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5 deals to address team needs

Braves may have chips to land Sale; Cubs-Rays Soler swap worth pondering
November 23, 2016

Baseball generally gets put on pause on Thanksgiving. It's one of those rare days when even the busiest executives learn to unwind at least a little, forsaking the discussion of deals for the family forays and feasts that pervade the holiday.This is, however, merely a brief respite from the hyper-active

Baseball generally gets put on pause on Thanksgiving. It's one of those rare days when even the busiest executives learn to unwind at least a little, forsaking the discussion of deals for the family forays and feasts that pervade the holiday.
This is, however, merely a brief respite from the hyper-active Hot Stove season. Much like you in your holiday shopping, general managers are looking for deals right now, and that five-player swap between the D-backs and Mariners could be but a preview of the blockbuster bartering to come.
• Hot Stove Tracker
With that in mind, and in the spirit of Black Friday, here are five swaps I'd like to see based on team needs and fits.
1. White Sox trade LHP Chris Sale to the Braves for 2B/SS Ozzie Albies, LHP Sean Newcomb, 3B Austin Riley and RHPs Matt Wisler and Lucas Sims
Maybe it's pushing things to suggest the Braves could contend in 2017. Maybe it relies on too much bloated belief in the smallish sample of the club's second-half offensive production. But Atlanta is moving into a new ballpark, and the modern game doesn't really give a hoot what you did last year. If you can hang around .500 into July, you can put yourself in position to contend for a postseason entry. And if what we saw from the Braves' bats late in the year was real and they had a rotation fronted by Sale and Julio Teheran followed by the old geezers (R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon) and all the kids they've compiled, who knows? That might actually be enough for such contention.

The question, of course, is whether the Braves are really ready to push their ample prospect chips to the center of the table. I still somehow doubt it. But at least with Sale, they'd be doing so for a guy who is under very reasonable contractual control ($38 million total, with the 2018 and '19 club options exercised) for the next three seasons. He's also left-handed, offsetting Atlanta's currently all-right-handed outlook.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson isn't going anywhere, but fellow middle infielder Albies (No. 12 on's Top 100 Prospects list) could be the headliner of the White Sox haul, depending on Chicago's feelings about his recovery from a fractured right elbow. The Braves would be giving up a key piece but also trading from a position of depth.

They also include fellow Top 100 entry Newcomb (No. 46), who was acquired in last year's Andrelton Simmons swap with the Angels; Wisler, who has compiled 265 2/3 innings in the bigs; Riley, a projectable run producer; and Sims, a 2012 first-rounder with a good fastball and breaking ball who finished at Double-A after making 11 appearances (10 starts) in Triple-A and could be close. That's four of the Braves' top 14 prospects, plus Wisler. Maybe Atlanta could dig deeper and try to pry a year of Todd Frazier away from the Sox to further up the ante for '17 .
Anyway, the main takeaway here is that Sale won't come at a discount.
2. Twins trade 2B Brian Dozier to the Dodgers for RHPs José De León, Yadier Alvarez and Jordan Sheffield
The Dodgers have a second-base hole to fill, and they need to improve against left-handed pitching. Dozier solves both of those issues. Not only is he coming off a 42-homer onslaught in 2016, but he had the highest weighted runs created plus mark (150) against left-handed pitching of any qualified second baseman in the Majors. The 40-plus power might never be repeated, but Dozier's three-year OPS output for 2014-16 is .800, and he's a solid defender who is owed a total of only $15 million over the next two seasons.

For the Twins, even though moving the (affordable) face of the franchise would be painful, the fact is this might be a good time to sell the 29-year-old Dozier at the peak of his powers. Minnesota's new regime is trying to assess and address the issues that have led to five fourth- or fifth-place finishes in the past six years.

