7 trades that could ignite the Hot Stove

December 21st, 2020

The trade market has yet to fully heat up this offseason, but plenty of time remains for teams to execute some significant swaps. 

Over the past several weeks, MLB.com has gathered a group of writers together to come up with seven proposals apiece for three of the most-discussed trade candidates: shortstop Francisco Lindor, third baseman Kris Bryant and starter Blake Snell. While none of those has come to fruition just yet, there are plenty of other stars who could make for intriguing chips as well.

Here then are seven additional trade ideas -- each geared toward a different target. The idea of this exercise was to spread the deals around MLB, so they involve a total of 14 different teams.

Story begins a new chapter, Rox get much-needed pitching

Yankees get: SS Trevor Story
Rockies get: RHP Adam Ottavino, RHP Clarke Schmidt

Why it could work: The Yankees and DJ LeMahieu are reportedly engaged in talks to keep the 2020 American League MVP Award finalist in the Bronx, but they’re apparently a good distance apart on contract specifics. If LeMahieu were to sign elsewhere, what better replacement in the lineup than his former double-play partner in Colorado? Trading for Story would also enable Gleyber Torres, naturally a second baseman, to move back to his optimal position.

The Rockies, meanwhile, need pitching. So why not bring back a familiar face in Ottavino, a reliever who posted a 2.43 ERA (195 ERA+) over 75 appearances for Colorado in 2018, and over his last two full seasons (‘18 and ’19) had a 2.19 ERA (212 ERA+) along with a 34% strikeout rate? And Schmidt, the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline (No. 83 overall), has a two-seam fastball with good sink (ground balls are a good idea if you pitch at Coors Field) and he has demonstrated solid control (“walks will haunt” and all that, but magnitudes worse at Coors).

Who says no? The Yankees. Story would be a wonderful addition to an already formidable lineup, and his defense at short would be an upgrade over Torres’. But giving up their No. 2 prospect and a good veteran reliever for one year of Story might just be too high a cost. It’s not as if New York’s lineup is hurting for power.

-- Manny Randhawa

Hader heats up the South Side

White Sox get: LHP Josh Hader
Brewers get: 1B/DH Andrew Vaughn
(MLB’s No. 13 prospect)

Why it could work: Chicago will often hold a starting-rotation advantage now that they’ve acquired Lance Lynn to team up with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. Why not add Hader, baseball’s top multi-inning fireman, to shorten games and press that advantage a little further? The competitive window for the White Sox is open right now, and adding Hader to a bullpen that already has some promising arms like Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet and Evan Marshall could make that unit a formidable beast.

Vaughn is the heir apparent to José Abreu at first base, and it’s assumed that he’ll slot in as the designated hitter as soon as 2021 to get at-bats. But there’s an argument that the defensively-challenged Eloy Jiménez could be his most valuable self at DH instead of a corner outfield spot, especially with the White Sox now possessing three capable outfield defenders in Adam Eaton, Adam Engel and Luis Robert. “Expendable” isn’t the right word to describe Vaughn, the best hitter in college baseball in recent memory, but he is sort of blocked on this current roster.

And you know who could use a promising young bat? The Brewers. Milwaukee’s offense sagged dramatically this year after Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura got off to slow starts, and unless one truly believes that Daniel Vogelbach is the truth, it’s hard to see who’s going to step up and help Yeli and Hiura in 2021 and beyond. MLB Pipeline, it should be noted, ranked Milwaukee’s farm system as MLB’s second worst back in September. Hader’s salary only gets more prohibitive for the small-market Crew from here, and so Vaughn offers them a chance for a small reset.

Who says no? The White Sox. Relievers are the most fickle position group in the game, and even one as talented as Hader could go south in a hurry. The South Siders seem to love Vaughn’s bat, and if they really want an elite reliever, free agent Liam Hendriks is still available for mere cash instead of a top prospect.

-- Matt Kelly

Halos land Carrasco, but pay a steep price

Angels get: RHP Carlos Carrasco
Indians get: OF Jo Adell

Why it could work: Put simply, the Angels desperately need starting pitching and the Indians desperately need outfielders. The Halos obviously would love to land free agent Trevor Bauer or some other talented young pitcher, but "settling" for Carrasco wouldn't exactly be the worst thing. Though he turns 34 years old in March, Carrasco is coming off an incredible 2020 campaign in which he posted a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts. Excluding the '19 season, during which he courageously battled through chronic myeloid leukemia, Carrasco has a 3.24 combined ERA in the other six seasons since '14. Carrasco has also averaged at least 10 strikeouts per nine innings in five of the last six seasons. That's something that no Angels pitcher has done since Nolan Ryan in 1977. In fact, Ryan is the only qualified Halos pitcher ever to average 10 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of a season.

