High-Risk, High-Reward MLB Trade Ideas for Teams to Go All-In
Teams across Major League Baseball have probably never been more risk-averse than they are right now, so there's a certain futility in proposing especially risky trades ahead of the July 31 deadline.
But just try to stop us.
We've come to discuss eight high-risk trades that teams should be willing to go all-in on because of their potential to yield high rewards. The players involved in these deals come with some combination of high acquisition costs, problematic contracts and talent that might not necessarily impact a pennant race.
Since pitching is in high demand, that's where the bulk of these proposals are focused. But we'll begin with a couple of gambles on hitters.
Trey Mancini to the Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians were an offensive black hole earlier in the year, but their bats have since come around to spearhead the team's rise in the American League playoff picture.
Still, Cleveland's lineup would look better if it had at least one more impact hitter. Left field would be a good place to put such an acquisition. According to Baseball Reference, the position has produced only 0.1 wins above replacement.
One idea would be to call the Baltimore Orioles about Trey Mancini.
There is interest in the slugger, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, and for good reason. Mancini has an .868 OPS and 17 home runs. He's also under club control through 2022, and next year will be his first season of arbitration eligibility.
But while Mancini's affordability suits the Indians' pocketbook, a trade for him would put a dent in a farm system that already ranks just No. 24 in MLB. The risk would then involve Mancini reverting back to his poor offensive form of 2018 when he mustered a .715 OPS. Regardless, he's bound to remain a defensive liability.
If Mancini were to keep on hitting, however, the Indians might just overtake the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.
Wil Myers to the Cincinnati Reds
This season hasn't panned out the way the Cincinnati Reds had hoped, but they're not about to give up.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Reds are "open to adding a controllable hitter." Given that they're only 4.5 games out in the NL Central and already have an outstanding pitching staff, such a player could indeed put them over the edge.
Calling the San Diego Padres about Wil Myers is worth a shot.
Two years after signing a six-year, $83 million contract extension, the outfielder now finds himself coming off San Diego's bench. That's his penance for his disappointing .715 OPS, not to mention his MLB-worst 35.7 strikeout percentage.
What's more, Myers hasn't even gotten to the big money in his deal. He's set to make $22.5 million per year between 2020 and 2022.
Yet Myers is only 28 years old, and his hard-hit rate proves that he's not yet devoid of the talent that once made him a Rookie of the Year and an All-Star. If the Reds could coerce the Padres into eating some of his contract by offering them talent from their No. 6 farm system, they might strike a deal they won't regret later.
Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox want a starting pitcher, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, and they "prefer to act sooner rather than later."
Yet the Red Sox, who are only an American League wild-card contender at this point, aren't looking to add much to a payroll that's already well over the $206 million luxury-tax threshold. A further complication is that they have to barter with MLB's worst farm system.
Assuming they can't get one of the top pitchers on the market, the Red Sox will have to chance it with one of the lesser available options.
Such as Andrew Cashner.
The Red Sox could probably get the Orioles to swallow some of the right-hander's $9.5 million salary. Whether Cashner would perform for them is another matter. He struggled with a 5.29 ERA just last year, and the 3.83 ERA he has this season comes with an alarmingly below-average strikeout rate.
But if nothing else, the Red Sox need Cashner's reliability (he averages 5.7 innings per start) at the back end of their starting rotation. And come playoff time, his rubber arm and rejuvenated fastball velocity could make him a Nathan Eovaldi-an X-factor out of their bullpen.
Matthew Boyd to the Texas Rangers
Meanwhile in Texas, the upstart Rangers are also on the lookout for starting pitchers. According to Morosi, their only stipulation is that they be controllable beyond 2019.
To this end, Matthew Boyd is a veritable pie in the sky.
Per Jason Beck of MLB.com, the Detroit Tigers' asking price for the breakout left-hander is akin to the four-prospect haul for Jose Quintana that netted the Chicago White Sox Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. The Rangers would be hard-pressed to come up with such a package, as they only have MLB's No. 29 system.
Plus, just how good is Boyd? He has a 3.87 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 107 innings, but he's also allowed 19 home runs. Of those, 12 have come in his last six starts.
But because the Rangers' inefficient defense behooves the front office to target strikeout-heavy pitchers, Boyd is about as good a fit as they can hope for. Acquiring Boyd would also be a case of them denying the enemy, as Morosi reported that the Houston Astros are after him.
