One Trade Every MLB Team Should Already Be Thinking About
It's still April, but the MLB trade market is definitely open for business.
That was made clear by the recent swap between the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates, which saw Ike Davis head to the NL Central in exchange for Zack Thornton and a player to be named later. Between now and the July 31 trade deadline, general managers around the league will be kicking tires and working the phones.
For some, it's a matter of upgrading that trouble spot in the lineup or adding one more bullpen arm. Of course, for other teams it's time to start thinking about selling off their most valuable assets. What follows is a breakdown of trades that all 30 MLB clubs should at least be considering.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Offloading Some Veterans
21 games into the season, the Arizona Diamondbacks are already eight games off the pace in the National League West.
Sure, there's still plenty of time for manager Kirk Gibson's squad to rebound, but it's not looking good. The most troubling sign is that the Diamondbacks' starting rotation has posted a 7.42 ERA. For a bit of context, the next worst mark is that of the Minnesota Twins who check in at a 5.31 ERA.
So, if this early-season trend wears on, the Diamondbacks will have to seriously consider cutting costs and shipping out some veteran players. One name in particular to watch out for is J.J. Putz.
Bullpen pieces, especially ones such as Putz who offer previous closing experience, are always in high demand around the trade deadline. The Diamondbacks would stand to save a few million dollars by dealing Putz, who earns $7 million, around the All-Star break. Plus, there should be plenty of interest in an established reliever, who owns a career 9.5 K/9 ratio.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Adding a Bat in the Outfield
In the opening weeks of the 2014 season, the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves don't have any glaring weaknesses.
However, one spot that the club may need to consider upgrading is the outfield, where center fielder B.J. Upton (.208) and right fielder Jason Heyward (.171) have both been floundering. Upton has already piled up 22 strikeouts in his first 17 games, and Heyward has punched out 20 times in 17 contests.
The Braves don't need to make a big splash and pick up an all-star-level player, but a proven outfielder capable of coming off the bench would be a major help.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Acquiring Another Starting Pitcher
While the Baltimore Orioles are currently right in the middle of the mix in the AL East, there's no doubt that the team's starting staff will need to improve substantially if the Orioles are going to keep up in what promises to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball.
Through 17 games, Baltimore's starters have posted a 4.53 ERA and opposing batters are hitting .290 against the group.
As you'll see in later slides, there are a number of established starters who should become available later on this summer, who could provide the Orioles' starting staff with a much-needed boost.
Boston Red Sox
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Finding Another Outfielder
Like the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox have so far struggled with a lack of offensive production in the outfield in 2014.
Manager John Farrell has already used nine different outfield alignments in the first 19 games, as he works to find the ideal combination, per Scott Barboza of ESPNBoston.com. The weakest link for the defending World Series champs so far has been Daniel Nava, who's batting .127 (8-for-63).
The outfield will get a spark when Shane Victorino, who is currently playing on a rehab assignment with the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate, rejoins the lineup.
Still, as you'll see on a later slide, I think that there is a switch-hitting outfielder, who is off to an excellent start with one of the Red Sox's AL East rivals, who would be an ideal fit in Boston.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Shipping Out Veterans in Exchange for Young Starters
The Chicago Cubs have a ton of talent in the minor league system.
However, as a quick check of the MLB.com top-10 prospect list illustrates, that talent leans heavily to the position-player side. Considering that the major league club is currently sporting the second-worst record in all of baseball (5-12), the time is now to start thinking about selling off some of the team's veteran players.
Starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel should definitely be on the trade block. Plus, Jose Veras, who saved 21 games in 2013, might even be an option, should the 33-year-old right-hander get back on track following an awful start to the year.
Chicago White Sox
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Cut Ties with Adam Dunn
For now, the Chicago White Sox are hanging around in the AL Central race. Still, it's difficult to envision that the team, which dropped 99 contests a season ago, will be able to keep up with division leaders such as the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals.
