Betts to LA and 4 other trades that just might work

November 21st, 2019

Last week’s General Managers Meetings presented an opportunity for executives around the league to lay the groundwork for potential trades this offseason.

That got us thinking.

Where might Mookie Betts or Kris Bryant wind up? Will the Yankees opt to deal for a starter rather than signing a prominent free agent? What will new Pirates GM Ben Cherington do to spark a turnaround in Pittsburgh?

We won’t know the answers to these questions for a while, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with it. Here are five trade ideas that could make for interesting Hot Stove fodder.

1. Red Sox trade Mookie Betts to Dodgers for Joc Pederson, Dustin May and Keibert Ruiz

Given the depth of Los Angeles’ farm system, acquiring Betts to push the Dodgers over the hump would seem to be a no-brainer. It’s difficult to imagine the Red Sox trading the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner without getting a stud prospect in return, so L.A. would need to include either Gavin Lux or Dustin May -- its top two prospects, per MLB Pipeline -- in any deal for Betts.

Ruiz is almost ready for the Majors, and with the emergence of Will Smith last season, the Dodgers can afford to deal their other catching prospect. Add in Joc Pederson -- who earned $5 million last year and is headed into his final year of arbitration-eligibility -- to help the Red Sox compete in 2020, and the deal works for both sides.

Although the Dodgers would be unlikely to secure a 48- or 72-hour window to negotiate an extension with Betts, they would have a year to sell him on L.A. -- and the financial might to keep him at Dodger Stadium for years to come.

2. Cubs trade Kris Bryant to Braves for Max Fried, Drew Waters, Bryse Wilson and William Contreras

The second franchise player on our list, Bryant -- like Betts -- will continue to be the subject of trade talks throughout the offseason. The Braves are said to be interested in bringing back Josh Donaldson, but if he signs elsewhere, Atlanta could move Austin Riley (who has yet to prove himself as a reliable big leaguer) back to third base from left field -- or they could deal for a player like Bryant, who can play either left or third.

Bryant isn’t slated to become a free agent for two more years, so while he should earn more than $40 million in his two remaining years of arbitration eligibility, the 2016 National League MVP Award winner would help the Braves in their quest to advance deep into October. Fried, who won 17 games at age 25, would give the Cubs a young cost-controlled starter to add to a veteran rotation led by Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks.

The switch-hitting Waters (Atlanta’s No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) would give the Cubs a budding star in the outfield, while Wilson (their No. 6 prospect) profiles as a future mid-rotation starter or possibly a late-inning reliever. Contreras -- the younger brother of Chicago catcher Willson and Atlanta’s No. 8 prospect -- could give the Cubs a succession plan behind the plate if the elder Contreras is traded or leaves after the 2021 season as a free agent.

3. Reds trade Luis Castillo to Yankees for Deivi Garcia, Clint Frazier and J.A. Happ

Yankees GM Brian Cashman chose not to shell out big bucks for Patrick Corbin last offseason, opting instead to trade for James Paxton to fill a hole in the starting rotation. Cashman has dealt for the likes of Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, Michael Pineda and Sonny Gray over the years, though none panned out as the front-line starter the Yanks had hoped for.

Castillo falls into the same high-upside category as the aforementioned pitchers, having been selected to his first All-Star team in 2019, his third season in the Majors. The right-hander turns 27 next month, but he won’t be arbitration-eligible for another year, making him a huge value with four years of club control.

So why would the Reds trade him? Garcia has moved through the Yankees’ system quickly, and he is now their No. 1 prospect. He is on the verge of the Majors, and he could slot in as a long-term replacement for Castillo. Meanwhile, Frazier proved last season he can hit big league pitching, but he doesn’t fit on the Yankees’ current roster. He would give Cincinnati an offensive piece it needs, and he is under team control through 2023. Happ’s inclusion in a deal would accomplish two things: return an arm to the Reds that could take Castillo’s rotation spot and free up $17 million in payroll for the Yankees, allowing them to remain aggressive in free agency without fear of blowing past the second Competitive Balance Tax threshold. Happ has a $17 million option that vests if he pitches at least 165 innings or makes at least 27 starts, but if he hits those numbers, the Reds probably wouldn’t mind having him back, especially with Trevor Bauer headed for free agency next offseason.

4. Pirates trade Starling Marte to Padres for Hunter Renfroe and Pedro Avila

Marte is set to earn $11.5 million in 2020, and he has a club option worth $12.5 million (with a $1 million buyout) for '21, but Ben Cherington might have a full-blown rebuild on his hands, giving him an opportunity to turn Marte into a longer-term asset or two.

Renfroe has hit 85 home runs in 379 games since the start of 2017, and although he turns 28 in January, he’s entering the first of four arbitration-eligible seasons. The Pirates ranked 27th in the Majors with 163 home runs, so a cost-controlled thumper would be a welcome addition. He could slot in at a corner-outfield spot opposite Gregory Polanco, sliding Bryan Reynolds over to center, where he played 25 games last year.

Avila (Padres’ No. 24 prospect) is a 22-year-old right-hander with a plus curveball and a solid changeup, projecting as a back-of-the-rotation starter who can already get big league hitters out.

5. Blue Jays trade Ken Giles to Nationals for Tim Cate

Giles earned $6.3 million last year, and he is likely to make more than $8 million in 2020, a price the rebuilding Blue Jays might not want to pay for a reliever. The right-hander bounced back from a tough '18, though an elbow issue prevented Toronto from moving him before the July 31 Trade Deadline. With only one year left before Giles becomes a free agent, it’s hard to envision the Blue Jays getting a ton back for the 29-year-old.

That said, the Nationals would appear to be the ideal fit, as Washington must replace free agent Daniel Hudson, and it seems to be on an eternal quest for bullpen help. Giles had 23 saves and a 1.87 ERA last season, so he would certainly help the Nats’ relief corps. Cate, a lefty selected out of UConn in the second round of the 2018 Draft (and Washington’s No. 6 prospect), could develop into a mid-rotation starter with a plus curveball and good command. The Blue Jays are set up well with young position players, but they are on the lookout for pitching.