NASHVILLE -- Trades in Major League Baseball always seem to leave fans on one side unsatisfied. It’s not because bad trades are taking place -- it’s really about motive. Name a recent trade between two teams that made both teams better immediately. It just doesn’t happen. Deals get done to shed salary, provide flexibility, clear a personality from the clubhouse, deepen the prospect pool -- you name it. I understand, because I’ve had to make these deals. But it’s a legit complaint: Where is what GMs might call “a good baseball trade?”
They don’t exist anymore. Maybe only in your fantasy league, which is part of the reason people love to play.
That said, I can think of a good baseball trade that improves the immediate prospects for two franchises, and makes sense right now. The Arizona Diamondbacks should send Justin Upton to the Texas Rangers for Elvis Andrus. Let’s look at how this works from both sides.
The Rangers' standpoint
Texas manager Ron Washington has no reason to worry about his future at shortstop. Even in the absence of Andrus, Jurickson Profar truly is ready to handle the shortstop job every day. This is a player with an exceptional glove, great range, and the ability to adjust in the face of failures at the plate. As Washington has told me, Profar is the kind of young talent who will “play himself into ready” -- meaning he has the makeup to bounce back, quickly adjust, and fight through failure. And you’re still talking about a kid that had an .820 OPS in Double-A last year and doesn't turn 20 until February. The immediate health of the Rangers at shortstop minus Andrus is fine.
Given that Profar needs to be up, Texas would face the issue of moving either an established star in Ian Kinsler, a very good shortstop in Andrus, or a prospect in Profar to the outfield or possibly first base (Kinsler). Where’s the good option? Kinsler is inked for four more years, isn’t really tradable, and doesn’t want to switch positions. Andrus is a Gold Glove-quality shortstop, but Profar has more upside. One of these three has to go, and it won’t be Kinsler or Profar.
Andrus, 24, has two years left on his deal at just over $11 million total, and he won’t be back. It just won’t work, not with Profar and Kinsler around, and the Rangers need to have the mindset of moving him when he’s at peak value.
For one, Texas could use the outfield bat. Upton has three years left on his deal at a total of $38.5 million, so you get a degree of certainty and a chance to further develop the 25-year-old. He make a bit more than Andrus, but you get an extra year and Texas has a bit more payroll to play with. Upton provides another very good bat in a deep lineup and is capable of hitting .300-plus with 30-plus home runs. His bat could thrive in Texas. But that’s just the baseball potential. As a young player, he could thrive under Washington, whose enthusiastic style might work better with Upton's makeup than Gibson's hard-nosed approach.
And if Texas retains Josh Hamilton, you could have a lineup that starts Kinsler, Profar, Adrian Beltre, Hamilton and Upton. Is that terrifying or what? Great power, some speed, and total balance. The deal makes Texas a better team, immediately, and with a better look for the future.
But it helps Arizona, too.
The D-backs' standpoint
Almost two years ago, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers publicly floated the idea of dealing Upton. He listened, and when the right package couldn’t be put together, he opted not to pull the trigger. Arizona came back, Upton played well, and the team went on to win its division in 2011. By once again publicly floating Upton as a player teams can be bidding on, he’s admitting his desire to move the player. You can’t float the guy a second time, not pull off a deal, then bring him back to spring training and act like it’s business as usual.
Andrus would make the Diamondbacks better, and especially so when you consider the market. The market for shortstops with star potential is obscene. Just look at what Jose Reyes got. If you don’t have an internal solution at shortstop and aren’t playing with Monopoly money, you have to draft or trade for one. With nobody in the pipeline that’s ready to fill their void at shortstop, Andrus is that trade.
In Andrus, the D-backs get a guy that is special in the field, and is just 24, so he’ll continue to get better. He moves well to both sides, and will save runs in that fast infield in Arizona. His bat has improved in each of the last two seasons, and he has a .727 OPS last year -- and again, this is still a young player by any standard. He’s well-liked, and has experienced winning. He’ll be a good fit in the clubhouse.
What the D-backs need to remember is it’s a lot easier to find 20-plus home runs at a corner outfield position than it will be to find a very good solution at shortstop. Upton has a high ceiling with his bat, but it’s rare to be able to move any kind of player for a very good major league shortstop.
This is a good baseball trade. Two young players, one 24, one 25; two teams that fill needs; two teams that get out of the trade cycle of perpetual trade whispers surrounding a key member of the team. Texas and Arizona should find a way to get it done.