Updating the Top MLB Players Who Could Be Dealt This Spring

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2014

Updating the Top MLB Players Who Could Be Dealt This Spring

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    You won't find Tampa Bay's David Price on this list of MLB players who could be dealt this spring.

    Back in January, Price told the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin that he believed if he made it to spring training with the Rays, he'd still be a Ray on Opening Day. I agree with him, especially in light of Jeremy Hellickson's subsequent elbow surgery, which is expected to keep him out until at least May.

    While Price appears to be safe, other players that have been subject to trade rumors this winter can't speak with the same level of confidence.

    As spring training continues to unfold, teams will be looking to fill holes, upgrade their rosters and, in some cases, shed a veteran (and his salary) to make room for a youngster that impresses in camp.

    Which players could find themselves playing elsewhere on Opening Day?

    Let's take a look.

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of FanGraphsAll contract information courtesy of Cot's Contracts.

1B Ike Davis, New York Mets

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Age on Opening Day: 27

    2013 Stats: 103 G, .203/.326/.334, 23 XBH (9 HR), 33 RBI, 4-of-4 SB, 90 wRC+

    Why He Could Be Traded

    While the trade winds surrounding Ike Davis have quieted down recently, ESPN New York's Adam Rubin believes that it's merely a lull in the action, not a sign that Davis is guaranteed a spot with the Mets in 2014:

    Was told today the #Mets don't have active dialogue going on with any teams about Ike. I still expect that to occur over next month.

    — Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) February 26, 2014

    It's long been believed that the Mets prefer Lucas Duda at first base over Davis, and with Josh Satin also factoring into the equation, taking three first basemen into the regular season makes little sense for the club.

    If ever there was a player who needed to escape from New York, it's Davis, who has simply worn out his welcome. Between injury and the pressures of playing in the media capital of the world, he has become a shell of his former self.

    Why Teams Want Him

    Nobody can dispute that Davis has big-time powersomething that's always in demandbut teams look at Davis and see a player that could be so much more than a one-dimensional slugger.

    Take a look at how Davis fared in 2010 and 2011 (up until his season was ended by a freak ankle injury) compared to how he's done since, as the injury bug has continued to plague him:

    2010-11 (183 G).271.357.460.817
    2012-13 (259 G).219.315.414.729

    Taking a flyer on a player in the prime of his career that, at one point, was able to hit for average and get on base consistently—along with hitting for power—is something that any team with a need at first base or the designated hitter spot would love to do at the right price.

    Possible Landing Spots

    The price has been anything but right this winter, however, as the Mets engaged in trade talks about Davis with three teams.

    Mike Puma of the New York Post chronicled the team's talks with the Baltimore Orioles:

    Mets have unsuccessfully tried to get pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez from Orioles for Ike Davis. Still talking to Brewers, Orioles, Pirates.

    — Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) December 27, 2013

    With Baltimore signing Nelson Cruz to serve as the team's DH, it's unlikely that the Orioles would still have interest in Davis.

    USA Today's John Perrotto provided the skinny on what the Mets wanted from Pittsburgh:

    Hearing #Mets want a big arm (such as Nick Kingham) from the #Pirates in an Ike Davis trade.

    — John Perrotto (@jperrotto) December 18, 2013

    The first team linked to Davis, the Milwaukee Brewers, was also the first to shoot down New York's asking price of a young arm with upside, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted:

    Sources: #Mets, #Brewers still talking on Ike Davis, but Brewers still won’t part with RHP Tyler Thornburg.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 13, 2013

    Milwaukee and Pittsburgh still have gaping voids at first base—which they'll be reminded of this spring—and remain potential destinations for Davis.

