ASAP MLB Trades to Fix Huge Problems Way Before the 2019 DeadlineJune 7, 2019
ASAP MLB Trades to Fix Huge Problems Way Before the 2019 Deadline
The Major League Baseball trade deadline isn't until July 31, but teams don't need to wait until then to patch roster holes.
We have a few ideas that clubs should execute immediately.
The simple part was identifying glaring needs on contenders. The more difficult part was deciphering which players they could trade for right now, as not every seller across MLB may be open for business yet.
Ultimately, we came up with eight trades (four for hitters and four for pitchers) we think could and should happen.
Texas Rangers: C Omar Narvaez
After losing 95 games in 2018, the Texas Rangers entered 2019 as an afterthought in the American League West.
Two months in, it's arguably past time to take the Rangers seriously. Their 32-28 record puts them neck and neck with the Boston Red Sox for the AL's second wild-card spot.
Yet the Rangers have needs aplenty. Their pitching staff invites skepticism, but it's their catching corps that's in greatest need of an upgrade. According to Baseball Reference, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Jeff Mathis have combined for an MLB-low minus-0.9 WAR.
Meanwhile in Seattle, the Mariners are willing to trade "almost every veteran on their roster," according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. The Rangers should inquire if that includes 27-year-old backstop Omar Narvaez.
If yes, the Rangers could make a deal for a catcher with a .804 OPS over the last two seasons. In light of the .542 OPS their catchers have produced, they sorely need offense like that behind the dish.
Although Narvaez wouldn't come cheaply, the Rangers could rest easy knowing he'd be under their control through 2022.
Houston Astros: 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion
Speaking of trades the Mariners might make with AL West rivals, now's the perfect time to gauge the Houston Astros' interest in Edwin Encarnacion.
Such interest has been there in the past. The Astros tried to sign Encarnacion as a free agent during the 2016-2017 offseason. More recently, they weighed trading for him this past winter.
In the meantime, the 36-year-old slugger is rebounding nicely from a rough 2018 with the Cleveland Indians. His OPS is up from .810 to .863, and his 17 home runs put him on track to blow past last year's 32.
The Astros can view Encarnacion as an upgrade over Yuli Gurriel and Tyler White—who've combined for a .655 OPS—at first base and designated hitter. For the short term, he'd also safeguard the Astros offense against a slump while George Springer (hamstring), Carlos Correa (rib) and Jose Altuve (hamstring) recover from injuries.
Like the Rangers, the Astros might hesitate to deal within the division. But as they pursue a third straight 100-win season and a second World Series title in three years, they can't be too picky.
Colorado Rockies: INF/OF Whit Merrifield
As they ride a 29-17 stretch since April 14, the Colorado Rockies should look to dig in as contenders.
In the wake of Kyle Freeland's demotion to the minor leagues, the Rockies should arguably be on the hunt for a starting pitcher. However, they're better off hoping Freeland can recapture what made him a Cy Young Award contender in 2018.
Instead, the Rockies ought to seek bats for an offense that's only marginally better than the unit that held them back in 2018. They need at least one more reliable hitter alongside Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon.
They should call the Kansas City Royals about Whit Merrifield.
According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, only Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier aren't among the players the Royals are willing to trade. Merrifield is their biggest prize. He's a versatile defender who's put up an .813 OPS since 2018, and he's signed to a club-friendly deal through 2022.
The Rockies would have to pay a hefty price to acquire Merrifield. But in return, they would get a player they could plug in at multiple positions and who has a line-drive stroke that would play well at Coors Field.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Adam Jones
In no time at all, the Philadelphia Phillies outfield has gone from being reasonably secure to in dire need of help.
Following his arrest and charge for domestic violence, center fielder Odubel Herrera is likely out of the picture for the foreseeable future. More recently, veteran left fielder Andrew McCutchen saw his season end when he tore an ACL Monday.
Philly's outfield situation would look much worse sans the club's recent trade for Jay Bruce. But another outfielder is needed—preferably one with experience in center field and who hits right-handed.
Basically, Adam Jones.
Jones spent the early part of the year as a bright spot on a surprising Arizona Diamondbacks club. But they've since lost 19 of their last 31 games, which effectively makes him a trade candidate. To this end, his .821 OPS and 12 homers give him some value.
