As the hot stove begins to heat up, rumors continue to swirl about the Los Angeles Angels and the Baltimore Orioles trading off pieces of their young cores — namely Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters, respectively. In this age of baseball, when so many teams are looking to keep young talent by locking them up early, these two teams are rumored to be shopping young talented stars.
Why are they on the block?
For starters, both Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters are about to get a lot more expensive as they are both arbitration eligible in 2014. Wieters, for example, is projected to receive $7.9 million, courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. This is up from the $5.5 million he made in 2013, which was up from the $500,000 he made in 2012. Translation, he is getting expensive and fast. Trumbo, on the other hand, is set to make about $4.7 million, which is up from the $540,000 he made in 2012, a downright steal for the power production he offers. If these players don’t sign extensions, those salaries will jump even more in 2015, meaning their affordability windows are closing rapidly.
Secondly, both teams have issues they can address by dealing these players. It has been stated Wieters is going to seek Joe Mauer-type money, which Baltimore may not want to dish out for a catcher who has caught more than 125 games a season every year since 2010. Granted he’s young, but still, that is a lot of innings behind the plate for a guy who’s 6′-5″. In a post-steroid era, without a switch to 1B or DH, one has to be concerned with a Mauer-type contract and the prospect of Wieters breaking down. Even if he did switch to 1B or DH, his offensive production doesn’t justify Mauer-type money.
The Orioles can use that money to lock up Chris Davis and Manny Machado long term while targeting some free-agent pitchers. They can deal him to a team and net a corner outfielder and some pitching. The Angels, on the other hand, with the insane contracts they’ve given to players the past two years, still have to find a way to lock up Mike Trout long term. And the way that started off last year, I cannot imagine a hometown discount in their future. That leaves Trumbo as potentially the odd-man out since Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson and eventually Trout, will be mowing through a large chunk of payroll. A trade of Trumbo now may be able to net them some young pitching, which they desperately need.
For Baltimore, trading Wieters could set them up with a corner outfielder and some pitching, but it also will leave them scrambling at catcher. As of now, if Wieters is traded, that leaves Steve Clevenger as Baltimore’s starting catcher. They could venture out into free agency and sign someone like A.J. Pierzynski, but right now, they have a dependable catcher who stabilizes a second-tier pitching staff and who provides decent pop for the position.
While Wieters regressed a little this past season in terms of OBP and average, he still managed to hit 22 home runs and drive in 79 runs. He has hit more than 20 home runs the past three seasons while managing to navigate a questionable starting pitching staff. If Wieters is traded, you’re also trading away a young, homegrown player. The fans in Baltimore have been waiting so long for the team to be good again, what type of message would it send if they traded a homegrown player just as a nucleus is being built? Some fans who understand they would be building for future success would get it; most, I anticipate, wouldn’t.
For the Angels, the risk is obvious if Trumbo is traded. You would be trading a player who has hit 95 home runs since 2011 and who will be 28 in January. If Pujols continues to regress, they could move him to DH and Trumbo could easily switch to 1B, which would reduce the everyday wear and tear of playing the field. If Trumbo is traded, they do not have any real backup at a position that generally requires some pop. Trumbo’s power potential alone makes it a risk if he is traded. If he continues to mature as a hitter, a 40-45 home run season isn’t out of the question.
It would be easy to list deals that would be one-sided but would never happen. However, the point is to think about trades teams actually would make. While all of these deals would be long shots, they are deals I believe the teams involved would at least explore.
Wieters to the Dodgers: Naturally, the Dodgers would make an appearance on this list, right? However, they are in full win-now mode and regardless of what they say about A.J. Ellis, could always upgrade that position. My guess is talks would have to start with Zach Lee or Joc Pederson for Baltimore to even consider it. But who knows, the Dodgers made it clear this past season they are here to make noise.
Wieters to the Nationals: Would Baltimore trade a homegrown player to a crosstown rival? Maybe if the Nats included some of their incredibly young and talented major-league and borderline major-league ready pitching. I highly doubt this would even get off of the idea phase, especially since the Nats seem content with their current options, but it is still intriguing to think about it.
Wieters to the Rangers: Talk about win-now mode. After dealing for Prince Fielder, the Rangers could go for it. Maybe they package some of their young pitching and Jurickson Profar for Wieters and then go hard after Robinson Cano. Probably not, but not as crazy as it might sound.
Wieters to the Angels for Trumbo: I like the idea of the Angels shipping Trumbo to the Orioles for Wieters, but realistically, this never happens. The Angels would need pitching in return, pitching Baltimore just doesn’t have. But could you imagine Trumbo playing 82 games at Camden Yards?
Trumbo to the Rays: Here is a deal that could make sense for both teams. The Rays, always in need of offense, have the young pitching to get this done. If they wanted to get really crazy, they could even start throwing David Price into these discussions to see how much they could get from the Angels. Could you imagine a Longoria-Trumbo-Myers middle of the order?
Trumbo to the Rangers: I highly doubt they would trade him to a division rival, but this could actually make sense depending on how much the Rangers are willing to give up. This is another park I would love to see Trumbo hit in 82 games out of the year.
Trumbo to the Red Sox: If the Red Sox lose out on Mike Napoli, I could see them coming hard after Trumbo. And thanks to the Dodgers’ bailout of 2012, they actually have the minor-league pieces to get this done. This is beginning to sound repetitive, but Trumbo hitting at Fenway would be a fun sight to see, too.
Trumbo to the Padres: This is a deal that could get the Padres what they have been seeking desperately for years: power. The Padres also have some young pitchers who are about ready for the majors, so this may not be as far-fetched as some might initially think. It would also mean Trumbo would get to stay at home in Southern California.
I don’t see the Angels trading Mark Trumbo, even if they should to restock the young pitching. The only way I see a Trumbo trade is if the Rays seriously start talking a deal that centers on Price. I don’t think the Angels want to trade him, either. I think they love the idea of a Trout and Trumbo led homegrown core in the future. You would have to pull a major haul to justify getting rid of a guy who’s hit 95 home runs the past three seasons and isn’t even 28 yet.
Wieters, on the other hand, I could see being dealt. The minute you start floating the words “Mauer money” around, you place a target on your back. While I think some team would have to come in and blow them away, I still see this more likely to happen than a Trumbo deal.
One thing is for sure: If a team decides to step up and get serious about one of these two, the hot stove will really start to heat up.