I had thought about posting this a while ago, so don't take this as an assessment of any recent postings. We all love the premise of floating trade ideas. Some of them are quite creative, but I don't remember hearing rumors about Prince Fielder plus cash for Ian Kinsler until it was nearly a done deal. Coming up with a valid trade proposal can be difficult, especially without much knowledge of the opposing system. That said, even without encyclopediac knowledge of another team, you can create a valid trade concept.
The most important thing is to realize that, to get any quality in return, you have to give up quality as well. And by quality, I mean something that will help a team get where they want to go. For instance, when the players you seem willing to give up are guys with a solid possibility of getting designated for assignment with a bad spring training, think twice. Each 40-man roster spot is important -- every single one. If a player represents no value to the parent club in this or any season, he probably lacks trade value.
Another consideration is where a team is looking in a current or upcoming season. The best recent local example was the deal where the Cubs acquired Travis Wood (and others) for Sean Marshall. The Reds knew they were contenders, and needed pieces to improve. Marshall was a proven reliever, and Dusty Baker had lost confidence in Wood. Since the Reds were desperate enough to flinch, they tacked on two prospects to a Wood-for-Marshall trade that made sense straight-up. The Cubs don't appear to be playoff-bound in 2014, so getting extra talent of any sort, especially with added team control, makes sense.
Note any potential Jeff Samardzija valid rumors, and mentally decide if they make sense to you. You need not post them, obviously. But mentally running the numbers on a known quantity like Samardzija helps train your brain for when other trades hit.
Consider the honest upside-value of the player you are offering. For instance, last season, a few times, I hypothesized about potential deals regarding players having solid starts. I seem to remember Cody Ransom ending up in a few. If a fourth-or-fifth place team has a reserve having a decent start, and there is no compelling reason to think his hot streak will last, he is a great flip option. If anyone would be interested.
In other words, if Donnie Murphy gets off to a hot start, and an infielder goes down, Murphy should be shopped pronto. But, what if it's May, and he's holding down the sixth slot in the order? All the better. Murphy, for all his HR power, is a journeyman. Having been signed for 2014 for $825,000, If he produces at all, that is a tremendous deal with a WAR being estimated at $6 million. If he gets off to a hot start, especially if the Cubs are in a distant fourth place, trading him for value is a no-brainer.
Scott Feldman, who signed a deal worth $10 million per for the next three seasons, netted two MLB arms. If a utility guy gets off to a torrid start, he might be worth one. Or a prospect. And if offered, the team should pounce. Which is another good reason to pick up non-roster invitees in the winter. If you have replacements for Donnie Murphy-types, letting them go is less of a drag.
(Trading him would be predicated on there not being any new information. For instance, if he is no longer striking out a ton, or if he is playing very solid defense, that would be new information.)
What would be value for Murphy? The tendency is to look for the team that lost a player to injury, look at their top three prospects, and squee. That's generally bad form. Put the Cubs in that spot. Assume the Cubs are in the hunt, and Starlin Castro gets hurt. If a blog poster says "(random utility guy having a good year) for Javier Baez", which they will, they're a fool. As they ought to tone down their rhetoric, so should we.
For a Murphy on a streak, there are two main options. One is a fringy reliever having a bad stretch. Of course, a reliever having a bad year scares you, the fan, from wanting him. But the best way to buy shares of a solid company is on some bad news that you see as being mis-interpreted. If a team wanting Murphy has a front office irate at the performance from a cost-controlled reliever that is better than his numbers, there you go.
The other option involves prospects. Nobody is dumping Jurickson Profar for Murphy. They just aren't. You don't need to know specifics on a system to float a deal though. For all the pontificating and ratings, most systems aren't that different. The system's are largely based on the Top 100-150 prospects. Murphy wouldn't bring a single one of them, at 30 years old.
Beyond that, many systems have guys doing better than they were drafted, worse than they were drafted, and about the same. Teams will have unheralded pitchers doing well at lower levels, specialists with one solid tool hoping others come along, and decent players that keep getting hurt. If you temper your expectations, specify what you're after, and remain reasonable, you can probably find a decent match in any system.
Let's switch players for now. The Cubs recently added Wesley Wright. James Russell has been moderately productive as well. Zach Rosscup and Brooks Raley will probably be ready for big league innings this summer. Let's assume one has a good start to the campaign. Early July arrives and Russell and Wright are getting nibbles from other GMs. Neither is an essential keep. One might as well go, and I have no specific reason to retain one over the other. In that case, trade the one drawing the best offers.
What can you get for a serviceable left-handed reliever?
Likely, not much. You probably won't get a Top 150 type, so you're left talking your way through what you want.
I want a really good prospect.
For a serviceable lefty reliever? Not likely. The further down the system ladder you go, the more upside you get. Anyone Double-A or higher for that kind of lefthander won't appear any better than the guy you just gave up. Only, the new guy will have more question marks, and less certainty. To get any upside, you have to go to A-Ball. Which appears to be Theo Epstein's favorite Thrift Store.
These guys will have concerns, but you have to decide what matters to you. So far, one of the important factors has been recent draft status. That allows the Cubs extra development time before Rule 5 status comes into play. Once July comes, players drafted (or internationally signed) in 2013 become eligible for trades. Getting a player recently selected delays the need to decide on them for awhile. Also, getting arms to Storm Davis (the pitching coach at Daytona) has been a good thing recently. So, if someone asks me in late June which (for instance) Giants player I'd like for a fringy trade option, I'd look at two things: their 2013 draft list, and the Low A/High A rosters.
It could be the team in question has an intriguing catching prospect from last year's draft. Or an outfielder, or something else that piques your attention. Or someone else's. If you are dealing a player on the margins of the roster, the likely return will be a guy in A Ball that isn't among their top prospects.
To be entirely honest, these guys are rarely any better than the fringe player they are dealt for. Which is why these are the trades that are made. The hope is that your development staff is good at their job. And if yours isn't, that could lead to a success drought.
If you can improve your system without giving much off your talent base, you should be good with that. One of the things I regret about the trade deadline in 2013 was an un-made trade. Yadier Molina was injured just before the deadline, and the Cardinals, apparently, wanted Dioner Navarro. The teams failed to reach an agreement. Epstein wanted something of value, and apparently didn't get enough offered in return. August and September would have been even uglier without Navarro, to be sure. However, as it was, the Cubs received no compensation for losing Navarro, who looks to be Toronto's starting backstop now. Getting something of possible WAR value in the future would have been nice.
By all means,, keep the trade ideas coming in the threads. Be sure to be realistic for both sides, as the goal ought to be to come up with something mutually agreeable, even if it doesn't happen.
Why should we bother?
Fans of other teams read Cubs blogs. If we are all "trade Mike Trout for Darwin Barney, Josh Vitters, and Edwin Jackson", other Cubs fans look more foolish by extension. Whereas, "Jeff Russell for a seventh-round righthanded starter drafted out of college who has had reasonable success in the Sally League at the Low-A level, and becomes trade-eligible in four days" shows that you took ten minutes to do some homework, and makes us look more reasonable by extension.