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July 30, 2010

How Much is That Star in The Window?

Daring to Deal an Impossible Half-Dozen Demi-gods

by Christina Kahrl

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With hours to go in deadline season, we've already seen our share of upsets and surprises as far as trades made, many for less than expected. In many of these scenarios, money is playing one part, and absolute need another.

Expense and necessity, though—what fun is that?

How about we dial back and think in terms of what it would take to swing swaps involving the best ballplayers in the game? Making one concession to reality by exempting those top stars with full no-trade protection on their current contracts, let's imagine what it would take to trade for the like of Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Tim Lincecum, Evan Longoria, and Miguel Cabrera. Consider this a thought exercise. With all of these trades, think about this: If Team A called up Team B with this offer, who hangs up first? And feel free to pick your favorites in the comments.

1. 1B Albert Pujols to the Red Sox for 1B Kevin Youkilis, RHP Casey Kelly, 1B Lars Anderson, and SS Jose Iglesias.

No, the Cardinals aren't looking to peddle Pujols, but if they did, they'd want star-level talent in return, and remember, they only hold the rights to the widely acknowledged best player in baseball through 2011. So why not convert that into Youkilis, an almost-as-good first baseman already signed through 2013 for $37 million—which is less than Pujols would cost them to re-sign. They'd also get a possible eventual replacement in the 22-year-old Anderson if his bat comes around—he's already at Triple-A—and Youkilis' ability to move to the outfield or perhaps back to third base would make space for whatever opportunity Anderson earns.

Iglesias isn't a '90s-style shortstop; he'll hit for a decent average and little else, but the Cuban defector's defensive chops are unquestioned, and he might provide the answer to the Cards' need there. Kelly is a 20-year-old former two-way prospect providing heat that touches the mid-90s and a true 12-to-6 curve, and he's already at Double-A. All three of the prospects are already at the upper levels, so while Kelly and Anderson haven't fully delivered on their potential, they're young enough to get there, and close enough to make a difference fast.

The Red Sox would be giving up a lot of potential to achieve the upgrade of Pujols from Youkilis, but not so much that they'd be crippling their bid at contending during the life of Albert's contract. Plus, the Sox have the cash to re-sign him.

2. SS Hanley Ramirez to the Rays for RHP Jeremy Hellickson, SS Reid Brignac, LHP Matt Moore, and RHP Nick Barnese.

Nobody can offer as much good stuff in a single package as the Rays can, so why not go after the best rising talent in the game? He's already inked for 2011-14 for $57.5 million, so he'd be the foundation of their lineup for years to come, producing True Averages around .320 through the last year, when he'll only be 30.

But it'll cost, and only the Rays might be able to afford the exchange, giving up a pair of five-star prospects, and four of their top 10 kids. Hellickson is dominating at Triple-A and is certain to star in a big-league rotation as soon as he's called up, where Moore is a power lefty at Class A armed with consistent low-90s heat, supplemented with a change and curve that can be plus pitches. Brignac would be a fine replacement for HanRam— and he's a couple of years removed from arbitration, let alone free agency. Barnese is a teammate of Moore's who adds an element of fun as far as being one of the most aggressive strike-throwers you'll find at any level— with 16 hit batsmen against just 22 walks in 111 2/3 IP, he makes a point of owning the inside corner, but he has the stuff to have things his way.

3. 3B Evan Longoria to the Angels for C Hank Conger, CF Peter Bourjos, 3B Brandon Wood, and RHPs Garrett Richards and Fabio Martinez.

I know we just moved Ramirez across the state of Florida; let's just treat these in isolation. If for some reason the Rays endure calamitous payroll failure, Longoria's contract runs through 2014 on the low end for $20 million—and through 2016 for $41.5 million. Acquiring that kind of bargain would be tough to trade, but let's say the Angels throw absolutely everything save their one untouchable, Mike Trout, to get it done. Conger is a potential All-Star catcher, Bourjos a leadoff center field type worth employing, and perhaps Wood can recapture his flagging blue-chip status with a change of scenery. Martinez and Richards are the best two arms the Angels' organization have, but both are very young and all the way down in Low-A.

4. RHP Tim Lincecum to the Rangers for RHPs Scott Feldman, Neftali Feliz, and Tanner Scheppers, and CF Engel Beltre.

The Rangers are in the running, but even with Cliff Lee, do they have the front-end starting pitching to make their bid one that potentially involves dominating their post-season series? So why not go all in and make a bid on Tiny Tim by offering the Giants an under-control rotation plug-in Feldman and a trio of top prospects? Feliz might be closing now, but he could be an overpowering starter at some point down the line, while Scheppers is very close to ready now. Those are good things, but to make this really work, the Rangers would have to add Beltre, already in Double-A at 20 years old, and an excellent defensive center fielder with potential value as a leadoff man.

