MLB Trade Rumors: Ranking All 30 Teams' Most Coveted Trade Chip
As a hazy shade of winter begins to cover the country, the general manager meetings are underway and the rumor mill has once again begun churning.
The Hot Stove League is upon us.
While adding pieces through free agency is the easiest way for a team to make improvements, financial constraints often dictate what signings a general manager can make.
Those constraints aren't quite as prevalent when it comes to making trades, as teams have an opportunity to perhaps shed salary from their payrolls while making improvements for the 2013 season and beyond.
Of course, in order to get something of value, something of value must be offered in return.
It would be easy to sit here and write that each team's best player or top prospect was their most coveted trade chip, but the Tigers aren't trading Miguel Cabrera and the Royals aren't trading Wil Myers.
So I'm not going to go down that path.
For a player to be included on this list, there needs to have been either a rumor from a legitimate source as to their availability or, in some cases, rumors about other players on their team not being available, leading us to believe that the player in question could, in fact, be had if the price was right.
Let's take a look at the most coveted player on each team who is potentially available via trade, and who tops the shopping lists of the majority of general managers around the sport.
30. New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, 3B
In exchange for a ham sandwich (crust optional), the New York Yankees will gladly trade third baseman Alex Rodriguez, along with the five years and $114 million remaining on his contract.
Problem is, nobody wants A-Rod, something Brian Cashman alluded to when speaking to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, replying, "I don’t see that happening" when asked whether he expected to get phone calls from other general managers to try and obtain Rodriguez.
Of course, for any trade to happen, A-Rod would have to waive his no-trade clause, something that the most loathed baseball player in New York (now that Jason Bay is gone from the Mets) refuses to do, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
29. Kansas City Royals: Jeff Francoeur, RF
Right fielder Wil Myers is going to begin his major league career in right field for the Royals in 2013, meaning that 28-year-old Jeff Francoeur is going to be relegated to the bench.
Unless, of course, the Royals trade him.
Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star wrote during the season that the Royals would like to trade Francoeur, but that they wouldn't do so as a salary dump or for a negligible return.
Francoeur struggled in 2012, hitting a career-low .235 to go along with a .665 OPS, 16 home runs and 49 RBI. He still has one of the great throwing arms in the game, as his 19 assists led all MLB outfielders.
Due $7.5 million in 2013, the last year of his contract, the Royals may wind up having to eat some of that in order to facilitate a deal. But moving Francoeur is a must for GM Dayton Moore, as the team simply cannot keep Myers in the minor leagues any longer.
If the price is right, there's a market for Francoeur.
28. Oakland A's: Coco Crisp, CF
After trading for Arizona Diamondbacks' center fielder Chris Young, soon-to-be 33-year-old center fielder Coco Crisp could find himself on the move again this winter.
A solid defensive center fielder and an adept base stealer, swiping 35 bags in 39 attempts this season, Crisp's $7 million salary in 2013 could prove to be excess baggage for the A's.
He isn't going to bring back anything great in return, but a chance to unload his salary (especially with Collin Cowgill more than capable of handling the fourth outfield spot on the A's roster), the return may not be quite as important as removing his salary for the cash-conscious A's.
Crisp would certainly appeal to clubs looking for a relatively inexpensive solution in center field for 2013, especially those not willing to get involved in the free-agent frenzy that is about to get underway.
27. Colorado Rockies: Rafael Betancourt, RHP
Finally getting a chance to close games, 37-year-old Rafael Betancourt put together a solid season for Colorado last year, converting 31-of-38 save opportunities and pitching to a 2.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
Due $4.25 million in 2013 and with a mutual option in place at the same salary for the 2014 season, acquiring Betancourt isn't going to be a budget-busting ordeal for anyone.
Leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Rockies were unlikely to deal their closer, despite interest from both the Giants and Rangers.
In addition to those two teams, the A's, Angels, Orioles, Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees were all said to have interest in adding Betancourt to their bullpens at some point during the season.
Adding bullpen help is always something that teams are in the market for, so while the Rockies aren't likely to land a huge return for Betancourt, they can certainly get one or two pieces to use in their quest to return to relevance in the National League West.
