PHOENIX, AZ - U.S. Futures All-Star Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals hits a ground ball in the third inning of the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
In the first installment of the Fake Trades series, we attempt to speed along a win-now strategy and help a rebuilding process at the same time.
Thirty-six years ago, one of the best baseball sites on the internet was MLB Talk. Well, 36 years ago in internet time. In earth orbits, it was closer to a decade ago. But the site introduced me to some fantastic baseball writers, like Dayn Perry and John Brattain. It was the first place I'd stop every morning.
One of the site's most popular features was the Mock Stove League, where writers would come up with their own fake trades, and commenters would abuse them for being stupid and biased and stupid. The best part was that the writers were almost always accused of robbing both teams. If at this point, you'd like to stop reading this and cull through those Mock-Stove archives, you'd be right to do so.
Even better was when they gave the keys to the readers:
The format always led to criticism and internet chest-puffing, but it was never dull. Even when some poor, delusional reader would come up with a Travis Lee-for-Manny Ramirez deal, it was always fun to read their explanations. So I thought I would
steal pay homage to the idea for Baseball Nation.
Sadly, the idea first popped into my head thinking about how the Nationals could trade for Marlon Byrd, which is a subject so boring that Marlon Byrd wouldn't even read the article. It's a practical trade, and it would make sense for both sides. But it's boring. No, that's a subject for the Fake Boring Trades series that I'll start next week.
But maybe there's a way to spice this thing up. Byrd to the Nats makes too much sense, especially if the Nats are thinking about winning now. But there's no such thing as a partial win-now strategy. It's like being somewhat pregnant, or a mostly annoying Red Sox fan. I mean, if the Nationals are trying to win now, are they really going to count on a teenager to bolster their lineup? No, that just won't do.
Castro is under contract through 2016, so it's not as if the Nationals would purely do this out of short-term thinking. But past that, Garza is around for two more seasons, which would give the Nationals at least two shots with a pitching quartet that would rank among the best in the game. Byrd is a free agent after this season, but he'd upgrade the Nats' roster while relieving them of the peyote-inspired notion that Jayson Werth can play center field.
With the Cubs taking on LaRoche's salary, the Nationals are free to pursue yet another win-now piece, whether it's Prince Fielder or Casey Kotchman. They could also use Ian Desmond as a trade piece for an upgrade.
The Cubs would be putting a lot of eggs into one hyper-confident basket, but it's hard to imagine a prospect who's a surer bet than Harper. They can futz around with B+ prospects for Garza or C prospects for Byrd, or they can get one super-prospect for the lot of them. If there's one lesson to be learned from those old Mock Stove Leagues, it's that the prospect world is even more filled with Chad Hermansens and Paxton Crawfords than you might think.
The odds are somewhat against the Cubs getting a prospect back in a Garza trade who turns into a regular. But with Harper, they'd get the closest thing to a star that the prospect world has seen since a teenaged Alex Rodriguez. They weren't especially interested in Albert Pujols.
The biggest sticking point -- other than the whole idea being ludicrous -- would be Starlin Castro's ability to stick at short. The Nationals are set at second with Danny Espinosa, so if they're going to have Castro around for a few years, they'd have to believe he could at least fake a decent shortstop for most of them.
See? Nothing that anyone can possibly argue with. Just a completely fair and reasonable trade for both sides. I probably should have picked something that would have irritated people instead of something so realistic and practical. Maybe I'll have better luck with the next one.