This is the time of year for big meals ... and big deals?
The only things more fun than real trades are fake trades, which is why we annually use this space to concoct swaps that -- hopefully unlike your Thanksgiving turkey -- are half-baked. But they’re stuffed with fodder for conversation, which is all that really matters here.
As always, a simple rule applies: If both fan bases hate it, we actually might be on to something! So without any further ado, let’s fake some deals…
1) A Snell of a swap
Angels get: LHP Blake Snell
Tigers get: OF Brandon Marsh (Angels’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline) and 2B Jahmai Jones (Angels’ No. 7 prospect)
Rays get: RHP Spencer Turnbull, OF Victor Reyes, LHP Joey Wentz (Tigers’ No. 9 prospect), C Jake Rogers (Tigers’ No. 12 prospect) and OF/2B D’Shawn Knowles (Angels’ No. 8 prospect)
Whoa. A lot to unpack here. But the bottom line is that the Angels get their ace, the Tigers get two MLB-ready position players and the Rays do a very Rays thing -- gain financial flexibility and a bunch of controllable assets who help them both now and in the future.
The Rays already removed Snell from Game 6 of the World Series long before it was complete. Why would they remove him from their roster before his contract extension, which runs through 2023, is complete? Easy. Because he’s venturing into an eight-figure salary in 2021 ($11.1 million), and that’s difficult to withstand if their payroll is going to stay in the neighborhood of $70 million. And rumor has it they are already listening to trade offers.
So Snell becomes the central figure of a Halos rotation that obviously needs the help but might be too highly leveraged with its payroll to sign an ace like Trevor Bauer. To get Snell, the Angels deal from areas of depth in moving Marsh and Jones to Detroit and surrender an additional prospect to Tampa Bay.
The Tigers can stomach the loss of Turnbull from their burgeoning rotation and the loss of Reyes from their big league outfield because, in Marsh, they’re receiving a polished, high-on-base prospect (No. 73 in all of baseball, per MLB Pipeline) with power and speed, as well as an MLB-ready second baseman in Jones, who replaces free agent Jonathan Schoop.
And in exchange for their one-time American League Cy Young Award winner, the Rays get a five-player package. Turnbull’s above-average fastball and breaking-ball spin are assets they can maximize (and he’s still a year away from arbitration), Reyes gives them a new outfield option outfield option after things didn’t work out with Hunter Renfroe (he’s also a year from arbitration), Rogers is immediately an option at a catching spot that needs help, Wentz is near-term rotation or possibly bullpen depth and Knowles, a speedy 19-year-old from the Bahamas, is a nice long-term lotto ticket.
Maybe that’s too much for three years of Snell. Maybe it’s not enough. I don’t know. But if you don’t like fake three-team, eight-player trades, we can’t be friends.
For the Nationals to return to prominence in 2020, they’ll need more length from the lineup and better health and performance from the rotation. This swap addresses both of those concerns, making the Nats a more formidable presence in the deep National League East and kickstarting the Cubs’ transition away from the 2016 core in the wake of the Theo Epstein era.
Bryant’s star has faded because of injuries and poor performance, and the lofty amount of money (projected to be around $20 million) he’ll command in arbitration doesn’t help his trade value. But with a market that’s not full of fits, he’s a worthwhile target for a Nats team that needs another stud in the middle of the order with Juan Soto and Trea Turner. And a rotation featuring (in no particular order) Hendricks, Max Scherzer, a healthy Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin has the potential to be among the most special in the sport. The 30-year-old Hendricks is locked in at reasonable rates through 2023, with a vesting option for '24. This deal is a better option than another gargantuan free-agent investment in the starting five.
In this deal, the Cubs kick in a couple million bucks to offset some of the Bryant sum while getting a nice package of players in return. Kieboom has yet to break out in the big leagues, but he’s a pure hitter whose talent should eventually translate, and he’s under control through 2025. The Cubs also get two pitching prospects with long-term upside, better positioning themselves for the future.
