As the Major League Baseball trade deadline draws nearer, teams take serious stock of what they are. Teams that are close to contention make that difficult decision to become either buyers or sellers.; those teams that aren’t close to competing for the playoffs have to determine what players are expendable as they look to the future; and the true contenders decide what pieces they need to add to get themselves in the best position possible to win a World Series this year.
Here are six deadline deals that make a great deal of sense — maybe too much sense:
Justin Verlander to the Dodgers
I wrote this last year at this very same time — more so as a “dream” trade for both the the Tigers and the Dodgers. It made perfect sense — JV was having a throwback season as he finished second in the Cy Young voting, his fiancee Kate Upton and he would seemingly be a no-brainer fit in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers needed some reinforcement in their starting rotation behind Clayton Kershaw.
All those things are still true — aside from Verlander having a Cy Young season this year.
This time around, it’s more realistic and necessary than it is dreamy.
The Dodgers never make that big splashy move at the deadline — the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick move last year is as close as they’ve come. And perhaps that’s why L.A. can’t seem to get over the hump in the postseason. The Dodgers own the NL’s best record and truly have a team in place that can win a World Series right now. But October baseball is different from the kind of baseball we see from April to September. While the Dodgers seem unstoppable right now, that could all change in the playoffs. Heck, if Clayton Kershaw isn’t back sooner than later, it could all change in the next month.
My advice to general manager Farhan Zaidi (to quote Cubs GM Theo Epstein when he acquired Aroldis Chapman at last year’s deadline) — “If not now, when?”.
Sonny Grey to the Nationals
Like the Dodgers, Washington is always good and always in the playoffs, but misses out on making that huge move that puts them over the top and places them in the discussion of “obvious pick to go to the World Series”. Instead, they’ve established the reputation for being great in the regular season but expected to fully bottom out in early October. You are what you are.
The Nationals have a chance to change that this year: no NL team is fast-tracked to the World Series. True, L.A. is playing sensational baseball now, but they, too, suffer from the same ailment as the Nationals — underperformance in October.
A young, contract-controllable starting pitcher with playoff experience could be just what the Nats need. Stephen Strasburg is never healthy long enough to give Washington what they need. Gray works this year as a short-term solution, but he also is under contract through 2019. A move like this could extend Washington’s championship window another few seasons.
Michael Fulmer to the Brewers
I know Tiger fans don’t want to hear this, but too bad. Michael Fulmer is already an ace and he won’t do any good in Detroit for the next 5 years if the team is winning between 60 and 75 games. By the time Detroit is ready to be a contender again, Fulmer will be 30 and he may want to explore his options elsewhere. Not to mention the haul of prospects the Tigers could get for the righty right now would be invaluable as the franchise embarks on a major rebuild. But, like I said, few in Detroit will even listen to that rationale.
For Milwaukee, sure, they are ahead of schedule with their rebuild — no one expected them to be in playoff contention let alone leading the division at the All Star Break. But that doesn’t mean they should rest on their laurels. If they can package some prospects and go out and get a known stud who can contribute immediately — and in Fulmer’s case, provide a very team-friendly contract for the next 5 years — then I don’t know why they wouldn’t do it.
Brewers GM David Sterns has built a very healthy farm system that is ranked in the top-5 in all of baseball — thanks to years worth of selling valuable parts in order to collect prospects and build for the future. Fulmer would cost him 3 or 4 top 10 prospects, probably, but the Brewers can afford it — and Detroit would be foolish not to take that. And Fulmer could be the cornerstone to that rotation for years to come.
Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Rockies
The Rockies are in the market for both a catcher and a closer. While Zach Britton and Jonathan Lucroy may appear to be the more desirable assets, Colorado might have to wait too long to find out whether Baltimore and, especially, Texas are selling at the deadline or not.
Conversely, everyone knows the Tigers are sellers and they just happen to have a catcher and a closer who are available. Alex Avila has been linked in reports to Colorado. This deal makes sense for the Rockies; Detroit would have to determine whether they get enough in return for Justin Wilson — a hard, left-handed closer who’s having the best year of his career.
Yu Darvish to the Cubs
Ok, here’s the trade scenario that may be more fantasy than reality. No one yet knows what Texas’s intentions are with regard to buying, selling, or standing pat. At the moment, they’re 3.5 games back of the second Wildcard spot so it’s well within the range of thinking that the Rangers feel they can contend in the final months of the season.
But they may conclude that while they sit only 3.5 games back, there are 5 teams in between them and that spot so it might be too much to overcome. If that’s the case, let’s talk about where their ace goes. And no team in contention wouldn’t love to roll Yu Darvish out to the hill every fifth day. The question is who will want him knowing he’s a rental?
The precedent has been set in the past though — David Price went to Toronto from Detroit for the final two months of the season a few years ago as a rental, only to leave in the offseason for Boston.
I imagine the Dodgers would be interested, as would the Yankees, Astros, Nationals, and Brewers. But I don’t believe any of those teams are willing to sign up for a 2-month rental at the cost that it would take to get Darvish. However, I think the Cubs would.
Chicago is in real danger of missing the postseason in a year coming off of the World Series title. I don’t believe Theo Epstein is willing to follow up the success of 2016 with a playoff-less 2017. Would they prefer Gray or Verlander? Most certainly. But Darvish might be the route they have to go to get back into the postseason and make another run at a championship.
Zach Britton to the Astros
Houston wants some bullpen help and the Orioles stud closer is the best option. Like Los Angeles, the Astros are in a position of power — best record in the American League. But it’s more about setting themselves up for the best October that they can have. Adding a power arm like Britton could have the same impact Andrew Miller had with Cleveland or Aroldis Chapman had with the Cubs last year.
Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.