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Because the changing of the year has coincided with a bit of a hot-stove cooldown, now’s as good a time as any to get weird with some blockbuster trade ideas.
We don’t have many. Just five. But believe us when we say they would be big deals with big ramifications. Any one of them would upend the supposed power structure of a specific division race for the 2019 Major League Baseball season.
Are any of these deals likely to happen? Not particularly. They do, however, exist on the right side of the line between plausible and implausible. That’s good enough for us.
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John Bazemore/Associated Press
It’s no secret the Miami Marlins are shopping J.T. Realmuto. Nor is it a secret World Series hopefuls like the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers are leading contenders for the All-Star catcher.
But what about the Colorado Rockies?
The fit, however, remains oh so worthy of speculation. Realmuto, 27, emerged as the best catcher in baseball last season. For their part, Rockies catchers posted negative wins above replacement, per Baseball Reference.
Colorado’s low-key offseason is presumably tied to its 2019 payroll, which is already projected to surpass the team’s expenses for all of 2018. And yet this is a team with two good excuses for bold action: It’s coming off a 91-win season, and it must now be focused on making the most of Nolan Arenado’s walk year.
A blockbuster for Realmuto would certainly improve the Rockies’ standing relative to the Dodgers (who, remember, won only 92 games in 2018) in the National League West. That’s worth surrendering a package of, say, right-hander Peter Lambert and infielder Garrett Hampson.
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Winslow Townson/Associated Press
The Milwaukee Brewers are fresh off coming within a win of the World Series. Per FanGraphs, however, they’re projected to finish last in the National League Central in 2019.
That shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but it is indicative of the division’s depth. The St. Louis Cardinals (Paul Goldschmidt) and Cincinnati Reds (Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark) have made big moves. The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates have been quiet but figure to compete in 2019.
Few players could fix this problem as well as Xander Bogaerts. Though he has no business appearing in trade rumors, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the Boston Red Sox are “willing to talk about” the 26-year-old as they seek to cut payroll for bullpen depth.
The Brewers could help the Red Sox kill two birds with one stone. In exchange for Bogaerts, who’s due for free agency after 2019, they might offer one of several prized young arms: Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes or Freddy Peralta.
Were a deal to be struck, the Brewers would gain one of MLB’s best offensive shortstops. The Red Sox, meanwhile, would have to hope for better results than they got from their last trade with Milwaukee.
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Tony Dejak/Associated Press
In the American League West, the Astros are vulnerable as long as they have a great, big hole in their once mighty starting rotation. The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels are positioned to take advantage.
As it happens, both could use help in their own rotations. The big difference is the Angels can afford to aim high. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, they remain interested in Dallas Keuchel even after adding Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill.
Or they could go all-in on a trade for Corey Kluber.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner probably isn’t as available now as he was earlier in the offseason. But until the Cleveland Indians announce an end to their quest to cut payroll, anything is possible.
There’s little question Kluber, 32, would look mighty good atop the Angels rotation. They could also look forward to pairing him with a healthy Shohei Ohtani in 2020. A partnership such as that would only help the Angels salvage what could be Mike Trout’s final two years in Anaheim.
Lining up a trade between the Angels and Indians is the hard part, and not just because the latter may not want to deal with an AL rival. All the same, a deal involving Kole Calhoun (who could fill Cleveland’s hole in right field) and some combination of young talent (e.g., uber-prospect Jo Adell) could work.
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Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Even if Kluber stays put, it’s to the Minnesota Twins’ credit that they’re making an aggressive push to claim American League Central superiority from the Indians anyway.
The Twins—who were a playoff team as recently as 2017—have already signed Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron, and they appear to have plenty of payroll space for additional free agents. What might change their focus, however, is if they fancy some dominant upside for a rotation that was middle-of-the-road at striking out batters in 2018.
There’s more of that on the trade market than on the open market. For example: Robbie Ray.
Perhaps it’s a stretch to call the 27-year-old left-hander an “ace,” but he was a 2017 All-Star whose penchant for whiffing batters is as good as it gets. Since 2016, his 11.8 strikeouts-per-nine innings rate is right there with Max Scherzer for the MLB lead.
According to Cafardo, the Arizona Diamondbacks have been getting plenty of calls on Ray, who’s two years from free agency. While the Twins might not be the best match the Snakes could hope for, they could base a trade around a controllable young starter such as Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero or Kohl Stewart.
All the Twins would have to do then is step into the power vacuum the Indians are opening.
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Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
Even if it’s signing Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, the Philadelphia Phillies may have only one big move left in them. The Washington Nationals and New York Mets, meanwhile, appear to have checked all the major boxes on their offseason shopping lists.
So while the rest of the National League East has indeed caught up to the Atlanta Braves, the reigning division champs haven’t been left in the dust just yet. What’s more, they appear to have the means for a trump card.
Thus we propose a megadeal with Arizona for Zack Greinke and David Peralta.
David O’Brien of The Athletic speculated the Braves could be a match for either of them. Greinke, 35, is a veteran ace who’d fit well alongside the Braves’ bevy of young arms. Peralta, 31, is a sweet-swinging outfielder who could fill Nick Markakis’ shoes.
A deal for both Greinke and Peralta might not be impossible, either.
The money (particularly the $104.5 million owed to Greinke through 2021) would be the big hurdle, but the Braves and D-backs might take a cue from the Robinson Cano-Edwin Diaz blockbuster. A trade could be based around bad contracts (e.g., those of Julio Teheran and Darren O’Day), prospects from Atlanta’s No. 2 farm system and, finally, cash considerations from Arizona.
Should the Braves get it done, another NL East title could be the least of their rewards.