Each MLB Team's Player Most Likely to Be Dealt This Offseason
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Every MLB team is compelled to make roster tweaks during the offseason, but there are methods to these moves.
Only particular players emerge as wintertime trade candidates, typically because their departures would facilitate acquisitions of more reputable (and expensive) individuals or clear space for future contributors with greater upside and risk.
The likelihood of the following guys changing uniforms isn't necessarily high. While the Tampa Bay Rays, for example, have an opportunity to get an epic package for David Price, you can't point to anyone on the Atlanta Braves or New York Yankees—among others—who already has one foot out the door.
These players will tempt their teams to engage in trade conversations due either to the position they play, the reputation they've established or the cash they would cost to retain.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Chris Owings
Chris Owings has been one of the best offensive players in the Pacific Coast League this year (.331/.359.,481, 12 HR, 16 SB). The Arizona Diamondbacks will likely exploit that fact.
The 22-year-old shortstop is stuck beyond Didi Gregorius and Cliff Pennington on Arizona's depth chart, and Aaron Hill blocks a potential conversion to second base. Besides, his lack of plate discipline could lead to a steep regression at the major league level.
In exchange, the D-Backs might seek legitimate pitching prospects.
Atlanta Braves: Jordan Schafer
Truthfully, there aren’t many Jordan Schafer-caliber outfielders on the free-agent market at a reasonable price. You can trust him in center and use him atop the lineup against right-handed pitching.
That’s exactly why the Atlanta Braves might make him available.
Assuming that the 2014 B.J. Upton bears any resemblance to the Tampa Bay Rays version, there won’t be any need to rely on bench production. It is also hard to imagine Schafer’s value getting any better than it is currently.
Baltimore Orioles: J.J. Hardy
J.J. Hardy has already made good on his $22.5 million contract extension with one year still remaining on it. Beyond providing consistently superb defense, the veteran shortstop has been a reputable power source at the position with solid contact skills.
This summer, however, the O’s have needed to pluck some excellent talent from their farm system to make pitching staff improvements. A Hardy trade could potentially replenish what they’ve lost.
Manny Machado would presumably slide over to handle the shortstop duties with the ping pong champ out of the picture.
Boston Red Sox: Jon Lester
Considering all of the roster turnover they've endured in the past calendar, the Boston Red Sox might prefer a quiet offseason. They'll lose and gain a few players through free agency, of course, but perhaps we'll look back at the Jake Peavy-Jose Iglesias trade as their only blockbuster move of 2013.
Like many of his current teammates, Jon Lester probably isn't leaving Beantown. A $13 million salary (his 2014 club option) is an overpay for the mid-rotation-level performance he has provided the past couple seasons, but at least he's made slight improvement from 2012.
Boston's farm system is flush with high-ceiling, near-MLB-ready pitching prospects, however. If enough of those guys show promise in winter leagues/spring training, the Red Sox would understandably gauge what interest the rest of their league has in their former ace.
Chicago Cubs: Nate Schierholtz
Signing Nate Schierholtz for $2.25 million has been a terrific value for the Chicago Cubs. He's owning right-handed pitching, single-handedly matching his home run total from the 2010-2012 seasons.
It's been a strong effort, but not nearly enough to keep the team in playoff contention. With the Cubs trading David DeJesus and failing to extend Matt Garza, their outlook for 2014 doesn't look particularly bright either.
Chicago could wait until midsummer to shop the 29-year-old outfielder, but his personal history suggests that he'll regress going forward. Why not sell high?
Chicago White Sox: Alexei Ramirez
The Chicago White Sox were reluctant to move Alexei Ramirez prior to the 2013 non-waiver trade deadline, understanding that a personal power outage was hurting his value (1 HR, .071 ISO through July).
He has already homered three times in August to silence the whispers about him declining at age 31.
Considering his great defense, contact rate and baserunning, Ramirez would serve as a significant upgrade at shortstop for contenders like the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. His contract is guaranteed through 2015 with a 2016 team option but at less than $10 million per season.
