Most of the time, this time of year, we’re here to discuss prudent, plausible and perhaps even paramount trade targets for teams in need of an in-season upgrade.
But today, let’s just have some fun. Here’s a list of 11 trade candidates and teams that would create especially interesting plot points in the soap opera that is the Major League season.
As an added bonus, some of them even make sense on the baseball field.
1) Trevor Bauer to the Astros
The Astros have a strong rotation but a desire to potentially upgrade their playoff rotation beyond Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. And Cole and Wade Miley, who has been fantastic this season, are both free agents after 2019. Bauer comes equipped with an added year of contractual control, perfectly fits the Astros’ analytical bent and worked with Astros pitching coach Brent Strom when he was a young boy at the Texas Baseball Ranch (where Strom was a consultant).
What’s not to like?
Oh, right: Bauer and Cole, former UCLA teammates and polar opposite personalities, don’t really like each other. And when Bauer made some veiled accusations last year that the Astros might be doctoring baseballs to achieve greater spin rates, he didn’t exactly make new friends in the Houston clubhouse. Trolling Alex Bregman on Twitter didn’t help matters, either.
Well, come on, gentlemen. This is nothing a little World Series run together can’t solve. Let’s spin (pun intended) this difficulty into opportunity.
2) Marcus Stroman to the Yankees
The Yankees already have the large leviathans in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and can balance that with Mr. “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” himself. Stroman not only fills an obvious need in the rotation, but he’s a Long Islander who grew up dreaming of pitching at Yankee Stadium.
And have you seen this dude’s dad, Earl? He looks like he could give some weightlifting tips to Stanton and Judge.
3) Brad Hand to the Twins
Because he’s a left-handed reliever attached to reasonable contractual control through 2020 in a market in which darn near every contender needs help in the bullpen, Hand is one of the most valuable trade chips of the summer. For the Indians to trade him to a division foe in Minnesota would probably up the price even more. So we’ll label this as not extremely likely.
But Hand is from Minneapolis. Coming out of Chaska High School in 2008, he was probably the most scouted high school prospect in the area since Joe Mauer. The intra-division dynamics here might be a bit awkward, but the storyline fits like a Hand in a glove (sorry).
4) Derek Dietrich to the Indians
As you might have surmised from the inclusions of Bauer and Hand on this list, the Indians are more likely to listen to offers for controllable pieces than they are to bring in a rental for what is looking like, in the best of scenarios, a Wild Card run.
Should they go the rental route, though, Dietrich is a local product (St. Ignatius High School, by way of Parma) in the midst of an electric season at the plate. When he was in Cleveland with the Reds last week, he spent upwards of an hour handling local media requests before a game, so he’d have to prepare himself for round two.
5) Zack Greinke to the Brewers
It’s been nearly nine years since the original trade sending Greinke to Milwaukee. That swap reshaped the Royals franchise and put Kansas City on the path to the 2015 World Series title, as they acquired Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, two key pieces of that title team, as well as Jake Odorizzi, who they used in the deal to get Wade Davis (and James Shields) from Tampa Bay. Nine years is an eternity in professional sports, but Greinke is still awesome and would still fill a need with the Brew Crew, which doesn’t have much in the realm of consistency and reliability in the rotation.
This time, the Greinke acquisition cost would be as steep or steeper in dollars than in prospects, as he’s owed a cool $70 million total for the 2020 and ’21 seasons. So this is another one from the realm of the unlikely. But the thought of him playing alongside Cain and Jeremy Jeffress -- two of the four pieces that went to Kansas City in the initial deal -- is kind of fun.
6) Ken Giles to the Phillies and Alex Colome to the Rays
Two variations of the same theme: The prodigal closer returns. Players move around a lot. Relievers, especially, seem to move around a lot. But Giles and Colome are legitimate trade chips and legitimate fits on the teams where they initially came to prominence, which I suppose is mildly interesting.
But with Giles currently out with elbow inflammation, I’m more interested in …
7) Will Smith to the Phillies
It would be “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” in reverse -- a guy named Will Smith leaving California for Philly.
You don’t need to be an avid Phillies fan like that other Will Smith -- the rapper turned actor turned media mogul -- to know this club needs an upgrade in the injury ravaged ‘pen, and Smith figures to be one of the top trade candidates in the relief market.
8) Pablo Sandoval to … anywhere
As a functional part-timer playable against right-handed pitching, the Panda might have some limited appeal in this trade market. And we should all root for the guy with the lifetime .344 average and .935 OPS in October to somehow find his way to the postseason stage.
Well, OK, sending him back to Boston might be a bad idea.
9) Edwin Jackson to any of the 16 teams he hasn’t already played for
He’s had a dreadful time in Toronto, racking up a 12.43 ERA in seven appearances. But at least he’s broken a record by playing for his 14th franchise. We might as well add to the tally.
10) Max Scherzer to the Astros
The Nats’ nuclear option in this season of uncertainty would be to not only pull the plug on 2019 but to reformat their future by trading Scherzer before he reaches 10-and-5 trade veto rights. In all likelihood, it ain’t going to happen.
But if it did happen, boy, it would epic to see Scherzer and Verlander, two workhorses and old-school souls who once formed a dangerous Detroit duo, in the same rotation again.
(Note: Scherzer pairing with Clayton Kershaw in L.A. would also be excellent, but that seems doubly unrealistic with the Dodgers focused much more on relief help than a starter.)
11) Any scenario that puts Madison Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig on the same team
If we’re going to stoke some clubhouse intrigue with Bauer and Cole, then we’ve got to include this. Because long before oceanographer Max Muncy came along, there was Puig, who is better than anyone at making MadBum mad.
It began when Bumgarner took exception to Puig’s bat flip after a home run and met him near home plate. It continued when the two exchanged words near first base in 2016. And it extended into Puig’s Cincinnati tenure this season, when Puig homered off an inside fastball from Bumgarner, causing the pitcher to utter later, “He’s a quick study. It only took him seven years to learn how to hit that pitch.”
Bumgarner and Puig are both pending free agents. And though Puig’s performance has been far shy of expectations for the Reds overall, he has heated up lately. The list of teams that are likely looking to upgrade in both the rotation and right field is, well, non-existent, barring injury or lineup creativity. This would be a chemistry experiment with more risk than today’s risk-averse executives would dare embrace.
But we’re here to craft compelling stories, not perfect clubhouse concoctions. Bring us some Trade Deadline drama!
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.