Bowden: 5 MLB trades I’d like to see in May, including a Xander Bogaerts deal

MLB executives don’t typically start trades this early in the season. They prefer to spend the first two months evaluating their team and the next six weeks exploring and analyzing possible trading targets. They then do most of their business in the last few weeks of July, with much of the activity taking place on the deadline. (This year’s trading deadline is August 2 at 6:00 p.m. ET.)

So it’s not surprising that, according to several of them, little has been said about technical discussions among general managers. However, baseball is changing. Some of the unwritten rules disappear in the past. The way players prepare, customize, and study the game has evolved significantly even over the past few years. So there’s no reason why trading can’t also change and start earlier, contrary to traditional timeframes.

Here are five trade ideas that these competitive and building teams want to pursue right now. Why wait? If you’re a seller like the A’s, Pirates or Nationals, do you really have to wait until July? What if your best trade chip falters or, worse, gets hurt? If a team can get their best return now, why not act? And for competing teams with needs, executing a smart trade earlier in the season will only increase the impact on their post-season chances.

Let’s move on to my five trading suggestions. As always, I look forward to your measured feedback in the comments.

1. Blue Jays acquire 1B/DH Josh Bell from Nationals for SS/2B Leo Jimenez and RHP Trent Palmer

The Blue Jays need another racquet to lengthen their lineup, ideally a left-handed one, to better balance them. Bell, 29, will be a free agent after this season and it’s only a matter of time before the Nationals trade him for prospects. As a switch hitter, Bell got off to a strong start, cutting .349/.444/.528 with four homers and 21 RBIs. According to the Baseball Reference, he has a 191 OPS+ and a 1.3 WAR. Conclusion: Its commercial value will never be higher. The Blue Jays could make Bell their daily designated hitter, using him at first base to occasionally give Vladimir Guerrero Jr. a day off. I also think that Bell, who is known to be a great teammate, would fit well in the Toronto clubhouse.

In return, the Nationals would get two solid prospects in Jimenez and Palmer. Jimenez, 20, can play second base and shortstop. He has a .422 on-base percentage in four minor league seasons and this year he’s hitting .246/.412/.385 in 85 plate appearances at High-A Vancouver. Palmer, 23, has a four-pitch mix but needs to significantly improve his control and control to fulfill his potential as a center rotation arm. However, he misses bats and his changeup is well above average. Palmer, a third-round pick in Jacksonville University’s 2020 MLB draft, has a 4.05 ERA in High A this season with 30 strikeouts in 20 innings.

2. Rays acquire RHP Frankie Montas from A for RHP Cole Wilcox and 2B/OF Vidal Bruján

The A’s have already traded Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Chris Bassitt this spring, so they might as well end the bailout by trading Montas.

Tampa Bay needs another proven starting pitcher. Montas fits the bill and is under contract until 2023. Montas, 29, is 2-2 with a 3.77 ERA in seven starts and has 41 strikeouts and 12 walks in 43 innings. Those numbers are similar to his performance last season when he took the American League lead in 32 starts and had a 3.37 ERA with 207 strikeouts in 187 innings.

A’s asking price for Montas is through the roof – as it should be. The prospectus price suggested here is that of a deal through the roof. I know this trade doesn’t make much sense for the Rays in the long run because it goes against their normal way of doing business. But if they were willing to deal pitcher Joe Ryan with Nelson Cruz for two months last season, then they shouldn’t shy away from this proposed deal. You have to push hard during this competitive window.

In return, the A’s would receive two strong pieces. A 2020 third-round pick, Wilcox was one of the headliners of the trade that sent Blake Snell to San Diego. Wilcox, 22, went 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 10 starts for Low-A Charleston last year but underwent surgery by Tommy John in September and may be out until 2023. Bruján, who the Rays recalled on Tuesday, didn’t do well in the Limited Major league opportunities (2-for-32, a .063 batting average). But if he’s given 500 big league at-bats, he has a shot at becoming an elite tablesetter. He has a career baseball percentage of .372 over 2,000+ minor league at-bats. That should carry over to the majors in time. Brian, 24, also has the ability to steal 40-50 bases and one day lead the league in groups of three.

3. Cardinals acquire SS Xander Bogaerts from Red Sox for 2B/3B Nolan Gorman contingent on St. Louis signing Bogaerts to approximately eight-year, $216 million long-term contract

The Red Sox should do everything they can to sign Bogaerts on a long-term deal, but it seems they are doing the opposite. The single suggestion they made wasn’t nearly enough, and there was no chance he would take it. Unless their position changes significantly, it makes sense to seek the best deal for Bogaerts as he is likely to terminate his contract after the season.

