7 Black Friday deals that just might work
While many of you are hunting the aisles and the internet for blockbuster bargains on this Black Friday, I’m over here dreaming up deals of a different sort.
This list of Hot Stove trade proposals is always one of the most fun columns to write each year, and then the fun gives way to the frustration of a bunch of strangers yelling at me and telling me my trades are terrible.
Such is the life of a (fake) baseball general manager.
So let’s do it again! I’ll provide the trades, and you provide the tirades. That sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it?
1. Mullin' it over
Orioles get: RHP Pablo López
Marlins get: OF Cedric Mullins
Hey, what’s more satisfying than a straight up Major Leaguer-for-Major Leaguer swap? Here’s one that … might work?
López is coming off a career high in innings (180) with his third straight ERA+ above league average. He is the best starting pitcher known to be available in this trade market, after conversations about him over the summer obviously did not result in a deal. The Marlins are looking for a stabilizing presence in center field, and an Orioles team with strong position-player depth and a need for a reliable starter might be an ideal trading partner.
Mullins did not replicate his breakout All-Star output from 2021 at the plate this past season, but he’s still an exciting player with elite defense and speed that has resulted in consecutive 30-steal seasons. Though parting with him would be difficult for Baltimore, the O’s have prospect Colton Cowser knocking on the door to the big leagues.
López has two years of arbitration remaining, while Mullins has three. So the trade is unbalanced from that perspective, though perhaps that concern is mitigated by the value of premier pitching. Maybe a one-for-one swap doesn’t work, but Mullins-for-López creates at least an intriguing starting point.
2. A post-Yadi pact
Cardinals get: C Alejandro Kirk
Blue Jays get: 2B/DH Nolan Gorman, RHP Freddy Pacheco (Cardinals’ No. 22 prospect)
The Cardinals need to replace a legacy catcher and have interesting position-player depth elsewhere. The Blue Jays have an excess of talent at the catching spot and need a left-handed power bat. Let’s get these crazy kids in a room together (preferably at the Winter Meetings) and hash this out.
Here's a proposal: A deal sending 2022 All-Star Kirk to St. Louis, where he can ably fill Yadier Molina’s big shoes and give the Cards an offensive boost with his terrific discipline and contact.
To get Kirk, the Cards give up Gorman, whose range limitations make his viability at second base a question mark in the post-shift world. What is not in question is his power potential from the left side of the plate, and, boy, do the Blue Jays need to balance their right-leaning lineup. They could conceivably shift Gorman to a corner outfield spot and/or use him as a DH. (The Cards could of course do the same, but they have outfield depth and top prospect Jordan Walker looming). The hard-throwing Pacheco rounds out this deal as a near-term bullpen option for the Blue Jays.
If that seems like an overpay for Kirk or if the Blue Jays would prefer to keep Kirk, then these clubs could still match up on a deal for Gabriel Moreno or Danny Jansen. Or perhaps there’s a deal to be swung in which the left-handed-hitting Lars Nootbaar goes to Toronto instead of Gorman. The bottom line is these two teams can fill each other’s needs, one way or another.
3. A major Dev-elopment
Mets get: 3B Rafael Devers
Red Sox get: 3B Brett Baty (Mets’ No. 2 prospect), RHP Blade Tidwell (No. 8), OF Nick Morabito (No. 14)
Boston ought to be able to lock up Devers with an extension. He is not expected to be traded. But if a deal somehow doesn’t get done? The Red Sox had better think hard about taking advantage of his value in this market before he enters his walk year.
The all-in Mets not only need Devers’ power but can offer the Red Sox a potential ready-made replacement under control through 2028 in Baty, who got his feet wet in the bigs in 2022 and has mashed Minor League pitching (a .315/.410/.533 slash line in Double-A/Triple-A last year). Tidwell, a second-round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft, rounds out this particular proposal.
Perhaps the addition of another lower-tier prospect would be necessary for a player of Devers’ ilk. But the basic point is that if the Red Sox do find themselves in a position where Devers’ long-term fit comes into question, the Mets could make a perfect match.
4. Of course, we’ve got to include an Ohtani trade…
Giants get: RHP/DH Shohei Ohtani
Angels get: INF Marco Luciano (Giants’ No. 1 prospect), LHP Kyle Harrison (No. 2), OF Luis Matos (No. 3), RHP Mason Black (No. 11), RHP Gregory Santos (No. 24)
Is Ohtani -- who is eligible for free agency next offseason -- getting dealt this winter? No, probably not. And Angels general manager Perry Minasian has backed up his public stance on Ohtani’s availability by trying to improve the product around the two-way star. But we can’t rule out an offseason ownership change upending things, and this column has the freedom to operate in its own reality. What fun is a bold trade proposals piece that doesn’t include Ohtani?
So let’s send arguably baseball’s biggest star to a team in need of one.
The Giants can use their ample resources and intellect to build around Ohtani. They were finalists to land him in 2017 and might have done it if the universal DH were around back then. Now they can finish the job and use their long-term financial flexibility to extend him.
