MLB Hot Stove: Top offseason trade candidates not named Giancarlo Stanton
Plenty of non-Stanton players look like prime pieces of trade bait this offseason
Barring any surprises -- I think we'd all welcome some surprise hot stove activity -- the two biggest stories of the 2017-18 MLB offseason will be the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes and the Giancarlo Stanton trade market. Ohtani is expected to be posted in the coming days and the 21-day negotiating window means his free agency will be wrapped up before Christmas. That'll be fun.
As for Stanton, it is not set in stone he will be traded this winter, but it sure seems inevitable. The Marlins are looking to slash payroll and Stanton is the team's highest paid player. He's also their best player and one of the best in baseball -- Stanton hit 59 home runs in 2017 and is the reigning NL MVP, after all -- so his trade value might never again be as high as it is right now.
Stanton is hardly the only big name player who could be on the move this winter. In fact,, I think we're going to see some pretty significant trades this offseason. More than usual. That'll be fun. Trades are a blast. So, with that in mind, here are 10 players not named Giancarlo Stanton who could be traded in the coming weeks.
Over the last calendar year or so the White Sox have stripped down their MLB roster to begin a rebuild, a rebuild that has given them one of the top farm systems in baseball. GM Rick Hahn has traded away every worthwhile veteran except one: Jose Abreu. The team's star first baseman hit .304/.354/.552 (140 OPS+) with 33 home runs in 2017, making it his best season since his monster 2014 rookie campaign.
Abreu is now two years from free agency and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $17.9 million in 2018, a rather hefty salary for what amounts to a luxury item for the ChiSox. They don't figure to make much of an effort to contend next season. Realistically, Abreu's trade value only goes down from here, as he gets closer to free agency. This is the time to move him. Hahn knows that. Once you trade away Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, there's no sense in keeping Abreu. Go all the way in.
Here is what Hahn told reporters, including Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago, about a potential Abreu trade earlier this offseason:
"What I tried to do is lay out the question at hand and the issue at hand, and we have to as a front office make that decision," Hahn said. "And frankly, on both players (Abreu and Avisail Garcia), those decisions don't have to be made this offseason. They're both controllable through 2019. We have the luxury if we want to play it out another year, play it out another half a year to see if the performance continues, see if the trade market changes. As was the case when we sat here with Quintana a year ago. Yes, he was potentially a trade candidate, but the market didn't respond the way we had anticipated, so we had to wait. It's not me just dancing around or being cute. There isn't a firm answer right now. We don't know what the options are. One of them conceivably is extending, and we have to wait and see what that cost entails."
The downside here is that the free agent first base market is always crowded. Why trade top prospects and take on a big salary in Abreu when you could simply spend money to sign someone like Carlos Santana or Lucas Duda? No, those players aren't as good as Abreu, but the free agent options may be more cost effective.
The Orioles are in a tough place right now. They went 75-87 and finished in last place in 2017, their rotation is mostly a mess, and next offseason core players Zach Britton, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado will all become free agents. Machado doesn't figure to go anywhere this winter. Jones? Maybe. Britton? Very possibly. I wouldn't call it likely, but it is definitely possible.
Forearm woes limited Britton to 37 1/3 innings in 2017, during which he went 15 for 17 in save chances and pitched to a 2.89 ERA (151 ERA+) and a 1.53 WHIP. While not awful, that is a far cry from Britton's historically great 2016 season, and his excellent run from 2014-16. He allowed more hits (39 to 38) and the same number of walks (18) in 2017 than he did in 2016 in 29 2/3 fewer innings. That combined with the forearm problems are a red flag.
Of course, bullpen help is always in demand, and the free agent market is short on shutdown closers aside from Wade Davis and Greg Holland. There figure to be plenty of teams in on Britton. Remember, he was very nearly traded to the Astros at the deadline before a medical issue with one of the prospects going to Baltimore squashed the deal. Britton is available and only a year away from free agency. The O's could cash him in for a nice package of young players this winter.
Possible trade suitors: Basically every contender. They'd all love to add Britton to their bullpen at the right price.
Two years ago Maikel Franco looked like the next big thing. He hit .280/.343/.497 (130 OPS+) with 14 home runs in 80 games with the Phillies in 2015, his first extended taste of the show. His defense wasn't great, but with a bat like that, you'll live with the subpar glovework. The Phillies were rebuilding and Franco looked like a potential centerpiece.
Instead, the 25-year-old Franco slipped to .255/.306/.427 (94 OPS+) in 2016 and .230/.281/.409 (81 OPS+) in 2017. Ouch. He went backwards instead of improving on his 2015 breakout. The Phillies are looking for pitching this winter and it has been speculated Franco could be used as trade bait. GM Matt Klentak of course told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki he still believes in Franco.
"I absolutely believe in Maikel Franco's future," Klentak said. "I think there's too much talent there. He has the bat speed, the strength, his defense has taken a step forward. All the components are there for Maikel to still be a really good player. I know his numbers right now aren't what a lot of people expected or hoped, but we still believe strongly in his future.
