10 Win-Win Trade Ideas Coming out of the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2018

10 Win-Win Trade Ideas Coming out of the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings

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    The MLB winter meetings have come to a close in Las Vegas. Still, there's plenty of wheeling and dealing left to be done. 

    Top-tier free agents remain on the board. Seismic swaps will be consummated between now and Opening Day.

    While we await the next round of hot-stove action, let's examine 10 potential win-win trade scenarios, keeping in mind the latest credible rumors and each club's needs.

    Not all of these deals will come to fruition, but they're all intriguing to imagine. 

St. Louis Cardinals Acquire LHP Will Smith from San Francisco Giants

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    The St. Louis Cardinals already made a massive trade splash by acquiring first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Clearly, they're all-in for 2019.

    They could use help in the bullpen and may go the trade route. According to Mark Saxon of The Athletic, the Cards are interested in San Francisco Giants left-hander Will Smith.

    In his Tommy John surgery comeback season, Smith posted a 2.55 ERA in 53 frames while averaging 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings and nailing down 14 saves. 

    He's entering his final year of arbitration before free agency but would add a valuable southpaw option with late-inning experience for St. Louis.

    In exchange, the Redbirds could part with Jose Martinez, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested. Martinez is 30 years old and limited defensively at first base and in the outfield. But he hit .305 with an .821 OPS in 2018 and is controllable through 2022. 

    The Giants need power and outfielders, meaning this could be a match. 

Tampa Bay Rays Acquire Carlos Santana from Seattle Mariners

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    The Tampa Bay Rays won 90 games in 2018 and are a sneaky contender heading into 2019. They also need thump after finishing 17th in slugging percentage (.406) and 27th in home runs (150).

    Enter the rumor, courtesy of The Athletic's Corey Brock, that the Rays have discussed acquiring Carlos Santana from the rebuilding Seattle Mariners. 

    Tampa Bay isn't the only interested party; Brock also mentioned the Cleveland Indians (Santana's former employer) and the Colorado Rockies. But the Rays make sense.

    Santana had a down year last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, as he hit a scant .229. He cracked 24 home runs, however, and posted a solid .352 on-base percentage. He's owed more than $40 million through 2020, which could be an issue for the budget-conscious Rays.

    Seattle will have to eat some salary. If it eats enough, it could pry a high-upside prospect such as flamethrowing lefty Shane McClanahan away from Tampa Bay.

Los Angeles Dodgers Acquire Francisco Cervelli from Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Dodgers need a catcher after Yasmani Grandal rejected their qualifying offer. They could go big and trade for Miami Marlins backstop J.T. Realmuto, but what L.A. really needs is a stopgap veteran.

    Two of the Dodgers' top five prospects, are catchers: Keibert Ruiz (age 20) and Will Smith (age 23). Neither is big league ready.

    While the Dodgers wait, they could trade for Pittsburgh Pirates veteran Francisco Cervelli. Los Angeles has shown interest in Cervelli, per John Perrotto of DKPittsburghSports.com. 

    The 32-year-old posted an .809 OPS in 104 games last season and threw out a more-than-respectable 39 percent of would-be base stealers. He's owed $11.5 million in 2019, after which he can become a free agent.

    If the Dodgers are willing to take all that money off the Pirates' ledger, they might only have to part with a mid-tier prospect such as right-hander Marshall Kasowski. 

Los Angeles Dodgers Acquire Trevor Bauer from Cleveland Indians

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    Sticking with the Dodgers, L.A. may also be in the market for more starting pitching. According to MLB Network's Jon Morosi, the Cleveland Indians might be interested in Los Angeles' top prospect, outfielder Alex Verdugo, in exchange for Corey Kluber.

    The Klubot would be a right-handed force to be reckoned with next to ace Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. He's also entering his age-33 season and is owed $17 million in 2019, with team options for $17.5 million in 2020 and $18 million in 2021. 

    Instead, the Dodgers could offer Verdugo for another Indians starter, right-hander Trevor Bauer. Bauer turns 28 in January and posted a 2.21 ERA with 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018. He's entering his second season of arbitration eligibility, when he'll earn a projected $11.6 million, per MLB Trade Rumors

    Verdugo, who made his MLB debut in 2017 and had a cup of coffee with the big league club last season, would fill a gap in the Indians' thin outfield. Bauer would be a controllable addition to the Dodgers' starting corps. It's the definition of a win-win.

Houston Astros Acquire Michael Fulmer from Detroit Tigers

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    The Houston Astros could lose left-hander Dallas Keuchel to free agency. They already lost righty Charlie Morton to the Tampa Bay Rays on a two-year, $30 million deal, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan. Lance McCullers Jr. is out after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The 'Stros need to add starting pitching behind the duo of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

    If they opt to swap, they could set their sights on Detroit Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer.

    Fulmer was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2016 and an All-Star in 2017. He hit a speed bump last season, as he went 3-12 with a 4.69 ERA. He's also 25 years old and controllable through 2022. Betting on a comeback would be bold but not foolish. 

    Detroit made him available at the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale. There's no reason to assume the club wouldn't pick up the phone now. 

    Given Fulmer's age and recent success, the rebuilding Tigers would rightly demand a rich return. Outfielder Kyle Tucker and pitcher Forrest Whitley, the Astros' top two prospects, should be off the table. But a package of powerful Cuban Yordan Alvarez and right-hander J.B. Bukauskas ought to get it done. 

