MLB Trade Rumors: Re-Ranking the Top Available Stars

Jason Martinez@@mlbdepthchartsContributor IDecember 5, 2013

MLB Trade Rumors: Re-Ranking the Top Available Stars

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    The A's and Diamondbacks were reportedly discussing a potential deal involving Yoenis Cespedes.
    The A's and Diamondbacks were reportedly discussing a potential deal involving Yoenis Cespedes.Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Prince Fielder, Doug Fister, Dexter Fowler, David Freese and Ian Kinsler are some of the more notable players that have already been traded this offseason. Considering that the winter meetings haven't even gotten underway, expect at least a few more to change teams between now and the end of the month.

    Here's the latest on seven players whose names have been floating around the rumor mill, ranked in order of potential impact they'd have on their new team.

7. Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Unless Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti gets an offer that is enticing enough to trade center fielder Matt Kemp, it's likely that Andre Ethier will be playing elsewhere in 2014. 

    The 31-year-old Ethier finished the season strong after a slow start (.865 OPS, 7 HR, 23 2B in last 79 games), giving Colletti something to work with as he tries to clear up a crowded outfield. Interest has been "moderate to moderate-plus" on Ethier and Kemp, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.

    The Dodgers will still have to eat a good portion of the $71.5 million remaining on a contract that runs through the 2017 season, but the Dodgers could still find it beneficial to save somewhere between $40-50 million while getting something of value in return by dealing Ethier now. 

    A team missing out on Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz or Curtis Granderson could be particularly motivated to deal for Ethier, so keep an eye on the team or teams that fall short in those pursuits. 

6. Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Chase Headley situation is complicated, to say the least. The San Diego Padres aren't going to give him an extension based on what he did in the second half of 2012 (.978 OPS, 23 HR, 73 RBI) and Headley isn't going to settle for something that pays him based on what he did in 2013 (.747 OPS, 13 HR, 50 RBI), which is more in line with his career numbers. Therefore, a contract extension is very unlikely.

    If the Padres put him on the trade block, teams aren't going to offer anything close to the same package as they would have last offseason. For one year of Headley, the return won't be overwhelming. With an eye on competing for a playoff spot in 2014, it certainly would appear that a Headley trade would decrease those chances and might not be the smartest move at this point. 

    Thus, the report by Peter Gammons of the MLB Network that the earliest the Padres would trade Headley would be in June, makes a lot of sense. But as Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted, the team is willing to listen to offers after multiple failed attempts to sign the 29-year-old third baseman long-term. It only takes one team desperate enough for some third base help to give the Padres what they're asking for. 

5. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds

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    Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

    Despite several mixed reports this offseason, one thing is still clear. Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips could be had in a trade. In the nicest way possible, general manager Walt Jocketty said that he would trade the 32-year-old Phillips in the right deal. 

    I told (Phillips) the truth," said Jocketty. "At this point, we really haven't had any talks with clubs about him. I said, 'You're still a part of this club.' I'm not saying something couldn't come up, but basically my job is to put together the best team and organization to make us successful. If there's something that came along later, then I'd have to look at it. Right now, he's part of this club and should feel that way."

    To tell one of your core players that you might trade him and then not trade him for any reason would be disastrous. With reports surfacing, however, that the Reds were definitely going to trade the four-time Gold Glove winner—a front office executive told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports last month that Phillips is "gone", meaning he's on his way out of Cincinnati—Jocketty had to reassure Phillips that this wasn't the case. At least "right now", which are the most telling words from the previous quote. 

4. Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    The Chicago Cubs have been very quiet this offseason, giving a strong indication that they'll likely stand pat and continue with their patient approach as top hitting prospects such as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant continue to develop in the minors.

    If that really is the case, then it makes a lot of sense for the team to either sign No. 1 starter Jeff Samardzija to a long-term deal now or trade him for a package of prospects while his value is at its peak. His value to the team during a rebuilding effort isn't nearly as high as it would be to a contender. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, the plan is to listen to offers at next week's Winter Meetings.

    With two years left of club control and coming off of a season in which he posted a 4.34 ERA with a 3.3 BB/9 and 9.0 K/9 in 213.2 innings pitched, the soon-to-be 29-year-old could command a strong return that includes a couple of very good prospects for the Cubs to add to an already very good farm system.

    Interested teams—David Kaplan of CSN Chicago names the Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays as the front-runners to acquire him—could also see more value in trading for a front-line starter like Samardzija as opposed to paying top dollar for free agents Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.  

3. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland Athletics

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior to the Oakland A's pulling off three trades on Monday and Tuesday to shake up their roster, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that they had also been in talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks on a deal that would've sent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes for lefty starter Tyler Skaggs. 

    While that particular trade didn't happen, it does confirm that the D'backs are shopping for a power bat, as general manager Kevin Towers had previously said they would—and A's general manager Billy Beane is willing to consider all trade possibilities this offseason as he tries to push his team to the next level after consecutive ALDS defeats at the hands of the Tigers. 

    Although the A's did acquire one outfielder, Craig Gentry, they also traded away two—Michael Choice and Seth Smith, as well as Jemile Weeks, who played 25 games in center field while in Triple-A in 2013.

    This would certainly seem to decrease the chances of a Cespedes deal, although another name that came up in talks with Arizona was A.J. Pollock. If the D'backs were to acquire Cespedes, they'd have an overload in their outfield, so sending Pollock or Gerardo Parra back to Oakland would certainly make sense. 

2. Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    The Dodgers are getting plenty of inquiries on center fielder Matt Kemp, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. And the Red Sox are one of those teams, reports Cafardo, while Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reported that the Mariners, who are looking to make a splash this offseason, have been very aggressive in their pursuit of the 29-year-old Kemp.

    While Kemp's value is down after playing in only 179 games the past two seasons because of injuries, he was putting up huge numbers as recently as mid-2012, and the $128 million he's due over his ages 29-34 seasons will seem like a bargain if he can return to being 80 percent of the player he was back in 2011 (.986 OPS, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 115 R, 40 SB, Gold Glove, 2nd in NL MVP voting). 

    A healthy Kemp in the prime of his career is likely what general manager Ned Colletti is trying to sell to teams asking about his availability. That price should be extremely high. If the Mariners can't land Robinson Cano or David Price, they could be willing to meet the Dodgers' asking price. 

1. David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that several teams felt that they had a chance to land Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers—I discussed their chances yesterday.

    It's unlikely that the Rays will settle for anything less than a team's top prospect, or at least the second best if that player is also an elite prospect, as the centerpiece of any deal. It might even take a team's top two prospects.

    For two years of a 28-year-old No. 1 starter, who is 61-32 with a 3.02 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.3 K/9 over the past four seasons, it's a reasonable starting point for a deal. They acquired Wil Myers, the Royals' top prospect and one of the top prospects in the game, last offseason for two years of James Shields.

    They also received Jake Odorizzi, who has a mid-rotation profile, and two other prospects who are long shots to become big league regulars at this point. The Rays will want a much better overall package for Price.