Teams In Need
The Athletics could see Jed Lowrie hit the open market, though there’s been talk of an extension. If he’s not re-signed, the A’s have Franklin Barreto in Triple-A. Similarly, the Rockies could lose DJ LeMahieu but have prospects Brendan Rodgers and Garrett Hampson in the upper minors.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, will lose Chase Utley to retirement while Brian Dozier reaches free agency. One of the game’s great curators of depth, the Dodgers organization isn’t hurting for replacement options with Chris Taylor, Enrique Hernandez and Max Muncy on hand.
The Twins sent Dozier to L.A. and replaced him with Logan Forsythe, who’s also a free agent. Top prospect Nick Gordon could pair with Jorge Polanco up the middle, but Gordon has yet to hit in Triple-A. The Nationals shipped out Daniel Murphy and received little from Wilmer Difo following that swap. The Pirates, too, could be in need if Josh Harrison’s option is bought out.
It’s possible that the Cardinals could enter the mix for an offensive boost if they decide to move on from Kolten Wong’s glove-first approach. Perhaps the Angels feel set with David Fletcher, but they may want a more impactful bat. The rebuilding Tigers don’t have an established option but could give prospect Dawel Lugo an audition. And if the Indians can jettison Jason Kipnis’ contract, they could seek help at the keystone, too (moving Jose Ramirez back to third base).
Potential Regulars: DJ LeMahieu, Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier, Daniel Murphy, Ian Kinsler
Lowrie is coming off his best season but has been open about his desire to remain with the A’s. He may never reach the market, and even if he does, Oakland will try to retain him. LeMahieu has carved out a nice spot as a high-average hitter with quality glovework but minimal power. Dozier was the game’s most powerful second baseman by a landslide from 2015-17 but played through a knee injury in 2018 and had his worst full season since 2013. Murphy started slow in his return from knee surgery but hit .322/.358/.502 in his final 293 PAs. Kinsler will be 37 next June, but he’s still an elite defender even as his bat continues to decline.
Harrison had the worst full season of his career, so the cost-conscious Pirates may simply buy out his option. He can play at least three positions, though, and was a quality regular as recently as 2017. Forsythe’s 2018 season was a nightmare, but he’s spent much of his career giving left-handed pitchers fits. He can play either second or third and hit much better following a July trade to Minnesota. Descalso quietly had his best season at the plate and is capable of playing all over the diamond. He’ll be 32 next season but makes for a potential utility piece. Switch-hitters Cabrera and Walker (.249/.349/.438 from July 1 through season’s end) can still provide some value at the plate, but their defensive abilities are more in question.
The late-blooming Merrifield has established himself as one of baseball’s premier second basemen over the past two seasons. He’s controlled another four years, making him a premium trade chip who could fetch some MLB-ready pieces, as GM Dayton Moore has targeted in other deals. Gennett, too, has broken out over the past two years, though he’s only controlled for one more season. A Cincinnati native, Gennett hopes to stay with the Reds, and the feeling seems mutual. He’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $10.7MM through arbitration, but an extension is possible.
Castro (one year, $12MM plus a 2020 option) had another solid season but is somewhat expensive relative to his potentially available peers. Wong (2/$17.25MM plus 2021 option) was one of baseball’s premier defenders in 2018 (19 Defensive Runs Saved, 13.4 Ultimate Zone Rating) but has persistently been in trade rumors for the past couple seasons. Marte, 25 tomorrow, isn’t a star but provided average offense and solid defense in ’18 and comes with cost certainty (4/$19MM remaining plus two club options).
The Phillies are reportedly willing to deal anyone other than Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola, and the 28-year-old Hernandez is a steady hitter controlled through 2020. He’s due a raise in arbitration ($8.9MM projection). Also arb-eligible for two more years ($4.2MM projection for ’19), Panik had a career-worst season and could be a change-of-scenery candidate depending on the views of the new Giants GM.
Cleveland would presumably love to shed the remaining year and $17MM on Kipnis’ deal (he also has an option for 2020) as the organization faces payroll constraints and has numerous holes to fill. Given his .230/.315/.389 slash, though, Kipnis would be tough to move.
It’s worth wondering if the Jays would move on from the injury-prone Travis. He’s controlled for another two seasons ($2.4MM arb projection), but the Jays have alternatives, including Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the bigs and top prospect Bo Bichette looming.
Solarte had an awful first season with the Jays but was a steadily productive player with the Padres, so perhaps a team would dub his $5.5MM option a worthy gamble. Dietrich, a perennial trade candidate like many Marlins, is a solid hitter with no real defensive home. He’s controlled through 2020 and projected at $4.8MM in 2019.
The Padres have three potential trade pieces now that top prospect Luis Urias is ready for a big league look. None of Spangenberg, Asuaje or Pirela hit in the Majors in 2018, though. Asuaje is the youngest of the bunch and has another five seasons of control, perhaps making him the most desirable. It’s a similar tale for Wade with the Yankees; the 24-year-old has hit in Triple-A but is a ways down the depth chart and has yet to produce in the Majors.
Hanson and Herrera are former Top 100 prospects who’ve yet to perform in the Majors. Hanson did show surprising pop against righties with the Giants, but his lack of plate discipline held him to a .275 OBP. Herrera returned from shoulder woes with a strong Triple-A season, but he didn’t hit in 97 MLB plate appearances down the stretch and would be blocked if the Reds extend Gennett.