One-for-One Swaps at the Same Position

Buster Olney’s Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols article has made its rounds and received its share of ridicule. Countless writers have wondered why St. Louis would consider such a swap, beyond the hometown factor Olney raised in the article. There’s no need to rehash the idea or any of the ensuing mockery. The article did make me wonder, though, about the viability of one-for-one, same position trades. Would there be any circumstances under which one would make sense? It would certainly take extenuating circumstances, and likely would take other players to balance the trade on one side. But, forgetting reality for a moment, here are three of the matches I came up with. As you’ll see, none stands a real chance of happening.

Prince Fielder for Kendry Morales

Though he’s only signed through this year, Prince Fielder has one year left of arbitration before he hits free agency. That year could get expensive, as he’s already making $10.5 million in 2010. Another season like his past two could move him in the $15 million range. The Brewers can probably afford this, but they have to think about the team’s future. What happens when Prince skips town and signs with the highest bidder?

Kendry Morales is coming off a breakout year for the Angels. After years of bouncing between AAA and the majors, he hit his stride, and figures to be a switch hitting power for years to come. Good as he is, though, he’s no Prince Fielder. The Angels would likely welcome the upgrade, as it would give them the left-handed bat they’ve sought for years. Too bad it would come after Vladimir Guerrero left town. In exchange for the superior player, the Brewers would get four years of Morales, the first of which at just $700K. His three arbitration years might get expensive, but probably not to Prince’s level.

The Angels have been a shrewd franchise, having let both John Lackey and Chone Figgins leave over the winter without much of a fight. Would they turn around, then, and take on not only a $10.5 million salary for 2010, but perhaps another $15 million for 2011? They do have the money. On the Brewers’ end, would they trade one of their two mid-lineup thumpers to save some money? If they’re going to lose Prince anyway, shouldn’t they try to get the best possible replacement?

Brian Roberts for Scott Sizemore

In the mid-2000s, Brian Roberts was the darling of the Orioles organization. Owner Peter Angelos loves him, and rewarded him last winter with a four-year, $40 million extension. He could still be around, then, if the Orioles make a Rays-esque run in 2011 or 2012. The Orioles might like his veteran presence, but they’d also probably like a young, promising second baseman who would fit among their other young players.

It appears Scott Sizemore, after dominating each level of the minors he faced, will get a shot to start for the Tigers this year. Detroit could again contend for the AL Central title, but will need all the help on offense it can get. Right now that means placing faith in a youngster with a solid minor league track record. But what if it could mean a veteran second baseman who has posted a .356 or better wOBA in four of the last five years, and in all of the last three? It would provide Detroit with a solid option at the keystone.

Detroit, however, worked hard this off-season to keep future payroll in check, so adding an additional $10 million per season for the next four doesn’t really fit with their M.O. Baltimore would probably like the trade in theory, but in practice it’s probably tough to trade the most recognizable player on the team, who also just signed his extension last winter.

Scott Rolen for Brandon Wood

Again we turn back to the Angels, who have a big question mark at third base. Over the past few years Brandon Wood has been on the shuttle between AAA and the majors, though he hasn’t had much success in the bigs. He has accumulated 224 plate appearances over three short stints, amassing a putrid wOBA of .255. He’s slated to start for the Angels at third, and while they still like his potential — he posted .405 and .387 wOBA in AAA in the past two years — they can’t like the uncertainty he brings.

If everything falls in its right place for the Reds, they might have a shot to contend in the NL Central. This means a bounceback season from Aaron Harang, a full good season from Bronson Arroyo, a step forward for Johnny Cueto, and probably a full and speedy recovery from Edinson Volquez. And that doesn’t go into the offense, which certainly needs its share of breaks. Strangely mixed among their young regular is Scott Rolen, acquired at the trade deadline last year from Toronto. Might the Reds enjoy the salary relief, along with the young talent, they’d receive by trading him?

Then again, the way the Reds reworked Rolen’s deal this winter makes him a bit more affordable. He’ll make $6 million this season (his $11 million 2010 salary minus the $5 million that was converted into a signing bonus), followed by $6.5 million in 2011 and the same in 2012. Wood will make a fraction of that over the next few years, which would make Cincinnati more flexible to pay for talent in other spots. But, as with Morales, would the Angels be willing to part with a young, cost-controlled player for a more dependable veteran?

These types of deals just don’t happen

I spent some time going up and down major league rosters yesterday looking for possible candidates. Even when I thought I might have found one — my original Brian Roberts idea involved Skip Schumaker — it seemed completely unrealistic. Even the trades above seem barely inside a liberal realm of possibility. That makes sense, though. Would you expect a team to trade one of its incumbents, straight up, for a player of the same position? I can think of only a scant few situations where both teams would agree to such a swap. And even then, as in the Rolen deal from last summer, we often see other players involved in order to satisfy one of the teams.

We hoped you liked reading One-for-One Swaps at the Same Position by Joe Pawlikowski!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

newest oldest most voted

The last one for one, same position trade that comes to mind for me is Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus. Virtually identical salaries (though Rolen had 1 additional year), both were having injury issues, and both were wore then with their teams. It is rare, but does happen.