With the World Series trophy now residing in San Francisco, every American League team saw their 2012 season end in disappointment. Here are five moves that could help change that for 2013.
1. The Rays trade LHP David Price and SS Tim Beckham to Arizona for OF Justin Upton and RHP Trevor Bauer.
It would be the blockbuster of blockbusters, with two franchise talents switching coasts in the prime of their careers, but it is also a move that could potentially help both teams solve some issues. As long as the Rays hold their payroll at a similar level, trading Price is an inevitability, as his increasing arbitration awards are going to price him out of their budget within the two years. By swapping him for Upton — whose salaries for the next three years are already locked in — now, they can ensure that they have cost certainty over a premium young talent who can fill a void in their line-up, rather than having to move him for prospects in 12-18 months.
The Rays would essentially be replacing one Upton with the other, but they’d also be bringing in the power bat that they’ve needed to complement Evan Longoria for years. Upton’s not as good of a player right now as Price is, but given the respective replacements, the improvement in the outfielder might be equivalent to the drop-off in the rotation, especially with a piece like Bauer coming along with Upton. The Rays have the pitching depth to move Price for an offensive upgrade, and acquiring Upton while his value is at its lowest might be their best chance to add a big time bat while their window to contend is open.
For Arizona, the price is stiff, but they turn two players that have frustrated the organization into one of the elite pitchers in the game, and a true staff ace that can carry them if they get into October. It wouldn’t be easy to pull the trigger on surrendering two guys who have carried as much hype as Upton and Bauer, but if Kevin Towers was offered the chance to turn potential into performance, I’m not sure he could walk away from the opportunity.
2. The Yankees sign B.J. Upton for five years, $75 million
With Nick Swisher seemingly on his way out of New York, the Yankees have an opening for an outfielder, and they should take advantage of the chance to move Curtis Granderson to right field by bringing in a new center fielder. Upton would give the team a 28-year-old premium defender who has the same flaws that Granderson had when he came over from Detroit, so Kevin Long gets a new project to try and pull offensive potential out of. And, by bringing in Upton to play center, the team can move Granderson to right field, where his diminishing abilities to go back on balls won’t be as noticeable. The short porch in right field is a perfect fit for Granderson’s defensive skillset, and Upton has the speed to run down balls in the gaps that Granderson won’t get to.
Upton also gives the team some youth, which this aging roster could use, and his familiarity with the AL East should make the transition smoother. While $75 million might seem like a lot for a player who has never turned into what he was projected to become, his combination of above average offense and range in center field make it an investment worth making.
3. The Tigers sign Melky Cabrera for one year, $7 million.
The Tigers struggles against left-handed pitching were exposed in the first two games of the World Series, when Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner carved up their line-up in San Francisco. Especially problematic was the team’s reliance on journeyman rookie — words that don’t often go together, and for good reason — Quintin Berry in left field, and his placement in front of Miguel Cabrera because of the team’s lack of on base threats. Cabrera can solve both problems at once, giving the team a drastic upgrade in left field who can also serve as the switch-hitting #2 hitter that Jim Leyland craves. Oh, and there’s the fact that Cabrera destroyed left-handed pitching this year, putting up a 202 wRC+ against southpaws that was fourth best in baseball, behind only Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, and Andrew McCutchen.
Yes, there’s the whole PED suspension issue, and Cabrera is unlikely to ever repeat his 2012 performance, but he was pretty good for the Royals in 2011 and didn’t fail any drug tests then. And, on a one year “make good” contract, there wouldn’t be much risk for the Tigers, who know a thing or two about giving second chances to guys who can hit. Offering Melky the chance to hit in front the Triple Crown winner is a perfect sales pitch to get him to Detroit and show that he can perform even while clean. Given his contact rate, gap power, and switch-hitting skills, he’d be the perfect complement to Miguel Cabrera, and the Cabrera Squared shirts would sell themselves.
4. The Rangers trade RHP Tanner Scheppers and 1B Mitch Moreland to Cleveland for OF Shin-Soo Choo.
With Josh Hamilton unlikely to return, the Rangers need a legitimate left-handed bat. While plugging in Jurickson Profar and shifting Ian Kinsler to the outfield would create room for the team’s best prospect and fill Hamilton’s void, it would also make the team too right-handed, as they’d down to just David Murphy and Moreland as left-handed regulars. Choo would give them a patient left-handed stick whose gap power would play up in the heat, and could slide between RF and DH depending on Nelson Cruz’s health. His weakness against lefties means that they could use his spot to slide Profar in, getting him some playing time even if he’s not slotted for an everyday job out of spring training. And, because he’s entering the final year of his contract, they wouldn’t have to part with any of their best prospects to get him. The Indians would save roughly $8 million (depending on what Choo gets in his final trip through arbitration) and would add two interesting young players to their Major League roster, so it’s a move that could be a win-win for both sides.
5. The A’s sign Eric Chavez for one year, $4 million.
Back when “Moneyball” — the book, not the movie — was published, Eric Chavez was Billy Beane’s golden child. He had turned into an elite third baseman at a young age, and looked poised to help carry the franchise after the departure of The Big Three and Miguel Tejada. However, chronic back problems derailed his career and stole his power, and Chavez had to spend his final four years in Oakland watching from the bench as the A’s Cinderella run crashed around him. Now almost 35-years-old, Chavez somehow found the fountain of youth in New York, but it’s time for him to come home.
Josh Donaldson did an admirable job filling in at third base after Brandon Inge got hurt, but he’s probably best suited to a part-time job, and as a right-handed hitter, he could use a lefty to share the job with. Chavez is a lefty who should be strictly platooned and can’t be counted on to play everyday, so the match is perfect, and Chavez could be reunited with the franchise that developed him in time to celebrate its rebirth. The A’s are extremely young and could use a veteran leader like Chavez — especially if he can hit like he did in 2012 again — and it seems only fitting that he finishes his career where it started.