Re-Ranking Top 25 Available MLB Free Agents, Trade Targets Post-Winter Meetings

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 11, 2015

Re-Ranking Top 25 Available MLB Free Agents, Trade Targets Post-Winter Meetings

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    After this week's winter meetings and all that came before, there are now fewer players available on the offseason market than there was when the offseason started. Alas, it's withering away.

    But it's not empty yet, folks. And we can prove it!

    We're going to do that by ranking the top 25 targets that still available on the free-agent and trade markets. The former is straightforward. For the latter, be warned that we're only looking at players who have been mentioned in serious rumors recently.

    As for how the players are ranked, we're mostly looking at their talent levels and where they are in their respective careers. The younger they are, the better. We'll also take value into consideration. Big price tags aren't very scary. Huge price tags are.

    That's it. Step into the box whenever you're ready.

25. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Free Agent

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Way back in those mystical times known as "2010 and 2011," Yovani Gallardo was a National League All-Star and a top-10 Cy Young contender.

    That still seems like the peak of the right-hander's career, but he's been good since then too. Gallardo owns a 3.69 ERA across 761.1 innings since 2012 and is coming off a solid 3.42 ERA in 2015.

    Heading into his age-30 season, Gallardo's average fastball is now more 90-91 than the 92-93 he sat at earlier in his career. That's less than awesome. The same goes for the fact that he struck out only 5.9 batters while walking 3.3 batters per nine innings.

    But though Gallardo may not be overpowering anymore, he's shown he can get by as a solid contact manager. Brooks Baseball can vouch that he now has a varied pitch mix, and he's pretty good about putting his pitches where they can't be knocked around.

    Gallardo thus looks like a solid mid-rotation option, which naturally means it will cost a small fortune to sign him. After J.A. Happ signed for three years and $36 million, it figures to cost around $50 million over four years to sign Gallardo. That plus a lost draft pick equals a sizable price tag.

24. Howie Kendrick, 2B, Free Agent

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Howie Kendrick has been in the major leagues for 10 seasons now, and he hasn't really been a star in any of them.

    He has been consistently good, though. So he has that going for him. Which is nice, etc.

    Seriously, though. Kendrick is a career .293 hitter, and it's downright eerie how consistently his batting average has stayed in that range throughout his career. He owes that partly to a solid contact habit, but mainly to the fact that he has a line-drive swing that features terrific bat control.

    Kendrick has also typically been a well-rounded player, offering a bit of power and speed and a good glove on defense. But he's never sold out for power, and now is a good time to wonder about his speed and defense. He's had trouble with his legs in two of the last three seasons and is now heading into his age-32 season. The best of his all-around game is very likely behind him.

    Even still, Kendrick likely isn't going to come cheap after Ben Zobrist signed with the Chicago Cubs for four years and $56 million. Kendrick will demand something similar. That plus his ties to draft-pick compensation make him out to be a risky play.

23. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Free Agent

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    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

    Behold, a bona fide postseason hero!

    You'll remember that Daniel Murphy was kind of a big part of the New York Mets' run to the World Series in 2015, OPS'ing 1.462 and hitting seven home runs through the first two rounds of the playoffs. That was one of the great displays of postseason dominance we've ever seen.

    In real life, Murphy's bat isn't quite as dominant. But at the least, it's pretty good. Murphy owns a .288 career average and a .755 career OPS. His best talent is his elite ability to make contact, though the power uptick that preceded his postseason power explosion is also worth noting.

    Murphy does come with some warts. He's heading into his age-31 season, so there's a good chance he's already out of prime years. And though he does offer some defensive versatility, he's tended to rate as a poor defender.

    Also, Murphy's not going to come cheap. Like Kendrick, he's tied to draft-pick compensation and is likely to command a contract similar to Zobrist's.

22. Dexter Fowler, CF, Free Agent

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Dexter Fowler is a switch-hitting center fielder with a strong eye and a good blend of power and speed. If you ever doubted that anyone could make him sound like the best thing ever, well, joke's on you.

    In reality, though, Fowler is more "quite good" than "the best thing ever."

    As a .267 career hitter with a .781 OPS, Fowler's career hitting performance qualifies as above average even after you account for his Coors Field years. Throughout it all, his best hitting assets have been a batting eye that has drawn him a ton of walks and a bat that has decent power in it. He's rounded out his offensive value by stealing 15-20 bags per season.

    The big downside with Fowler is that he's tended to rate as an easily below-average defender in center field. The fact that he'll be on the wrong side of 30 in 2016 won't help that. Nor should it help his baserunning, for that matter.

