Perfect Trade Scenarios to Fix MLB Teams' Fatal Flaws
What if every team in Major League Baseball could solve its biggest problem with a single trade?
Here, we've imagined one oh-so-perfect trade for all 30 MLB teams.
These mostly involve filling contenders' most glaring problems with ideal solutions. Otherwise, it's about how non-contenders and in-between teams can best use the trade market to advance their respective plans.
We only considered trades that hypothetically could be made right now. This also isn't a 30-part grand plan. Each team's plan is individualized, so there will be repeated references to specific players.
We'll go in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Trade Zack Greinke to the Atlanta Braves
The Arizona Diamondbacks can say they aren't rebuilding. But after losing Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock, they have at least one foot in the long game.
The best thing the D-backs could do right now is shed Zack Greinke, who is owed $104.5 million through 2021. That money plus Greinke's age (35) and 15-team no-trade list theoretically make him all but untradeable.
Unless the D-backs can interest the Atlanta Braves, who arguably needed a veteran No. 1 starter even before spring training opened up. In light of the huge bite that the injury bug has taken out of their pitching depth, they need one even more now.
Meanwhile, the Braves are projected to spend less in 2019 than they did in 2018 at a time when the competition in the National League East is heating up. Spending a few bucks to bring in Greinke would do them some good.
Atlanta Braves: Trade for Madison Bumgarner
Then again, what's ideal for the Diamondbacks isn't necessarily ideal for the Braves. They would presumably prefer to add a veteran ace who wouldn't bog down their payroll over the next three years.
Somebody like, say, Madison Bumgarner would suit them better.
The San Francisco Giants haven't been in a rush to trade the four-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion. Yet he shouldn't be off the table going into his final season before free agency, and he's only helping his trade value by showing improved fastball velocity this spring.
"Because I don't have a broke hand or a separated shoulder," was how Bumgarner explained his resurgence to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic in reference to his injury-marred 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Because he'd only be a rental for 2019, the Braves wouldn't have to blow up their No. 2-ranked farm system to get Bumgarner. Moreover, they'd only be adding a reasonable $12 million salary to their books.
Baltimore Orioles: Trade Mychal Givens to the Atlanta Braves
No, not every proposed trade here involves the Braves. It just so happens that their bullpen also needs help, and the Baltimore Orioles' shiniest trade chip is a late-inning reliever.
Mychal Givens doesn't have as much name value as Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis, but his actual trade value does eclipse theirs. He's a 28-year-old who's controlled through 2021, and his career 3.12 ERA is just one testament to his quality.
The Braves went into the spring with Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter at the top of their bullpen depth chart. The latter has developed a sore shoulder. The former is healthy, but his track record suggests that won't be true for long.
Hence, Atlanta has reason to be interested in Givens. And in light of the Braves' aforementioned No. 2-ranked farm system, the Orioles couldn't ask for a better trade partner.
Boston Red Sox: Trade for Jose Leclerc
According to Chad Jennings of The Athletic, the Boston Red Sox's plan for life after ace closer Craig Kimbrel is to not have a closer, period.
That's nice, but it doesn't address the problem that sans Kimbrel, the Red Sox are lacking a dominant reliever who they can rely on for high-leverage outs.
No fix would be better than a trade for Texas Rangers right-hander Jose Leclerc.
The 25-year-old posted a 1.56 ERA and the lowest xwOBA—a Statcast metric that measures expected production—of any pitcher who faced at least 200 batters in 2018. He's also making the MLB minimum in 2019, so adding him wouldn't disrupt Boston's fragile luxury-tax standing.
Leclerc is controlled through 2022, so the Rangers won't part with him willingly. Yet even within Boston's No. 30-ranked farm system, there are pieces (e.g., third basemen Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec) that might sway them. The Red Sox can also offer a spare major league catcher.
Chicago Cubs: Trade for Will Smith
The Chicago Cubs also have a weak bullpen that would benefit from adding Leclerc.
