7 Blockbuster MLB Trades That Could Still Strike This Offseason

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2019

7 Blockbuster MLB Trades That Could Still Strike This Offseason

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    Blockbuster MLB trades are not just reserved for the July non-waiver trade deadline and the December winter meetings.

    In fact, just last winter, we saw a number of major deals completed during the month of January.

    On Jan. 13, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros. Two days later, they shipped outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants.

    The big move of the month came on Jan. 25, when eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich was sent from the Miami Marlins to the Milwaukee Brewers for a package of four prospects.

    In other words, don't be surprised if some of the biggest moves of the offseason are still to come.

    With that in mind, ahead is a look at seven blockbuster deals that could be made before the offseason comes to a close.

    Trade suggestions are based on remaining team needs and originate from a mix of the latest trade rumors and subjective speculation.

Dan Straily to the Oakland Athletics

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    As the Oakland Athletics continue to search for starting pitching help, a familiar face might be the answer to shoring up their rotation without breaking the bank.

    Dan Straily began his career in Oakland as a 24th-round pick in the 2009 draft and finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013, when he posted a 3.96 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 124 strikeouts in 152.1 innings over 27 starts.

    However, he was shipped to the Cubs the following season as part of the Jeff Samardzija/Addison Russell trade and has since spent time in Houston, Cincinnati and now Miami.

    While the 30-year-old is by no means an ace, he has developed into a useful pitcher. He's averaged 165 innings while pitching to a 4.03 ERA and 1.26 WHIP for a 99 ERA+ over the past three seasons.

    So essentially, he's a league-average starter capable of eating 150-plus inningsnot the sexiest projection, but it holds value and the A's need arms.

    With a projected arbitration salary of $4.8 million, the Marlins might be willing to send him back to Oakland for nothing more than a couple of low-level prospects with upside.

    He would give the A's another experienced arm alongside Mike Fiers, and he's under control through the 2020 season.

Jose Martinez to the Tampa Bay Rays

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    A Jose Martinez trade seemed like a logical move for the St. Louis Cardinals following the Paul Goldschmidt acquisition, but nothing has come together to this point, and according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, a trade is becoming increasingly unlikely:

    "The Cardinals were never particularly eager to trade Jose Martinez, viewing him as a low-cost weapon off the bench whose offensive contributions likely would outweigh his defensive limitations.

    "Martinez still would make sense for the Rays and Astros, both of whom pursued Cruz, and the Dodgers also have shown interest. But one rival executive says he senses the Cardinals are even less willing to move Martinez than they were previously.

    "A player such as Martinez is hardly untouchable, and the right offer surely would sway the Cardinals."

    That "right offer" should come from the Rays, who are in serious need of some middle-of-the-order punch and looked like the perfect landing spot for Nelson Cruz before he signed with the Minnesota Twins.

    Martinez, 30, hit .305/.364/.457 while tallying 30 doubles, 17 home runs and 83 RBI.

    However, his brutal defense at first base (675.1 INN, -5 DRS, -4.3 UZR/150) and in right field (335.1 INN, -6 DRS, -4.0 UZR/150) took a bite out of his overall value, making him a prime candidate to DH.

    The Cardinals should be plenty familiar with the Rays minor league system after putting together the Tommy Pham trade last July.

Mike Minor to the Philadelphia Phillies

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    The Philadelphia Phillies have not had a steady left-handed presence in the starting rotation since Cole Hamels was shipped to Texas.

    They whiffed on signing top free agent Patrick Corbin and later whiffed on their backup plan, J.A. Happ. So who's left to pursue in their search for a southpaw to slot between Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta?

    According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Texas Rangers lefty Mike Minor is now on the team's radar.

    After missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons recovering from shoulder surgery, Minor returned as a reliever with the Royals in 2017 and pitched well enough to earn a three-year, $28 million contract from the Texas Rangers and a return to the starting rotation.

    In 28 starts, he went 12-8 with a 4.18 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 132 strikeouts in 157 innings.

    A team-friendly contract that will pay him $19.7 million over the next two years adds to his value, and it will take some legitimate prospect talent to pry him loose.

    If the Phillies are serious about making a run in 2019, it's a price worth paying.

Nicholas Castellanos to the Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves are still looking to plug a hole in right field created by the free agency of Nick Markakis.

    The Detroit Tigers are still looking for the right trade to move right fielder Nicholas Castellanos.

    Not hard to connect the dots.

    Castellanos, 26, is coming off the best offensive season of his career. The 2010 first-round pick racked up a 130 OPS+ with 46 doubles, 23 home runs, 89 RBI and 88 runs scored with a 47.9 percent hard-contract rate that ranked sixth among qualified hitters.

