The MLB offseason is always filled with excitement and anticipation as teams strive to upgrade their rosters for the upcoming season.
While much of the focus is placed on free agents and their possible destinations, the trade market is generally active as well. With a free-agent market that is weak in certain positions, several teams will seek to make upgrades using the trade market instead.
Quite a few players throughout baseball have been rumored to be available should the right opportunity present itself. We will take a look at the top players at each position who could be moved if the right package of players makes a deal worth pulling the trigger on.
The Boston Red Sox announced on Saturday that they had reached agreement on a two-year, $6.2 million deal with backup catcher David Ross.
The deal with Ross means the Red Sox now have three catchers—Ross, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway—on their roster, and it's likely another move could now be in play.
With Saltalamacchia and Lavarnway, the Sox didn't seem to have a need behind the plate, but with Ross now on board, it certainly gives rises to the notion that the Sox will use a strength to bolster the possibility of adding an outfielder or starting pitcher.
Saltalamacchia would appear to be the obvious choice. The Sox love Lavarnway, despite the fact he hit just .157 in 46 games last season. The 25-year-old has been groomed to take over at the major league level, and his defensive work has improved vastly as well.
Saltalamacchia offers punch behind the plate, a commodity that's not widely available. With 22 HR and 59 RBI last season, quite a few teams wouldn't mind adding Salty's offensive punch behind the plate.
The Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets and Chicago Cubs are just three teams who could use help behind the plate, and others would certainly entertain the thought as well. For the Red Sox, including Saltalamacchia in any package could certainly help in their efforts to acquire an impact outfielder or starting pitcher.
The New York Mets have several holes needing to be addressed this offseason, and they could use a player with great potential and under team control to get what they want.
First baseman Ike Davis had what could best be termed as an up-and-down season in 2012. Davis got off to a horrible start before rebounding to hit .227 with 32 HR and 90 RBI. Of his 32 homers, 26 were hit in the final 92 games of the season.
Davis is under team control through the 2016 season, making him an attractive buy for many teams. The Mets could use Davis to bolster their outfield, bullpen and possibly the starting rotation.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently wrote that Davis would not be dealt this winter, citing the Mets' need for power in the lineup.
However, don't think for one second that position wouldn't change if the right deal were presented.
The position of second base may just be the weakest in terms of available trade options this winter, but one name that adds a bit of intrigue to the list could be enticing—shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
Cabrera committed 19 errors last season at short, the most in the American League. His defense is trending downwards at the position.
Cabrera has logged 162 games at second base during his career, so he could transition to the right side of the infield. An All-Star for the past two seasons, Cabrera would certainly offer up help for several teams needing more production in the middle infield.
When asked about Cabrera and other Indians players at the recent GM meetings in Indian Wells, Calif.,general manager Chris Antonetti was coy in his reply.
"I'm not looking to move those guys,'' Antonetti said. "But we have to be open-minded.''
Open-minded meaning bring the right deal, and all of a sudden Cabrera becomes very available.
The hot corner will be a hot topic of discussion this offseason for several teams. However, the available third basemen on the free-market market don't exactly scream out the word "impact."
Kevin Youkilis might be the only name on the list who could provide some impact, however, at 34 years of age and with a spate of injuries over the past three seasons, Youk's better days may be behind him.
So, teams will likely explore trade options, and the San Diego Padres figure to get at least a few calls regarding the availability of Chase Headley.
Courtesy of a career season (.286 BA, 31 HR, 115 RBI), Headley would absolutely solve many team's problems regarding a lack of production at third base.
Headley also won his first Gold Glove Award and added a Silver Slugger Award trophy to his mantel as well.
However, the Padres and Headley have not engaged in a conversation regarding a contract extension as of yet, and general manager Josh Byrnes insists that Headley is not up for trade at this time.
The Padres seem intent on keeping Headley at third and in the middle of their batting order, allowing prospect Jedd Gyorko to possibly transition to second base.
But Headley's name keeps coming up in speculation, and until that extension is in Headley's hands, that speculation will likely continue.
The Texas Rangers are in a very enviable position on the left side of their infield.
For starters, they have Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. But they also have two hot prospects in Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar.
Both Olt and Profar debuted late in the 2012 season, and the Rangers absolutely love Profar's potential. So does MLB.com, who ranked Profar as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.