The difference between the Cubs and the Red Sox is that the former can at least bank on Brandon Morrow getting healthy and reclaiming his usual dominance. Thus, a late-inning lefty is arguably a bigger need. Justin Wilson formerly occupied that role, but it's now essentially vacant.
A trade for Will Smith would fix that right up.
Though he isn't as well known as Bumgarner, Smith might be the Giants' best trade chip at the moment. The 29-year-old is coming off a career-best 2.55 ERA and 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2018. He'll also make a reasonable $4.2 million in 2019, which is his walk year.
The Cubs are short on impact prospects in their No. 29-ranked farm system. But in exchange for Smith, a high-ceiling teenager like outfielder Cole Roederer might be a worthy centerpiece.
Chicago White Sox: Trade for Christian Vazquez
The Chicago White Sox might have been a contender in 2019, but Michael Kopech will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and neither Manny Machado nor Bryce Harper fell into the team's lap.
The best thing the White Sox can do now is seek an opportunistic deal that would outfit them with an asset they won't necessarily find in-house over the coming years.
Christian Vazquez, for example.
The Red Sox are more likely to keep Vazquez over fellow catchers Sandy Leon or Blake Swihart, but perhaps they could be moved to cash in on his value. The 28-year-old is a superior defender and is signed for cheap through 2022.
Neither Welington Castillo nor James McCann is due to stick around that long in Chicago, and the White Sox's best catching prospect (Zack Collins) has major defensive limitations. Perhaps a swap involving hard-throwing righty Nate Jones might be in order.
Cincinnati Reds: Trade for Jarrod Dyson
The Cincinnati Reds did well to put a contender together over the winter, but they neglected an important ingredient: a true center fielder.
The Reds are hoping that top prospect Nick Senzel can handle a transition to the position. In the meantime, Yasiel Puig and/or Scott Schebler will be playable at center field amid Great American Ball Park's tiny dimensions. So in the Reds' defense, all they need is a part-time defensive-minded center fielder.
They should call the Diamondbacks about Jarrod Dyson.
With 62 career defensive runs saved in center field despite limited exposure to the position, Dyson could handle the defensive demands that Cincinnati would place on him. He would also replace the speed element that the Reds nixed when they non-tendered Billy Hamilton.
Besides, the Reds would only be renting Dyson for 2019. Like many other members of their 25-man roster, he could always be traded in July if their best-laid plans don't pan out.
Cleveland Indians: Trade for Nicholas Castellanos
Take a close look at the Cleveland Indians lineup, and you'll spot a shortage of talent in the corner outfield spots and a general lack of right-handed power.
If Cleveland is interested in the ol' two-birds-with-one-stone trick, a deal for Nicholas Castellanos would do it.
The Detroit Tigers haven't had much luck drumming up interest in the 27-year-old, presumably because of his poor defense and looming free agency.
But since he would slot in next to defensive-minded center fielder Leonys Martin, the Indians have the excuse to prioritize Castellanos' bat. He's produced an .832 OPS and 146 extra-base hits since 2017, the latter of which is tied for ninth among all MLB hitters.
Cleveland doesn't have much left in its farm system, but it could offer the Tigers a long-term slugger (e.g., Bobby Bradley) to replace Castellanos.
Colorado Rockies: Trade for Kevin Pillar
The Colorado Rockies are making a change in center field for 2019: Charlie Blackmon is out, and Ian Desmond is in.
Though the move should help to keep Blackmon fresh, the defensive element is another matter. Desmond racked up minus-6 defensive runs saved in his only real exposure to center field back in 2016. He thus may not be much of an improvement for a position that produced a minus-18 DRS in 2018.
A better play for Colorado would be to ring the Toronto Blue Jays about Kevin Pillar.
Pillar stumbled with a minus-2 DRS of his own in 2018, but the Rockies could bank on the 30-year-old reverting to his Gold Glove-caliber form of the three prior seasons. To boot, he's been a better hitter than Desmond over the last two.
In exchange for Pillar, who's controlled through 2020, one of the lesser prospects from Colorado's No. 18-ranked system could go to Toronto.
