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Five AL Trades That Need to Happen

Yesterday, Dan Szymborski gave you five National League trades [1] that should go down, hoarding intriguing talents like Justin Upton and Cole Hamels in the process. But, just because he’s already kept those two in the NL doesn’t mean that the AL contenders should stand pat at the deadline — there are five moves in the AL that need to happen too.

Trade No. 1: Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez, starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, and second baseman Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for third baseman Nick Castellanos, starting pitcher Jacob Turner, and outfielder Delmon Young.

The Tigers can’t afford to let prime seasons from Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder go to waste, and have already bet big on 2012, so they shouldn’t stop short now. The surrounding cast around The Big Three needs serious improvement, and the Marlins could offer significant help at several positions in one fell swoop.

Ramirez hasn’t settled in well at third base and could probably use a change of scenery at this point, and the Tigers might be a good place for him to start over. Of course, with Miguel Cabrera at third, he’d have to undergo another positional switch, but the Tigers could get creative in an effort to get him on board – offer him a chance to move back to shortstop in 2013 if he’s willing to move to the outfield for the rest of this season. Ramirez was outspoken about wanting to remain at shortstop, and the organization could decline Jhonny Peralta’s team option for next season in order to give Ramirez another shot at his preferred position. In order to get that shot, he’d just have to acquiesce to an outfield experiment that may be the best use of his physical skills anyway.

A fast runner with mediocre instincts, he’s long been projected by scouts as an outfielder, and the Tigers could certainly use a replacement for the inept Delmon Young (who the Marlins are forced to take back simply so Jim Leyland wouldn’t play him anymore). Ramirez would give the team another legitimate offensive weapon, and if his transition to the outfield went quickly — the team could start him off at DH while he learns the position in warm-ups — he has the physical skills to also be a vast improvement with the glove as well.

Sanchez is an underrated hurler who would fit in well behind Verlander, but is headed for a big payday in free agency, and might be too pricey for the Marlins this off-season. Including him in the deal in order to get both Castellanos and Turner is better than letting him walk for draft picks over the winter.

Infante might look like the throw-in, but given the team’s awful production from second base (.198/.277/.274) this season, just getting a league average player is a dramatic upgrade. The price for these two upgrades may seem steep, but if the deal breathes new life into Ramirez, he could the difference between the team sitting at home or throwing a parade in October. For the Marlins, they would finally have a real third baseman of the future, an interesting young pitcher, and a chance to move on from the Hanley Ramirez era.

Trade No 2: Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Zack Greinke to the Texas Rangers for outfielder Leonys Martin, starting pitcher Neil Ramirez, and second baseman Rougned Odor.

The Rangers rotation consists of many quality pitchers, but there’s no one that you could point to as the guy you want to give the ball to in Game One of a playoff series. The Rangers might be World Series favorites even without Greinke, but adding a true frontline starter would give them their best chance to avoid being the Buffalo Bills of Major League Baseball.

Greinke has experience both in the AL and in hitter friendly ballparks, and he’s had success at avoiding home runs throughout his career, a key attribute for pitching well in Texas. His 2.80 xFIP is second in the Majors (behind only Stephen Strasburg), and with the Rangers quality defense behind him, he could very well take a step forward even while switching to a tougher environment. In a market full of arms that just duplicate what Texas already has, Greinke is one of the true difference makers.

Given the changes in the CBA that eliminate draft pick compensation for midseason acquisitions, giving up three quality prospects for a rental might seem like a steep price, but the Rangers are better off paying in quantity rather than quality. This deal would allow them to keep coveted shortstop Jurickson Profar and third baseman Mike Olt, and while they may regret moving Odor in a few years, they have the depth to live with the losses of Martin and Ramirez in the short term.

For the Brewers, they get a guy who should be able to take over in center field right away, replacing the platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan that has been nothing short of a disaster in 2012. Ramirez is an inconsistent arm who recently got demoted from Triple-A back to Double-A, but has shown signs of life in four starts since the move and still has premium stuff. And Odor may be the real prize of the group, though the Brewers would have to wait a few years for the 18-year-old to live up to reach Milwaukee. Still, this package would be too much for the Brewers to turn down, and the Rangers can afford to part with three young players in order to try and bring home a ring.

Trade No 3: Chicago Cubs trade starting pitcher Ryan Dempster for shortstop/second baseman Jean Segura.

While the Dodgers have been heavily connected to Dempster, it’s the other Los Angeles franchise who should swoop in and add him to their rotation. With Dan Haren and Ervin Santana struggling, the Angels are in need of another reliable starter, and Dempster is the best fit for them on the market. He’d slide in perfectly as another strike thrower who misses bats, and he should be able to take advantage of Anaheim’s friendliness towards right-handed pitchers.

Segura is a middle infield prospect who was aced out of a future in Anaheim when the team gave contract extensions to both Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick, so his role in the organization is now trade chip. He got off to a slow start in Double-A but has heated up as of late, and would offer the Cubs a potential Starlin Castro replacement or a guy who could offer a bit more at the plate than Darwin Barney.

Trade No 4: Seattle Mariners trade starting pitcher Kevin Millwood and catcher Miguel Olivo to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Tyler Flowers.

The White Sox don’t have the prospects to make a huge splash at the deadline, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to improve the roster in order to hold off the Tigers and Indians. Picking up veterans like Millwood and Olivo might not grab headlines, but could be enough to keep them in the race.

Millwood’s quietly pitching well for the Mariners, posting his usual 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio with some ground balls, and before you point out that Safeco Field is a pitcher’s haven, he was effective down the stretch for Colorado last year as well. With John Danks and Gavin Floyd on the DL, the team could use an innings sponge who can keep the team in games, and that’s Millwood’s specialty at this point in his career.

Olivo would be making a return visit to Chicago, but instead of flopping as the catcher of the future, he could serve as the perfect platoon caddy for A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski is hitting okay against lefties in 67 trips to the plate this year, but he’s historically got a large platoon split and the team could use an alternate option against southpaws in the second half. However, Olivo wouldn’t have to play against all LHPs to be worth acquiring — he also has a very strong throwing arm, another big weakness for the White Sox starting catcher. Olivo could be used situationally against teams who can run, or late in games to prevent a stolen base, and would represent an upgrade in a limited role over Flowers, who has been atrocious for the White Sox.

The Mariners just need offense, and Flowers has flashed some power in the minors. He might not be any kind of savior, but as a 26-year-old, he’s more in line with the type of player that Seattle needs to be looking at in the second half than either Millwood or Olivo.

Trade No 5: Philadelphia Phillies trade outfielder Juan Pierre to the New York Yankees for relief pitcher Kevin Whelan.

With Brett Gardner’s injury problems lingering, the Yankees could use some depth in left field, and what better way to replace Gardner than with another player with similar physical skills. Pierre is nowhere near Gardner as a defender, but he’s a high-contact speed guy who can be effective in a strict platoon — he’s hitting .345/.385/.427 against RHPs and .171/.190/.171 against LHPs. Thankfully, with Andruw Jones around, a strict platoon would be easy to pull off, allowing Raul Ibanez to move back to designated hitter.

Pierre would also give the team a pinch-running option on days he doesn’t start, and gives Joe Girardi a bit more flexibility on the bench. As a useful role player, he’s worth giving up on the hopes that Whelan ever figures out where the strike zone is, and let the Phillies bet on his all walks-and-strikeouts approach to pitching.