6 bonkers blockbuster trades that would send Hot Stove season into overdrive

November 24th, 2023

On Thanksgiving weekend, we eat big, we shop big and we dream big. In a tradition unlike any other, let’s do as we do at this time each year and concoct some baseball trades.

We’re not here for side dishes and down-to-earth deals. We want some real meat on the bone. I’m talking trades in which Major Leaguers go both ways.

Blockbusters, baby!

That’s the case with each of these suggested swaps. Don’t “at” me and tell me I’m dreaming and don’t know what I’m doing. I know I don’t know what I’m doing, OK? I’m not a president of baseball operations … or even an assistant to the traveling secretary. I’m just a guy digesting his dinner and thinking up some transactional theater as the turkey tryptophan kicks in.

So let’s fake a deal! Here are six blockbusters (AKA trades) I’d like to see this year.

(All prospect rankings come from MLB Pipeline.)

1. A deal of Derby champs

Mets get: 1B and RHP
Blue Jays get: 1B and UTIL

We’ve seen Guerrero and Alonso dominate the Home Run Derby stage. They even faced each other in the 2019 final, with Alonso coming out on top. Now, let’s trade them for each other.

Guerrero has simply not lived up to expectations in Toronto. Aside from an outlandish 2021 season in which more than half his home games were played in bandboxes in Dunedin, Fla., and Buffalo, N.Y., he’s struggled to live up to his MVP-type billing. You have to wonder if the Blue Jays would consider letting another club pay the steep arbitration cost over the next two years for the privilege of waiting for him to figure it out.

Maybe Steve Cohen’s Mets could be that club. In this deal, in exchange for those two years of Guerrero, they’d send off Alonso, who will command a similar 2024 arbitration price tag (probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million) before reaching free agency.

So the Blue Jays would get a player who reliably provides 40-homer power and then have major salary flexibility coming their way in 2025, while the Mets would get a two-year trial with a superstar name who might still put it all together.

Two players coming off disappointing 2023 seasons would also be involved in this swap. The Mets could try to put Manoah back together after all his difficulties last season, and the Blue Jays would employ McNeil as the versatile infielder they need to replace Whit Merrifield. McNeil would also give them more lineup balance with his lefty bat.

It's ultimately hard to know how to properly assemble such a prospective swap, because Guerrero’s beauty (and trade value) is in the eye of the beholder. But like a Derby participant, I took a swing at it here.

2. Trout comes home

Phillies get: OF and cash considerations
Angels get: OF and OF Justin Crawford (Phillies’ No. 3 prospect)

When it comes to trades, name value is nowhere near as important as surplus value. Unfortunately, future Hall of Famer Mike Trout is no longer a provider of surplus value.

With an enormous contract that will pay him $37.1 million in each of the next seven seasons (taking him to age 39) and a litany of injuries that have limited him to 237 games over the past three seasons, Trout’s trade value is not what it once was, not to mention that he has trade veto power (aka a no-trade clause). That’s why a deal is not at all likely to happen.

But in this proposal, the Angels are taking on another player with negative surplus value in Castellanos, who, despite some major October heroics in the National League Division Series against the Braves this year, has been basically a league-average bat over his two seasons in Philly and is owed $60 million total over the next three seasons.

Take on Castellanos' contract and kick in about $50 million of the remaining Trout contract, and the Angels could get back a valuable prospect like Crawford, the son of Carl Crawford and the 17th overall pick in the 2022 Draft. Yes, they’d be giving up their legacy player, but the Halos would still have a serviceable bat in Castellanos, and they would clear up some of their long-term payroll picture.

If Shohei Ohtani indeed exits as a free agent, as so many expect him to, then let’s just rip off the Band-Aid and start over in Anaheim.

The Phillies might be the one destination that could convince Millville, N.J.’s own Trout to accept a deal. They’d continue their all-in effort in the NL, pair Trout and Bryce Harper (two Cooperstown-bound ballplayers who are forever mentally associated with each other given their essentially simultaneous arrivals) and, finally (we hope), get Trout back to October (if he’s healthy).

What a wonderful dream … that will never happen.

3. LA is Burnes-ing

Dodgers get: RHP and SS
Brewers get: INF and RHP

Burnes and Adames to the Dodgers feels like a layup. It makes so much sense that it’s bound to … not happen. Such is baseball.

But seriously, the Dodgers need pedigree in their ravaged rotation and a surer solution at shortstop, and a Brew Crew club in transition has both of those things to offer. Burnes, the 2021 NL Cy Young winner, and Adames are both under control for one more year, and Los Angeles seems to prefer short-term options over longer-term entanglements.

The only question is the return. What I’ve submitted here are two controllable Major League pieces that could help the Brewers remain competitive (maybe the Dodgers would have to kick in some more lower-tier prospects to sweeten the deal).

Lux’s prospect sheen has taken a tumble, and he missed all of 2023 due to a terrible Spring Training knee injury. But he’s only entering his age-26 season, he’s on track to be back in '24 and -- most important of all, of course -- he’s from Kenosha!