Arguably the best prospect for the Cardinals, the 22-year-old Gorman has gotten off to an impressive start this season at Triple-A Memphis, hitting .298/.357/.673 (1.030 OPS) with 12 homers and 18 RBIs. He was originally a third baseman, but since Nolan Arenado signed until 2027, the Cardinals are playing him second. That experiment has had mixed results, and with MLB expected to limit defensive shifts next season, Gorman would be a well-underperforming second baseman. Additionally, Tommy Edman won a Gold Glove Award last year and could do so again this year while becoming one of the top offensive second basemen in the league. (Edman hits .290/.388/.450 with seven stolen bases.)

The Cardinals’ greatest need is the shortstop. Paul DeJong, who they downgraded to triple A on Tuesday, is below .200 for the second straight day. Edmundo Sosa hits .160. The shortstop position is the only obvious necessity in the Cardinals’ roster and could mean the difference between reaching the postseason or not. A Gorman-for-Bogaerts deal makes sense for St. Louis, but only if Bogaerts can be extended at the time of the trade.

In Gorman, the Red Sox would get an inexpensive left-handed power racquet that they would control for at least six years. They could shortstop Trevor Story this season and play Gorman at second base and then decide how to deal with the longer-term offseason prospect position.

4. Yankees acquire catcher MJ Melendez from Royals for OF Jasson Dominguez and INF Oswaldo Cabrera

We don’t typically see a top prospect like Melendez traded for other top prospects, but this proposed deal could make sense for both teams. Melendez is blocked at the catcher position in Kansas City; He’s behind Salvador Perez, one of the game’s best. Perez is under team control until 2026, which means Melendez either has to switch positions or become a DH, and that’s not really fair to him. Trading him for Dominguez, who could fill a long-term outfield need, and Cabrera, a versatile infielder, could appeal to Kansas City.

The Yankees have two above-average defensive catchers, Kyle Higashioka and Jose Trevino, but they need more attack from position to lengthen their lineup. Melendez, 23, is making his mark as a mid-level hitter. He lit double A’s and triple A’s last year, hit base at almost 39 percent clip, hit 41 home runs and drove in 103 runs. Despite a slow start to the season at Triple-A Omaha, Melendez is ready for the Major League and the Royals promoted him last week when Cam Gallagher was put on the injured list. The rookie is 5-for-16 (.313) since debuting on May 3.

Dominguez could also develop into a medium bat. The 19-year-old switch-hitter, who has cut .252/.300/.417 this season at Class-A Tampa with three homers and eight doubles, would instantly become the Royals’ top outfielder. Cabrera, 23, is an infielder hitting Switch who’s been developing slowly, but last year he broke out, hit 29 homers, stole 21 pockets and reached base with a 33-percent clip between Double A and Triple A. He had Bad start with Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes Barre this season but I think he’ll get it. He is blocked in the Yankees organization by better major league players and prospects, but the Royals front office would covet his positional versatility, athleticism, speed and power.

Willson Contreras is another potential trade target for the Yankees and is probably a more realistic option. A deal for Contreras eligible for free agency after this season would likely require New York to part ways with two of its top 15 prospects.

5. Marlins acquire CF Bryan Reynolds from Pirates for OF Jesús Sánchez, RHP Eury Pérez and SS Jose Salas

The Pirates signed Reynolds to a two-year, $13.5 million deal this spring that would make him affordable for the Marlins through 2023, but more importantly, they would control him through the 2025 season and fill their biggest need: one Two-way center outfielder. Reynolds, 27, broke out last year when he was leading .302/.390/.522 with 35 doubles, 24 homers, eight triples, 93 runs and 90 RBIs. A Gold Glove finalist, Reynolds also played above-average defense at center and posted a 6.0 WAR (baseball reference). He could change the Marlins’ playoff chances and longer-term prospects.

In exchange, the Pirates would get Sánchez, a career .229/.297/.429 batter who has 17 homers and 50 RBIs in his first 354 major league at-bats. Pérez, 19, who has started five games at Double A this season, would be the headliner for Pittsburgh. The right-hander posted a 2.59 ERA with 144 strikeouts in 100 2/3 minor league innings, allowing for just 62 hits and 33 walks. Salas, 19, has recorded a .364 base percentage on 293 minor league at-bats, along with 21 stolen bases. There is a high price to pay, but the Marlins have the organizational pitch and depth in midfield to make this type of trade.

(Photo of Xander BogaertsCredit: Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Leave a Comment