Having been mentioned in rumors all winter, Jeff Samardzija may be contemplating his future with the Cubs.
There have already been a number of trades this offseason, and there are bound to be at least a few more.
While evaluating deals that have gone down is always on the agenda, it's just as fun to look forward to the next names—big or small—who seem destined to be moved in the near future for one reason or another.
Sometimes, a player is expected to be traded because of finances, other times due to a team need or surplus and in still other cases, there's simply a need for new scenery. There are also situations where a player is worth more to his current club as bait because rebuilding remains the focus.
Here is a group of players who have been at the center of speculation and still could be swapped this offseason because they fit into one of the above categories.
Motivation for Being Moved: Team Finances
While David Price has been the biggest name among trade targets ever since the Rays' 2013 season came to a close, the latest speculation is that the ace left-hander may, in fact, be sticking around in Tampa heading into next season.
That's certainly a scenario that could play out, given that the Rays remain contenders and would undercut their chances if they were to move Price. Still, it's just as likely that the tide actually has not turned here, and ever-frugal Tampa—which will have to carve out roughly $13 million in arbitration for Price, according to MLB Trade Rumors—simply is waiting for the still-flooded free-agent pitcher market to dry up some first.
Let's not forget, Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka is still in play—perhaps until late January—and after him, there are fellow right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza, too. No wonder teams haven't exactly been knocking down the Rays' door with worthy trade proposals.
Once Tanaka and perhaps one or two of the others are out of the picture, expect teams still searching for a top-notch arm to come calling for Price, who is set to hit free agency after 2015 (if he's not locked up as part of a deal). At that point, it's just a matter of timing and whether a team will be desperate enough to meet Tampa's terms. Or in this case, "price."
Motivation for Being Moved: Team Rebuilding
The Cubs have indicated in the past they'd like to hang onto nominal No. 1 starter Jeff Samardzija, even offering him an extension worth roughly $55 million, per Bruce Levine of 670 The Score.
For his part, the right-hander said in late December that he would like to help turn the Cubs into a winner, according to Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago,
And yet, despite both sides making it known in public that the desire is there, nothing long-term has happened yet. Meanwhile, Samardzija turns 29 later this month and has only two more seasons under club control—two factors that make him unlikely to be a part of Chicago's next contending team.
The Cubs are valuing Samardzija very highly—according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, they reportedly asked the Toronto Blue Jays about both prospects Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman—and if they can get a team to bite, there may not be a better time to pull the trigger.
Motivation for Being Moved: Team Surplus
At this very moment, the Dodgers have four starter-worthy outfielders, and one thing all their money can't buy is an extra starting position in the outfield. (Hey, this isn't recreational softball where teams can deploy a "rover.")
Because of that foursome—Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier—there has been plenty of speculation that one of the group is bound to be traded. Earlier in the offseason, the two likeliest were Kemp and Ethier, as Ken Gurnick wrote for MLB.com in December.
Kemp, though, still has nearly $130 million coming his way and hasn't been healthy since early 2012, so there's little chance any team is going to jump at the chance to acquire him right now. Ethier, on the other hand, is due "only" $71.5 million through 2017—or roughly half of what's owed Kemp.
That's still enough that the Dodgers probably would need to pick up a portion of the contract to send Ethier elsewhere, which they may not want to do until Kemp proves he's back to full health. Remember, Ethier actually showed he could handle center field when Kemp missed so much of last season.
Ethier, then, may not be moved before the start of 2014, but with three other starters in place—not to mention, top prospect Joc Pederson less than a full season away—it looks like something is going to have to give. Eventually.
Motivation for Being Moved: Team Need
This one comes down to a simple question: Does the Yankees' desperate need for pitching force them to move their lone coveted, affordable commodity while they still can?
If New York doesn't get Tanaka—a top priority, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com—then Brett Gardner could be as good as gone. That's because the Yankees only have three spots in their five-man rotation settled and simply lack any other legitimate pieces that could be used to trade for a quality starter. Plus, they don't seem all that interested in spending big on any of Jimenez, Santana or Garza.
While a capable leadoff hitter and plus defender, Gardner, 30, will be displaced in center field and atop the order by big-name acquisition Jacoby Ellsbury and will become a free agent after 2014. In related news, he's not considered part of New York's long-term plans.
The Cincinnati Reds tried to pry him away for second baseman Brandon Phillips, as C. Trent Rosecrans wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirer, but the Yankees didn't love Phillips' salary ($50 million through 2017) and wisely decided they need pitching more.
If that remains the case once Tanaka has chosen his team this month, expect the speedy Gardner to be on the go.
Motivation for Being Moved: Team Finances and Rebuilding
Last season was bad for both the Milwaukee Brewers and Yovani Gallardo. While the team endured the Biogenesis-related 65-game suspension of Ryan Braun and wound up winning only 74 games, its top starter for the past several seasons turned in his worst campaign to date, with a career-worst 4.18 ERA and a hamstring injury, to boot.
Still, Gallardo will pitch all of 2014 at age 28 and looked much better upon returning in August, as his 2.41 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over his final eight turns showed.
Thing is, even with Braun back and breakout players like Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura in the mix, the Brewers probably aren't going anywhere fast in the very tough NL Central. Plus, Gallardo's contract calls for a hike from $7.75 million to $11.25 million in 2014.
He does have a limited no-trade clause, which makes things a bit trickier. Still, Gallardo can be bought out for a pittance ($600,000) after 2014 or optioned for one more year at $13 million for 2015, which could be reasonable if he pitches well.
In the interest of not selling low, Milwaukee might choose to hang on to Gallardo for the start of the season in the hope that he regains his No. 2/3 starter form before taking offers. Or as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal mentions, the pitcher-seeking Arizona Diamondbacks could target Gallardo sooner than later (although, it would take more than just reliever J.J. Putz), especially if they can't land Tanaka or Garza.
Motivation for Being Moved: Team Surplus
There's a rotation overload in Boston as is, and it's only going to get worse. (As if having too many starters is a bad thing.)
Currently in the five spots? Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and either Felix Doubront or Ryan Dempster. Beyond those six, prospects like Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens are all candidates to reach the majors next season.
Not surprisingly, the Red Sox wouldn't mind unloading one of their pricier pitchers like Peavy or Dempster, as Jason Mastrodonato of Mass Live writes.
After coming over from the other color Sox in a trade last July, Peavy has the least attachment. He also has the second-highest salary at $14.5 million of the bunch (to Lackey's $15.25 million). Those two factors make him the candidate most likely to be moved, especially if Boston is willing to eat some of the money and another team still views Peavy as a solid mid-rotation arm.
Motivation for Being Moved: Change of Scenery
Now, here's a guy who just needs a new home.
At this point, Ike Davis may be too far gone to be fixed, but there is still a small batch of clubs that wouldn't mind trying, including the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers, per Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.
The main reasons Davis is even an intriguing trade option at all are that he's hit for power in the past, his salary is still low and he should come cheaply. At least, in theory.
The Mets asked the Baltimore Orioles, another team that has been mentioned around Davis, for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, the team's top left-hander in the system, according to Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun. New York's expectations need to be lower than that for a player who hit just .205/.326/.334 last year and was demoted to Triple-A at one point
The club, though, also may be waiting to see if the asking price for free agent Kendrys Morales—who has been linked tentatively to New York in recent weeks, per Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News—drops low enough for the Mets to get involved. Should that happen, Davis surely would be swapped.
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