New general manager Rick Hahn has clearly begun to rebuild, trading Jesse Crain, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and Matt Thornton in recent weeks. He could either hold onto Ramirez and fight for fourth place next summer or flip him for a prospect package now and position the franchise for sustainable excellence later this decade.
Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton
Billy Hamilton probably goes if Shin-Soo Choo stays.
Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told MLB.com's Mark Shledon that he didn't really envision that possibility upon acquiring Choo in December, but think about it. Any team with an All-Star-caliber center fielder and a center field prospect with All-Star potential usually shops the latter.
Hamilton’s stock exploded in 2012 when he racked up a zillion stolen bases (OK, only 156, but that’s still a minor league record). The organization decided that a shift from shortstop to center field would better allow him to incorporate his blazing speed on defense.
Even in a disappointing follow-up season, Hamilton continues running aggressively and successfully. The Reds would still expect to get a large return for him.
Cleveland Indians: Ronny Rodriguez
The Cleveland Indians have held onto Ronny Rodriguez as an insurance policy in case top prospect Francisco Lindor inexplicably busts. Thankfully, with Lindor now dominating against Double-A competition, that worst-case scenario is looking less and less likely.
The Tribe forfeited future draft picks to sign Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher last offseason and several promising youngster to get—cue eye roll—Ubaldo Jimenez. That means Rodriguez would best be used to help them get younger at other positions.
He's batting .266/.287/.375 this season with four home runs (455 plate appearances). Not so terrible for a 21-year-old.
Colorado Rockies: Michael Cuddyer
The Colorado Rockies will have difficult questions to answer if Michael Cuddyer replicates his 2013 season with a new organization.
His personal history—110 OPS+ through 2012, 139 OPS+ this season—suggests that won’t happen. The effects of Father Time will make it even more difficult for him to perform at an All-Star level at age 33.
Colorado’s farm system sorely needs an infusion of talent. Trading Cuddyer coming off a career year—particularly to a team with vacancies at designated hitter or first base—should get the job done.
Detroit Tigers: Rick Porcello
Max Scherzer’s emergence will make him pricey to retain through 2014 and beyond, so the Detroit Tigers should be looking to trim several of their other expenses.
Jhonny Peralta’s suspension and impending free agency will lighten their payroll. From there, they’ll need to take a long, hard look at the pitching staff.
Closer Joaquin Benoit has enjoyed an excellent season. If Detroit doesn’t woo him back with a lucrative, multi-year contract, another team will.
Rather than seeing the Tigers compromise their bullpen, we might see them trade arbitration-eligible Rick Porcello and use Drew Smyly or a cheap, veteran free agent to fill the rotation void. Porcello has boosted his stock this summer with a career-best 3.42 FIP and average of nearly six innings per start.
Although general manager Dave Dombrowski denied it to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News (h/t MLB Trade Rumors), it's obvious that Porcello was being dangled during 2013 spring training.
Houston Astros: Chris Carter
Beginning next season, the Houston Astros will put their trust in homegrown power hitters like George Springer and Jonathan Singleton.
Other teams might hold onto Chris Carter as insurance in case either of them struggle to adjust, but the Astros won’t be competitive under any circumstances. Besides, Carter’s atrocious strikeout rate (168 K in 452 PA in 2013) and defensive deficiencies severely limit his overall value.
Houston has unloaded numerous players with significant MLB service time—including Jed Lowrie, Bud Norris, Jose Veras and Carlos Pena—in the past 12 months. This would simply serve as a continuation of that trend.
Kansas City Royals: Jarrod Dyson
Relinquishing promising pitching prospect Kyle Smith in the Justin Maxwell trade was an indication that the Kansas City Royals see Maxwell as a long-term piece of their active roster. Platooning him with David Lough in right field has thus far worked out fabulously.
It's clear that he'll stick with K.C. when Lorenzo Cain returns from the disabled list and beyond.
The Royals could retain Jarrod Dyson as well as, primarily for pinch-running duty (51 SB in 157 G since 2012). Don't be surprised, however, if they flip him to another team anxious with a greater need for his outfield defense and production versus right-handers.
Los Angeles Angels: Mark Trumbo
The Los Angeles Angels owe Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols $40 million in 2014 and even more for the seasons that follow. The simple truth is that they won’t sniff the playoffs unless those two stay relatively healthy and produce at an above-average level.