Detroit Tigers: Trade Nicholas Castellanos to the Tampa Bay Rays
With regard to Castellanos' trade market, the Tigers are playing the role of beggars who can't be choosers.
"There's not really a lot of people coming after him right now," general manager Al Avila said in January, per Will Burchfield of 97.1 The Ticket. "It could change in spring training, it could change during the season, I don't know. But right now, really, I don't have anything going on."
The Tigers can only hope that a dream suitor materializes. In theory, said suitor would look like the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays never did find the middle-of-the-order righty hitter that Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported was a priority of theirs this offseason. Perhaps it isn't too late for Castellanos to be that guy.
As far as the Tigers are concerned, what matters is that the Rays have MLB's No. 5-ranked farm system to barter with. Within it are any number of goodies the Tigers could demand for Castellanos.
Houston Astros: Trade for Robbie Ray
It shouldn't be so easy to worry about a Houston Astros rotation that led MLB with a 3.16 ERA in 2018.
However, three members of that rotation (Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr.) are out of the picture. And while the Astros can have high hopes for Forrest Whitley, fellow top prospect Josh James is out of action with a quadriceps injury.
In short, now would be a good time for the Astros to trade for Robbie Ray.
According to the late, great Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Houston was showing interest in the D-backs lefty in December. The team's famed analytics department is presumably interested in getting its hands on Ray, who has produced 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings since 2016.
Ray is 27 and is controlled through 2020, so he wouldn't come cheap. However, the Astros do have plenty of replacement arms (e.g., J.B. Bukauskus) in their No. 7-ranked farm system to offer Arizona.
Kansas City Royals: Trade for Blake Swihart
Though the Kansas City Royals have a farm system to rebuild, they have a more immediate problem behind the plate.
Veteran catcher Salvador Perez will miss the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. According to Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star, Royals GM Dayton Moore could now pursue catching "depth."
That would make the Royals a match for one of Boston's catchers. Swihart, in particular, would fit nicely in Kansas City.
With his days as a top prospect now several years in the past, the 26-year-old is a classic change-of-scenery candidate. If stardom continues to elude him, he at least has versatility to fall back on. Catcher was one of six defensive positions he played for the Red Sox in 2018.
One way or another, the Royals could get their money's worth out of Swihart through the end of his club control in 2022.
Los Angeles Angels: Trade for Marcus Stroman
The Los Angeles Angels are another hypothetical fit for Bumgarner, who would be easily the top starter in a rotation that lacks a true No. 1.
But because the Angels are trying to close what was a 23-game gap between them and the Astros in 2018, they'd be better off springing for a multiyear upside play than a rental ace.
Marcus Stroman would be perfect.
Two years ago, Stroman emerged as an elite starter with a 3.09 ERA over 201 innings. He's also been MLB's top ground-ball artist since 2015. A talent like that would play well with an Angels infield headed by Andrelton Simmons, Zack Cozart and David Fletcher.
Securing Stroman, 27, for 2019 and 2020 would probably cost the Angels a pitcher that the Blue Jays could plug in right away. Jaime Barria or top prospect Griffin Canning might do the trick.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Trade for Nicholas Castellanos
In light of Clayton Kershaw's compromised shoulder and the volatility of fellow starters Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Los Angeles Dodgers may be worrying about their rotation. However, they have more than enough depth to cover for any hardships on the mound.
What's not as readily available is right-handed power. The Dodgers sacrificed quite a bit of it when they dealt Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to Cincinnati. Signing A.J. Pollock didn't entirely solve the problem.
Castellanos has what the Dodgers need, and they could live with his mediocre defense better than most National League clubs. On any given day, Chris Taylor and/or Enrique Hernandez would be standing by to replace him in right field in a pinch.
There's plenty in Los Angeles' No. 8-ranked farm system to entice the Tigers. To throw one name out there, righty slugger DJ Peters would be a fitting centerpiece in a Castellanos trade.
Miami Marlins: Trade Drew Steckenrider to the Boston Red Sox
With the long-gestating trade of J.T. Realmuto out of the way, the Miami Marlins' top trade chip is now...[checks notes]...Drew Steckenrider?
