MLB Offseason Trades for the Most Disappointing TeamsSeptember 30, 2021
MLB Offseason Trades for the Most Disappointing Teams
For Major League Baseball fans who are disappointed in how their favorite team's 2021 season has gone, there is some good news.
The offseason, otherwise known as every team's best chance to right its wrongs, will be here soon.
The trade market won't necessarily be the best means of doing so for this year's biggest underachievers, but we nonetheless imagined eight trades that could hypothetically happen. A few involve teams trading away players who don't fit anymore, while the other six are more about the acquisition of impact talent.
Starting with the former, let's get to it.
Los Angeles Angels: Trade Away Justin Upton
The Los Angeles Angels surely expected to be better than 75-83 this season. Then again, there's no way they could have expected that three-time MVP Mike Trout would miss all but 36 games with a calf injury.
Going forward, the Angels might endeavor to keep Trout healthy by moving him off center field. If so, he would likely find a new home in left alongside youngsters Brandon Marsh in center and Jo Adell in right.
However, that would leave Justin Upton without a starting spot. And with minus-2.1 rWAR to his name since 2019 and a $28 million salary coming up in 2022, he's a tad too diminished and definitely too expensive for a new role as a fourth outfielder.
Throw in a full no-trade clause, and there are plenty of barriers in the way of the Angels offloading the 34-year-old. Still, it might be possible if another team wants him as an everyday player and veteran presence.
The Detroit Tigers could not only use a bat as they seek to return to contention, but they might also be interested in doing a Zack Cozart-style trade in which they take on Upton's remaining salary as a means to also buy a prospect from the Angels. For their part, the Angels could use the savings on pitching.
San Diego Padres: Trade Away Eric Hosmer
Elsewhere on the boat for disappointing teams with bad contracts to unload are the San Diego Padres.
After they ended a 14-year playoff drought in 2020, all was well for the Padres again this year until their 34-19 start gave way to a 44-61 slide. Among their major malfunctions is an offense that just hasn't gotten the job done in spite of strong years from Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth.
This isn't all Eric Hosmer's and Wil Myers' fault, but neither has earned his $20-plus million salary. Hosmer has managed just a .741 OPS and 1.2 rWAR while pulling in $21 million.
The 31-year-old almost certainly won't exercise his opt-out after 2022, so a trade is the only way the Padres can get out of paying him $60 million through 2025. The catch is that he has limited no-trade protection for now, with full protection coming his way after next season by way of 10-and-5 rights.
The Padres might be able to do a bad-contract swap with a team that has a dire need at first base. Hosmer's first team, the Kansas City Royals, happens to fit the bill. There could be a deal to be made involving left-hander Mike Minor going to San Diego with cash and prospects going to Kansas City.
Washington Nationals: Trade for Dallas Keuchel
Moving on to the National League East, the Washington Nationals came into this season hoping to bounce back after 2020 knocked them down from World Series champions to just another also-ran.
It was not to be, and the Nats finally relented when they traded Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber and a handful of other players at the trade deadline. But even though they've now lost 94 games and counting, general manager Mike Rizzo has insisted that the club is not rebuilding.
The silver lining of the Nats' fire sale is that it cleared a bunch of money from their books. That flexibility could serve them well on the trade market if they're willing to take on other teams' high-priced players.
The Chicago White Sox might have one of those in 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel. He's due to earn $18 million in 2022, which is a lot for a guy who currently bears a 5.13 ERA and is on the bubble for the team's playoff roster.
If the Nats were to acquire Keuchel from Chicago, it would likely be in another Cozart-style trade in which they take on the 33-year-old's entire salary so they can also acquire a prospect. Given their uncertain future as a contender, such a deal would be the best of both worlds.
Miami Marlins: Trade for Willson Contreras
The Miami Marlins weren't likely to return to the playoffs after ending their 17-year postseason absence in 2020. However, a regression to 93 losses is probably a bigger step back than they anticipated.
While the Marlins have a ton of talented young pitchers at their disposal, their path back to contention hinges on improving one of baseball's worst offenses.
Miami has many needs in this regard, but none bigger than at catcher. The position has been worth a league-low minus-2.0 rWAR this season, though its .556 OPS and 13 home runs are perhaps even uglier.
Given her ties to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, Marlins GM Kim Ng could potentially call him about slugging backstop Gary Sanchez. However, it would be wiser to rekindle the interest that she reportedly had in Chicago Cubs All-Star Willson Contreras back in January.