This is a fake trade, but let’s get real: The Arenado extension was a mistake for both player and team. Well, OK, if it’s a mistake for a player to take an eight-year, $260 million guarantee, we should all make such mistakes. Point is, the Rockies instantly made it more difficult for themselves to build a contender around Arenado when they did that deal and, just one year in, he understandably became upset that they weren’t doing more to build around him.
So it’s a bad arrangement. And who better to bail out both parties than new Mets owner Steve Cohen, whom many expect to spend big this winter?
Arenado (whose mother, Millie, was born in Queens, N.Y., by the way) is still due six years and $200 million -- if he doesn’t opt out after 2021 (and as things stand now, he probably shouldn’t). Though he remains a superstar talent both offensively and defensively, he is coming off a very non-Arenado year in which he played through a left shoulder issue. Were he a free agent today, he probably wouldn’t do any better than what’s left on his contract. In other words, his trade value over and above moving the salary itself is compromised. That’s why the Rox are sweetening the pot a little bit here with Bowden, a big lefty who can contribute instantly to the Mets’ bullpen.
With Arenado off the books, the Rockies can extend Trevor Story and/or build their ballclub a different way. They get some immediate value here in Davis, who is still a year away from arbitration. And though the 19-year-old Alvarez is a long way from the big leagues, he's one of the top catching prospects in the game (the Mets won’t have much use for him when they sign J.T. Realmuto), and Ventura is a 20-year-old lottery ticket.
So ultimately, this is a fresh start that benefits both the Rox and Arenado, who would have to agree to waive his post-2021 opt-out clause to make such a swap happen.
In a recent piece looking at potential Lindor fits, my colleague Andrew Simon proposed an ambitious ask on the part of the Indians in a straight-up deal for Lindor. This is a modified version of that deal, with McKenzie’s inclusion a key to improving the surplus value received by the Blue Jays and Cleveland getting a diverse assortment of talent in return.
Given Lindor’s pending free agency, his ho-hum 2020 season, his stark arbitration cost (which could be somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million) and the depth of shortstops available in the open market this winter and next, only a small pool of teams justify the dual-acquisition costs of Lindor right now. But this deal would net the Blue Jays the veteran bat and defensive upgrade they need while also bringing in a live and ready young arm (with six seasons of contractual control) for the rotation. It would also put Toronto in good position to potentially extend Lindor’s stay beyond '21. With Gurriel gone, Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez can man the outfield corners, the Blue Jays sign Jackie Bradley Jr. to play center field and -- voila! -- their position player group is ready to rock.
The Indians reel in the instant outfield upgrade they sorely need in Gurriel (who is under control at mostly locked-in and affordable rates through 2024), while also nabbing three good prospects (Merryweather is the young pitcher the Tribe sent to the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade, so that’s fun) and saving a ton of cash at a time when money isn’t easily moved in the industry. With the books almost totally clear of big money and the farm system dramatically deepened by recent deals, the Tribe gets a reset that could lead to a quick revival.
What is the meaning of life? Is there life after death? Why is Lynn still on the Rangers?
Look, I can’t answer the world’s most difficult questions. But as my colleague Mike Petriello addressed recently, the Rangers have ample reason to trade Lynn this winter. That they didn’t at the Trade Deadline was perplexing both from their standpoint and of those contenders that should have been more aggressive in pursuit of this accomplished arm, but we’ve got to focus on the future, not the past.
We don’t yet know if the Sox are willing to pay the kind of money it would take to add Trevor Bauer. So this is a perfectly reasonable offer of two young players in exchange for one year of Lynn, whose ERA+ over the past two seasons is 40 percent better than league average. This is exactly the sort of win-now move Chicago ought to be pursuing now that it has turned the corner and hired a Hall of Fame manager. The time is now! Lynn teams with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel to front a strong rotation in which Michael Kopech could be ready to break through in 2021, and the Rangers get a controllable young starting option and an outfielder who shares a name with a champion of American cuisine. I give this deal a chef’s kiss.