Given his age and health history, Mark Trumbo is a safer bat to produce in the middle of the lineup. Then again, those factors also make him a movable luxury that the Angels have a chance at swapping for even better young talent.
He's effective, but he's perhaps already peaking at age 27 (.768 OPS and 29 HR in 2011, .808 OPS and 32 HR in 2012, .778 OPS and 29 HR in 2013).
L.A.'s starting rotation is a mess once you get past Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Using Trumbo as the centerpiece in a trade could help the team obtain a controllable, quality arm to remedy that.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Joc Pederson
The most expensive outfield ever—Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig—is staying together for the foreseeable future.
The combination of monstrous contracts and recent health concerns make Crawford and Kemp immovable. The Los Angeles Dodgers would never give up on anyone as marketable and talented as Puig, and Ethier still produces enough against right-handed pitching to validate his spot on a championship-caliber roster.
Meanwhile, Joc Pederson is nearly ready to break through from the minor leagues (.279/.379/.490, 19 HR in 480 PA at Double-A). Recognizing how other teams would value his promising tools and negligible salary, the Dodgers will certainly entertain offers for him.
Miami Marlins: Justin Ruggiano
For the second straight season, Justin Ruggiano is doing fairly well in traditional counting stats like home runs and stolen bases. Now that he has enough service time to go through the arbitration process, he’ll almost surely earn seven figures on his next contract.
Two glaring issues stand in the way of that happening with the Miami Marlins: The team has been aggressively slashing payroll, and a couple of its best prospects, Jake Marisnick and Christian Yelich, are outfielders.
Compared to 2012, many of Ruggiano’s meaningful stats have plummeted. But if the Houston Astros managed to orchestrate a trade involving platoon guy Justin Maxwell, the Fish could probably do to same for their 31-year-old.
Milwaukee Brewers: Kyle Lohse
Sorry to disappoint those of you with big imaginations, but Ryan Braun isn’t being dealt.
Put yourself in the shoes of a general manager. Why would you even consider bringing that kind of media circus around your team? And how could you expect significant production from Braun, who’s rumored to have used performance-enhancing drugs for the bulk of his baseball career, according to ESPN?
Glad we addressed that.
Kyle Lohse ought to be much more desirable. Most teams wouldn’t mind paying $11 million per year for a No. 2 starter, which is essentially what he’s been for the past three years.
That’s oversimplifying him, of course. Lohse’s age and lack of American League experience will serve as deterrents.
All Milwaukee hopes is that one desperate team, underwhelmed by this upcoming free-agent class, makes an offer with talent akin to 2012’s Zack Greinke package.
Minnesota Twins: Josh Willingham
Josh Willingham is a poor fit for the Minnesota Twins, regardless of which direction they’re heading in.
For one, he’s a big defensive liability (minus-24.9 UZR, minus-22 DRS since 2009). Opposing right-handed batters will annihilate the Twins if Willingham continues to play left and up-and-coming slugger Miguel Sano secures the starting job at third base (his fielding is "pretty bad," according to B/R's own Mike Rosenbaum).
Using Willingham at designated hitter regularly creates another problem. Joe Mauer occasionally needs opportunities there to make sure his knees don’t explode.
The Twins suffer from a glaring lack of power pitching. If another team offers a high-ceiling guy for Willingham—regardless of how much development he needs—they should pull the trigger.
New York Mets: Bobby Parnell
Saves have a nasty habit of making arbitration-eligible relievers prohibitively expensive. That’s why the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Joel Hanrahan last winter and the San Francisco Giants decided to non-tender Brian Wilson.
Bobby Parnell hasn’t held the ninth-inning gig for very long, but he’s still due for a big pay raise in 2014.
What incentive do the New York Mets have to negotiate? Couldn’t they simply promote Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard to fill that role and save several million dollars?
The immediate results wouldn’t necessarily be encouraging, but the Mets’ window for contending opens in 2015, anyway. Why not assign one of their talented minor league pitchers to close, let him take his lumps and grow accustomed to the job heading into the following season?
