An Early Look at This Winter's MLB Trade Market

Jason MartinezContributor IAugust 7, 2013

An Early Look at This Winter's MLB Trade Market

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    Trade talk and actual trades were limited in July for several reasons, including a large amount of teams not out of contention or not believing they were out of contention. While this won't change in the offseason when all 30 teams have a clean slate and are optimistic about their playoff chances in 2014, there is a much better possibility for an impact player to change teams. 

    The more teams are in the bidding for a player, the better the return will ultimately be. This is usually the case in the offseason.

    In addition, teams are more willing to pull off major leaguer-for-major leaguer deals in the offseason. They're also not as hesitant to trade away a player from their projected 25-man roster because there is a good chance they can replace that player through free agency or another trade if a capable replacement isn't already in place.

    With that said, we can go ahead and start looking forward to hearing some big names in trade rumors, including Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price. It's a near certainty the Rays will not be able to retain their 27-year-old ace beyond the 2015 season when he becomes a free agent. So they'll have to decide when is the best time to trade him. 

    Because he'll be at peak value with two full seasons of team control this upcoming offseason, it makes sense for the Rays to start discussing possible trade scenarios with interested teams. They obviously were able to overcome the loss of James Shields, who was traded away last offseason. Losing Price would be more difficult, but the return would be huge. 

    Back in April when the Rays were struggling, I put together three trade packages for Price after ESPN's Buster Olney (via WEEI.comnamed the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals as potential destinations.

    Here are six other impact players who could be shopped in the offseason, their potential suitors and what it may take to acquire them.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins

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    The Giancarlo Stanton rumors had all but died down by the time we got to the trade deadline. No worries, though. They're very likely to pick up again in the offseason. More teams would be in on the bidding than during the regular season because the Miami Marlins would likely ask for at least one impact major leaguer as well as a couple elite prospects and more in the trade package. 

    It's no secret the Texas Rangers are interested—Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote in late July that they ask the Marlins about him weekly—while the Pittsburgh Pirates have also inquired, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. They'll likely have plenty of competition, but those two teams certainly have the minor league talent to put them near the top of the list. 

    There's no question that just about every team in baseball will be asking the Marlins what it would take to acquire him. But if we stuck with just one team, the Pirates, and what they'd have to offer for three seasons of the 23-year-old Stanton, I'd go with this: 

    Pirates acquire Giancarlo Stanton from Marlins for right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole (impact major leaguer), outfielder Gregory Polanco and right-handed pitcher Tyler Waldron (elite prospects) with hard-throwing reliever Vic Black and second base prospect Dilson Herrera, whose stock is on the rise, included in the "more" part of the trade.

    That's quite a five-for-one return for the Marlins, who would have one of the best young starting rotations in the game led by Jose Fernandez, Cole and Jacob Turner. Their outfield of Polanco, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick wouldn't be bad either. 

Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Although the trade deadline passed with the Rangers empty-handed in their search for a hitter, they reportedly had asked the Toronto Blue Jays about sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.

    Nothing transpired, but Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos will have a few months to think about it before the Rangers will likely ask again. Or several other teams, for that matter, if they find out the 32-year-old Bautista could be had for the right price. 

    To acquire one of the premier power hitters in the game, who is signed for another two seasons at $14 million per season with a $14 million club option for 2016, it won't be cheap. After a disappointing season in Toronto, Anthopoulos could use this leverage to give his team a face-lift and fill several gaping holes on the roster.

    Sticking with the Rangers, who could acquire Bautista as Nelson Cruz's replacement in right field, they could probably hold onto Jurickson Profar, who should play regularly in 2014.

    By trading Ian Kinsler to Toronto, a team that is desperate for second base help, and a top prospect not named Profar, the Rangers could plug Profar into the everyday second base role with Bautista stepping into the middle of a Rangers lineup that would look something like this before any of the other lineup holes are addressed...

    1. Jurickson Profar, 2B
    2. Elvis Andrus, SS
    3. Jose Bautista, RF
    4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
    5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
    6. Chris McGuiness, DH
    7. Leonys Martin, LF
    8. Craig Gentry, CF
    9. Robinson Chirinos, C

    The Rangers certainly have a challenging offseason ahead of them, but adding Bautista and opening up a spot for Profar would be a good start.

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago Cubs

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    If the Cubs are unable to reach agreement with ace Jeff Samardzija this winter, they'll likely shop him, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The Cubs will be in win-now mode in 2014, however, so moving the 28-year-old Samardzija is likely an option only if they can do so without downgrading their major league team. 

