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Pros and Cons for Each of MLB's Top 25 Offseason Targets

Jason MartinezContributor INovember 13, 2013

Pros and Cons for Each of MLB's Top 25 Offseason Targets

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    Every professional baseball player acquisition comes with a certain amount of risk. Those players who are coming off of productive seasons on the field may be overpriced, especially on the free-agent market. 

    Take current free agent Carlos Ruiz, for example.

    The Philadelphia Phillies catcher missed the first 25 games while serving a suspension for amphetamine use, then went on to have one of his worst seasons at the plate (.688 OPS). And he reportedly has a $20 million offer on the table for his age-35 and -36 seasons—at least that's the rumor his agent is spreading (via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports). 

    Sure, there's a ton of risk in making that kind of deal. He very well could be on the decline. But if $10 million per season isn't going to deplete a particular team's payroll space, there could be plenty of value in signing a veteran backstop with strong defensive skills and a reputation as a clutch hitter who is one season removed from a career year at the plate (.935 OPS, 16 home runs in 2012). 

    Now, turn your focus to the top free agents and trade targets, and you can multiply the pros and cons of Carlos Ruiz by at least 10. There is a huge risk because of the cost—either dollars, trade return or both—but there is also the potential for a big reward.

    Here are the top 25 offseason targets, along with the pros and cons that would come with their acquisition.

25. Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    Compared to the free agents capable of hitting 30 homers per season (Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson, Mike Napoli), Mark Trumbo's 2014 salary will likely fall somewhere between $10-13 million less.

    The 27-year-old is also much younger and is under club control through 2016. His estimated earnings through arbitration could put him at three years and $25 million, which is likely $20 million cheaper than any of the aforementioned free agents would likely cost this offseason if given a contract of the same length. 

     

    Cons

    For Trumbo, the Los Angeles Angels are seeking young, controllable pitching, which is extremely valuable to any organization. Pitching depth can disappear in a hurry, so there's always a risk in trading it away.

    And while he's not exactly one-dimensional—he can play multiple positions and run pretty well for a guy who's listed at 6'4" and 235 pounds—Trumbo's value lies mostly in his power.

    He has a career .299 on-base percentage, and he struck out 184 times in 2013. His numbers have also dropped significantly in the second half of the past two seasons (.785 OPS in first half, .683 OPS in second half of 2013; .965 OPS in first half, .630 OPS in second half of 2012).

    A slumping Trumbo could become a black hole on a team's roster for weeks at a time.

24. Curtis Granderson, OF

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    Players who have reached the 40-plus home run plateau in the past five years are rare. Curtis Granderson has done it twice, hitting 41 in 2011 and 43 in 2012. While the initial reaction is that he did it playing half of his games in a ballpark conducive to left-handed power hitters, that's simply not the case. 

    Of Granderson's 115 homers during his four-year stint with the New York Yankees, 63 were hit at home and 52 were hit on the road. Even if he's not a 40-home run hitter outside of a Yankees uniform, he should be good for 30-plus. 

    His injury-plagued season should also keep the overall cost of his next contract down, giving him a much better chance to live up to expectations.

     

    Cons

    While his price tag has fallen, it doesn't necessarily mean that he'll be a great value. At $15 million per season, which is likely what he'll land on a three- or four-year deal, teams are paying a high price for a guy who fits best at a corner outfield spot and might be slowing down as he approaches his mid-30s (he'll be 33 in March). 

    His 10 stolen bases in 2012 was his lowest total since 2006, while his .319 on-base percentage and 195 strikeouts were the worst in his seven full big league seasons from 2006-2012. If his power declines, his overall value will fall drastically.

23. Tim Hudson, SP

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros 

    When Tim Hudson suffered a season-ending ankle injury on July 24, he had been pitching as well as he ever had. Despite just having turned 38, Hudson had posted a 2.73 ERA over his last 10 starts while holding opponents to a .581 OPS. 

    The injury and his age could be considered cons, but they'll also limit his price tag so the three-time All-Star could come at a value.

     

    Cons

    Prior to his successful 10-start run leading up to the injury, Hudson was not pitching well. Had the injury occurred in May, teams would be very reluctant to offer him much guaranteed money for 2014.

    Through his first 11 starts of 2013, Hudson had a 5.37 ERA with six earned runs allowed in three different outings. He was able to turn things around, which boosted his price tag back up significantly. But another ugly start to the season, and the contract could be disastrous.

