Controversial Trade Ideas That Would Ignite MLB Fanbases
It's too early in the 2018 season for Major League Baseball teams to start trading. But when the summer trade market finally opens, it might get weird.
So, what the heck? Let's take a whack at imagining some weird trades.
In this context, "weird" means "controversial and perhaps upsetting to loyal fans, yet not entirely unreasonable." Deals involving free-agents-to-be (e.g., Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson) wouldn't shock anyone. On the flipside, nobody's about to suggest that the Los Angeles Angels might trade Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout because, man, wouldn't that just be a hoot?
What we're after are deals in which teams surrender seemingly untouchable prospects or stars, or in which they copy the Yoenis Cespedes-for-Jon Lester trade and give up a valuable asset for a potentially more valuable asset.
We have eight to get to, which roughly range from least controversial to most controversial.
Minnesota Twins Trade Royce Lewis
So, he checks all the boxes of an untouchable prospect. And yet, what this scenario presupposes is...maybe he isn't?
The Twins are already providing a strong hint that their trip to the 2017 postseason was no fluke. Beyond their 7-5 record, they boast a solid lineup and a better-than-expected pitching staff. Assume that Byron Buxton and Logan Morrison will get hot eventually and that Ervin Santana will make a strong return from finger surgery, and it's possible to see them finding yet another gear.
That would put an AL Central title within their grasp, which would heighten their status as one of relatively few win-now clubs in the American League. Because Lewis is only 18 and not due in the majors for several more years, suddenly he could become touchable.
For the right price, of course. That could be half a season of Manny Machado at shortstop. More likely, it would be three-and-a-half seasons of Chris Archer, who the Twins were eyeing for their rotation over the winter.
New York Mets Trade Brandon Nimmo
Brandon Nimmo was one of MLB's best prospects as recently as 2015. He teased star potential in 2017, and now he's teasing full-on superstar potential early in 2018.
Trouble is, the New York Mets don't have an obvious role for him.
Nimmo isn't going to start over Yoenis Cespedes in left field or over Jay Bruce in right field. He fits best in center field, but that's where the Mets also have to play Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares.
"His at-bats are always really good, but obviously it's a challenge to get him out there," manager Mickey Callaway said, per Fred Kerber of the New York Post.
Rather than continue to waste him in a part-time role, the Mets might best be served by capitalizing on Nimmo's surging trade value.
With a 13-4 record, the Mets have already recast themselves from a fringe contender to a legitimate World Series contender. Teams like that typically seek substantial upgrades at the trade deadline. Because they're sitting on one of MLB's worst farm systems, the Mets will have to get creative if they want to do so.
Using Nimmo, who's 25 and under club control through 2022, as a centerpiece in a deal for Archer, Danny Duffy or Michael Fulmer to New York would fit the bill.
Chicago Cubs Trade Kyle Schwarber
Hey, if the Mets can trade Nimmo, then maybe the Chicago Cubs can trade Kyle Schwarber.
After a rough 2017, Schwarber is back to looking like a cornerstone player. He showed up to spring training in great shape and promptly dominated the Cactus League. Now he's off to a strong start in the regular season.
Like Nimmo in New York, Schwarber is also part of an outfield logjam in which Jason Heyward, Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr. and Ben Zobrist are jockeying for playing time. The Cubs' farm system is also among the dregs of MLB.
So if the Cubs find themselves in a position to seek upgrades at the trade deadline, Schwarber may well find himself back on the table.
Since he's 25 years old and controlled through 2021, he could appeal to American League clubs that fancy him as a designated hitter or a first baseman. That could be the Royals, although the Cubs would likely have to sweeten the deal to pry Duffy from them. It could also be the Twins, who'll have Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi and maybe even Santana to offer if their hot start goes bust.
Colorado Rockies Trade Trevor Story
Trevor Story would seem to be safe as the Colorado Rockies' starting shortstop.
Sure, he isn't terribly consistent. But he gives them power, speed and good defense. He's also 25 and controlled through 2021. Plus, the team's Twitter account has an awesome GIF for him.
However, two things could usher in an immediate future in which he's expendable.
- One: Brendan Rodgers, MLB.com's No. 14 prospect, is knocking on the major league door.
- Two: the Rockies will need as many talented pitchers as they can get for their playoff drive.
The catch is that Story would only appeal to a specific brand of seller.
Because he's a flawed player who's set to enter his arbitration years in 2019, he wouldn't have much value to teams that are hunkered down in long rebuilds. He'd offer more value to teams that have unexpectedly fallen out of contention, but which plan to return as soon as possible.
