The Blockbuster MLB Trades We Want to See This Offseason
The end of the 2019 MLB season is rapidly approaching, which means another whirlwind offseason of free-agent signings and blockbuster trades awaits.
While a lot has already been made of the upcoming free agency of Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole and Washington Nationals star third baseman Anthony Rendon, we're going to turn our attention to the trade market for a bit.
Below, we've proposed seven blockbuster trades for the upcoming offseason, with a trade proposal and then an explanation from both sides as to why the proposed deal makes sense.
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Ken Giles to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Trade Proposal: Toronto Blue Jays trade RHP Ken Giles to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Ross Stripling
Why It Makes Sense for the Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have an exciting young core on offense, but they are lacking in quality arms.
Stripling, 29, has been a valuable swingman for the Dodgers the past two seasons, logging a 3.22 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 212.2 innings of work. He is controllable through the 2022 season and would immediately slot toward the front of the Toronto rotation.
As for the idea of moving Giles, he might already be pitching elsewhere if not for an ill-timed injury leading up to the 2019 trade deadline. He returned strong down the stretch, so there should be no lingering questions about the health of his arm. With an $8.4 million projected salary in 2020, he's a luxury for a non-contender in Toronto.
Why It Makes Sense for the Los Angeles Dodgers
The free-agent market is extremely thin on quality late-inning bullpen options, especially if Aroldis Chapman decides not to opt out of his contract with the New York Yankees. Will Smith (SF) and Will Harris (SF) are the best of the readily available bunch.
The Dodgers struggled all season to find a consistent bridge to closer Kenley Jansen, as free-agent signing Joe Kelly failed to live up to his contract.
Meanwhile, Jansen was also far from his usual dominant self with a 3.71 ERA and eight blown saves.
Stripling has been a valuable member of the pitching staff, but with Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin breaking through and Julio Urias settling into a hybrid role, the 29-year-old is expendable for a chance to add a more traditional late-inning arm to the back of the bullpen.
Dominic Smith to the Chicago White Sox
Trade Proposal: New York Mets trade 1B/OF Dominic Smith to the Chicago White Sox for OF Micker Adolfo, LHP Konnor Pilkington, LHP Jace Fry
Why It Makes Sense for the New York Mets
With the emergence of Pete Alonso at first base, the Mets had a hard time finding consistent playing time for Smith, despite his strong numbers.
When he was in the lineup, the No. 11 pick in the 2013 draft hit .282/.355/.525 with 10 doubles and 11 home runs in 197 plate appearances, good for a 134 OPS+.
The Mets have tried using him in the outfield the past two seasons, but the metrics (313 INN, -8 DRS, -30.0 UZR/150) make it abundantly clear he isn't an outfielder.
Trading him now, when his value is high and he has multiple years of control remaining, would be the best way to maximize the roster.
Fry would give the Mets bullpen a quality left-hander with swing-and-miss stuff, while Adolfo and Pilkington would immediately slot in as two of the better prospects in a thinned-out farm system. Adolfo, in particular, has an extremely high ceiling if everything clicks.
Why It Makes Sense for the Chicago White Sox
Regardless of whether Jose Abreu returns, the White Sox would greatly benefit from adding a piece like Smith to the long-term puzzle.
Abreu could move into the DH role going forward, while Smith could man first base until 2019 first-round pick Andrew Vaughn is MLB-ready. At that point, Abreu will be coming down the home stretch of his career, and Smith can shift into the DH spot.
With Smith under team control through the 2024 season, acquiring him now would be an investment in the future for the White Sox, and he could blossom into a star with regular playing time.
Robbie Ray to the Milwaukee Brewers
Trade Proposal: Arizona Diamondbacks trade LHP Robbie Ray to the Milwaukee Brewers for RHP Trey Supak, C Payton Henry, RHP Ray Black
Why It Makes Sense for the Arizona Diamondbacks
Despite the offseason trade of Paul Goldschmidt and the midseason trade of Zack Greinke, the Diamondbacks still don't have the feel of a rebuilding team. They finished a respectable 85-77, including a 32-22 finish to briefly climb into wild-card contention.
