The blockbuster trade that sent Prince Fielder to the Rangers and Ian Kinsler to the Tigers was one of the offseason's first landscape-changing transactions. There have been relatively few swaps since then, with the Diamondbacks-Angels-White Sox three-way deal leading the way, but perhaps the winding down of the free-agent market will spell the re-opening of the trade market.
Certainly, there's no shortage of name-brand players out there who could be on the move. Here's a look at five of them who have surfaced in reports at various times throughout the offseason, and where they might be headed.
The Yankees undoubtedly improved their team by signing Jacoby Ellsbury to patrol center field, but the move also created something of an untenable logjam in the outfield with Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells all on the roster.
Early reports suggested the Yankees would listen to offers for the speedy Gardner, but team president Randy Levine nixed that idea, explaining that Gardy will be the team's left fielder on Opening Day.
Instead, it seems like the Yankees would prefer to move Suzuki, but whether they'll be able to is another story, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe notes. Suzuki isn't much of a hitter anymore, but he's still a good defensive outfielder, Cafardo points out, an argument supported by the advanced defensive metrics over at Fangraphs.
Ichiro, in the final year of his contract, is owed $6.5 million in 2014. That's not cheap for a platoon player or fourth outfielder type, but it's not a budget buster for most teams, either. Still, the question is whether the Yankees will be able to find a taker for the aging star.
Cafardo suggests the Giants are a possibility, and I could see the Twins, Reds and Pirates as potential fits, as well.
Ike Davis trade rumors surfaced seemingly as soon as he suffered a season-ending injury in late August, and though his stock can't be very high coming off a down year, it seems like a deal is more feasible now that an already-thin market for first basemen has all but dried up.
The Mets are still in talks with the Orioles, Pirates and Brewers about Davis, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma adds the Mets have tried to pry well-regarded pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez from the O's in exchange for Davis, to no avail.
Well, you can't fault the Mets for trying, but trading Davis for a good prospect does seem pretty ambitious. I think they have a better shot at acquiring a player in similar standing with his team as Davis is with the Mets, i.e. a change-of-scenery guy.
The question now is, are the Mets going to dump Davis no matter what, or are they willing to hold onto him if no deal emerges to their liking? My guess is they'll take the latter approach. If the Mets were desperate to rid themselves of Davis at any cost, they could have simply non-tendered him.
Clearly, at least based on Puma's report, there's a market for Davis, albeit one consisting of bargain shoppers. That's typically what happens when a player's value takes a nosedive. Anyway, I'm going to guess the Brewers nab Davis. For a team that's rebuilding and not likely to contend next year, it makes sense for them to give Davis a look.
We can debate the wisdom of paying top dollar to free-agent closers, but MLB teams seem to be doing all the speaking with their money. No reliever has signed for more than $20 million this offseason, which is still a tidy sum but not even in the same ballpark as the record four-year, $50 million pact forged by the Phillies and Jonathan Papelbon two offseasons ago. Pap's deal also includes a vesting option for a fifth year at $13 million.
Now, perhaps not surprisingly, reports have been surfacing throughout the offseason that the Phils are eager to unload Papelbon and his burdensome contract. A representative of a rival club said the Phils were shopping the veteran right-hander aggressively at the Winter Meetings, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. The belief is that they'd like to earmark Papelbon's salary for a starter, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted, who also added that the Phils might need to eat as much as half of his salary in a potential deal.
There seems to be little traction on the Papelbon trade front, which also doesn't come as much of a surprise when you consider the pitcher's price tag and potentially declining skill set. Will a trade suitor emerge? The Phils have discussed a Papelbon trade with the Orioles, Roch Kubatko of MASN.com tweeted, who noted that the Phils would have to eat a lot of Pap's contract. The O's agreed to terms with Grant Balfour on a two-year, $15 million deal before backing out, so I would think they'd like to keep their expenditure on a closer around there.
The Yankees are also thought to be looking for bullpen help, although they're already bumping up against the luxury-tax threshold, which they've indicated they'd like to get under. I think Pap ends up in Baltimore or stays in Philly.
A year ago, the Red Sox probably wouldn't have been able to give away John Lackey. Now, coming off a season in which Lackey reestablished himself as a solid major league starter, his name has "come up consistently this winter," according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
The Sox aren't motivated to move Lackey now, Cafardo adds, but might be willing to do so under the right circumstances, perhaps if they come away with Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. My translation? "We'll trade Lackey, but we want a lot for him in return."
And hey, that makes sense, since Lackey is under contract for 2014 at $15.25 million with a $500,000 club option for 2015. There are a lot of teams right now that would gladly take a No. 3 starter for two years at a cost of about $16 million. Consider that the Twins signed Phil Hughes for three years and $24 million, and Lackey looks quite attractive.
If Lackey becomes readily available, I think there'd be no shortage of suitors. The Royals, Twins, Phillies, Dodgers, Mariners, Angels, Diamondbacks and Rangers have been rumored to be seeking a starter this offseason, to name just a few.
The Dodgers may still trade one of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp by the start of the season, according to Cafardo, who adds that a spring training deal involving Kemp may be possible, since that will be trade suitors' first look at him coming off shoulder and ankle surgeries.
The possibility of a spring training trade strikes me curious, especially for a player of Kemp's magnitude. I couldn't even recall any such deals in recent memory. They are indeed becoming something of a rarity, as Danny Knobler of CBS Sports wrote in 2012, and when they have been pulled off, they're typically not of the blockbuster variety.
In any event, the fact remains that the Dodgers have four outfielders (Yasiel Puig being the other) and only three positions at which to play them, since first base is not an option with Adrian Gonzalez on board. All four outfielders are paid like premium everyday players, and even if the Dodgers wanted to shoehorn Ethier into a platoon role, which isn't unfathomable considering his platoon splits, there's no sensible platoon partner for him.
In short, the Dodgers kind of have to do something unless they want a very expensive player on the bench while they wait for an injury or slump to take hold.
Earlier in the offseason, the Mariners were rumored to be interested and Kemp, and a source told Cafardo during the winter meetings that the Red Sox had talked with the Dodgers about Kemp. I still think Kemp will be moved before spring training, and the M's seem like a logical destination.