    Even still, teams will take top-of-the-order hitters like Fowler where they can get him. The harder part is figuring out his value, as the outfield market hasn't yet been defined. In all likelihood, though, something like four or five years at $15 million per year is what it will take. He'll also cost a draft pick.

     

21. Brett Gardner, LF, New York Yankees

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Source: Joel Sherman of the New York Post

    Brett Gardner's career has been a two-act play. In the first, he was pesky and speedy. In the second, he's now pesky and powerful.

    The peskiness is indeed alive and well, as Gardner is continuing to see an average of over four pitches per plate appearance and fouling off plenty of tough pitches. But where he used to have 40-steal speed and little power, the last two seasons have seen him boast mere 20-steal speed next to 15-20-homer power. 

    This is good stuff, but be warned that Gardner does come with red flags.

    One is that Gardner is heading into his age-32 season, so what's already diminished speed is probably only going to get worse in the three guaranteed years he has left on his contract. That'll continue to hurt not just his baserunning, but his defense as well. It, also, is not what it once was.

    And while it's nice that Gardner has developed some power, he's gotten some help from Yankee Stadium in that department. Over the last two seasons, he's slugged .445 at home and just .376 on the road.

    According to Sherman, the Yankees' ideal Gardner trade will net them a starting pitcher. Assuming they're not expecting an ace, that sounds fair enough.

20. James Shields, SP, Trade

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Source: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports

    Yes, the San Diego Padres are already tired of James Shields. Or, probably more so Shields' contract than Shields himself. The $65 million they owe him over the next three years is a lot of money.

    Relative to what Shields did in 2015, the Padres are right to fear it won't be money well spent. The veteran right-hander only posted a 3.91 ERA in his first season with the Padres, in no small part because he gave up a league-leading 33 dingers. As expected, a velocity loss played a part in that.

    There is a bright side, though. Shields downplayed his cutter in favor of his curveball in 2015, and that and his changeup drew a ton of whiffs. The result was a career-best 9.6 K/9 rate. 

    Also, Shields continued to be a good innings-eater by logging 202.1 frames. We keep thinking his arm is going to make like a Mission: Impossible message device and self-destruct, but that's now nine straight seasons of at least 200 innings.

    It's no wonder the Padres think Shields is still worth something. According to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, they want a young shortstop back for him, and that's just for starters. That plus his contract...well, it's a lot, man. A lot.

19. Ian Desmond, SS, Free Agent

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    For anyone who thinks that players always put forth great performances in their walk years, meet Ian Desmond.

    Desmond did not have a great walk year in 2015, hitting just .233 with a .674 OPS while making 27 errors at shortstop. All this from a guy who hit .275 with a .788 OPS with a good mix of power (69 homers) and speed (66 steals) and at least passable defense across the three previous seasons.

    But this is one of those times where things aren't as bad as they look. Desmond rebounded to hit .266 with a .777 OPS in the second half of 2015, and the case of the yips he had on defense also seemed to subside. So when we say he had a bad season, he really only had a bad half of a season.

    This is not to say Desmond doesn't come with any concerns. He's heading into his age-30 season, and the last two years have seen a bad strikeout habit get notably worse. That makes his offensive game more reliant on his power, which is trending downward.

    Even still, Desmond's track record and athleticism make him an intriguing target for a multiyear deal. He should get one of those even despite his down 2015 and his ties to draft-pick compensation, with the likely cost being around $15 million over four or five years.

18. Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Trade

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    Source: Jon Morosi of Fox Sports

    For a time there, it seemed like Carlos Gonzalez was on the downswing. He posted just a .723 OPS in an injury-marred 2014, and he had a .620 OPS as late as June 2 in 2015.

    But then, Boom! and/or Pow!

    Gonzalez finished 2015 by hitting .294 with a .966 OPS and 36 home runs over his final 107 games. He topped 40 total homers for the first time and finished with an OPS of at least .860 for the sixth time in seven years.

    The big worry for prospective buyers is that too much of Gonzalez's offensive excellence has taken place at Coors Field. His career OPS at home is .986, compared to just .752 on the road. Beyond that, it's not ideal that he swiped only two bags in 2015. Nor does it help that the metrics are split on how good his defense in right field was.

    All these concerns are amplified by the fact that Gonzalez is owed $37 million over the next two seasons. He may only be worth that kind of money in Colorado.

