One name that has been synonymous with trade talk in the last two years is San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley.
The 2012 National League MVP candidate was at the forefront of trade rumors last year, but the Padres refused to deal their biggest star coming off of a career year. He hit .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs and 115 RBI entering his age-29 season.
Not known for his power, Headley predictably regressed in 2013 to a line that was much closer to his career mark (.250/.347/.400). Suddenly he didn't look as attractive to teams in need of a third baseman, eliminating virtually any trade talk around him this offseason.
It certainly didn't help Headley's performance last year that he battled a knee injury that required surgery after the season ended.
But that doesn't mean Headley won't eventually find himself back on the trade block. He will play this season in San Diego and head into free agency next winter, which puts pressure on the Padres to compete for a playoff spot now or be forced to deal their third baseman this summer.
If San Diego's front office does decide to trade Headley, this is a list of teams and potential packages that could entice the Padres to pull the trigger on their best position player.
Trade proposal: Padres trade 3B Chase Headley to Yankees for OF Slade Heathcott and a player to be named later
I'm not sure if you guys have heard, but New York will have a hole to fill at third base this season. Given all the drama surrounding Alex Rodriguez, you couldn't blame the Yankees if they tried everything in their power to get him to retire and/or accept some kind of buyout for the remaining years on his deal that runs through 2017.
Regardless of what happens beyond 2014, the Yankees still have to figure out what will become of the hot corner this year.
Chase Headley would certainly be an ideal fit for New York. He's a great defensive player, credited with saving five runs last year and an ultimate zone rating of 7.0. By comparison, excluding catchers, Robinson Cano was New York's only infielder who played more than 100 games with a positive UZR.
We also know that New York has had eyes on Headley in the past, even trying to strike a deal with the Padres in December. But Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that "neither side thinks they match up" in a deal.
It's no secret that New York's farm system is incredibly thin right now. That's one big reason why the Yankees had to spend big money on free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran this winter.
However, as the season moves on and Headley moves closer to free agency, San Diego's leverage decreases rapidly. The Padres aren't going to give him away, nor should they, but if we get into July and they are trailing the Dodgers by 10-plus games in the NL West, what choice do they have but to deal him?
Slade Heathcott has one of the highest ceilings in New York's system. He just has to tone down the way he plays a bit, because his all-out style results in a lot of injuries. The 23-year-old hasn't played in more than 103 minor league games in four full seasons.
He's loaded with tools and has a great presence that can rub off on other players, but you want to see him turn that potential into something. That's not going to happen if he can't stay healthy.
The Padres would need another player in the deal to make it work, but given New York's lack of depth, the best thing for San Diego would be to make it a player to be named later who will be chosen from an agreed-upon list of players.
Trade proposal: Padres trade 3B Chase Headley to Reds for OF Jesse Winker and C Tucker Barnhart
Even though the Reds have lost Shin-Soo Choo from the top of their lineup, the team's biggest need is at third base.
Last year, Cincinnati's third basemen combined to hit a paltry .231/.315/.387 in 607 at-bats. They were 18th in slugging percentage and 26th in batting average. The tandem of Todd Frazier and Jack Hannahan just isn't getting it done.
Unfortunately, the Reds are heavily invested in long-term contracts for Joey Votto (signed through 2023), Jay Bruce (signed through 2016) and Brandon Phillips (signed through 2017).
They also need to try re-signing Homer Bailey to a long-term deal, which limits their ability to invest heavily into other players at the moment.
Chase Headley fills an immediate need, though it still doesn't solve Cincinnati's long-term problem. The good news is the Reds are built to win now, so what happens in 2015 and beyond really isn't a concern.
In return for its star third baseman, San Diego will get back the best pure hitter in Cincinnati's system, Jesse Winker. The 2012 first-round pick had a stellar full-season debut last year, hitting .281/.379/.463 in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League.
Just 20 years old, Winker's 16 homers indicate that more power is on the way, and he could turn into a plus power hitter down the road. He also fits San Diego's offensive profile, using a short path to the ball and smacking line drives all over the field.
