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Niksa: Proposed MLB Trade Deadline moves, Part I

Desperation is in the air as Major League Baseball is entering the last few days before the July 31 trade deadline. As such, the end of July is a valuable time for teams in the pennant race to trade for a key player before the stretch run. Although some MLB teams (see the Rays and the Red Sox) may be keen on keeping their stars, there are certainly trades that both buyers and sellers cannot pass up. Here are four proposed trades that I believe not only make financial sense, but will also change the pennant race as we know it.

Trade No. 1: Rays SP David Price to St. Louis Cardinals for 2B Kolten Wong, prospects Oscar Taveras, Carlos Martinez and a 2015 draft pick

Let’s start by explaining this trade from the Rays’ point of view. When the Rays were 31-48 and in the cellar of the AL East, the team’s sale of Price at the trade deadline seemed like a no-brainer. The Rays needed to offload Price’s hefty $14 million-per-year contract so they could use that money to sign cheaper pitchers and quality hitters. However, the Rays’ current hot streak has given Rays general manager Andrew Friedman a lot to think about as the trade deadline approaches.

The team has won 16 of its last 21 games to climb to within four games of a wild card spot. This second-half surge is eerily similar to the team’s run in 2011; three years ago, the Rays struggled for much of the season before making a last-gasp charge to steal a wild card spot in that memorable comeback over the New York Yankees in the final game of the season. Likewise, in 2014, the Rays struggled mightily to open the season, but now find themselves in prime position to steal a postseason berth. The hitting has improved, with six players hitting over .300 in the month of July. Price has been his usual dominant self, with starters Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi also providing quality starts for the ball club. Most importantly, starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson is now healthy and ready to make his first start since coming off the disabled list on Saturday.

However, at the same time, there are still a lot of reasons why the Rays should consider trading Price. First, unlike that 2011 rotation, this year’s pitching staff has largely been reliant on the brilliance of Price. This season, Price has pitched 155 innings and is on pace to pitch 300 innings by the end of the year. He has pitched 35 more innings than the next highest pitcher in his rotation; furthermore, it would be naive to think that Price will be able to maintain his astounding 3.06 ERA over the rest of the season. Price’s trade value could not be any higher than it is now, so offloading him and his monstrous contract would reap serious rewards for the team in the future.

Speaking of contracts, if the team does decide to keep Price for the remainder of the 2014 season, then it will have to pay the remainder of his $14 million-per-year salary. In addition, because this is the final year of Price’s contract, and because Price has spent more than six years in the league, there will most likely be an arbitration hearing for the Rays and Price this offseason. While the Rays could present Price with a contract that fits his liking, he just as easily could refuse the Rays’ initial offer. If that happens, then the Rays and Price would hold an arbitration hearing, where the player (or his agent) and the team would have an hour to state their respective cases as to why the player deserves a larger or smaller contract.

Based on Price’s record and accomplishments this year, I would not be surprised if an arbitration panel decided to award Price with a deserved yearly salary of $18 million. At that point, the Rays would either have to pay their best player or release him, leaving the team devoid of its best pitcher for the start of next year. That is a nightmare scenario for the Rays, one they could avoid by dealing Price at the deadline.

So what’s in it for the St. Louis Cardinals? The Cardinals hold a 54-45 record and are presently second in the NL Central. The team has two solid pitchers in Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha, and an absolute beast in Adam Wainwright. However, a second ace in the team’s rotation would provide the Cards with a deadly four-man pitching staff, one that would provide the Cardinals with even more quality starts and take even more pressure off of its hitters. The Cardinals have a $111 million budget at their disposal, and with the right negotiation tactics, can create an offer that would be attractive to the Rays. Sending Kolten Wong and two of their best prospects to the Rays would give Tampa a solid hitter, a gifted 22-year old right fielder and a promising 22-year old pitcher. For the Rays, sending Price to the Cardinals may end their playoff hopes, but the move would offload Price’s contract and would allow Tampa Bay to reload its roster, keeping their window of postseason contention open for many more years.

