MLB Trades That Would Change Everything for 2022 SeasonJanuary 19, 2022
MLB Trades That Would Change Everything for 2022 Season
Since the end of Major League Baseball's lockout seems anything but imminent, what say we scratch our itch for transaction action by imagining some trades?
And not just any trades. Big ones. As in, big enough to potentially decide division races in 2022.
To keep from getting too carried away, we speculated on just five trades that almost certainly won't happen but which are nonetheless possible enough to warrant discussion. These match obvious buyers with obvious sellers, with the former getting two key components and the latter getting building blocks for the future.
Let's go ahead and count these trades down, from smallest to biggest.
5. The Blue Jays Fill Major Needs with Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed
After settling for a fourth-place finish in spite of their 91 wins in 2021, the Toronto Blue Jays arguably look like the scariest team in the American League East.
Still, they could be scarier. Because while they replaced Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray with Kevin Gausman, they haven't yet accounted for MVP finalist Marcus Semien's absence in their lineup. Or in their defense, which wasn't especially good in 2021 even with Semien's Gold Glove-winning efforts.
Hence why the Blue Jays should call the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are fresh off a 110-loss season, about Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed.
Marte is a switch-hitter who has topped a 140 OPS+ in two of the last three seasons and is a capable defender at both second base and in center field. He could thus replace Semien and occasionally spell George Springer, and balance an offense that leans heavily to the right.
As for Ahmed, suffice it to say he'd be a good excuse to shift Bo Bichette off shortstop. Ahmed and Bichette finished 2021 with 19 and minus-6 outs above average, respectively.
Both Marte (through 2024) and Ahmed (through 2023) are controlled for cheap beyond 2022, so Arizona would need a significant haul for both. Say, Cavan Biggio and at least one of Toronto's top-100 prospects: catcher Gabriel Moreno (No. 46) and shortstops Orelvis Martinez (41) and Jordan Groshans (53).
4. The Padres Plunder Bryan Reynolds and David Bednar
Chances are Bryan Reynolds will stick with the Pittsburgh Pirates for a while.
Though there was chatter about a possible Reynolds trade ahead of last July's deadline, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Pirates' intent was to keep the All-Star outfielder and build around him. He isn't due for free agency until after 2025, after all.
The trouble is, the Pirates have been the National League's worst team over the last three seasons, and their farm system doesn't have even one prospect higher than No. 30. So if they get a shot to flip Reynolds for even longer-term cornerstones, they'll need to consider it.
And because any team looking to unseat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West needs to do better than a Nomar Mazara/Jurickson Profar platoon in left field, the San Diego Padres might offer such a shot.
Since he's blocked by Fernando Tatis Jr. anyway, the Padres could headline an offer for Reynolds with CJ Abrams. He's our No. 8 prospect largely on account of his 80-grade speed, though he also boasts a plus hit and fielding tools.
The Padres could look to truly maximize their return by also insisting on budding relief ace David Bednar, who's controlled through 2026. In turn, they could sweeten Pittsburgh's end of the deal with left-hander MacKenzie Gore, who was a top-10 prospect before running into various problems in 2021.
3. The Phillies Remake Their Lineup with Cedric Mullins and Trey Mancini
The Philadelphia Phillies have finished around .500 in each of the last four seasons and may well do so again in 2022 if they don't fill the gaps in their lineup.
The big one is in center field, where FanGraphs projects the Phillies to rank 29th in WAR this season. Particularly with the universal DH looming, they could also use another middle-of-the-order slugger to complement Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins.
In Trey Mancini, the Baltimore Orioles have a fit for the latter need. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported they'd "listen" to overtures for All-Star and 30-30 maestro Cedric Mullins, in which case they also have the right guy for the Phillies' hole in center field.
Because he's a one-dimensional player with only one season of club control left, Mancini shouldn't have an intimidating acquisition cost. Mullins, though, is a different story. He's only 27 years old and under club control through 2025.
For the Phillies, this represents a dilemma because their farm system only has two top-100 prospects. And neither is elite, as we have right-hander Mick Abel ranked at No. 65 and shortstop Bryson Stott at No. 70.
Yet the Phillies also have a wild card in 25-year-old third baseman Alec Bohm, who was second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2020 before falling off in 2021. An offer of him plus Abel and Stott could be enough for Mullins and Mancini, in which case Dave Dombrowski's legend as a blockbuster trader would grow yet larger.
2. The Dodgers Align Sonny Gray and Joey Votto to Their Resources
In November, Cincinnati Reds general manager Nick Krall caused a stir when he said the club was looking to "align our payroll to our resources."
To this end, the Reds are barely projected to cut payroll in 2022 even without Wade Miley, Michael Lorenzen, Tucker Barnhart and Nick Castellanos, the last of whom is a presumed goner in free agency.
With a $10.7 million salary headed his way in 2022, ace right-hander Sonny Gray is a logical cost for the Reds to cut. Yet it shouldn't be taboo to also raise Joey Votto's name. If ever there was a time to cut the $50 million he's owed through 2023, it's after a season in which the 38-year-old hit 36 homers with a 136 OPS+.
Meanwhile, there are the Dodgers. Their pockets still go deep, and they have precisely the kinds of needs that Gray and Votto could fill.
Since he's also an accomplished left-handed-hitting first baseman, Votto would be a sensible (not to mention cheaper) fallback for the Dodgers if they can't lure Freddie Freeman in free agency. Per USA Today's Bob Nightengale, they're reportedly already in on Gray, who'd help fill the void left by Max Scherzer's departure.
It's reasonable to expect that Votto would waive his no-trade clause for the Dodgers. And because they'd be taking so much salary off Cincinnati's cash-strapped hands, the Dodgers could probably part with just one or two of their lesser prospects. Say, right-hander Bobby Miller (75) or outfielder Andy Pages (88).
1. Atlanta Pivots from Freddie Freeman to Matt Olson and Chris Bassitt
If the Dodgers can't sign Freeman, it'll probably be because Atlanta finally ponied up and gave him the six-year deal Heyman reported he's seeking.
But if Freeman walks, the reigning World Series champions will find themselves with gaping holes in the middle of the lineup and at first base. What's worse, there will only be so many options for filling said holes.
Votto would be one, but Atlanta's preferred Plan B for Freeman appears to be Matt Olson, according to Heyman. Like Freeman and Votto, he's a left-handed slugger and Gold Glove winner at first base. Unlike the two of them, he's only 27 years old and arbitration-eligible for 2022 and 2023.
Besides, dealing with the Oakland Athletics could present Atlanta with ways to fill other needs as well. The club could also use a starting pitcher, of which the A's have three good ones to offer: right-handers Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas and left-hander Sean Manaea.
Even though he'll be 33 on Feb. 22, Bassitt is the surest thing of the bunch—particularly with regard to his ability to eat innings, which is a quality Atlanta should covet after last year's playoff run taxed its hurlers.
Olson (after 2023) and Bassitt (2022) are in their final stages of club control, yet their combined talent would give the A's leeway to extract an impressive package. Speedy center fielder Cristian Pache? Sure. But slugging catcher Shea Langeliers could also appeal to the A's as an heir to Sean Murphy, who's likewise not long for Oakland.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant. Salary info via FanGraphs. Prospect tool grades via MLB.com.