Meanwhile, money that would’ve been spent locking up Parnell long term could instead go to respectable offensive players. He's the best closer the Mets have had since Billy Wagner, but that, frankly, isn't saying much.
New York Yankees: Peter O'Brien
The New York Yankees aren't going to trade high-level prospects, because they'll need them to fill out the active roster following this offseason's imminent free-agent departures. They also won't find suitors for declining veterans like CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Vernon Wells.
One of the few certainties in their farm system is Gary Sanchez, a catching prospect who could ascend to The Show as soon as 2014. Power-hitting Peter O'Brien is thriving one step behind him.
At 23 years old and inexperienced above High-A Tampa, O'Brien wouldn't be at the heart of a significant trade. Maybe New York will flip him for a developing pitcher of comparable potential.
Oakland Athletics: Michael Choice
The Oakland Athletics have several productive outfielders stockpiled with their Triple-A affiliate, but at age 23, Michael Choice is the most desirable. A .301/.387/.445 batting line for the Sacramento River Cats this summer could ultimate elevate him to the top-100 prospect status he held entering 2012.
At the major league level, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick will occupy Oakland's outfield corners for at least the next few years, while Coco Crisp seems like a safe bet to return to center via team option.
Count on general manager Billy Beane doing what he does best and trading Choice for a strong pitching prospect.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Papelbon
The Philadelphia Phillies passed on the opportunity to rebuild at the July 31 deadline.
Pulling Cliff Lee and Chase Utley off the trading block made sense, as both have continued to perform at extremely high levels into their mid-30s. It was more surprising, however, to see the Phillies keep impending free agents Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young.
As a result, the team’s farm system still stinks, and the front office doesn’t have many expendable veterans to remedy that. Aging shortstop Jimmy Rollins has full no-trade protection, while Ryan Howard’s brutal decline and exorbitant future guarantees scare everybody away. Shopping Cole Hamels so early into his new mega deal would be like giving Phillies fans a figurative middle finger.
Realistically, Jonathan Papelbon appears to be the only accomplished individual that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. can move without regrets or minimal compensation. He’s been a nightmarish combination of shaky performance, a bloated salary and distracting comments.
Including significant cash and emphasizing his pre-2013 excellence—2.34 ERA, 10.8 K/9 from 2005-2012—will help the Phillies reach an acceptable agreement.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Nick Kingham
The Pittsburgh Pirates won't need to stress about their starting rotation heading into 2014.
Gerrit Cole has shown terrific promise as a rookie, and Jameson Taillon is almost ready to make the same leap to the majors. Francisco Liriano will return following a miraculous rebound season, while Charlie Morton looks more than adequate coming off Tommy John surgery.
Although a serious regression candidate, Jeff Locke can contend for a back-end rotation spot. Moreover, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates—and only the Pirates—might be able to persuade A.J. Burnett to continue his career.
The point is that Pittsburgh doesn't need to wait for right-hander Nick Kingham to break through. On the contrary, this offseason presents an opportunity to sell high on the Las Vegas native—3.08 earned run average in 25 appearances (23 starts) this year—and finally acquire a legitimate right fielder.
San Diego Padres: Huston Street
A ghastly home run rate bloated Huston Street's stats early in 2013, making him virtually immovable at the non-waiver trade deadline. Even riding a streak of 14 straight scoreless appearances, there aren't many clubs lining up to absorb his contract ($7 million next season with $7 million team option for 2015).
Nonetheless, the San Diego Padres will make a determined push to unload him and clear a path for Luke Gregerson to assume the closer's role. His superior durability and knack for inducing ground balls would ensure less anxiety for the Padres' fans and coaching staff.
San Francisco Giants: Santiago Casilla
Santiago Casilla has been a great reliever for much of the past four seasons.
His contract, which guarantees $9.5 million through 2015, is extremely reasonable for an above-average closer. Following Brian Wilson's elbow injury last summer, Casilla proved that he could be exactly that.
The San Francisco Giants have serious concerns about the near and distant future of their starting rotation and have no need for this right-hander in the ninth inning. Surely there's a team out there that would consider trading promising youth for the peace of mind that Casilla provides.
