5 big trades that won't happen (but should)

July 27th, 2021

The Trade Deadline arrives on Friday at 4 p.m. ET, and one of the things that makes this time of year so exciting is its unpredictable nature.

Sure, many of the deals that go down will be ones with some connection to rumors that have been percolating over the previous weeks. Yet there are also always those moves that come out of left field, so to speak.

So while there is no shortage of realistic trade rumors out there, it doesn't hurt to have some fun and go out on a limb, too. To that end, MLB.com got together five writers and had each cook up a trade proposal that some might call a little crazy. These are the trades that almost certainly won't happen -- but perhaps should.

Motion for the Judge

Braves get: OF Aaron Judge
Yankees get: OF Drew Waters (MLB’s No. 25 prospect), LHP Kyle Muller (Braves’ No. 5 prospect), OF Michael Harris (Braves’ No. 9 prospect)

Why it should happen: The Yankees have sleep-walked their way through a strange and ultimately unsatisfying season in which they are still in contention but showing no real signs of being a threat to win the AL East. They haven’t done enough to display they are worthy of a big acquisition.

So how about a big shakeup?

Judge is a free agent after 2022, and capitalizing on his enormous trade value while bringing in controllable pieces with high upside might actually make sense. The 22-year-old Waters, the 2019 MVP in the Double-A Southern League, is a switch-hitter who is better from the left-hand side (yes, Yankees fans, there is such a thing as batting from the left-hand side), has the skills to play anywhere in the outfield and is on the cusp of the bigs. The 23-year-old Muller has bounced back and forth between the Majors and Triple-A this season and is a long-term rotation piece. The 20-year-old Harris is much farther away but has a really intriguing speed and power skillset.

That’s a lot for the Braves to give up, but … you get Aaron Judge. Ronald Acuña Jr.'s ACL injury was a huge blow to the Braves' NL East chances, which had already been affected by the Marcell Ozuna suspension. But the division is still very winnable, and Judge’s arrival would bandage that gaping wound and keep Atlanta’s World Series hopes alive. Though the newly acquired Joc Pederson is a pending free agent, Judge is still around to pair with a hopefully healthy Acuña (and a hopefully re-signed Freddie Freeman) to give Atlanta a truly monster lineup in 2022.

Why it won’t: The Yankees’ play might not justify a splashy add, but they’re not likely to punt, either. And while Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos isn’t afraid to think big, robbing the top end of the farm system to this extreme is probably a step too far for a 2021 team that just hasn’t lived up to expectations.

-- Anthony Castrovince

A big NL Central swap

Brewers get: OF Bryan Reynolds, RHP Richard Rodríguez
Pirates get: INF Brice Turang (MLB's No. 74 prospect), LHP Aaron Ashby (Brewers' No. 7 prospect), OF Tristen Lutz (Brewers' No. 12 prospect)

Why it should happen: The Brewers rank 10th in the National League in center field OPS thanks to underwhelming seasons from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Lorenzo Cain, each of whom is signed through 2022. Reynolds would be an upgrade for the Brewers, who have a pitching staff capable of a deep postseason run but would benefit from a boost to the lineup. The 2021 All-Star entered Monday slashing .312/.394/.528, and he is not set to reach free agency until after the '25 season.

Turang is expendable given the presence of Willy Adames and Kolten Wong (not to mention Keston Hiura), giving Milwaukee a prime trade chip to deal. Ashby and Lutz would also give the Pirates two players close to being ready for the Majors, while Rodríguez would make a solid Milwaukee bullpen even stronger for the stretch run.

Why it won’t: For Pittsburgh, dealing Reynolds within the NL Central and having to see him in a Brewers uniform 19 times a year for the next four years would be tough. The Pirates are unlikely to deal Reynolds at all given his club control, but for a roster in need of so many upgrades, he’s their best asset. Like all GMs, Ben Cherington likely believes his team can contend in the near future, making Reynolds one of the centerpieces of the rebuild.

-- Mark Feinsand

Blockbuster by the Bay

Giants get: RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Brad Hand
Nationals get: OF Heliot Ramos (MLB’s No. 63 prospect), C Patrick Bailey (Giants’ No. 6 prospect)

Why it should happen: Entering this season, it seemed unfathomable that an aging Giants club could contend in a division with the defending World Series champion Dodgers and the powerhouse Padres. San Francisco was a sub-.500 club in each of the previous four seasons, and its roster is heavily comprised of veterans on the wrong side of 30. But the club aced its free-agent signings of Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Jake McGee on the pitching side and has gotten resurgent seasons from Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria at the plate en route to the best record in the Majors.