That could be the Blue Jays if they end up fading from their hot start, in which case J.A. Happ would almost certainly become available. Alternatively, the Twins and their pitchers could be an option in the event that they fall out of the AL Central race.
Tampa Bay Rays Trade Kevin Kiermaier
This, obviously, hinges on whether Kevin Kiermaier can prove that his right thumb is healthy before the trade deadline comes and goes. But we're going to go ahead and go there anyway.
In theory, the Tampa Bay Rays don't need to trade Kiermaier soon. He has a club-friendly contract that controls him through 2023. That's a solid excuse to exempt him from their purge of stars and keep him around as a franchise cornerstone.
From another perspective, however, Kiermaier's contract counts for half of his tremendous trade value. The other half is his elite wins above replacement mark among fellow center fielders between 2015 and 2017:
- 1. Mike Trout: 34.1
- 2. Kevin Kiermaier: 21.5
- 3. Lorenzo Cain: 20.3
Not unlike Christian Yelich, Kiermaier is the kind of trade chip who could bring back elite-level prospects. If the opportunity presents itself, the Rays could prefer that to holding on to him and hoping he's still a star when they're ready to return to contention.
One possible suitor is the Cleveland Indians, who can offer Francisco Mejia. Another is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who can offer Walker Buehler.
Los Angeles Dodgers Trade Yasiel Puig
Or, the Dodgers could take another route to getting better this summer by trading Yasiel Puig.
It's a minor miracle that the Dodgers haven't already traded Puig. He became a regular on the rumor mill not long after his sensational rookie season in 2013, in part because he just couldn't stop driving everyone in the organization crazy.
Puig has mellowed out in recent years, however. He's also fresh off a 2017 season in which he finally stabilized as a star. He gave the Dodgers an .833 OPS and 28 home runs on offense, as well as stellar defense in right field.
And yet we propose: Puig might be for the 2018 trade deadline what Cespedes was for the 2014 trade deadline.
He's one of the Dodgers' better players, but not their best player. Due to that and their outfield depth, it's possible to picture them without him.
The trick would be for the Dodgers to deal Puig, who's controlled through 2019, for a rental asset from a team that has eyes on returning to contention next season. That could be the Blue Jays (Happ), the Twins (Lynn or Brian Dozier) or perhaps even the Baltimore Orioles (Zach Britton).
Boston Red Sox Trade Hanley Ramirez
Another candidate for a Cespedes-like trade is Hanley Ramirez.
The Boston Red Sox reportedly tried to find takers for him over the winter, but it's no surprise that they came up empty. Ramirez had a down year in 2017, and he's earning $22.8 million in 2018. Should he collect 497 plate appearances, his $22 million option for 2019 will vest.
All of a sudden, though, having Ramirez on the payroll doesn't look like such a burden for the Red Sox. He's raking to the tune of a .912 OPS, making him one of the top hitters in one of baseball's top lineups.
But if the Dodgers might choose to live without Puig, the Red Sox might do the same with Ramirez.
With Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, they have enough good hitters to continue scoring runs. They also have Mitch Moreland, a Gold Glove winner, to plug in as an everyday first baseman.
With Ramirez's 2019 option all but certain to vest, the Red Sox could market him to first-base-needy teams looking to contend either immediately or next season.
One intriguing possibility would be the Mets, who could offer up a spare pitcher like Zack Wheeler, who's also controlled through '19, for the sake of upgrading over Adrian Gonzalez for the stretch run.
Milwaukee Brewers Trade Eric Thames
Screw it. Let's trade Eric Thames, too.
Even despite cooling off following a mega-hot start, Thames was still terrific in his first season with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017. And now he's hot again, with a .995 OPS and seven homers through 17 games.
Now that Yelich is back, however, Thames is once again part of an outfield/first base logjam that also includes Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Domingo Santana and Jesus Aguilar.
After they decimated their farm system with their trade for Yelich, this logjam may contain the Brewers' best hope of pulling off impact trades this summer. The smart money might be on Santana being the one who gets dealt, but Thames is potentially the most marketable of the bunch.
He's a better hitter, and he'll make just $5 million in 2018 and $6 million in 2019 before (presumably) declining his player option and becoming a free agent.
One team that could bite is the New York Yankees.
They had interest in Thames in 2016, when he was returning to MLB following a star-making stint in Korea. If injuries continue to keep Greg Bird sidelined, they could be willing to sacrifice a controllable pitcher (Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield) to have Thames bring stability to their first base depth chart.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.