Should the White Sox eventually tumble out of contention, Adam Dunn is absolutely a player the White Sox's brain trust needs to contemplate moving. Over the past two seasons, the first baseman/designated hitter has batted .202 and .219, respectively, but he's never lost his power stroke.
In 2012, Dunn clubbed 41 home runs, and a season ago he went yard 34 times. This year, Dunn has already totaled three home runs.
Now that the 34-year-old is playing in the final season of his four-year, $56 million deal, there should be at least a few power-hungry contenders willing to take on the remaining financial commitment for the slugger.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Upgrade the Shortstop Position
The Cincinnati Reds are just one of a number of contenders who find themselves in a tough spot at the shortstop position. In his his first 16 games, Zack Cozart is hitting .153 (9-for-59) with just one walk.
In the Reds' most recent game on April 20, the 28-year-old finally showed signs that he might be waking up at the plate. In the 8-2 beat down of the Chicago Cubs, Cozart went 3-for-5 with a home run. The game marked just Cozart' second multi-hit contest of the season.
The difficulty, of course, is that shortstop is one of the weakest positions around baseball, and as a result one of the most challenging spots to improve. Still, GM Walt Jocketty should already be checking around the league to see what kind of replacements are available.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Bolstering the Struggling Rotation
One of the big questions facing the Cleveland Indians entering the 2014 season was if the club would be able to weather the departures of both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir. Considering that the starting staff has so far posted a 5.11 ERA—the third-worst in MLB—the early answer is a resounding no.
One major factor behind the early-season struggles is that both Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar are off to rough starts. Of those two, Salazar has been particularly poor. After three appearances, the talented 24-year-old owns a 7.71 ERA and has only made it through five innings in one of his outings.
Part of this mess is the result of the team's decision to release Aaron Harang in the final week of spring training. Since catching on with the Atlanta Braves, the 36-year-old right-hander has gone 3-1 with a 0.70 ERA in four starts.
Cleveland's best option at this point will be to try and pluck an established starter off a team that ends up in the tank. Such a move, though, would come at a high price in terms of prospects.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Dealing Jorge De La Rosa
With a 10-10 record, it's still much too soon for the Colorado Rockies to become sellers in the trade market. However, if the club, which finished in the NL West cellar a season ago, one again falls out out of the race, the front office will have to consider parting ways with some of the team's imcpending free agents.
Left-handed starter De La Rosa falls into that group. In his first four outings in 2014, the lefty has posted an underwhelming 7.58 ERA. However, in his most recent appearance on April 17, the 33-year-old enjoyed his best start of the year, allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings of work.
With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, De La Rosa would be a viable target for an number of contending clubs on the lookout for rotation help.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Finding a Shortstop
Like the Cincinnati Reds, the Detroit Tigers are a contending club with a major hole at shortstop.
As manager Brad Ausmus explained, via Matthew B. Mowery of The Oakland Press: 'We're day-to-day at short." Since that statement, the club has released veteran Alex Gonzalez, who hit just .167 (5-for-32) in nine games and who struggled extensively in the field, as well, per Jason Beck of MLB.com.
To replace Gonzalez on the roster, the Tigers called up Danny Worth from Triple-A, who will platoon at shortstop with Andrew Romine. In nine games, Romine is batting .250 (5-for-20).
Unless the Tigers finally decide to spring for free agent Stephen Drew, GM Dave Dombrowski will need to explore all the trade options possible, as the club continues to search for a reliable shortstop.
While it's difficult to know if the Arizona Diamondbacks would be open to a deal, one player to consider would be Didi Gregorius. The 24-year-old is currently hitting .309 in Triple-A but is blocked by Chris Owings in Arizona.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering Making: Trading Away Bullpen Arms
With a 5-14 record, the Houston Astros appear well on their way to a fourth straight 100-loss season.
After 19 games, the Astros already trail the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics by 8.5 games. With the club's attention clearly focused on the 2015 season and beyond, the front office might as well prepare to begin parting with some of the team's more talented veteran relievers.
