By: Rossy Pasternak
The MLB Winter Meetings are upon us, which means all hell is about to break loose. We’ve already seen the Blue Jays exit the Encarnacion market with their signing of Steve Pearce, and rumours have been running rampant for the past 24 hours. There were two rumours that instantly jumped to my attention: Chris Sale to the Nationals, and the Nationals preparing to move on from Harper due to his insane contract demands.
Well, me being the armchair GM type that I am, let my imagination go wild after seeing those rumours. “Of course! It all makes sense now!” I said to myself, “Harper is going to the Yankees, Sale to the Nats’, and the White Sox will get prospects from both”. I said this to my brother earlier today, which led to a pretty engaging debate over text.
Since exam period is upcoming, I of course found a way to procrastinate even more than usual, and put together a three way trade that makes just too much sense (according to rumours) not to happen.
Chicago White Sox:
Give up: LHP Chris Sale, OF Melky Cabrera
Acquire: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (WAS), SS Jorge Mateo (NYY), LHP Justus Sheffield (NYY), and OF Aaron Judge (NYY)
On the White Sox’ front, this deal is too enticing not to at least give a hard look at. They would be receiving the #18 (Mateo), #22 (Judge), #37 (Lopez), and #78 (Sheffield) prospects in the MLB. While this package is light on elite level pitching prospects both Lopez and Sheffield project as reliable mid-rotation starters, and will be ready to make an impact at the MLB level fairly soon. This trade would signal the beginning of a selling spree that would include names like Abreu and Frazier as well.
Mateo is a speed demon with good on-base ability, and some unexpected pop from his 6’0, 190 pound frame. He works all areas of the field, spraying the ball all over. Mateo projects as a plus leadoff hitter, but needs to work on his defense before making it to pro-ball. He will likely be ready around the middle of 2017, or the beginning of the 2018 season.
Judge is the big name in this package, and rightly so considering his 6’7, 275 pound body. Judge didn’t hit particularly well in his MLB debut, with a .179 average and just 4 home runs in 84 plate appearances, but he figures to get better with more at-bats. Judge is really agile and quick despite his large frame, allowing him to cover ground in the outfield. He also has a rocket of a right arm, which figures to aid him in playing right field full time. Judge is going to be an imposing presence in the middle of the lineup for years to come.
Lopez and Sheffield are a little less known, although both offer a lot to the White Sox if they go through with a rebuild. Lopez had a taste of the MLB last season and looked good in his 6 starts. Sheffield is a deceptive lefty that is projected to be a #3 starter at least. He is the furthest away from the MLB out of these prospects, but is an attractive piece nonetheless.
As for what the White Sox are giving up, Chris Sale and Melky Cabrera are not just your typical trade-bait. Sale is one of the games top pitchers and is no doubt the best pitcher on the market right now. With statistics that would be Cy Young worthy if not for the pathetic performance of the White Sox over his career, the White Sox see now as the best time to trade him. His value is arguably at its highest, and the deal outlined above would bring in a big return package. With a bargain contract and under control for a few more years, Sale is the also the biggest bargain on the block. It would take a lot to get him, and this deal gets it done in my opinion.
Cabrera is more of a throw-in at this point, someone to be a stop-gap for top Nationals prospect Victor Robles in right field. Melky is a decent defender who hits for average, and is usually a plus player.
New York Yankees:
Give up: SS Jorge Mateo, OF Aaron Judge, LHP Justus Sheffield
Acquire: OF Bryce Harper
The Yankees make the most sense for a Harper landing spot, as he has shown his affection for the city and franchise. Also, Harper reportedly has been demanding a contract around 10 years, $400M, which is only considered ‘affordable’ by a team in as ludicrous a market as the Yankees are.
Although Mateo is among the Yankees best prospects, he plays the same position as current Yankee shortstop Didi Gregarious and fellow top prospect Glyber Torres, making him expendable.
Judge plays the same position as Harper, which would mean he as well would be expendable. Judge definitely will be the biggest loss from this deal, but with the yard sale the Yankees had this past summer, they can afford to trade a couple top prospects.
Harper is going to be a perennial MVP candidate, and I would personally love seeing he and Mike Trout battle for the award year after year in the AL. Harper could also preserve his body better in the AL, taking occasional stints at the DH position instead of playing the field every single game.
The Yankees may be reluctant to give up so many good prospects because of the fact that Harper is a free agent after the 2018 season, and as a Scott Boras client, is unlikely to sign an extension before fielding offers in free agency. However, it is not unheard of for a Boras client to do that, and with Harper’s reported love for New York and the Yankee organization, an extension would be possible in this situation.
Gives up: OF Bryce Harper
Acquires: LHP Chris Sale, OF Melky Cabrera
Just like in basketball with the Warriors, everyone in the NL is configuring their team to get by the Chicago Cubs, who will be a staple in the pennant race for the next decade it seems. Harper reportedly has outrageous contract demands, and the Nationals seem ready to move on. Trading Harper now would result in the most value on a return, as he still has two seasons to play out left on his existing deal. If the Nationals hold on to him for too long, the value would decrease because the team who acquires him could: A) wait for him to be a free agent and try signing him, or B) not want to give up star prospects for one year of Bryce Harper.
A return of Chris Sale, a controllable pitcher on a cheap deal, as well as Melky who would be a stop-gap option in right field – moving Trea Turner to centre – until Robles is ready, is a valuable return. The Nationals could also ask for a prospect in this deal, but they realize their window to win is now. With an aging core of Jason Werth, Max Scherzer, Steven Strasburg and Harper, the Nationals know that in a few years, they will have expensive players not producing up to their contracts, and possibly no Harper. This deal will allow them to transition seamlessly to the next generation of Nationals’ stars, while keeping the window open. Add to the fact that they will have increased financial flexibility in the next 2-4 years because of the bargain Sale contract, and this deal is a huge win on the Nationals side. A 1-2-3 of Scherzer, Strasburg and Sale wouldn’t be all that bad either – probably better than the Phillies when they had Halladay, Lee and Hamels.
Overall, this deal helps all three teams involved. The Yankees get to leverage their deep pockets and even deeper (somehow this is possible) prospect pool to get the star they desire. The White Sox start their rebuild and acquire four very, very good prospects to start building around. The Nationals get a cheap, insanely good lefty starter, and a solid contributor in the outfield.
This trade makes too much sense not to at least be discussed among GMs.
Have any other trade ideas for the Winter Meetings? Any opinions on who should go where? Don’t be afraid to comment in the comment section! And don’t forget, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!