Trimming a salary like his would also enable the Giants to make better offers to retain fan favorites like Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence.
Heath Hembree looks ready to fill the bullpen void with brilliance over the past two months, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Seattle Mariners: Jesus Montero
Prior to the 2012 season, Jesus Montero was one of the very best hitting prospects in all of baseball. He was viewed as a right-handed beast who could stabilize a lineup for years to come.
Then people noticed Montero couldn’t run or catch. Of even greater concern, he struggled making solid contact for the Seattle Mariners. In 2013, reports sprouted that he was a former Biogenesis client. Futile production, a demotion to the minors, knee surgery and a formal suspension followed.
The M’s would be selling low on Montero (.669 OPS since 2012), but even an improved version of him wouldn’t fit into their future plans. Mike Zunino and Justin Smoak will serve as their regular catcher and first baseman, respectively, and there’s a very realistic chance of the club retaining Kendrys Morales.
This league is famous for granting second chances to talented underachievers, and Montero epitomizes that phrase.
St. Louis Cardinals: Jake Westbrook
Veteran right-hander Jake Westbrook no longer belongs in an MLB starting rotation. Whoever doesn’t realize that will be a great trade partner for the St. Louis Cardinals.
His declining abilities don’t merit the $9.5 million that his 2014 team option dictates. There's nothing encouraging about a pitcher—who's soon to be on the wrong side of 35—issuing more walks than strikeouts. Then again, if the Cards were willing to include cash in the transaction, they might even receive a low-level farmhand in exchange.
Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller can lead the St. Louis rotation going forward, with Jaime Garcia, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn serving as starters as well. By spring training, Carlos Martinez and/or Michael Wacha might also prove themselves capable of contributing every five days.
It’s safe to say that Westbrook won’t be missed.
Tampa Bay Rays: David Price
The Tampa Bay Rays came to a creative financial agreement with David Price last winter, deferring nearly half of his salary until 2014. That's cash they can avoid paying the star lefty by dealing him before the holidays.
His stint on the disabled list earlier this season might have been a blessing in disguise. Pitching through a triceps injury had yielded mediocre results, but the rest helped Price regain his Cy Young Award-caliber form (1.89 ERA in 76.1 IP in 10 starts since return). Any exchange involving him would return a huge haul of talented prospects and/or controllable major league players.
The Rays would only consider retaining him for another summer if starting rotation depth was a concern. Breakout seasons from Chris Archer and Alex Cobb—not to mention a superb MLB debut from Alex Torres in relief—imply the opposite, that they can continue contending without Price.
Texas Rangers: Elvis Andrus
One thing’s for sure: The Texas Rangers won’t continue disposing of their top prospects. Otherwise, they’ll wake up two years from now in the same pathetic position in which the Los Angeles Angels currently find themselves.
Elvis Andrus is signed to a very unique nine-figure contract extension. Players with that sort of financial security are typically either indispensable or intolerable, but he’s somewhere in between.
Most likely, Texas’ winter activity will resemble last year’s, when it plugged a few holes with second-tier free agents.
However, if 20-year-old Jurickson Profar shows enough promise between now and the Rangers, they may explore Andrus trade possibilities to create an everyday opportunity for him.
Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Lind
The Toronto Blue Jays inked Adam Lind to what seemed to be a team-friendly contract following his first breakout season. A blend of bad luck and work ethic concerns have booted him from everyday duty, but his 2013 campaign has been encouraging.
With stars like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes, as well as sky-high expectations for Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays can compete sans Lind, especially if they find a trade partner who offers MLB-ready pitching.
Washington Nationals: David DeJesus
The nation's capital hardly knew ye, David DeJesus.
In case you missed it, the Washington Nationals acquired the 33-year-old on Monday, per Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. But he likely only has a role with them for the remainder of this summer, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. After all, Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth won’t leave him with many opportunities to see the field should the Nats actually contend next season.
They have their fingers crossed that DeJesus takes advantage of his limited opportunities down the stretch. If another team gets the impression that the veteran can still thrive in a platoon role, then Washington can exercise his 2014 option, send him elsewhere and come away with a decent prospect.