22. Dan Haren, SP

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    From 2005-2011, Dan Haren was one of the most durable and reliable starters in the majors with a 3.49 ERA, 1.8 BB/9, 7.8 K/9 and no less than 33 starts and 216 innings pitched each season.

    He battled through a back injury during a 2012 season in which his numbers weren't up to his normal standards, and then struggled badly with the Washington Nationals over the first half of the 2013 season. But the 33-year-old returned to his usual form in the second half, posting a 3.27 ERA with 15 walks and 77 strikeouts in his final 82.2 innings pitched. 

    If not for the rough stretch, Haren might even be ahead of Ervin Santana at the top of the free-agent market. As it stands, he'd be a bargain if he can stay on track for the next few seasons. 

     

    Cons

    Haren wasn't the same pitcher in 2012 while dealing with an injury, which is understandable. His struggles in 2013 could also have been injury-related, although he claimed he was healthy when he was placed on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness in late June. 

    The fact that he pitched so well when healthy proves that he's not a pitcher on the decline, even as he approaches his mid-30s. But at his age and after seven consecutive seasons with an extremely heavy workload, it could be that the nagging injuries will become more and more common over the course of his next contract, which will likely be in the three-year, $39-45 million range.

21. Ian Kinsler, 2B

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    The Texas Rangers are trying to figure out how to fit middle infielders Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar into their everyday lineup while upgrading elsewhere around the diamond. So if they are shopping the 31-year-old Kinsler, it's not because he's no longer a productive player. It just might make the most sense for the way their roster is currently constructed. 

    His numbers have dropped since posting 30-30 seasons (at least 30 home runs, at least 30 stolen bases) in 2009 and 2011, but a second baseman who can come close to 20-20 is still considered one of the best in the game. And he's still in his prime, so a return to top form wouldn't be a major surprise. 

     

    Cons 

    At four years and $62 million, which is what Kinsler is still due on his current contract, the price isn't much more than he'd land if he were a free agent this offseason. But along with taking on a big contract, a team would also have to give up some pretty good players in return. 

    His 2013 numbers, while solid, could also indicate that Kinsler is on the decline. One of the most efficient base-stealers in baseball coming into the season (84 percent success rate; 157-of-188 in his career), Kinsler was caught 11 out of 26 times in 2013 while his 41.9 HR/AB rate was the second-lowest of his career.

    It would be a steep price to pay for a player who is no longer playing at the level that earned him his current deal.

20. Jake Peavy, SP

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    In back-to-back seasons, Jake Peavy has proven that he's still one of the better pitchers in the game when healthy.

    After making just 51 combined starts during three injury-plagued seasons from 2009-2011, the 32-year-old Peavy was able to make 55 starts over the past two seasons while posting a 3.69 ERA with a 2.1 BB/9 and 7.8 K/9. 

    With just one year and $15 million left on his current deal, the cost to acquire him won't be significant, and the long-term injury risk is low.

     

    Cons

    While 2013 was a successful season for Peavy, it wasn't injury-free. He missed several weeks with a fractured rib and has now averaged just 22 starts per season since 2008. 

    For an injury-prone pitcher who is no longer the "ace" he was during his early days with the San Diego Padres, giving up anything of value to a $15 million-per-season pitcher isn't a bargain, even if it's just for one season.

19. Stephen Drew, SS

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    Left-handed-hitting shortstops who play solid defense and have a career .764 OPS are rare. That's why Stephen Drew turned down a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Boston Red Sox in order to pursue a multi-year deal. He has plenty of value as the top shortstop on the free-agent market. 

    The 30-year-old is also young enough where the likelihood of his production declining during the course of his next contract is low.  

     

    Cons

    Without much competition on the free-agent market and a handful of teams likely to be bidding on Drew, the final price tag could make it difficult for Drew to live up to expectations.

    And after a terrible postseason performance at the plate (6-for-54, two walks, 19 strikeouts), there should be questions as to whether the pressure of living up to a $15-million-per-season deal could end up taking its toll on him.

18. Hiroki Kuroda, SP

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    Hiroki Kuroda will be 39 years of age at the start of the 2014 season, but it wouldn't be a stretch to say that he's the safest bet of all the free agents on the market.