26. Houston Astros: Jed Lowrie, SS
Jed Lowrie was the subject of multiple trade rumors this past season and it stands to reason that his name will be bandied about once again this winter:
Dodgers are talking to Astros about a trade that would send Jed Lowrie to the Dodgers,with minor-leaguers Zach Lee and Garrett Gould to HOU.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 30, 2012
Even after dealing Carlos Lee, Myers, Wandy and Lyon, Astros telling teams they're still open to more deals. Even Lowrie, who is on DL.— DKnobler (@DKnobler) July 30, 2012
He wouldn't return to the Astros' lineup until mid-September and he finished the season hitting .244 with 16 home runs and 42 RBI.
A solid but unspectacular player, Lowrie, who celebrates his 29th birthday in April, is under team control through 2015.
For teams who are potentially in need of a shortstop, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A's, he could be an inexpensive answer.
25. Cincinnati Reds: Drew Stubbs, CF
There's little doubt that Drew Stubbs has the ability to be a perennial contender for the 30/30 club while playing excellent defense in center field, but the 28-year-old has been far too inconsistent for the Reds to count on having him lead off on a regular basis.
With shortstop-turned-outfielder prospect Billy Hamilton and his world-class speed still a year or two away from making a real impact in the big leagues, Reds GM Walt Jocketty will continue to try and find a long-term solution at the top of their lineup, a search that began in earnest over the summer.
Stubbs, packaged with someone else (Mike Leake perhaps) could be an intriguing enough package for a team like the Minnesota Twins to move Denard Span or perhaps even the Boston Red Sox to consider unloading Jacoby Ellsbury.
24. Toronto Blue Jays: Yunel Escobar, SS
23. Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Schoop, 2B/SS
Named the third-best prospect in the Orioles' system and the fourth-best second base prospect by MLB.com heading into the season, 20-year-old Jonathan Schoop had an up-and-down season in his first year with Double-A Bowie.
Schoop finished the season with a .245/.324/.386 batting line, 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 124 games, splitting time between second base and shortstop and playing adequate defense at both spots.
Leading up to the trade deadline in July, ESPN's Jayson Stark named Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy as the untouchables in Baltimore's system—not Schoop.
Given Brian Roberts' uncertain future and Robert Andino clearly not being the long-term answer at the position, it's fair to say that the Orioles would likely have to be overwhelmed to move him.
By himself, Schoop has value. But if he were to be packaged with one of Baltimore's young pitchers—say Jake Arrieta, whom Stark opined could be available back at the deadline—he could be used to bring back another piece of the puzzle in Baltimore should the Orioles decide that they need to add one this winter.
22. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Peter Bourjos, CF
21. Washington Nationals: Mike Morse, 1B/OF
Mike Morse's future in Washington is largely tied to what the Nationals decide to do with first baseman Adam LaRoche and what they do in free agency.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that the Nationals are giving serious thought to exercising their $10 million team option on LaRoche, keeping him at first base. If the team goes out and signs a center fielder (like Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton) as many believe that they will, that makes Morse a man without a position.
Morse, who turns 31 years old next March, is a versatile player who can play both corner spots in the outfield, as well as first base. He is due a reasonable $6.75 million for 2013, the last year of his contract.
Were he to be made available, a number of teams could be interested in him, including the Yankees, who will likely be looking to replace Nick Swisher in right field this winter.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates: Joel Hanrahan, RHP
Leading up to the trade deadline, MLB.com's Tom Singer reported that teams were willing to trade two major league bats to acquire Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.
The Pirates ultimately decided to hold onto their closer, but that doesn't mean that they won't revisit the idea of dealing him this winter.
Hanrahan, 31, is a free agent after the 2013 season,
While moving him would leave the Pirates without an obvious choice to finish games, finding a closer may prove to be an easier task than adding quality major league bats to play alongside Andrew McCutchen this winter.
19. Seattle Mariners: Jason Vargas, RHP
Obviously, Felix Hernandez is their most valuable asset, but the team insists that it will not trade Hernandez, and we have no choice but to take the Mariners at their word.
That doesn't change the fact that Seattle has a trio of big-time pitching prospects in Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker who are going to make an impact in Seattle sooner rather than later. And that makes Vargas, who turns 30-years-old in February, expendable.
Vargas was available this season, but as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports, the Mariners were asking for a lot in return for him.
A free agent following the 2013 season, Vargas is a reasonably-priced innings-eater and a southpaw—two things that multiple teams covet.
18. St. Louis Cardinals: Shelby Miller, LHP
While he's pitched well in relief as a September call-up, 21-year-old Shelby Miller struggled mightily in his first season starting for Triple-A Memphis. He posted a 4.36 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, also allowing more hits than innings pitched.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reported at the end of July that the Cardinals had never been more open to moving Miller than they were at that point in time, and there's no reason to think that they wouldn't entertain the idea of moving their top pitching prospect again this winter.
