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December 13, 2012

The Lineup Card

11 Potential Trades

by Baseball Prospectus

‚Äč1. Gordon Beckham for Ramon Hernandez and Eric Young Jr.
Who doesn't love a good, old-fashioned challenge trade? Gordon Beckham has struggled to adjust since his solid major-league debut back in 2009. A change of scenery isn't always the answer; sometimes there is no answer to turning a player around. At the right cost, that's a gamble worth taking on for someone.

Colorado looks like a good trade partner to me. Ramon Hernandez is in the last year of a two-year pact. The Rockies may wish to keep him around to continue to tutor young backstop Wilin Rosario, or they may be willing to move him to get a former first-round pick who once showed signs of being a very good big-leaguer. Hernandez could once again serve in a tutor capacity in the South Side of Chicago working with Tyler Flowers. It's also possible he could step into a time-share or starting role if Flowers struggles.

In addition to Hernandez, Eric Young Jr. could be added to the mix. Young Jr.'s defensive versatility would be a welcome addition to the White Sox bench, and his speed would make him a prime pinch-running candidate late in games for some of the less fleet-of-foot players in their lineup. Is this deal likely to happen? No, it isn't, but it was fun to think about. —Josh Shepardson

2. Joel Hanrahan for Rick Porcello
The Tigers and Pirates pulled off a trade last week at the Winter Meetings in Nashville that went relatively unnoticed, with Detroit sending underachieving left-hander Andrew Oliver to Pittsburgh for squat switch-hitting catcher Ramon Cabrera. It's time for the Tigers and Pirates to make another one-for-one deal, and this time it needs to be bigger. The Tigers need a closer, regardless of how prospect Bruce Rondon supposedly throws 138 mph—the velocity seems to increase another tick or two with each glowing report. It's easy to say in December that you are going to use a kid without any closing experience. Yet that will change very quickly in April if Rondon blows a couple of save opportunities, especially for a team with its sights on winning it all after being swept in the World Series by the Giants this year. You can bet a carton of Marlboros on that.

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan would be a good fit for the Tigers after converting 76 of 84 save opportunities over the past two seasons. The Pirates have a replacement closer in Jason Grilli after re-signing the veteran right-hander to a two-year, $6.75-million contract this week. The Pirates need a starter to join a rotation that includes A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonaldRick Porcello would be a great fit as a 23-year-old who would be under their control for two seasons. Porcello was demoted to long relief in the postseason this year, but his 3.86 FIP was nearly three-quarters of a run better than his 4.59 ERA. Of course, it would be easier for the Tigers to deal Porcello if they could re-sign free agent Anibal Sanchez, but he appears to have priced himself out of Detroit's range. Regardless, the Tigers could find someone on the market at a reasonable cost to pitch behind the big three of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister. Hanrahan-for-Porcello is a trade that makes so much sense, and it would be a heckuva lot more interesting than that Oliver-for-Cabrera swap.  John Perrotto

3. Tom Wilhelmsen for Avisail Garcia
Allegedly, the Tigers aren't worried about their bullpen. The one where Jim Leyland was terrified of using anyone but Phil Coke (!) in the playoffs. The one that includes Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit. Not worried. At least that's what they're saying to Rafael Soriano. The Tigers have announced that 22-year-old Bruce Rondon will protect small leads in the ninth inning next year. It's not that Rondon is unworthy, it's that the Tigers appear to be massively short of quality bullpen arms and could use a few more. The Tigers are fortunate in that they have a trade chip in the form of 21-year-old Avisail Garcia, who ended up starting six games for the Tigers in their post-season run, and who hit .312/.345/.465 in Double-A last year. On a Mariners team that can't seem to buy a run and who may end up starting Michael Saunders and Casper Wells in the corners next year, he would be a welcome addition now and for the next few cost-controlled years.

