This year's free-agent class has some impact names, headlined by second baseman Robinson Cano and outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, but the real impact moves this offseason may come on the trade market.
Two of the best starters in the game in David Price and Max Scherzer could be on the move this winter, but they are far from the only impact players who have a chance to be traded between now and the start of the 2014 season.
Here in the early stages of the offseason, teams are only starting to open the lines of communication, and the rumor mill is still somewhat slow. With that in mind, here is a look at the top 10 potential trade chips and where they could wind up landing.
It looks more and more like Kendrick will be involved in a deal that would land the Angels some pitching or prospects.
Since the 2009 season, Howie Kendrick has been one of the more productive offensive second basemen around the league, posting an average line of .287/.328/.429 with 12 home runs, 64 RBI and 12 steals.
The Los Angeles Angels signed Kendrick to a four-year, $33.5 million deal prior to the 2012 season, but with July acquisition Grant Green capable of stepping in as the starting second baseman, they could move Kendrick this winter in an effort to bolster their pitching staff.
Potential Landing Spots: Orioles, Royals, Blue Jays, Tigers, Yankees
The Toronto Blue Jays, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Canada Sportsnet, and Kansas City Royals, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, both showed interest in Kendrick back at the trade deadline, and the Baltimore Orioles have a clear need at second base as well.
Beyond those three, the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees could both find themselves in the running if they are unable to re-sign Omar Infante and Robinson Cano, respectively.
The Rockies will be looking at outfielders and first basemen, given Michael Cuddyer's ability to play either position. They seem ready to listen more realistically for offers for Dexter Fowler, with the belief that Carlos Gonzalez can man center field.
He may not bring elite power or speed to the table, but Dexter Fowler has emerged as a terrific table-setter for the Colorado Rockies over the past few seasons thanks to his great plate discipline.
After a breakout 2012 that saw him hit .300/.389/.474 with a career-high 13 home runs, his average fell to .263 this past season, but he still managed to post a terrific .369 OBP and score 71 runs atop the Rockies lineup.
Potential Landing Spots: Mets, Mariners, Rangers, Cubs
Fowler has seen his name kicked around in trade rumors the past couple years, but the only solid deal that has been proposed to this point was a move to the Cleveland Indians for Justin Masterson last offseason, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.
The New York Mets and Seattle Mariners are expected to be in the running for the top free-agent outfielders on the market but could look to Fowler as well. The Texas Rangers have a void in left field and may wind up spending on pitching in free agency, so a trade makes sense, while the Chicago Cubs could use Fowler as a stopgap to Albert Almora.
With Carlos Martinez meriting a look-see as a starter — and (Trevor) Rosenthal wanting the same — it’s increasingly likely that general manager John Mozeliak shops Lance Lynn or Shelby Miller to simultaneously create an opening while addressing a core need at shortstop.
With an abundance of starting pitching and a clear need at shortstop, a deal by the St. Louis Cardinals seems likely this offseason. Strauss listed Lynn and Miller as the two likely to be shopped, but it's hard to see the team moving the 23-year-old Miller for anything short of Troy Tulowitzki.
That's not to say Lynn is not valuable as well, as he's gone 33-17 with a 3.88 ERA in his two seasons in the Cardinals rotation. The big 26-year-old threw 201.2 innings this past year and profiles as a solid middle-of-the rotation workhorse long-term.
Potential Landing Spots: Angels, Diamondbacks, Rangers, White Sox
Assuming that the Cardinals' end game for dealing Lynn is acquiring a starting shortstop, that limits his likely landing spots to teams with a shortstop to move.
Erick Aybar (Angels) and Alexei Ramirez (Chicago White Sox) are probably the two most readily available shortstop options. The team could also look at Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Chris Owings or piece together a blockbuster for Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who could be available, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports in a video on September 21:
Rival executives expect the Dodgers to trade at least one of their big four (outfielders), none of whom is a pure center fielder. The money owed to those players though is staggering.
