Friday, July 24, 2015

2015 MLB Trading Deadline: Who Should Go Where?

With one week remaining, and the trades that had Scott Kazmir and Aramis Ramirez switching teams yesterday, the mad dash to July 31st and the MLB Trading Deadline has officially begun.  One thing that has happened thanks to the second Wild Card is that more teams still feel like they have a shot at making the postseason.  (The worst team in the American League is only 9.5 games out of the Wild Card.)  There has been talk recently by rookie Commissioner Manfred to push the Trade Deadline back because of this new form of parody, but for now we have a lot of teams buying, and some teams trying to decide whether they should give up and start selling.
Another factor in this year's Trade Deadline is the importance teams have placed on prospects and draft picks.  With the emergence of phenoms like Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa, teams are not wanting to part with their big-name prospects to get a player for a couple months.  Teams are much less likely to sacrifice the future for the present now.  On the other side, selling teams are asking higher prices for players with expiring contracts because keeping them could mean giving them a qualifying offer in the offseason, guaranteeing them an extra first round pick in next year's draft if they decide to leave.  So teams wanting to unload talent are making sure they get top-notch talent for their players, but the buying teams are less willing to give up this talent fearing they could be parting with the next superstar.  (This is especially so now that the rules have changed.  To offer a player a qualifying offer with a draft pick attached, you have to have the player on your roster for the entire season.)  With all this said, no one really knows what to expect from the Trade Deadline this year.  There are teams like the Cubs and Astros that are ahead of schedule in their development and are trying to balance keeping the core together for the future while making a competitive run at the playoffs this year.  You also have teams like the Tigers, who are not really out of the playoff chase, but are considering selling to ensure a future.

Let's stop and look at the top 10 players that are potentially available this Trade Deadline, how available they are (1-5 scale, 1 meaning not likely, 5 meaning very likely), and one team that would like to have them for the rest of the year.

10.  Jonathan Papelbon
Trade Likelihood: 5
Landing Spot: Chicago Cubs
Jonathan Papelbon has been a superstar closer for a decade now.  He is also on a losing team just about to start a major rebuilding process.  He wants out, and Philly wants him out.  He has never really had a good relationship with the city there.  The Cubs could use some bullpen help down the stretch this year.  They could also use his veteran leadership on such a young roster.  Theo Epstein had success in Boston with Papelbon, which he has shown he values.  The question is if the Cubs will be willing to give up the prospects it will take to make the move.  Whether it is to the Cubs or not, Papelbon will be on the move.  The Cubs just make the most sense.

9.  Francisco Rodriguez
Trade Likelihood: 4
Landing Spot: Toronto Blue Jays
K-Rod is a little more under the radar than Papelbon.  However, he might be a better option for teams needing bullpen help.  He has a similar track record as Papelbon, but he doesn't come with the baggage.  As we saw with the Aramis Ramirez trade, the Brewers are willing to part with players for small prices too.  He seems like a perfect fit for a team like the Blue Jays.  The Jays may have the best lineup in baseball, but their pitching, starting and relief, has held them back all season.  Bringing in a proven closer like K-Rod might be the small push the Blue Jays need to get over the edge.  Whether it is K-Rod or not, the Jays need something.

8.  Hisashi Iwakuma
Trade Likelihood: 2
Landing Spot: Kansas City Royals
As a Mariners fan, one thing I have learned in recent years about Seattle is they rarely sell, and if they do, it has to help the team in the short-term and long-term.  No one has said anything about Hisashi Iwakuma being available on the trade market, but the Mariner front office is also very closed-lip publicly about any possible transactions.  This is a player I think the Mariners should consider shopping.  He is a high-quality starter no one really talks about.  Unless they think they can re-sign him this offseason, or think the draft pick from the qualifying offer is greater than any offers on the table, they should pull the trigger.  A perfect landing spot for Kuma would be the Royals.  The only chink in the defending AL Champs' armor is an elite starter to front their rotation.  This would give them that guy, and probably for a lot cheaper than some of the more elite names.

7.  Yoenis Cespedes
Trade Likelihood: 2
Landing Spot: New York Mets
The Tigers are one of those teams sitting in limbo right now.  They could make a run for the Wild Card spot, but they also have some notable expiring contracts on their roster they don't know if they can bring back.  The Tigers are deciding if it is more important to stay competitive this year or be more competitive the next couple years.  If they decide to sell, Cespedes is one of the guys who could be on the move.  He is one of the most underrated players in the league, maybe because he is potentially looking at his fourth team in a year.  The Mets have a stockpile of young talent and are in the mix this year.  Trading away one of their phenom arms might be able to give them the punch the offense needs to get over the hump.  It could also keep the Tigers relevant down the stretch this year with the other bats they would still have in their lineup.