Tom Wilhelmsen is 29 and struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 IP last year and plays for a team that will not win the AL West next year. (Note: said that about the A's last winter.) Plus, the Mariners have a few younger guys who rack up the K's (although with higher walk rates) in Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor. The Tigers signed Torii Hunter and have Austin Jackson and some combination of Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry (yeah, I know) to hold down the other two outfield spots and should be OK for this year. Let's be honest, the Tigers are playing for the short term. It's the classic "your present for my future" trade. —Russell A. Carleton

4. Three-way swap: Josh Reddick for Jed Lowrie for prospects
Reports have the Yankees "close to a deal" with Ichiro to fill the vacancy in right field as the Athletics talk to Stephen Drew about shortstop. However, for both teams that—I can't believe I'm saying this when one is the Yankees—are trying to do things cheaply, there's a better way.

Signing Ichiro would be a failure to take advantage of Yankee Stadium's gift to powerful left-handers, and Reddick would be more valuable at Yankee Stadium than he would be in Oakland—a poor home run park for lefties. The Athletics also have a surplus in the outfield and needs elsewhere, especially shortstop if they pass on Drew. The problem is that the Yankees are a near-impossible team to trade with for a contender, as they have few cost-controlled assets. Getting the Orioles involved and having J.J. Hardy sent westward would let Manny Machado play his proper position, but the money would be a tougher balance and Baltimore would still have a hole. Lowrie is cheaper, and the Astros are always in the market for prospects, which is pretty much all the Yankees could offer.

This is hardly ideal timing for Houston, which would have received an exquisite haul last trade deadline had he not been injured. But they have shown with Wilton Lopez that they are still looking to deal arbitration-eligible types, and Lowrie fits that with a raise coming off a modest $1.15 million 2012 salary, though they might desire one of the prospects from the Yankees to even things if they worry about whether they're getting an every-day player after the latest injury.

If the Yankees do sign Ichiro, this could still get done with just Reddick and Lowrie as the basis for a two-team deal since the Astros do need outfield help and want to keep getting younger. —Zachary Levine

5. Anthony Gose and Prospects for Jonny Venters and Randall Delgado
No team has had a busier offseason than the Blue Jays, who essentially acquired an entire franchise this November and also signed Melky Cabrera to a relatively cheap two-year deal. One player negatively affected by all this movement is Anthony Gose, who, before was on the cusp of starting for Toronto, and now is somewhat buried on their outfield depth chart.

At just 22 years old, Gose has a lot of future value to a franchise, but the Blue Jays clearly want to compete for the AL East crown now while the Yankees and Red Sox appear vulnerable. Therefore, I propose the Jays flip Gose plus prospects to Atlanta in exchange for reliever Jonny Venters and starter Randall Delgado. In Venters, the Jays get potentially one of the most dominating lefty relievers in baseball. Delgado would likely be next in line to start for Toronto this year and could develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 starter down the line. For Atlanta, Gose will compete with the Braves’ in-house options for the left-field job this year, and if his plate discipline improves, could be a valuable starting outfielder for many years. To even out the deal, Toronto should send a couple mid-tier prospects to the Braves, nobody too major though. —Paul Singman

6. Kendrys Morales and Hank Conger for Jeremy Hellickson and James Loney
The Angels’ rotation still has a good deal of uncertainty at the back end, and adding Hellickson would alleviate a lot of that uncertainty. The 25-year-old’s peripherals aren’t very good; he has benefitted greatly from the Rays’ strong defense, but that would presumably continue (although to a lesser extent) with the Angels’ relatively strong group of defenders. Hellickson would fit nicely into the third spot of the rotation, right behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and right ahead of Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton. (Blanton makes a lot more sense as a fifth starter than as a fourth starter.) The Angels would control Hellboy for at least four years at a very affordable rate, which is something that can’t be said for most of the club’s rotation. 

The Rays would receive a significant upgrade at first base and a young catcher with some upside. Morales isn’t much, but he’s very clearly better than Loney. After missing 2011, he posted a modest comeback campaign in 2012, and his plus power resurfaced as the season progressed. Morales also shouldn’t see too big of a raise in his final go at arbitration, so the dollars and cents make… sense. Conger would balance out giving up Hellickson; he’s a 24-year-old catcher with moderate offensive upside that could step in immediately. He’s struggled in spurts in the majors, and a deal would depend mostly on Tampa’s pro scouting reports on him, but the tools are there for him to become a solid-average regular at a premium position.

