Since our initial top-trade list of the offseason, we’ve seen a fair bit of activity on that front. Among those who were ranked or otherwise noted, the following ended up on the move: Omar Narvaez, Dylan Bundy, Corey Kluber, Nomar Mazara, Hunter Renfroe, Jurickson Profar, and Jake Marisnick. Now, with free agency humming along, we could see yet more significant players dealt.
This is an updated version of our list. The “methodology” is set forth in the original. It’s subjective; it’s debatable; and that’s what makes it fun.
1. Starling Marte, OF, Pirates (LR: 2): There’s not a full sense of urgency with Marte, who is under control for another season, but there’s a lot of demand in center and he’s a really nice fit for multiple teams. It still feels like some team will step up with a sufficient offer to get the Bucs to bite.
2. Ken Giles, RP, Blue Jays (LR: 1): The Jays have spent on new additions, but it still makes sense to shop a rental reliever in a market starved of high-end relief pitching. Perhaps the Toronto organization will seek MLB assets rather than far-away prospects; maybe the team will even hold Giles and re-assess at the trade deadline if the offers are insufficient.
3. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (LR: NR): It’s still not clear just how likely the Indians are to move their best player, but they did just trade Kluber and interest in Lindor has been both robust and persistent. He leaps to the top tier of this list based on his elite talent and the increasing plausibility of a deal.
4. Matthew Boyd, SP, Tigers (LR: 6): Several teams have yet to address their needs for starting pitching. With shell-shocking price tags on starters thus far, there’s added appeal in Boyd — a cost-efficient, controllable, durable starter with obvious upside.
5. Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Red Sox (LR: 4): The market has been quiet, but it still stands to reason that the luxury-shaving Boston club will end up finding a taker for their solid center fielder.
6. Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets (LR: 8): Rumors on Smith haven’t exactly flown, but … where does he fit on the Mets roster? The club could really benefit from adding other pieces or freeing payroll space; moving Smith offers the readiest means to accomplish those tasks.
7. Josh Hader, RP, Brewers (LR: NR): It’s awfully tough to gauge the likelihood of a deal involving the star southpaw reliever. But we know the Brewers are at least listening. And the plausibility of a deal perhaps increased when the anticipated cost of his arbitration seasons went through the roof when he snuck in as a Super Two. It’ll take a haul, but there’s a lot of potential interest and Milwaukee front office hasn’t shied away from bold change.
8. David Price, SP, Red Sox (LR: NR): The veteran southpaw underperformed his peripherals last year and doesn’t look quite so expensive after the eye-popping pitching contracts we’ve seen of late. He’s due $32MM annually in each of the next three seasons. The Red Sox would have to eat some money, to be sure, but it’s easier now to imagine a deal coming together. And sending out Price would be the readiest way of clearing the books.
9. Robbie Ray, SP, Diamondbacks (LR: 7): At various times, we’ve seen strong hints that Ray very much is and very much isn’t available. Shrug. The Snakes are always open to high-value scenarios and will consider moving Ray. But if they’re serious about chasing down the Dodgers, they’ll have to sacrifice some amount of future upside to prioritize the present. Hanging onto a high-ceiling arm such as Ray, who could still be dealt mid-season or get a qualifying offer at season’s end, seems like a reasonable risk.
10-11. Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Cubs & Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies (LR: 21, NR): There’s a lot of smoke surrounding the third base market. If nothing else, perhaps there are a few enterprising GMs somewhere in the cloud, laboring to spark the tinder that could grow into a raging bonfire. That’s … well, it’s an overwrought metaphor, but you know what we mean. Anthony Rendon and Mike Moustakas are already signed. There are a lot of teams chasing Josh Donaldson. Those that miss could make serious runs at Bryant and Arenado, two of the game’s very best overall players over the past several seasons.
12. Chris Archer, SP, Pirates (LR: 10): Have we mentioned the price of pitching? The Bucs don’t need to move Archer, but this might be an opportune moment. He’s only going to cost $20MM over the next two years, more than half of which isn’t even guaranteed (relevant in the event that he tanks or is hurt in 2020).
13. J.A. Happ, SP, Yankees (LR: NR): The Yanks’ intentions regarding Happ aren’t entirely clear, but rumors have indicated he’s plenty available. And it stands to reason he would be, since he comes with a big luxury tax hit — $17MM, which is also the price of his 2020 salary — and really doesn’t seem a necessary piece of the pitching puzzle in New York.
14. Keone Kela, RP, Pirates (LR: 13): It’s certainly possible the Bucs will prefer not to sell low on Kela, who’s only owed a projected $3.4MM in his final season of arbitration eligibility. But that could add to the degree of difficulty of the team’s much-needed clubhouse improvement effort. And while there’s upside in holding out for a trade deadline deal, there’s also a risk of getting nothing back.
15. Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees (LR: 9): A few factors have conspired to move down the likelihood of a Frazier swap. The Yankees have spent big on pitching rather than using the trade market to address those needs. The early-season absence of Aaron Hicks leaves more room in the outfield. And the 26th roster spot makes it easier to fit Frazier even with a plethora of other position-player options. There are still scenarios where Frazier, Miguel Andujar, or some other player ends up on the move before the start of the season, but it’s also not hard to see the logic in hanging onto the full slate of bats to open the year with a plan to adapt as things play out.