    This could mean they ask for major league talent in return or they trade him later in the offseason if they're able to build up some starting pitching depth through free agency or trades. Aside from Samardzija, who is under team control for two more seasons, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson are the only two locks for 2014 rotation spots.

    Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported back in late June that the Arizona Diamondbacks had interest in Samardzija, but talks never appeared to get serious with any team. A Cubs-D'backs deal would have to include one of Arizona's top two pitching prospects, Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley, another major league starter and one of the Diamondbacks' many outfielders.

    If the Diamondbacks were able to land Samardzija for Skaggs, one season of Brandon McCarthy and center fielder Adam Eaton, who wins that deal? 

    The D'backs rotation would look like this...

    1. Jeff Samardzija
    2. Pat Corbin
    3. Trevor Cahill
    4. Wade Miley
    5. Randall Delgado/Archie Bradley

    ...while the Cubs rotation would look like this...

    1. Brandon McCarthy
    2. Travis Wood
    3. Edwin Jackson
    4. Tyler Skaggs
    5. Jake Arrieta

Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres

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    Chase Headley's return to the hitter he had been for his first five seasons in the majors, as opposed to the MVP-caliber player he was in the second half of 2012, actually gives the San Diego Padres a fighting chance to sign him to a contract extension. But it could still make more sense to shop him before his last season of team control just in case some team with a huge void at the hot corner will overpay. 

    The fact that so many teams could be interested in the 29-year-old Headley, including the Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, will bump up the price.

    It will also help if he can show some hint of his power surge from last season (23 HR in second half). His overall numbers are starting to improve (.856 OPS since All-Star break), but he's only homered three times since late May. 

    Moving Headley would likely result in Jedd Gyorko's shift from second base to third base, so a deal that included a major league ready middle infielder to go along with a top prospect could be enough.

    If the White Sox parted with infielder Marcus Semien, who is having a huge season (.903 OPS, 20 SB between Double-A and Triple-A), to give the Padres their likely second baseman early for 2014 and top pitching prospect Erik Johnson (2.15 ERA, 8.3 K/9 between Double-A and Triple-A), the Sox could have their No. 3 hitter and third baseman for the 2014 season.

Jon Lester, SP, Boston Red Sox

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    The acquisition of Jake Peavy puts the Sox in a position heading into the offseason where they really have more than enough pitching depth, including at least seven starters who could start for most teams around the league. 

    A projected rotation of Peavy, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront gives the team six pitchers for five spots, while Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa and Matt Barnes might form one of the best Triple-A rotations of recent memory. 

    While they could certainly use their pitching prospect depth to try to land a big bat like Giancarlo Stanton, it's more realistic to trade one of their veteran starters to help fill a hole in the bullpen—they could be in need of a closer—or a bat—they could be on the lookout for a catcher, first baseman or corner outfielder. 

    Picking up Lester's $13 million club option for 2014 and then trading him to the San Francisco Giants, who could lose Tim Lincecum to free agency, is an option. San Francisco could offer closer Sergio Romo and one of its top low-level pitching prospects.

David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Having what is considered to be one of the best farm systems in baseball, the Cardinals eventually have to start making room for the prospects that are ready to make an impact in the majors.

    Oscar Taveras or Matt Adams will benefit from Carlos Beltran's departure through free agency—Taveras would take over in right field or Allen Craig would move there to clear first base for Adams—and second baseman Kolten Wong can take over at second base just as soon as the team clears a spot elsewhere for Matt Carpenter, who has an .839 OPS in his first season as a big league regular.

    Carpenter, who has played all over the diamond, is also a possibility to move to right field. A move to his natural position at third base if the team finds a match for David Freese, who has been productive when healthy, is more likely, though.

    Swapping Freese straight up for Angels shortstop Erick Aybar makes sense, since it fills a hole for each team. Freese is under team control for two more seasons, while Aybar is signed through 2016 with a salary of $8.5 million per season. The new Cardinals lineup could look something like this...

    1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
    2. Jon Jay, CF
    3. Matt Holliday, LF
    4. Allen Craig, 1B
    5. Yadier Molina, C
    6. Oscar Taveras, RF
    7. Kolten Wong, 2B
    8. Erick Aybar, SS

    ...while the Angels lineup would look something like this...  

    1. Peter Bourjos, CF
    2. Mike Trout, LF
    3. Albert Pujols, DH
    4. Josh Hamilton, RF
    5. Mark Trumbo, 1B
    6. David Freese, 3B
    7. Howie Kendrick, 2B
    8. Chris Iannetta, C
    9. Andrew Romine, SS