Let’s Make Some Trades

Harper to the Yankees? It’s not not possible.
(Photo: Lorie Shaull)

There are only 24-ish hours remaining until baseball’s trade deadline and, truth is, I’m a bit impatient. Until free agency opens up in about a hundred days or thereabouts, this is truly our last great opportunity to let our imaginations run wild. Sure, we can conjure up some fun trades in August, but our whimsical mind-meanderings just aren’t as exciting when all of the players we trade have to go through imaginary revocable waivers.

Against my worse judgment, to which I typically cater, I endeavored to make my last-minute deadline trades to retain at least a whiff of plausibility. So, no blockbuster Mike Trout deal, no winning Noah Syndergaard in a game of canasta, and no Rockies realizing that they have significant other needs other than the bullpen.

Bryce Harper to the Yankees

Washington’s playoff hopes have sunk to the extent that, even if you’re as optimistic as the FanGraphs depth charts are and believe the Phillies and Braves are truly sub-.500 teams as presently constructed, the Nats still only are a one-in-three shot to win the division. If you’re sunnier on Philadelphia or Atlanta, those Nats probabilities lose decimal places surprisingly quickly.

The Yankees are in the awkward position of very likely being a 100-win team that has to play a one-game Wild Card game to reach the “proper” part of the playoffs, where respectable teams play five- and seven-game series rather than these winner-take-all peasant matches. There are only so many sources of upside that are obtainable this deadline, and even in a weak season, Bryce Harper has as much upside as anyone in baseball. With Aaron Judge out for a decent chunk of time, Harper is the perfect add to make up for such a gigantic loss and, really, a lot more fun than finding at-bats for Luke Voit.

Allocating playing time to everyone upon Judge’s return may require some creativity, but it’s a short-term issue and, really, too much awesomeness is like a zeroth-world problem. You ever angrily return soup for having too much deliciousness?

Chris Archer to the Brewers

Chris Archer’s been linked to the San Diego Padres and, truth be told, that’s not a result about which I’d complain. I don’t mind, in theory, the Padres picking up players ahead of time those of the quality that are hard to develop yourself. Eric Hosmer would fit that role, for example, if Hosmer were a significantly better player.

But the Brewers have both been aggressive at going win-now over the last year and lost out on both Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana to their division rivals. Let Milwaukee grab a pitcher! Archer’s not having a great season by any measure, but he’s more likely to put together an ace-like run than some of the team’s overachievers. Plus, with the Dodgers reportedly actively seeking out Archer, there’s a benefit to preventing a possible playoff opponent from having him.

Nicholas Castellanos to the Diamondbacks

I don’t think Michael Fulmer is actually moved, but there at least a chance that Nicholas Castellanos is. Arizona’s still in the thick of the NL West race, even if you consider the Dodgers the better team (I do), but the offense has been a real problem. Only nine of 440 modern clubs have teams made the playoffs with an OPS+ under 90, and Arizona’s 84 OPS+ would tie the 1969 Mets for the third-worst mark in history. Eduardo Escobar can’t come close to fixing that by himself.

Worst OPS+ By Playoff Teams
Rank Team Year Wins Losses OPS+
1 D-backs 2007 90 72 83
2 Mets 1973 82 79 83
3 Mets 1969 100 62 84
4 Braves 2001 88 74 87
5 Browns 1944 89 65 87
6 White Sox 1906 93 58 87
7 Dodgers 1959 88 68 88
8 Cardinals 1987 95 67 89
9 Dodgers 1965 97 65 89
10 Rockies 2017 87 75 90
11 Braves 2012 94 68 90
12 Cubs 2007 85 77 90
13 Astros 2005 89 73 90
14 Dodgers 1996 90 72 90
15 Dodgers 1988 94 67 90
16 Red Sox 1916 91 63 90
17 Red Sox 2017 93 69 91
18 Cubs 2003 88 74 91
19 Braves 1995 90 54 91
20 White Sox 1959 94 60 91
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

The team’s offense is more one-note than, uh… I don’t know… than a song that just has one note in it, I guess. When Goldschmidt struggled in May, the team hit .193/.264/.316 and scored 2.9 runs a game. The problem was similar last year, so why not go to the same well this year for the same problem, solved last time with the acquisition of J.D. Martinez? Castellanos is obviously not as good as JDM, but Arizona would get that additional year so as to not have to figure out how to solve the same problem in July 2019.

I could also give Harper to Arizona, too, but I’m trying to avoid paradoxes that can’t easily be fixed even with a time machine.

Scooter Gennett to the Pirates

It’s taking time to get Jung Ho Kang back into the Pirate infield, but with the team streaking their way back into the pennant race, an upgrade to third base, by way of moving Josh Harrison back to the hot corner, could give the Pirates a short-term boost. The Reds seems dead-set against trading players at the top of their value, while the Pirates have displayed a real aversion to pushing their chips when their hand looks strong. Why not solve both in one fell swoop by moving Scooter Gennett? Cincinnati’s really not going to build a team around an extended second baseman entering his 30s, will they?

J.T. Realmuto to the Red Sox

Getting the Marlins to pull the trigger on a J.T. Realmuto deal might be the tricky part, depending on whether they’re as firm internally on demanding large returns for players as they’ve postured in public. Even a team winning nearly 70% of their games can have a weak spot and, for the Red Sox, that’s behind the plate. The team’s catchers have hit .223/.270/.332 this season and the ostensible starter, Christian Vazquez, is out with a broken finger.

Given that you can’t weld Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart together and make one good catcher — you actually just end up in prison — why not pay for the best catcher likely available on the trade market? It would cost Boston real prospects, but Realmuto is solid all around, has the top batting line among major-league catchers, and has two more full seasons after this one until he’s a free agent.

Mike Trou

No, I said I wouldn’t do that.

Andrew McCutchen to the Phillies

After hitting a lot like the bad version of Chris Davis, Aaron Altherr got himself demoted, while Nick Williams continues to play the outfield as if he’s auditioning for a baseball version of The Producers. Philadelphia doesn’t need to find their long-term fit at the position this month, but Andrew McCutchen would be a nice fill-in and likely superior to Adam Jones, with whom they’ve been linked.

For the Giants, McCutchen is the player who makes the most sense to move. While still theoretically in the playoff hunt, the club’s math is increasingly daunting, but it’s very unlikely that given that the team isn’t actually going to start rebuilding, they trade any of their core.

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.

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Justin Vibbermember
4 years ago

I’m just going to assume that the Thor/canasta comment is brilliant wordplay linking the card game Hand & Foot (related to Canasta) and Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Bravo Dan, bravo.