Major League Baseball's owner-imposed lockout has come to an end, some three months after it was first instituted, with an agreement between the league and the MLB Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement. The offseason, placed on pause since early December, will now be allowed to resume.
This winter's first half saw plenty of free-agent activity, with seven of CBS Sports' top 10 coming off the board. The trade market, conversely, wasn't as active. A few players of note were moved, including Adam Frazier (Mariners), Joey Wendle and Jacob Stallings (Marlins), Tucker Barnhart (Tigers), and Hunter Renfroe (Brewers).
The majority of blockbuster trades, then, are to come. What might those entail? Below we've listed 16 of the top candidates to be swapped out before Opening Day arrives. (Do note that the players are listed in no particular order.)
1-5. The Athletics core
We're being cutesy here by listing five players in a single subheading, but we do expect the A's to move on from several notable members of their core. First baseman Matt Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman are the most attractive of their hitters, while left-hander Sean Manaea and righties Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas should be inserted into contenders' rotations. (Manaea and Bassitt are both a season away from free agency; the three others are two seasons away.)
Olson is the most important of the five in two senses. Foremost, he's coming off a fantastic season that saw him cut into his strikeout rate, suggesting he might have achieved a new true-talent level that could see him contend for future MVP Awards. Secondly, but just as importantly, the world champion Braves have been rumored to have interest in acquiring him. Were that to happen, it would have a domino effect that would culminate in Atlanta franchise cornerstone and current free agent Freddie Freeman finding a new home elsewhere.
6. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, White Sox
Prior to the lockout, the White Sox exercised reliever Craig Kimbrel's club option, valued at $16 million. They then signed free-agent setup man Kendall Graveman to a three-year deal worth $24 million, suggesting that Kimbrel might find himself on the way out of town. Kimbrel's season was a tale of two halves, with him allowing five more hits, 11 more earned runs, and four more home runs in 13 fewer innings after a midseason trade sent him from the Cubs to the other part of Chicago. A team that believes he'll return to his pre-trade form could view him as their next closer.
7. Sonny Gray, RHP, Reds
The Reds may not dump every veteran overboard, like the A's seem intent to do, but they're likely to continue shopping around some of their highest earners, including right-hander Sonny Gray. Gray is entering the final guaranteed season of his contract, but his deal includes a $12 million club option that could push his total earnings north of $22 million. In three seasons with the Reds, he's accumulated a 3.49 ERA (136 ERA+) and a 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 366 innings.
8-10. Various Rays
It stands to reason the Rays will also move one of their better-compensated veterans as well. That could be an outfielder like Kevin Kiermaier (guaranteed more than $12 million with a club option for the 2023 season) or Austin Meadows ($4.3 million arbitration estimate), or it could be right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who is projected to make nearly $6 million through arbitration and who may miss most, if not all of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. The Rays were known to have talks about each at the deadline, suggesting they know the score.
11. Carson Kelly, C, Diamondbacks
It's never easy to find good catching. Carson Kelly, a free agent after the 2024 season, has been an above-average hitter in two of the last three seasons and would undoubtedly appeal to teams in need. The Diamondbacks have a readymade replacement in Daulton Varsho, should they find an offer to their liking. Of course, they could decide they prefer to continue deploying Varsho all over the place, in which case they can keep Kelly and boast one of the better catching depth charts around.
12-13. A big Padres contract
The Padres were known to have shopped around both Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers last deadline, going so far as to being willing to attach a good prospect if it meant they could be freed of their financial obligation. San Diego figures to resume that pursuit now that the lockout is over. Hosmer has four years and $60 million left on his contract; Myers has one guaranteed season and more than $20 million left on his. Moving either would give the Padres more wiggle room with which to operate.
14. Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pirates
The Pirates don't have to move Reynolds, who won't qualify for free agency until after the 2025 season. They might weigh it, though, if a team offers the kind of package that suggests they believe he's every bit as good as he appeared to be last season. That may sound absurd -- remember, Reynolds hit .302/.390/.522 (146 OPS+) while earning both an All-Star Game appearance and downballot MVP Award consideration -- but it's the kind of aggressive maneuver that teams deep in a rebuild have to consider.
15. Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF, Marlins
Miami would be justified in keeping Garrett Cooper, who has two more seasons of team control remaining. It's possible a team that views him as a surefire everyday starter could force their hands, however. Cooper has emerged as an above-average hitter the past few seasons, batting for a 117 OPS+ in 804 plate appearances since the start of the 2019 campaign. The Marlins retained Jesús Aguilar and signed Avisaíl García prior to the lockout, giving them an additional two right-handed sticks. Miami also had reported interest in other corner-outfield bats. The addition of the universal DH means Cooper would still have a path to playing time, but again, the Marlins may decide they value what they can get in exchange for him more than they value him.
Remember how we mentioned Olson having a domino effect? The aftershocks could impact Luke Voit, who is coming off an injury-shortened campaign. The Yankees have had rumored interest in both Olson and Freeman, and landing either would likely lead to Voit being shipped elsewhere. Remember that the Yankees also traded for Anthony Rizzo last deadline, and could conceivably re-sign him if they so desire. Even with last season's numbers included, Voit has hit .271/.363/.520 (137 OPS+) for his Yankees career. Surely some team is willing to bet on him getting back to form.