The sight of leaves on the ground, jack-o-lanterns in the trash and frost on the windshield can mean only one thing – baseball’s hot stove league is finally upon us. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good trade rumor or two (or three, or four, or…..well, you get the picture)? So, in an effort to add some drama to our readers’ lives, we here at Infield Chatter will propose countless juicy trade scenarios this offseason. We figure we’ll start off with a doozy….
In his recent Sunday column for the Boston Globe, esteemed baseball writer Nick Cafardo suggested that the Detroit Tigers, anxious to cut a bloated payroll on the heels of a disastrous 74-88 season while filling some obvious holes, will shop slugging outfielder Magglio Ordonez. We think Cafardo’s on to something and have dreamt up a succulent three-way deal involving the Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays.
The Tigers' quest for a shortstop has been well-documented, as has the Brewers' need for a legitimate front-of-the-rotation starter (assuming both C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets leave this winter as free agents). In addition, the Rays, despite their magical 2008 campaign, desperately need a power bat – preferably one who can play right field -- to protect inexperienced cleanup hitter Evan Longoria. This leads us to the following proposal:
- The Tigers trade Ordonez and cash (say $6 million per year for three years) to the Rays;
- The Rays trade starter Andy Sonnanstine and minor league pitcher Jeremy Hellickson to the Brewers; and
- The Brewers trade shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Tigers.
How this trade affects Detroit:
As stated above, Detroit craves a shortstop and needs to cut payroll from $139 million, which was second to only to the Yankees in 2008. Though they would be transferring a total of $18 million to the Rays over the next three seasons, the Tigers would still be saving $33 million over that time (assuming Ordonez' 2009-10 options for $18 million p.a. kick in – a likely scenario given that Ordonez would probably have to be enticed to waive his no-trade clause). In Hardy, Detroit would be acquiring a sure-handed, cannon-armed shortstop whose park-adjusted OPS is more than .100 better than the league average in each of the last two seasons. The 26-year-old Hardy would also be a relatively inexpensive option since he’s still two year away from free agency.
How this trade affects Tampa Bay:
As we mentioned earlier, the Rays need some muscle to protect their young cleanup hitter, Evan Longoria (as we saw in the World Series, Carl Crawford and his career SLG of .435 just won’t cut it. The speedy Crawford is much better suited for the 1-or 2-hole). Although Ordonez would cost the Rays $9 million in 2009 and $12 million in 2010 and 2011 after Detroit’s subsidy, owner Stuart Sternberg should have no trouble affording this amount. It's important to realize that the Rays should receive a revenue bump in 2009 as 1st-time playoff teams commonly enjoy a spike in attendance one year after qualifying for the postseason. Ordonez would be well worth the money. A career .312 hitter who has driven in 346 runs the past three years playing half his games in the cavernous Comerica Park, Ordonez would be even a more devastating force following a move to the much cozier confines of Tropicana Field.
The Rays would indeed be giving up two quality arms in Sonnanstine and Hellickson; however, let's look at their pitching depth for a minute. They already have ultra-talented twenty-somethings Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson established at the big league level and David Price, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and rehabbing Jacob McGee closing in quickly. In other words, as solid as Sonnanstine is, he likely won’t be missed.
How this trade affects Milwaukee:
In Sonnanstine, the Brewers would be acquiring a young, innings-eating right-hander who enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2008 with a stingy WHIP of 1.29 and equally impressive K:BB ratio of nearly 3.40. Though Sonnanstine will never be mistaken for proven aces Sheets and Sabathia, he would slide nicely into the middle of a revamped Milwaukee rotation that features young guns Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra in front of him. Even more importantly, Sonnanstine is cheap. He’s not arbitration-eligible until after 2010, which means the Brewers would still have the financial wherewithal to land a Jake Peavy, Derek Lowe, or other more expensive frontline starter who could ease the burden on the youngsters.
Hellickson is a top-flight prospect. Still just 21, the Iowa native split 2008 between Single A and Double A and went 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 152 innings. His secondary numbers were even more impressive – a WHIP of 1.10 and otherworldly K:BB ratio of 8.00. Hellickson would instantly become Milwaukee’s top pitching prospect and could join the starting rotation as early as the second half 2009.
The emergence of Alcides Escobar has made Hardy expendable. The 21-year-old Venezuelan is an acrobat in the field and had a breakout 2008 at the plate hitting .328/.363/.434 with 34 steals in Double A.