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Your favorite baseball team could have traded for these MVP candidates, and they blew it

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Does your team need an additional hitter? Well, they should have looked alive a couple years ago, because now it's too late to get these guys.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for a thought exercise, a journey into the land of hypotheticals. Oh, how I love these, as they require no knowledge of what will happen, only knowledge of what has happened. Plus, I get to make everything up. All hail baseball hypotheticals!

Today's thought exercise looks at the best players in baseball and asks when your team could have acquired them. It would have taken more than a little foresight, some excellent timing and maybe a time machine, but your team could have been there when the Padres gave Corey Kluber away, or when the Cubs swooped in on Jake Arrieta.

Let's see when they could have done it with the best players in baseball.

There are some rules, though. Mike Trout was a first-round pick who immediately impressed the socks off his organization, and he technically wasn't allowed to be traded for a year after the draft. Your team never had a shot. Same with Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa and Chris Sale. If the Dodgers decided against dealing Clayton Kershaw for Miguel Cabrera, they would probably reject your offer for Ryan Ludwick, too.

Still, a spin through the best players in the league shows us that some of them were quite available in the right deal. Once. A long, long time ago. You missed your chance, dummies.

Stephen Piscotty

Piscotty has a first-round pedigree, so it's not like he was ever available for a bag of pennies, but he was a low first-rounder, where the misses far outnumber the hits. After just 109 games in the majors, he's already one of the 10-most valuable No. 36 picks in draft history.

Which is to say that in 2014, when the Cardinals were contending and Piscotty was a 23-year-old hitting .287/.347/.400 in Triple-A at the trade deadline, a team could have asked about him without the Cardinals shrieking, "Hands off our first-round pick!" They probably had hopes and dreams for him, and they probably liked him better than the stats indicated, but he wasn't a hang-up-the-phone prospect.

Your team totally could have traded for him if

They called the Cardinals on July 31 and offered them a competent starting pitcher. Considering they dealt for Justin Masterson, who was literally on the disabled list at the time, they were wiiiiiide open to possibilities. They gave up an outfield prospect (James Ramsey) who was bludgeoning the ball in Double-A, so it shouldn't have been too hard to pry away the outfield prospect who was just doing okay in Triple-A.

Caveat: Piscotty would not have come with the pouch of Stan Musial dust that the Cardinals sprinkle on their young hitters. That is sold separately. Also, it is not for sale. So I'm not sure why you would have even bothered.

Jackie Bradley, Jr.

He was not in the free box at the end of the driveway. He was not available for whatever random reliever you could scrap from the bottom of a roster. But he was almost certainly available in the right deal after he fell out of favor with the Red Sox. Consider that it was less than a year ago that he was on revocable waivers, just in case another team wanted to get clever after the deadline.

The Red Sox denied that one, but the idea that the rumor existed gives you a little glimpse at his perceived trade value.

Your team totally could have traded for him if

They offered a former top-100 prospect who was down on his luck, too. Bradley wouldn't have been the centerpiece of a huge, fancy trade.

Victorino and Bradley or Craig for a starter---maybe Hamel. Now, if that isn't good enough, sweeten it with another outfielder.

Right, mmm hmm, probably not, and the Red Sox wouldn't have dumped Bradley's potential on a random, Scott Feldman-like arm. But what if the Giants were as frustrated with Kyle Crick as the Red Sox were with Bradley? Hey, it was a good enough idea for a Red Sox blogger in the fake 2014-2015 offseason.

Pick your team's own dimming star of a prospect, and you might have nabbed yourself a future Gold Glove hit-streak machine.

Odubel Herrera

One of the greatest success stories of the Phillies' rebuild, Herrera is suddenly one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball. He's already set a career high in walks this season, even though he's played 101 fewer games so far this year. He's speedy, walky and catchy, and he's adding in the extra-base hits, too.

It wasn't that long ago, though, that he was buried in a deep Rangers system, showing enough skills with the bat to get promoted to Double-A, but not enough to make him an obvious choice for the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft.

Your team totally could have traded for him if

They called up the White Sox before the 2014 Rule 5 draft and said, "We will offer you something from our farm system if you pick Odubel Herrera and give him to us." The White Sox, who declined to make a selection with the seventh-overall pick, would have thought, "Say, something is better than nothing. We will make this trade!"

Literally any team could have had Herrera, and it wouldn't have cost them more than a token prospect with a 91-mph fastball. There's no way anyone could have known about his exponential improvements this season, but he's definitely high on this particular kick-yourself list.

Next time, A.J.. Next time.

Jose Altuve

In the 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Altuve was the No. 28 prospect in the organization, just behind Brian Bogusevic (the hitter). His scouting report was glowing -- "quick, strong hands," "plays a No. 2 hitter's game," "team leader," "a dazzling second baseman" -- but his height made him more suspect than prospect. Because of the tall man hegemony this world poisonously subscribes to. But I'll leave my politics out of this.

This is a tricky one because the Astros weren't in the market for proven players in 2010, the season before Altuve was up for good. They were lousy, they knew it, and they were just about to embark on a total rebuild. So get your reliever-for-short-non-prospect hypothetical trade out of here. They wouldn't have been interested.

That's not to say there weren't ways around that.

Your team totally could have traded for him if

If you wanted Altuve, it would have had to be as a part of a bigger deal, one of the ones for Hunter Pence or Michael Bourn. Something like this:

"Okay, Juan Abreu, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, and Jordan Schafer for Michael Bourn. That works. Thank you for not insisting that Randall Delgado needed to be a part of the deal. Unless ...

Well, I suppose if we put Delgado in the deal we could live with it, but only if we got a little something back to even the trade up. Let me just scan this list of semi-prospects in your system, and ..."

He could have been a part of a much larger shuffle. And your team blew it.

Your team blew it on all these hitters because of a lack of imagination, imo, and now all four of them are MVP candidates. The only thing you can do is pick the MVP candidates of 2019 or 2020 who are totally available right now. Hop to it.