Tulowitzki, Dodger vets top trade talk

In case you missed it, I wrote earlier that right-hander Ervin Santana is seeking $100 million and righty Ricky Nolasco $80 million on the free-agent market.

Need we say more about why trades will be a major topic of discussion at next week’s general managers’ meetings?

By now, you know about the Reds’ eagerness to dump second baseman Brandon Phillips. The likelihood of the Rays moving left-hander David Price. The possibility of the Tigers dealing righty Max Scherzer. The need for the Rangers to move a middle infielder.

And that’s not all of it, not even close.

I’ve got two more ideas to bring you today — one that still qualifies as a longshot, another that is a more realistic notion.

The longshot would be the Rockies trading shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Cardinals.

The more realistic notion would be the Dodgers moving one of their expensive veteran outfielders.

That possibility, in fact, already is in the works; the Dodgers, according to major-league sources, are listening on Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, telling prospective suitors, “If you’re interested in one of them, make us an offer.”

But let’s start with Tulo, who along with teammate Carlos Gonzalez is quite unavailable, according to Rockies owner Dick Monfort.

“The plan is to keep them. Next year, yes. And my plan is to always keep them,” Monfort told the Denver Post. “Is that the smartest thing in the world to do? I don’t know. But for our fans, I think it’s the best thing to do.”

Actually, the idea of keeping Tulowitzki and Gonzalez together is not at all dumb, no matter how much Cardinals fans drool over Tulo and Mets fans slobber over CarGo.

Tulowitzki is 29, Gonzalez 28. Third baseman Nolan Arenado is 24, as is catcher Wilin Rosario, who could move to the outfield if the Rockies sign free agent Carlos Ruiz. Those are four stars or future stars in their prime or pre-prime. Outfielder Corey Dickson, 24, could become a fifth. And first baseman Michael Cuddyer, 34, just won the National League batting title.

The Rockies can afford both Tulo and CarGo; if anything, their contracts grow more reasonable by the day. Tulo will average $18.6 million over the next seven years, CarGo $15.9 million over the next four. Keep ’em healthy, surround ’em with better pitching and who knows? The team might actually contend.

OK, but there is another side. An appealing other side. A side that would enable the Rockies to turn one player into four or five, add additional talent with their savings and build a better, more complete team.

Here is my suggestion: Tulo to the Cardinals.

Tulo to the Cardinals for – deep breath now – first baseman Allen Craig, right-handers Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal and a fourth, lesser prospect, with the Rockies paying a chunk of Tulowitzki’s remaining $130 million.

Oh, I can hear Cardinals fans now: “Not Allen Craig! We can’t give up Allen Craig! And Miller and Rosenthal in the same deal? Never!”

Well, sorry, this deal isn’t getting done with Pete Kozma as the centerpiece. Matt Adams would replace Craig at first. Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and the rest of the 95-mph gang still would be intact. And remember, my suggestion is just one possibility; Craig, Miller and Rosenthal might indeed be too steep.

Then again, if the Cardinals made an offer in that range and were willing to pay the bulk of Tulowitzki’s contract, wouldn’t the Rockies at least listen?

Of course they would, no matter what Dick Monfort says. And rest assured, the Cardinals will inquire about Tulowitzki at the GM meetings, if they haven’t already.

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, without referring to Tulo specifically, said, “We’re open for business. Our job is to mind all matters. What we hear privately vs. what is said publicly can be two different things.”

Yes, Tulo would be a risky pickup — he has appeared in more than 126 games in only one of the past four seasons. But some of his injuries were just bad luck; a pitch fractured his left wrist in 2010, and he fractured a rib diving for a ball last season. Yet even then, he produced 5.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to Fangraphs.com — tied for 16th in the majors in only 126 games.

For comparison’s sake, the three Dodgers outfielders on the trade market combined for a 5.4 WAR (Crawford 2.9, Ethier 2.9, Kemp -0.4) while earning a combined $53.5 million. Kemp, who appeared in only 73 games, recently underwent surgery on his left ankle. His value obviously is down. But some rival officials say the Dodgers are more eager to move him than Ethier or Crawford.

Not that any of it will be easy.

Kemp is owed $128 million over the next six years, Crawford $81.5 million over the next four, Ethier $69 million over the next four.

“None of those contracts can be moved without (the Dodgers) taking on salary,” one rival exec announced.

Which player is the most desirable?

“None,” the exec said.

Crawford enjoyed something of a resurgence last season, but his legs could start to be an issue now that he is 32; he missed more than a month with a strained left hamstring last season.

Ethier, meanwhile, had a strong second half and impressed with his transition to center field. But he is barely playable against left-handers, and in two of the past three seasons he has hit 12 or fewer homers.

Yasiel Puig, who turns 23 on Dec. 7, would yield the biggest return of any Dodgers outfielder, but the chances of the team moving him are about the same as the chances of the Angels moving Mike Trout. No, one of the big-money guys has to go, particularly with top prospect Joc Pederson a year or so away from the majors.

Clearing a contract would create additional flexibility as the Dodgers seeks to sign left-hander Clayton Kershaw and infielder Hanley Ramirez to contract extensions. The team’s more immediate concern, though, is filling needs. A starting pitcher, infielder, setup man and lefty reliever all are on the L.A. wish list.

General manager Ned Colletti will need to be creative, but it’s not as if he’s embarking upon mission impossible. Think the Mariners wouldn’t love to get Kemp? Think the Mets couldn’t find a spot for Ethier? Heck, those are just two examples. It’s not as if the free-agent market is bursting with superior options.

You heard it here first: The Hot Stove will soon be a blast furnace. Get ready for big signings, big trades, the usual offseason nuttiness. If Santana wants $100 million and Nolasco $80 million, the fun is only beginning.