Not every move during MLB offseason is a hit
We’re pretty sure that the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t going to regret trading for Paul Goldschmidt. But not every move made during the MLB offseason is a slam dunk. Some carry some risk.
There are plenty of those that we think should be taken this year. Bryce Harper would be a huge financial risk, especially for a team that hasn’t done much recently. Given his struggles in 2018, Dallas Keuchel would also be a big financial risk. Trade targets like Corey Kluber and Madison Bumgarner would cost a great deal of talent. But the risks would also all provide potentially huge payoffs for the teams taking them.
These are the risks that we’d love to see MLB teams take.
Chicago White Sox: Sign Bryce Harper
Harper will be a long-term commitment. But realistically, no team is signing Harper if it thinks it’s going 70-92 in Year 1. Signing Harper will signify that the organization sees itself as ready to contend now. For the White Sox, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 or had a winning season since 2012, that’s a risk.
But we’re looking at Chicago’s situation and seeing a lot of similarities to the cross-town rivals, the Chicago Cubs. From 2010-2014, the Cubs had nothing but losing seasons. But with a strong group of young players in place, Chicago made a splash and signed Jon Lester before the 2015 season. It worked. The White Sox have similar young talent in place. Harper may not be the final piece to the puzzle. But he’d be the biggest. He’d command a lot of money and the White Sox haven’t been known as big spenders in recent years. But it’s a good risk to take.
Cincinnati Reds: Trade for Trevor Bauer
We’ve heard that the Cleveland Indians are “motivated” to trade Bauer, as well as Kluber. Naturally, Cleveland isn’t exactly looking to give these players away. Acquiring Bauer would cost the Reds some of the star prospects they’ve been able to draft after struggling so much in recent years.
Besides, the majority of Cincinnati’s top prospects and young players are hitters. What the Reds need is some top-tier pitching. Bauer qualifies. If Cincinnati can upgrade the rotation, it can contend as early as 2019. The offense is just that good. It’ll cost good prospects. And if they do pan out, they’ll do so for the cross-state rival. But any good trade needs to hurt a little bit. This would hurt. But it would also make sense.
Los Angeles Angels: Sign Dallas Keuchel
Any team signing Keuchel is going to be taking a risk. Given his track record, he’ll be looking for big money. He’ll be 31 on Opening Day and is coming off of a down season. But while Keuchel is risky, the payoff is quite strong.
Yes, he’s coming off of a bad year. But he also has a career 3.26 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in Anaheim. And this isn’t a small sample size, either. He’s made 12 starts in that stadium. Additionally, Keuchel isn’t a power pitcher. As such, his game won’t be hurt as much by the dip in regression that comes as pitchers get older. The Halos have essentially neglected the pitching rotation for long enough. It’s time that changes.
Miami Marlins: Keep J.T. Realmuto
We’ve got roughly half of the league interested in Realmuto. One of them is bound to hit Miami with a good offer. So, why not strike while the iron is hot?
Well, let’s look at it from this perspective. Right now, teams are only guessing as to how good they’re going to be in 2019. Some guesses are better than others. But nobody knows how that season will play out. Come summer time, that will be a different story. At that point, contending teams will have a better of sense of how close they are and what they need. By the same token, though, non-contending teams aren’t likely to be scared off. Realmuto will still have another year before becoming a free agent.
The risk is obviously that Realmuto’s value is diminished by him getting hurt or underperforming. He’d still have value next offseason. But teams will see him as more of a rental. But given that the Marlins haven’t been blown away by an offer yet, that’s a risk worth taking.
Oakland Athletics: Trade for Corey Kluber
The A’s have been the most consistent small budget team of the 21st Century. But even with that noted, Oakland’s competitive windows generally last 3-5 years. Given that the A’s were ahead of schedule in 2018, there’s reason to assume that the current competitive window would be closer to five years, if not more. Trading for Kluber would not be cheap. Losing the pieces Oakland would have to give to land Kluber would really risk shrinking that window.
But the A’s need to rebuild most of the starting rotation. The front end of it especially needs help. Kluber will be 33 on Opening Day. So there’s a certain feeling that he’ll regress soon. That said, he’s shown no signs of it. Trading for Kluber would potentially shrink the years off of the current competitive window. But for the three years remaining on his deal, Kluber would make Oakland’s championship goals far more realistic.
Tampa Bay Rays: Sign Andrew Miller
The Rays had a great season in 2018. Unfortunately, they’re still a good distance behind both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the AL East. Signing Charlie Morton upgraded the starting rotation, which was a definite need. Now it’s time to focus the attention on the bullpen.
Miller is coming off of consecutive injury-riddled seasons. That’s not what anyone wants to see from someone who will be 34 in May. But he can also fill multiple roles in the bullpen for a team that uses relievers as liberally as any in baseball. Additionally, the Rays aren’t going to compete with Boston and New York without taking some risks. Miller is a risk. But if he pays off, he can also pay incredible dividends.
Houston Astros: Trade for Miguel Cabrera
Make no mistake. We know that Cabrera isn’t the MVP caliber player that he once was. With a lot of key players coming up in free agency over the next two seasons, Houston would be hoping for one — maybe two — good years from Miggy. While injuries have slowed him down, this is a guy who’s hit .288/.368/.486 over the last three years. He’s still an effective player. Two years from now, the Astros could then reassess their standing.
Now, Cabrera is signed through 2023. His contract will be hard enough to move if he does well in Houston. If he struggles, he’d be an unmovable contract. But nothing good ever comes without taking a risk. The Astros would be taking a chance on a future Hall of Famer and giving themselves a chance to maximize the potential of what’s already been a magical era of Houston baseball. Trading for Cabrera is probably the truest “risk” here. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy one.
Colorado Rockies: Trade for Madison Bumgarner
Under new president Farhan Zaidi, the San Francisco Giants have made it known that Bumgarner can be traded. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet should serve as a pretty good sign that the Giants haven’t been blown away by an offer. The Rockies need to change that.
Yes, Bumgarner is a one-year rental. Making that kind of offer for a one-year rental is tough, especially with a division rival. But the Rockies haven’t exactly been known for sustaining success. Their competitive windows have generally gone about three years. The 2019 season would be Year 3 of this competitive window. And with Nolan Arenado entering the final year of his deal, the urgency to win in 2019 is only greater. Bringing in an ace like Bumgarner, who has an unrivaled postseason track record, would give the Rockies a great chance to make the most out of 2019.