Controversial MLB Trade Ideas That Would Ignite Fanbases

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterApril 15, 2019

Controversial MLB Trade Ideas That Would Ignite Fanbases

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    Why would the Boston Red Sox trade Rafael Devers? Well, let's talk about it.
    Why would the Boston Red Sox trade Rafael Devers? Well, let's talk about it.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Let's get weird with some Major League Baseball trade ideas.

    It's certainly early to be dreaming up reasonable trades, much less controversial ones. But the latter is indeed a real trade genre, and we have some notions about how it might be expanded in the 2019 season.

    We've conjured eight trade ideas that involve teams sending away players (including one renowned prospect) whom fans would be loath to see part. Yet under just the right circumstances, trades of any of them would actually be perfectly justifiable.

    To prove we're not messing around, we'll start with the possibility of one of MLB's more successful franchises trading one of the league's brightest stars.

Washington Nationals Trade Anthony Rendon

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The appropriate question to ask right now is why the heck the Washington Nationals would trade Anthony Rendon, who's been one of the National League's best players since 2017, at any point in 2019.

    They likely won't, but they'll have to consider it if they find themselves in the same spot this year as they did with Bryce Harper last season.

    Though Washington's ownership nixed it, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Nats had a deal in place to trade Harper to the Houston Astros last July 30. There was a second chance for a trade in August when the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed him off waivers.

    Harper wasn't on the block because the Nationals were bad, necessarily. Yet they were struggling to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, so there was some logic in getting something for the 2015 National League MVP before free agency beckoned him in the winter.

    Given how much more hotly contested this year's NL East race figures to be, the Nationals might ultimately be left behind again. In that scenario, the temptation to cash in Rendon's value—which is presently being inflated by a 1.333 OPS—before his own free agency beckons after this season could be too strong to pass up.

Milwaukee Brewers Trade Travis Shaw

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Elsewhere in the topic of "Good Team X Trades Valuable Third Baseman Y," we find the Milwaukee Brewers and Travis Shaw.

    First, let's assume Shaw shakes off his slow start to 2019 and comes to resemble the player he was in 2017 and 2018. As in, a player who put up an .844 OPS, launched 63 home runs and produced 8.0 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

    With that done, now let's assume Milwaukee's need for pitching will come to outweigh its need for offense as 2019 moves along.

    It could happen. The Brewers don't have a true No. 1 atop their rotation—which currently owns a 6.02 ERA—and their bullpen is undermanned thanks to Corey Knebel's Tommy John surgery and Jeremy Jeffress' sore shoulder. To address either or both of these shortcomings, it's possible Milwaukee's best play would be to subtract from a lineup that has plenty of depth around reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich.

    Shaw, who turns 29 on Tuesday, would be a candidate to go. He could be replaced by Mike Moustakas at his natural position of third base, which would in turn open a spot for uber-prospect Keston Hiura at second base.

Boston Red Sox Trade Rafael Devers

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    To round out our series on "Good Team X Trades Valuable Third Baseman Y," we come to the Boston Red Sox and Rafael Devers.

    Devers was a top prospect when he debuted in 2017, and his highlights as a Red Sox since then include heroic moments in both the 2017 and 2018 postseasons. And he's still only 22 years old.

    Yet even after more than 200 total games with the Red Sox, there remains a gap between Devers' potential and his reality. He's struggled to find his footing defensively, and various flaws in his offensive game are pushing his production in a less-than-encouraging direction.

    Should the need arise, however, the Red Sox might market Devers to potential trade partners as a young building block who would be under their control through 2023. With those creds, he could certainly pass muster as the centerpiece of a significant trade.

    In this case, the sorry state of Boston's starting rotation—and of Chris Sale, in particular—could necessitate that said significant trade bring back a top-flight starter. Devers could then be spelled by Eduardo Nunez or top prospect Michael Chavis at the hot corner.

Texas Rangers Trade Joey Gallo

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    Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

    Even though they're in a rebuilding phase, there's no rush for the Texas Rangers to trade Joey Gallo. He's only 25 years old, and he's under their control through 2022.

    For that matter, there's also the question of how much value Gallo even has as a trade chip. After all, living with him means living with frequent strikeouts and a batting average that sticks close to the Mendoza line.

    What Gallo does well, however, he's increasingly doing very well. He's fine-tuned his discipline to a point where he's now working on a career-best 20 percent walk rate in 2019. Per his 101.6 mph average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives, his already folk-heroic power is getting even more extreme.

    And even if Gallo isn't a particularly good defender, he's a useful one. He can play all three outfield spots, as well as third base and first base.

