Teams In Need
Quite a few organizations went without regulars at the first base position in 2018, seemingly content with timeshare situations. That could again be the case, though it’s also possible that a few tantalizing trade targets might lead to a re-thinking on the part of some clubs.
Among likely contenders, only the Rockies jump off the page with an opening — assuming, at least, that they will move Ian Desmond to an outfield or utility role of some kind. Teams like the Mariners and Twins could arguably stand to add at the position, but also might address it by shuffling existing players.
Of course, others could free up space if they see an opportunity to improve. The Yankees, for instance, will have to decide how much they wish to rely upon Luke Voit (while also considering how their DH and catching situations will play out). The Red Sox, Nationals, and Angels are among the clubs that’ll at least be looking for complementary pieces capable of spending some time in the first base mix.
Likely Regulars: Frankly, there don’t appear to be any in this group — making the trade candidates listed below all the more tantalizing.
Top Timeshare/Reserve Options: Steve Pearce has hit a ton in 2018 and deserves a significant role, though he has long been dogged by heath questions. Mark Reynolds proved he can still do damage, while Hanley Ramirez is a wild card. On the left side of the plate, a trio of veterans returns to the open market. Matt Adams collapsed down the stretch but was productive earlier in the year; Lucas Duda did the opposite; Logan Morrison will be looking for a bounceback chance after an injury-plagued campaign. It seems unlikely that Joe Mauer will play anywhere other than Minnesota, but perhaps that can’t be ruled out entirely.
Likely Regulars: The most intriguing name that could be on the market has to be Paul Goldschmidt (1/$14.5MM). It stands to reason that the D-Backs will put him on the block early, seeing whether offers reach a sufficient level to make a move. Another player entering his final year of team control, Jose Abreu of the White Sox ($16MM projected), is perhaps still as much an extension as a trade candidate. Switch-hitter Justin Smoak sustained the better part of his 2017 outbreak this year and will earn a reasonable $8MM in the final season of his contract (his club option value was boosted by escalators). Trading him could offer the Blue Jays a chance to pick up some young talent while clearing the deck for existing young players to get some chances at the MLB level.
There are also some larger contracts worth considering. Wil Myers arguably doesn’t fit the roster puzzle for the Padres, though his deal (4/$64MM plus option) is just about to ramp up in cost. Though the Giants’ remaining obligations to Brandon Belt (3/$48MM) outstrip his present value — particularly after another season in which he missed time and didn’t hit to his typical levels — he’d still represent an interesting target for some clubs, potentially opening the door to some off-the-wall trade concepts. Speaking of which, the Phillies could seek to bail on Carlos Santana (2/$35MM plus option), depending upon how untold other possibilities play out, though they likely won’t find a terribly receptive market. And while an offseason trade remains hard to fathom, it’s still worth remembering that the Tigers could try to move some of their remaining obligations to Miguel Cabrera (5/$162MM plus options) at some point.
Top Timeshare/Reserve Options: Despite a strong year at the plate and still-palatable salary, C.J. Cron ($5.2MM projected) seems not to be in the Rays’ plans following the acquisition of Ji-Man Choi. Jose Martinez of the Cardinals (pre-arb) is another quality righty bat that might hold appeal, though his struggles to handle first base defensively may make him a DH-only target.
Teams considering lefty sluggers could take a look at the Phillies’ Justin Bour ($5.2MM projected) or Brewers’ Eric Thames (1/$7MM plus option), depending upon how those organizations proceed. Greg Bird of the Yankees ($1.5MM projected), Dominic Smith of the Mets (pre-arb), and AJ Reed of the Astros (pre-arb) could represent upside plays for the right team if their current orgs decide it’s time to move on.