It’s the time of year to think about deals.
No, not on TVs and tablets and vacuums (have you been looking at my internet search history?). We’re talking about baseball deals!
It has been tradition in this space for quite a few years now to use this day to pitch bold and -- let’s face it -- unrealistic trade ideas. But then last year, we proposed that the Rangers send Lance Lynn to the White Sox for Dane Dunning and a prospect… and it actually happened less than two weeks later.
Clearly, then, this column has the stamp of approval of Major League executives (just, uh, ignore all the proposals that didn’t happen and never had any chance of happening). So let’s once again anger as many fans as possible by concocting some swaps.
The trade that would break the internet
Phillies get: 3B Matt Chapman, LHP Josh Hader
Brewers get: 1B Matt Olson, LHP A.J. Puk
A’s get: 1B Keston Hiura, RHP Mick Abel (Phillies’ No. 1 prospect), SS Bryson Stott (Phillies’ No. 2 prospect), OF Ethan Wilson (Phillies’ No. 7 prospect), C Logan O’Hoppe (Phillies’ No. 11 prospect), OF Garrett Mitchell (Brewers’ No. 1 prospect)
If the A’s are, indeed, going to rebuild, why not rip off the Band-Aid and get it going with one gigantic, three-team trade that lights the Hot Stove aflame? Hey, if we’re going to talk about fake trades, we might as well be ambitious.
From the Phillies’ perspective, there is little choice but to go all-in on the 2022 team. The big contracts have been signed, and the fan base is understandably anxious amid the NL’s longest postseason drought. The Phils of recent vintage have been a talented-but-flawed club, and this trade addresses two major issues in bold fashion. Hader brings gravitas to Philly’s much-maligned bullpen, while Chapman both extends the lineup and greatly improves what was one of the worst defensive infields in MLB (Alec Bohm can shift to the outfield in this arrangement, unless the Phillies make a trade involving Rhys Hoskins that allows Bohm to slide to first base).
The Brewers alter their identity with this deal, as Hader would no longer be around to anchor their traditionally terrific bullpen. They’d have to find other ways to get late-inning outs (Puk has the potential to help), but their front office is certainly creative enough to do so. Hader and Olson both have two remaining seasons of contractual control and will probably command similar price tags in arbitration next season. For a small-market team, that money is better allocated to a dependable and much-needed bat (the Brewers hit just .233 as a team in 2021) than a bullpen arm that has accumulated a lot of mileage in recent years.
As for the A’s, they get the No. 51 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline, in Mitchell, No. 64 in Abel and No. 97 in Stott, as well as two other prospects from the Phillies’ top 11. They also get the potential upside of the 25-year-old Hiura (a natural-born hitter whose swing seems to have been messed up by the pursuit of power), and perhaps the change of scenery does him good. Maybe it would take another lower-level prospect or three to get them to part with both Matts, but here you have the seeds of what would be a monumental swap.
The key question here is whether the Rays will be willing to pay Glasnow somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million or $6 million to NOT pitch for them in 2022 and then a similar figure in 2023 when he returns from Tommy John surgery.
Seattle is the perfect type of team to take on that kind of risk. The Mariners have immediate financial flexibility and could have a legitimately great team by 2023, with Glasnow an important finishing piece. They also could use some help in center field, where the veteran Kiermaier, who will make $12.2 million in his last guaranteed year before free agency, would give them a strong defensive backbone as young Jarred Kelenic and, soon, Julio Rodriguez get settled in at the big league level.
With this deal, the Rays get the financial flexibility they so desire, they get the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year in Lewis, who is returning from major knee surgery, and they get a hard-throwing prospect to add to their pitching stash. That would be a nice return in exchange for a compromised ace.
Marcus Semien’s pillow contract with the Blue Jays proved to be comfortable for both parties. But with Semien likely to sign one of the largest free-agent contracts of the winter and possibly prioritize his West Coast roots, the Blue Jays have to be thinking about other ways to maintain their elite second-base production.
Here's a way to do it. Marte is a 28-year-old switch-hitter with power and an attractive strikeout rate who can easily slot into the No. 2 spot in the batting order that Semien departed. Though he primarily played center field in 2019 and 2021, Marte is comfortable and capable of giving Toronto above-average defense at second, and his contractual terms -- $8.4 million guarantee in 2022, $8 million team option in 2023, $10 million team option in 2024 -- are extremely attractive and would allow the Blue Jays to dedicate the bulk of their free-agent budget to the pitching staff.
In this proposal, Toronto deals from an area of depth at catcher, and Cleveland fills a big need for offense in that spot with Kirk, a controllable 23-year-old with elite contact skills.
The D-backs, meanwhile, get young pieces from both clubs as they retool. They’d have plenty of at-bats to offer Biggio, who can play all around the diamond and of course has loads of pedigree that hasn’t yet blossomed in the big leagues.
Buxton is one of the most purely talented players in the sport and a true game-changer when healthy. But he’s played just 215 games over the last four seasons, which makes his long-term value difficult to calculate. While the Twins do hope to get back into contention in 2022, it makes sense for them to deal Buxton if they can’t get an extension done.
The Astros have already signaled their seriousness about remaining an AL power in 2022 with the Justin Verlander contract, and Buxton would address a need in center field with Myles Straw having been dealt midseason 2021 for bullpen help and Jake Meyers coming off shoulder surgery.
Would this package -- a big league-ready Buxton replacement in McCormick, a one-time top pitching prospect who is coming off Tommy John surgery in Whitley and an additional outfield prospect with power and speed in Barber -- be enough for Buxton? Again, his value is incredibly difficult to pin down, but this looks like a reasonable haul from here.
How about a good old-fashioned, one-for-one swap that satisfies needs?
The Cubs might have money to spend this winter, but if they can’t come to terms on an extension with Contreras, they have to seriously consider taking advantage of the weak free-agent catcher’s market and moving him to a motivated club. The Marlins could be one such club, as they are on the hunt for offense in multiple spots (catcher included) and have the rare commodity that is a pitching surplus. They just acquired Luzardo a few months ago in exchange for two months’ worth of Starling Marte. To then flip Luzardo for a full season of one of the most productive catchers in the game would be a really nice use of assets.
Luzardo struggled mightily last year, including with Miami (6.44 ERA in 12 starts). But he has significant upside, and a team like the Cubs that is trying to get controllable talent any way it can might be able to coax it out of him. Even if you remove Luzardo from the Marlins’ 2022 rotation picture, they’ve still got plenty of arms to fill out a quality staff, and this deal would give them a stronger foundation as they try to build a legit winner. Add another bat to the mix in free agency, and the Marlins start to look like something.