    One of the most consistently effective starting pitchers in baseball since his arrival in the major leagues in 2008, Kuroda posted a 3.31 ERA with the Yankees while surpassing 200 innings for the third consecutive season in 2013. 

     

    Cons

    While a team should have a very good idea of exactly the kind of pitcher they're getting with Kuroda on a one-year deal, the price tag could end up being exceedingly high for a solid, yet unspectacular No. 2 or 3 starter. 

    The number of teams bidding on him could be limited because he is very particular about who he'll sign with, but the chance he'll return to Japan to finish his career could force a team to overpay in order to convince him to stay for another season.

17. Mike Napoli, 1B

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    A legitimate right-handed-hitting power threat, Mike Napoli, 32, is headed for a big payday after hitting 23 homers, 38 doubles and knocking in 92 runs for the world champion Red Sox.

    The former catcher played regularly at first base and showed no ill effects from the degenerative hip condition that caused the Red Sox to pull a three-year offer from the table before agreeing on a one-year, incentive-based deal. 

    All of a sudden, paying him big money for the next two seasons doesn't seem like a bad idea.

     

    Cons

    Medical reports don't lie. Whatever scared the Sox into rescinding the multi-year deal last season isn't going to disappear. The condition does exist, and there will continue to be a risk for any team that employs Napoli.

    His 187 strikeouts aren't a major concern as long as he continues to hit, and his drop in homers was balanced out by his increase in doubles. Still, those could be concerns of teams willing to invest at least $15 million per season on a multi-year deal.

16. Nelson Cruz, OF

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    Right-handed power is at a premium this offseason, but Nelson Cruz has been a consistent source of it for the past several seasons. Since 2009, the 33-year-old has an .842 OPS with an average of 27 homers and 81 runs batted in per season. 

    Unlike many before him, Cruz actually had a semi-decent excuse for his PED suspension. After losing 40 pounds due to a stomach infection, he took a performance-enhancing drug to help him get back to full strength prior to the season. He also admitted to the mistake and took full responsibility for his actions. 

    Whether teams believe him or not, he should still be a productive player even if his performance declines slightly. And he'll come at a likely discounted rate due to the suspension. 

     

    Cons 

    What if Cruz lied and he had been using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career? A steep decline could be coming, and a team will be stuck with him for at last the next three seasons. 

    Aside from that possibility, Cruz's home/road splits—he's been much better at the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington and very average on the road—are extreme enough to pose concern for teams hoping to land a power-hitting middle-of-the-order bat.

15. Brian McCann, C

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    A team signing Brian McCann would not only get a solid defender and veteran presence behind the plate, it'd get a left-handed middle-of-the-order hitter who has at least 20 homers in six consecutive seasons.

    He's also in his prime and should be for several more seasons, so a five-year deal for his ages 30 to 34 seasons shouldn't be an outrageous length, especially if he signs with an American League club that can utilize him in the designated hitter spot on occasion.  

     

    Cons

    The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham revealed on the Toucher & Rich Show (via CBS Boston) that McCann could be worth over $100 million. This means he could potentially ask for more than five years and/or at least $20 million per season. That's well above Yadier Molina's five-year, $75 million deal and much closer to the deals of Joe Mauer and Buster Posey. 

    As the Minnesota Twins have already done with Mauer and the San Francisco Giants have already discussed doing with Posey, a move away from the grind of the everyday catcher job and possibly into a full-time designated hitter spot is an option down the road.

    So the team that eventually lands McCann would be risking having a mid-30s designated hitter making over $20 million per season for at least the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He's a good hitter, but he's not that good.

    Over the past two seasons, he has a .242 batting average and .316 on-base percentage. That's fine, especially if it comes with some power, if you're filling the ever-important role of the everyday catcher. Otherwise, it's hard to validate a regular lineup spot.

14. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    As far as track records go, Ubaldo Jimenez has the best chance of any free-agent starter of becoming a legitimate "ace" of a big league team. He's been that before, posting a 3.43 ERA with 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 K/9 over a three-year period while with the Colorado Rockies, and he was even better over his last 23 starts of the 2013 season. 

    After struggling over the past two seasons, things finally clicked once again in late May. Jimenez posted a 2.41 ERA from that point on while playing a big part in the Cleveland Indians' successful season.

    He'll enter the 2014 season at age 30 and with a ton of confidence after his strong finish.