As for Adell, he entered 2020 as one of the league’s top prospects but had a disastrous debut campaign. He posted a .161/.212/.266 slash line and struck out 55 times in 124 at-bats, all while playing shaky defense in right field. Still, he won't turn 22 years old until August and is under club control through 2026 -- plenty of time to get things straightened out.

Who says no? The Angels … maybe? While one season is obviously too soon to give up on a highly regarded prospect -- especially a season as unprecedented and abbreviated as 2020 -- the Angels have plenty of outfield depth within the organization. The best player in baseball will be patrolling center field for the next decade, while veteran Justin Upton is in left field and the club’s top prospect Brandon Marsh (MLB's No. 73 prospect) is seemingly on the verge of making his big league debut. Outfielder Jordyn Adams (the club's No. 3 prospect) is also waiting in the wings. While Adell certainly had his struggles last season, the Indians rolled out one of the worst hitting outfields of the last 50 years. Cleveland's outfielders combined for a .575 OPS, which was not only the worst in the Majors, but the lowest by any team's outfielders since those splits were first tracked in 1974. That alone would seemingly justify rolling the dice on a 21-year-old outfielder with six more seasons of team control.

-- Paul Casella

Xander rings the bell

Phillies get: SS Xander Bogaerts, RHP Austin Brice, cash
Red Sox get: RHP Francisco Morales
(Phillies' No. 4 prospect), SS Casey Martin (Phillies' No. 8 prospect), LHP Kyle Dohy (Phillies' No. 27 prospect)

Why it could work: Worth noting off the bat that this would only happen if Xander Bogaerts waived his full no-trade clause, which went into effect this September when he reached a service-time milestone. However, the Phillies’ bringing on Dave Dombrowski to add to their existing roster shows that they’re ready to win now, and they seem likely to compete sooner -- and for longer -- than the Red Sox, at this juncture. In this exercise, let’s presume Bogaerts did waive his no-trade clause. The Phillies get a good, young shortstop who could be on their roster through 2026, if he skips his post-2022 opt-out and his ‘26 option vests. The Red Sox also send along some money to offset his $20M annual salary. The Phillies also get another arm for their beleaguered bullpen.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, stock up in the pitching department and get a young shortstop prospect in 2020 third-rounder Casey Martin, who could theoretically supersede Jeter Downs for the position of future Red Sox shortstop. If not, he could become a valuable trade chip down the road. Morales “has the makings of turning into a rotation workhorse” according to MLB Pipeline, and is projected to reach the Majors in 2022. Dohy, on the other hand, is a reliever who is on the doorstep of the Majors right now and can have immediate impact.

Who says no? Probably the Red Sox, who might be leery of any big trade of a remaining star after the Mookie Betts trade in February. They are rebuilding, and these are helpful prospects to that endeavor, but it stands to reason they’d prefer to not shoulder much of the remainder of Bogaerts’ contract, if any of it. Bogaerts seems like a good solution for the Phillies at shortstop, giving them a great player for years to come if he doesn’t opt out, and avoiding the need to partake in the 2021-22 shortstop sweepstakes after this coming season. Of course, there’s also appeal to signing a shortstop in free agency next year instead (and not having to give up anything other than money) if the Phillies are patient.

And again, Bogaerts would have the chance to say "no" himself, as well.

-- Sarah Langs

Nats power up, bring Gallo to nation's capital

Nationals get: OF Joey Gallo
Rangers get: RHP Cade Cavalli
(Nationals’ No. 2 prospect)

Why it could work: Adding a middle-of-the-order bat is a priority for the Nationals this offseason, but general manager Mike Rizzo made it clear that Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is not a serious option, telling reporters that they plan to “allocate our dollars and prospect capital in another way.” Gallo would make perfect sense for the Nats, who have an opening in right field after Adam Eaton signed with the White Sox. The Rangers already dealt Lance Lynn to the White Sox for right-hander Dane Dunning and left-hander Avery Weems, and Gallo is arguably their most valuable remaining trade candidate. The 27-year-old is under control for two more seasons.

Gallo’s OPS+ was just 84 in 226 plate appearances last season (100 represents league average), but he had a 120 OPS+ across 2017-19, averaging 46 homers, 99 RBIs and 90 walks per 162 games in that span. And after bouncing around on defense over his first five seasons, Gallo found a home in right field this year, winning a Gold Glove Award.

Cavalli is a potential frontline starter, but he’s an expendable piece for a club in win-now mode. According to MLB Pipeline, the Nationals’ top 10 prospects are all pitchers.