    However, his outfield defense (-19 DRS, -12.3 UZR/150) severely undercut his overall value, and therein lies the issue.

    The Tigers see a homegrown standout and one of the most productive hitters in the American League. Potential suitors see a big bat who was ultimately a 2.9 WAR player and is a liability in the field.

    The Braves have shown at least some level of interest, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, so it might just be a matter of the Tigers lowering their asking price a bit to get a deal done.

    While it's unlikely Castellanos would bring back any of the Braves' top-tier prospects, Atlanta has a deep enough system that the Tigers should still be able to add some intriguing pieces to the farm system.

Jose Leclerc to the Boston Red Sox

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    The Boston Red Sox brought back Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce from last year's title team, but it sounds like fellow free agent Craig Kimbrel will be playing elsewhere in 2019.

    "Craig did a great job for us, he's a Hall of Fame reliever, but we have not anticipated having a large expenditure for a closer," President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski told Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

    That might also rule out Adam Ottavino, the top remaining free-agent bullpen alternative who was projected for a three-year, $30 million deal by MLB Trade Rumors at the start of the offseason.

    Matt Barnes is the leading in-house candidate to step into the ninth-inning role after tallying 25 holds while racking up 96 strikeouts in 61.2 innings. The 28-year-old has just two career saves, though.

    If money is the obstacle, a trade for Texas Rangers standout Jose Leclerc might be the answer.

    He won't be arbitration-eligible until next offseason, which means he'll make somewhere in the neighborhood of the league minimum, and he proved to be a lights-out late-inning arm for the Rangers last season.

    Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating splitter, Leclerc posted a 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 13.3 K/9 with 15 holds and 12 saves in 16 chances.

    His four years of control won't come cheap, but the Red Sox have enough talent in their thin system to get a deal done. A package built around Michael Chavis or Bobby Dalbec and one of the team's top arms—Darwinzon Hernandez, Bryan Mata, Mike Shawaryn and Tanner Houck—might be enough.

Madison Bumgarner to the Milwaukee Brewers

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    Will the Milwaukee Brewers add a top-tier starting pitcher before the offseason is over?

    "It's far from certain that the Giants will trade Madison Bumgarner before Spring Training. But if they do, Milwaukee is his most likely destination," wrote Jon Morosi of MLB.com, who went on to add Monday that the two sides have had "substantive communication" this winter.

    Bumgarner is entering the final year of his contract, and with the Giants headed for an obvious rebuild, trading him now for some controllable pieces makes perfect sense.

    Morosi later reported any trade between the two teams would have to send either Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff to San Francisco in the deal.

    While all three young pitchers showed significant upside in 2018, Bumgarner could be the missing piece.

    Jhoulys Chacin is the de facto ace of the Milwaukee staff after he posted a 116 ERA+ in the first season of a two-year, $15.5 million deal. Bumgarner has a career 123 ERA+ and is one of MLB's greatest postseason performers ever with a 2.11 ERA in 102.1 career playoff innings.

    A package built around one of those MLB-ready pitchers and a second-tier prospect like outfielder Tristen Lutz or right-hander Zack Brown would give the Giants two potential long-term pieces.

    There's still a very real chance the Giants will simply hold on to him now in hopes his value will be higher by midseason.

    That said, these Milwaukee rumors seem to be the most substantive rumblings we've heard all winter.

J.T. Realmuto to the Houston Astros

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    After some legitimate momentum with the New York Mets came to a screeching halt with the signing of Wilson Ramos, the Houston Astros once again look like the most likely landing spot for J.T. Realmuto.

    Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reported on Dec. 18 that the Astros were "back in [the] conversation" after what had been a quiet offseason following the signing of Robinson Chirinos.

    While Chirinos is a capable starting catcher and was a good get on a one-year, $5.75 million deal, he won't stand in the way of acquiring Realmuto if the right opportunity presents itself. The numbers speak for themselves:

    • Chirinos: 97 OPS+, .222/.338/.419, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 1.5 WAR
    • Realmuto: 131 OPS+, .277/.340/.484, 21 HR, 74 RBI, 4.3 WAR

    It stands to reason that the Michael Brantley signing could make the Astros more amenable to the idea of trading outfield prospect Kyle Tucker, whom the Marlins have made no secret of targeting in past talks.

    A top-25 prospect like Tucker and an intriguing arm like Corbin Martin or J.B. Bukauskas would be a great return for the Marlins—better than any trade package they received last winter when they shipped out Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon.

    The Astros could also sweeten the pot with expendable MLB-ready pieces like first baseman AJ Reed or outfielder Derek Fisher. Both are blocked at the MLB level and have little left to prove in the minors.

    It could be the move that vaults the Astros back to the top of the AL heap.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.