The Twins could certainly use some controllable, high-upside arms for an organization that has had a tough time trying to develop such commodities, and that's what I'm loading them up with here. De Leon (the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect) would be a fairly obvious starting point in discussions, though Minnesota could of course balance the deal by offsetting one or both of the other arms listed here with position-player prospects such as Willie Calhoun (No. 4) or Yusniel Diaz (No. 6).
Point is, the Dodgers and Twins match up pretty well on the Dozier front.
3. Cardinals trade RHP Michael Wacha, LHP Jaime García and cash to the Marlins for OF Marcell Ozuna
Wacha and Ozuna are both under contractual control through 2019, and have both had their serious star potential countered by bouts with the blues -- Ozuna's 2015 season, which saw him demoted to Triple-A, and Wacha's injury-affected 2016, in which he posted a 5.09 ERA. They would each bring youth and promise to positions where the teams involved are most in need.

Obviously, the Marlins were devastated by the loss of José Fernández, and it's an open question whether they'll spend the money it will take to upgrade their rotation and make noise in the National League East. Wacha's past shoulder issues might offset his credentials as a former All-Star and NL Championship Series MVP and inherently limit his trade value, which is why I've paired him with Garcia, who will make $12 million before hitting free agency a year from now. With the Cardinals paying down part of Garcia's contract in this hypothetical trade, the Marlins get a couple of cheap upgrades to their rotation picture.

Of course, removing not one but two starters from the mix would be a significant cost to the Redbirds' 2017 rotation depth, and maybe that's too steep a price to pay for Ozuna. But the Cards have an opening in their outfield. And while Ozuna is an average, not elite, defender, considering he'd be filling outfield innings that recently went to Brandon Moss and Matt Holliday, you'd have to see him as a defensive upgrade. He's had an erratic career at the plate, to be sure, but the power potential, as evidenced by two 23-homer seasons in a big ballpark, is real.
4. Royals trade RHP Wade Davis to the Nationals for RHPs Reynaldo López and Austin Voth and OF Andrew Stevenson
The Royals can deal Davis and improve their competitive chances, and the way to do that is by acquiring Major League-ready or near-ready pieces. Kansas City might not have the super 'pen of postseasons past, but perhaps it can piece it together in the back end (rookie Matt Strahm sure was effective down the stretch) while using Davis to upgrade its depth elsewhere.

In Lopez (the Nats' No. 3 prospect), the Royals would have a rotation option with impressive raw stuff who struck out 126 batters in 109 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this past season before getting his first taste of the bigs. Voth (No. 9) could be ready for his debut in 2017. Stevenson (No. 8) is farther away, but he would round out this deal as a speed-and-defense guy who doesn't have a lot of power. (And there's something about that skill set that seems to align perfectly with Kansas City, isn't there?)

For the Nationals, the incentive here is obvious. They need to fill the ninth, and they don't seem particularly likely to spend the money it would take to bring back Mark Melancon or sign Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen. Davis, who will make $10 million in 2017, is a rental, but he's the kind of rental who can change the fortunes of a club that has struggled to advance in October.
5. Rays trade LHP Drew Smyly to the Cubs for OF Jorge Soler
I'm proposing this as a one-for-one that draws on the high cost of pitching in this marketplace, though I confess that assessing Soler's trade value these days is not easily done. He has huge potential, and his remaining contract ($17.7 million over four years, with the option of opting into arbitration after 2018) is extremely reasonable, especially for a financially cautious team like the Rays. But 765 plate appearances into his career, Soler, in addition to battling hamstring issues, just hasn't proven himself as a consistent threat at the Major League level yet.

I don't know about the Rays moving ace Chris Archer, but trading Smyly seems to make a lot of sense. They've got rotation depth, and Smyly's rising arbitration cost (he made $3.75 million last year and has two more rounds of arbitration before becoming a free agent after 2018) makes him a good candidate to be dealt out of that depth.

The Cubs need pitching depth, and it would be interesting to see how they'd apply Smyly to that need. He could round out their rotation now that Jason Hammel is a free agent. Or the Cubs could stretch out Mike Montgomery and take advantage of Smyly's strong career splits against left-handers (.202/.243/.334 opponents' slash) and his 2013 success in a relief role with Detroit to employ him out of the 'pen.
Perhaps Smyly alone isn't enough to land Soler. Perhaps this deal would have to be a bigger one involving other pieces (such as Tampa Bay closer Alex Colomé). But the Cubs and Rays seem like natural trading partners right now.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.