(Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)
The dog days of summer are upon us, and as the MLB season and weather heats up, as do some of my favorite summer-time traditions such as hotdogs and hamburgers off the grill and the unofficial neighborhood “cornhole” tournaments in the backyard. However, my favorite summer tradition, you ask? The MLB trade deadline.
With the inclusion of a second wild card, more and more teams have continued to stay in the race for the playoffs each year, and thus, the past few trade deadlines have been filled with nail-biting excitement as the midnight hour approached. This season is shaping up to follow suit as every American League team is within 6.5 games or less of a wild-card birth and the Senior Circuit(National League) finds 6 teams within 8 games or less of the exciting one-game wild card playoff.
So with that, here are three trades that I feel MUST happen as teams position themselves for either a playoff push or for a rebuild.
Trade 1: Johnny Cueto to the Dodgers for Grant Holmes and Cody Bellinger
It may seem a little light to Reds fans, but if they get the opportunity the Reds should jump on this trade. Johnny Cueto will be a free agent in the offseason and due to the premature, over-priced contract the Reds recently extended to Homer Bailey, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to resign him. With Grant Holmes the Reds get a 19 year old pitcher who is currently holding his own A-Ball Great Lakes, sporting an ERA of 3.13 with 80 strikeouts to just 33 walks in 60.1 innings pitched.
This kid is a stud with a fastball that has been said to reach 98 but typically sits between 92-94 while sporting a wicked curveball and a change-up that flashed above-average. Holmes was drafted number 22 in 2014 and has the potential to be a number 2 pitcher in the rotation when he reaches the big leagues.
Cody Bellinger adds a non-pitching, position prospect that is sorely needed in a Reds organization that sees a steep drop-off in their position prospects after Jesse Winker. Cody Bellinger is currently 19 but has already reached High-A ball and is more than holding his own. In 78 games this season, the 6’4 Bellinger is hitting .268/.332/.513/.846 and has blasted 15 Home Runs and has 58 RBI’s.He has even shown a little speed as he has 7 stolen bases in 8 attempts.
While it may be some time before either of these prospects see Great American Ballpark, this is a deal that would allow the Reds to get the players into their system and foster the talent with an eye towards the future as opposed to losing Cueto for nothing in the offseason.
For the Dodgers it’s simple. Good is not good enough, and Magic Johnson and company did not spend 2 billion dollars to NOT watch their team in the World Series. With Cueto in the rotation it provides the Dodgers with a 1-3 rotation punch that should be able to beat any National League team’s 1-3 pitchers in a 7 game series.
In addition, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Dodgers to build a relationship with Cueto now with an eye towards a long-term deal this offseason in case Zach Greinke decides to walk.
While the Dodgers have remained steadfast on not giving up super-prospects Julio Urias or Cory Seager, this allows the Dodgers to acquire a top-of-rotation talent that may get them over-the-top in the NL and into the World Series without risking any of their more immediate cost-controlled prospects.
By trading the two 19-year olds, it provides Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers front office plenty of time to find their replacements while solidifying their rotation for the playoffs.
Trade 2: Cole Hamels & Cash to the Rangers for Jorge Alfaro, Nomar Mazara, Jake Thompson, and Lewis Brinson
This is the price you pay for below-market price, elite pitching. While many Rangers fans will fear this move due to trades of seasons past, such as Matt Garza and Ryan Demptser, they shouldn’t. This deal will help the team not just this season, but at least through 2018 season, as well. Besides, there really isn’t anyone the Rangers gave up in those deals with the Cubs that would be a difference-maker on the current Rangers roster which sits 2.5 games out of a wild-card spot. The Rangers get Cole Hamels who is doing exactly what Cole Hamels does. Through 17 starts on the season Hamels has an ERA of 3.02 with an FIP and xFIP of 3.33 and 3.20, respectively.
Per fangraphs, Hamels has been worth 2.2 Wins Above Replacement Player on the year which is right in line with the 4.2 WARP Hamels posted in 2014. With Prince Fielder crushing the ball again at an elite-type level, the Rangers could be a dangerous team in the playoffs with a rotation led by Cole Hamels.
The best part about this move for the Rangers is that Hamels is leading their rotation at around 20 million/ year(depending on how much cash the Phillies throw-in to the trade) for at least the next 3 seasons, giving them immense value both on the field and off the field with a reasonable contract. After drafting Dillon Tate, Eric Jenkins, and Mike Matuella in rounds 1-3 of the 2015 MLB draft, the Rangers can afford to leverage some of their current prospect pool in exchange for a pitcher like Cole Hamels.
The Phillies rebuild gets a major shot in the arm with this deal. They already have Maikel Franco looking like the long-term solution at 3rd base, and with this move the Phillies would have a chance to set their rebuild into overdrive. While they don’t receive any top 20-overall prospects they get 3-top 100 prospects and a player in Lewis Brinson who may be a fringe top 150 prospect. With Jorge Alfaro, the Phillies get a 22 year old who is one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball.
