It has been seven weeks since the owners' lockout brought the hot stove season to a halt. Before the lockout we saw a free-agent signing frenzy unlike anything we've ever seen in baseball. Much like the MLB season itself, the offseason is usually a marathon, not a sprint, with moves trickling in throughout the winter., many within the days leading up to the lockout. It was a fun and hectic few days.
What we didn't see all that much prior to the lockout is trades. Teams were so preoccupied with the fast-moving free-agent market that trade talks were seemingly put on hold. There were 17 trades involving MLB players before the lockout, but nine were a fringe 40-man roster player being dealt for cash or a player to be named later. The most notable trades were , and . Not exactly blockbusters, you know?
Whenever the lockout ends -- it will end, I know that much, I just have no idea when -- the curtain will be lifted and teams will get busy wrapping up their offseason business, including trades. There are plenty of teams unwilling to meet free-agent prices and plenty of teams looking to offload veterans for prospects. So, with the understanding that almost all fan and media generated trade proposals are awful, here are five trades we'd like to see go down once the lockout mercifully comes to an end.
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1. José Ramírez to the Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are an ascendant powerhouse with prospects to trade and money to spend, and the Guardians are ... not that. José Ramírez is two years away from free agency (assuming his no-brainer $13 million club option for 2023 is picked up) and that is when Cleveland tends to get serious about trading its best players. See: Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and Francisco Lindor.
Ramírez remains one of the game's great all-around players, a switch-hitting monster who would add balance to Toronto's righty-heavy lineup, and also improve their defense. Marcus Semien left as a free agent and, truth be told, even re-signing Semien likely would not have replaced his production. Second basemen don't hit 45 homers and finished third in the MVP voting all that often.
Few players produce at that level consistently and Ramírez is one of them. I'd even go so far as to call Ramírez an upgrade over Semien when looking at it exclusively from a "projected 2022-23 performance" angle. Imagine the lineup possibilities:
- CF George Springer
- 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
- 3B José Ramírez
- DH Teoscar Hernández
- SS Bo Bichette
- LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
- RF Randal Grichuk
- 2B Cavan Biggio/Santiago Espinal
- C Danny Jansen
Ramírez is very affordable and signed only for another two years, meaning he'd greatly improve Toronto's chances of winning in the short-term without standing in the way of long-term extensions for Vlad Jr. and Bichette. The Guardians won't win a free-agent bidding war to retain Ramírez beyond his current contract. They will either trade him at some point in the next 18 months or lose him for nothing but a dinky draft pick in free agency. It has to be the former, right?
Possible trade package: Cleveland has had a tendency to take quantity over quality packages in their recent core player trades, meaning several good prospects rather than one or two great prospects. That said, their trades were often financially motivated. Lindor, for example, had a huge arbitration number ($22.3 million), and Cleveland insisted on including Carlos Carrasco and the $27 million they owed him in that trade, which lowered the prospect return.
There's no such financial concern with Ramírez. He is insanely affordable (owed $25 million total from 2022-23) and that means there will be a bidding war, and when there's a bidding war, top prospects get involved. The Blue Jays are very deep behind the plate and using either Alejandro Kirk or top prospect Gabriel Moreno to get a guy like Ramírez is a smart way to leverage that catcher depth. Kirk or Moreno, infielder Jordan Groshans, and two other lesser prospects gets Cleveland's attention.
2. Ketel Marte to the White Sox
It didn't work out as hoped, but the White Sox made a very aggressive move at the deadline by sending Nick Madrigal to the Cubs in the Craig Kimbrel trade. Madrigal was out with a season-ending injury and Chicago replaced him with César Hernández, who did not move the needle much, and had his option declined after the season. The ChiSox are now without a full-time second baseman.
Enter Ketel Marte. The Diamondbacks lost 110 games in 2021 and, realistically, are they going to be able to turn things around and get back to contention before Marte becomes a free agent in three years? In that division? I can't see it. As such, anything and everything should be on the table to infuse the organization with young talent, including trading Marte and his bargain contract.
Marte is a high contact, high on-base switch-hitter with power, and he's owed only $26.4 million from 2022-24 (assuming his 2023 and 2024 club options are picked up). Hamstring trouble sent him to the injured list multiple times last year, and the D-Backs put him back at second in September to keep him healthy. Running around center field may no longer be an option. Consider:
- SS Tim Anderson
- 2B Ketel Marte
- 1B José Abreu
- C Yasmani Grandal
- CF Luis Robert
- LF Eloy Jiménez
- 3B Yoán Moncada
- DH Gavin Sheets/Andrew Vaughn
- RF Adam Engel/Leury García
That is a pretty fearsome 1-2-3 atop the lineup. The White Sox replace Madrigal at second base with an ultra-productive and ultra-affordable switch-hitter who improves the club's chances at a World Series within the next three seasons, which will be their best chance to win a title with his core. Almost everyone's peak lines up perfectly. This is the time for Chicago to go all-in.
Possible trade package: Vaughn is an obvious starting point. He's a natural first baseman who moved all around last season in deference to Abreu, though he didn't really fit in anywhere, and frankly Sheets and Engel (and García) all out-hit him. If I were the White Sox, I'm putting Vaughn and 2021 first-round pick Colson Montgomery on the table and not thinking twice. Figure out the last piece or two (or three) from there. Arizona isn't good enough to be picky. Get the most talent possible and sort it out later.
3. Frankie Montas and Matt Olson to the Yankees
, but it didn't happen. They were inactive before the lockout and so were the Yankees, who at best have questions at catcher, first base, shortstop, center field, and in the middle of the rotation. The Yankees and A's both have a lot of work to do once the lockout ends.