Doing that and securing a playoff berth would make a trade for Boyd worth it for this season, and the Rangers would control him for three more.
Zack Wheeler to the Houston Astros
Granted, if the Astros really want him, it'll be a surprise if they let the Rangers outbid them for Matthew Boyd. They have a straighter path to the World Series, after all, not to mention an eighth-ranked system to pull from.
If not Boyd, the Astros can trade for any number of other starters on their radar. Per Rosenthal, Madison Bumgarner is one of them. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, so is Trevor Bauer, whose swing-and-miss stuff would certainly fit well in the Houston organization.
But since Bauer's actual availability is a question mark amid the Indians' recent surge, perhaps the Astros could pivot to Zack Wheeler.
Because of his pending free agency, Wheeler is the one guy on the New York Mets who's all but assured to be jettisoned from their sinking ship. His value is iffy, however, as he's followed a breakout 2018 season by regressing to a 4.69 ERA.
Yet the righty still has his merits. His fastball has elite velocity and pretty good spin rate, two things the Astros tend to covet. Like Justin Verlander in 2017, Wheeler also boasts a slider that might be turned into a devastating weapon.
In short, he's an ideal reclamation project for the Astros.
Marcus Stroman and Ken Giles to the New York Yankees
No imagination is required here, as TSN's Scott Mitchell reported that the New York Yankees have inquired about acquiring Marcus Stroman and Ken Giles in a package deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Such a deal would be a welcome homecoming for Stroman, who would slot into a starting rotation that sorely needs his 3.18 ERA and 5.8 innings per start. Giles, meanwhile, would add depth to a bullpen that could use his 1.45 ERA and 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
The cost to acquire both right-handers would be exorbitant, however, as both are All-Star-caliber pitchers whose club control runs through 2020. To boot, paying said cost would require the Yankees to send young talent to an AL East rival.
It's also not out of the question that Stroman and Giles would crash and burn in New York. The Yankees don't have an ideal infield defense to accommodate the former's ground-ball style. The latter has been prone to inconsistency and immaturity in the past.
Still, the Yankees' current situation is a license to go for it. They're facing a real chance of winning their first AL East title since 2012, not to mention the 28th World Series championship in their history.
Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith to the Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins have also asked about a possible Marcus Stroman/Ken Giles package deal, according to Mitchell. Failing that, there's another pairing they might pursue.
It's been reported by Rosenthal and Bob Nightengale of USA Today that the Twins have interest in Madison Bumgarner. According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, they also have interest in fellow Giants lefty Will Smith.
The Twins' lead in the AL Central gives them proper incentive to try to land both in one fell swoop, but it'll cost them. Even though Bumgarner and Smith are rentals, a deal for both would cost the Twins some of the best pieces from their No. 10 farm system.
For his part, Bumgarner has regressed to such a degree that he arguably has more name value than actual value at this point. He might no longer be the big-game pitcher that his reputation suggests.
For his own part, Smith has dominated with a 2.32 ERA and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings over the last two seasons. But in Minnesota, he could be superfluous alongside lefty closer Taylor Rogers.
If Bumgarner and Smith were to live up to their billing, however, the Twins would have what they need to win their first World Series since 1991.
Zack Greinke to the Atlanta Braves
The Arizona Diamondbacks may try to have it both ways at the trade deadline.
In an interview with Zach Buchanan of The Athletic, Arizona CEO Derrick Hall hinted at doing "a little bit of both" buying and selling. As he put it, the team's front office is always trying to "bring in young talent that can help the roster now."
This could be translated to mean the D-backs aren't opposed to unloading ace right-hander Zack Greinke. They may be 46-45 and he may have a 2.73 ERA, but a chance to get out of his $206.5 million contract and perhaps get some talent back might be a chance to jump on.
Greinke's 15-team no-trade list figures to complicate matters but not if the Atlanta Braves get involved.
The Braves are out to win a second straight NL East title, as well as their first World Series since 1995. They're conveniently absent from Greinke's list, and they also have more than enough prospects in their No. 2 farm system to potentially convince the D-backs to eat a sizable chunk of his remaining contract.
Of course, any deal the Braves make for Greinke would still result in them being out a bunch of money and prospects, all for the sake of a guy who'll turn 36 in October. But if Greinke were to remain an ageless ace, their rotation would be in good hands through the rest of 2019 and into 2021.