Crafting a three-team trade to bring Cespedes to Cleveland
A three-team trade between Cleveland, Boston, and Washington could work for all parties involved
There has been no shortage of speculation this offseason on the availability of Boston Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, both in the national media and on this site. But as of right now, it does not appear Cleveland and Boston line up as trade partners. The Red Sox are looking for star-level front-of-the-rotation starting pitching, the kind Cleveland does not have available to give up.
The thing is, though, that no contender that needs Cespedes has that to spare. That is what led to Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (while writing for Just a Bit Outside) proposing a three-team trade involving the Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners.
Given Washington’s need for help at second base and Seattle’s middle infield depth, Cameron crafts a three-team trade that looks like this:
- OF Yoenis Cespedes (from Boston)
- 1B Mike Napoli (from Boston)
But while Cameron looks for a team with middle infield depth and arrives at Seattle, the readers of this site will likely come up with a different conclusion.
A certain team that plays at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Crafting a three-team trade
So what would it take to switch up this trade to include Cleveland instead of Seattle?
We know a few things would stay the same, with Cespedes going to Cleveland instead and Zimmermann still making his way to Boston. But since Cleveland has no need for another first base/designated hitter type due to the combination of Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, Jesus Aguilar, and the displaced-by-Cespedes David Murphy, we will leave Napoli out of this three-team trade and let the Red Sox deal him (or someone else) later.
Not acquiring Napoli means Cleveland would not have to give up quite as much as Seattle, but the organization will still need to send a second baseman to Washington (funnily enough, to replace the last one it sent in Asdrubal Cabrera). Given Washington could see its shortstop, Ian Desmond, walk after the 2015 season, sending someone who could potentially shift over to shortstop in a year would have some added value.
Enter Jose Ramirez.
The Nationals are definitely looking to win now, meaning they are not likely to settle for an unproven player like Erik Gonzalez who has not seen major league time. And while Francisco Lindor would definitely work, there is no way Cleveland is giving him up for one year of Cespedes.
Ramirez, however, is someone who has not only put up some nice numbers at the major league level, but also has the flexibility to play second base in 2015 and slide over to shortstop if needed beyond that. The 22-year-old’s best fit is likely at second base, but after seeing him handle shortstop just fine post-Cabrera in 2014, Ramirez’s stock seems to have risen.
Giving up someone young and talented like Ramirez hurts, but you have to trade something to get something. If Cleveland wants someone good like Cespedes, it will cost them someone good. Ramirez fits the Nationals’ needs and could be the player that gets the deal done.
Of course, these three players all do not have equal value. In order to keep balancing the scales, a few more pieces need to be involved.
Even though Zimmermann and Cespedes only have one year of team control left, those are still the two best present-day players in the deal. Since all three teams in this deal are looking to win-now, that leaves Cleveland needing to kick in a few more pieces to even things out.
In Cameron’s three-team trade involving the Mariners, he has a reliever heading to Boston. Luckily for Cleveland, the organization has plenty of relief depth that could make a trade work. Whether it is a power left-hander like Nick Hagadone (drafted by the Red Sox in the first round in 2007), an unproven right-hander with six years of team control left like Bryan Price (drafted by the Red Sox in the first round in 2008), or a more expensive, more proven right-hander like Bryan Shaw, Cleveland has the pieces to make it work.
While trading a pitcher like Shaw would hurt Cleveland’s bullpen in the late innings, the easiest place to upgrade is in the bullpen. Given Cleveland’s combination of bullpen depth and the availability of relatively-cheap relievers on the free agent and trade market, adding a reliever to the trade could be worth it to make things line up.
This still does not make everything equal, however, since the Nationals are giving up the best player in the deal and only getting Ramirez back. Knowing the Nationals are set up pretty well at all positions, acquiring a few prospects to round out the package makes sense.
With center fielder Denard Span and right-hander Doug Fister heading toward free agency (and Zimmermann heading out in this hypothetical trade), having an outfield prospect and a starting pitching prospect coming back could make Washington comfortable losing Zimmermann.
There are plenty of different prospects that could head on in this scenario, but one possibility is Cleveland sending center fielder Tyler Naquin and Boston sending left-hander Brian Johnson to the Nationals.
In this scenario, Washington takes a small step back in 2015 in return for a new second baseman in Ramirez with six years of team control (and insurance for Desmond potentially leaving), a potential replacement for Span in Naquin, and starting pitching depth in Johnson.
Finally, with Cleveland giving up a lot of team control in Ramirez, Naquin, and a reliever, only getting one year of Cespedes back does not quite line up. Boston is also getting the best player in the deal in addition to a reliever from Cleveland, while only giving up one year of Cespedes and one prospect in Johnson.
So to round out the trade, having Boston send a player with years of team control Cleveland’s way should finish things off.
Boston could send a prospect, but for this trade, what about Will Middlebrooks?