16. Brad Hand, RP, Indians (LR: NR): This is speculative, as we haven’t seen Hand appear in rumors as a trade candidate. But if the Cleveland organization is willing to hold discussions regarding Lindor, it can’t hang up on callers asking about Hand. The southpaw closer is earning $7MM this year with a $10MM option for 2021, making him a cost-efficient target who’d greatly improve any bullpen in baseball.
17. Wil Myers, OF, Padres (LR: NR): No question about it: this contract is under water. Myers is owed $20MM annually through 2022 (plus a $1MM buyout on an option year). His play hasn’t justified that kind of salary. But the Friars are said to be a bit over budget at the moment and are surely still looking to improve their roster in a season in which they have to make real strides. Structuring a deal involving Myers could be a key part of the puzzle.
18-19. Josh Bell, 1B & Adam Frazier, UTIL, Pirates (LR: 14, NR): We didn’t include Frazier in our last list, but reports indicate he’s getting plenty of interest from other organizations. A versatile defender who has had good overall success against right-handed pitching, Frazier would fit a lot of rosters. It’s also not strictly clear how much trade value the market will reward him. Bell would be valued highly, but it’d be much harder for the Pirates to part with him, even if he didn’t sustain his superstar first half effort in 2019. In both cases, the Pittsburgh organization will want to be wowed to make a deal, but must be open to the possibility.
20-22. Mychal Givens, RP, Orioles; Joe Jimenez, RP, Tigers; Tim Hill, RP, Royals (LR: 15, 16, NR): As with our first list, these relievers stand out as guys that don’t have to be dealt but surely are available for the right price. Hill joins the list after being cited as a target of several contenders. The southpaw offers plenty of cheap control to the Kansas City organization but is already 29 years of age. He carried big groundball numbers last year while also showing an ability to get strikeouts against righties. Givens is the best established of this group, though he’s coming off of a forgettable 2019 season. As for Jimenez, the Tigers will likely remain patient given the lengthy control rights remaining, but the club ought to pursue trade scenarios if there’s serious interest.
23. Willson Contreras, C, Cubs (LR: 23): So if the Cubbies are likely to move one significant player as part of their promised reshuffling, and it doesn’t turn out to be Bryant … one would expect to see Contreras on the move. Then again, cash-strapped though it may be, the Chicago front office can’t just go dumping Contreras for any old return. It’s still possible the Cubs will have a rather wild or a totally tame overall offseason once the dust settle.
24. Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox (LR: 20): It’s tough to guess the odds of a move involving one of the game’s greatest players. It seems low, but there are some intriguing possibilities. New chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom came up with the Rays, who routinely spin off their best players as they near free agency. Might the Dodgers turn to a full-court press on Betts if they miss on other targets? Could some other team see a chance at vaulting past their rivals in one fell swoop? There has been much talk about how Betts may not be all that valuable on a one-year deal that’s likely to approach $30MM. Well … what about the rarity of the opportunity to rent a mid-prime, ~6-7+ WAR player without promising him gobs of money into his late thirties? There’s immense appeal to that as well.
25. James McCann, C, White Sox (LR: NR): The South Siders have put out word that they like the idea of carrying McCann along with Yasmani Grandal. There’s some sense in that, to be sure, as the former can reduce the load on the latter, who can also line up at designated hitter or first base. But if the White Sox end up adding another significant bat to go with Jose Abreu in the 1B/DH mix, as they’re rumored to be exploring, then the arrangement would seem decidedly less functional. In that event, working out a deal involving McCann might work for all involved. He’d get a better playing time situation, the White Sox could address other needs (either directly or by adding to the club’s prospect/payroll pool), and another organization would find a way to fill a void in a market that has moved quickly on catchers.
Others To Consider
Premium multi-year targets: Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox; Mike Clevinger, SP, Indians; Jon Gray, SP, Rockies; Trevor Story, SS, Rockies; Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners; Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, Orioles; J.D. Martinez, DH/OF, Red Sox; Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Red Sox; Whit Merrifield, UTIL, Royals; Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
Rental targets: Marcus Semien, SS, Athletics; Kirby Yates, RP, Padres; Ian Kennedy, RP, Royals; Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers; Josh Reddick, OF, Astros; Jeff Samardzija, SP, Giants; Carlos Santana, 1B, Indians
Younger players with multi-year control: Kyle Schwarber, OF, Cubs; Johan Camargo, INF, Braves; J.D. Davis, INF/OF, Mets; Steven Matz, SP, Mets; Niko Goodrum, INF/OF, Tigers; Austin Hedges, C, Padres; Ender Inciarte, OF, Braves; Manuel Margot, OF, Padres; Albert Almora Jr., OF, Cubs; Mallex Smith, OF, Mariners; Michael A. Taylor, OF, Nationals; Jose Urena, SP/RP, Marlins; Caleb Smith, SP, Marlins; Tyler Mahle, SP, Reds; Brad Keller, SP, Royals; Abraham Toro, Astros; Joe Musgrove, SP, Pirates
Veterans on expensive, multi-year contracts: Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants; Matt Carpenter, 3B/1B, Cardinals; Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants; Wade Davis, RP, Rockies; Ian Desmond, OF/IF, Rockies; Charlie Blackmon, OF, Rockies; Dexter Fowler, OF, Cardinals; Dee Gordon, 2B, Mariners; Evan Longoria, 3B, Giants; Jake McGee, RP, Rockies; Bryan Shaw, RP, Rockies; A.J. Pollock, OF, Dodgers; Jed Lowrie, INF, Mets; Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners