The order from the bosses: Make one trade for every team. Done. I had to rewrite this whole thing, though, because I had the Yankees trading Brian McCann to the Astros, and then it really happened. You should have seen some of the deals I had in the original piece.
OK, let’s start with a blockbuster. The White Sox have the ability to control the strings of this offseason depending on what they decide to do with Sale, Jose Quintana, Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier, who could all be moved if general manager Rick Hahn tears things up. Sale is so valuable because he’s so good and will make just $38 million over the next three seasons. Puig is the big name here, but De Leon would enter the ChiSox rotation in 2017, while Alvarez and Verdugo are both top-100 prospects for 2017.
You have keep up with the Joneses! The Tigers just missed the postseason, so while reports have suggested some possible deals to get younger, they also could give it one more run with an aging roster. Martinez has one season left before free agency, while the Giants could use a right-handed power bat for left field. Martinez fits that bill, although his atrocious defensive metrics in 2016 -- minus-22 defensive runs saved -- are cause for concern.
If you think these first three trades sound like they're trying to keep pace with the Cubs, you’re right. The Cardinals are reportedly seeking an outfielder to replace free agent Matt Holliday, and while signing Dexter Fowler as a center fielder and leadoff hitter would help, everybody will be after Fowler. Gardner is starting to get up there in age, but he can still get on base, is under contract for three more seasons and gives the Cards a little more speed and athleticism (although bringing him in would mean keeping Randal Grichuk in center field in lieu of a better option). With Lance Lynn returning from Tommy John surgery and the emergence of Alex Reyes, the Cardinals have some rotation depth to trade from.
So what will the Cubs do? One thing that seems clear is there’s no room for Soler in 2017 with Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora in the outfield. He’s still more “looks good in a uniform” than an actual good baseball player, but these teams have traded with each other before, and the Mariners need some youth in the outfield. A lineup that swung too left-handed in 2016 would now have more balance:
2B Robinson Cano (L)
DH Nelson Cruz (R)
3B Kyle Seager (L)
RF Jorge Soler (R)
CF Leonys Martin (L)
SS Ketel Marte (S)
As for the Cubs, Gohara is a 20-year-old Brazilian built along the lines of CC Sabathia who finally started to put things together in the Midwest League (1.99 ERA in 10 starts). He’s the kind of long-term risk the Cubs can gamble on.
The Mariners and Astros already have been busy, so the pressure is on the Rangers to make some moves. Yes, they ended up winning the division by nine games over the Mariners, but their 95-67 record was built on that incredible record in one-run games, and they have holes at first base, center field and designated hitter with the potential loss of free agents Mitch Moreland, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez and Carlos Beltran. They can sign one of the big 1B/DH bats such as Edwin Encarnacion, but that still leaves center field to fill.
Enter Gallo. Is he the answer at first base? Is he still the future replacement for the ageless Adrian Beltre? Or have the Rangers soured on him after he hit .240 with 150 strikeouts at Triple-A? Either way, Gallo and his light-tower power in Coors Field would be all sorts of fun, and the Rockies would be getting six years of Gallo for two years of Blackmon.
Sticking with the AL West, the Astros have made it clear they’re going all-in after missing the playoffs in 2016. On Thursday, they acquired Brian McCann and signed Josh Reddick after already claiming Norichika Aoki on waivers. They need to make one more big splash. How does this look?
3B Alex Bregman
2B Jose Altuve
C Brian McCann
DH Evan Gattis
LF Josh Reddick
SP Chris Archer
SP Mike Fiers
Archer will cost a ton in prospects, even coming off a mediocre season, as he’s signed for five more seasons at an incredible discount. The Astros are giving up three of their prospects in Martes, Tucker and Paulino, plus two useful role players in Moran and Kemp. The Rays need depth, but this package still may not be enough.
The A’s aren’t going to compete with their AL West brothers, so they may as well cash in on Davis’ 42-homer season. He would replace free agent Mark Trumbo in the Baltimore lineup. The trouble is that Baltimore’s farm system is about as tasty as the day-old bread at the grocery store. Can Bundy stay healthy moving forward? The A’s find out.
All the American League contenders get better! What’s McCutchen worth for the remaining two years on his contract? Hard to say after a tough 2016, and he’s not really a center fielder anymore. But Tyler Naquin rated as the worst defensive center fielder in the majors in 2016, so the Indians managed OK with poor defense there as is. The Pirates get two major league-ready assets in Clevinger and Gonzalez (.296/.329/.450 at Triple-A), plus a projectable arm in McKenzie (104 SO, 22 BB in 83 1/3 innings in the minors).
The Reds should cash in on Straily’s solid 2016 -- 14-8, 3.76 ERA, 191 innings -- and acquire more prospect depth as they look deep into the future. Riley is a young power-hitting prospect who hit 20 home runs at age 19 in the South Atlantic League, but he needs to rein in the strikeouts. Ellis, part of the Andrelton Simmons trade, has struggled as a starter despite a good arm, but he could settle in as a fastball/slider guy out of the bullpen. The Braves' rotation would now look like this as they seek to be surprise contenders after a strong final two months of 2016:
SP Dan Straily
SP R.A. Dickey
Hey, we haven’t traded Braun yet! A few years ago, the remaining years of Braun’s contract loomed as a disaster, but after back-to-back solid seasons -- including a .305/.365/.538 line with 30 home runs in 2016 -- Braun is valuable trade bait as the four years/$80 million left don’t look so bad. The Blue Jays need a corner outfielder with Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders sitting out there as free agents, so Braun would be a nice fit. Reid-Foley is the team’s top pitching prospect, and McGuire is a defensive whiz with a questionable bat.
Miller needs a change of scenery after his 2016 implosion, and the Marlins need a starting pitcher. The new regime in Arizona shouldn’t feel like it needs to stick with Miller to justify a bad trade made by the old regime, and the Diamondbacks get a couple of wild-card arms in return.
The Padres need to give more athletic outfielders such as Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe regular playing time in 2017, while the Royals need a DH to replace the departed Kendrys Morales. Mills doesn’t have overpowering stuff but throws strikes and could compete for a rotation spot for the Padres. Not too exciting? Hey, you try and make a Padres trade.
If I’m the Nationals, I’d consider trading Giolito before his luster begins to fade. Dozier is signed for just two more seasons but at the bargain prices of $6 million and $9 million. The Twins give up their All-Star second baseman coming off a 42-homer season, but they may lose him in two years anyway. Plus, he’ll be 32 then and a risky long-term buy. How about this lineup for the Nationals?
CF Trea Turner
RF Bryce Harper
2B Brian Dozier
LF Jayson Werth
That leaves Ryan Zimmerman as an expensive bench player, but he’s nothing more than a platoon bat these days, and acquiring Dozier allows Turner to remain in center field -- where his blazing speed is best utilized -- and upgrades the defense at second base.
Everyone expects the Red Sox to use the prospect stockpile to make a pitch for a big starter -- like maybe a deal centered around Chris Sale and Yoan Moncada. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has traditionally preferred to trade minor leaguers for big stars, so a blockbuster deal wouldn’t come as a surprise, but the Boston rotation is in good shape with Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright. (Plus the rules here were one trade per team, and Sale already has been traded. We can’t trade him to two teams.) The Red Sox could use bullpen depth with Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler becoming free agents. Neris fanned 102 batters in 80 1/3 innings, and while he projects as the Phillies’ future closer, a rebuilding team should always cash in on relievers when it can.