Ranking 5 Available MLB Players with the Most Overall Trade Value
That could change in the near future, though, and maybe Masahiro Tanaka is to blame for the holdup.
It seems like all of the available marquee players in free agency or on the trading block are being affected by Tanaka's drawn-out bidding process that figures to involve several teams in a high-priced auction. Expect the other dominoes to fall once the righty finds a new home, meaning we should have some more offseason action to keep us busy until spring training.
There have been several high-profile pitchers and sluggers mentioned in trade rumors this winter, so let's take a look at the top five players available, in terms of trade value.
1. David Price, LHP
Rarely is a bonafide ace available on the trading block, but that appears to be the case with Tampa Bay Rays southpaw David Price.
Price told reporters last October that he expected to be traded during the offseason, but the Rays haven't bit on anything yet. Marc Tompkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote that the Rays are in no hurry to deal Price, who is 28 years old and has a Cy Young Award under his belt to go with some impressive career numbers over five-plus seasons, including a 71-39 record, 3.19 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and an 8.1 K/9 ratio.
Price is the top arm available on the trading block or in free agency this winter. Last year's trade of James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals netted the Rays 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi. The team expects to receive more MLB-ready talent in return for Price.
Tampa Bay has made it known that the club won't trade away Price at the expense of its 2014 season. The Rays have made moves like re-signing James Loney to a three-year, $21 million deal and are still in position to compete after last year's 92-win campaign that ended in the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox.
Since Price is under club control for two more years and his asking price is so high, it might take a wide-eyed team at the trading deadline for a deal to happen.
2. Matt Kemp, OF
With four quality outfielders under contract for 2014 in Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been frequently mentioned as a team that could do some dealing before Opening Day.
Kemp's name has been the most consistent to pop up in the MLB rumor mill, with Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe adding the latest update. Cafardo spoke with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who said Kemp is recovering well from his offseason ankle surgery.
"His upper body is strong, he’s jogging and getting comfortable with his lower half," Colletti said, via Cafardo, who speculated that Kemp could be auditioning for other teams in spring training.
At 29 years old, Kemp still figures to have plenty of productive years ahead of him if he can get over his latest bout of injuries. Kemp has played in just 179 games the past two seasons due to ankle, shoulder and thigh issues, but displayed immense potential in his final full season in 2011. He finished second in the National League MVP voting to Ryan Braun that year, batting .324/.399/.586 with an NL-best 39 homers and 126 RBI while stealing 40 bases and winning a Gold Glove.
Even though Kemp would be a risk, especially with the six years, $128 million remaining on his contract, he represents the most talented hitter involved in trade rumors this winter. It's unreasonable to expect Kemp to threaten 40/40 every year, but he provides a rare combination of offensive power and defensive skills that any team would covet.
3. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
It sounds like Jeff Samardzija wants to be part of the first Chicago Cubs team to bring a World Series title back to Wrigley Field since 1908.
However, after a 96-loss season in 2013 and without much more help on the way in 2014, trading Samardzija now might be the best move for this franchise. Carrie Muskat of MLB.com recently detailed the reasons why it makes sense to trade Samardzija, who could bring a significant return of prospects after going 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 214 strikeouts in 213.2 innings pitched in 2013.
Above all, Muskat singled out the team's weak minor league system as a major impetus to trade Samardzija this offseason, even though the club has also discussed a long-term extension with the pitcher's agent. Muskat also noted that Samardzija is under club control for two more seasons and is expected to make $5 million in arbitration this winter, which is far less than what he would command on the open market, making him an attractive trade chip.
While his numbers aren't spectacular, Samardzija eats up innings and has a strong arm that many teams would love to add to their staff. The soon-to-be 29-year-old recently told Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago that he would ideally be a major part of the Cubs' turnaround, but acknowledged that he's already looking forward to the prospect of free agency following the 2015 season.
If both sides can't hammer out a deal soon, Samardzija could have a new uniform by Opening Day.
4. Brett Gardner, OF
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman isn't shopping the speedy Brett Gardner this offseason, but that hasn't stopped teams from inquiring about his availability.
According to a recent notebook by Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com, at least six teams (including the Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers) have approached Cashman about Gardner. But Gammons wrote that "Cashman won’t move him until and unless he has to for starting pitching," while adding that the GM thinks Gardner is similar to recently signed outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
I think it's an apt comparison between the two new teammates, who help make up a crowded outfield that also features Carlos Beltran, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano under contract for next season.
While Gardner might not have the same prowess on the basepaths or in the field as Ellsbury, he certainly holds his own. In 145 games for the Yankees last season, Gardner batted .273/.344/.416 with eight homers, 52 RBI, 24 stolen bases and 81 runs scored. Ellsbury, meanwhile, hit .298/.355/.426 with nine HRs, 53 RBI, 53 stolen bases and 92 runs scored.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors estimates that Gardner will receive $4 million in arbitration this season, which is a great deal for a player of his caliber. The Yankees were already rumored to have turned down a straight-up deal for Brandon Phillips in exchange for Gardner earlier this offseason, giving more perspective on the outfielder's value.
But it sounds like this situation won't shake out until the free-agent pitcher's market is settled following the bidding process for Masahiro Tanaka and signings of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.
During the winter meetings, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also named Ichiro Suzuki as a more likely candidate to be traded than Gardner, so we'll be keeping our eye on the Bronx for some late action this offseason.
5. Brandon Phillips, 2B
Brandon Phillips is one of baseball's best second basemen, but his trade value is diminished by the big contract that he's attached to.
Phillips has been a prime candidate to be traded this winter ever since speaking out against Cincinnati's front office last July about team finances. So far, the Reds have been denied in their quest to unload Phillips.
The team was rebuffed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in an effort for Matt Kemp, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, while Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com reported the New York Yankees also rejected a Phillips-for-Brett Gardner framework deal.
Phillips had a productive 2013 at the plate (.261/.310/.396, 18 homers, 103 RBI) and in the field, but he's now 32 and owed $50 million over the next four years. That's a hefty risk for a player who also can be a volatile clubhouse presence.
Phillips is talented, sure, but there are a lot of factors to consider when thinking about making a move to acquire him.