3 Possible MLB Offseason Trades

Mark Trumbo

The deal: CLE Indians get: Mark Trumbo and Trevor Cahill

ARI Diamondbacks get: Nick Swisher, Lonnie Chisenhall, and a high level pitching prospect.

Why this deal could happen: There are a lot of moving parts to this deal and no clear centerpiece. What is clear is that the Indians need to move the 34 year old Swisher immediately, and the D-Backs are a potentially interesting team that could absorb his enormous contract. A cursory glance at Arizona’s depth chart tells you that they are at least 2-3 years away from contention, if not more. If Swisher wants to prove that he can be a consistent hitter again (.208 average in 360 AB in 2014, 111 K to 75 H), it will have to be for a team with at bats to give away. After botching the Justin Upton and Adam Eaton trades, the Diamondbacks have no pressing outfielders to develop and what appears to be a barren farm system for the immediate future. There is no harm in letting Swisher swing away and lumber around in right field in the hopes that his World Series experience and leadership rubs off on some of the younger players. In the best case scenario, Swisher rebounds well enough in 2015 so that the D-Backs could flip him to a desperate AL contender looking for a veteran bat to help out at DH. The worst case is that Arizona pays him $30 million over the next 2 seasons while the new front office regime acquires young talent and then rids themselves of Swisher right as their window of contention comes into focus again.

Of the remaining pieces in the deal, the Diamondbacks would certainly love their return: a young, team controlled, everyday MLB hitter and a top pitching prospect. Chisenhall, who just turned 26, is arbitration eligible coming off of his first full pro season. Under team control for 3 more seasons, he batted .280 in 478 AB with 13 HR and 59 RBI, to go along with an impressive .343 OBP and .427 slugging percentage. The third baseman is a very good contact hitter with sneaky power. Due to make less than a million dollars this season, his value more than offsets the albatross of Swisher’s deal. Chisenhall would clearly be in the D-Backs long-term plans. For the long term, he serves as a nice lefty complement to bat in front of Paul Goldschmidt. With left handed power becoming increasingly easy to find, an Arizona team in 3 years with Chisenhall, Goldschmidt, and the cleanup hitter going left-right-left would cause nightmares for managers trying to utilize relievers. The second piece of value, the pitching prospect, would be included because Arizona is absorbing the full value of Swisher’s deal. No team can have enough young pitching, especially a franchise with a weak minor league system. A prospect like this would probably be ranked between #5 and #10 of Cleveland’s minor league talent.

The Cleveland Indians, as contenders, make themselves immediately better without sacrificing all that much. Mark Trumbo seems oddly out of place in Arizona. On a fringe contender, he could reasonably bat anywhere from 4-6 to protect a star like Goldschmidt. However, with Arizona several years away from the playoffs, the soon to be 29 year old will make the most impact elsewhere. With no legs and no discernible tools other than raw power (and lots of it), Trumbo is a classic DH in the making. A huge liability in the field, Trumbo is still a perennial All-Star candidate, who averaged 32 HR and 94 RBI a season from 2011-2013, including the 2012 season when he slugged .491. Guys with bodies like Trumbo generally don’t age well early into their 30s and his value would be maximized over the next 3 seasons, especially when his skills at reaching base only continue to decrease (.317, .294, .293 in the last three seasons). Cleveland, after suffering from a drastic lack of power down the stretch, already added a big bat in Brandon Moss from the A’s. Bringing Trumbo on board would only help anchor an incredibly weak hitting lineup for a team that considers themselves to be a World Series contender.

Trevor Cahill is a typical change-of-scenery type of player. Cahill, who is actually one of the better pitchers in the National League, only pitched to a 3-12 record with a 5.61 ERA in 2014. Although he was 8-10 with a 3.99 ERA in 2013, Cahill saw an increase from 6.3 to 8.5 K/9inn and 1.57 to 1.91 K/BB ratio this past year. He is a workhorse who consistently pounds the zone and throws a ton of strikes, allowing the fewest walks of his career in 2014. His problems stemmed from the enormous outfield in Arizona and a defense with an incredible lack of range and professional experience. Shifting to a Cleveland team with a friendlier ballpark and solid defensive outfield would cut down on many of the hits allowed behind him, and the offense supporting him could potentially bump his stats back up to his 2010 level in Oakland when he was 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA.

