With the annual non-waiver trade deadline just days away, there are two top-tier players who seem destined to be on the move. Oakland Athletics starter Sonny Gray has been rumored to be a main target of several contenders, as has Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers. The two A.L. West righthanders are the top pitchers on the active trade market, and it would be a major shock to see them stay put on their current clubs. Here are the two landing spots that make the most sense for Gray and Darvish.
Sonny Gray to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Although there has reportedly been major discussions regarding Darvish being traded to Los Angeles, Sonny Gray is much more likely to wind up in Chavez Ravine. Gray would give the Dodgers another top arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw over the next several years, whereas Darvish would merely be a rental unless Andrew Friedman is willing to pay a pretty penny to resign the Japanese-born starter. Speaking of Friedman, the Dodgers President was able to reach a deal last summer with Oakland for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. The Athletics are surely familiar with the deep Dodgers’ farm system and likely have their eyes set on a few names in particular. Alex Verdugo is probably at the top of the A’s wishlist but don’t expect Friedman to move his prized outfield prospect. Verdugo’s advanced approach and impressive .328/.401/.446 slash line at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season should make him nearly untouchable in trade talks.
With that being said, the Athletics would have to expect a major return for Gray given how much Jose Quintana cost the Chicago Cubs. The package would likely have to be headlined by pitcher Walker Buehler, who MLB.com ranked the 13th overall prospect in baseball. Buheler, who attended Vanderbilt like Sonny Gray, features a mid-to-high 90’s fastball along with an above-average slider and curveball. Buehler has demonstrated great command in the minor leagues and could become the future ace of the A’s.
Also joining Buehler would be former fourth round pick Willie Calhoun. Calhoun has torn up the Pacific Coast League in 2017, hitting 23 home runs while posting a .942 OPS. The 22 year-old is best suited for the American League, however, due to his lack of proficiency in any one defensive position. He could play in left field, but he may fare better as a designated hitter. If the Dodgers were to include another prospect such as Edwin Rios, Billy Beane and the A’s would likely pull the trigger on moving Sonny Gray.
Yu Darvish to the Chicago Cubs for Kyle Schwarber
If you thought the Chicago Cubs were finished making trades, think again.
As they demonstrated last season, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer won’t hesitate to surrender valuable pieces of the future for an immediate return that gives them a chance to win a World Series. Like in the A’s-Dodgers deal, the history between Epstein and Rangers’ General Manager John Daniels will help this deal come to fruition.
Jose Quintana was a great pickup, but the Cubs’ pitching staff could still use an extra punch to carry them into October. Yu Darvish’s track record of dominance makes him a top option despite his 4.01 ERA in 2017. Darvish is only under contract through the remainder of the season, which will make him less costly than Sonny Gray. Imagine if the Cubs entered the postseason with a pitching staff of Lester, Darvish, Quintana, Arrieta and Hendricks; what team would want to face that Rotation of Death?
Alas, Darvish may not carry the price-tag that Gray does, but it would still require the Cubs to part with a former top prospect. Theo Epstein likely would prefer to retain Ian Happ for his versatility, but the Cubs would be willing to give up Kyle Schwarber. In what has been a nightmarish season, Schwarber is hitting just .191 with a .308 on-base percentage. He does have seventeen home runs, though, and he has been more productive since his brief demotion to Triple-A. Schwarber still holds the potential to be a fearsome middle-of-the-order hitter and becoming a full-time DH could remedy any future struggles. Schwarber is likely pressing at the plate as a result of his defensive failures. Making him a designated hitter would allow the 24 year-old to focus solely on hitting, which is a scary thought.