Who says no? Likely the Nationals. Although Washington’s system has depth on the pitching front, it is short on high-end prospects. The Nats may be hesitant to surrender their most recent first-round Draft choice and No. 2 prospect for a player with only two years of control remaining, especially after losing Lucas Giolito (and Dunning) in their 2016 trade for Eaton.

-- Thomas Harrigan

A Sonny day in San Diego

Padres get: RHP Sonny Gray
Reds get: LHP Adrian Morejon, RHP Michel Baez, SS Yeison Santana
(Padres’ No. 16 prospect), RHP David Bednar (Padres’ No. 25 prospect)

Why it could work: Besides the obvious puns? The Reds are said to be “gauging interest” from several teams on Gray, after already cutting payroll by non-tendering Archie Bradley and Brian Goodwin and trading closer Raisel Iglesias. The Padres, meanwhile, could use another top-of-the-rotation arm to pair with Dinelson Lamet, since Deadline acquisition Mike Clevinger is out for 2021 after having Tommy John surgery. Gray would do the trick. The 31-year-old turned his career back around after a trade from the Yankees to the Reds and owns a 3.07 ERA in 42 starts since, ranking in the top 15 of MLB pitchers in FanGraphs WAR since 2019.

In some ways, Gray is similar to Lance Lynn, who was just traded to the White Sox. But while Lynn has one season left on his contract, Gray has three (if you include a 2023 club option) worth only about $32 million. That would make his cost higher. Here, Cincinnati gets back Morejon and Baez -- who were both among the Padres’ top eight prospects in 2019 before graduating off MLB Pipeline’s list. Both have seen mixed results in MLB action over the past two seasons, but the talent is there for the Reds’ pitching development staff. Morejon could step right into Gray’s spot in the Cincy rotation, Baez could become a late-inning arm for a bullpen that has lost two major pieces, and Bednar is another relief option with MLB experience under his belt. The smooth-fielding, 20-year-old Santana is a longer-term bet but profiles as a future starting shortstop. (The Padres already have one of those, anyway).

Who says no? The Reds. Gray’s contract is not a heavy burden, so they shouldn’t have to deal him unless someone blows them away with an offer. Maybe that happens if San Diego is willing to center a package around big league-ready righty Luis Patiño (MLB’s No. 23 prospect) instead.

-- Andrew Simon

Darvish makes Jays legit AL East threat

Blue Jays get: RHP Yu Darvish
Cubs get: OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr., RHP Alek Manoah
(Blue Jays’ No. 5 prospect), OF Dasan Brown (Blue Jays’ No. 16 prospect)

Why it could work: The Blue Jays are linked to just about every big-name free agent this offseason, but in this scenario, they address their primary need -- rotation help -- with a blockbuster trade for Darvish, whose second-place finish in NL Cy Young Award voting punctuated his return to prominence as one of baseball’s best pitchers. The 34-year-old righty teams with southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu (coming off two straight top-three Cy Young finishes) and promising flamethrower Nate Pearson (still Toronto’s top prospect) to bolster the Blue Jays’ staff, which also includes Ross Stripling, Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark and Trent Thornton.

That combo of top-end arms and depth makes them a legitimate threat in the AL East. With a young, cost-controlled core of position players led by Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Teoscar Hernández, Toronto has room in its payroll to take on Darvish’s contract ($59 million through 2023) and still make another addition on the open market. Two options to replace Gurriel in the outfield? George Springer, if they’re really willing to spend for a big bat; or Jackie Bradley Jr., if they prefer elite center-field defense. Look out, Rays and Yankees.

The Cubs, on the other hand, are prioritizing salary relief and roster flexibility as they head into what could be the final season in Chicago for Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Báez. Unloading Darvish’s contract while bringing in three low-cost players with upside would give them more financial freedom next offseason. In his prime at 27, Gurriel’s bat (123 career OPS+), ability to handle an area of need (corner outfield) and team-friendly contract (about $14 million through 2023) would appeal to Chicago. Manoah -- the 11th overall pick in the 2019 Draft -- is a 22-year-old college product who stands out for his size (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) and plus fastball. Given the Cubs’ issues with drafting and developing pitchers the past several seasons, he’d be a welcome addition as a mid-rotation arm in a year or two. Brown, 19, is a long-term play, but one worth taking a flier on for his athleticism, elite speed and strong outfield defense.

Who says no? The Blue Jays. While Darvish would give Toronto a potent 1-2-3 punch atop its rotation, surrendering Gurriel -- already a key piece under such a team-friendly contract -- plus the potential of Manoah feels like a bit much. Unless the Blue Jays were decidedly all-in on targeting Darvish, they instead could choose to spend on, say, Trevor Bauer or a couple of other free-agent arms (Jake Odorizzi? James Paxton? Tomoyuki Sugano?) and avoid parting with any players or prospects.

-- Jason Catania