Still, this feels less like the start of another dynastic run for the Giants and more like the last hurrah for this core. Gausman, DeSclafani, Wood, Crawford, Brandon Belt and Donovan Solano are all free agents after 2021. Posey could be, too, if his $22 million club option isn’t picked up. This is a team that should go for it at the Deadline, and acquiring Scherzer and Hand would substantially improve the club’s chances of winning the NL West -- thereby avoiding the NL Wild Card Game -- and making a World Series run.

Why it won’t: Would the Giants really pay this sort of prospect price for two rentals? Probably not when they already have so many key players due to hit free agency this offseason.

-- Thomas Harrigan

Toronto preps for stretch run

Blue Jays get: 3B José Ramírez, RHP Emmanuel Clase, RHP Bryan Shaw
Cleveland gets: OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr., SS/OF Austin Martin (MLB's No. 16 prospect) RHP Eric Pardinho (Blue Jays’ No. 13 prospect)

Why it should happen: The Blue Jays are part of an AL East that currently features four contending teams, all above .500 and with positive run differentials. The Blue Jays’ offense is one of the two most dynamic of the group, along with the Red Sox, but the team has needed pitching help -- both starting pitching and relief. An earlier version of this deal included Shane Bieber, but with his recent transfer to the 60-day IL, a new plan was hatched: Clase, a hard-throwing reliever to fortify the bullpen, and Ramírez, to add to the team’s considerable offensive prowess.

To be clear, the Blue Jays don’t need another bat. But with no ace starters clearly available, adding Ramírez helps make this a borderline unstoppable lineup. Instead of run prevention, what if they just scored a ton of runs, beefed up that bullpen and went for it? Ramírez has team options for 2022 and '23, so this isn’t a rental, and Clase isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2024. That’s important, given that the Blue Jays’ offense is super young, and presumably here to stay.

Why it won’t: While Gurriel seems primed for a breakout in many ways, and the prospects have high ceilings, it seems unlikely that Cleveland would unload Ramírez, given the two aforementioned club options. He and Clase both could still be on the team when it's competitive again, especially if Cleveland's starters can avoid the injuries that have plagued them in 2021.

-- Sarah Langs

Rockies-Cardinals Part II: A ‘Spicy’ Story

Cardinals get: SS Trevor Story, RHP Germán Márquez
Rockies get: LHP Matthew Liberatore (MLB's No. 27 prospect), 1B Luken Baker (Cardinals' No. 14 prospect)

Why it should happen: The Cardinals found themselves eight games out in the NL Central and seven games back in the NL Wild Card race, entering Monday. But president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has indicated St. Louis is not a seller as we approach the Trade Deadline. The Cardinals don’t see themselves far from competing given their roster. Imagine Story being reunited with Nolan Arenado on the left side of the Cards’ infield, along with Márquez bolstering the St. Louis starting rotation in a big way. Using some Arenado terminology from his Rockies days, that would be “spicy.”

As strange as it may sound on the surface, this makes sense for the Cardinals. Arenado has said Story and Márquez are among his favorite former teammates, and while Story may be viewed as a rental since he’s scheduled to be a free agent following this season, the Cards have had success in convincing stars for whom they’ve traded to sign extensions (see Paul Goldschmidt for the most recent example). That Story and Arenado are close friends only helps that cause. Márquez, meanwhile, has a team-friendly contract that runs through the 2023 campaign.

Finally, who knows? Stranger things have happened than a team seven games out of a postseason spot with two months to go ending up in the playoffs. Insert Story into the lineup and Márquez into a struggling starting rotation behind the soon-to-return Jack Flaherty and you might just see St. Louis make a late push.

For the Rockies, it’s another chance to trade with the Cardinals! I know, I know -- why would they want to do that again? Because it’s also a chance to get the type of return that many felt Colorado should have gotten in the Arenado deal last offseason. Liberatore, St. Louis' top prospect, could make his MLB debut next season and be a big part of Colorado's future. And in the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Baker, who has tremendous raw power, the Rockies could try to develop the long-term, slugging solution at first base they’ve been missing for years.

Why it won’t: The Rockies aren’t going to do this for a couple of reasons. First, interim general manager Bill Schmidt recently said that his club is not a “farm system for other teams.” If the Cardinals have Arenado at third base, Story at shortstop and Márquez on the mound, that certainly wouldn’t mesh with Schmidt’s statement. Secondly, the Rockies have indicated that Márquez is off limits in trade talks.

-- Manny Randhawa