The MLB Hot Stove is upon us, but it has yet to heat up truly. We got blockbuster trade that saw the Seattle Mariners trade ace James Paxton to the New York Yankees, but nothing much since. We are still waiting on the free agent market to develop.
But, another huge aspect of the baseball offseason, as it is with other sports, is the trade market. We are wondering if any other teams will make any significant trades as the Mariners and Yankees did.
It’s not as if there aren’t any options on the market; it’s primarily because the Winter Meetings are yet upon us, and most action happens then. And there are options available or speculated to be, which can make for a legitimate blockbuster trade like the Chris Sale deal between the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox from two years ago.
This winter, the most intriguing options may lie in the National League West. It’s a division that has been owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2013, with a new competitor each year.
For years it was the San Francisco Giants, then the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017, and the Colorado Rockies in 2018. They have all had great opportunities to end LA’s run, but have come up short.
After years of rebuilding and nearing title contender status, they have tough decisions looming around them that may change the entire outlook of the respective franchises.
They have arguably the most attractive trade pieces on the market; assets which logic would say that the front offices should consider talking about moving — players that teams with different needs can turn to fill.
If we’ve learned anything when it comes to sports transactions, it’s that it is best to move a player a year too early rather than a year too late. And if the NL West ballclubs have the mentality, the division is a convenience store that has everything you need.
Need an Ace?
A legitimate number one starting pitching is the hardest thing to find in the MLB. There aren’t many of them circulating the league, so when a team has one, they have arguably the most prized commodity in the sport.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants possess two guys that are established aces and can change the outlook of almost any rotation.
The Diamondbacks are looking to clear up their payroll, and Zack Greinke’s remaining $104.5 million over the next three seasons would be the best way to do so. That deal has hamstrung them and would prevent them from retaining players like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin this winter, and potentially Paul Goldschmidt next winter.
He is 35 with three expensive years left and decreasing velocity, which would immediately be a turnoff. But, we have seen some starting pitchers age gracefully and be effective late into their 30’s, and Greinke appears to be one of those because of his lack of reliance on velocity and excellent control on four pitches.
Since 2013, he has had an ERA over 3.21 just once. The righty bounced back from a disappointing debut season in the desert by posting back-to-back 200-inning seasons, with a 3.20 ERA in 2017 and 3.21 ERA in 2018.
Madison Bumgarner is the other name which is enticing. The 29-year-old is one of the best pitchers in the game and in the middle of his prime. So why would the San Francisco Giants move him?
Well, he is one year away from a huge payday in free agency, and the Giants have a bloated payroll as it is — an expensive payroll on old and aging veterans and no young talent. They are at the stage where starting fresh is their best bet, and moving the one asset that can get you multiple quality prospects is your best bet.
The southpaw has a career 3.03 ERA in 1,638 innings, and an outstanding 2.11 ERA and 0.899 WHIP in over 100 playoff innings. Even with the ‘rental’ tag surrounding him, if the Giants move him earlier than later, they could get similar young talent that their previous dynasty was built around.
Two of the best offensive players in baseball reside in Arizona and Colorado. The Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt and Rockies’ Nolan Arenado have been two of the elite bats in the game and perennial MVP contenders in the National League for years. Both are coming off strong seasons once again, and are under contract with their respective ballclubs for one more season.
Goldy hit .290/.389/.533 with 33 home runs in 158 games while accumulating a 5.4 WAR. Since 2013, the first baseman is averaging a .301/.406/.541 line and 30 home runs per season. Save for one year, Goldy has played in at least 155 games during this stretch.
So why would Arizona look to move him? Well, he is 31 and a free agent after 2019. The Diamondbacks are trying to shed payroll, or not overspend on one player because it would limit them from building the rest of the team. And retaining their longtime franchise player will work against that because he will no doubt be looking for a huge payday, and another healthy monster year will earn him just that, regardless of age.
This doesn’t mean that the franchise is eager to move him, but they are apparently listening to offers, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. The New York Yankees reportedly made an offer for the superstar first baseman, while the Minnesota Twins have discussed a potential deal for the 31-year-old.
The Rockies are in a similar boat with Arenado, although there aren’t any official reports of them trying to move their third baseman. However, they were in a similar situation with Matt Holiday a decade ago and ultimately traded him.
Arenado is coming off another stellar season where he hit .297/.374/.561 with an NL-leading 38 home runs, and since his breakout year in 2015, the star is averaging a .297/.354/.573 line with 39.5 home runs. Not to mention the elite defense he brings at the hot corner.
He will be 28 when he hits the market, and the market now dictates that a superstar in his prime get at least $200 million. Arenado has also expressed how he would like to play for a perennial contender, which puts more pressure on the front office to keep a relevant team.
The Rockies front office has remained tight-lipped on the situation, and neither side has openly committed to staying in business together, so there is no doubt that looking to move him before he gets too expensive, or walks for nothing, would be smart.
But let’s not forget about the two other teams in the division, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. Both sandwich the three teams above (LA at the top and San Diego at the bottom) and have the brighter futures.
Teams in need of bats or looking to shore up a weak outfield can look to the Dodgers, who have a surplus of outfielders they could, or should, be looking to move. Players like Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Alex Verdugo, and Matt Kemp. They are all starting-caliber, or at least worth considering for a starting role, while Kemp would be best as a designated hitter.
And with bullpens growing in importance, the Padres should get a long look because they have one of the hottest reliever commodities on the market in the form of 31-year-old Kirby Yates. He had a 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 90 strikeouts in 63 innings this past season, and is under team control for another two seasons.
However, he doesn’t fit into San Diego’s rebuilding timeline, so moving him would be the smart thing to do. They did so in 2018 by trading away Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, so why stop there?
But the San Francisco Giants should not be overlooked in this respect because they have a collection of veteran relievers that will fortify any bullpen they go to.
Aces, MVP-caliber players, quality positions players, and bullpen reinforcements. Whatever you need, the West has. It’s just a matter of them opening up shop.