Whether or not General Manager Sandy Alderson decides to return next year, his upcoming moves and decisions leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline should all be based on one thing and one thing only – will it give my team a better chance to win in 2018? If you want to hold on to that last gasp of hope for 2017, that’s great, but we need to look ahead toward 2018 and how the organization can best prepare for it.
A fire sale implies that you’re getting rid of every last item, so perhaps that’s not a term we should be using if we’re serious about competing next year and the year after. Yard sale might be a more appropriate metaphor, as we’re looking to unload some stuff no longer of use to us, but which might hold appeal to a neighbor at a deeply discounted price. You don’t put the XBox One and the 60″ flat screen on the driveway tables. You put out the big box TV set and the Wii console.
At every yard sale, some jackass will look past the VCR and the dusty beer mug set and want to know if your brand new stainless Weber grill is for sale. No, Theo Epstein, it’s not. As you may have read this week, the Cubs were inquiring about Seth Lugo and Rene Rivera while the Astros previously asked about Jacob deGrom (no, the Porsche is not for sale).
Just as brand new and cherished items should stay safely in the house, out of view of yard sale shoppers, so too should players who will clearly need to remain if we’re to be competitive next year. These include all seven quality starting pitchers. deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will form our 1-2 punch for the next three years at least and the other five, due mainly to injuries, would not fetch fair value right now. Among those five, plus maybe an additional veteran, we should be able to put together a strong rotation for 2018 and beyond. Also on the list of untouchables are Jeurys Familia, our two top prospects, and our two best hitters (Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto). While not untouchable, a few other players, because of their low salary and value to the team, should stay off the table as well. This includes Jerry Blevins, Paul Sewald, T.J. Rivera, and folklore legend Wilmer Flores.
Beyond that, there are players who it makes perfect sense to unload. Pending free agents who won’t likely be back next year are just costing the team money and blocking young players from playing. Lucas Duda (update: traded to the Rays for an up-and-coming reliever), Asdrubal Cabrera, and Curtis Granderson are the old bicycles taking up room in the garage. If no one wants them, they’ll get donated; i.e., put on waivers in August. Beyond those three, there are a few more pending free agents who are still contributing now, not blocking anyone, and could conceivably be back next year. That list includes Jay Bruce, Rene Rivera, Neil Walker, Jose Reyes, and Addison Reed. These guys are the folding chairs and free weights you’d just as soon keep than give away. If somebody makes a reasonable offer, by all means, let’s trade them, but let’s not give them away. Also, a compensatory draft pick is better than “a player to be named later” or “cash considerations.”
Other players not mentioned thus far could be included in trades if the return is worthwhile, but they too could have a role next year. This includes Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Josh Edgin, and Rafael Montero. Again, only if the return is worthwhile. These are not throwaway players. And obviously, you hold on to the guys who have remaining options who inevitably get called up when there are injuries – Kevin Plawecki, Josh Smoker, Erik Goeddel, et al. The maddeningly frustrating Hansel Robles, however, can be had for a small price. He’s over by the cookbooks and VHS tapes.
As you’re planning a yard sale, there are things you find in the attic and basement that you realize have no value to anyone, so you throw them out – grandma’s vacuum with the frayed cord, a broken laundry basket, the toaster that almost caused a fire that you never returned. Sincere apologies to Fernando Salas for the unflattering comparison, but a yard sale is the perfect time to unload useless stuff taking up space.