    The Rangers can afford to ignore Gallo's potential value on the 2019 trade market if the latest step of their rebuild significantly improves upon the 95 games they lost in 2018. But if it doesn't, dealing him could make a major difference for a farm system that entered the year ranked squarely in the middle of the pack.

Oakland Athletics Trade Ramon Laureano

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Ramon Laureano has become a fan favorite for the Oakland Athletics for a fairly simple reason: He's an absolute joy to watch.

    The 24-year-old is arguably the most exciting center fielder in baseball right now. There's no fly ball he can't get to and no throw he can't make. Just ask the Boston Red Sox, who felt the wrath of his arm three times in a four-game series earlier in April.

    "I should have known," said Mookie Betts to reporters after Laureano gunned him down at third base on April 4. "He's pretty much thrown everybody out."

    Laureano's bat also packs a punch. He's hit eight homers in 66 career games, and he's averaged a solid 93.8 mph exit velocity on his fly balls and line drives.

    But as evidenced by his 21-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .279 on-base percentage, Laureano's bat also comes with real flaws. If he can't erase them, the A's might ultimately have to consider whether his defense is worth the trouble.

    Or, they could look to cash in on his reputation as a singularly talented defensive whiz while it's still good. In particular, they might see if anyone is willing to take him for a much-needed starting pitcher.

Detroit Tigers Trade Matthew Boyd

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    Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    All of a sudden, Matthew Boyd looks like one of the best pitchers in baseball.

    The Detroit Tigers left-hander was merely OK between 2016 and 2018, racking up a 4.72 ERA over 402.2 innings. Now, he's rocking a 2.60 ERA with 29 strikeouts through his first 17.2 innings of 2019.

    The Tigers control Boyd, 28, through 2022, so he's not in the same boat as slugging right fielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Tigers should trade the latter before he reaches free agency this winter. They can hold on to Boyd and hope he's still an ace when their rebuild ends.

    Trouble is, there's a somewhat flimsy quality to that hope.

    Tigers general manager Al Avila has told reporters he doesn't expect to put the club's rebuild to rest with a return to big spending until 2021 or 2022. Boyd will be brushing up against free agency by then, and he'll be on the wrong side of 30 by February 2021.

    Assuming their hot start eventually gives way to a cooler existence, the Tigers will have some incentive to explore what Boyd is worth on the summer market. At the rate he's going, his value could be too great to pass up.

Cincinnati Reds Trade Luis Castillo

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Meanwhile in Cincinnati, Luis Castillo might be the Reds' answer to Matthew Boyd.

    Granted, the idea of the Reds making the 2019 postseason isn't as far-fetched as that of the Tigers playing into October. The Reds did spend the winter attempting to remake themselves into a winner, after all.

    Yet the result so far is a 5-9 record. From here, the worst-case scenario is a tide that would take the Reds back to the same 90-plus-loss territory they've been occupying since 2015. They would have little choice but to sell, and their many rentals—e.g., Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark and Scooter Gennett—would all have to be available.

    The nuclear option would be putting Castillo on the table, too.

    The right-hander has been mostly good since he debuted in 2017, and now he's trending toward greatness with a 0.92 ERA and 25 strikeouts through his first 19.2 innings of 2019. To boot, he's only 26 and under Cincinnati's control through 2023.

    If disaster does indeed befall the Reds this year, however, they'd be facing the possibility of wasting Castillo's prime on several more years of rebuilding. They could be better off trading him for a haul of prospects who'd fit better in their long-term plans.

Tampa Bay Rays Trade Brendan McKay

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    The Tampa Bay Rays have an early advantage over the Red Sox and New York Yankees in the American League East race. If they're ultimately going to lean into it, they must be prepared to do anything.

    Up to and including trading one of the most exciting prospects in the minors: Brendan McKay.

    Though McKay is neither baseball's best prospect (that's Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) nor even the Rays' best prospect (that's either Wander Franco or Brent Honeywell), he's the sport's best hope for a second two-way star alongside Shohei Ohtani. McKay is well-regarded as both a left-handed pitcher and left-handed hitter.

    And yet the 23-year-old Louisville alum is arguably more interesting in theory than he is in reality.

    McKay's bat has produced an underwhelming .731 OPS over 412 professional plate appearances. His arm has fared better, yet he's more of a command-and-control type than a power pitcher. He may only have a ceiling as a No. 3 starter.

    Rather than hope for the best as they continue to develop McKay, the Rays might stand to gain more by using the summer trade market to cash in on his current hype. A blockbuster deal for a middle-of-the-order slugger could be just the excuse to do so.


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.