29-year-old is more difficult, but there will be an obvious fit in San Francisco if the Giants keep clawing their way out of an early-season hole. Martinez would be a strong solution to their huge problem in left field.
The Giants would have to give up Tyler Beede, MLB.com's No. 79 prospect, plus a deal-sweetener. Slugging first baseman Chris Shaw, who's blocked by Brandon Belt anyway, could do the trick.
The Trade: J.D. Martinez to San Francisco for Tyler Beede and Chris Shaw
Yonder Alonso, 1B, Oakland A's
For the top left-handed bat on the trade market, brand names like Eric Hosmer and Jay Bruce stand out. But Yonder Alonso is outhitting them and, indeed, all but a few lefty hitters.
Like Martinez, Alonso is a free-agent-to-be. And while the Oakland A's could hold on to the 30-year-old and hope to collect a high draft pick via the qualifying offer system, the safer route is to capitalize on his resurgent value while it lasts.
Unlike Martinez, however, Alonso doesn't have a track record of excellent hitting to bolster his trade value. On his own, he can probably only bring back prospects who are good but not quite the creme de la creme.
Consider, for example, what the New York Yankees could pay for him.
According to the Associated Press, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner is willing to buy at the deadline. And while much of the focus figures to be on their starting pitching, Greg Bird's injury and Chris Carter's struggles highlight first base as prime spot for a short-term upgrade.
The Yankees could reach underneath their collection of top-100 prospects and pull out some solid pieces to offer Oakland. A package of well-rounded outfielder Dustin Fowler and slugging first baseman/outfielder Tyler Austin could have the right combination of talent and MLB-readiness to get a deal done.
The Trade: Yonder Alonso to New York for Dustin Fowler and Tyler Austin
David Robertson, RP, Chicago White Sox
Last summer saw Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon and Andrew Miller all get moved in blockbuster trades. This summer won't replicate that, but David Robertson should ensure at least one blockbuster goes down.
The 32-year-old was just OK in the first two seasons of his four-year, $46 million contract. He's rebounded this year with a 2.81 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 16 innings. Bully for the Chicago White Sox, who shouldn't have to worry about moving him in a mere salary-dump trade.
Especially if the Nationals get involved.
They're an elite team in most respects, but their bullpen's 5.40 ERA is a red flag if there ever was one. Even if the Nats were to get Watson along with McCutchen, they would still have work to do.
"We've got guys that are underperforming in the bullpen, and that's on me to take care of it," general manager Mike Rizzo said, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
The Miller trade is a good comp for a Robertson swap, save for a couple of caveats: Robertson has less talent and one fewer season of controllability. So rather than a pair of top-100 prospects plus some solid talent on the side, Robertson's price is probably more like a single top-100 prospect.
Carter Kieboom, a 19-year-old shortstop, would work. His No. 98 ranking at Baseball America reflects his rising stock, and he has a third base profile that would make him an ideal long-term fit for Chicago's infield.
The Trade: David Robertson to Washington for Carter Kieboom
Jose Quintana, SP, Chicago White Sox
Even more so than Robertson, Jose Quintana has been a walking, talking trade rumor in recent months. But as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports warned, the White Sox will move him "only for the right price."
Quintana is only 28 and controlled through 2020 on a club-friendly contract, so the clock isn't ticking for the White Sox to get good value for him. The only thing that might force their hand is Quintana's sudden shakiness on the mound.
But let's go ahead and answer the big question: What will it take to get Quintana to the Houston Astros?
The rumor mill has basically linked the two at the hip, and the Astros are indeed a perfect suitor for Quintana: a championship-caliber team that's in it for the long haul and has prospects to spare.
According to Peter Gammons, the White Sox asked for Houston's two best prospects over the winter: right-hander Francis Martes and outfielder Kyle Tucker. The Astros obviously didn't budge and may not be willing to budge if those two names are brought up again this summer.
But thanks to Quintana's shaken value, the Astros could have some wiggle room to pass an alternative offer.
Right-hander David Paulino and outfielder Derek Fisher, MLB.com's No. 47 and No. 75 prospects, could be the headliners. Throw in right-hander Franklin Perez (No. 98) and an upside play such as outfielder Daz Cameron, and the deal would resemble the blockbuster that moved Cole Hamels in 2015.
Trade: Jose Quintana to Houston for Derek Fisher, David Paulino, Franklin Perez and Daz Cameron
Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers haven't been playing like sellers recently. But if Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports can be trusted—and he generally can be—the club could move Yu Darvish if it's even so much as "mediocre" come deadline day on July 31.
As Dave Cameron wrote at FanGraphs, Darvish's upcoming free agency would make him a trade chip with wide appeal. In addition: "The market has provided a pretty clear indicator of what renting an ace costs; a top 50-ish prospect plus a couple of add-on pieces that have upside."
Of all the suitors who could make such a deal, the most sensible one would be a team that's only one piece away from taking off and which can afford to sacrifice prospects to get it.
Basically, the Chicago Cubs.
Their starting rotation isn't the only reason they're struggling to find their championship form, but it does need another dependable arm. They also have a couple of top prospects they don't have obvious fits for.
This includes outfielder/second baseman Ian Happ. As MLB.com's No. 23 prospect, he would be an ideal centerpiece in a Darvish trade. If the Cubs were to add a couple of hard-throwing righties such as Oscar De La Cruz and Duane Underwood, they could have a deal.
The Trade: Yu Darvish to Chicago for Ian Happ, Oscar De La Cruz and Duane Underwood