    Even still, Gonzalez is far from immovable. He's an intriguing left-handed power bat, and shipping a few prospects to Colorado to get Gonzalez for two years is arguably better than handing Scrooge McDuck's swimming pool over to Chris Davis.

17. Scott Kazmir, SP, Free Agent

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    Three years ago, Scott Kazmir was out of baseball. Two years ago, he was a great comeback story. A year ago, he was an All-Star. As recently as a few months ago, he was an elite starting pitcher.

    So one supposes a bump in the road was inevitable. It finally came after Kazmir went to the Houston Astros in a July trade, as he finished with just a 4.17 ERA in 13 starts in one of their uniforms. Such a pity.

    Still, Kazmir remains one of the open market's most attractive starters. He owns a 3.33 ERA over the last two seasons and has teased that his effectiveness won't be killed by age. He's traded in his old overpowering stuff for strong location and a pitch mix focused on giving hitters different looks with his heat. Heading into his age-32 season, he's packing some attractive talents.

    The big drawback with Kazmir is that he's not a great workhorse. He last topped 200 innings all the way back in 2007 and has fallen into the 180-190 range in the last two seasons. On a given night, anything more than six good innings from him is a bonus.

    Despite that, Kazmir's talent and his lack of ties to draft-pick compensation make for strong value. He's another pitcher in line for four years and roughly $50 million.

16. Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Free Agent

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Sorry, it just has to be said: Wei-Yin Chen is just not an interesting pitcher. He's not.

    That doesn't mean he's not good, though.

    Chen was little more than an innings-eater in the first two years of his big league career, posting a 4.04 ERA over 329.2 innings. But he's become more than that over the last two seasons, posting a 3.54 ERA over 377.0 innings.

    Chen hasn't made drastic changes to his pitch mix, nor has he picked up any extra velocity or any extra nastiness of any kind. But he has become extremely aggressive in pounding the strike zone, as he's tied for second in percentage of pitches in the zone over the last two seasons. That helps explain why his K/BB ratio would jump from 2.7 in his first two seasons to 3.8 in the last two.

    The down side? That's that Chen is heading for his age-30 season. But with clean mechanics and a track record of success that hasn't required overpowering stuff, he's a solid bet to age well.

    Chen is tied to draft-pick compensation, but that won't stop him from landing a solid deal somewhere. A good guess is that he's in line for upward of $15 million over four or five years.

15. Mike Leake, SP, Free Agent

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Your typical modern baseball pitcher is a dude who's huge and throws really hard, and, by extension, strikes out every batter he comes across.

    Basically, the exact opposite of Mike Leake. But that's OK, you see, because he makes it work.

    Leake is no ace, but he's a pitcher with a rock-solid 3.59 ERA in 598.2 innings over the last three seasons. He's done that despite striking out only 6.1 batters per nine innings, which points to his strong control and ability to induce ground balls.

    The latter is the result of a pitch mix that goes heavy on sinkers and cutters and also mixes in three off-speed pitches. Leake doesn't throw anything straight. 

    But lest we say Leake is all about deception, his velocity is actually on the rise. Because he's only heading into his age-28 season, that's a trend that may last. There may actually be more strikeouts in his future.

    Even better is that Leake isn't tied to draft-pick compensation. It may cost close to $20 million per year to sign him to a four- or five-year deal, but he looks like a potential bargain anyway.

14. Andrew Miller, LHP, Trade

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Source: Joel Sherman of the New York Post

    Gardner isn't the only piece of Yankees trade bait whose career has been a two-act play. That notion also applies to Andrew Miller, as his career has seen him go from nothing starter to dominant reliever.

    Miller first started showing what he could do in a relief role back in 2012 and 2013, but it's over the last two seasons that he's achieved true relief ace status. The left-hander has racked up a 2.03 ERA over 133 appearances, striking out 203 of the 488 batters he's faced.

    Certainly, it helps that Miller is throwing a lot more strikes than he used to. But a mid-90s fastball and a slider that looks like it comes from Industrial Light and Magic don't hurt either. And because he's apparently a very cruel and sadistic man, Miller is now featuring his slider more than his fastball.

    Sadly, Miller is now on the wrong side of 30. But he's well-built at 6'7" and 210 pounds, and he doesn't appear to be losing anything with age. He should be worth the $27 million he's owed over the next three seasons.

    What's more concerning is what it could take to acquire him. One would normally suggest a mid-rotation starter is the best the Yankees can do, but the offseason market has put a much higher price on elite relievers. It may take something as good as No. 2 starter or a No. 3 starter with upside to land Miller.

