Since the dawn of free agency, it has been rare for MLB players to play for the same team their entire careers like Derek Jeter, Todd Helton, or Chipper Jones did. Usually, there is a better offer (i.e. money) around the bend somewhere, if not the same opportunity to make the postseason or bask in the adoration of longtime fans.
Then again, baseball is a business, the game’s stars say publicly, so there is little reason to consider players more than commodities on a volatile market. Owners and management sometimes have to move beloved, expensive stars in order to pick up young players for the future and shed salaries owed in the present. Small-market teams are always more likely to pull the trigger. Good luck trying to trade Jeter at any point in his career.
Colorado and Miami are in a different situation than perennial contenders who spend and earn filthy riches. Even the teams in baseball’s bigger markets have serious questions to ask of their organizations in 2014. If they have a shot to contend in the coming years, they need to get bold and trade their franchise players now. Here are five untouchable MLB stars who should be traded to help their teams in the future.
5. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
When Cole Hamels signed a seven-year deal worth $153 million through 2018, it appeared No. 35 would be a Phillie for most (if not all) of his career. Why wouldn’t he? After all, Hamels pitched the team to their second-ever World Series title in franchise history. Hamels nabbed MVP honors for the 2008 World Series and seemed destined for all-time franchise greatness. Mostly, the team has lagged behind the lefty following his off year in 2009.
With no bright future ahead in Philadelphia, Hamels would be best dealt as a trading piece to stock up the team on young players. Fox Sports reports Hamels is indeed on the trading block in 2014, but there are few takers for such a pricey contract ($96 million owed through 2018). Next year might be a tough time at Citizens Bank Park without Hamels, Cliff Lee, or even Jonathan Papelbon (should they all be traded), but this move makes sense if Philly gets a quality return.
4. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Trading a franchise figure who plays shortstop and leads all MLB in batting would be controversial to say the least. Yet where are the Colorado Rockies going in the near future? Troy Tulowitzki, a franchise player if there ever was one, has openly wondered the same thing in recent weeks, according to CBS Sports. Tulo went so far to give Rockies management his blessing should they see a trade scenario that made sense for everyone involved. In terms of star players, Tulowitzki is relatively cheap at $20 million per year through 2020.
While Tulowitzki wasn’t demanding a trade, he reportedly has been upset about the team’s perennial dives, especially the most recent one in 2014. Colorado leads the league in scoring yet sits 12 games out of first place (14 games below .500) in the NL West. The return of Carlos Gonzalez won’t be able to turn the tide for the Rockies. (They need pitching.) Tulo has put it out there, but Rockies management denied even considering the move. If they hope to get competitive in the near future, potential deals are worth exploring.
3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
Postseason hero, Cy Young winner, AL East beast…there isn’t much lacking in the resume of David Price two years shy of his thirtieth birthday, save a World Series title. In 2014, Price is leading the league in innings pitched and strikeouts at the All-Star break, but most MLB experts think his impressive career in Tampa is over. With the Tampa Bay Rays, there are no luxuries when it comes to pitchers with a $20 million price tag. Price will make about that much in arbitration salary before hitting the free agent market ahead of 2016.
Should the Rays gear up for a run in 2015 with their full pitching rotation ready to roll? It sounds crazy, but the perennial contender probably can’t afford him even next year, making it the time to deal Price. Few teams would ever consider parting with such a valuable left-hander, but their best shot at contending for the future is selling high now.
2. Giancalo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Only in his first year of arbitration eligibility and getting better every year, it would sound crazy to consider trading a cornerstone slugger like Giancarlo Stanton, yet the Marlins won’t give him a long-term contract, either. In most cases, this situation ends badly for both sides. If the Marlins insist on keeping payroll to a bare minimum, Stanton should be traded for the Marlins to compete on any high level in the future.
Marlins GM Dan Jennings recently said he wouldn’t trade Stanton, which leaves the franchise with a clear explanation as to why they average 21,500 fans per game in attendance — one of the worst in Major League Baseball. Pay him or trade him. In other news, Stanton is leading the NL in home runs and RBI. He one of the Marlins’ two representatives on the All-Star team in 2014.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Henderson Alvarez’s inclusion to the 2014 National League All-Star roster. The Miami Marlins now have two players on the All-Star team this year.
1. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
Jon Lester has just as polished a resume as David Price except with two World Series rings added to the mix. Like the other players on this list, Lester has been a lifer with his first team, coming up with the Red Sox in 2006 and never looking back. He is 109-63 with a 3.66 ERA in his career. So why have the Red Sox not given Lester a long-term deal in the final year of his contract? Since the Carl Crawford-Adrian Gonzalez debacle, the Red Sox have shied away from big deals that usually come back to haunt teams.
Lester is likely looking for Tanaka (if not Kershaw) money in 2015 and beyond, but the Red Sox probably won’t give him that. What would they get by trading Lester as a rental to a contending team in 2014? They would likely get a nice prospect or two. Better yet, the goodbye needn’t be forever. After the Red Sox finish their not-so-promising 2014 season, the two parties coud get together and make a deal for the future. The price would be just a few months of separation, but the return would be considerable for the Red Sox as an organization.