Is It Possible To Trade Brandon League?

BrandonLeagueSadI was browsing over at River Ave. Blues a while back, and came across a post about whether the Yankees would be able to find a trade match for Ichiro Suzuki. And why not? Ichiro was once the best player in baseball, but he’s now 40, he’s got a .302 OBP over the last two years, and he’s still owed $6.25 million in 2014. The Yankees don’t want to cut him out of respect, but with Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, and Alfonso Soriano, they don’t really need him. Brandon League was brought up as a possibility, but I can’t really see the fit; The last thing the Dodgers need is yet another outfielder at this point.

Yet the mere thought of being rid of League is appealing, because as we’ve been over so many times, he’s been terrible for most of the last two years — save a well-timed run of six weeks in late 2012 — and the Dodgers signed every reliever and have young ones on the way. Were it not for his contract, he wouldn’t be here right now. And remember, someone has to not be here in a little over a month when the season starts, because if the Dodgers go with their usual seven-man bullpen…

1) Kenley Jansen
2) Brian Wilson
3) J.P. Howell
4) Jamey Wright
5) Chris Perez
6) Paco Rodriguez
7) Paul Maholm or League

…someone with a big-league contract has to go, and I haven’t even included the far more deserving Chris Withrow or Jose Dominguez or the intriguing Seth Rosin yet. Now sure, maybe Maholm’s sore elbow is a great way to get him onto the disabled list, or the team shockingly takes advantage of Rodriguez’ remaining minor-league options, or — most likely — someone either in this group or in the rotation gets hurt over the next few weeks, and the problem isn’t a problem. Maybe it’s League himself, if the team hires someone to keep poking him in his strained lat long enough to gin up a DL stint.

But until that happens, we’re going to wonder how the bottom of the bullpen shakes out.  So.. is it possible to trade League at all? Remember, the conditions here are specific. The goal of this is not to find value or a useful part, because his trade appeal right now is zero. It’s less than zero, really, since you couldn’t give that contract away for free. You’d have to take on someone else’s problem, with the appeal here being A) to get rid of League without the embarrassment of cutting him, B) to maybe save just a bit of money, or C) to hope that “someone else’s problem” just needs a change of scenery.

League has $15m coming to him over the next two years — you can forget that 2016 vesting option, there’s just no chance — so let’s start there. In reality, this probably means that a trade would be “League and $14.5m for two low-level Single-A space fillers,” but that’s no fun. Let’s have fun.

Busted expensive second basemen

Hey, have you heard that second base is a potential issue for the Dodgers? I feel like this is a thing you might have heard about. Alexander Guerrero is far from a sure thing, and there might even be a platoon! Except, you know, that doesn’t make any sense at all.

My position is the same as it’s been for months: Guerrero will be fine, but it’s not fair to him to expect that he’s 100 percent ready to go on Opening Day. Remember, he didn’t play last year, and he’s never been a second baseman before, so if he needs a few weeks or months in the minors to start the year, I have no problem with that. You’ve signed him for years to come, not just for 2014.

We’ve been over the Dee Gordon and Brendan Harris and Justin Turner-shaped solutions there, and if that’s not appealing, there’s two formerly-good second baseman who are now just terribly expensive (and terrible) second basemen: Dan Uggla (2/$26m) and Rickie Weeks (1/$11m). Both have young players behind them (Tommy La Stella in Atlanta, Scooter Gennett in Milwaukee); both are coming off brutally awful seasons (.209/.306/.357 and 86 wRC+ for Weeks; .179/.309/.362 and a 91 wRC+ for Uggla). Both are below-average defensive players, but both were three-win players as recently as 2011 (Weeks) and 2012 (Uggla).

Remember, you’re not trading League for something shiny. If you can trade him, it’s for someone else’s scuffed-up broken parts, and gaining back a bullpen roster spot.

Totally useless pitchers

Remember Ricky Romero (2/$15.6m)? From 2009-11, he was a productive young lefty, tossing 613 innings of 3.60 ERA ball in the AL East, so Toronto signed him to a five-year extension. In 2012, he completely lost his control; in 2013, he spent most of the year being awful in Triple-A, walking 5.0/9 with a 5.78 ERA. In October, he was outrighted off the 40-man roster. Is Albuquerque the right place for him to fix that? Uh… no. It is not. But still. League was a 2001 Toronto draftee and spent the first four years of his career there.

The money doesn’t match up quite so well with John Danks, who was a very good pitcher from 2008-11 and still has $42.6m coming over the next three years. Since then, he’s had two awful seasons while battling shoulder woes. There’s probably not a fit here, because it’s not like the Dodgers have anywhere to put him either, but you can bet Chicago would be happy to unload that contract.

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…and that might be it. There’s guys who make way too much money to fit — your B.J. Uptons, your Albert Pujolses, etc. — and overpaid guys who still have too much value to match up, like Jonathan Papelbon. And so as disappointing as that might be, the end result here just might be: no, probably not. The Dodgers are stuck with League, at least until they decide the embarrassment of cutting him is worth swallowing.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.