Fangraphs Predicted 2015 WAR: CLE (Cahill 1.3, Trumbo 1.0) = 2.3                                    

ARI (Chisenhall 1.5, Swisher 0.5) = 2.0

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cleveland Indians

The deal: PIT Pirates get: Evan Gattis

ATL Braves get: Pedro Alvarez and cash.

Why this deal could happen: Here we have two possible contenders (two more questions- Is Atlanta one? Why did they sign Nick Markakis?) with two players that both clubs seem to significantly overvalue compared to the rest of MLB. On the surface, the players have several similarities. This season, Gattis and Alvarez will each be 28. They’ve also both shown some pop — Gattis has 43 HR  in his last 723 AB (which would be approximately 32 HR in a full 162 game season) and slugged .493 last year, while Alvarez averaged 33 HR and 93 RBI in 2012 and 2013, slugging .467 and .473 in those seasons respectively. Curiously, the two of them also seem to be on the outs with their current clubs for complicated reasons. The Braves seems unsure if they are rebuilding in preparation for their new ballpark in 2017, as they recently traded away expensive stars Justin Upton and Jason Heyward but also signed Nick Markakis to a huge, widely criticized contract. They also released Kris Medlan, yet kept BJ Upton. Gattis appears to be on the block in Atlanta and no one in the league would be surprised if he was moved or kept. We’ll assume Atlanta wants to progress along this retooling mission and upgrade one of their weakest spots. That hole is at third base, where Chris Johnson makes a ton of weak outs and does not provide much in the way of defense. If Atlanta cannot find a team to take a gamble on him in exchange for cash or prospects, he may end up being released. Pedro Alvarez would be a phenomenal young, cost-effective option at the hot corner. Still in the arbitration period and unlikely to command more than $7 million a year, his contract would be ideal for Atlanta to take on. Although he has soured in Pittsburgh just one season after winning a Silver Slugger and Home Run title, no team sleeps on his value. After signing Corey Hart, the Pirates seem to be willing to move on from their former star due to his limited assets outside of power. Alvarez also saw his WAR drop from 3.1 in 2013 to -0.2 in 2014.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has a huge gap where Russell Martin once stood. Currently, the Pirates starting catcher is 29 year old Francisco Cervelli who has fewer career HR (10) than Martin had last season (11). Production from the catcher was one of the Pirates’ biggest strengths, and it certainly won’t be easy to replace. Gattis, who is still in the pre-arbitration period, is one of the most appealing options that is currently being dangled, and the Pittsburgh front office will surely take a good look at him. This 1 for 1 deal lines up both in finance and position, so it makes a ton of sense for two strong clubs.

Additional musings on the Braves-Pirates trade: I see that the Braves are asking for the whole farm on Gattis, and will certainly not receive anything close to two young, major league ready players and a top prospect. He is not young (28 years old) and has only played in 213 MLB games. Yes, he has shown promise, but when Miguel Cabrera was traded to Detroit (4 years younger at the time and coming off of 4 straight seasons of nearly 30 HR, 115 RBI, .320 avg, including a combined WAR of 16.6 from 2005-2007), the Marlins received basically the same package that Atlanta is asking for Gattis. They’ll be lucky to get back a third of what they’re asking. Atlanta, meanwhile, still seems like a fringe contender and would rather have an MLB ready player in his mid 20s than two or three younger players. The Braves biggest hole is at third base, where Chris Johnson is essentially non-existent. Rather than sporting a team with half seasoned veterans and half unproven minor leaguers, I feel like new front office face John Hart would rather take on an established pro. Let’s not forget that Pedro Alvarez is an All Star coming off a down year with 66 HR and 185 RBI in 2012-2013. If even one of the prospects Atlanta is seeking turns out to have a stretch like that, they would be extremely happy (and lucky). I’m not even sure Pittsburgh would want the deal, but after being spoiled by Russell Martin this past year, someone like Gattis would provide comparable stats.

Fangraphs predicted 2015 WAR: PIT (Gattis = 0.9)

ATL (Alvarez = 1.8)

Dan Haren

The deal: SD Padres get: Dan Haren

MIA Marlins get: Will Venable.