He's not much with the glove, having limited range in the outfield and below-average speed. That could limit him to first base, which makes him expendable for the Reds since Joey Votto isn't going anywhere.
Tucker Barnhart is the second piece of San Diego's puzzle. He's a valuable piece to have in a farm system and, eventually, MLB bench.
He doesn't offer much with the bat, boasting below-average power and a decent approach, which is why he only projects as a backup.
But the 23-year-old is one of the better defensive catchers in the minors, owning plus arm strength and accuracy. He's thrown out 42 percent of base stealers in five minor league seasons.
Both sides would get exactly what they need. San Diego gets a long-term first baseman/outfielder and backup catcher to pair with star prospect Austin Hedges. The Reds would find a temporary fix at third base, even at the expense of farm system depth.
Trade proposal: Padres trade 3B Chase Headley to Diamondbacks for SS Chris Owings and 3B Brandon Drury
I am throwing this trade proposal out there as a way of saying that I don't think Aaron Hill will stay healthy all year. He's going to be 32 at the end of March and has missed at least 24 games in three of the last four years.
Assuming Hill gets injured at some point, the Diamondbacks will have their choice of options to use at second base. They could put Chris Owings or Cliff Pennington at the keystone.
Another option, one that has more offensive potential, is moving Martin Prado off third base and over to second base, then trading two prospects for Chase Headley.
Both Owings and Brandon Drury play positions of depth for Arizona. Owings is blocked at shortstop by Didi Gregorius, and second baseman Aaron Hill is signed through 2016. Martin Prado holds the keys to third base, or whatever position he's told to play, through 2016.
Owings has long been a favorite prospect of mine. He's an above-average defensive shortstop with excellent range and athleticism. There's no doubt he could handle second base on an everyday basis, if Arizona required him to.
The bat is another story. Owings goes up to the plate ready to swing, not taking many pitches or drawing many walks. He will swing and miss but doesn't do it at an alarming rate, with a strikeout rate of 22.5 percent since 2011.
What Owings will lack in average and on-base percentage, he can make up for with above-average power potential. He controls the bat well and has good bat speed to drive balls he can catch up to, though velocity will give him some problems.
Brandon Drury is a 21-year-old third baseman whose bat took several steps forward last season. He hit .302/.362/.500 with 70 extra-base hits for South Bend. He's not a traditional third baseman, boasting more doubles power than over-the-fence pop, but good bat control and above-average defense help him profile as a first-division regular.
A few things that Arizona isn't necessarily hoping/expecting to happen will have to occur in order for Headley to be a fit, but getting to hit in Chase Field could be great for his career.
Since a lot of teams expecting to contend are already set at third base, it is hard to create trade scenarios without taking some liberties. I already did that with Arizona but laid out a real scenario for why that made sense.
The two teams listed here could have a need at third base by midseason and have enough talent in the farm system to strike a deal with San Diego.
Kansas City Royals
I think this is going to be a big season for the Royals. Detroit has made itself worse this offseason, most notably by giving Doug Fister to Washington. Cleveland's pitching is going to regress with Scott Kazmir gone and Ubaldo Jimenez likely to sign elsewhere.
Everything is set up for Kansas City to at least stay in the division race until the end of the year, if not compete for a playoff spot. This optimism puts pressure on Mike Moustakas to improve greatly on his .233/.287/.364 slash line from 2013.
The Royals still have a deep, talented farm system that could take a huge jump forward considering most of their elite prospects are in the lower levels of the minors.
Toronto Blue Jays
This could be a make-or-break season for Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He went all-in to win last year, only to see injuries and poor performances result in an 88-loss season.
Desperate times make general managers do desperate things to save their job. Everyone has been waiting for Brett Lawrie's breakout season, but the 24-year-old has battled injuries the last two years and has never got his career going.
One more injury to Lawrie could force Anthopoulos into a decision at the trade deadline. Starting pitching is still the top priority for the Blue Jays, but they may need to do something at third base before the end of July.
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