6.  Koji Uehara
Trade Likelihood: 3
Landing Spot: Washington Nationals
The Red Sox have not been the team everyone thought they would be this year.  They are currently in the cellar of the AL East with the worst record in the American League.  They have some pieces they could consider selling, with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez topping that list.  I can't see them parting with their two top free agency splashes this last season though.  Their closer is a much more likely candidate.  Every team is looking for bullpen help, especially after seeing what the Royals were able to do last year with a top notch pen.  The Nationals have the lineup (especially as everyone starts to get healthy) to compete in the postseason.  They also have the arms in the rotation.  Just a little help in the bullpen from a guy like Koji might put them over the top.

5.  Ben Zobrist
Trade Likelihood: 4
Landing Spot: Minnesota Twins
Oakland loves to tinker.  Ben Zobrist was the one of the few players in all their dealing last offseason that was an established player when they acquired him.  With them not able to compete this year, he makes the best candidate to be traded.  With Kazmir already gone, it is obvious they are in selling mode.  The Twins, one of the most unlikely contenders this season, would make a lot of sense for Zobrist.  He is a strong, switch-hitting bat that can play anywhere in the field.  It is the kind of subtle move that would make sense for a team like the Twins, who had a different kind of mid-season boost when Ervin Santana ended his 80 game suspension recently.  One more bat might just get them in the playoffs.

4.  Adrian Beltre
Trade Likelihood: 1
Landing Spot: San Francisco Giants
There has been no chatter about Beltre being on the trading block.  I mentioned at the beginning of the season that by this point, he should be.  If it weren't for Beltre, Joey Gallo would be as much of a household name as Kris Bryant right now.  If the Rangers want to make room for Gallo now, since they aren't really in contention this season, trading Beltre would be on the table.  There isn't a huge market for third basemen so the trade seems unlikely (especially considering Beltre still has one year left on his contract), but the contending team that needs one the most right now is the Giants.  The Casey McGehee experiment did not work this year, and Beltre might lift that offense just enough to keep them in contention the rest of the way.

3.  Johnny Cueto
Trade Likelihood: 4
Landing Spot: Toronto Blue Jays
The Reds need to deal Cueto.  He is one of the best pitchers in baseball on one of the worst teams in baseball.  It's unclear if the Reds will undergo a full fire sale, but Cueto and Jay Bruce seem to be the minimum to swap teams.  The only thing that could keep Cueto in Cincinnati would be injury concerns that have popped up recently.  On the other side, if I were the Blue Jays, I would be all in on this season.  They are in contention for the division and the Wild Card still, and are just a couple pitchers away from being one of the scariest teams in the AL.  I already said earlier they should acquire a closer like Francisco Rodriguez.  Picking up an ace like Cueto would truly make them a force going down the stretch.

2.  David Price
Trade Likelihood: 2
Landing Spot: Los Angeles Dodgers
David Price is in the same boat as Yoenis Cespedes.  The Tigers seem less than confident that he will stay when this season ends and his contract expires.  Shopping him seems like a logical choice, even if they are still in contention.  The Dodgers seem like a perfect landing spot for him.  They have the two best pitchers in baseball right now in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but their rotation after these two is non-existent.  Bringing in another ace like Price would solidify the rotation as the most dominant in baseball.  It also wouldn't commit them past this season so they could still try and sign Greinke in the winter.  The question is would the Dodgers be willing to give up one or two of their top-notch prospects they have been protecting to make the splash they need to make a World Series run this season.

1.  Cole Hamels
Trade Likelihood: 5
Landing Spot: New York Yankees
Cole Hamels is the prize of the Trade Deadline this season.  He needs to be dealt for the Phillies to move on, and he still has 3 years left under his contract.  He also is an experienced postseason pitcher that has showed he can shine under the lights of October.  Every contending team should be calling the Phillies about Hamels.  The only issue is the price tag will be high.  That is why he wasn't dealt last offseason, and also why he hasn't been dealt yet this season.  For some reason, this feels like it all leads to a team like the Yankees landing him.  The Yanks have surprised everyone by playing some great baseball this year.  Their one weakness is their rotation, and a guy like Hamels seems destined to pitch in the pinstripes.

We will see if my crystal ball pans out for me this time.  The one thing we know about the Trade Deadline is nothing is out of the question.

Where do you think these players should go?  Did I miss any high-profile players on the trading block?  Start the debate below...

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