Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Jordan Shusterman

Jordan Shusterman

FOX Sports MLB Analyst

MLB’s slow offseason has not only applied to free agency but also trades. 

I recently took stock of the latter market for prized Chicago White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease, canvassing the league to see which teams were best positioned to make an aggressive and worthwhile offer to a White Sox team in the early stages of a massive rebuild. With Chicago focused on the future, any Cease trade packages must have a long-term tilt and feature high-end, young big leaguers or prospects who can potentially help the White Sox compete 2-4 years from now rather than those whose best contributions might come in 2024.

As fun as it is to mix and match promising prospects from various farm systems with the goal of landing a star veteran, that isn’t the only kind of trade we see MLB teams complete during the hot stove season. With spring training rapidly approaching and the free-agent market continuing to crawl along without much urgency, there are still significant holes on contending team’s rosters that could instead be addressed via trade. 

In turn, I wanted to try my hand at a different kind of trade speculation: searching for so-called “win-win” trades between teams with postseason aspirations in 2024. Furthermore, I wanted each deal to center on big-league players with prospects strictly utilized as tertiary assets to better balance a proposed swap. Rather than simply amalgamating enough prospect talent to equate to a valued veteran, these exchanges require a more delicate combination of factors including payroll, expiring contracts and specific circumstances within two teams’ depth charts. 

With that, here are nine such trades that could improve both teams’ rosters in 2024. Let’s make a deal!

1. Boston Red Sox acquire LHP Jesús Luzardo from Miami Marlins for SS/OF Ceddanne Rafaela, RHP Tanner Houck and two top-15 prospects not named Marcelo Meyer, Roman Anthony or Kyle Teel

This is the only deal on this list that resembles the kinds of packages I pondered would be necessary to land Cease from Chicago. But the Marlins aren’t in a full-blown rebuild like Chicago — at least, they shouldn’t be. If Luzardo is on the way out, Miami needs to be targeting players who can help sooner rather than later. Rafaela’s explosive skill set could be the club’s long-term solution at shortstop, and Houck’s elite slider and ground-ball tendencies could fit in the rotation or bullpen, and he’s under team control for four more seasons. Which prospects would be included would be a matter of preference, but I think Boston would be fairly open to adding a couple to sweeten the pot assuming the triumvirate atop the farm system is off limits.

The impact for the Red Sox is obvious. Their fans have been clamoring for an impact addition to the rotation, while the team appears unwilling to spend at the level necessary to land a Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery. This deal allows them to get meaningfully better without giving up any pieces too crucial to their success in 2024.

2. New York Yankees acquire LHP Tanner Scott from Marlins for SS Oswald Peraza

Let’s stick in Miami. The Marlins have a trio of excellent left-handed relievers in Scott, A.J. Puk and Andrew Nardi. Scott is the best of the bunch, and was one of baseball’s best relievers last year, but he is also slated to hit free agency after this upcoming season. If the Yankees are done spending on their rotation but still want to upgrade the pitching staff in an impactful way, maybe they can dangle Peraza as a potential long-term shortstop solution for the Fightin’ Fish in exchange for Scott. 

Recall that a year ago, Peraza was a consensus top-100 prospect whose strong glove and contact skills formed a promising profile that projected to pair well in the Yankees infield alongside the more-hyped Anthony Volpe. Though he undeniably struggled at the big-league level as a rookie in uneven intervals in the Bronx, there’s still real talent here that shouldn’t be cast aside. However, his path to consistent playing time in New York is suddenly much less clear, and the winter acquisition of another second base prospect in Jorbit Vivas suggests further competition in the near future. If Miami evaluates Peraza as a potential starting shortstop the way much of the industry did not that long ago, this could certainly be a match.

3. Baltimore Orioles acquire RHP Shane Bieber from Cleveland Guardians for OF Colton Cowser

Bieber has been a headliner in trade rumors all winter as he enters the final year of his contract, and Baltimore has been front and center in discussions to land a pitcher of his caliber. If Cleveland views Cowser as a potential everyday guy in center field and Baltimore is finally willing to part from its laughably deep collection of upper-level bats, I’d love to see the Orioles swing this deal. It befits a team built to contend again and defend its unexpected AL East crown. Center field in Cleveland might not be quite as dire of a need as shortstop in Miami, but I’m not sure how much longer the Guardians are going to let Myles Straw slug under .300 no matter how good his glove is. 

Cowser hasn’t proven it in the big leagues yet, but his track record suggests his bat could be a real difference-maker on offense at a position where such impact is hard to come by. Even if he ends up in a corner, Cleveland has been starving for outfield offense for years. He’d be a worthy gamble in a deal that requires saying goodbye to a fan favorite and recent key figure in Bieber.

4. Texas Rangers acquire RHP Emmanuel Clase from Guardians for OF Leody Taveras, INF Ezequiel Durán

I’ll be honest: I’m having a really difficult time gauging Clase’s trade value. The case for the soon-to-be-26-year-old fireballer is pretty simple: The extension he signed in 2022 guarantees him just $14.2 million over the next three seasons. Add in $10 million team options in 2027 and 2028, and Cleveland (or someone else) could in theory have him under contract for the next five seasons for roughly $35 million, or $60 million less than what Josh Hader will make in Houston during the same span.

Clase led the American League in saves last season for the second year in a row, but there were also some yellow flags. He was far more hittable in 2023 while his strikeouts took a sharp dip, this despite continuing to throw a billion miles per hour. His exceptional durability thus far in the big leagues can be seen as a positive, but can we really bank on that for the long haul when pitchers who throw as hard as Clase tend to be especially susceptible to injury? The reality is, projecting the production of any reliever multiple years out is a fool’s errand, which is probably why Cleveland is open to shopping Clase and his unusually modest contract.

