A number of factors are compelling teams to try to close deals earlier: a dearth of sellers and surplus of buyers created by two extra playoff slots, new free-agent compensation rules, and international bonus slots that teams have been trading left and right.
Still, if trades made in the next 21 days are of the caliber and size of the aforementioned trio, this year's deadline will prove to be somewhat ... boring. So I’ve cooked up five potential blockbuster trades I’d like to see. They make sense for all the teams involved and might add a little spice to the deadline. 1. Dodgers trade Andre Ethier and minor leaguers Joc Pederson and pitchers Chris Reed and Stephen Fife to the Philadelphia Phillies for left-hander Cliff Lee and second baseman Chase Utley.
The Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball and their expectations are to win the World Series or bust. A blockbuster deal like this would give them a legitimate shot. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Lee, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Nolasco arguably would be the best rotation in the NL.
Utley would give Los Angeles an upgrade at second base and improve the lineup’s left/right balance and overall depth. Ethier would have to go in order to balance Lee’s contract exposure.
Of course, the Dodgers would have to wait until they have a better feel for Matt Kemp's health and are confident he can be a factor in the second half. While the Dodgers are essentially renting Nolasco, an impending free agent, they would control Lee through 2015. Top pitching prospect Zach Lee could replace Nolasco in the rotation next season.
For the Phillies, the trade begins a complete rebuild with Pederson, who profiles out to a future .300, 20-home run hitter who can play all three outfield positions. Reed is a former first-round pick out of Stanford who profiles as a midrotation starter, and Fife is a major league-ready back-of-the-rotation starter.
Ethier keeps the seat warm for Pederson or is quickly spun to the Seattle Mariners for a middle infield or pitching prospect.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has done a great job in staying focused on rebuilding the Astros from scratch, and this is a great opportunity for him acquire more long-term solutions. The Astros would receive outfielder Starling, the fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, who profiles as an above-average center fielder with 30-home run power potential. He's still very raw because of splitting his time between football and baseball in high school, but he has the tools to be an All-Star. That's the kind of upside the Astros want.
Selman and Adam could develop into solid starters similar to Norris. Calixte is a good defensive shortstop while Gallagher can really catch and throw. If he hits enough, he could become an everyday catcher or a top-notch backup. Giavotella has had a hard time cracking the lineup in K.C., and he can step in right away in Houston to at least keep the seat warm until Delino DeShields Jr. is ready to take over.
Luhnow’s modus operandi so far has been to trade for quantity. This deal accomplishes that with high upside.
Altuve solves the Royals’ long-term problem at second and also gives them a solid No. 2 hitter in the lineup. Norris would improve the rotation and replace Ervin Santana, who likely will depart via free agency. Carter serves as an outfield power bat either in a right-field platoon or as a home run threat off the bench.
The Rangers finally would land the middle-of-the-order bat they’ve missed since Josh Hamilton departed via free agency. Just 23 years old, Stanton already has hit 101 home runs in just 418 big league games. He is not eligible for free agency until 2017, so the Rangers would control him for at least three more seasons. Ramos would give the Rangers yet another solid young reliever whose mid-90s fastball and hard-breaking slider miss bats on both sides of the plate.
Of course, the price for Stanton will be huge. In fact, the Marlins’ front office has made clear to me they do not want to move Stanton. I expect them to build around him rather than move him. However, an offer of this magnitude might be too good to refuse, especially considering Stanton probably won’t ever sign a long-term deal with Miami.
The Marlins are pleased with the development of outfielder Marcel Ozuna and are even more excited about outfield prospects Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, who both could possibly join Ozuna in the outfield in the major leagues as soon as next season.
Profar would play second base for the Marlins and give Miami one of the game’s best future double-play combinations with Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop, who is a Gold Glove candidate. Gallo, 19, has incredible power but is also striking out a ton at low Class A. He could develop into the Marlins’ long-term solution at third base, but he’s at least three years away.
Profar is not eligible for salary arbitration until 2016, and free agency until 2019, which certainly would be further motivation for the Marlins to make a deal like this. And since he has no spot in the middle infield in Texas, there is reason for the Rangers to move him.
The Pirates solve the two major weaknesses in their lineup, with Rios taking over right field and Ramirez at shortstop. Rios, 32, has proved over the years to be a solid .270 hitter capable of 20 home runs. He is solid in right field and would be a good support bat for Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte.
A change of scenery would help the 31-year-old Ramirez, who has hit 15 home runs and driven in 70 runs four different times in his career. He’s a solid defensive shortstop, too. Neither player is a difference-maker, but both would upgrade the Pirates at those positions.
In Polanco the White Sox would acquire an excellent outfield prospect who profiles as a .300 hitter with the speed to steal 20 bases. Kingham is an underrated quality starting pitching prospect, and Mercer is a stopgap shortstop. Mainly, the White Sox free up dollars and get younger as they build for the future. Their farm system is one of the weakest in the game, and they can use quantity and quality.
Garza is back, both in health and trade value. He has been wowing scouts over his past four starts. His fastball velocity has returned, his slider and curveball have the same break, and his command and control have been spot-on. Although pitching is certainly not a pressing need in Detroit, the depth might just give the Tigers their best shot at a title. With a rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Garza, the Tigers would have the best rotation in the league by far.
Garza is owed just $4.8 million for the rest of this year and is an impending free agent, so there is no long-term exposure. Gregg has been impressive closing for the Cubs, saving 15 of 17 games with a 1.78 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, and would be an upgrade for the Tigers, whose biggest weakness is relief pitching. Above all else, the Tigers don’t have to give up top prospect Nick Castellanos.
For the Cubs, they get a long-term solution in right field in Garcia, who will develop into at least a .280 hitter capable of 20 homers annually. Porcello, 24, is a solid back-of-the-rotation starter who can win in double digits every year and is under control for two more years. Thompson is a solid starting pitching prospect who throws in the low 90s with heavy sink. After all that, the Cubs could try to re-sign Garza as a free agent.