Last week’s three takeaways looked at three trades that made sense for various contenders. This week, let’s focus on the team that’s held up what should be an active buyer’s market (Cincinnati) and determine what might make the most sense for their three major trade chips. Please note that none of these are to be considered exhaustive solutions, but just reasoning out some possible outcomes.
Landing Spots: Blue Jays, Dodgers, Twins, Astros, Orioles
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While the Twins and Orioles could both use a presence at the front of their rotations, neither team has shown much willingness to pay for a high-end starter. The Astros haven’t either, but like the Twins they haven’t been in a position to do so. That said, with the Angels a game in front of them, paying a little extra for someone who could win them the division would make it worthwhile. There’s a massive incentive for any team to get out of the one-game playoff and into a full series, if they can do so. The Blue Jays are in a similar spot as the Astros, sitting 4.5 back in their division and 4 games back in the wild card. Cueto probably couldn’t be their only move if they want to truly contend, but he’d cover most of that ground.
The Dodgers are struggling with the back end of their rotation, so it might make more sense for Mike Leake, when talking Reds’ starters. Still, we know they’ve expressed interest in Cole Hamels, and given that Cueto is merely a rental, the cost should be significantly cheaper. The Dodgers have less incentive in terms of vying for a playoff spot, and there’s a great chance they make it, but they have to feel that a rotation of Kershaw, Greinke, and Cueto would give them a great chance of making the World Series.
Verdict: The Astros probably make the most sense – and have enough depth in the minors to give the Reds usable pieces without emptying the system.
The Pirates actually make a ton of sense as a fit for Bruce, but the in-division nature of trading – plus their general need to keep payroll low makes this a tougher sell than it should be. The Mets were covered in last week’s column. The Angels might be receiving negative value out of Matt Joyce, but the issue is they have very little that they could give from their farm system, and they need just about every piece they’re using at the major league level. They might be a better fit for Marlon Byrd, should the Reds decide to part ways with him.
That leaves the Orioles and the Twins. The Twins are basically fighting regression at this point. Their pitching has overachieved, and while their lineup has been solidified by recent call-up Miguel Sano, they could still use a little thump. Bruce could remind Minnesotans of the good version of Josh Willingham, as he’s got legitimate 30-homer power and a solid eye at the plate. He’d be under control for 2016 too, should his option be exercised. As exciting as Oswaldo Arcia is long term, it’s fair to say that focusing on the present is a valid reason for either including him in a deal or leaving him in the minors in favor of a bat like Bruce. The Orioles gave 180 plate appearances to Delmon Young, and are trotting out David Lough at present. To say they could use an outfield upgrade is an understatement. While their lineup is plenty talented, and they could use a guy like Cueto more than anything, improvements don’t have to come at your weakest spots – they just have to be made. Locking in Bruce for this year and next could be worth it, even if the O’s had to deal one of their coveted, albeit injured, young arms.
Landing Spots: Blue Jays, Dodgers
I’m not gonna waste much time here as Chapman is likely to be prohibitively expensive and weirdly, there just aren’t a lot of contenders with problems at the back end of their bullpen. The Blue Jays could use both Chapman and the aforementioned Cueto, as Brett Cecil has been less than stellar in the closer role for Toronto. The Dodgers make some sense – they’ve got a huge Cuban connection at present and while Kenley Jansen is firmly entrenched at the back end, they could use an upgrade in front of him. A bullpen that had both Chapman and Jansen effectively shortens games to seven innings – something that might appeal to a Dodgers team that has pushed its starters too far in the past due to a shaky bullpen **cough**KershawAgainstTheCardinals**cough**.