Of the pitchers currently on the roster, Matt Albers and Chad Qualls are two of the top trade candidates. For now, Albers represents the more valuable chip, as he's posted a 1.00 ERA in seven appearances. Qualls owns a unsightly 9.00 ERA, but much of the damage occurred in a single outing against the Oakland Athletics on April 19, when he allowed three runs and retired just one batter.
Kansas City Royals
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Finding a Replacement for Mike Moustakas
Mike Moustakas is off to a terrible start at the plate for the Kansas City Royals in 2014.
In his first 16 games, the left-handed batter is hitting .125 (7-for-56). Should the Royals decide an upgrade is in order at third base, the club could just find a replacement on the Miami Marlins roster. Casey McGehee is currently hitting .300 (21-for-67) with five doubles and 15 RBI for the NL East squad.
The 31-year-old didn't even appear in the big leagues a season ago. However, while playing for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Nippon Professional Baseball, McGehee slugged 28 home runs and hit .292.
Los Angeles Angels
The Move the Clubs Should Already Be Considering: Fixing the Bullpen
In the opening of the campaign, the Los Angeles Angels bullpen has not exactly been doing its job.
Through 18 games, the club's relievers have posted a 4.92 ERA and have been particularly susceptible to giving up home runs. Already, the group has served up nine homers, which ties the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies for the most in all of baseball. Three of those shots have come against closer Ernesto Frieri.
Fortunately, for manager Mike Scioscia's team, the bullpen is the easiest position to upgrade on the trade market. Unfortunately for the club, though, the Angels are clearly in need of a lot of help.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Acquiring a Veteran Catcher
With A.J. Ellis currently on the shelf while he recovers from left knee surgery, Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz have been handling the catching duties for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, Ellis is aiming to go on a two- to three-game rehab assignment later this week. That's encouraging news for the club, but the Dodgers will definitely need to be cautious with the 33-year-old's return.
When the catcher first hit the DL he explained, via Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times, that his "knee has been barking since the beginning of spring training." Considering how important Ellis is to the pitching staff and that Butera and Federowicz are both relatively inexperienced at the big-league level, the Dodgers should consider adding a proven catcher to provide insurance.
As you'll see in the upcoming slides, there are at least a couple of veteran who could fit that mold.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Trading Jeff Baker
Jeff Baker's career with the Miami Marlins is off to a rough start.
In his first 13 games, the right-handed batter is hitting just .088 (3-for-34) with a double. However, the utility man has the track record to suggest that eventually he'll hit his way out of his early-season slump. In 1,694 career plate appearances, Baker owns a .751 OPS.
Plus, the 33-year-old has the ability to play the corner infield and outfield spots in addition to second base. The defensive versatility could make Baker a valuable option off the bench or in a part-time role for a contending club.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Shipping out Rickie Weeks
This one is easier said than done.
Rickie Weeks makes $11 million in 2014 and is currently hitting .125 (3-for-24). As the right-handed hitting half of a platoon at second base with Scooter Gennett, there have been limited opportunities for the 31-year-old to get his swing going. Meanwhile, in his first 17 games, Gennett is hitting .300 (15-for-50), after batting .324 in 69 games a season ago.
If the Brewers are going to find a suitor for Weeks, the club would clearly need to eat a substantial amount of the money remaining on his deal. However, if a contender suffers an injury at second base, there could just be a team willing to gamble on the 2011 All-Star.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Dealing Kurt Suzuki
The Minnesota Twins are off to a promising start in 2014 with a 9-9 record.
However, a major red flag for the team is the terrible performance of the Twins' starting rotation. In the first 18 games, the staff has posted a 5.31 ERA. Eventually, that lack of effectiveness figures to catch up to Minnesota, and if it does, some of the club's veterans could end up on the trade block.
Kurt Suzuki could become a popular target for contending clubs looking for help in the catching department, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 30-year-old has a solid defensive reputation, makes just $2.75 million in 2014 and is off to an impressive start at the plate. In his first 15 contests, Suzuki is batting .294 (15-for-51) with 14 RBI.
