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July 23, 2014 at 6:51 am ET
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GM for a Day: five trades to fix the contenders

Black telephoneWith less than 10 days until this year’s trade deadline, the rumors are flying fast — it’s been a few years since we’ve had a deadline with this many quality arms available (as well as such a dearth of decent bats). While the A’s and Cubs got things started with their own blockbuster deal, the pace of negotiations¬†will only heat up between now and next Thursday afternoon. As we wade through the rumors, here are five moves that serious contenders in need of help should¬†make.

david-price1. Cardinals receive David Price (LHP) and Ben Zobrist (2B); Rays receive Shelby Miller (RHP), Stephen Piscotty (OF), Marco Gonzales (LHP), and Randal Grichuk (OF)

While I think all of us trade nerds would love a Price and Evan Longoria swap, let’s be real: that ain’t happening. Longoria is reasonably signed long-term and represents the one piece of on-the-field stability Tampa ownership can actually market¬†(as great as he is, Joe Maddon doesn’t play). For the Rays, they unload two assets they can’t afford and in return, they pick up the MLB-ready pieces their system has had trouble developing in recent drafts. With Price, the Cards can finally boast the power rotation to match-up against the deep and patient AL lineups¬†they’ve struggled against¬†since the 2004 World Series. Zobrist is a tremendous fielder at multiple positions, giving St. Louis the option to move Matt Carpenter back to third while¬†shoring up a moribund offense.

Miller is comically underrated by St. Louis and somehow, the front office has spoiled on him. With a gaggle of young power arms in their system, he is surplus. Piscotty projects as an All-Star and Grichuk should at least be a solid regular. Meanwhile, the lefty Gonzales is tearing up the minor leagues after being drafted in the first round. The Rays should be happy with this haul as they avoid paying hype prices for Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez.

2. Orioles receive Cliff Lee (LHP) and a gangster wad of cash; Phillies receive Dylan Bundy (RHP)

Bold, expensive and extremely risky. These are the types of moves the normally risk-averse Orioles never make, but the time is right. The window for this team will effectively close at the end of the 2015 season (say “bye” to Chris Davis, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis, O’s fans), and Lee represents the one element this team has missed since Mike Mussina left in 2000: a shutdown starter who can take over a game. Yes, Lee’s contract is onerous, but worse case scenario, it’s a deal the Orioles can get out of in three seasons. While losing Bundy hurts, let’s remember the odds are against him becoming the next Jim Palmer¬†and even if he’s ready to contribute full-time by 2016, who will be left to play with him? With Nelly Cruz likely leading the exit out of town this fall, the advancing age of owner Peter Angelos, and the eventual trust busting of the cash-laden MASN deal, the time is right for the O’s to make a huge move that puts them over the top. Trading for A.J. Burnett ain’t going to cut it (unless the Phillies want to throw him in, too).

For the Phillies, well, it was fun while it lasted. They continue rebuilding their system with a former phenom¬†prospect who is healthy and they dump a massive salary commitment. Win-win. I hope you’re seeing a pattern here.

OB-LI413_121410_DV_201012140855023. Nationals receive Daniel Murphy (2B); Mets receive Taylor Jordan (RHP) and Brian Goodwin (OF)

The Nats’ recent run to the top of the National League East is unsurprising — they are quite simply one of the most well-rounded teams in the¬†game. However, they are also prone to prolonged offensive fits mixed in with the occasional “WTF?” moment in the field. In 2012, the Nationals rode the sea of lowered expectations all the way to a division championship. In 2013, they shat the proverbial bed. That can’t happen again in 2014. With another stellar rotation and dominant bullpen, Matt Williams can’t afford to play games¬†with his lineups. By acquiring¬†Murphy, the Nats plug a career .290 hitter into their lineup while concurrently ending this weird break-up Ryan Zimmerman is having with third base. Anthony Rendon goes back to making ridiculous plays at third, and depending on match-ups, Williams can move Zimmerman between LF and 1B, while Bryce Harper becomes the full-time solution in CF. Denard Span then becomes an effective weapon off the bench.

While the Mets like everyone to think they’re in a “win-now” mode, the numbers suggest they are far from it. Regardless, a long-term extension for Murphy probably isn’t in the team’s cash-strapped future. With this move, they acquire a MLB-ready back-end starter and formerly-touted outfielder who, despite maintaining his impressive skills, has stumbled this year at Triple A.

4. Tigers receive Jonathan Papelbon (RHP) and cash; Phillies receive Jonathon Crawford (RHP)

There are rumors out there that Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are available, and if they are, they make a whole hell of a lot of sense here as well as in Washington. However, given what we do know, Pap is looking for a way out of town and is still a pretty damn good reliever (.83 WHIP, 1.17 ERA, and 2.2 WAR) with two years and $26M left on his contract after this season (2016 is guaranteed at $13M with a relatively easy vesting option). Crawford appears to be on the outs with the Tigers and would represent a solid return for Ruben Amaro.

Much like the Orioles, the Tigers have an aging owner who¬†really wants to win a World Series and current closer Joe Nathan (1.53/5.80/-0.8) isn’t showing signs of turning things around. While the Tigers have been linked to bringing back Joaquin Benoit,¬†trading for¬†Papelbon¬†is a definitive (albeit expensive) improvement. If you aren’t going to go all the way, why go at all?

5. Brewers receive Jim Johnson (RHP) and cash; Athletics receive Player to Be Named Later

Though¬†the Brewers have stumbled as of late, they are still holding their own in an incredibly tight division. Just the other day, GM Doug Melvin told reporters it was unlikely the Brew Crew would be buyers at the deadline and he’s (mostly) right. ¬†Milwaukee has¬†the second-best offense in the league and their starting pitching is more than adequate (not to mention they lack the requisite talent to get someone better). Alas, their bullpen could use some¬†help beyond closer Francisco Rodriguez. With two lefties already taking up the majority of the work, Johnson would slide in nicely as a hard-throwing LOOGY. Since it is pretty clear the former closer¬†has no place on the juggernaut A’s staff, Oakland would probably be happy to dump him and eat the majority of his salary if it saved them a few bucks. For the Brewers,it’s a flier that may make a big difference come October. And for the record, Johnson has been pretty solid against NL teams this year.

Have any trades you’d like to see? ¬†Throw them down in the comments and let’s discuss. I promise we’ll be nicer than the folks on Twitter.

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