This deal works for both sides. Both teams upgrade at positions of need. The money makes sense for both sides. It’s time for Mr. Dipoto to start texting Mr. Friedman, or vice-versa. —Hudson Belinsky

7. Brett Anderson for Chase Headley
On the heels of the James Shields trade to Kansas City, reports surfaced that Wil Myers was offered to Oakland straight up for Anderson, and it was Oakland who said no. So why would they then turn around and do this deal? Well, for starters, Headley is an established commodity, whereas Myers hasn’t seen an MLB diamond yet. He also plays a more valuable position than Myers as a third baseman. Oakland essentially made their run to the AL West crown without Anderson, so this doesn’t remove a major cog from them. They do covet him and they absolutely should, but the 25-year-old’s games started total has dwindled yearly since his 30-start debut. Since then it has been 19, 13, and six as injures have derailed the beginning of what should be a bright future.

In Headley, the A’s get a massive upgrade over their current third base situation (Josh Donaldson is currently listed on the depth charts). He is a middle-of-the-lineup hitter who has proven he can succeed despite playing in an oppressive home park. He was no doubt better on the road during his 2012 breakout with a 937 OPS compared to 812 at home, but an 812 mark in Oakland would’ve registered as the second-best behind Yoenis Cespedes among full-time A’s from last year. Additionally, he’s locked in for the next two years. The risk would be that his 31 home runs are such an outlier to what he has done in his career that it may have been a fluky career-year. A Headley-Cespedes-Josh Reddick heart of the lineup packs some legitimate punch, especially since Cespedes and Reddick proved last year that their home park can’t tame their power.

From San Diego’s side, they get a headline starter with remarkably affordable options through 2015. Yes, their ballpark can turn just about anyone into a capable starter, but there are still 81 games on the road. They had the seventh-best home ERA and seventh-worst road ERA last year. Guys like Jason Marquis and Eric Stults aren’t in the long-term plans for the Padres. It is hard to trade your best hitter, but they’re selling at peak value, and prospects Jedd Gyorko and Rymer Liriano should be ready soon to pair with Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal in the middle of their lineup. A rotation of Anderson, Cory Luebke, Andrew Cashner, Casey Kelly, and Robbie Erlin by 2014 gives the Padres an incredible quintet that can also be trusted on the road. —Paul Sporer

8. Mike Olt and Martin Perez for Jeff Samardzija
Once thought to be a bust, Samardzija has turned a sharp corner since the days of “he should have stuck to football” jokes. After years of getting yanked between the rotation and the bullpen (and between the majors and the minors), everything came together for Samardzija in 2012. He took advantage of a legitimate shot to start in a big-league rotation, and he mixed in enough sliders and splitters to keep batters honest while his 94-98 mph fastball did most of the heavy lifting. One of the hardest-throwing starters in the game, he locked in his velocity all season, holding firm from April through September of this year.

At 27 years old, Samardzija has cleared the hurdle of the injury nexus yet is still figuring out how to maximize his skills on the mound, and his learning curve is evident in the stat line that he posted over the final three months of the season: a 2.58 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 95:22 in 87 innings. The Rangers would get three years of service from the right-hander, who is eligible for arbitration this winter for the first time.

Olt may have been promoted a bit prematurely, skipping Triple-A en route to a major-league stint that mostly involved spitting sunflower seeds from the bench, and the Rangers have $51 million committed to Adrian Beltre to man the hot corner for the next three years. Olt has the defensive chops to stick at third and the potent bat to play on either corner of the diamond, and his acquisition would put an end to the pipe dream of Josh Vitters figuring out the concept of plate discipline. Perez has been a favorite of prospect hounds for years, but his projection has far outweighed his performance, with bloated ERAs, modest strikeout totals, and below-average walk rates covering his climb up the ladder.