     

    Cons

    Known as an extremely hard worker, Jimenez could not seem to figure things out for a long time. He was 19-30 with a 5.03 ERA in 2011-2012 and had an ERA over 6.00 through his first nine starts of 2013.

    So while it shouldn't be a huge surprise that someone who works so hard at his craft was able to return to form, there is always the risk of him losing it for an extended period of time. 

    He'd be in line for a much bigger payday had he been better over that two-year span, although Tim Lincecum, who had similar struggles before turning it around midseason, signed a two-year, $35 million deal that makes it a near certainty that Jimenez gets at least $15 million over the next five years.

13. Matt Garza, SP

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    A former ALCS MVP with a track record of success in a tough AL East division while with the Tampa Bay Rays—as well as a dominant six-start run leading up to his trade from the Chicago Cubs to the Rangers with several scouts in attendance—Matt Garza is in line for a deal similar to Anibal Sanchez's five-year, $80 million contract signed with the Detroit Tigers last offseason. 

    The 29-year-old also has seven consecutive seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA to go along with a 2.9 BB/9 and 7.7 K/9. He could be an "ace" on certain teams, although he'd be a strong fit as a No. 2 or 3 on a World Series contender.

     

    Cons

    As previously mentioned, Garza isn't an "ace"; he'll just get paid like one. And unless he has a breakout season as Sanchez did after signing his deal, the right-hander will fail to live up to expectations with his next team. 

    Unless he signs with a big-market team like the Los Angeles Dodgers or Yankees, his contract could prove to be an immovable albatross down the road.

12. Brandon Phillips, 2B

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    With four years and $50 million remaining on his current contract, Brandon Phillips is a bargain with his Gold Glove defense at second base to go along with his average of 20 homers and 19 steals per season since 2006. 

    He's also a proven middle-of-the-order bat who can fill a spot in the top third of the order if necessary. The 32-year-old has solid career numbers from each of the top four spots in the lineup. 

     

    Cons

    Although Phillips was voted to his third All-Star Game after a strong first half, he posted career lows across his slash line (.261/.310/.396) and could be a player on the decline. The price to acquire him will be high because of his team-friendly deal as well as the number of teams that are in the market for a second baseman and can't afford Robinson Cano.

11. Carlos Beltran, OF

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    After another spectacular and injury-free season, Carlos Beltran is primed to land a three- or four-year deal to finish out his career. He's no longer a center fielder, but he's a legitimate No. 3 hitter who provides plenty of offense as a corner outfielder.

    The 36-year-old also put an exclamation point on his postseason resume in 2013 with an .852 OPS, two homers and 15 RBI to run his career totals to 16 homers and 40 RBI in 51 career playoff games.

     

    Cons

    Three consecutive healthy seasons or not, Beltran is going to make close to $20 million per season for his ages 37 to 39 seasons and possibly age 40. That's risky business, considering age can sometimes sneak up on a player around that time. 

    Signing with an American League team is likely in order for him to be used in the designated hitter role on occasion, but more and more teams are utilizing that spot in a rotation to rest their veterans. Having Beltran limited to that role by year two or three of a contract isn't ideal for any team.

10. Max Scherzer, SP

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    The 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer won 21 regular-season games in 2013 while pitching at least seven innings without allowing more than two earned runs in 14 of his 32 starts. He also struck out 240 hitters in 214.1 innings pitched. 

    The 29-year-old is a potential staff "ace" who can push an average team into playoff contention and a good team into World Series contention. Even at an estimated salary of $12-14 million through arbitration, Scherzer's cost is a relative bargain. The cost to acquire him, while not cheap, is much less than top trade target David Price, who has two years left of club control.

     

    Cons

    The Tigers are reportedly trying to clear a spot in their 2014 rotation for lefty Drew Smyly, according to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi on Twitter, and are doing their due diligence by gauging interest on Scherzer. But his production is not easily replaceable, and the Tigers, who are built to win now, aren't likely to trade away an elite starting pitcher unless the return is great. 

    For a pitcher who worked late into the season and finished with a career-high 236.2 innings, there is enough risk to pass on giving away the farm for one year of Scherzer.

9. Shin-Soo Choo, OF

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    Shin-Soo Choo is one of the best in the business at getting on base (.423 on-base percentage in 2013). Considered a plus defender in right field, the 31-year-old also has three 20-20 seasons (at least 20 home runs, at least 20 stolen bases) under his belt and can also excel at either of the top three spots in the lineup. 

