Going into the trade deadline last year, I put on my Dictator of MLB hat and made some trade deadline moves of my own. Upon further review, it turned out that my declarations while wearing a magical, virtual hat were not binding on any team; I was unable to force those trades to actually happen. While I have not obtained the desired legal authority over the last calendar year, it was a fun exercise, so I am reviving it ahead of next week’s deadline.
The basic rules are simple. I can’t guarantee that every trade will be thought of as fair by every reader — indeed, I can guarantee the opposite — but I did make a real effort to at least construct trades that were plausible. That is, except for the very last section, where I am explicitly trying to make wild trades, spitballing how a team could pull off a trade that ought to be impossible.
Brandon Woodruff’s injury throws a monkey wrench into the works for the Brewers, and with one of the weaker rotations among first-tier playoff contenders, something’s gotta give. While Stroman has expressed a desire to go to the Yankees, the Brewers ought to have more motivation, unless James Paxton is secretly injured. Brice Turang is the shortstop horse to bet on in the Brewers system, and Dubon is sufficiently close to the majors to tempt the Blue Jays, who have seemed to prefer near-major league ready prospects for reasons that elude me. Grisham would give Toronto a near-future bat who is increasingly intriguing, and Ashby would fulfill the team’s need to have every player in the minor league system related to a former major leaguer. Shaw isn’t here to actually add much, but instead to give Toronto an opportunity to rehab his value, and clear the way for Keston Hiura for good.
Yes, 2019 has been a Dream Land for Kirby Yates, but the Padres have been slowly and gradually falling out of the playoff picture. San Diego is awash in young arms, but the gauntlet that pitching prospects have to go through on the way to becoming major league contributors will ensure that not every one makes it. And if everybody does, how would that be a problem? Complaining that you have too much excellent young pitching is like grumbling that your closet full of gold bars is just too dang hard to transport easily.
Washington’s window is rapidly closing, and right now, they need bullpen arms who will be both effective and who the Nationals won’t suddenly lose interest in (see: Felipe Vazquez, Blake Treinen, Austin Adams, Trevor Gott, etc). Yates is an excellent reliever having an excellent season, but at the end of the day, he’s still a reliever, and there are limits to his value. Gleyber Torres-for-Aroldis Chapman required a very specific set of circumstances to happen, circumstances I don’t think are present in 2019.
Syndergaard remains a phenomenally talented pitcher, but one in a bit of a rut. Does anyone really believe that the Mets are the team to figure out what’s ailing Thor and his missing slider? Houston likely won’t give up Tucker for a lesser pitcher like Matthew Boyd, so to convince them to even think about parting with their young outfielder, you need to offer something mighty tempting. Given the pitchers realistically available in the trade market, if the Astros won’t trade Tucker for Syndergaard, they probably won’t do it for anyone. It’s a serious package from the Astros, but they’ve shown the willingness to make major trades of this kind before.
Yes, the San Francisco Giants would probably be best-served to go into rebuilding mode. No, I don’t think the San Francisco Giants are actually going to do that right now. My sense is that committing to being sellers was always a tall ask of ownership and senior management, and would have only been a real possibility if the Giants were at the bottom of the National League. After their surge, I think the chances of trading Madison Bumgarner or Jeff Samardzija are extremely long. If the Giants aren’t in fact selling, then they might as well push in their chips rather than meekly participate in an 11-team Wild Card race. ZiPS projects the Giants as having the fourth-worst rotation in the majors right now and the worst among playoff teams. Doing nothing likely just leaves them squished like a grape, which I will let Mr. Miyagi explain.
Constructing a package for the Giants is tricky. While the top talent of the system is legitimately excellent, the depth of the system is generally abysmal. I think San Francisco’s No. 1 to No. 4 prospects or so are competitive with most other teams, but that No. 5 to No. 15 range, not so much. Arizona ought to require at least one real prospect or they might as well just hang onto Ray.
The Yankees might prefer Stroman, but I also think they’d rather acquire a pitcher who doesn’t necessarily involve them giving up Clint Frazier right now. I’m a fan of Abreu’s upside, but the Yankees will still have to give up something significant to acquire Minor, and I think his erratic nature combined with his closeness to the majors is a good fit for Texas’ skinny rebuild. Schmidt looks like a relatively near-the-back-of-the-rotation arm, and that’s the type of prospect that the Yankees are more than willing to shed.
It’s often claimed that the Detroit Tigers made a terrible trade when they sent J.D. Martinez to Arizona. I’d argue that’s not actually true, and that the team got the going rate for a couple months of a top hitter with no defensive value. As in the past (*cough Fulmer cough*), the Tigers seemingly dithered when it came to getting value for Castellanos, and now that he’s reverted essentially to his pre-2018 form, a lot of the trade value he may have had last winter is gone. The Cubs actually have the ability to move their right fielder to center, a luxury most teams don’t have, which gives them the flexibility to fit Castellanos in the outfield. Short is interesting, though hardly a top prospect, and I think interesting is all the Tigers ought to expect in return.
Yes, it’s weird to me too, but Kennedy has been a legitimate plus as the closer for the Royals in 2019. His step forward as a reliever has been significant enough to get a decent pitching prospect in return, something that would have sounded absolutely impossible to me four months ago. The Braves don’t necessarily need a closer, but they do need a bullpen arm, and with me having already given Yates away and the team probably not wanting to pay the price the Pirates will demand for Vazquez, Kennedy seems like a reasonable upgrade. Muller is a bit buried by Atlanta’s pitching prospect depth, and he’s close enough to the majors to entertain Kansas City’s delusions that they’re going to be a contender again very soon.
Having engaged in the sensical, let’s indulge the strange (and completely unlikely).
The Los Angeles Angels acquire pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg from the Washington Nationals for OF Jo Adell, P Jose Suarez, P Griffin Canning, 2B Jahmai Jones, OF Brandon Marsh, and pay every last red cent of Scherzer’s and Strasburg’s salaries
This will, of course, not actually happen. That’s why these are crazy trades. Nobody buys the Sane Glue.
The Angels have essentially frittered away much of the value brought by the best player who will ever be a member of the Los Angeles Angels organization. You can build a 90-win team by starting with a .500 team and then adding Mike Trout, yet Los Angeles has only managed to do this once in Trout’s career.
I’m not sure you can actually get the Nationals to the point where they’re serious sellers; the team’s resurgence has been too strong for that. But if there’s a team that ought to have the sufficient motivation to lop off the top of their farm system, it ought to be the Angels. This trade will only happen in Imaginationland, but it’s fun to daydream about.
Wouldn’t it be fun to see the Rays on the receiving end of one of these big money trades? If picking up Greinke and going on a deep playoff run still can’t get the fans interested, you might as well just move to Montreal or Portland or North Carolina full-time, with no weird seasonal sharing arrangements. The Rays remain a team analysts love but fans hate; we live in a world in which many thousands more people have heard Baby Shark than have listened to a Bruckner symphony. Even the Kansas City Royals managed to figure out how to briefly ignite Royals-mania.
While this ought to be more in the plausible zone, the Royals seem to have the idea that they’re trading Chris Sale or Francisco Lindor. I think this is a more realistic return for Merrifield, who while a legitimate star on a team-friendly contract, turns 31 this winter. The Reds don’t have an obvious home for India right now, their pitching issues have taken a sunny turn, and Siri strikes me as the type of player the Royals will absolutely love. The Reds have been unlucky this year, but they remain a plausible contender in 2020.
Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.