IF Nick Franklin, Seattle Mariners

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    RICK SCUTERI/Associated Press

    Age on Opening Day: 23

    2013 Stats: 102 G, .225/.303/.382, 33 XBH (12 HR), 45 RBI, 6-of-7 SB, 90 wRC+

    Why He Could Be Traded

    Shortly after losing his job as Seattle's starting second baseman to Robinson Cano, trade winds began to swirl around Nick Franklin:

    #Mariners drawing strong trade interest in IF Nick Franklin with multiple teams involved, sources tell me and @jonmorosi.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 18, 2013

    Blocked at second by Cano, at shorstop by Brad Miller and as Seattle's primary utility infielder by Willie Bloomquist, Franklin needs a change of scenery if he's going to have a chance to reach his potential.

    Why Teams Want Him

    Was Franklin rushed to the major leagues last season? Probably, and it would help to explain the drastic drop in his production as the season rolled along:

    First 32 Games of 2013.299.364.479.843
    Last 70 Games of 2013.190.276.337.613

    Only 23, Franklin has the combination of power and speed that teams get excited about, especially when they see those traits in a middle infielder. Whether his future is as a shortstop or a second baseman remains open for debate given his limited range and average glove, but Franklin's upside is significant.

    Possible Landing Spots

    The New York Mets have been looking for an upgrade at shortstop for much of the winter and have some interest in Franklin, sources tell the New York Daily News' John Harper:

    Mets' person says club will scout Nick Franklin throughout S.T., decide if a trade makes sense. They like his pop, unsure about D at SS.

    — John Harper (@NYDNHarper) February 26, 2014

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that the Tampa Bay Rays have spoken to the Mariners about Franklin as well, while ESPN New York's Adam Rubin tweets that a deal between the two clubs involving Franklin was nearly agreed upon earlier this winter:

    Heard while ago that #Rays and #Mariners were ready to pull trigger on Nick Franklin trade and Jeremy Hellickson's injury scuttled it. #mets

    — Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) February 25, 2014

    While they've yet to be linked to Franklin, a pair of AL East clubsthe New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jaysfigure to have interest in him as well.

SS Didi Gregorius, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Age on Opening Day: 24

    2013 Stats: 103 G, .252/.332/.373, 26 XBH (7 HR), 28 RBI, 0-of-2 SB, 91 wRC+

    Why He Could Be Traded

    Didi Gregorius will battle it out with Chris Owings for the right to start at shortstop in Arizona this season, with the loser heading back to the minor leagues, as veteran Cliff Pennington will serve as the team's primary backup.

    With that trio of shortstops ready to impact the major-league club and prospect Nick Ahmed working his way through the team's farm system, GM Kevin Towers recently told the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro exactly where his mind is at when it comes to a possible trade of his team's shortstop surplus:

    For us, it would have to be the right deal. Our biggest needs in our system are catching. If it’s the right, top-notch catching prospect. Someone we could have right behind Miggy. More of an upper-level guy. Maybe a top, upper-end starter. We have a lot of bullpen depth, infielders. Maybe an outfielder, but probably more catching and Double-A, Triple-A type starter.

    Why Teams Want Him

    Gregorius is young, athletic and still has significant upside.

    Here's what Baseball America had to say about him after the 2012 season, when he ranked as Cincinnati's fifth-best prospect (subscription required):

    He has smooth actions, plus range and a sniper rifle of an arm. His arm rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, allowing him to make plays from deep in the hole that other shortstops can't. He showed improved consistency in 2012, making just 18 errors in 128 games after committing 21 in 80 contests the year before.

    Scouts are divided on Gregorius' bat. Some think he could end up as a No. 2 hitter, while others think he'll fit at the bottom of a lineup. He's too aggressive and needs to use the whole field more, but he does have gap power. He's an average runner. 

    He could be a long-term answer at shortstop for a team that doesn't have one—and that makes him a valuable trade chip should Owings beat him out this spring. 

    Possible Landing Spots

    While he's not been linked to any specific teams this winter—which is no surprise, as he's not actually been put on the trade block or shopped around by the Diamondbacks up to this point—any team in need of an upgrade at the position could have interest.