So, let’s give the Rangers the opportunity for an expensive mulligan on one of their more unfortunate trades in franchise history: dealing Clase to Cleveland for what turned out to be one inning from Corey Kluber. While both Taveras and Duran made valuable contributions to the reigning champs — especially during the regular season — Texas could afford to part with them considering Evan Carter’s ability to play center field and the pending arrival of top prospect Wyatt Langford. Taveras can be a much more impactful center fielder on both sides of the ball for Cleveland than incumbent Myles Straw, and Duran’s bat could boost the club’s offensive ceiling at various positions the way it has in Texas. Clase would return to the Rangers to help form a potentially elite bullpen unit for Bruce Bochy, which he’d surely appreciate after all the stress of last year’s regular season before José Leclerc and Josh Sborz went supersonic in October.

5. San Diego Padres acquire 1B/OF Alec Burleson from St. Louis Cardinals for RHP Randy Vásquez/RHP Jhony Brito or …
6. Padres acquire OF Trevor Larnach from Minnesota Twins for Vásquez/Brito

Left field remains a massive hole for the Padres to address after trading away Juan Soto. While no one can replace a generational talent like Soto, the Padres currently rank 30th in FanGraph’s projected LF production — not an encouraging mark for a team desperate to bounce back after such a disappointing 2023. In these two possible deals, San Diego would flip one of the arms received in the Soto haul — either Vásquez or Brito, depending on whom their trade partner prefers — in exchange for a corner outfielder with recent prospect pedigree but with no obvious path to playing time on their current roster. 

While neither Larnach nor Burleson has found extended MLB success, each has hit well in the upper minors and offer elements to their offensive profiles that could blossom in the big leagues if given enough playing time. On the other side, St. Louis has been aggressively pursuing pitching at all levels since last year’s trade deadline, while Minnesota could use some controllable young pitching to help backfill Sonny Gray’s departure in free agency. I like Larnach a good bit more than Burleson, but either could be a nifty target to address left field for San Diego.

7. Padres acquire OF Mike Tauchman from Chicago Cubs for LHP Tom Cosgrove

Oh, right, the Padres also traded their center fielder in the Juan Soto trade by including Trent Grisham. So, with all due respect to José Azócar, they probably need one of those as well. Tauchman’s resurfacing in Chicago as a solid center field option after falling out of relevance following his brief Yankees breakout in 2019 was quite the development. His value as a trade chip would become most apparent should Cody Bellinger eventually return to the North Side. But even if Bellinger lands elsewhere, dealing Tauchman could also represent a vote of confidence in top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong and fully clear the way for him to seize the center field job in spring training. 

As for Cosgrove, he was quietly marvelous as a rookie reliever thanks to his splendid sidearm stuff from the left side. The recent signing of Hector Neris was a nice pickup for the Cubs, but Craig Counsell’s bullpen still is severely lacking a southpaw. Cosgrove might be a high price to pay for a 33-year-old outfielder like Tauchman, but considering how much the Padres have added to their pitching staff this winter, I think outfield is the more pressing need at this stage if they truly want to contend.

8. Milwaukee Brewers acquire Ha-Seong Kim from Padres for OF Joey Wiemer, RHP Bryse Wilson

A fan favorite coming off a bona fide breakout season, Kim represents a much more interesting trade candidate for San Diego. With free agency looming after this season and an infield already packed with long-term commitments, there’s an argument for flipping Kim now for a player (or two) who can help the Padres for more than just this season. In a world where they don’t land Michael Tauchman, perhaps they target a younger, longer-term bet like Wiemer — an ultra-physical defensive maestro with offensive tools in need of refinement. Wilson, meanwhile, thrived in middle relief for Milwaukee and would further add to the pile of controllable arms San Diego has acquired this winter.

That might seem like a lot to give up for a player in Kim under contract for just one more season, but he is such a perfect fit on the Brewers roster. And if they are indeed holding onto Corbin Burnes and Willy Adames while pushing forward with additions like Rhys Hoskins, Kim could round out this position-player group in a tremendously exciting way. His exceptional glove would be a clear upgrade at third base and offer valuable insurance at second base as Brice Turang continues to find his big-league footing. Beyond that, the improvements he showed with the bat in 2023 could progress even further in a more hitter-friendly ballpark in Milwaukee. I’m skeptical Kim gets moved at all because I think he’s still one of San Diego’s best overall players, but I loved his fit with the Brew Crew too much to not come up with a deal to send him there.

9. Toronto Blue Jays acquire INF Jorge Polanco from Twins for RHP Alek Manoah

The Twins have spent next to nothing this winter amid reports that payroll would more likely be going down than up, but they’ve yet to move off any significant salary yet either. Polanco is owed $10.5 million in 2024 and has a team option for $12 million in 2025. With an up-and-coming infield in Minnesota that’s only getting more crowded, Polanco’s stable switch-hitting production and defensive versatility might now prove most valuable to the Twins as a trade chip. As Toronto continues to search for offensive upgrades externally, Polanco would be a clear upgrade at either second or third base. 

As for the return? Well, it’s impossible to tell from the outside just how much the Blue Jays have soured on Manoah after a disastrous 2023. But in a world where they do view him as expendable, this is a deal that could work nicely for both sides. Manoah’s upside is still undeniable, and Minnesota has a nice track record recently of maximizing pitchers acquired via trade. With the right tweaks and perhaps a change of scenery, maybe Manoah can rediscover his ace form in the Twin Cities.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He has covered baseball for his entire adult life, most notably for MLB.com, DAZN and The Ringer. He’s a Mariners fan living in the Eastern Time Zone, which means he loves a good 10 p.m. first pitch. You can follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_. 

 

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