Compared to Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Starlin Castro and Wei-Yin Chen, his name is far from the household variety. Yet for one thing, Steckenrider is 28 and controlled through 2023. For another, he has a 3.35 ERA in 108 career appearances. For a third, he held righty batters to a .545 OPS in 2018.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Red Sox were interested in Steckenrider in July. There's no better team for the Marlins to turn to for a potential trade right now.
If the Red Sox can't get a true relief ace, a dominant righty specialist is their next-best play. After all, such a guy could come in handy against the righty sluggers scattered throughout the American League.
Milwaukee Brewers: Trade for Madison Bumgarner
The Milwaukee Brewers were weakest at shortstop in 2018. But rather than diagnose a fix there, it's only fair to give 24-year-old Orlando Arcia gets another shot.
Instead, let's solve Milwaukee's ace problem with a trade for Bumgarner.
The Brewers might refute that they even have an "ace problem." If a healthy Jimmy Nelson doesn't fit the bill, a rejuvenated Chase Anderson might. They also have three young righties who are dripping with upside: Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta.
None of them have Bumgarner's creds, however, and he's generally perfect for the Brewers. Their World Series aspirations are a good excuse to go all-in on renting him for one year, and he would play well with the team's catchers and defense.
To make a deal happen, the Brewers might only need to give up one or more of the aforementioned young righties.
Minnesota Twins: Trade for Dylan Bundy
After a busy offseason, the Minnesota Twins measure up against the Indians in every department except one: starting pitching.
The Twins could close the gap with a deal for a brand-name ace, but an alternative is to go off the board for a dice-roll that they're singularly suited to win. In this case, Dylan Bundy.
Bundy needs somebody who can help him recover the fastball velocity that he's lost. That happens to be the specialty of Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson, who's already squeezing mid-90s heat out of Martin Perez and Stephen Gonsalves.
The Twins have more than enough in their No. 9-ranked farm system to afford Bundy, and they'd stand to be rewarded with an ace if Johnson's magic worked on him.
New York Mets: Trade for Robbie Ray
The New York Mets don't need to worry about the first three members of their rotation. The trio of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler is as good as it gets.
After them, however, they're down to Steven Matz and Jason Vargas. The former doesn't tend to stay healthy, while the latter is coming off a 5.77 ERA over 20 starts.
To secure their status as a contender for the NL East title, the Mets should aim to turn their excellent trio into an excellent foursome by dealing for Robbie Ray.
Perhaps he wouldn't eat too many innings, but he'd figure to strike out batters at an even better rate than deGrom, Syndergaard and Wheeler. In so doing, he'd bypass a Mets defense that typically isn't all that good.
Ray would cost the Mets one of the better prospects from their No. 23-ranked farm system. Either slugging first baseman Pete Alonso or shortstop Andres Gimenez could get a deal done.
New York Yankees: Trade for Eric Thames
The New York Yankees don't need much of anything, save for perhaps some left-handed power to balance out a lineup that leans to the right. Said power preferably would fit at first base and in the outfield.
Eric Thames matches that description.
The 32-year-old has clubbed 47 homers for the Brewers over the last two seasons. However, he lost his first base gig to Jesus Aguilar in 2018, and there aren't many opportunities for him to play in an outfield populated by Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun.
In New York, Thames could platoon with Luke Voit at first base and share time with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Brett Gardner in the corner outfield spots and at designated hitter. To boot, his pull power would work well with Yankee Stadium's short right field porch.
In exchange for Thames, the Yankees might offer the Brewers a project prospect such as hard-throwing righty Albert Abreu.
Oakland Athletics: Trade for Madison Bumgarner
The Oakland Athletics didn't need great starting pitching to win 97 games in 2018, so they can be forgiven for believing the same formula can work again in 2019.
Still, it's hard to shake the suspicion that they're pushing their luck. To maximize their chances of overcoming Houston in the AL West, they could use a reliable No. 1.
Bumgarner fits the bill, and there might not be a better fit for him than Oakland.