    That list includes the New York Mets, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who Piecoro says are monitoring the shortstop market this spring. Of those three teams, the Yankees and Red Sox may be in the best position to make a deal, as both have the catching prospects that Arizona covets.

    New York could dangle Francisco Cervelli, Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy, while Boston's Ryan Lavarnway (who is seeing time as a first baseman now), Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart could also be attractive to the Diamondbacks.

RHP Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Age on Opening Day: 29

    2013 Stats: 33 GS, 8-13, 4.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 213.2 IP, 3.3 BB/9, 9.0 K/9

    Why He Could Be Traded

    Jeff Samardzija hasn't hidden the fact that he's tired of playing on a rebuilding club, something that has certainly factored into his decision to not sign an extension with the Chicago Cubs up to this point.

    Samardzija would have been more inclined to work out a new deal with the club had they signed Masahiro Tanaka, as he intimated to the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales, but that didn't happen. As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago-Sun Times wrote recently, that new deal may never happen:

    The Cubs are no closer to finding common ground on a potential contract extension with pitcher Jeff ­Samardzija than they were a year ago. In some ways, they’re further apart.

    He is considered the club’s top commodity for the July trade market, but could he be dealt before the season starts in five weeks?

    Two industry sources said Monday they believe a trade is a strong possibility, although a third source said no such talks are happening.

    Until he's traded or signed to an extension, trade winds will continue to swirl around him.

    Why Teams Want Him

    With two years of team control left and minimal wear and tear on his arm, Samardzija's value may never be higher than it is now.

    While his numbers from a year ago aren't stellar, by any means, he's on the right side of 30 and is a power arm that, thus far, has been durable and reliable, which are two things that teams covet in a starting pitcher.

    Possible Landing Spots

    Last month, CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney reported that both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves had interest in Samardzija, but that both teams felt that Chicago was asking for too much in return for the soon-to-be 29-year-old.

    Even after Arizona's signing of veteran Bronson Arroyo to round out its rotation, the Diamondbacks could use another front-of-the-rotation arm, like Samardzija, to pair with Patrick Corbin atop the staff.

    After losing Tim Hudson to the San Francisco Giants via free agency, Atlanta's rotation is high on talent but short on experience as well as a surefire innings eater. Adding Samardzija to the mix would solve both of those shortcomings for the Braves.

2B Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Age on Opening Day: 31

    2013 Stats: 104 G, .209/.306/.357, 31 XBH (10 HR), 24 RBI, 7-of-10 SB, 86 wRC+

    Why He Could Be Traded

    Scooter Gennett showed enough in 2013 to prove that he's not only Milwaukee's second baseman of the future, but that he should also be the team's second baseman of the present. Standing in his way is former All-Star Rickie Weeks, who recently told the Journal-Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt that he believes he should be the starter:

    I haven't (been told anything). I feel I am (the starter), but at the same time they have their own agenda.

    My own thing is I'm coming in here knowing that I have to come in prepared and ready to play baseball, period.

    Due $11 million in the final year of his contract*, Weeks is significantly older—and more expensive—than Gennett. Shedding his salary and clearing a path for Gennett to be the team's everyday starter at second base makes a lot of sense for the small-market Brewers.

    Why Teams Want Him

    Why would teams want a second baseman, over the age of 30, that doesn't hit for average, has been a streaky player over the course of his career and is a below-average defender?

    Because he can hit for power, has the speed to cause some problems when he gets on base and, ultimately, is a short-term fix for a team in need of an established second baseman.

    Possible Landing Spots

    George A. King III of the New York Post reported recently that the New York Yankees would keep tabs on the second base competition in Milwaukee with an eye on Weeks, who would split time at the position with the oft-injured Brian Roberts.

    *Milwaukee holds an $11.5 million team option for 2015 that vests if he makes 600 plate appearances in 2014 or a combined 1,200 plate appearances in 2013 and 2014. Weeks has no chance of reaching either of those numbers.