The Winter Meetings are fast approaching, and the Hot Stove has been a smidge hotter in the early going this year than it was last year. What we haven’t had a lot of yet is trades.
Let’s take a look at how that might change. Here’s the best tradable asset for each team in the National League West -- even if, in some cases, the team doesn’t seem inclined to trade that asset.
D-backs: Starting pitching
Yes, even after trading Zack Greinke in July, Arizona has starters to move. If it so desires.
The D-backs front office did a deft job of retooling without a total rebuild over the past 12 months, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it continues to think in that way. If that’s the case, Robbie Ray and Mike Leake could certainly draw interest. Leake is the definition of a league-average innings-eater, and that has more value than you may think. Ray is more mercurial, less consistent, but his upside is very compelling.
Arizona could part with either and still have a decent rotation, especially with Luke Weaver looking strong in his recovery from injury. There’s a lot of young talent here, and another combination buy-sell move would not be shocking at all.
Dodgers: Young catching
But let’s focus on the catchers, because you can be sure that potential trade partners will do just that. Smith hammered big league pitching in his first stint in The Show, marking himself as a future star if not one already. But Keibert Ruiz has been the higher-rated prospect, a well-regarded defender known for his bat-to-ball skills.
High-end catching talent can fetch you nearly anything, so if the Dodgers are willing to part with either Ruiz or Smith, they could very well add the kind of front-line starting pitcher that it seems they’d like to find.
Giants: Jeff Samardzija
The Giants have some veterans, but not really any at peak value. Reyes Moronta is recovering from surgery. There might be interest in names like Brandon Belt or Tony Watson, but it’s unlikely teams will be beating down the door for those guys. And they have an elite catching prospect in Joey Bart, but that’s someone to build around, not someone you deal when you’re in San Francisco’s situation.
But Samardzija could legitimately fetch something in trade. He’s only signed for one more year, at a not-unreasonable $19.8 million. He’s coming off an effective year, even if he’s not the power pitcher he once was. His peripherals were somewhat disconcerting, and it’s a fair question how he’d look outside of Oracle Park. But quality starting pitching is not something you can usually get on a one-year deal, so some contender looking to fill out its rotation might have real interest.
Padres: Prospect (and young Major League) depth
Perhaps most noteworthy is the breadth of talent: Just within the Padres’ top six prospects, there’s a left-handed pitcher and a righty, a center fielder, two middle infielders, and a catcher. Whatever a team needs, the Padres have it.
So when they go kicking the tires on elite starting pitching, which is pretty clearly their top need right now, they don’t have to do it in the free agent market. They have the prospects to match up with just about anyone, for just about any player, if they’re willing to move them.
Let’s be clear: The Rox don’t seem to have any appetite to deal either of these guys. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reported that opposing teams felt them out about Gray and got nowhere.
But if they changed their minds? They could have a pretty big impact on this year’s hot stove. Gray, 28, has been excellent (but shrouded by park effects) in two of the past three seasons and is under team control through 2021. Márquez is coming off a rough year, but his peripherals suggest he was better than the surface numbers indicate. He’s signed at a very reasonable cost through 2023.
Both have big arms. You can be very sure that if they were really available, plenty of teams would happily take their chances on how those big arms might play in a different ballpark.