"What the future holds next year and beyond for Maikel and the rest of the infield and how the rest of that plays out, we have time to figure that out. By no means have we given up on Maikel Franco or lost confidence in him."
A GM saying he believes in a young player who might actually be available in trades? What will they think of next? It's almost like GMs purposefully say stuff like this in an effort to create leverage for trade talks.
Anyway, Franco is only 25 and it should be noted his combination of power (49 homers from 2016-17) and contact (16.0 percent strikeouts) is quite rare. Here is the full list of players with 49-plus homers and a 16.0 percent or better strikeout rate the last two seasons:
- Nolan Arenado (78 homers and 15.2 percent strikeouts)
- Adrian Beltre (49 homers and 11.5 percent strikeouts)
- Mookie Betts (55 homers and 11.0 percent strikeouts)
- Robinson Cano (62 homers and 13.6 percent strikeouts)
- Maikel Franco (49 homers and 16.0 percent strikeouts)
- Ian Kinsler (50 homers and 15.6 percent strikeouts)
- Albert Pujols (54 homers and 13.1 percent strikeouts)
- Anthony Rizzo (64 homers and 14.5 percent strikeouts)
- Carlos Santana (57 homers and 14.2 percent strikeouts)
- Joey Votto (65 homers and 14.6 percent strikeouts)
Not a bad list of names, huh? Franco has some ability, he's young, and he won't be a free agent for another four years. Lots of teams would be love to dice on him as a change of scenery guy. Oddly enough, rebuilders like the Phillies tend to be the teams most willing to trade for a player like this.
Over the last three seasons Yasmani Grandal has been one of the most productive catchers in baseball -- his 65 home runs since 2015 are second most among all catchers, behind only Salvador Perez (70) -- though a rather brutal late season slump cost him his job as the starting catcher. Austin Barnes took over behind the plate and started 15 of the Dodgers' 17 postseason games, including all seven in the World Series.
Since Barnes in younger, cheaper, and under control longer, the Dodgers figure to stick with him behind the plate going forward. Now, there's nothing wrong with carrying two quality catchers, though Grandal is getting expensive -- MLB Trade Rumors projects a $7.7 million salary in 2018 -- and he is a year away from free agency. If Los Angeles is going to move him, now's the time to do it. The free agent catching market is thin and a productive switch-hitting catcher -- Grandal hit .247/.308/.459 (100 OPS+) with 22 home runs in 2017 -- will definitely be in demand.
Possible trade suitors: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rays, Rockies. The obvious caveat here is that a trade with an NL West rival is unlikely to happen.
Stanton is far from the only Marlins player on the market. The club is looking to cut payroll significantly, so anyone making decent money will be on the trade block. Dee Gordon, who somehow turns 30 in April (am I the only one who thought he was still 27 or 28?), is owed $37.9 million from 2018-20 with a $14 million vesting option for 2021. So yes, he's a definite trade candidate.
This past season Gordon authored a .308/.341/.375 (94 OPS+) batting line with an MLB leading 60 stolen bases in 76 attempts, good for a 79 percent success rate. Gordon won't provide any power -- he's hit 11 home runs in over 3,000 career plate appearances -- but he will run like crazy and he's on the short list of the best defensive second basemen in baseball. The speed, the defense, and the contact rate (only 13.3 percent strikeouts in 2017) make him a valuable player.
Gordon's name has already popped up in trade rumors this winter ...
... and I can't imagine that will stop anytime soon. As with Stanton, the feeling here is a Gordon trade is inevitable. The Marlins want to unload the contract and his trade value is about as high as it's going to get. This is the time to move him.
I'm still surprised the Padres did not trade Brad Hand prior to the trade deadline last season. Holding on to him seemed to have way too much downside given the inherent injury risk with pitchers. But, it worked out. Hand stayed healthy and threw 79 1/3 innings with a 2.16 ERA (192 ERA+) and 0.93 ERA in 2017. He struck out 104. Since arriving in San Diego last year, Hand has been one of the top relievers in baseball.
A few weeks ago GM A.J. Preller likened the Hand situation to the Craig Kimbrel situation a few years ago. There was lots of trade interest in Kimbrel at the 2015 deadline, but the Padres held on to him, then traded him in the winter. Here's what Preller told MLB.com's AJ Cassavell last month:
"We get into that offseason, we had a couple teams reach out early, said, 'We're still interested,'" Preller said earlier this month. "I would expect that to probably be the case [with Hand]. When you're talented and you're good, teams are always in the market for good relievers."
Hand is only 27, he is obviously excellent, and he is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2019. He would not be a one-year pickup. The Padres didn't make a move at the deadline and risked Hand getting hurt in the second half, which would have cratered his trade value. Fortunately, he stayed healthy. I don't think they'll risk hanging on to him for much longer. They'll make a move now, with his trade value sky high.