At the very least, the front office will likely continue to maximize short-term assets, which means there's a good chance Ray will be hitting the trade block ahead of his final year of club control.
The 28-year-old continued to rack up strikeouts last season. He finished with 235 punchouts in 174.1 innings and posted a respectable 4.29 FIP while lowering his walk rate from 5.1 to 4.3 per nine innings.
Ray isn't an ace, but he still has plenty of value as a middle-of-the-rotation starter projected to earn a reasonable $10.8 million in arbitration. For teams not looking to make a long-term financial commitment to a free-agent starter, he'll be an appealing alternative.
Why It Makes Sense for the Milwaukee Brewers
How far can the Brewers realistically go with a rotation of Brandon Woodruff, Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, Adrian Houser and Jimmy Nelson?
The bullpen-heavy approach served them well in 2018, but it proved to be their undoing this past season. They need to seriously consider beefing up their starting staff this offseason.
The Brewers have generally shied away from splashy free-agent signings, so the trade market could be their preferred route. They shouldn't have to give up any of their top-tier prospects to land Ray.
Parting with Henry would be a vote of confidence in Mario Feliciano as the catcher of the future, while Supak is more floor than ceiling, albeit with a high floor thanks to his back-of-the-rotation workhorse potential. The Brewers acquired the hard-throwing Black from the Giants at the trade deadline, but he's out of minor league options and is on the roster bubble.
Starling Marte to the Texas Rangers
Trade Proposal: Pittsburgh Pirates trade OF Starling Marte to the Texas Rangers for LHP Brock Burke, OF Bubba Thompson
Why It Makes Sense for the Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates have parted ways with team president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington, manager Clint Hurdle, pitching coach Ray Searage and bench coach Tom Prince since the offseason began.
That turnover figures to trickle down to the roster side of things as well, where outfielder Starling Marte is by far the team's most valuable trade chip.
The 31-year-old is fresh off his second straight 20/20 season and has posted 6.6 WAR during that span. He's under control for two more seasons, with reasonable club options of $11.5 million in 2020 and $12.5 million in 2021.
Marte's value will only diminish as his remaining control dwindles, so the Pirates have every reason to sell high on him this offseason as they embark on a rebuild. Burke would give them a controllable, MLB-ready arm, while 2017 first-round pick Thompson would be a high-risk, high-reward addition to the system.
Why It Makes Sense for the Texas Rangers
The Rangers have seemingly been piecing together their center field spot for years. They've hit on bounce-back candidates Carlos Gomez and Ian Desmond along the way, but they've also enduring some rough seasons at the position.
Speedster Delino DeShields currently looks like the best in-house option, but that isn't saying much. He posted a middling 72 OPS+ in 408 plate appearances in 2019. Slugger Joey Gallo is also capable of manning the position, but he's miscast there.
Swinging a deal for Marte would plug a hole defensively and add another dynamic to the offense. It could also open the door for a trade of Nomar Mazara this offseason.
Carlos Martinez to the San Diego Padres
Trade Proposal: St. Louis Cardinals trade RHP Carlos Martinez to the San Diego Padres for RHP Michel Baez, SS Gabriel Arias, OF Michael Gettys
Why It Makes Sense for the St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals were open to trading Martinez this summer, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It thus stands to reason that he'll be readily available this winter as well.
If they do move him, money will be a motivating factor. The 28-year-old is owed $23.4 million over the next two years, with club options of $17 million in 2022 and $18 million in 2023.
With that said, he's still a valuable asset with a high ceiling given his potential to return to the starting rotation after serving as the team's closer last year.
Baez would be the centerpiece of the deal, with a similar profile as a potential starter in the future who could help out in the bullpen now. He posted a 3.03 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 29.2 innings out of the Padres bullpen in 2019.
Arias and Gettys are both high-ceiling prospects, albeit with significant different profiles.
Arias, 19, hit .302/.339/.470 with 17 home runs at High-A. Gettys, 24, was a 2014 second-round pick with loud tools who hit 31 home runs while striking out 30.5 percent of the time at Triple-A this past season.