Contreras is due for free agency after 2022, so the Marlins would have to follow a trade with an extension if they wanted to keep him in Miami for more than one year. From looking at the sheer amount of space on the team's long-term books, that seems eminently possible.
Chicago Cubs: Trade for Max Meyer
Who would the Chicago Cubs get back from the Miami Marlins in a trade involving Willson Contreras?
They're a disappointing team in their own right, as they held a share of first place in the NL Central as late as June 24 but have lost 63 of their last 93 games. Along the way, they sent Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Kimbrel and others packing at the deadline.
And yet, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told reporters that the team isn't rebuilding. Time could reveal that to be an empty promise, but Hoyer could make good on it with a big-ticket signing or by targeting talented, major league-ready players in trades.
This is where trading Contreras to the Marlins could be a net positive for the Cubs even though they'd be losing one of the game's top catchers. They badly need pitching, and the Marlins have more young arms than they need.
Take Max Meyer, who's lacking in name recognition but has pitched his way to the No. 31 spot in MLB.com's prospect rankings. He has several plus pitches and has already advanced to Triple-A, so he could be pitching at Wrigley Field by early 2022 if the Cubs can get him.
New York Mets: Trade for Byron Buxton
As recently as late July, FanGraphs put the New York Mets' playoff chances in the high 70 percent range.
So much for that.
The Mets have won only 20 of their last 57 games, which caused them to slide out of playoff contention. They're now looking ahead to an offseason in which they'll have to establish a new front office regime and either re-sign or replace key free agents like Javier Baez, Marcus Stroman, Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard.
Unless new owner Steve Cohen runs out of money—which isn't likely—the Mets should be active on the open market. Cohen's billions also figure to be useful on the trade market, especially if the club goes back to the Francisco Lindor blueprint to do more trade-and-extend maneuvers.
There's no better candidate for such a maneuver than Byron Buxton. He and the Minnesota Twins haven't been able to agree on an extension, which puts him firmly in trade candidate territory as he heads into his last year under club control.
Buxton, 27, is a Gold Glove-winning center fielder who's hit like a superstar (i.e., .909 OPS and 29 home runs) in the 95 games he's played in over the last two seasons. He'd therefore be a massive upgrade for the Mets in center field, and he would free up Brandon Nimmo to fill Conforto's shoes in right field.
Minnesota Twins: Trade for Jeff McNeil
It isn't a fait accompli that the Minnesota Twins will trade Byron Buxton. Even though he's nearing free agency while the team is mired in last place in the AL Central, nobody is saying the word "rebuild" yet.
"Absolutely not," Twins owner Jim Pohlad told Dan Hayes of The Athletic in July. "We want to be in the win window all the time."
Even if the Twins do trade Buxton, they wouldn't necessarily have to back down from that stance. Sure, they might insist that any deal involving him include a prospect or two. But they also might want an established major leaguer who could help prop their contention window back open in 2022.
As it happens, the Mets have a few such players whom they could potentially spare in a trade: sweet-swinging outfielder/first baseman Dominic Smith and utility man Jeff McNeil.
Between the two, McNeil's credentials as an All-Star and a generally excellent hitter (i.e., an .884 OPS) between 2018 and 2020 make him a tad more attractive in spite of his slump to a .676 OPS this year. As a bonus, the 29-year-old is also under club control through 2024.
Cincinnati Reds: Trade for Ketel Marte
The Cincinnati Reds are yet another team whose season was going well until it very much wasn't.
The Reds' playoff chances peaked at 72.9 percent on Aug. 27, yet they've lost 18 of 29 games since then. They'd be hard-pressed to keep up with any team at that pace, much less a St. Louis Cardinals club that just won 17 games in a row.
Still, the Reds are too good to rebuild. They'll just need to fill holes this winter, up to and including the big one in center field. Mostly via Tyler Naquin and Shogo Akiyama, they've gotten an NL-low minus-0.2 rWAR out of the position in 2021.
Could the Reds go after Byron Buxton? Conceivably, sure. But rather than go all-in on a guy whose extension demands might be beyond what they can afford, it would better suit them to go after a guy who already has a club-friendly deal set in stone.
We mean Arizona Diamondbacks All-Star Ketel Marte, who's owed $8.4 million in 2022 and has $18 million worth of options for 2023 and 2024. He wouldn't come cheap, but that's where the Reds could pull from a farm system that includes top-tier arms (Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo) and shortstops (Jose Barrero, Matt McLain).
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.