Why this deal could happen: Haren has already told Miami that he intends to retire unless he is traded back to a team in his native southern California. Still a serviceable starter, the 34 year old has never been a finesse pitcher and consistently gets hit around. This wasn’t a problem pitching in front of the high powered Dodgers, Nationals, Angels, Diamondbacks, and A’s offenses of the past decade. Typically a 12-15 win starter, Haren will always have an ERA hovering in the low to mid 4s at this stage in his career. While pitching for a team like the Padres, who recently overhauled their league worst offense into a formidable threat, Haren may win some tight games thanks to his hitters. His reasonable $10 million salary this year will be paid by the Dodgers before his contract expires. The Marlins, as of now, are not in a position to gain anything from Haren’s value without moving him for new pieces.

What the Marlins do need, however, is left handed outfield depth. They sport one of the brightest and most promising outfields in the league, with Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich. The latter is the only lefty among the trio of very young talent, which also means that some regression is possible. The Marlins have no hedge against a prolonged slump from these hitters, as there is only one other outfielder on their MLB roster (right-handed Reed Johnson). They are completely barren behind him, leaving their rising young stars with nothing to back them up. The Padres, meanwhile, now how a glut of outfielders thanks to the acquisition of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, and Justin Upton. With Seth Smith, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin, and Carlos Quentin all still on the roster vying for playing time, someone (or more) needs to go. Although Seth Smith, a lefty, is the more attractive option for the Marlins, he has 3 more years of team control and is coming off a season in which he was the Padres best offensive player, meaning he is someone San Diego will hold on to. Venable, also a lefty, is due for a change of scenery. He can play all three OF positions and recently hit 22 home runs in 2013. Still, he is coming off of a terrible 2014 campaign (.224, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 406 AB, .288 OBP, .325 SLG). Now is the time for the Marlins to buy low on a left handed power hitter to upgrade their bench. Without much leverage, the Marlins need to search for a player like Venable who is on the block for a team trying to clear its logjam.

Additional musings on the Marlins-Padres trade: Haren has basically said he will only play for the Padres or Angels this season, greatly limiting the Marlins leverage and options. Logically, the Padres make more sense simply because the Angels feel more confident in their current rotation and Haren has experience in the NL west. The Padres are trying to improve in a massively quick rebuild and would certainly gamble on his history with just one year remaining on the contract. The Marlins definitely would not expect to receive a high level prospect, for the sole reason that they lack any trade leverage, not to mention that he only has one year left on his deal, after which he will most likely retire. Plus, after Miami’s front office appeared to convince the fan base that they would try to contend this year, receiving a mid to low level prospect would be both disheartening to the fans and go against what they’ve publicly been preaching. San Diego’s pool of excess OF is what they are trying to thin, and coincidentally, the Marlins need a left handed power bat to back up their young righty outfielders. Miami just traded for Dee Gordon and Martin Prado to shore up their infield gaps, so acquiring someone like Will Venable would be the most logical next step in beefing up their Major League roster to contend this season.

Fangraphs predicted 2015 WAR: MIA (Venable = 0.6)

SD (Haren = 1.6)

Some final thoughts:

I came to make these predictions based on watching a countless number of MLB games over the past decade and really coming to understand each team’s composition and dynamic. If you don’t already have it and consider yourself a passionate professional baseball fan, I would recommend purchasing MLB Extra Innings. It allows you to watch every out of market game each night with the home team (usually) providing the coverage. The predicted trades that I suggested resulted entirely from my own intuition and observations. I later consulted FanGraph’s predicted statistics for each player’s upcoming season. While complete and based on heavily detailed models, these predictions notoriously suggest regression after a superb season and improvement after a down year. They may also predict a severe injury and only provide an output on a half or a third of a season worth of games. Obviously, the predictor doesn’t take into account the new team that the player would be on after my proposed trade. Still, if you would like to get an idea of the projected balance in wins and losses after each deal, you can check it out here: http://www.fangraphs.com/

Images Courtesy of Dodger Nation, Franklin Nation, and High Heat Stats.

Will Graboyes
Georgetown University Class of 2017

Connect with Will on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/will-graboyes/80/30a/9a4
Follow Will on Twitter: @WillGraboyes
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