     

    Cons

    While his numbers on the road were also very good (.823 OPS), his numbers were a bit inflated by his .948 OPS at Great American Ballpark. His asking price, reportedly in excess of $100 million, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN on Twitter, is driven by those superb numbers at a hitter-friendly home ballpark during one of his best seasons. 

    Choo wasn't playing over his head by any means—his career numbers are in line with what he did in 2013—but he's a very good player who will be making superstar money into his mid-30s. History tells us that this can be a recipe for disaster.

8. Ervin Santana, SP

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    After struggling with the Angels in 2012, Ervin Santana was pretty much given away to the Kansas City Royals for a minor league reliever. He responded with one of his best big league seasons, posting a 3.24 ERA and matching Max Scherzer with 14 starts of at least seven innings pitched with no more than two earned runs. 

    The soon-to-be 31-year-old doesn't have Scherzer's ability to strike out hitters at an extremely high rate, but he consistently pitches deep into games and gives his team a chance to win. Call him a solid No. 1.5 starter—not dominant enough to be considered an "ace" but better than your average No. 2 starter.

     

    Cons

    Will the real Ervin Santana please stand up? This wasn't the first very good season he's had. But 2012 wasn't his lone bad season. He's posted an ERA over 5.00 in three different seasons, allowing at least 1.5 HR/9 in each of them. 

    Signing with a team that plays in a pitcher-friendly home stadium would remove some of the risk, although Angel Stadium is widely regarded as one, and it didn't appear to help him much during his poor seasons. His $100 million-plus asking price, as reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, makes him a huge risk, regardless of which team signs him.

7. Masahiro Tanaka, SP

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    International Posting System Target

    Pros

    Considered the best pitcher in Japan, 25-year-old Masahiro Tanaka is expected to be available this winter via the posting system that recently brought Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu to the majors. 

    A potential top-of-the-rotation workhorse, Tanaka is armed with a low-to-mid 90s fastball to go along with a plus slider and a split-fingered fastball that could give major league hitters fits—especially the first few times they face him. He also has terrific control and a very good idea of how to pitch.

    Unlike most of the free-agent targets on this list, there is no draft-pick compensation necessary to sign Tanaka. Certain teams that value their top draft choices will make him their top priority based on that alone. 

     

    Cons

    For every Darvish and Ryu and Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki, there is another international signee whose skills did not translate to the big league level. Even Daisuke Matsuzaka's success was short-lived. 

    Tanaka's overall price tag is expected to exceed Darvish's $112 million ($52 million posting fee, $60 million contract), but the reports all say he's not quite in Darvish's class. For the amount of money it's going to take to sign him, he better not be that far behind.

6. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    Jacoby Ellsbury hit 32 homers, 46 doubles and drove in 105 runs while finishing second in AL MVP voting and winning a Gold Glove in 2011. He also had 70 stolen bases in 2009 and two other 50-plus stolen-base seasons to his name. 

    One of the premier leadoff hitters in the game, the 30-year-old's five-tool potential, even if the home run power only came in one season, puts him in an elite class of big league talent. 

     

    Cons 

    Agent Scott Boras isn't using Carl Crawford's seven-year, $142 million deal as a comparison to what Ellsbury deserves, he told ESPN's Gordon Edes, dismissing it as an "old contract." Considering that Crawford has had one awful season and missed a lot of the other two seasons due to injury, this should remind teams of how quickly a big-money deal can turn into an awful one.  

    Crawford had also proven to be durable and consistently productive throughout his career when he signed the contract. Ellsbury missed most of the 2010 and 2012 seasons due to injury, and the huge 2011 season that is allowing his agent to ask for a $100 million deal stands out like a sore thumb from his other three full seasons.

5. Troy Tulowitzki, SS

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    As any good general manager will do, he'll listen to offers on any of his players just in case some team is willing to make him one he can't refuse. That's likely the case for Troy Tulowitzki, although Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier in the week that the Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals were expected to discuss a potential deal. 

    It would take a lot to acquire the 29-year-old, but that's to be expected of a star shortstop who is considered one of the best in the game. After missing most of the 2012 season with a groin injury, Tulowitzki bounced back to post a .931 OPS with 25 homers in 126 games in 2013.

     

    Cons

    Tulowitzki is due $134 million over the next seven seasons, and he'll cost several top prospects to acquire. For that cost, any injury history at all, let alone groin surgery for a player who relies on lateral movement as a shortstop, makes it a risky investment.