Of the Los Angeles Dodgers' four outfielders, Yasiel Puig is cheap, the team is not likely to sell low on Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford is needed atop the lineup, so Andre Ethier seems like the most likely candidate to be moved.
The 31-year-old signed a five-year, $85 million deal prior to the 2013 season and has a $17.5 million option with a $2.5 million buyout for 2018. He likely won't match his 31-HR, 106-RBI output of 2009 again, but with a .362 career on-base percentage and decent pop from the left side of the plate, he does have value.
Potential Landing Spots: Indians, Mariners, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, Royals
There is a good crop of free-agent outfielders available this offseason, and any move for Ethier will likely come after the chips have fallen on those signings.
The Mariners and Mets are both in the market to upgrade across the outfield this offseason, while the Rangers will need to replace Nelson Cruz and David Murphy if they're not retained. The Philadelphia Phillies, Royals and Indians all have a glaring need in right field but relatively thin farm systems to work with, so a deal could be tricky.
The #Reds decided a month ago that they will shop Brandon Phillips this winter w all intents to trade him
One of the most productive second basemen in the game since joining the Cincinnati Reds in 2006, Brandon Phillips reached the 100-RBI mark and started the All-Star Game for the first time in his career in 2012, but by most accounts, it was the worst season of his career.
His .261/.310/.396 slash line was the worst of his career across the board, and he's due $50 million over the next four years, but he still represents a plus offensive and defensive option at the position as a 32-year-old.
Potential Landing Spots: Braves, Blue Jays, Tigers, Yankees
A potential Dan Uggla for Brandon Phillips swap, with the Atlanta Braves including a top prospect, was reported by David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Yankees have also been linked to Phillips this offseason, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
The Blue Jays are also known to be in the market for a second baseman, while the Tigers' and Yankees' interest will depend on whether they can retain their free agents. The Orioles and Royals are also in the market for a second baseman but likely won't want to take on Phillips' contract.
Buster Olney of ESPN via Twitter on November 4:
There is an expectation that the Jeff Samardzija/Arizona trade talks will continue. Cubs reaching point where they need a decision on him.
Entering the 2013 season, Jeff Samardzija looked like a key piece of the Cubs' rebuilding efforts and a prime candidate for an extension. However, he took a step back this past year, and according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, an extension looks like a long shot at this point.
I wrote a piece earlier this week looking at exactly what the 28-year-old right-hander could be worth on the winter trade market. He's not a legitimate ace, but he has plus stuff and is capable of being a key arm in a contender's rotation.
Potential Landing Spots: Angels, Diamondbacks
The Cubs will be looking for high-end pitching prospects in return for Samardzija and could also be in the market for an outfielder who can provide some pop in the short term at the very least.
The Angels could offer up Mark Trumbo and some mid-level pitching in a deal and are in desperate need of pitching, but it's the Diamondbacks who have been the main team reportedly pursuing Samardzija. They have a wealth of pitching talent, even without including Archie Bradley or Tyler Skaggs in a deal, so the two sides could get something done.
The Padres recently completed organizational meetings in Arizona and came away believing they will retain Chase Headley in his walk year rather than trade him. San Diego will listen to offers for the switch-hitting third baseman, who has been on the Yankees’ radar.
After hitting .308/.386/.592 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in the second half of the 2012 season, Chase Headley entered last offseason as one of the most coveted potential trade chips on the market.
The San Diego Padres opted to hold on to him, though they didn't extend him, and he turned in a disappointing 2013 with a .250/.347/.400 line and just 13 home runs and 50 RBI. He's a free agent at the end of the year, and given how thin the market for third basemen is, the Padres could still get a decent return if they made him available.
Potential Landing Spots: Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees
From a sheer need standpoint, the Angels and Dodgers may be the best fit for Headley. However, the Padres may not want to ship him to a team in their own division in L.A., and the Angels' top priority remains upgrading their pitching staff.
