Suggesting Some March Trades

With a week to go before Opening Day, several contenders still have glaring weaknesses that can and should be addressed via trade. Today, let’s look at a few deals that should get done before the season gets underway.

Chicago Cubs trade RHP Jeff Samardzija to the Arizona Diamondbacks for SS Didi Gregorius, RHP Randall Delgado, and RHP David Hernandez.

The D’Backs spent the entire winter looking for an ace before settling for Bronson Arroyo as their primary pitching upgrade, but the loss of Patrick Corbin once again has Kevin Towers looking for an impact starting pitcher. No available pitcher would make a bigger impact on Arizona’s rotation than Samardzija, and this is the kind of deal that could help both teams.

The D’Backs would get a legitimate frontline guy, the kind of arm that they could throw in a play-in game should they qualify for one of the NL’s two wild card spots. Samardzija’s 4.34 ERA in 2013 is not at all indicative of his talent, and you should expect a performance closer to his 3.45 xFIP instead. He’s the kind of arm that the D’Backs have coveted all winter, and with Gregorius seemingly out of a job in Arizona, this trade would upgrade the D’Backs rotation without taking anyone out of their starting line-up.

For the Cubs, this trade would just be about extracting value from a seller’s market. While they might not have a pressing need for a shortstop, Gregorius could slide over to second base for a year while the Cubs let him prove that he can hit big league pitching well enough to be another team’s everyday shortstop. With a solid offensive performance, the Cubs could shop him as a legitimate young SS either at the trade deadline or next winter, and likely get more in return than they will trying to trade an impending free agent in Samardzija. In addition to picking up an asset with the ability to increase his own value, they’d also collect value in Delgado and Hernandez, and likely come out ahead over trying to deal Samardzija at the deadline.

Chicago Cubs trade OF Nate Schierholtz and 2B/SS Darwin Barney to the Tigers for 2B Devon Travis.

The acquisition of Gregorius makes Barney expandable, and the Cubs could then create a package deal that would solve two of the Tigers more pressing issues. Schierholtz would slide into the role that was to be filled by Andy Dirks, forming another solid platoon with Rajai Davis in left field, while Barney could slide into the Tigers open shortstop position and provide defensive stability and roughly as much offense as the team could have expected from Jose Iglesias.

While Barney has played second base almost exclusively in Chicago, his defensive ratings suggest that he could hold his own at shortstop, at least in the short term. With Iglesias expected back in 2015, the Tigers don’t need a long term answer or a multi-year commitment, and Barney could be a solid one year replacement who could also be a quality utility player for 2015. The low cost of acquisition — Travis hit well in A-ball last year, but as a diminutive second baseman, his upside is limited and he has no place to play in Detroit — makes this the kind of move Dave Dombrowski should pursue.

For the Cubs, Travis’ potential offensive value is worth betting on, and neither Schierholtz nor Barney are part of the next good team in Wrigley. Turning a couple of solid role players into a prospect with some offensive potential is the kind of move that the Cubs should be aggressive in making.

New York Mets trade 1B Ike Davis to the Houston Astros for LHP Dallas Keuchel.

It feels like the Mets have been shopping Ike Davis since the Carter administration, so let’s go ahead and just end the interminable wait and ship Davis to a team that could use him. The Astros first base competition includes a few names that sound like they were made up in Witness Protection and Davis could potentially be their best hitter, even if that is damning with faint praise. The Astros are in a position to bet on Davis’ upside, and they certainly don’t have any better alternatives.

Keuchel isn’t anything particularly special, as a soft-tossing lefty with minimal potential, but he’s also not Daisuke Matsuzaka. Even as a marginal back-end starter, he’ll at least make Mets games far more watchable, as he’s averaged a full three seconds less between pitches than Dice-K. Literally swapping out Matsuzaka for Keuchel could shave five minutes of agony off of every fifth Mets game even if he’s not any better. If he does improve — his 3.58 xFIP in 2013 suggests there’s some talent there — then the Mets might actually even find a decent pitcher for the next few years. But mostly, make this trade so that no one has to watch Dice-K stand on the mound and not throw the ball.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.
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Hey Dave, is Samardzija an impending free agent? Because I have his service time at 4.028 years. I think Samardzija’s a free agent at the conclusion of the 2015 season, and not 2014.