MLB Trades That Teams Should Already Be Thinking About
While the trade rhetoric doesn’t typically ramp up until the middle of June, there are several trades MLB general managers should already be considering. After all, it really never is too early to plan the next move.
That move could be subtracting from a roster with next season in mind, or it could be adding the one piece a GM feels his team needs to not only make it to the postseason, but also to win the World Series.
Now some teams have already begun the process. The Detroit Tigers, for example, went out and signed Joel Hanrahan to plug a leaky bullpen (5.31 ERA, 1.36 WHIP) even though he will not be ready to pitch for “at least a month,” according to George Sipple and John Lowe from the Detroit Free Press.
To be sure, every GM is thinking about ways to improve his ballclub, so let’s take a selected look around MLB. Here are the trades that the GMs of six teams—three buyers, two sellers and one that could go either way—should already be thinking about.
*Note: All statistics are accurate as of games through Sunday, May 4.
6. Philadelphia Phillies: For Ruben Amaro Jr., It's a Toss-Up
The Philadelphia Phillies (15-14) currently sit 1.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East after taking two out of three from the Washington Nationals. How much longer they can remain that close is the question general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. needs to be asking himself, because if his team falls out of contention, a massive overhaul is in order.
And make no mistake; Amaro Jr. has more than one piece he can move.
Cliff Lee, for example, is a playoff-hardened veteran who would immediately make any team better. Sure he's owed $25 million this season and next, but that's why Amaro Jr. should be thinking creatively. Same goes for Jonathan Papelbon, who already has eight saves, but comes with a $13 million salary this year and next.
Jimmy Rollins is another player who could find himself on a new team this season. Unlike Lee and Papelbon, however, Rollins is an everyday player, making next season's $11 million option that is based on plate appearances and likely to vest a bit easier to digest.
Then there is Kyle Kendrick to consider. He has logged more than 150.0 innings four times in his career and is well on his way to doing it again this year. And don’t forget that he is a free agent after this season, making a trade that much more attractive for the Phillies.
To be sure, none of this is to say that the Phillies are destined to fall apart. They could easily find themselves in the race as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches and be in the market to add players rather than trade them away. One area of concern is the bullpen, which "has not been a strength,” per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki and Austin Laymance.
Either way, Amaro Jr. is going to be a busy man this July and into August.
5. Chicago White Sox: Rick Hahn Should Be Thinking of Continued Overhaul
The Chicago White Sox (15-17) have been relatively competitive so far this season, but the wheels may be falling off.
Consider that the squad general manager Rick Hahn put together this season has seven players on the disabled list. And with names like Nate Jones, Chris Sale, Felipe Paulino, Conor Gillaspie, Jeff Keppinger, Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, that’s no good.
Even when healthy, though, the pitching staff has been disappointing. Through Sunday, the group had a collective 4.80 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and has issued 142 walks in 285.0 innings pitched. It would be nice to say that either the starters or the bullpen were to blame, but the truth is that each share equal responsibility.
The only saving grace this season is the offense that was second in MLB behind the Colorado Rockies with 163 runs, even though they failed to score against Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night. Offense alone won't win the AL Central, however, and the White Sox aren't deep enough in the minor leagues to be major players when it comes to adding talent.
Now when Hahn decides that becoming a seller is the move, he has guys like Matt Lindstrom, Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham, Scott Downs, Alejandro De Aza and Keppinger potentially available. At one point in time, Dayan Viciedo could have been included in that group, but his impressive run to this point (.330/.393/.520) has increased his value to the organization.
To be sure, none of them are intriguing enough to demand a top prospect in return. The White Sox desperately need pitching depth in the minor leagues, though, and Hahn may be able to land a Single-A or Double-A pitcher in return whom the coaching staff can mold into an effective starter or bullpen arm.
4. Chicago Cubs: Jed Hoyer Should Be Thinking About Moving 3 Players
It is not a question of if the Chicago Cubs (11-17) begin trading away pieces. It is to which team, and what general manager Jed Hoyer will get in return.
And with guys like Emilio Bonifacio, Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija potentially available, Hoyer has plentiful options for trading partners.
The Atlanta Braves, for example, need offense, and Bonifacio, who is a free agent at the end of the season, would be a great fit. Not only does he have a 111 wRC+ (weighted runs created), according to FanGraphs, to go with a .761 OPS, but he is versatile in the field, logging 16 games on the infield in addition to his primary position in center field.