The deal would satisfy the Rangers immediate need for high-end innings, allowing them to deal from organizational depth to meet their short-term needs. The Cubbies pick up a potential cornerstone bat for the lineup and an arm with a vaulted ceiling, but both players have some work to do before their upside can be realized, and the Cubs have the time to allow them to develop before the competitive window opens on Chicago's north side. —Doug Thorburn

9. R.A. Dickey for Dayan Viciedo and Charlie Shirek
The poor, pottering Mets have hit a snag with Dickey, the barbs now going back and forth as the two sides "negotiate" an "extension." In the New York market, maybe it's best to go ahead and move him now, at peak value, before the ugliness escalates and (possibly) is exacerbated if Dickey comes down from his Cy Young 2012 next year. The White Sox could use a starter and the Mets could use 12 or 13 outfielders, depending on whether Scott Hairston walks. Viciedo is young, can hit the snot out of a baseball, and wasn't as bad in the outfield as worriers might have guessed (-1.6 FRAA isn't good, but it isn't atrocious, either). Rick Hahn weeps a little, then replaces Viciedo's production with that of Nick Swisher, whom he brings back to the South Side with open arms. Hahn tosses Shirek at the Mets along with Viciedo, and the Mets hope Shirek can work more magic out of his sinker (4:1 K/BB. 53% GB rate last year in Triple-A) and give the tabloids a Shrek reference to lean on with season-long regularity—if it all breaks right, Shirek becomes the most famous North Dakotan to play in New York since Roger Maris. —Adam Sobsey

10. [Your Farm System Here] for Giancarlo Stanton
This offseason, the Marlins have tried their best to get rid of anyone who makes any money. What they haven’t done yet is get rid of anyone who will ever make any money. There’s no reason to do that quite yet, because those players don’t currently make any money, but since the team is rebuilding*, why not go all the way? The guy everyone gets all wanty over is, of course, Giancarlo Stanton. Given his cost (nothing), the number of years remaining under team control (a lot), and his expected level of production (even more), the Marlins could get just about anything for him.

*Until they can con another new ballpark out of Southern Florida taxpayers and coax more unsuspecting free agents to bite on their big contract offers that, oddly, contain no no-trade clauses and pay the major-league minimum the first season.

What, to pick a team at random, would the Red Sox give up for Stanton? How about their top six prospects, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Blake Swihart, and Garin Cecchini? Throw in Wally the Green Monster while you’re at it. Is that too much? Maybe that’s too much. Take out Wally the Green Monster.

The Red Sox would destroy their system in the process, but they’d get an amazing hitter who is still younger than some of the prospects they traded. The Marlins would diversify their assets and reduce their risk, with the goal of parlaying Stanton’s desirability into more total talent than Stanton alone.

Maybe that isn’t enough. Maybe it is too much. Who says no? Who says yes? Who said what? Who knows? I don’t. —Matthew Kory

11. Tim Lincecum to the Royals for Too Many Prospects
Over the past three seasons, James Shields and Tim Lincecum have had, basically, the same three years—just in a different order. Shields had a downballot Cy Young season in 2011; Lincecum did, too. Shields had a solid 2012 season, devouring innings with a mid-3s ERA, just as Lincecum did in 2010. And Shields was unthinkably bad in 2010, just as Lincecum was in 2012. The order matters, just as the peripherals (Shields’ are steadier) matter, just as the contract status (two years until free agency for Shields, just one for Lincecum) matters. But if Dayton Moore is serious about playing to win now, and if he’s serious about needing to find alternate routes to adding potential aces, he should think seriously about Lincecum. Few pitchers in baseball have the upside of Lincecum, and even his career-worst season included a strikeout per inning and a dramatic heroic turn in October. The Royals don’t need Lincecum to win his third Cy Young to be an upgrade; Lincecum throwing left-handed might be an upgrade in their rotation. But the very fact that he could win a Cy Young makes him especially ideal for Dayton Moore’s purposes. Kansas City’s best chance of turning 72 wins into 90-something is by gambling on upside and hoping the upsides all pay off at the same time.

The Giants, meanwhile, spent the better part of five years trying to lock Lincecum down. It didn’t happen, it’s not going to happen, and for Sabean’s sake, thank goodness it didn’t happen. Lincecum’s excellent October gives him an out, an opportunity to get something before Lincecum walks away and an opportunity to get out of a $22 million contract burden for 2013. Unlike the Royals, the Giants—world champions, pitcher's park, great Chinese food—shouldn’t have as much trouble convincing free agents to come pitch for them. —Sam Miller

39 comments have been left for this article.

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