The Yankees have an immediate need with Alex Rodriguez potentially sidelined with a PED suspension, while Headley would represent a much safer option than Will Middlebrooks for the Boston Red Sox. The White Sox would be the dark horse, as they're not in a position to contend in 2014, but if they could work an extension into the deal, it could make sense long-term.
Buster Olney of ESPN via Twitter on October 29:
The Angels want pitching,and sources say they've indicated a willingness to other teams to trade Peter Bourjos or/and Mark Trumbo to get it.
Trumbo finished second in AL ROY voting back in 2011 when he posted a .768 OPS with 29 home runs and 87 RBI. Those numbers improved to an .807 OPS with 32 home runs and 95 RBI in 2012, and he made his first All-Star team in the process.
He had career highs with 34 home runs and 100 RBI this past season, but his triple slash dropped from .268/.317/.491 to .234/.294/.453. With Albert Pujols expected back healthy at first and J.B. Shuck a viable option for everyday at-bats in the outfield, the team could move Trumbo to improve its pitching staff.
Potential Landing Spots: Diamondbacks, Indians, Mariners, Orioles, Pirates, Rangers, Rockies, Twins
There is no shortage of teams that could use a 27-year-old first baseman/outfielder with 30-HR, 100-RBI ability, but some of the above candidates are more likely than others. The Angels will be looking for big league-ready pitching in return.
The Diamondbacks are looking for a bat to protect Paul Goldschmidt, according to Jack MaGruder of Fox Sports, and have pitching to deal, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have a clear hole at first and plenty of high-end young arms on the verge of big league contribution. All of the other teams listed have a need that Trumbo would fill but less appealing trade chips to work with.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports on October 10:
Scherzer is one year away from free agency and is a Scott Boras client who is very unlikely to sign a long-term deal this close to being able to test the market. The Tigers may make an attempt to sign him after this season, but they realize that it's unlikely he would accept a deal now.
A year after NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey was traded in the offseason, another potential Cy Young winner could be on the move this winter in Max Scherzer. He's certainly the favorite to take home the award after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 214.1 innings of work.
Scherzer is in his final year of arbitration eligibility and is headed for a substantial raise over the $6.725 million he made last year. The Tigers are still in win-now mode and could certainly wind up holding on to him, but with an extension seemingly unlikely, the time may be now to deal him.
Predicted Landing Spots: Angels, Braves, Cubs, Rangers, Red Sox
While the Tampa Bay Rays will be looking for high-end young talent whom they can control for years in return for David Price, the Tigers may be more open to the idea of picking up some moderately priced big league talent in return for Scherzer.
That throws the Angels into the mix, and picking up Mark Trumbo to play left field could make a great Tigers lineup absolutely ridiculous. All of the rest of the teams listed are also expected to be in the running for David Price, and the fact that both of those guys are on the market makes for an interesting offseason.
"If you go with what's been done in the past, I guess you're going to have to think you're going to get traded," Price said.
The writing has been on the wall for some time, and after making $10.1 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility last offseason, chances are David Price will be playing elsewhere by the end of the 2014 season.
The 28-year-old is under team control through 2015, so his value may never be higher than it is right now, but the Rays still won't just deal him for the sake of dealing him. Any team that picks him up will do so with the intention of extending him, and that won't come cheap, so large-market teams would appear to be the landing spot.
Potential Landing Spots: Braves, Cubs, Rangers, Red Sox, Twins
Pitchers the caliber of David Price don't hit the trade market very often, and a bidding war between teams could drive the Rays' already high asking price even higher. Of all the teams likely to be interested, the Cubs and Red Sox would seem to have the most payroll flexibility and prospect depth to work with, as the Braves and Rangers trail them in the prospect department.
The wild card here is the Minnesota Twins, as they have arguably the best farm system in baseball and are a team on the rise. The Yankees, Angels and San Francisco Giants could really use Price and all have large payrolls, but they just don't have the pieces to put together a competitive package.