Who’s up for some hot stove fan fiction?

Hey, we might as well indulge ourselves while we wait for Major League Baseball’s offseason to kick into high gear. There have been some moves, but nothing too major yet.

All the big moves exist only as rumors. They might not come true. Or maybe they will! That’s the exciting part about rumors.

So, let’s run with it and imagine what would happen if some of the biggest rumors became realities.


Miguel Cabrera to the Houston Astros

The Houston Astros have answered two of their big question marks, trading for Brian McCann to play catcher and signing Josh Reddick to patrol their outfield. Not bad. Not bad at all.

But one big need remains. Only two teams got a lower OPS from their first basemen than the Astros in 2016. The first name mentioned in a recent report from Jon Morosi of MLB Network would sure do the trick of getting that squared away:

Yes, that Miguel Cabrera. The Detroit Tigers star with the two MVP awards, four batting titles and 446 career home runs. Way to aim high, Astros. 

Of course, there may not be much to this. In fact, a man who would know says there’s not.

“I was asked, ‘Would we consider a trade for a Hall of Fame-caliber first baseman,’ and we’re considering everything. I think the media kind of ran with that,” Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow told Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle.

Still, this idea isn’t as outlandish as that one from WFAN’s Sweeny Murti about the New York Yankees trading for Mike Trout. The Astros are a win-now team with an obvious need, young talent to spare and enough payroll flexibility to take on a good chunk of the $220 million remaining on Cabrera’s contract. 

Cabrera going to Houston would be the clearest sign yet that the Tigers are indeed in sell mode. Detroit GM Al Avila would be flooded with calls about what else he’s got. 

But we’ll get back to that.

A more immediate matter is how the Texas Rangers, the two-time reigning American League West champs, would respond to Houston’s act of aggression. They’d surely rethink their position, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, to bolster their starting rotation with a mere back-end type.

The solution: Chris Archer.

Rosenthal notes the Rangers had “extensive trade discussions” with the Tampa Bay Rays around the summer trade deadline. It was around then that Morosi pitched a trade for Archer centered around super-utility man Jurickson Profar. Something like that could still work this winter, and the resulting upgrade in Texas’ rotation would be a good counter for Cabrera going to Houston.

Elsewhere in the AL East, Cabrera ending up in the AL West would be good news for the Boston Red Sox. It would take perhaps their primary competitor for Edwin Encarnacion off the table.

Oh, sure. It’s out there from Rob Bradford of WEEI that the Red Sox aren’t that interested in the 33-year-old slugger. But after using his trademark pull power to average 39 home runs over the last five seasons, Encarnacion is the ideal candidate to fill David Ortiz’s shoes at designated hitter and take aim at the Green Monster.

If the Red Sox don’t have to pay more than the four-year, $92 million contract predicted by Tim Dierkes, Steve Adams and Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors, they’d surely stop being coy and get signing Encarnacion over with.

That would be a bummer for Jose Bautista, who Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported “loves” Boston and Fenway Park. That, in turn, would be good news for the Toronto Blue Jays, who could bring Bautista back to play right field.

With the Red Sox adding a slugger and the Blue Jays retaining one of their own, the Baltimore Orioles would be left to mull how to keep up. The obvious choice would be to re-sign 2016 home run king Mark Trumbo, who may not have much of a market outside Baltimore anyway.

Of course, these AL East clubs also wouldn’t mind seeing Archer out of the division. But elsewhere, Archer going to Texas would have an impact in the National League East.


Chris Sale to the Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals’ starting rotation is headed by a two-time Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use an upgrade.

According to Rosenthal, one of their ideas is to deal for Archer. Him coming off the table would be extra incentive to go for their plan A: Chris Sale.

Yeah, yeah. They can get in line. But they would fit well at the front of said line. The Nationals can offer the Chicago White Sox an array of young arms. They can also afford the $38 million Sale will be paid through 2019. And as Rosenthal notes, Nats GM Mike Rizzo does like his “bold moves.”

The Nationals trading for Sale would put the rest of the NL East on high alert. Especially the New York Mets, who would have extra incentive to add the big bat they require.

More than likely, that would mean sticking with their preferred target: Yoenis Cespedes. This from Mike Puma of the New York Post:

With draft-pick compensation around his leg thanks to his rejection of his qualifying offer, the Mets have the advantage of not having to surrender a pick if they re-sign Cespedes. If they were to add a couple of years on top of the two years and $47.5 million the 31-year-old opted out of, a deal could get done.

The Nats and Mets loading up would call for drastic measures in Miami. But since the Marlins don’t have the resources to fill the tragically vacated position atop their rotation, they’d have to move on to the next best thing: a shutdown closer.

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Kenley Jansen is the guy they want. The former Los Angeles Dodgers closer would cost a pretty penny, but he and his career 2.20 ERA would do the trick of giving the Marlins the “super pen” Heyman says they crave. 

With Jansen off the board in the East, two closer-needy clubs out West would be left to fight over what’s left. That would mean…


Aroldis Chapman to the San Francisco Giants

Anyone who caught even a fleeting glimpse at their bullpen down the stretch in 2016 won’t be surprised to hear this, but here goes: The San Francisco Giants really want a closer.

“We are getting one of the big closers,” a Giants official told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, referencing Jansen, Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon.

If Jansen signing with Miami narrowed their choice to Chapman and Melancon, Chapman would be the clear solution.

Yes, he’d be more expensive than Melancon. Chapman wants a $100 million contract, according to Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. But with a 1.84 ERA since 2012 and a career rate of 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings, Chapman is just the guy for the Giants to go all-out for.

To boot, his never-ending supply of 100 mph fastballs would be a welcome addition to a bullpen that’s tied for last in average fastball velocity since 2012.

Jansen signing with the Marlins and Chapman signing with the Giants would put the Dodgers in a bind with their own closer hole. They’d either have to sign Melancon or pursue other options.

After having a competent bullpen for the first time in ages in 2016, it’s easier to imagine the Dodgers concluding now’s not the best time to risk trending backward. With a 1.80 ERA since 2013, Melancon would keep them moving forward.

A bright side is that Melancon would come much cheaper than Chapman or Jansen. That would leave money in the Dodgers’ pockets to fill other holes, such as the glaring ones at third base and second base.

The third base one is easy. They could just re-sign Justin Turner, who’s lacking in obvious fits outside of Los Angeles anyway. At second base, the Dodgers could pursue the idea that popped up on Morosi’s feed this week:

Trading for Ian Kinsler would allow the Dodgers to retain the scrappy mentality that Chase Utley brought to second base in 2016, except with a lot more talent. Kinsler had an .831 OPS and won a well-deserved Gold Glove in 2016, and he has been generally underrated for 10 years now.

The Giants may have it in mind to make signing a closer their only big move. But if the Dodgers get Melancon and round out their infield with Turner and Kinsler, the Giants would need another big splash.

Per Morosi, said splash could be pulled off with a deal of their own with Detroit:

J.D. Martinez, eh? Good idea. His 83 dingers over the last three seasons are just the thing for the Giants’ left field hole and power-starved offense.

After that…uh…hmmm…

You know, I think that’s all the speculation I can muster. We didn’t hit every player or every team, but I daresay we hit enough. We’ve put together a rousing story of what could happen this winter.

What will happen? That’s a different story. We’ll experience it soon enough.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. Contract info courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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