With power to all fields, Alfaro posted 17 home runs while batting .261/.323/.440/.763 in 2014 at age 21 while reaching AA. He could end up being the Phillies catcher or 1st baseman over the next 10 years. Nomar Mazara may be the “get” of this trade. He is a 20-year old outfielder who has already reached AA, making him 4.5 years younger than the average age of his league. So far this season against the older competition, Mazara is batting .287/.366/.455/.821 with 10 homeruns and 42 RBI’s. The 6’4, 195lb lefty would be in the driver’s seat for a corner-outfield spot at Citizens Bank Park by no later than 2017, and with the way he’s played since entering the Rangers system he may stand a chance to be in the lineup as early as opening day 2016.
Jake Thompson has prototypical size for a starting pitcher, standing at 6’4, 235lbs. This year in AA he has a 4.11 ERA to go along with a 1.396 whip and would be a nice pitching prospect alongside Aaron Nola in their system as they transition to a new era in Philly. Lewis Brinson is a 21 year-old centerfielder currently with the Rangers High-A affiliate team High Deserts Mavericks. So far this season, Brinson is hitting .306 and getting on-base at a clip of .396 this season. Brinson is a toolsy-outfielder that could join Mazara in the Phillies outfield in the years to come.
This is a type of move that puts the Phillies system, which already has Nola and J.P. Crawford, into the discussion for a top 5-10 system in all of baseball.
Trade 3: Scott Kazmir & Josh Reddick to the Cubs for Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach, Corey Black, Wilson Contreras, and Chris Denorfia
While it stands that Billy Beane may be apprehensive to deal with the Cubs after last years Independence Day heist of Addison Russell, and while it was recently reported that Theo Epstein indicated for fans to not get their hopes up, this deal just seems to make sense.
For the A’s this provides them with quality and quantity in a move for 2 players that are likely to not be on their team over the next couple of seasons. Reddick is arbitration eligible, however will be somewhat pricey for the cost-conscious A’s and Scott Kazmir is going to draw plenty of interest on the open market as free agent this offseason. In this deal, the A’s receive Albert Almora who was a top-100 prospect entering the year, and while his bat hasn’t translated in AA, he is still a gold-glove caliber centerfield prospect. His .264 BABIP also indicates that his average is due to rise as Almora had a BABIP of .304 last year in High-A Daytona.
With Dan Vogelbach and Wilson Contreras, the A’s get two of the best approaches in AA baseball. Contreras is hitting a staggering .326/.394/.492/.885 and recently moved back behind the plate as the Cubs promoted their mega-prospect Kyle Schwarber. Contreras has all the skills to be a solid defensive catcher as he has thrown out runners at a 38% clip this season, and will certainly be getting consideration as a top-100 prospect when updated rankings come out around the all-star break. Dan Vogelbach does exactly what the A’s covet so highly in their prospects, gets hits and takes walks. Vogelbach is hitting .284 with an on-base percentage of .410.
With both Contreras and Vogelbach, the A’s set themselves up to be able to turn both Vogt and Butler into trade chips in the coming years to continue to maintain one of the most consistently strong minor-league systems in all of baseball. With Corey Black the A’s get a strikeout-throwing machine(10.4/9 innings) who seems destined for the bullpen, though he did start this season in AA as a starter. Black has issues with controlling the strike-zone, as displayed by his 4.1 BB/9 innings, which is one reason he was moved to the bullpen.
At worst, Black can be a quality arm out of the bullpen for the Oakland A’s in the future, however if he is able to find his control of the strike zone he could be a very intriguing starting pitching prospect for an A’s organization that have found success with undersized starting pitchers in the past. Chris Denorfia is thrown in on the deal as proven MLB outfielder who is on a cheap contract as a replacement for Josh Reddick.
The Chicago Cubs are one year ahead of schedule in their rebuild as they currently sit in the National Leagues’ second wild-card spot. While the Cubs have been exciting to watch this year, they have glaring holes to fill in their lineup if they intend to be any more than a one-and-done in this seasons NL wild-card playoff game. Kazmir would step in ahead of Jason Hammel and make the Cubs starting 5 one of the most formidable in the National League.
By moving Kyle Hendricks to the 5-spot in the rotation, the Cubs make Jason Hammel arguably the best 4th starter of any team in the league. In doing so, the Cubs remove the Wood/Wada combo that has combined to post only .5 Wins Above Replacement Player per frangraphs, while adding Scott Kazmir, who has posted a 1.8 WARP year-to-date. This move adds another 1.3 wins, in theory, to the Cubs total which is critical in a playoff race.
The addition of Josh Reddick allows the Cubs to improve this seasons playoff chances while also helping their roster for a probable 2016 playoff run, as well. Theo Epstein has always stated his belief that 2016 was when he felt the Chicago Cubs would truly begin competing for World Series titles . Josh Reddick won the 2012 gold-glove and would provide an improvement over Chris Coghlan in leftfield. The ripple-effect value of an addition like Reddick is that manager Joe Maddon can move Chris Coghlan to the bench which will provide him with more late-inning ammunition in a pinch. It’s a lot of volume to pay if you’re the Cubs, but it provides them with an increased probability to make the playoffs both this year and next.
So there you have it! The three trades I think MUST happen by the end of the month. Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to add me to your roster so you can follow my rants as we approach the trade deadline. Now on to the hotdogs and hamburgers.