4. Matt Kemp, CF

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    Not too far removed from when he was considered one of the best all-around players in the game, Matt Kemp could all of a sudden be available at a price (six years, $128 million remaining on contract) that could end up seeming like a deal after Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury sign big-money contracts this offseason. 

    Injuries have taken their toll on the 29-year-old, who had 39 homers and 126 runs batted in back in 2011, but there's no reason to think he can't return to his MVP-caliber form once he's completely healthy. 

     

    Cons

    While he averaged 159 games per season from 2008 to 2011, the injury-prone tag is deserved after multiple injuries and setbacks over the past season. He also underwent ankle and shoulder injuries this offseason. 

    While the Dodgers would likely eat salary and take back mid-level prospects in any deal involving Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier, general manager Ned Colletti will likely set the price tag extremely high on Kemp, and the team is unlikely to take on any portion of his remaining salary.

3. David Price, SP

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    Front-line left-handed starters with two years left of club control aren't normally available on the trade market. In this case, however, David Price is very available due to the Tampa Bay Rays' inability to sign him to a long-term deal. 

    The 28-year-old has a Cy Young Award, a 20-win season and an ERA title on his resume. He wasn't as dominant as in years past, posting a career-worst 8.6 H/9 and 7.3 K/9, but his walks were also way down, allowing him to lead the league with an impressive 5.59 K/BB rate. 

     

    Cons

    The Rays acquired power-hitting prospect Wil Myers, the Royals' top prospect, in last offseason's trade that sent James Shields to Kansas City. The second-best player in the deal was Jake Odorizzi, who should eventually settle in as a solid mid-rotation starter.

    For Price, it will take much more. If a team doesn't have two prospects who are the caliber of Myers, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, then the conversation won't even get started. Add in the estimated $40 million he'll make in arbitration over the next two seasons, and Price is an extremely costly acquisition with immense pressure on his shoulders.

2. Giancarlo Stanton, OF

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    Trade Target

    Pros

    The Miami Marlins continue to insist that Giancarlo Stanton is not available in a trade. In an interview with Sirius XM Radio, new GM Dan Jennings said the team plans to build around Stanton (via ESPN)—but that's likely because no team has come to them with the right conversation starter. There is a potential trade package that will pique their interest. It just hasn't been presented yet. 

    For a 24-year-old power hitter who already has 117 homers in his short career, several teams are likely trying to figure out what it might take to acquire the star right fielder. With three years remaining of club control, Stanton could net the Marlins an impressive return of prospects who could make their farm system the best in all of baseball. 

     

    Cons

    When the Marlins say they aren't trading him, what they're saying is "you can't meet our asking price so stop asking." There's only a handful of teams that can afford whatever it would cost to acquire Stanton. And even then, they couldn't do it without completely depleting their farm systems. 

    It doesn't entirely rule out the possibility, but giving up so much young talent in trades can backfire, as the Toronto Blue Jays found out last season when they emptied out the farm in two blockbuster deals.

    And despite Stanton's youth, he's already missed a lot of time due to multiple ailments. He doesn't have the injury label yet, but he's not that far from it.

1. Robinson Cano, 2B

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    Free-Agent Target

    Pros

    What's not to like about Robinson Cano? He's averaged 25 homers, 43 doubles, 97 runs batted in and 160 games per season since 2007. He's also a multiple Gold Glove winner at second base.

    And there's no reason to think he'll slow down any time soon. 

     

    Cons

    Cano won't be the first great player to sign a multi-year deal that pays him big money into his late 30s or early 40s. But as is normally the case, it's hard to see Cano anywhere close to being worthy of $30 million per season in the seventh, eighth, ninth or 10th year of his contract, depending on how long he signs for.

    Even Yankees GM Brian Cashman admitted how difficult it could be to retain Cano:

    “He loves the money,” Cashman said at the general managers’ meetings. “I think we’ll have a substantial offer. Somebody might come in and have a much more substantial offer. It’s just the way it works.”

    He may not get $300 million, but even something on the low end of what people expect him to get—eight years, $240 million would be my best guess as that low end—would make it extremely difficult to live up to expectations. No matter how great he was over his first 10 or 15 years as a big leaguer, whatever team ends up signing him is likely to regret his contract at some point.

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