At some point hopefully in the not-too-distant future, MLB and the MLBPA will agree to a new collective bargaining agreement, and baseball will return. The latest news isn't encouraging. Spring training was supposed to begin this week and the two sides are still far apart on several key issues. Baseball will return at some point. When? I can't say.
Whenever baseball does return, teams will have to scramble to complete their offseason business, and every offseason we see players traded for a "change of scenery." Those are players who haven't performed as expected or are blocked at their position, but still have value and interest other teams. "He's not working out for them but he might for us," basically.
Tyler Glasnow is a great change-of-scenery example. He spun his wheels in parts of three seasons with the Pirates, but his talent is obvious, and another club was happy to take him on. That team, the Rays, was able to coach Glasnow up, and he delivered on his talent. Does Glasnow ever break though had he remained in Pittsburgh? I doubt it. The change of scenery saved his career.
"They gave me so many opportunities, and I didn't show them what I could do," Glasnow told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after being traded by the Pirates. "It was bittersweet, but it definitely is a good chance for me to grow."
There are dozens of change of scenery candidates around the league but only a handful get that fresh start each year, and not all of them take advantage. Some guys get the change of scenery and never break through. It's a hard sport, this baseball. Here are 10 players who stand out as change-of-scenery candidates heading into 2022.
1. Miguel Andújar, Yankees
The 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up has been limited to 78 big-league games by injuries and demotions the last three years, and he's blocked at third base (Gio Urshela), first base (Luke Voit or a post-lockout addition), left field (Joey Gallo), and DH (Giancarlo Stanton) in New York. Miguel Andújar badly needs a fresh start with a team that can give him everyday at-bats at one set position. With the Yankees, he's not much more than a role player who bounces around.
2. J.D. Davis, Mets
The Mets went on a pre-lockout spending spree that almost looks specifically designed to block JD Davis. Eduardo Escobar will now play third and Mark Canha is in left, plus Robinson Canó's return likely ties up DH at-bats. Davis has done nothing but hit since joining New York three years ago and the Mets would be smart to keep him as depth because injuries happen, but Davis could use a change of scenery. Not knowing whether you'll be in the lineup until you show up to the park each day gets old quick.
3. Mauricio Dubón, Giants
More than anything, Mauricio Dubón is a victim of the Giants' depth. He hasn't exactly forced the issue with his bat, though he's fared well against lefties in his career, plus he's played the three non-first base infield positions and center field. And he can steal you a base. Dubón's top-end exit velocities are sneaky good and he has the kind of diverse skill set you often see on a contender's bench. San Francisco is just so deep that he's on the outside of the roster looking in right now.
4. Keston Hiura, Brewers
To me, Keston Hiura is the single greatest change-of-scenery candidate in the sport. He posted the sport's worst contact rates the last two seasons and hasn't hit at all, which is a bit of a problem seeing how he's a middling at best defender. Hiura is a former top prospect and high draft pick (No. 9 overall in 2017) who had a strong rookie season in 2019, and has since gone backward. There has to be some pressure mounting, right? I'm sure the Brewers don't want to give up on Hiura, but I'm not sure they can get the best out of him at this point either. A fresh start somewhere else seems like the best for all involved at this point.
Possible suitors: Orioles, Pirates, Rockies (rebuilding teams who can play Hiura regularly regardless of results)
5. Carter Kieboom, Nationals
For whatever reason it's just not working out with the Nationals for Carter Kieboom, who continues to bludgeon Triple-A pitching and fall flat at the MLB level. He will play almost the entire 2022 season at age 24 and he was one of the top prospects in the game not too long ago, and some of his underlying contact quality numbers are promising. In theory, the Nationals could use a young infielder with considerable upside like Kieboom, though it hasn't been a good fit. Kieboom getting a fresh start elsewhere and Washington cashing him as a trade chip before his value completely craters makes sense.
Possible suitors: Blue Jays, Dodgers, Yankees (infield-needy teams with a track record of helping hitters improve)
6. Ha-seong Kim, Padres
A star in Korea, Ha-seong Kim never really settled in during his rookie season with the Padres, and he's stuck behind Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, Manny Machado at third, and Jake Cronenworth at second. Plus putting him at DH would be a waste of his glove. The X-factor here is Tatis and a potential permanent move to the outfield. If that happens, shortstop is Kim's for the taking. But with three years and another $20 million or so remaining on his contract, San Diego might be open to moving Kim now and freeing up that money while also giving him a chance to play regularly, something I'm sure he'd welcome.
Possible suitors: Angels, Cub, Reds (teams with openings at short for the foreseeable future)
7. Adalberto Mondesi, Royals
Injuries have really hampered Adalberto Mondesi the last few seasons. When healthy though, he passes both the eye (premium athleticism) and analytical (great exit velocity and sprint speed) tests, and he can play the middle infield. The Royals are set now with Nicky Lopez at short and Whit Merrifield at second, plus top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. is coming to either fill third base himself, or push Lopez or Merrifield to the hot corner (plus Hunter Dozier is still around). Mondesi is a man without a position in Kansas City, unless you count DH, which might be the best way to keep him healthy. It's still very easy to dream on Mondesi's tools.
8. Victor Robles, Nationals
Two years ago Victor Robles was the starting center fielder for the World Series champion Nationals. He'd shown promise with the bat and tremendous defense. Robles has fallen so hard since then that last place Washington sent him to the minors late last year. He is still only 24 and an above-average defender, though he hasn't hit much and his contact quality numbers are among the worst in the league. Last year's minor league demotion suggests the Nationals are open to moving on completely, and Robles still brings enough defensively (and isn't so far removed from being a top prospect) that he'll interest other clubs.
9. Dominic Smith, Mets
Similar to JD Davis, Dominic Smith is a man without a position for the Mets. He's blocked at first base (Pete Alonso) and in left field (Mark Canha), plus the club has a small army of DH candidates. Smith was one of the best hitters in baseball in 2020 and then below average in 2021, though he dealt with a nagging wrist issue last season. Given what he did in 2020 and the fact it's not crazy to expect a rebound with a healthy wrist -- it should also be noted he's a very good defensive first baseman -- I'd be all over Smith if I were another team with a need at first base. Smith could use a fresh start too. I'm sure he'd rather not be stuck behind Alonso and have to share DH at-bats.
Possible suitors: Athletics, Guardians, Pirates (teams with first base and/or DH at-bats to spare)
10. Taylor Walls, Rays
The Rays don't spend money often, though they spent money at second and short when they signed Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco to long-term extensions. Taylor Walls is a splendid defender who seems likely to replace Joey Wendle as Tampa's "play all over the infield" guy, but if you gave him a truth serum, I bet he'd say he'd rather go be an everyday shortstop somewhere else. Would you blame him? Walls doesn't project to be an impact hitter but he's not expected to be a zero either, and as noted, he's an excellent defender. He might have more value to the Rays as a trade chip than as a role player.
Possible suitors: Angels, Cubs, Nationals (teams that need a shortstop now and well into the future)
Other notable change-of-scenery candidates: 2B Isan Díaz, Marlins; RHP Mitch Keller, Pirates; C Reese McGuire, Blue Jays; LHP Sean Newcomb, Braves; 1B/OF Brent Rooker, Twins; IF/OF Nick Senzel, Reds; IF Cole Tucker, Pirates; 1B/OF Andrew Vaughn, White Sox; 1B Evan White, Mariners