While Middlebrooks has struggled lately, he still has four years of team control left, is going to be fairly cheap in arbitration for 2015, is still only 26 years old, and would offer Cleveland a strong right-handed power option that can play third base. His struggles of late are worrisome -- and Cleveland could easily opt to go in a different direction -- but Middlebrooks would make an interesting platoon player to fit with Lonnie Chisenhall.
What a possible trade would look like
So here is what we have established as a possible trade:
- OF Yoenis Cespedes (from Boston)
- 3B Will Middlebrooks (from Boston)
- RHP Jordan Zimmermann (from Washington)
- LHP Nick Hagadone -- or a different reliever (from Cleveland)
- 2B/SS Jose Ramirez (from Cleveland)
- OF Tyler Naquin (from Cleveland)
- LHP Brian Johnson (from Boston)
The supporting pieces around this trade can move around as needed and are not set in stone. But the three key pillars of Zimmermann, Cespedes, and Ramirez all make sense. Cleveland spends roughly $8 million to bring in two right-handed hitting options that fit in the organization’s payroll structure, Boston gets the front-of-the-line pitching it sorely lacks right now, and Washington gets some financial flexibility and builds in some backup options for their upcoming free agents.
Each team is dealing from a position of depth and receiving someone at a position of weakness; that is a good place to start.
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I really like Bourn, Bryan Price, Austin Adams, Roberto Perez to Atlanta for B.J. Upton and Gattis. We would have Brantley in left, Upton, who hit 28 home runs in center and Gattis in right field.
We would still have Wolters and Gattis as back up catchers.
Trade bad contract Nick Swisher to Baltimore for Jimenez and let Mickey work with him coming out of bull pen. He is only 29 years old.
That would leave right field back-up and DH to three players, Murphy, Holt and Walters as extra outfielders if needed.
I wonder if Kipnis had a bounce back strong season start and ramirez is excelling while lindor is doing his job getting ready for a may/June call up, would they be willing to trade Kipnis and let that dynamic dp combo play out? It be nice to see.
I'd rather they grab mike morse or alex rios in free agency to fill that right handed outfielder spot in right field.
He reminds me of Altuve!!!!!
It doesn't appear that some of the writers don't agree with my assessment and are quite willing to either trade Ramirez before giving a long look or benching him for a player that would have trouble in his initial year matching Ramirez stats of 2014 at age 21.
I think the Indians would regret trading Ramirez because they have Lindor in the minors and have given Kipnis a long term deal.
I like Kipnis. Trade Chisenhall , put Ramirez at 2nd, and temporarily move Kipnis to 3rd.
Through his first 280 major league plate appearances, bWAR and fWAR both say J-Ram's been worth 2.0 wins above replacement. Scaled out to a full season's worth of games and AB's, that's a 4+WAR 22 year old shortstop who will make the league minimum for the next 3 seasons. I recognize it's possible that J-Ram has been a little fortunate, or benefitting from some wonky half-season defensive metrics, so there's a strong possibility that he is not that player.
But there's also a pretty decent chance that he IS that player. And if he is, we'd better be getting a hell of a lot more for him than one season of a low-OBP LF-only player. For what it's worth, Steamer projects him as a 2.5 win player if he were to play a full season in 2015.
If he plays 2 months next season and proves the critics right that he's just a utility guy, then that's fine. You get rid of that bum Aviles and you have an extremely cheap bench piece going forward. If it turns out he can play, then you have tons of options. Kipnis could get hurt, Kipnis could move to the OF, Lindor could get hurt, or you could move one of Lindor/J-Ram at the trade deadline in a big, big deal to bring back pieces for a playoff run.
Problem is Boston would be able to trade Cespedes one on one with other teams that they do match up well.(Example the Reds) There are rumors that Cespedes would solve the LF problem for the Reds by offering Leake or Latos.
Here's where signing Ryan Raburn makes little sense...I really didn't get the need to lock him up for two yrs, apparently his $2M isn't so cheap or they would have released him by now. He might be alright again next yr, but his career trajectory really doesn't bode well. He's essentially a PH or DH at this point, and his .200 BA RH / LH isn't worth keeping around.
The key in all of this is who the second player is from the Red Sox. If the Indians can get someone with years of control as Jim said in his piece and also be someone who has some good value, then I am all for it. I am not worried about shortstop because Ramirez likely will be off it by the end of April anyway.