Cincinnati Reds Acquire Sonny Gray from New York Yankees

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    We know the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds have discussed a trade for right-hander Sonny Gray, though the Reds said no on top prospect Taylor Trammell, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

    We also know the Reds may be open to dealing second baseman Scooter Gennett, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. 

    Mash those rumors together, and you have the makings of a deal.

    Gray needs to get out of New York after posting a 4.90 ERA in 2018. At the same time, he has considerable upside and is a bounce-back candidate, as evidenced by his 3.17 ERA away from Yankee Stadium this past season.

    Gennett, meanwhile, hit .310 with an .847 OPS for Cincinnati in 2018 and made his first All-Star team. He'd give the Yankees middle infield depth with Didi Gregorius recovering from Tommy John surgery and Gleyber Torres possibly needing to slide over to shortstop.

    Gennett is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, in which MLB Trade Rumors projects he'll earn $10.7 million. Gray is projected to get $9.1 million in his last arbitration year.

    Given Gray's recent struggles and Gennett's success, the Yankees would probably have to throw in a prospect such as hard-throwing Domingo Acevedo. 

    New York would add needed infield depth, while Cincinnati would bolster a suspect rotation and boost its farm system.

New York Mets Acquire C J.T. Realmuto from Miami Marlins

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    The New York Mets are going for it after acquiring second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners. They still need a catcher.

    The Miami Marlins have arguably the best catcher in baseball in J.T. Realmuto.

    The Fish sold last winter and could do the same this offseason. Realmuto is their biggest chip, and they're right to command a high price. According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, Marlins executive Derek Jeter is insisting that an MLB player be included in any deal.

    The Queens contingent is "very aggressive" on Realmuto, per Fancred's Jon Heyman

    If the Mets want to make this happen, they could ship out shortstop Amed Rosario, who might be replaced in the near term by top prospect Andres Gimenez. New York would likely have to gild the lily and add first baseman and No. 2 prospect Peter Alonso. 

    It's possible the Marlins will hold on to Realmuto until the 2019 non-waiver trade deadline. He's controllable through 2020. But the opportunity to get a 23-year-old big league shortstop loaded with potential (Rosario) and a power-hitting corner infielder who cracked 36 home runs in 132 minor league contests (Alonso) could force their hand.

Milwaukee Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke from Arizona Diamondbacks

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    The Milwaukee Brewers made it to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in 2018. If they want to take the next step, they should buttress their starting rotation. Brewers starters posted a so-so 3.92 ERA, and the club lacked a battle-tested ace. 

    What about a reunion with Zack Greinke?

    The Arizona Diamondbacks are obviously ready to trade after shipping Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals. Greinke remains an elite arm after posting a 3.21 ERA in 207.1 innings for the D-backs and earning his fifth career All-Star selection. And we know the Snakes are open to a deal, per Zach Buchanan of The Athletic. 

    In December 2010, Greinke was traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Brewers. Interestingly, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and reliever Jeremy Jeffress were included in the return to K.C., and both players are now back with Milwaukee.  

    Nostalgia aside, Greinke is owed $104.5 million through 2021. The mid-market Brew Crew can't absorb that salary. 

    To make this work, Arizona must send back significant cash. Let's say $30 million to bring Greinke's cost below the stratosphere. In return, the Brewers would need to part with a couple of interesting prospects such as outfielder Tristen Lutz and right-hander Zack Brown.

Los Angeles Angels Acquire Yasiel Puig from Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Dodgers pop up yet again because of a rumor from ESPN's Buster Olney. The Dodgers, Olney reported, are open to moving as many as two outfielders from a collection that includes Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger. 

    Kemp is probably too old and expensive. Bellinger would cost the moon and the stars. Pederson is an interesting notion after modestly rebounding in 2018 but isn't going to make headlines. The most likely, if problematic, trade candidate is Puig. 

    Despite a roller-coaster career that has featured some rock-bottom moments, Puig is 28 years old and coming off a season in which he posted an .820 OPS with 23 home runs and 15 steals. He's entering his final year of arbitration, and MLB Trade Rumors estimates he could earn $11.3 million.

    Southern California's other squad may benefit from his services. 

    The Los Angeles Angels need to build a winner around superstar Mike Trout, who could test free agency after the 2020 season. Kole Calhoun and his .208 batting average top the right-field depth chart. 

    If the Halos were willing to take on all of Puig's salary and baggage, he could be had for a prospect such as toolsy outfielder Jordyn Adams. The Angels would add an impact bat, and the Dodgers would move on from a mercurial, divisive player.

Atlanta Braves Acquire Madison Bumgarner from San Francisco Giants

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    The Atlanta Braves won the National League East in 2018 behind a burgeoning core. They're poised to join the Senior Circuit's upper echelon. 

    They could use a postseason-tested ace, however, and they don't come more postseason-tested than San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

    The Giants are "less and less likely" to deal MadBum this winter, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. Hanging on to him until the non-waiver trade deadline may be the prudent move. 

    The Braves, though, are uniquely situated to blow the Giants away with an offer. 

    Atlanta boasts the No. 2 farm system in the game, per Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter, and could dangle high-ceiling pitching prospects Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson. 

    Would that level of sticker shock be worth it for one year of Bumgarner, who will make $12 million in 2019 before hitting free agency? 

    For a team with title aspirations, the answer is yes.


    All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference. Prospect rankings courtesy of MLB.com.


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