That makes the two clubs natural trade partners. The Yankees need a lefty-hitting first baseman and the A's have Matt Olson, a 39-homer guy with Gold Glove defense. The Yankees need a mid-rotation starter who fits the sinker/changeup profile they've prioritized under pitching coach Matt Blake the last two years, and the A's have Frankie Montas, a sinker/splitter guy with big velocity. It fits.
It seems unlikely the Yankees will spend big on a shortstop and a first baseman (I'm not sure they'll spend big on even one of those things, but humor me), and in that case, they're better off giving the big contract to a shortstop (i.e. Carlos Correa or Trevor Story) and trading for a first baseman, because the shortstop trade market is uninspiring (Paul DeJong, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, etc.).
With the trade Oakland kick-starts its rebuild -- I'm not sure we can call it a rebuild as much as a scorched earth effort to get a new ballpark, even if it means moving to Las Vegas -- and the Yankees address two pressing needs with players who are under team control through 2023. The dots are very easy to connect. Montas and Olson are ideal fits for New York.
Possible trade package: We've seen the A's trade star players before (Josh Donaldson, Tim Hudson, etc.) and every single time they've traded them for cheap players and prospects. They don't take back money, meaning guys like Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit are unappealing with their $5-plus million arbitration salaries. Prospects and pre-arbitration players are the way to go. Start the offer with infielder Oswald Peraza, righty Luis Gil, and catcher/first baseman Austin Wells, and see what it takes to bridge the gap.
4. Matt Chapman and Ramón Laureano to the Phillies
I don't want to keep picking on the Athletics, but when you're rumored to be cutting payroll, you make yourself an easy target. The A's have several desirable trade chips and we could put together one of these "two or three A's players to this team" trade ideas for just about every team in baseball. We already did it with the Yankees. Now we're going to do it with the Phillies.
At best, Philadelphia has questions at third base and shortstop, and needs in left and center fields. Running Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm back out there at short and third, respectively, could happen but is not advisable. Even with his bat going backwards the last few years, Matt Chapman would be a huge upgrade at the hot corner, particularly defensively, plus he's under control through 2023.
The quality of Ramón Laureano's defense is up for debate -- the eye test says he's great but the numbers say he's merely average with a knack for highlight plays -- but there's no debate he'd be a sturdier center field option than Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak, and even personal favorite Matt Vierling. Take a gander at the potential lineup:
- 2B Jean Segura
- CF Ramón Laureano
- RF Bryce Harper
- 1B Rhys Hoskins
- C JT Realmuto
- 3B Matt Chapman
- SS Didi Gregorius
- LF Adam Haseley/Mickey Moniak/Matt Vierling
- Pitcher's spot (or one of Haseley, Moniak, and Vierling as the universal DH)
Chapman and Laureano improve the defense, significantly so at third base, where Bohm is one of the worst defenders in the game and Chapman might be the best. They also lengthen the lineup considerably. Laureano still must serve the final 27 games of his 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension, though I can't imagine that would be a dealbreaker. There are no good center fielders left in free agency and he's arguably the best available on the trade market.
Possible trade package: It makes sense to put Bohm on the table, right? He could slot in as the Phillies' universal DH once that becomes a thing, but you have to give something to get something, and surrendering a player who might be a long-term DH is an easy pill to swallow. Bohm has pedigree (and trade value) as a recent high draft pick and 2020 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up.
I'd want Vierling in any trade if I were the A's, and I'd ask about Ranger Suárez even though I know the answer would be a no. A package built around Bohm, Vierling, a near-MLB-ready starting pitcher like Hans Crouse and Bailey Falter, plus one or two lesser prospects might be enough to get the Phillies in the ballpark, especially if the Athletics are desperate to dump payroll.
5. Germán Márquez to the Dodgers
Last spring the Dodgers legitimately had more MLB starters than rotation spots. Now they're a little short on pitching after losing Max Scherzer to free agency. Even re-signing franchise icon Clayton Kershaw would not answer the team's rotation questions given his lingering forearm concerns. Los Angeles is not desperate for pitching, but there is an obvious spot for another arm here:
- RHP Walker Buehler
- LHP Julio Urías
- *new pitcher goes here*
- LHP Andrew Heaney
- RHP Tony Gonsolin
- LHP David Price
Intra-division trades are tricky, and it's almost impossible to understand what the Rockies are doing at any given moment, but in our fantasy world, Germán Márquez is a perfect fit for the Dodgers. I mean, he's a perfect fit for just about every team, but especially the Dodgers given his performance, durability, and affordable contract (owed $42.6 million through 2024, including option years).
It seems to me the difficult part would not necessarily be finding common ground on a trade. It would be convincing the Rockies to trade Márquez in general, because they seem to think they're going to contend in 2022. That's admirable, more teams should try to win each year, but it's unrealistic, especially in that division. Convincing Colorado they're not good and should trade their best player is more than half the battle.
Possible trade package: If you're the Rockies, I think you have to get top catcher prospect Diego Cartaya in a Márquez to the Dodgers trade. Colorado has never had a truly great catcher in its history -- Chris Iannetta is the franchise's all-time leader with 7.0 WAR at catcher -- and while Drew Romo is a great prospect in his own right, two good young catchers is better than one. The Dodgers gave up catcher Keibert Ruiz to get Scherzer and Trea Turner, but Will Smith being under team control through 2025 softens the blow of giving up Cartaya too. Cartaya plus slugging outfield prospect Andy Pages and an MLB-ready arm like Andre Jackson is a good place to start the conversation.