JRam to Washington. Nationals send Zimmerman to Boston. Boston sends Cespedes to Cleveland, and Bradley to DC.
maybe it's fair market value, but I'd stay off the market if that's the price. Also, not sure the Indians have much lefty relief depth now after losing Barnes and Araujo and possibly Soto soon in the Rule 5. They have no LOOGY in AA or AAA unless they convert Maronde back to the BP or one of Morimando/Merritt. The "depth" is Crockett, Scrabble and Hags, that's it now. If they trade from this, they have no ML ready guy in Columbus in case of injury and little to no depth in the entire org actually. The next "best" LOOGY might be Speer in low A ball. Another reason why I was upset with them not rostering Soto.
the Indians try to win now too and they need a SS for that not named Aviles. The switch from ACab to JRam was a full point in ERA. Probably not all of it can be attributed to the switch, but even half of it would be remarkable. Aviles at SS with Chis at 3B is going back to a cavemen fielding team. Can't have that again, if they want to contend, not even for 5-6 weeks. A deal involving JRam for Cespedes would be filling a need for one season by creating another one while giving up years of control of two young players for it. Looks bad all around
The whole reason behind this trade is to win the WS in '15, right? Does anyone believe that a trade like this puts us over the top? Aviles at SS negates any gain that Cespedes provides. Lindor performing as well as Ramirez did is not automatic either.
I just read a very interesting article re Hagadone as a breakout, possibly future closer type late inning guy. Naquin is a 1st Round guy who's projected to be able to stick in CF with an outrageous arm. Lots of teams looking for SS help & we waste an asset like Ramirez on a pipe dream? I'd go postal over a trade like this.
Well thought out and nice work here by Jim. Now, does such a deal get done? Probably not. But it's a look at a pretty fair trade if you ask me. All parties give up something to get something.
For me, I do it if we find another solution besides Middlebrooks. I am fine with trading Ramirez and Hagadone and Naquin. The three deepest spots on the roster are shortstop, lefty relief and outfield, so you are dealing from a position of strength. As to who fills shortstop, I am not all that worried about it because I believe Lindor is the shortstop by the early part of May no matter what next season. Rather get something for Ramirez now while his value is high......and I think they could get by with Aviles/Walters at shortstop the first month or finding a good defensive, cheap free agent, waiver or trade option to fill in temporarily.
In the end, I agree that the Indians probably don't trade Ramirez. That's probably a position they don't want to unsettle going into the season and it gives them the luxury of sitting on Lindor if needed.
But I don't see any way that Ramirez is not in this deal. Washington is trying to win now, and if they're going to take a step back by dealing Zimmermann, they need a major-league ready 2B. As exciting as Gonzalez is, he hasn't done it at the major league level. Why would the Nationals accept less than Ramirez in this case?
I think the Ramirez-Cespedes-Zimmermann have to be there, while the rest can be tweaked as needed. But Cespedes is not going to come cheap.
That's why I'd probably walk away from the deal. But if you're set on getting him (or another comparable right-handed power bat), it's going to be expensive. Even if it's just for one year.
Cespedes can't get a QO. Forgot the exact reason, but it's a fact and everybody knows. That drives down his value considerably, as any team trading for him does not get a top 50 draft talent back. What Jim has proposed might be the going rate, but is plenty enough for a one year rental. 3 controllable former or current top10 specs, already in or near ML ready? That's too rich actually
No problem losing Naquin or Hagadone, but JRam hurts. Who plays SS to open 2015? Murphy? Don't say Aviles, because even 6 weeks of him could mean 1-2 less wins on D alone. What if Lindor struggles early on (should be expected) or in Columbus and he doesn't make it out of there in May? What then?
Admittedly, I'm crazy bullish regarding JRam and bearish on EGonzo, but no matter how anyone ranks them, it makes much more sense to trade EGonz instead of JRam with Lindor near ready in AAA. JRam is more versatile defensively and represents a fall back option at both SS and 2B and in a best case scenario of Lindor/Kipnis both producing offers more speed off the bench.
Maybe Hagadone and Naquin, which I regard as paying up, but why more? Ramirez is more valuable than Cespedes, I believe (age, years of control, position).
It could be Aviles for the first 2-3 months, then Lindor. That would allow Cleveland to have the extra year of team control on Lindor and keep him from Super 2, but that's a lot more of Aviles than would be ideal. Someone like Zach Walters could be sprinkled in here, both at SS and in a utility role.
They also could also get someone on the trade/free agent market cheap to help bridge the gap. Someone in the Stephen Drew range, maybe.
But yes, that would be another thing the organization would have to be comfortable with in this scenario. If Ramirez is what it takes to get that right-handed power bat, what's the plan at shortstop. Probably another reason this doesn't happen, but I think they could cover with some kind of Aviles, Walters, FA/trade acquisition if they wanted to.
Personally, I don't think I would do this trade. I love Cespedes as a player in that he is a fun guy to watch, but I think he will cost more than I'm comfortable giving up.
But if Cespedes is going to come to Cleveland, this is the kind of deal I would expect it would take.
DO BETTER THAN THIS..
The Tribe trades Ramirez, Hagadone, & Naquin & gets 1 year of Cespedes with no draft compensation after he leaves & an underperforming Will Middlebrooks, while still having Chiz at 3B?