The cost, of course, would have to be huge. Perhaps huger than this. In this deal, the Giants send their three top prospects (and five of their Top 30) to Anaheim. Luciano is no lock to stick at short, but his big power is enticing. Harrison has not yet pitched in Triple-A but has the raw stuff to pitch in the bigs very soon. Matos has strong bat-to-ball skills but will need to fill out to reach his potential. The package is rounded out with a couple of right-handed lottery tickets. Overall, it would greatly improve the strength of the Angels’ system with near-term help.
So… is that enough for one year of Ohtani? Is anything?
5. A South Side shakeup
White Sox get: 2B Gleyber Torres, 3B Josh Donaldson, $10.8 million
Yankees get: 3B Yoán Moncada, RHP Jimmy Lambert
You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts.
With Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza in the Yankees’ near or immediate middle-infield picture, Torres is a good candidate to get moved this winter. And a White Sox team for which second base has been a problematic position for more than a decade is an obvious fit. Perhaps there’s a more direct swap to be had here in which the Sox send prospects and/or bullpen help to the Yanks.
But what fun is that? We’re here to think big, and this crazy proposal might help both sides.
The Sox get an obvious improvement and perhaps additional upside at second base in Torres. They move Moncada, who has had an up-and-down career to date. And while replacing him with Donaldson erases a lot of upside, it also frees the Sox of the $24.8 million owed to Moncada in 2024 (plus a $5 million buyout in 2025) in exchange for an $8 million buyout of Donaldson’s '24 deal. That’s some added long-term financial flexibility for a Chicago team in need of it. At minimum, Donaldson is still capable of giving them good defense at the hot corner.
Of course, pairing Donaldson with Tim Anderson would be, um, more than a little awkward (hey, we promised you this was nuts). But it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen players with a past forced to smooth things over after an acquisition.
Torres, meanwhile, comes with two years of contractual control and took well to the shift to second base while swatting 24 homers and 28 doubles with a .761 OPS. If that’s his floor, it’s a big upgrade for the South Siders. And if he can reach the upside that made him the centerpiece of the Cubs-Yankees Aroldis Chapman trade in 2016, that’s an even bigger plus. Factoring in Torres’ arbitration cost, the Sox take on roughly $3 million in '23 payroll in this swap.
What do the Yankees get? For one, a bullpen piece in Lambert, who is under control through 2027 and had strong results in high-leverage spots after a shift to the 'pen last year (2.90 ERA in 40 relief appearances). Even in sending half of Donaldson’s salary obligation to the Sox, New York shaves about $3 million off its '23 payroll. The Yanks get improved upside at third base in Moncada, who struggled (and was injured) in '22 but at 27 years old is a safer bet to return to above-average offensive production at this stage than Donaldson. Moncada also balances the Yankees’ lineup as a switch-hitter. The Yankees are taking on the $24.8 million owed to Moncada in '24 and losing the $8 million buyout owed to Donaldson for that season.
Hey, what do you know? Maybe Torres could wind up playing for a Chicago team, after all!
6. Murphy gets new shin Guards
Guardians get: C Sean Murphy
A’s get: RHP Gavin Williams (Guardians’ No. 3 prospect), SS/2B Brayan Rocchio (No. 4)
These two clubs got deep into talks about Murphy last summer, with the Guards ultimately reluctant to part with any of their top pitching prospects in a swap for Murphy.
In some ways, that was understandable at the time. All that’s happened since is that Cleveland proved itself a bona fide contender but one still sorely in need of a power bat and some offense behind the plate.
Murphy, an Ohio native under contractual control through 2025, checks every box for a club that would be taking a big risk to hand off the starting catching duties to rookie Bo Naylor. Murphy would maintain the Guardians' emphasis on good defense and game-calling from the position while drastically increasing the offensive potential. Murphy slashed .250/.332/.426 last season. Given their competitive state and the presence of Shea Langeliers and several catching prospects close to the bigs, the A’s have no sense holding onto Murphy. But with the Cardinals among the clubs likely to be in on the bidding, the cost won’t be cheap.
This trade does require the Guardians to deal from their pitching and middle-infield depth, but such is the cost of doing business to turn a good Major League team into a potentially great one.
7. The Brewers reload, the Dodgers load up
Dodgers get: RHP Corbin Burnes, OF Christian Yelich, SS Willy Adames
Brewers get: OF Andy Pages (Dodgers’ No. 5 prospect), RHP Ryan Pepiot (No. 6), C Dalton Rushing (No. 9), RHP Landon Knack (No. 11)
OK, this would never happen. But it’s an interesting concept. While the Brewers have every intention of building around co-aces Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, the increasing cost of both arms in arbitration on a team that has typically not run a high payroll will make that very difficult.
This would be a deal that allows the Brewers to basically reset. The Yelich extension hasn't been as bad as some naysayers might suggest, but his back issues and inability to reach his MVP ceiling since signing have not helped this small-market club. Yelich is still owed another $156 million through his age-36 season.
Who better than Yelich’s hometown Dodgers to take on that deal while landing a stud for their rotation and a replacement for Trea Turner at shortstop? The Brewers receive a solid stash of prospects. More importantly, they get a fresh start from a long-term payroll perspective. The overhang of the Yelich contract is the obvious sticking point here, as the Dodgers would be reluctant to part with upper-tier prospects.