It’s possible, though, that the Brewers will look for even younger and more controllable options as the centerpieces of a swap if or when they deal these two prominent pending free agents. We know Burnes is a catch, but it will be interesting to see what Adames’ trade value is, given the dearth of quality shortstop help available in free agency.

4. Soto to SoDo

Mariners get: OF and LHP
Padres get: RHP , OF and SS Tai Peete (Mariners’ No. 10 prospect)

It wasn’t all that long ago that we were thinking up trades for Soto from the Nationals, and here we go again.

Of course, the value equation has changed substantially in the last year and a half. Now, the acquiring club would only have one season of Soto before he hits free agency. But with a dearth of impact bats in free agency, the Padres could be in a good position to recoup controllable talent while shedding salary from their weighty payroll.

The Yankees are seen by many as the most obvious fit for Soto’s services, but don’t sleep on Seattle. The Mariners’ lineup really needs, as president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has put it, “a banger who goes out and bangs.” Soto bangs and draws walks.

Even though he’d only be under control for 2024, he would be worth it for the Mariners to dip into their pitching depth to give Julio Rodríguez a proper running mate and improve their odds in the division that has produced the last two World Series champions.

Soto and a controllable depth pitching piece in Cosgrove for an up-and-coming, long-term rotation arm in Miller, a still-very-young Kelenic (he’s 24) and a prospect piece seems a worthwhile conversation-starter -- though there are many iterations of this deal that you could draw up with starter Bryan Woo and/or the Mariners’ higher-end prospects.

The ultimate point is that these teams match up well.

5. The ol’ 'change of scenery' swap

Tigers get: SS
Red Sox get: SS Javier Báez

You’d be hard-pressed to decide which of these contracts -- both of which were signed prior to the 2022 season -- is going more poorly. Story has barely played in Boston, logging just 137 games played due to hand, heel and elbow injuries. Báez has posted up in Detroit, but … that hasn’t been a good thing. He’s slashed .230/.273/.361, though at least his defense is still strong.

Sometimes when you’re in a bad relationship, anybody else looks good. How’s that for analysis? Maybe if these two just switched places, “Freaky Friday”-style, they could untap what once made them seem so valuable.

Hey, speaking of value, this trade is about as close to a wash as you can find. Counting the $5 million buyout of his 2028 team option, Story is owed $100 million over the next four seasons, while Báez is owed $98 million in that same span.

6. A four-headed monster!

Yankees get: 3B , OF and LHP
Astros get:  INF
Orioles get: RHP
White Sox get: OF  (Yankees’ No. 2 prospect), C/1B Samuel Basallo (Orioles’ No. 5 prospect) and RHP Spencer Arrighetti (Astros’ No. 3 prospect)

Welcome to the dessert portion of the program, where we take our caloric intake to new and unusual extremes!

In a “bold offseason predictions” piece earlier this month, I explained why it might make sense for the Astros to part with Bregman, unpopular though the move may be. In short, they’re unlikely to extend both Bregman and Jose Altuve, and, with a thin farm system, moving Bregman for a younger, cost-controlled piece makes sense.

But getting back the proper Major League-ready talent the Astros would require to give up one of their franchise faces and remain a contender is challenging, which is why you’d likely need to rope in a third -- or, in this case, a fourth! -- team.

Here, we’re sending Bregman to the Bronx. Yankees fans will get over that 2017 stuff when Bregman is banging out dingers and doubles, improving the club’s on-base ability and making the Bronx Bombers way less Aaron Judge-dependent.

The Yanks also get an excellent defensive option in center field in Meyers (under control through 2027) and pitching depth from Shuster (whom the White Sox just acquired in last week’s trade with the Braves for Aaron Bummer). In exchange, the Yankees -- a good option to sign Bregman long-term -- part ways with “The Martian” Domínguez, who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery but will become the centerpiece of a rebuild on the South Side.

The Astros get back the 24-year-old Westburg, who hit 17 doubles in his first 68 career games, instantly slotting him in at third base and securing long-term contractual control.

The Orioles, meanwhile, surrender Westburg (with reigning American League Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson, No. 1 MLB prospect Jackson Holliday, No. 6 organizational prospect Joey Ortiz and veteran Jorge Mateo all in the infield mix in 2024, they can swallow that loss) and another well-regarded prospect piece in Basallo in order to amplify their rotation with two years of control of Cease. His arbitration price tag is palatable for the O’s, and he still had a 27.3% strikeout rate in a disappointing 2023 after finishing as runner-up in the Cy Young race in 2022.

If the Orioles aren’t going to dole out big dollars for the top-of-the-market free-agent arms, this would be a way to significantly upgrade their pitching profile. The Astros round out the White Sox end of that deal by chipping in a pitching prospect in Arrighetti.

So there you go. I’ve made the fanbases of nearly one-third of the AL teams unhappy with one single trade proposal. My work here is done. Time to nap.