What they could fetch in return for Miller is unknown; as one executive told Stark: "We've lost interest. I know that. The stuff coming out of his hand isn't as good. And the body doesn't look good. He's gotten a little heavy, and he's not the same guy."
But 21-year-old pitchers with high ceilings don't become available often, and chances are that a number of teams would be willing to gamble on Miller should the Cardinals make him available once again.
17. Chicago White Sox: Gavin Floyd, RHP
White Sox GM Rick Hahn believes that the team's starting pitching depth—at least eight pitchers could be in the mix for a rotation spot in spring training—will be popular topics of discussion when he speaks with other GMs around the league, as he explained to Dan Hayes of CSNChicago:
I suspect given this market for pitchers that is out there right now, I think we’re going to hear from a lot of teams about our starting pitching depth. I think we’re going to be pretty popular in that regard vis-a-vis trades because we’re in a better position than a lot of clubs right now.
The White Sox picked up the $9.25 million option on Gavin Floyd for 2013, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the 29-year-old is going to be a part of their 2013 rotation.
Floyd was rumored to be available around the trade deadline, including in discussions with the Milwaukee Brewers, though as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes, it wasn't in regards to a potential Zack Greinke deal.
In 29 starts for the White Sox in 2012, Floyd posted a 12-11 record to go along with a 4.29 ERA, 1.36 ERA and 144 strikeouts over 168 innings of work.
16. Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Hart, 1B/OF
15. Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza, RHP
14. Cleveland Indians: Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Indians' GM Chris Antonetti confirmed to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that 30-year-old right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, among others, is available this winter. "I'm not looking to move those guys...But we have to be open-minded.''
It makes sense considering that a few months ago, Heyman said that the Indians would listen to offers on Choo as they were resigned to the fact that they will not be able to re-sign the 30-year-old when his contract expires after the 2013 season.
Rumors of a possible Choo trade started rumbling earlier this year, with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal chiming in on what it would take to pry the former All-Star from the Tribe's hands:
Hearing Price for #Indians' Choo is a major leaguer - a good one - with less than three years service time. Choo free agent after 2013.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2012
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes that Choo's trade value takes a hit not only because of his impending free agency following the 2013 season (and the fact that he's a Scott Boras client), but also because the 30-year-old cannot hit left-handed pitching.
Choo has posted a .179/.313/.257 batting line against southpaws this season, and the line he has against lefties for his career is a disappointing .246/.337/.353.
Even with those things being held against him, Choo is going to generate a ton of interest, especially from those teams that don't want to overpay a free agent outfielder and those who fail to land Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks.
The Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Reds and Tigers were all said to have interest in Choo this summer, and there's no reason that all of those teams wouldn't check in with the Indians again this winter to try and put a deal together.
13. San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum, RHP
Tim Lincecum had the worst season of his career in 2012, and while he was better in the second half of the season, he struggled in his one postseason start for the World Champions, allowing four earned runs and six hits in 4.2 innings of work against the Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLCS.
The Giants have both Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner signed to long-term extensions, and with Lincecum due $22 million in 2013, whether or not the team will be able to work out a long-term deal with the two-time Cy Young Award winner is a legitimate question to ask.
GM Brian Sabean is likely to point to this year's struggles as a reason why Lincecum doesn't deserve the same type of money as Cain and Cole Hamels. But Lincecum's camp will point to his second-half performance as proof that his horrid first half (and poor playoff start) was a fluke occurrence.
There aren't many teams who can absorb Lincecum's salary in 2013, but there's no question that when he's on, Lincecum remains one of the elite pitchers in baseball.
San Francisco would be sure to receive a plethora of quality pieces in exchange for him.
12. Los Angeles Dodgers: Zach Lee, RHP
Taken in the first round of the 2010 draft by the Dodgers, Zach Lee is unquestionably the team's best pitching prospect.
Yet that didn't stop the rumor mill from spitting out rumor after rumor that involved the 21-year-old right-hander.
CBS Sports' Danny Knobler said that when talks were ongoing between the Dodgers and Cubs regarding Ryan Dempster, the Cubs insisted on Lee being included in the package, which the Dodgers apparently weren't willing to do.
Jim Bowden of ESPN speculated that the Brewers wanted to acquire Lee in exchange for third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
You get the point. For someone that some believe isn't available, Lee sure seems available in the right deal.