While Beltre is still under contract for at least the next three seasons and an integral part of the Rangers offense, Andrus could prove to be an invaluable trade chip for the Rangers.
General manager Jon Daniels addressed his team's strength on the left side of the infield during the GM meetings last week.
"People see the depth in our infield, specifically at shortstop and the challenge of filling that position in the industry," Daniels said. "That's probably the most popular call we get, but it would have to be a pretty unique thing for us to think about."
Creativity is the word for general managers looking pry Andrus away from the Rangers at this point. Only a deal that blows Daniels away will get it done.
When the Arizona Diamondbacks signed outfielder Jason Kubel last year, their outlook for the future was much different than it apparently is today.
Now, Kubel could be the odd man out in the Diamondbacks outfield.
Even with the trade of center fielder Chris Young last month, the Diamondbacks still may want to go in another direction with their outfield.
According to Nick Piecoro of azcentral.com, Gerardo Parra may be the preferred left fielder of choice.
Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers would like to field a team that offers better defense, and manager Kirk Gibson has spoken about the need to be more athletic.
To that end, Parra would be preferable over Kubel.
Towers is still searching for help on the left side of his infield. Kubel could well be one of the pieces he dangles out there in order to achieve his goal.
The Boston Red Sox can best be described as a team in flux, and there is no telling what could happen over on Yawkey Way this offseason.
After finishing with their worst regular-season record since 1965 and finishing out of the playoffs for the third straight year, there should be no question in anyone's mind that the status quo just won't cut it.
General manager Ben Cherington already started the rebuild process, shipping Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. The move freed up approximately $60 million in payroll for the 2013 season.
Other moves are certainly likely, and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury could be one of those moves.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com tweeted last week that the Red Sox aren't looking to move Ellsbury—at least not now.
Things change, but #RedSox currently disinclined to trade Ellsbury with value down. Club figures he will be highly motivated in FA year.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 7, 2012
Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that the Texas Rangers could be targeting Ellsbury if they're unable to re-sign Josh Hamilton.
No question that injuries are a concern for Ellsbury, who missed all but 18 games in 2010 and another 88 games this past season. However, he was the runner-up to Justin Verlander in the AL MVP race in 2011 and is still just 29 years of age.
Earlier, we discussed the possibility that Arizona Diamondbacks left fielder Jason Kubel could be an attractive trade target. So too could right fielder Justin Upton.
It would be a stretch to think that both Upton and Kubel will be dealt, but it's a safe bet that one of them won't survive the winter in Phoenix.
General manager Kevin Towers spent a good portion of his time at the GM meetings last week fielding questions about Upton's availability.
"If a deal presents itself that makes the Diamondbacks better, I think I need to be open-minded," Towers said.
Upton suffered a down season after putting together a career year in 2011, hitting .280 with 17 HR and 67 RBI.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com cited a major league source as saying that there's an "80-20 chance" of Upton being dealt this winter.
After a healthy season turned in by Miami Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson, he remains atop the wish list of several teams.
According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, Johnson would be of great interest to the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Johnson, 28, compiled an 8-14 record and 3.81 ERA in 31 starts last year for the last-place Marlins.
While the Marlins may be more inclined to move Johnson before next year's trade deadline, the right package could entice them to move him this winter.
Southpaw Cliff Lee is owed $75 million over the next three seasons. That price tag alone certainly limits the amount of teams who could vie for his services, should he be made available.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro insists that he's not interested in trading Lee.
"We're not moving any of our guys that are going to be that kind of impact on our club," Amaro said. "I don't usually talk specifically about players, but we're better off keeping those players. There's a reason why they're high-priced: it's because they're good. I feel like we have a much better chance of winning with them than without them."
Despite Amaro's insistence, trade speculation still runs rampant.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune recently speculated that the Phillies could dangle Lee in order to make a major upgrade at third base.
Speculation like that will likely continue all winter long.
Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti has given no indication that he wants to trade closer Chris Perez. However, the rumors persist.
Perez saved 39 games last season for the Tribe and is under team control for two more seasons. However, because of his very public rants about the Cleveland fans, front office and former manager Manny Acta, Perez's mouth may be pushing him out of town.
The market for top closers is not stellar this offseason, so teams may be willing to take on Perez, despite his tendency to run off at the mouth.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.