Why It Makes Sense for the San Diego Padres
The Padres have been looking for a controllable veteran starter to anchor their young rotation for years now, and rolling the dice on Martinez could give them just that.
While he pitched out of the bullpen for part of 2018 and all of the 2019 season, he was the ace of the St. Louis staff not long ago. From 2015 through 2017, he posted a 3.24 ERA and averaged 193 innings per season while making the NL All-Star team twice.
The Padres system is loaded with middle infield talent, so Arias wouldn't be a huge loss, and Gettys is a prime candidate for a change of scenery. Parting with Baez and taking on Martinez's contract would be a risk worth taking for the Padres as they try to take the next step toward playoff contention.
Kris Bryant to the Atlanta Braves
Trade Proposal: Chicago Cubs trade 3B Kris Bryant to the Atlanta Braves for LHP Max Fried, RHP Patrick Weigel
Why it Makes Sense for the Chicago Cubs
Credit for the basis of this trade idea goes to Al Yellon of SB Nation, who proposed a straight Bryant-for-Fried swap earlier this month.
While it might take a bit more than that for the Cubs to bite on the idea of trading Bryant, Fried makes a lot of sense as the primary piece of a return package.
The 25-year-old left-hander posted a 3.72 FIP with 173 strikeouts in 165.2 innings during a breakout 2019 season. He would give the Cubs the long-term starter they need, and he's under team control through the 2024 season.
As for the idea of trading Bryant, he's two years removed from free agency and is all but certain to test the open market as a Scott Boras client. Team president Theo Epstein didn't shoot down the idea of moving him when talking with reporters, and it's an idea at least worth exploring as the Cubs get ready to turn over a new leaf.
Why it Makes Sense for the Atlanta Braves
With Josh Donaldson set to reach free agency once again after making good on a one-year, $23 million deal, the Braves will have a hole to fill at third base and in the middle of the lineup. Donaldson posted a 127 OPS+ with 37 home runs and 94 RBI in 2019.
It looked like rookie Austin Riley would be the answer after a hot start to this MLB career, but he hit a dismal .161 with a 41.1 percent strikeout rate after the All-Star break and will likely head to Triple-A to begin next season.
With their window to contend wide open and an abundance of talented young arms in the system, the Braves are one of the few teams that could afford to part with a promising arm like Fried.
Mookie Betts to the Cincinnati Reds
Trade Proposal: Boston Red Sox trade RF Mookie Betts to the Cincinnati Reds for RHP Tony Santillan, IF Jonathan India, LHP Cody Reed, OF Jameson Hannah, RHP James Marinan
Why it Makes Sense for the Red Sox
The Red Sox appear to be focused on avoiding the luxury-tax threshold next year, which will mean significant payroll slashing this offseason, especially if J.D. Martinez decides to opt into the remaining three years of his deal.
With a $27.7 million projected salary in his final year of arbitration and an insistence on testing the open market once he does reach free agency, Betts could find himself squarely on the trade block this winter.
The Red Sox finished the 2019 season in the No. 30 spot in B/R's farm system rankings. While Betts' status as a rental will ultimately limit his value, he'll still fetch a huge return to help bolster the system.
Why it Makes Sense for the Reds
"The goal for us now, all we're talking about is the postseason," Reds general manager Dick Williams told reporters earlier this month. "That's what matters. That's the goal next year. It's not taking incremental steps in a rebuild. It's about the postseason."
He also came right out and said that the team's payroll will be higher next year.
That certainly sounds like a team that is gearing up for a busy offseason, and adding Betts to the mix would be a huge boon to Cincinnati's playoff chances. The Reds could slot him in center field, which would allow Nick Senzel to move back onto the dirt as the primary second baseman.
Parting with Santillan (No. 3 prospect) and India (No. 4 prospect) would be a steep price to pay for a one-year rental, but there's a lot of uncertainty in the NL Central right now. This could be the Reds' chance to seize a golden opportunity.
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