While his numbers in 2012 were less than impressive—a 4.39 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 121 innings of work split between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga—the Dodgers could move Lee for a contributing player at the major league level should they decide that's the way to go.
11. Miami Marlins: Josh Johnson, RHP
I thought the Marlins made a big mistake in not moving Josh Johnson at the non-waiver trade deadline, as his value was never going to be higher than it was at that point in time.
Johnson, who turns 29 in January, posted a record of 8-14 in 2012 to go along with a 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 165 strikeouts in 191 innings of work.
Those are good numbers, but far from elite. While we know what Johnson was before injury cost him most of the 2011 season, we have no idea whether he's ever going to get back to his previous form when he was looking more and more like a Cy Young award contender.
Which makes their reluctance to move him—and supposed asking price—odd to say the least.
Some saying that Marlins want more for Johnson than Brewers got for Greinke. One rival official: "I think Zack has a Cy Young at his house."— DKnobler (@DKnobler) July 28, 2012
Multiple teams were interested in acquiring him this summer, including the Blue Jays, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox.
A free agent following this season and with no guarantees that he'll re-sign with the club, Miami would be wise to move him for additional pieces now while interested parties could have him for a full season.
10. Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran, RHP
One of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, 21-year-old Julio Teheran had an awful 2012 for Triple-A Gwinnett, pitching to a 5.08 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in his second season at the minor league's highest level.
Bad numbers aside, Braves' GM Frank Wren told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that while he'll never say never, it would take something very, very special for the Braves to give up on their pitching phenom:
Julio Teheran, in his case he got off track for about two-thirds of the minor league season, and in the month of August he got back on track and was dynamic and outstanding again. So we’re looking forward to him – they’re (Teheran and Randall Delgado) both pitching winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and we’re looking forward to them continuing that development. But they’re still guys that we value a lot, and so if we’re going to have any [trade] discussions it’s going to be for a very, very big piece.
Whether a team is willing to give up a "very, very big piece" to acquire Teheran (or Delgado) remains to be seen, but he still projects as a front-of-the-rotation starter.
9. Minnesota Twins: Denard Span, CF
While Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are the sexier names who have been the subject of trade rumors over the past few months, center fielder Denard Span is the player who would bring back the biggest return for the Twins this winter.
Span, who turns 29 years old in February, is a quintessential leadoff hitter and remains one of the best defensive center fielders in the game.
Right before the non-waiver trade deadline,USA Today's Bob Nightengale was all over the Span rumors:
The Minnesota #Twins are listening to offers for CF Denard Span, but won't move him unless they get a major-league starter back in return.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 29, 2012
CBS Sports' Scott Miller reported on more than one occasion that the Reds were trying to obtain Span in order to replace Drew Stubbs in center field and, more importantly, give the Reds a legitimate table-setter at the top of their lineup.
As with Peter Bourjos, Span figures to draw considerable interest from teams this winter that either miss out on free agents like Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton or those that choose to stay away from the free agent frenzy altogether.
Should the Twins wind up moving Span, Ben Revere would slide to center field from right field, while Chris Parmalee, among others, would be a candidate to start in right field.
8. Philadelphia Phillies: Cliff Lee, RHP
The chances are slim-to-none that Cliff Lee would ever get traded from the Phillies, but he's been traded multiple times already in his career, and he was put on waivers (as is virtually every player in baseball) this past season.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) August 7, 2012
Lee, 34, went 6-9 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out 207 batters in 211 innings of work this past season.
It goes without saying that he would bring back a massive return for the Phillies were they to move him.
7. Detroit Tigers: Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF
Including Nick Castellanos on this list goes against my own rules, but it makes far too much sense for the Tigers to use him in a trade if they have areas that they feel like they need to address as the 20-year-old would bring back an impressive package.
As we got closer to the non-waiver trade deadline this past summer, USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted that the MVP of this year's Futures Game during the All-Star break was not available in a trade...at least at that point in time:
The #Tigers are telling teams_at least right now_that prized 3B prospect Nick Castellanos is unavailable.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 16, 2012
Castellanos, 20, spent the first two-and-a-half seasons as a professional ballplayer playing third base, which happens to be the same position as Miguel Cabrera.
In an effort to make him a more viable addition to the Tigers' major league roster, he finished the 2012 season playing 51 games in right field for the Tigers' Double-A affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves.