Contrary to what happened in 2018, Jones couldn't block a trade to the Phillies this time. They would have to live with poor defense from him in center field, but the trade-offs would be quality offense and outstanding veteran leadership.
Atlanta Braves: RHP Ken Giles
Superstar closer Craig Kimbrel's long stay on the free-agent market ended Wednesday when he agreed to a three-year, $43 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.
With that, quite a few teams missed out on a significant bullpen upgrade. Among them are the Atlanta Braves. There was never a point when they didn't look like a fit for the 31-year-old Kimbrel, yet Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported that they weren't even among the finalists for the seven-time All-Star.
Even after agreeing to terms with 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel to head their rotation, the Braves can't simply shrug their shoulders and hope their bullpen fixes itself. It has a 4.33 ERA, as well as peripherals that contribute to minus-0.6 wins above replacement at FanGraphs.
The best thing the Braves can do is trade for a younger, better version of Kimbrel: Ken Giles.
The Toronto Blue Jays acquired the 28-year-old right-hander as a reclamation project last summer. He's since been reclaimed to the tune of a 1.08 ERA with 42 strikeouts and just seven walks over 25 innings.
Since they're rebuilding, the Blue Jays should be willing to sell high on Giles. The Braves would have to sacrifice a chunk of their prospect depth for him, but at least they'd control him through 2020.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Shane Greene
They're 43-20 as is, but the Los Angeles Dodgers would be a juggernaut if it weren't for their bullpen.
It has a 4.63 ERA, as well as a rate of 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings that ranks 26th. The recent dominance of veteran closer Kenley Jansen solves one problem, but the Dodgers still need reinforcements.
Giles would also work for them, as would left-handers Sean Doolittle and Will Smith. But Giles fits better in Atlanta, and the Washington Nationals may not be ready to trade Doolittle just yet. The San Francisco Giants, meanwhile, probably won't be trading Smith to their oldest rival.
So, Shane Greene it is.
To be fair, the righty isn't exactly a consolation prize. He has a 1.08 ERA with 28 strikeouts and seven walks through 25 innings for the Detroit Tigers. Given that he's also under club control through 2020, really the only difference between him and Giles is age. Greene is 30.
According to the late Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Greene was on the Dodgers' radar just last summer. Since the Tigers still have a lot of work to do with their rebuild, now would be a good time for the Dodgers to act on their interest.
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Marcus Stroman
Now that the Cubs have Kimbrel, their competition in the NL Central should feel compelled to keep up.
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, both the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals were in the running to sign Keuchel. But now that he's taken his talents to Atlanta, both will have to look elsewhere for starting pitching help.
For their part, the Cardinals should focus their gaze on Marcus Stroman.
The Blue Jays could keep him as their ace through 2020, but Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported that they're ready to be "aggressive" with their efforts to move him. They must like the idea of selling high on the 28-year-old righty while he has a 2.84 ERA.
There might not be a better fit for Stroman than the Cardinals. He's an extreme ground-ball pitcher, and their infield is allowing an MLB-low .204 average on ground balls.
If those two forces were indeed to be combined, St. Louis' rotation could quickly improve on its 4.32 ERA.
Milwaukee Brewers: LHP Madison Bumgarner
As for the Brewers, there's little reason to stop beating the Madison Bumgarner drum.
According to Morosi, the Brewers were talking to the Giants about Bumgarner in January. The four-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion made perfect sense for the Brewers then. He makes just as much sense for them now.
Milwaukee's used 10 different starters to get to a 4.60 rotation ERA. Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff have been reliable, but the big picture otherwise consists of ineffective pitchers and two guys (Gio Gonzalez and Jhoulys Chacin) who are nursing injuries.
Of course, there is the question of whether the Giants are ready to trade Bumgarner. They're terrible, yet they may prefer to wait on moving the 29-year-old until after he's improved on his 4.05 ERA.
Alternatively, the Giants could rent out Bumgarner's starts as he progresses toward free agency. If so, the Brewers would only need to convince him to waive his no-trade protection.
If a contract extension doesn't do the trick, the chance to join a World Series contender might.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.