5. 1B Miguel Cabrera to the Yankees for 1B Jesus Montero, RHP Joba Chamberlain, CF Slade Heathcott, and C J.R. Murphy.

The Bombers do nothing halfway, and Cabrera is only just now in his age-27 season. Guys who slug .650 or better don't grow on trees, so why not get a guy who really puts 'hitter' in designated hitter? It wouldn't come cheaply, however, but in Montero, rated as the fourth-best prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein before the season, they have a similar talent a few years away from fruition. Offer Montero to the Tigers plus offer Joba a chance to escape the Big Apple's drama, and finish the package up with a speedy center fielder and a decent catching prospect to mix in some up-the-middle upside, and you've got an offer that might be fairly tempting in real life if the Tigers fall out of contention.

6. Stephen Strasburg for—?

Before Strasburg's shoulder achieved headlines as hyped as the man who uses it, you might wonder what the market would offer the best prospect in baseball. The Rays might be the only organization that could make an offer, but would it take Desmond Jennings and Hellickson and Moore or Barnese besides? That might be hard to turn down for an organization as talent-hungry as the Nationals, because let's be clear, it isn't like they'd be dealing the flamethrower for a late run at third place in the NL East.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Flamethrower

28 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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The Pujols trade makes some sense. I can see something like that happening, but it would probably have to be coupled with Pujols agreeing to an extension.

The rest of them are kind of weird. A couple ask for too much. Ramirez is awesome, but that's a lot to give up for an upgrade that might not be as great for the Rays as other teams. Cabrera's extension is close to his worth, and Pujols should be available to the Yankees in the near future.

Longoria is worth far more than that package. It's not really close.

I don't know about the Lincecum one. It seems like a weak package, even though Feliz is quite good. However, Lincecum is already making pretty good money in just his Super Two year, and the awards are just going to get higher, so his value probably isn't as high as I first think from a guy of his talent and age. It feels like a weak package, though.

There are packages that could get Strasburg outside of the Rays. The Braves could give up McCann, Heyward, and Vizcaino. There's no way that happens, though. Same with the Giants. Lincecum and Posey could get him, but whatever.

Jul 30, 2010 10:54 AM
rating: 1

Dude, Strasburg is not even close to worth giving up two of those guys, let alone three

Jul 30, 2010 11:24 AM
rating: 0

I know. I was responding to "[t]he Rays might be the only organization that could make an offer" by noting that other teams have the ability to overpay for Strasburg.

Heck, he didn't even make the All-Star team. Argument over.

Jul 30, 2010 11:26 AM
rating: 1


Jul 30, 2010 11:30 AM
rating: 0

In general I do believe in the tenant that winning makes money, but right now Strasburg is the type of transcendent figure that generates revenue on his own. For all the talk that went around his "record breaking rookie contract", Strasburg is making the Nationals barrels of money. I have been guessing that it is close to $1M a start after tickets, concessions, parking, jerseys, etc.

Hype like he has now doesn't seem to last long these days, but it would take a VERY forward-thinking GM to consider any trade for S.S.

Jul 30, 2010 14:06 PM
rating: 0

If Strasburg is really giving the Nationals $1 million of marginal revenue per start - they're still $10 million in the hole.

Jul 31, 2010 06:04 AM
rating: 0

well maybe McCann and Vizcaino...

Jul 30, 2010 11:25 AM
rating: 0

ELongoria for that bucket of spit from the Halos isn't close.

Jul 30, 2010 10:54 AM
rating: 6

I'm not a Ray's fan, but I have to agree with this assessment...that package wouldn't come close to getting Longoria. The guys dirt cheap and under control until 2016...oh yeah, he's also the best third baseman in baseball...

Jul 30, 2010 11:21 AM
rating: 0

Actually, the Hanley trade looks like the best one to me. I can see the Marlins doing it and it would make the Rays very hard to beat.

Jul 30, 2010 11:08 AM
rating: 2

Yeah, I feel the Angels would have to include Trout for Longoria, and even with Conger and Bourjos, might not get it done.

Jul 30, 2010 11:12 AM
rating: 4

Interesting. As untouchable (assuming no real long-term injury) as Strasburg is, a package of Jennings, Hellickson, Moore and Barnese is an awfully attractive package.

Pujols trade seems possible. Longoria is more a trade you'd hear from a disgruntled Angels fan with the Angels really giving up not much for maybe the most valuable hitter in baseball when you consider contract.

The Rangers trade makes sense for this year only. But starting next year, isn't Tanner the closer with Feliz back to the starting rotation?

Jul 30, 2010 11:15 AM
rating: 0

The package for Longoria seems way too weak, and the one for Pujols seems to be much...the rest are surprisingly good though.