New York Mets
The Deal the Club Should Already Be Considering: Trading Dillon Gee for Prospects
Just why should the New York Mets consider trading Dillon Gee, an effective, affordable and relatively young starting pitcher?
The simple answer is that starters such as Gee almost never hit the trade front. As a result, New York would likely score a major haul if the club decided to part ways with the 28-year-old right-hander. Sure, trading Gee would definitely make the Mets worse in 2014. Then again, it's extremely difficult to envision the team keeping up with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals this season.
New York Yankees
The Move The Club Should Already Be Considering: Acquiring a Replacement for Ivan Nova
It seems as though Ivan Nova won't be pitching for the New York Yankees anytime soon.
The right-hander left his start against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 19 with elbow soreness and has since been diagnosed with a ligament tear, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com. As manager Joe Girardi explained to Matthews, such an injury tends to result in Tommy John surgery.
With internal replacements lacking, the idea of the Yankees making a trade to acquire a starting pitcher immediately becomes a possibility. However, the organization's lack of talent down on the farm limits New York's ability to pull off a deal. That means it would be incredibly challenging to acquire anything more than a mid-tier starter, such as Jason Hammel or Jorge De La Rosa.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Finding a Right-Handed Power Hitter
The Oakland Athletics have a clear need for a right-handed hitting power threat and preferably one capable of playing first base.
That's where Edwin Encarnacion enters the equation. Sure, it would be incredibly difficult for the Athletics to pry away the slugger from the Toronto Blue Jays—especially considering he is playing on a club-friendly deal. Encarnacion makes $9 million this year, $10 million in 2015 and has a $10 million team option for 2016.
Still, it does hurt to make a phone call.
A less ambitious move would be to go after Jeff Baker. The right-handed hitter is off to a slow start with the Miami Marlins, but in 2013 he absolutely crushed left-handed pitching. In 123 plate appearances, Baker totaled 10 home runs and posted a 1.073 OPS.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Dealing Kyle Kendrick to a Pitching-Hungry Contender
For now, the Philadelphia Phillies are just a couple of games under .500 (8-10) and four games out of the division's top spot in the division. Of course, that record also leaves them last place in the congested NL East.
As is the case with the New York Mets, it will be highly challenging for the Phillies to keep up with division favorites like the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. So, if the club does end up falling out of contention, Kendrick is definitely a chip that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to consider dealing.
Kendrick, who is 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts, could land the club a solid return—especially if contenders continue to lose starters to injury.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Trading for a New Closer
Over the weekend, Jason Grilli blew two saves against the division-rival Milwaukee Brewers.
As Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes, that ties Grilli's total number of blown saves from a season ago. However, for now, Pittsburgh Pirates' manager Clint Hurdle is still very much behind his closer. As Hurdle pointed out to Sawchik, that's the first time in more than two seasons that the right-hander has endured "back-to-back bad marks."
Still, considering that Grilli now has three blown saves in eight appearances, it's not too soon for GM Neal Huntington to at least start checking around the league to see who might become available later this summer. One option could be J.J. Putz of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Trading John Buck
With a .283 (15-for-53) average, three doubles and three home runs, Mike Zunino is off to an excellent start with the Seattle Mariners in 2014.
One of the ripple effects of the strong early-season showing for the 23-year-old is that John Buck is getting next to zero playing time. So far, the 33-year-old has appeared in just four games and is hitting .231 (4-for-13).
Buck isn't a player who has to be in the lineup everyday, but with at least 12 home runs in each of the past four seasons, he should definitely be starting more than once a week. The Mariners, of course, have no reason to jettison Buck just yet.
However, should a club like the Los Angeles Dodgers reach out, Seattle should certainly be open to making a deal. Such a move could net the Mariners a young player or two, and Jesus Sucre could take over as Zunino's backup.
San Diego Padres
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Getting Some Return for Chase Headley
Chase Headley's contract season has been a mess.