Over 134 games split between High-A and Double-A, Castellanos posted a batting line of .320/365/.451 with 10 home runs and 57 RBI.
His trade value is highest if Castellanos is manning the hot corner, but regardless of where he is playing, multiple teams would have interest in acquiring him.
6. Boston Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman says that while Ellsbury is available, the Red Sox aren't motivated to move him:
#redsox won't shop ellsbury. they'd listen, but as 1 rival official noted, "they already need 2 OFs."— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 7, 2012
But maybe they should be.
Towards the end of the regular season, Scott McAdam of CSN New England quoted an unnamed American League executive who said that the Red Sox had "no chance" to work out a contract extension with the 29-year-old center fielder.
ESPN's Buster Olney intimated the same thing, telling the Mut and Merloni Show on WEEI 850 AM that the price tag on Ellsbury's next contract is going to be "astronomical"—something that makes sense when you consider who he's represented by.
Scott Boras spoke to the Boston Herald's Michael Silverman a few weeks ago, and while he left the door open for an extension to be worked out, Boras made it clear that Ellsbury will not come cheap:
The only thing I can say about Jacoby is that there are few players like him. He is a proven successful player in Boston and in the American League East environment, and he plays a premium position at Gold Glove levels. He is a franchise player.
A spate of injuries over the past few seasons—injuries that lean towards the freakish end of the spectrum, but injuries nonetheless—and the fact that he's represented by Boras could both work against the Red Sox in their attempt to receive fair-market value for Ellsbury.
Injuries and impending free agency aside, there's interest in Ellsbury around the league.
Olney reports that the Rangers have been doing their homework on Ellsbury as part of their "Plan B" should Josh Hamilton leave Texas as a free agent—not the first time that they've been linked to Ellsbury this season.
WEEI's Rob Bradford reports that the two teams discussed a blockbuster involving Ellsbury, among others, leading up to the trade deadline, though talks aren't thought to have gotten very serious.
5. San Diego Padres: Chase Headley, 3B
As the July 31 trade deadline drew closer, there wasn't a hotter name on the rumor mill than Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who had at least five teams pursuing him: the A's, Indians, Orioles, Pirates and Yankees.
Josh Byrnes said he doesn't expect Chase Headley to be traded this winter. Padres actually like their offense, need pitching.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 7, 2012
While Byrnes doesn't expect to trade Headley, who is signed through the 2014 season, there have been no talks about a multi-year extension, according to Corey Brock of MLB.com.
Earlier this season, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal said that the Padres are giving serious thought to keeping Headley this winter and putting Jedd Gyorko—one of their top prospects and the expected successor to Headley at the hot corner—at second base next season.
The return that the Padres could receive for Headley would be significant, and at the very least, they owe it to themselves to see whether or not another team is willing to grossly overpay to acquire Headley's services.
4. Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Tampa Bay Rays: Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson is drawing a huge amount of interest in trade talks, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman—and any general manager who isn't calling Tampa Bay's Andrew Friedman to try and acquire him, frankly, shouldn't be a general manager.
Hellickson, 25, made 31 starts for the Rays in 2012, going 10-11 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 124 strikeouts over 177 innings of work.
Winner of the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year award and a Gold Glove recipient in 2012, Hellickson has a career mark of 27-21 to go along with an impressive 3.06 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in just over 400 innings—with the bulk of those innings coming in AL East play.
He's also under team control through the 2017 season.
So why would the Rays be looking to move someone with considerable upside who has yet to reach his prime?
Two words: Scott Boras.
Hellickson is represented by the mega-agent, and Tampa Bay knows that reaching any sort of long-term deal with him is virtually impossible.
Moving him now would bring back a substantial return for the Rays, primarily a middle-of-the-order bat to pair alongside 3B Evan Longoria.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton, RF
Justin Upton's limited no-trade clause, which consisted of four teams: the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees—has changed, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who says that the Diamondbacks are actively trying to move the two-time All-Star.
Upton, 25, is coming off of a mediocre season where he hit .280 but only had 17 home runs and 67 RBI, down from the .289/31/89 marks he had in 2011.
"This season does diminish his value," a National League club executive said. "But there are going to be plenty of teams needing somebody like him. Somebody is going to ante up."
"If they decide to move him," said an assistant GM with an AL team, "they'll get a fairly robust return. Maybe not like before, but there's still a lot of upside."
There aren't many players available in baseball who have as much trade value as Justin Upton does.
1. New York Mets: David Wright, 3B
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