He may be showing improved velocity now, but he'll need every advantage he can get if it doesn't last. The A's have two big ones: MLB's most efficient defense and a huge home ballpark that suffocates balls in play.
The question is whether the A's, who are always conscious of the future, would pay a high price for a rental. If yes, they might send flamethrowing lefty A.J. Puk or one of their other notable prospects across the bay.
Philadelphia Phillies: Trade for Robbie Ray
The Philadelphia Phillies entered the offseason in need of offense. With Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura now aboard, it's safe to say they got it.
But before anyone crowns them the top beast in the NL East, the Phillies' rotation is a little iffy after Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. In what seems like a related story, the Phillies had their eye on Ray in December.
Since their new offensive toys don't figure to make what was a bad defense that much better, the Phillies ought to value Ray's strikeout talent more than most. Likewise, strikeouts are the best way for any pitcher to avoid getting hurt by Citizens Bank Park's hitter-friendly dimensions.
Trades and promotions have sunk Philly's farm system to No. 20 in MLB. But at this point, they might as well give up top prospect Alec Bohm for the sake of completing a World Series contender.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade for Nick Ahmed
The Pittsburgh Pirates might have the best pitching staff in the NL Central, but it's counterbalanced by the division's worst lineup.
At the least, the Pirates need to erase the question mark looming over shortstop. Their trade options are admittedly slim, but they could net some real upside with a deal for Nick Ahmed.
Ahmed, who'll turn 29 on March 15, won a Gold Glove for the Diamondbacks last season. It probably won't be his last, as his defensive reputation is backed up by 56 defensive runs saved since 2015.
In exchange for Ahmed, who's under club control through 2020, the Pirates might offer one of the many middle infield prospects (e.g., shortstop Oneil Cruz) in their No. 15-ranked farm system.
San Diego Padres: Trade for Michael Fulmer
With Manny Machado on their payroll and Fernando Tatis Jr. and others standing by in their No. 1-ranked farm system, the San Diego Padres should be smiling as they strut toward the future.
They could smile a lot brighter if their present rotation had at least one guy who projected as an ace for the long term.
Out of all available options, only Michael Fulmer fits the description.
The Tigers righty is coming off an injury-marred 2018 campaign, and he's currently having trouble with his fastball velocity this spring. Yet he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2016 and an All-Star in 2017, and he'll turn only 26 on March 15. Further, he's controlled through 2022.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Padres had interest in Fulmer in June. If they were to rekindle it now, they might try to build a deal around a spare asset like Francisco Mejia or Franmil Reyes.
San Francisco Giants: Trade for Juan Lagares
The Giants should be in seller mode after two straight losing seasons. In actuality, they're taking more of a wait-and-see approach.
If nothing else, the Giants should seek at least one viable option for their dismal-looking outfield. Ideally, they'd get one for almost nothing and potentially turn him into a trade chip if 2019 goes south.
Which brings us to Juan Lagares. He's superfluous on the Mets' bench next to newcomer Keon Broxton, so New York might as well dump his $9 million salary on a team that could actually use him.
To this end, the 2014 Gold Glove winner could serve the Giants as a platoon partner for Steven Duggar and Gerardo Parra, or as an emergency starter if neither pulls his weight.
The 29-year-old's salary is probably a deal-breaker for most teams, but it shouldn't be for the Giants. They have more than enough payroll space for it.
Seattle Mariners: Trade for Ken Giles
The Seattle Mariners have taken an "island of misfit toys" approach to reimagining their roster. As in, they've targeted once-great players who might become great again.
It's a wonder that they haven't yet acquired Ken Giles.
The 28-year-old was a shutdown closer for the Astros as recently as 2017. However, he fell out of favor in that year's postseason, and he never recovered in 2018. He got himself demoted following a public berating of Houston manager A.J. Hinch, and he was then unceremoniously dumped in the Roberto Osuna trade.
While Giles didn't fare much better with Toronto, he isn't beyond saving. He still has a high-90s fastball and is controlled through 2020.
Given where he's been over the last two years, the Blue Jays are probably more willing to sell low on Giles than they are on Stroman or Pillar. If so, the Mariners are just the team to take advantage.
