Playing Matchmaker to Find Ideal MLB Trade Partners This Winter

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Playing Matchmaker to Find Ideal MLB Trade Partners This Winter
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General managers from around Major League Baseball wrapped up their initial meetings of the offseason on Wednesday and there weren't any major moves to report. But expect the wheeling and dealing to pick up as we head closer to the Winter Meetings, which will take place Dec. 9-12.

Free agency is a hot topic on the minds of baseball fans, but there are plenty of marquee players who are reportedly on the trading block as well. Dealing for players with Cy Youngs and Gold Gloves on their resumes will require big hauls from their respective new teams, but the possibilities are out there.

Let's take a look at some teams who are good fits to do high-profile business as the hot stove heats up.

Stats via Baseball-Reference.com and contract info via spotrac.com, unless otherwise noted.

 

Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers

The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers have emerged as front-runners to acquire southpaw David Price, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. The 28-year-old lefty has been one of baseball's best since 2010, a span which included a Cy Young-winning campaign in 2012.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports speculated that the Rays will move Price this winter, saying that the southpaw is "at peak value now." Price has a career record of 71-39 with a 3.19 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 8.1 K/9 rate, and he isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season. The low-budget Rays are in no position to sign him to an extension, and Price even told reporters after the season that he expects to be dealt, per ESPN.com.

Given Tampa Bay's fruitful return from last year's James Shields/Wade Davis deal with Kansas Citynamely 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and pitching prospect Jake Odorizzimost expect the Rays to explore the same avenue with Price.

Veteran MLB reporter Peter Gammons recently spoke to a general manager who said the Dodgers have the prospects to acquire Price:

They have the minor league talent to get Price. If they would trade Corey Seager and Julio Urias (the 17-year old lefthanded pitcher) and a couple out of Zach Lee, Joc Pederson or Chris Withrow, it would get it done.

Of the aforementioned prospects, Withrow would likely be the only one ready to contribute on Opening Day. The 24-year-old righty posted a 2.60 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 rate in 34.2 innings of work in 2013.

Seager was the organization's 2012 first-rounder and showed power (.269/.351/.473, 16 homers, 72 RBI) across both levels of Single-A ball this year at shortstop. Outfielder Joc Pederson (.278/.381/.497, 22 HR, 58 RBI) and right-hander Zach Lee (10-10, 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) each spent the 2013 season in Double-A but could evolve into MLB players for Tampa Bay quickly.

Ideally, the Dodgers would be able to ship out Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford instead of a top prospect, but the Rays can't afford take on an aging outfielder at about $20 million a year. A talent like Price doesn't come available often, though, and the Dodgers should be willing to make a big commitment.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, some teams want to know if Price is willing to agree to a long-term contract before acquiring him:

Given their recent spending habits, the Dodgers are in a position to offer Price a lengthy extension before he hits the open market in 2015. Owner Stan Kastens told Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times that the team is more focused on developing its own talent but added that he wouldn't rule out a big trade or signing.

If they were to acquire Price, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Dodgers offer him a deal close to the six-year, $147 million contract they used to lure Zack Greinke to Chavez Ravine last year.

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The Dodgers were also expected to be major players in the unprecedented bidding war for Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, but with the MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball's posting fee system in limbo, it's uncertain if Tanaka will even be on the market this winter.

For now, the Dodgers should focus all of their resources on Price. Unlike Tanaka, he's a proven commodity and would give Los Angeles a super rotation with fellow Cy Young-winners Clayton Kershaw and Greinke, along with Hyun-Jin Ryu.

With a deal like this, Los Angeles would likely become instant World Series favorites, while Tampa Bay would add more young quality players with the chance of making a big impact in the near future.

 

Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

One-for-one deals are rare in today's MLB, but the Orioles and Rangers each have a trading piece that the other team could use.

On Wednesday, Rosenthal tweeted that catcher Matt Wieters was available, as both he and first baseman Chris Davis are due for new contracts in 2015:

So what could the Orioles get in return for their 27-year-old catcher with power and two Gold Gloves under his belt? A new starting second baseman—possibly Jurickson Profar.

At long last, Brian Roberts' injury-riddled four-year, $40 million deal with the Orioles has expired, and they now need someone to pair with shortstop J.J. Hardy up the middle.

The Rangers have three MLB-caliber middle infielders right now in Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Profar, while last year's starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski is a free agent. Texas has already re-signed backup Geovany Soto to a one-year deal, but he's not a solid everyday option at this point.

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Wieters' average has dipped in each of the past three years (.262, .249, .235) along with his OPS (.778, .764, .704), but he's stayed steady in power department, averaging 22 HR and 77 RBI from 2011-13.

The Orioles could take Profar and call it a deal. Then, they could focus on the free-agent catcher market with Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Dioner Navarro available.

Profar had a rough rookie season in 2013 (.234/.308/.336 in 85 games) after entering the year as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America and MLB.com. He's only 20, however, and would be under club control for a few years, while Kinsler is 31 and has four years and $57 million remaining on his deal.

Profar makes more sense for the Orioles over the long term, while Wieters would give the Rangers one of the game's most well-rounded catchers. With Texas' minor-league system also featuring a couple of budding stars in the middle infield, it's just a matter of time before someone gets moved.

 

Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds

It's entirely possible that we see two Cy Young-winners dealt this offseason.

Joining Price on the trading block will be recently-crowned AL Cy Young-winner Max Scherzer, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:

The Tigers have hundreds of millions of dollars locked up in their veteran core of Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez over the next few years, while two-time reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera has just two seasons left on his deal.

Scherzer is a client of super-agent Scott Boras and is set to hit the open market after the 2014 season, meaning the Tigers might not be able to afford to keep him around.

Detroit has a void at second base with Omar Infante testing free agency, and Brandon Phillips could fit right in with its veteran-laden clubhouse. Cincinnati could also include right-hander Homer Bailey in its package, with the teams exchanging some minor-league players in a full-on blockbuster.

John Sommers II/Getty Images

It's a stretch that the Reds would give up so much for what could be an expensive one-year rental for Scherzer, but they could use it as leverage in their negotiations to bring back Shin-Soo Choo, proving that the team wants win now. Keeping Choo in the lineup with Joey Votto would certainly bump up the payroll in 2014, but Scherzer's impact could be worth the the money.

As for replacing Phillips, rookie Billy Hamilton could move back to the infield, where he played most of his minor-league career and start at second base.

Who gets the better end of this deal?

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The writing is on the wall for Phillips, who is a "goner," according to Rosenthal, after a public rift emerged between he and the Reds front office during the season. He is 32 years old and owed $50 million over the next four seasons, coming off a 2013 campaign when he batted .261/.310/.396 with 18 HR and 103 RBI. He's won a Gold Glove in four out of the past six seasons, but he would still be an expensive gamble going forward.

Bailey, 27, is also a free agent following the 2014 season but figures to be a much more affordable option for Detroit than Scherzer. For the time being, Bailey would be an effective innings eater and No. 3 starter behind Verlander and Sanchez after going 24-22 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over the past two seasons combined.

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