After his first 16 games, the third baseman is hitting .190 with a .535 OPS, as he has been slowed by a variety of injuries. Headley and the San Diego Padres are also "nowhere close" to a contract extension, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman recently reported that, over the winter, the club had offered the 29-year-old a three-year deal in the range of $33 million to $39 million.
Based on his current level of play, Headley is also nowhere close to being worth a qualifying offer. As a result, the Padres risk losing Headley for nothing at the end of the 2014 season.
The Padres' best route would be to hope that Headley rebounds over the next couple of months and to then try and trade him in advance of the trade deadline, even if only for a modest return.
San Francisco Giants
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Acquiring a New Second Baseman
The news is not good when it comes to Marco Scutaro.
According to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 38-year-old second baseman is still not able to play in extended spring training games due to a bad back. It appears increasingly unlikely that the veteran will make any significant impact in 2014. In his absence, utility infielders Brandon Hicks, Joaquin Arias and Ehire Adrianza have shared playing time at second.
Should the San Francisco Giants decide to look outside the organization to bolster the position, Emilio Bonifacio is a player to consider. The 28-year-old is batting .366 with four doubles and has also stolen nine bases. Plus, he makes a reasonable salary of $2.6 million in 2014.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Adding a Right-Handed Reliever
As one of the most well-rounded teams in all of baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals don't have any major weaknesses early in the 2014 season. However, one position that GM John Mozeliak might ultimately need to strengthen is the bullpen.
After 19 games, the club's relievers own a 5.19 ERA, which is the fifth-worst in all of baseball. The Cardinals don't have any problems as far as left-handed options are concerned, but the addition of one more right-handed reliever would be beneficial.
A trade later in the summer for an experienced bullpen arm is a definite possibility, However, it's worth noting that the extra righty could also come from within the system. As Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports, Jason Motte is currently pitching in extended spring training and close to being ready for a minor league rehab assignment, as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Finally Trading David Price
This is a trade that the Tampa Bay Rays have been contemplating at least on some level, dating back to the end of the 2013 season.
Of course, it will only happen if the Rays tumble out of the race in the AL East. The chances of that occurring would appear to have gone up substantially after the club lost Matt Moore for the year and with the news that Alex Cobb will be out until early June.
Then again, Joe Maddon's squads have made a habit of beating up on richer and, oftentimes, more talented clubs. So, for now, there's no way I'm counting them out.
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Adding Another Late-Inning Reliever
While the Texas Rangers' injury-plagued rotation has been surprisingly effective, the club's bullpen has been a weak spot in the opening weeks of the season.
Through 18 contests, the Rangers' relievers have put up a 4.97 ERA, the third-worst in the AL. On the season, the club has already utilized 10 different pitchers out of the bullpen, as manager Ron Washington tries to settle on the right mixture of arms.
Bringing in an established setup man would be a shrewd move for the team, as having a lockdown bullpen is vital for any team looking to make a playoff push.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Move the Club Should Already Be Considering: Selling High on Melky Cabrera
The AL East is one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball. Should the Toronto Blue Jays end up as the odd team—like they were a season ago—this is absolutely a move that should be on the front office's radar.
Cabrera makes for a perfect trade chip. The left fielder is off to a blazing start, hitting .345 (30-for-67) with five doubles and four home runs. Plus, Cabrera is also making $8 million with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.
For now, the Blue Jays are right in the middle of the race. However, if that changes before the deadline, Toronto should sell high on Cabrera.
The Move The Club Should Already Be Considering: Acquiring an Extra Bullpen Arm
Along with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals are one the most well-rounded teams in MLB. The bench is much-improved from a season ago, and the lineup is looking strong.
However, one surprise in the opening weeks of 2014 has been how ineffective the Nationals' starting rotation has been. After 19 games, the staff has produced a 4.57 ERA, which ranks fifth to last in baseball. Subsequently, Washington's bullpen has already been required to work a ton of innings.
With a combined 2.13 ERA, the club's relievers have been excellent. However, should the early-season struggles of the starting rotation continue, the team will need to consider picking up an extra reliever to avoid overtaxing its top arms.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.