St. Louis Cardinals: Trade for Madison Bumgarner
The thread that was holding the St. Louis Cardinals rotation together is already unraveling.
After making only 18 starts last year, Carlos Martinez is dealing with shoulder soreness this spring. Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright, meanwhile, are no sure things to pick up the slack after combining for only 23 starts in 2018.
For the last time (we swear), we'll point to Bumgarner as the perfect panacea. A healthy Bumgarner could give the Cardinals at least 30 starts and 200 innings, and he could benefit from the team's outfield defense and fly-ball-killing home ballpark.
For what it's worth, a trade for Bumgarner would fit within the Cardinals' tradition—see Scott Rolen, Matt Holliday, Jason Heyward and Paul Goldschmidt—of being unafraid of star players' walk years. There's plenty within their No. 12-ranked farm system to potentially make it happen.
Tampa Bay Rays: Trade for Nicholas Castellanos
What's good for the Tigers would also be good for the Rays.
It's no wonder that the Rays set out to add power during the offseason. Though they pitched well enough to win 90 games last year, their offense produced only 150 total home runs (27th in MLB) and 467 extra-base hits (tied for 20th).
According to Topkin, brand-name sluggers such as McCutchen, Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz might have satisfied the Rays. With all of them off the board, Castellanos is the best they can do now.
Since they still wouldn't measure up to the Red Sox and Yankees on paper, the Rays would be risking something by paying the price to rent Castellanos. But they'd at least cement themselves as a top AL wild-card contender, and one with enough weapons to potentially pull off an October surprise.
Texas Rangers: Trade for Andrew Cashner
With a 95-loss 2018 campaign in their wake, Rangers should be shopping Leclerc and other trade assets. But like the Giants, they aren't ready to tear it all down just yet.
The effort will hinge on Texas' pitching staff, which notably features three starters (Shelby Miller, Drew Smyly and Edinson Volquez) who are coming back from Tommy John surgery. Knowing that, the Rangers would be wise to seek out a veteran who could serve as a long reliever and spot starter as needed.
Andrew Cashner could work. He's made at least 27 starts each year since 2015. He's no workhorse despite that, but he's typically good for five innings per outing.
Cashner is 32 and coming off a 5.29 ERA, so the Orioles likely wouldn't mind eating some of his $9.5 million salary in a trade. The Rangers have the payroll space for such a salary dump.
Toronto Blue Jays: Trade Justin Smoak to the Houston Astros
As much as teams might want to get at Stroman, Pillar, Giles or Aaron Sanchez, the Blue Jays can afford to be patient and hope they recoup some trade value in 2019 or 2020.
Justin Smoak is a different story.
After slamming 63 home runs over the last two seasons, Smoak's value is probably as good as it's going to get. He's also in the final season of his contract. The sooner he's moved, the sooner top prospect Rowdy Tellez can take his place at first base.
Not many contenders have a real need at first base, but the Astros have more of a need than they might want to admit. It isn't so much that a Yuli Gurriel/Tyler White timeshare is a bad thing, so much as a World Series hopeful like them can do better.
A trade for Smoak would do the trick, and the Blue Jays might even get a solid prospect out of it.
Washington Nationals: Trade for Jose Leclerc
The Washington Nationals spent the offseason loading up on depth, but there's one area that apparently has them feeling uneasy.
According to Rosenthal, the Nats are interested in adding Kimbrel to a bullpen that features some uncertainty around ace lefty Sean Doolittle, who has a spotty injury history in his own right. Per MLB.com's Jamal Collier, the catch is that the team is wary of going over the $206 million luxury-tax threshold.
If so, the Nats have the same reasons to go all-out for Leclerc as the Red Sox.
If there's a difference that works in Washington's favor, it's the relative depth of the club's No. 21-ranked farm system. The Nats could hope to base a blockbuster deal around teenage infielder Luis Garcia, or even up-and-coming shortstop Carter Kieboom.
If successful, they'd get perhaps the final piece of a World Series puzzle.