Possible trade suitors: As with Britton, basically every contender. The Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Rangers, Red Sox, and Twins stand out as the most aggressive pursuers, potentially.
The Tigers committed to a rebuild this season, most notably trading away Justin Verlander, and also others like Justin Upton, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila, and J.D. Martinez. Ian Kinsler, who will be a free agent next winter, is one of the few veterans still in Detroit, though I can't imagine that'll last much longer. .
Kinsler is 35 and he hit .236/.313/.412 (90 OPS+) in 2017, the worst offensive season of his career, and that's a scary combination. Second basemen have been known to fall off a cliff in their mid-30s.
On the other hand, Kinsler swatted 22 home runs and stole 14 bases this season, and continued playing very strong defense. Given his track record, a one-year gamble at $11 million isn't the craziest move in the world for a contender looking for second base help.
Possible trade suitors: Angels, Blue Jays, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Giants, and Mets. Same teams as Gordon, for the most part. Kinsler could be their Plan B.
Last offseason it seemed like a matter of when Andrew McCutchen would be traded, not if. He was said to be going to the Nationals at one point before things fell apart. , so he is now one year away from free agency. Trading away a franchise player is never easy, but it is something the Pirates have to consider.
The 31-year-old McCutchen bounced back from his yucky 2016 season by hitting .279/.363/.486 (121 OPS+) with 28 home runs in 2017, and while that is down from his MVP caliber performance from 2012-15, it is still very good. Defensively, McCutchen needs to move to a corner full-time -- the Pirates shifted him to right field this year before Starling Marte's performance-enhancing drug suspension -- and he's probably not going to steal 20-plus bases again, but he remains an above-average hitter and a tremendous clubhouse guy.
Will the Pirates get as much for McCutchen this offseason as they would have a few years ago? Of course not. He's no longer the player he was a two or three years ago, and he's only a year away from free agency. Pittsburgh went 75-87 in 2017 after going 78-83 in 2016, however. They've reached the point where they have to do what's best for the franchise long-term, and right now, the answer is trading McCutchen.
Possible trade suitors: Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Mets, Mariners, Nationals, Rangers.
Chris Archer is the big name among Rays pitcher trade chips, though I think Jake Odorizzi is more likely to go this offseason given the fact he is closer to free agency and won't require the same massive prospect package to acquire. Archer is signed for dirt cheap -- he's owed only $34 million from 2018-21, assuming his two club options are picked up -- and that means teams will have to give up a ton to get him.
Odorizzi, meanwhile, will be a free agent in two years, which will drag the price down. He may not be as good as Archer, but Odorizzi has thrown 668 1/3 innings with a 3.81 ERA (103 ERA+) over the last four seasons, so we are talking about a rock-solid starter here. Not surprisingly, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times says Odorizzi is a popular name so far this winter.
LET'S MAKE A DEAL: The Rays are going to trade at least a couple of their bigger-name, higher-salaried players in their plan to cut payroll. Starter Jake Odorizzi (projected to make $6.5 million) and closer Alex Colome ($5.5M) are two of the most likely to go and have been popular in early conversations. OF/DH Corey Dickerson ($6.4M) also seems high on the to-trade list.
Two years of a young (27) and affordable starter who has shown he can be above-average -- Odorizzi had a 3.53 ERA (112 ERA+) in 357 innings from 2015-16 -- is worth an awful lot on the trade market. How much would Odorizzi get in free agency right now? Maybe $100 million? When 31-year-old Ian Kennedy gets $70 million coming off a -0.4 WAR season, Odorizzi being worth $100 million on the open market doesn't seem so crazy. If he gets traded this winter, and I think he will, lots of folks will be shocked at the price.
Possible trade suitors: Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Rangers, Twins.
Is Marcell Ozuna the best player no one talks about? He might be. This season the just turned 27-year-old Ozuna hit .312/.376/.548 (145 OPS+) with 37 home runs and a career high 9.4 walk rate, and he's cut his strikeout rate down to a manageable 21.2 percent, which is almost exactly league average. Ozuna is a beast. A beast who is overshadowed by Stanton.
Ozuna is two years away from free agency and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to make $10.9 million in 2018, so you know the Marlins will be out there pushing him in trades. They want to cut payroll and moving Ozuna is a good way to do it. Any team looking for a big outfield bat this winter will try to trade for Stanton or sign Martinez. Some smart club is going to swoop in under the radar to nab Ozuna and get similar production in 2018. He's a stud who still might have another level in his game.
Possible trade suitors: Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees.
Other trade candidates: Matt Adams, Braves; Chris Archer, Rays; Dellin Betances, Yankees; Alex Colome, Rays; Corey Dickerson, Rays; Avisail Garcia, White Sox; Randal Grichuk, Cardinals; Kelvin Herrera, Royals; Joc Pederson, Dodgers; Martin Prado, Marlins; Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals; Dan Straily, Marlins.
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