Hammel (4-1, 2.43 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 32 K) is another player whose performance could end up making Hoyer look really good. From Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi:
Jason Hammel with another excellent start. Provided he stays healthy, expect Cubs to make him available via trade in June or July.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) April 27, 2014
And don’t forget about Jeff Samardzija, who has been dominating this season to the tune of a 1.98 ERA and a 1.244 WHIP. Now Samardzija comes with his own set of concerns, including being aggressive when it comes to negotiating his next contract, but he is at the top of the hill among pitchers who could be switching teams.
Between the two pitchers and Bonifacio, Hoyer is in a very good position. Consider the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants just four of the contenders in the mix for any one of the players Hoyer may make available.
3. New York Yankees: Brian Cashman Has a Couple of Holes to Fill
The plight of the New York Yankees (16-14) pitching staff is a well-known one.
First, they lost Ivan Nova for the season after he elected to undergo Tommy John surgery. Then Michael Pineda, who is currently serving a 10-game suspension for having pine tar on his neck, strained a muscle in his back and “will go straight to the DL,” per Brendan Kuty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
After Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, the once-formidable rotation is suddenly a shell of its former self. Now Vidal Nuno and David Phelps are the two pitchers currently tasked with replacing Nova and Pineda, but what if they struggle?
Alfredo Aceves, who came up from Triple-A, is an option. As Jorge Castillo from the Star-Ledger noted, however, he “is in the minors for a reason and the two injuries in the Yankees rotation, combined with Sabathia’s struggles (5.75 ERA in seven starts), could force the club to seek help externally to avoid having their season derailed.”
That makes adding a pitcher the primary need for general manager Brian Cashman. Options include Kyle Kendrick from the Philadelphia Phillies and Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs.
Cashman should also be considering ways to improve his infield depth. Thus far, the Yankees’ shortstops and second basemen have produced respective OPS splits of .570 and .614 and have combined for 15 RBI. If they want to make a serious run at playing in the World Series, the production up the middle must improve.
Quite a few things for Cashman to be thinking of at the moment.
2. Atlanta Braves: Frank Wren Should Be Thinking About Help Up the Middle
The Atlanta Braves (17-13) have a pitching staff that just won’t quit even though they lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy for the season. They lead MLB with a 2.72 ERA.
What the Braves lack is a balanced lineup. Sure, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis, Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton are doing just fine, but the rest of the batting order is in disarray. For example, Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla are all hitting .220 or below and have combined for a grand total of 24 RBI and 92 strikeouts.
The situation is quickly reaching a boiling point.
All told, they have only scored just 99 runs this season. And for as good as their pitching staff is, averaging just over three runs a game is no way to take the National League pennant.
A possible fix is a player like Emilio Bonifacio, who has played three infield positions and in the outfield. He would instantly become one of the Braves' best hitters and provide manager Fredi Gonzalez the type of flexibility he needs. Another option would be to try to acquire one of the many outfielders the Los Angeles Dodgers have on their active roster, although that would require a significant financial commitment and would be a rather large gamble.
Regardless, general manager Frank Wren had better be thinking of ways to improve a stagnant offense.
1. Cleveland Indians: Chris Antonetti Should Be Thinking About Adding a Starter
After losing Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir this offseason, the Cleveland Indians (13-18) needed to get the most out of the back end of the rotation. Unfortunately, Danny Salazar (1-3, 5.93 ERA, 1.71 WHIP) and Carlos Carrasco (0-3, 6.46, 1.44) have failed to provide the type of performances general manager Chris Antonetti hoped for. Carrasco’s troubles were so great that he was recently moved to the bullpen in favor of Josh Tomlin, per MLB.com’s Stephen Ellsesser.
As a result, it is time for the Indians to start thinking about adding another starter. To be clear, this is written knowing full well that Trevor Bauer is anxiously awaiting for his final promotion to the Indians, because once he comes up again, he is likely staying.
In addition to giving up only one run in six innings against the San Diego Padres earlier this season, Bauer is 3-0 with a 1.10 ERA, 1.010 WHIP and has struck out 31 batters in 32.2 innings at Triple-A. To say that he is ready is an understatement.
All the more reason to add another arm to the rotation, actually. With Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and, when he arrives, Bauer already in place, a solid fifth starter could seal the deal.
Sure, the Tribe is in last place in the AL Central and recently lost all six games on a West Coast roadie before taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox. But the offense—which has a woeful .682 team OPS—is bound to come around even if all we consider is a natural regression to the mean. And notwithstanding the three-run home run John Axford gave up to Dayan Viciedo in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, they have one of the better bullpens in baseball.
Antonetti should be thinking starter as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics and related splits are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. All contract information courtesy of Cots Contracts. Transaction, game and injury information was taken from MLB.com.
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