Jul 30, 2010 11:21 AM
rating: 4
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff

Well, it was a goofy-fun sort of exercise, and I bounced all of these offers off a few sounding boards, inside BP (thanks KG) and in the scouting community. Take them as seriously as you please, but I treated it as an interesting thought exercise. I'd agree with the evaluations of the Longoria offer as the weakest of the lot, but it really does seem that any chance of Trout swimming in anybody else's stream are between zero and none.

Jul 30, 2010 12:27 PM
Richard Bergstrom

You could also say that Longoria stinging the ball without a Rays uniform has less of a chance than Trout spawning somewhere else upstream... So yeah I think the Longoria package is weak. I bet the Rockies could put together a better package though

Jul 30, 2010 13:10 PM
rating: 0

The package for Pujols seems to be "much"? The Cardinals would NEVER make that deal. I predict that it would cost them about 300,000 ticket sales, entirely independent of any effect it might have on the win-loss record. There are very few players, fewer than most people think, whose mere presence on a team so electrifies that team's fans as to produce ticket sales far beyond the player's objective contributions. But Pujols is one of those few.

If you're looking for a tradeable Cardinal, replace Pujols with Adam Wainwright and repeat the exercise. He has enormous value and is an amazingly good buy for a few years yet, yet doesn't have quite the same "face of the franchise" panache -- although fans in St. Louis would still be calling for Bill De Witt's scalp if a trade was made. But it would at least be possible to imagine a WW trade that could be considered purely on its on-the-field merits.

Jul 30, 2010 12:44 PM
rating: 0
Paul Andrew Burnett

I think you're right that the Cardinals would not make the trade, but I think they'd be fools not to make that trade. The fans would gnash their teeth and rend their clothes at the time of the deal, but I think they'd be placated around 2017 when Pujols is making $30 million for his decline years--especially if injuries finally creep on him and take their toll.

Jul 30, 2010 15:18 PM
rating: 0
Tommy Bennett

I've written in the past about what it would take to pry the best contract in baseball away from one of the smartest teams in baseball, and I agree the price would be very, very high.

Jul 30, 2010 13:09 PM
rating: 0

problem with the rays deal is that they already have some good prospects within their system, so their replacement level would be high for anyone but trout and the catcher guy.

Jul 30, 2010 15:02 PM
rating: 0

I don't see any way the Tigers do that Cabrera deal. Montero would obviously be a great pickup, but Joba has some serious question marks, Murphy is nothing spectacular, and I think Detroit is perfectly happy with Austin Jackson. They don't need another speedy Yankees CF.

Jul 30, 2010 17:43 PM
rating: 2

Also agree the Longoria package seems very weak.

Jul 30, 2010 17:55 PM
rating: 0

Re:Richard's comment about the Rockies being able to put together a better package for Longoria.
Maybe, but what causes me severe stomach pains every day is that, if the Rox had simply drafted Longoria in the first round, which they were supposed to do, instead of the immortal Greg Reynolds, we'd be looking at the best left side of the infield in all of baseball.
Yep..there's those stomach pains again.

Jul 30, 2010 18:21 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

Could be worse, you could be a Cub fan living in Denver, especially after Friday night's game.

Jul 31, 2010 03:50 AM
rating: 0

You know I like Longoria a lot, he's clearly a top 10 MLB talent when you consider age and likely development, and the contract is very very affordable, but it does seem to me that people are drooling on him just a little bit much.

After all, he's not posting a 1.000 OPS every year. Offensively he's marching against 3-4 similar player lines for the best bat at 3B.

I'll take several other bats over Longoria if we're strictly talking bats and guys like Tulo and Hanley Ramirez are more valuable given the position they play.

Jul 30, 2010 18:54 PM
rating: 0
Richard Bergstrom

But Longoria has gotten better each year and he's only 24 so far... and he's signed at a great contract. Those 3-4 similar third basemen are all older and more expensive except for maybe Ryan Zimmerman.

Jul 31, 2010 03:49 AM
rating: 0

His slugging percentage has dropped each year. If he's getting better it's marginally.

Jul 31, 2010 06:06 AM
rating: 0

I really like the Yankee trade for Cabrera. I think Chamberlain would be a good fit for the Tigers plus the prospects. Al;l of your suggested trades show great creativity, which is a quality that is sadly lacking in the Majors today.

Jul 31, 2010 19:58 PM
rating: 0
Mr. Cthulhu

@ TheRealNeal (I can't reply to your comment for some reason). His slugging percentage may have dropped, but his Tav and WARP (assuming no injuries, or dramatic drop off in producion this year) have increased every year. I'd trade 30 points of slugging for that.

Aug 01, 2010 18:32 PM
rating: 0
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