The 3 Trades That Have To Happen

By Scott Benzing
Jul. 31, 2017

The non-waiver trade deadline is among us. This means that until 4:00 PM on July 31st, baseball fans will propose the dumbest trade ideas that "have to happen". Well, frankly, that sounds like fun. So here are my 3 trades that "have to happen"...

NOTE: None of these players have been dealt as of 10:00 on July 30. This is all speculation. The only real news I have is that the Cubs are aggressively talking to the Tigers about RP Justin Wilson and that the Indians have talked to the Rangers about SP Yu Darvish.

1. SP Sonny Gray and 1B Yonder Alonso to the New York Yankees for SS Jorge Mateo, RHP Nolan Martinez, OF Billy McKinney and a player to be named later:

It's no secret that Sonny Gray is available, the Athletics are currently shopping him and it's quite possible that he is dealt by the time that you are reading this. Last thing I've heard is that the talks have stalled. The way that this deal happens is that another team, such as the Dodgers, gets active in talks for Gray. This will cause the Yankees into full panic mode, completing the deal.

If the Yankees want to make the playoffs in 2017 then this is their shot. They need a starter to go to the top of the rotation and be able to take the ball every 5 days, giving them a chance to win. That's where Sonny Gray comes in. Gray is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA over 97 IP. The big change from last year for Gray is that he has had better command of all pitches. He currently has a 7.7 K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) and a 3.13 K/W (strikeouts per walk allowed). They also will need a better 1B than Chase Headley. Oakland's All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso is a good fit for the Yankees because he is a good power bat (slugging .523 with 21 homers) that can protect Aaron Judge in the lineup. In addition to giving Judge more quality at bats, Alonso's power from the left side should play very well in Yankee Stadium.

The Athletics currently have the prized starter on the market in Gray, and should only take high offers. They would be getting SS prospect Jorge Mateo (#8 Yankees prospect), Nolan Martinez (#21), and Billy McKinney (#28). Mateo is a speedy shortstop with a solid bat and good glove. With Franklin Barreto coming up, I doubt Mateo gets many looks as a SS. Most scouts view him as a future center fielder or second baseman. Nolan Martinez is a young pitcher with very high potential. He has a good fastball that hovers in the 88-93 MPH range, but very minimal off speed pitches. His curveball shows promise but he would need a changeup and/or a slider to be anything more than your standard batting practice pitcher. Billy McKinney is viewed in the Yankees system as being a very solid and reliable bat. His glove and arm is very "flukey" with average speed, meaning he will likely end up being hidden in left field. He was drafted by the A's, only to be traded for SP Jeff Samardzija in 2014. I do believe he would be welcomed back to the Bay Area with open arms.

2. SP Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals for RHP Pedro Fernandez and OF Anderson Miller:

The Royals are still looking for starting pitching and as cheap as they can get it. Assuming they are not interested in Ubaldo Jimenez, they will have to settle for Ervin Santana. With the Dodgers and Yankees distracted by Gray and Darvish, Santana gets overlooked. If available he is the best cost effective starter out there.

Santana is 11-7 with a 3.37 ERA with Minnesota this year, his second best ERA since 2013 when he was in Kansas City. In 2013, Santana seemed comfortable throwing to 4x Gold Glove catcher Salvador Perez. This battery could be what gets KC over the hump and into the playoffs. Santana would slot in behind Danny Duffy and Jason Vargas, pushing either veteran Jason Hammel or newly-acquired Trevor Cahill to the bullpen.

Minnesota would be getting two minor league pieces that are by no means top prospects, but could turn out to contribute in the majors with enough guidance and seasoning. Fernandez is a reliever who excelled in AA Arkansas, but is struggling to adapt to the AAA level. The talent is there but he is still a couple of years out from being a major league arm. He could develop into a good closer if given the opportunity, although that process would push him back to AA if his AAA performance doesn't do that for him. The other part of the deal, Anderson Miller is the Royals 26th ranked prospect. He is a quick defensive outfielder with an amazing arm and possesses all of the tools it takes to be a great hitter, he just hasn't put it all together yet. The Twins could also try and convert him into a pitcher. He pitched at Western Kentucky, with a fastball touching 90, but preferred to play a position. If they were to do this, he would likely not see the majors until he is about 31 or 32 (he is 24 now), potentially making that experiment pointless. These are two prospects that can reach high ceilings, but they are currently in a sleeping bag on the floor.

3. CP Zach Britton for anybody:

Orioles closer Zach Britton is coming off the best season that a reliever has ever had, posting a 0.54 ERA and going a perfect 47/47 in converting saves. While there are other lefty relievers on the market like Brad Hand of the Padres and Justin Wilson of the Tigers, neither are as dominating as Britton. The market is not as deep as some might have speculated. This is due in part to health concerns about him and the fact most contenders would not be able to give up what the Orioles should demand. However, there are three contending teams that could be looking to add to their bullpens where a trade involving Britton is a possibility. I excluded the Cubs from this list because they are in talks and finalizing a deal to get Justin Wilson.

The Washington Nationals are already making progress towards improving their bullpen, adding Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Athletics, but they still need an elite and consistent closer if they are going to do anything in October. They are probably the least likeliest to get Britton due to the MASN dispute that has created friction between the front offices of these teams. This relationship is like if your younger brother were to take the candy your mom gave you, and then your mom grounded you. It's that, but with millions of dollars at stake. Bottom line is they flat out don't like each other and the Orioles probably won't help out the Nats anytime soon, although stranger things have happened.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are an interesting fit. They already have top closer Kenley Jansen, but they still are pursuing Britton. They seem to view this as their year to go for it and Britton would only give reigning NL Manager of the Year Dave Roberts one more weapon to use out of an already solid bullpen. Jansen and Britton shorten games. Nobody scores off of them, when they come in the game is over. By acquiring Britton, the Dodgers would only have to get through 7 innings of baseball until that duo comes in. That is a very scary thought.

The Houston Astros are running away with the American League this year, and have "checked in" on Britton's availability. Houston has a very deep bullpen with the likes of Chris Devenski, Luke Gregorson and Ken Giles. However, the only southpaws that the Astros have in the bullpen are Tony Sipp and Reymin Guduan. Britton is best at closer but I don't see Astros manager AJ Hinch moving Giles out of that role, making Britton an Andrew Miller-esque asset to them. The Astros are better off pursuing Hand or Wilson instead.

The Dodgers are probably the best fit for him, but the question remains will they pay the price for Britton or go after Brad Hand? A possible return is OF prospect Alex Verdugo or IF prospect Willie Calhoun as a centerpiece. I could also see Yadier Alvarez going to Baltimore along with lesser prospects.