Trade No. 2: San Diego Padres SP Ian Kennedy to Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Travis Snider, SS Jordy Mercer and a 2015 draft pick

It is certainly hard to be a Padres fan at the moment. While the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers dominate the NL West, the Padres lag behind in third place with a 44-56 record. Although the Padres own a better record than their NL West rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, the team will have to accept the fact that it will be a seller this deadline. It has already played the part by trading linchpins Chase Headley and Huston Street to the Yankees and Angels, respectively.

Yet fear not, Padres fans! Things are about to look up, as the trade deadline offers the perfect opportunity for the team to find quality hitters for the future. For a team that has underachieved this year, the Padres still own a very strong starting pitching rotation and bullpen, two aspects that have become hallmarks for this franchise over the years. Although the Padres are last in the league in batting average and runs scored, their ERA is fourth best in the majors, and the team is third in BAA (batting average allowed). The Padres have a myriad of good pitchers at their disposal, but because of their almost nonexistent offense, the team is in desperate need of quality bats to turn around its fortunes going forward. While Snider and Mercer may not be All-Star caliber hitters, they nevertheless can pack a punch to help this Padres side.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, unlike the Padres, are fighting for a spot in the postseason in the highly competitive NL Central. Although the Pirates are second in the division at the moment, the gap between first and third place in the NL Central is only three games. The Pirates are a solid hitting team, as they are 11th in runs scored and eighth in batting average. However, the team’s pitching is mediocre. The Pirates are 11th in ERA and 16th in BAA. One weakness in the Pirates’ pitching staff is the lack of good starting pitchers. Francisco Liriano, who enjoyed a fantastic year in 2013, has disappointed so far with his 2-7 record and his 4.18 ERA. Starting pitchers Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Edinson Volquez have all pitched well so far, but it takes a good five-man rotation to be a true playoff contender. If the Pirates add Kennedy, then Pittsburgh would have four strong pitchers at its disposal that can all pitch deep into games.

This deal makes the most sense for both short-term and long-term reasons. For the Padres, receiving Travis Snider and Jordy Mercer would not only give the team more depth in the outfield and infield, but would also help lessen the blow of losing suspended outfielder Cameron Maybin and injured shortstop Everth Cabrera. Even though the sale of Ian Kennedy would only give San Diego one true “ace” in its pitching staff, the emergence of pitchers Odrisamer Despaigne and Jesse Hahn has given the team a strong three-man rotation. The team can then use that 2015 draft pick as trade bait to sign a short-term pitcher for the rest of the season.

As for the Pirates, Kennedy will provide the team with an ace that is third in the NL in strikeouts. Travis Snider and Jordy Mercer have both played well for the Pittsburgh ball club, but once Pirates starters Clint Barmes and Starling Marte come back to the team from the disabled list, the team will have its entire starting lineup on the field and will not have to worry about the sale of these two bench players. It is a happy marriage for both teams if the trade goes through, and a trade that will improve each team as the season goes along.

*Stats current as of July 25

Contact Matt Niksa at mattniksa80 ‘at’ gmail.com.

  • Guest

    The first trade would work in theory, but with the Rays’ hot streak they probably will not trade Price. He will probably restructure his contract after this season, instead of heading for arbitration. The second trade makes less sense mainly because it does not really benefit the Padres at all. A pitcher like Kennedy probably should be traded for players that actually start, instead of two bench players, one a career .242 hitter and the other who has a dismal 1.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) above Clint Barmes, a player who has hit .229, .211 and .239 in his past three seasons. Overall, a well written article, and looking forward to Part II.

  • japester

    Just one thing why none of these trades will work. You can’t trade draft picks in baseball. Unless you’re talking about the competative balance draft picks? That still doesn’t matter because that list of teams can only be determined at the end of the season. Maybe you meant the picks from the 2014 draft? Nope, have to hold onto them for a year before you can trade them away. Well written article though, looking forward to part 2.

  • luckyfan

    A well written article and nicely layout all the teams options/trades. Looking forward reading the Part II.