MLB Trade Rumors: 12 Predictions for the Top Winter Trade Targets

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2012

MLB Trade Rumors: 12 Predictions for the Top Winter Trade Targets

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    As the offseason activity ramps up, we could see more trades than ever this season given a relative lack of impact players on the free agent market.

    Where free agents sign often has a big impact on who gets traded and where in the offseason, and it's unlikely much will happen before the annual winter meetings.

    So while these deals may still be a ways off, if they happen at all, here are 12 predictions surrounding this season's top potential trade targets.

Red Sox Acquire Michael Cuddyer from Rockies

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    The Red Sox made a run at Michael Cuddyer last offseason before he signed a three-year, $31.5 million deal with the Rockies, and Boston instead settled on a one-year, $3 million deal with Cody Ross.

    With Ross expected to depart, and ample money to spend, picking up the versatile Cuddyer could be an option for the Red Sox, and he should come relatively cheap as long as the team is willing to take on his contract.

    Following the emergence of Tyler Colvin, the Rockies' outfield situation is a crowded one with Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Charlie Blackmon and Cuddyer all vying for at-bats.

    Moving Cuddyer would open things up and save some money that could be put towards bolstering the abysmal pitching staff.

Orioles Acquire Jason Vargas from Mariners

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    Over the past three seasons, Vargas has emerged as one of the most durable workhorses in all of baseball, as he's averaged 204 innings per season and made at least 32 starts each season.

    This past season, he won a career-high 14 games and posted a 3.85 ERA as the team's No. 2 starter behind ace Felix Hernandez.

    With the highly-touted trio of Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker approaching the majors, and Vargas set to hit free agency at the end of the 2013 season, he will likely be on the move at some point this season.

    The Orioles could certainly use a veteran like him to fill out their staff.

Nationals Acquire Denard Span from Twins

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    The Nationals have long been in the market for a long-term solution in center field, and it looks like there is a good chance this will be the offseason they find one.

    There are a number of free agent options, in Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton and Angel Pagan among others, but I think they'll address the need on the trade market.

    The Nationals and Twins have talked about a potential Span deal in the past (h/t Fox Sports), and with the 28-year-old signed through 2014 with an option for 2015, he'd shore up the position for the foreseeable future. 

The Rangers Find a Way to Play Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar

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    The Rangers have a very great problem to deal with right now, as they already have a solid middle infield in Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus and one of baseball's top prospects in shortstop Jurickson Profar is ready to make an impact.

    As a result, many expect the team to shop Andrus, who would no doubt net a huge return on the trade market to free up shortstop for Profar.

    However, I think the team will find a way to work all three into regular at-bats this coming season. Whether it is a move to the outfield for Kinsler, less playing time for Michael Young or Mitch Moreland, or another trade that frees up at-bats, don't expect any of that trio to be traded this winter.

Blue Jays Acquire Matt Garza from Chicago

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    Garza likely would have been dealt at the deadline last season had he not been sidelined by injuries that wound up ending his season.

    The fact the he didn't pitch after July 21 and made just 18 starts last season no doubt hurts his value a bit, but he remains an ace-caliber starter and there is no reason to think the injuries will be an issue moving forward.

    While the Cubs have indicated that he will be a part of the rotation in 2013, they'd no doubt listen to any offers and wouldn't hesitate to move the right-hander for the right price.

    The Blue Jays are loaded with pitching prospects, and that is exactly what the Cubs are seeking, so two sides seem like a solid fit.

Phillies Acquire Shin-Soo Choo from Indians

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    The Indians are expected to aggressively shop their veteran parts this offseason, with a full-scale rebuild in order and a number of players set to hit free agency next season.

    Choo may be the team's most valuable trade chip, and while there are a number of outfield options on the free agent market, he may be the best fit for the Phillies.

    The Phillies' window of contention is slowly closing, so bringing someone in who is motivated by a contract year and is not a long-term commitment makes sense for a Philadelphia team looking to win now.

Padres Will Extend Chase Headley for Five Years, $75 Million

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    Under team control through 2014, the Padres opted not to deal Chase Headley at the deadline, despite there reportedly being at least seven teams with some level of interest in him (h/t Jon Heyman).

    He then rewarded the Padres with an amazing final two months of the season, as he had 19 HR and 63 RBI from the beginning of August until the end of the season. That was good enough for him to lead the NL with 115 RBI.

    While his lack of a track record will keep him from getting the $100 million deal that David Wright may, the Padres could look to buy out his final two years of arbitration and lock him up this offseason.

    A $15 million annual salary seems reasonable for a budding star playing a premium position.

Marlins Will Hold onto Josh Johnson, Trade Him at the Deadline Instead

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    The Marlins entered the 2012 season with high hopes, but a rough first half resulted in them selling big at the deadline as they moved Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.

    One player many expected to be on the move was ace Josh Johnson, and while he was shopped and aggressively pursued by a number of teams, the team wound up holding onto him.

    They'll listen to offers on him again this winter, but I expect the Marlins to wind up holding onto him again and looking to maximize his value at the deadline when he could be the most sought after player on the market. 

Dodgers Acquire James Shields from Rays

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    Aside from free agent Zack Greinke, there may be no better pitcher potentially changing teams this offseason than Rays workhorse James Shields.

    The Dodgers have made it no secret they are searching for a front-line starter to slot in behind Clayton Kershaw in the rotation, and they have already identified Shields as their No. 1 target, according to Mark Saxon of ESPN.

    I explored the potential impact Shields could have on the Dodgers in an article last week, and I think the two sides get a deal worked out and Shields is sporting Dodgers blue when the 2013 season opens.

Red Sox Will Aggressively Shop Jacoby Ellsbury, Wind Up Keeping Him

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    It's been a roller coaster last three seasons for Jacoby Ellsbury, as injuries limited him to just 18 games in 2010, but he bounced back with an MVP-caliber .321 BA, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 39 SB season in 2011.

    An early-season shoulder injury in 2012 cost him the entire first half though, and he played just 74 games last season and hit .271 BA, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 14 SB over 303 at bats.

    Now entering his walk year, many expect the rebuilding Red Sox to shop Ellsbury this offseason in anticipation of not re-signing him next offseason.

    I don't doubt they entertain offers, but I expect their asking price to be high enough that no one will bite. The deadline, however, could be a different story.

David Wright Will Sign $100 Million Extension with Mets

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    After picking up their $16 million option on him for 2013, the Mets will now turn their attention to locking up star third baseman David Wright long-term before he hits free agency at the end of the upcoming season.

    The team is expected to make the 29-year-old an offer at or near $100 million, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports. An reasonable comparison for Wright's value would be the six-year, $100 million extension the Nationals signed Ryan Zimmerman to.

    The two sides may tweak the final figure a bit in negotiations, but in the end I think the Mets do what they need to in order to make sure Wright does not wind up getting away.

Pirates Acquire Justin Upton from Diamondbacks

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    The Diamondbacks put Upton on waivers this past summer, and while nothing came of it, the team most often tied to him in trade rumors was the Pirates (h/t CBSSports).

    Though they acquired Travis Snider from the Blue Jays, the Pirates could certainly stand to upgrade their corner outfield, and Upton would do just that.

    He won't come cheap, but the Pirates have a deep farm system and after playing well only to fall apart down the stretch the past two seasons, don't be surprised if Pittsburgh looks to make a splash that will push them over the hump.