13. Tyson Ross, SP, Trade

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Source: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports

    If this was a list of the more underappreciated starting pitchers in baseball, Tyson Ross' name would be a lot closer to the top.

    Ross showed promise as a starter down the stretch in 2013, posting a 2.93 ERA in 13 starts. He's made good on that tease in two seasons since, posting a 3.03 ERA across 391.2 innings.

    The 28-year-old right-hander does have one weakness, and it's a big one: control. Ross led baseball in walks in 2015 and overall has walked nearly four batters per nine innings for his career. This has much to do with his mechanics, where he isn't exactly a mirror image of Greg Maddux.

    However, the sheer nastiness of Ross' stuff is also a factor. Sinkers and sliders make up the majority of his pitches. The former is a wicked 92-93 mph offering that keeps the ground balls coming in bunches, and the latter is a sharp breaker that keeps the whiffs coming in bunches.

    All this plus Ross' youth and two years of club control make him an attractive trade chip. If the Padres are going to get the MLB-ready shortstop they crave, dangling Ross is their best bet.

12. Carlos Gomez, CF, Trade

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    Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

    Source: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle

    If you don't feel like reading the linked report, here's the gist: This is one of those trade rumors that's only kinda-sorta a trade rumor. The Houston Astros are listening, not shopping. As general manager Jeff Luhnow put it: “We talk to clubs about everything. There’s nothing out of bounds.”

    However, a trade of Carlos Gomez should be considered a real possibility. He's part of an outfield surplus in Houston and is due for free agency after 2016. Like they did with Fowler last winter, the Astros could choose to move Gomez while they can.

    The catch is that Gomez is coming off a down year. In OPS'ing .838, hitting 47 home runs, stealing 74 bases and playing strong defense in center field, Gomez was an all-around dynamo in 2013 and 2014. But in 2015, he OPS'd just .724 with 12 homers and 17 steals.

    There are things to be concerned about. Gomez may be getting carried away with his aggressive, hard-swinging style at the plate, and the injuries he battled in 2015 don't bode well heading into his age-30 season.

    Still, the talent that made Gomez one of the league's elite players in 2013 and 2014 may not be dead yet. That's obviously the appeal for any interested buyers, and any team willing to give the Astros something they need—like, say, another starting pitcher or power relief arm—may be able to land Gomez.

11. Johnny Cueto, SP, Free Agent

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    Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

    Just from listening to various pundits and to what's happening on the rumor mill, here's one thing that seems certain: Nobody knows what to make of Johnny Cueto.

    Cueto authored a 2.48 ERA between 2011 and 2014, finishing in the top five of the National League Cy Young voting twice. And in posting a 2.25 ERA and allowing the fewest hits per nine innings of any major league starter, he was very much an elite pitcher as recently as 2014.

    But then came a mixed bag in 2015. The 29-year-old followed a 2.62 ERA in Cincinnati with a 4.76 ERA in Kansas City, and then he had two bad starts and two brilliant starts in the postseason. He didn't mess around with any in-between starts. He was either excellent, or he was terrible.

    The fear that he's only due for more of the latter is palpable. Cueto's past shoulder woes and recent elbow scare have everyone wondering how well he'll hold up once he gets past the age of 30 in 2016. Beyond that, what makes him so dominant in the first place is hard to measure.

    And yet, Cueto's situation could be worse. There are no warning signs to be found in his velocity, and it can definitely be argued that he doesn't need velocity to be successful. Watch him pitch, and you'll see a guy who baffles hitters by altering his tempo and mixing and locating his pitches. He doesn't so much pitch as he does play chess.

    Between that and his track record, it'll be surprising if Cueto doesn't at least match Jordan Zimmermann's five-year, $110 million contract. And indeed, that he's not tied to draft-pick compensation should only make it easier.

10. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Trade

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Source: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports

    There aren't any good catchers on the open market, and the list of good catchers available in trades looks short. In a related note, teams tend to want to hold on to good catchers. Betcha didn't know that.

    But there is Jonathan Lucroy, who we know can be really good.

    Lucroy was one of the elite offensive catchers in baseball between 2012 and 2014, hitting .297 with an .831 OPS. And though he's not known for his arm strength, he built a reputation as one of the game's best receivers behind the dish.

    Sadly, 2015 knocked Lucroy down a peg or two. He was limited to 103 games by injuries, and he hit just .264 with a .717 OPS when he was healthy. And per Baseball Prospectus' metrics, Lucroy's receiving was on the "meh" end of the spectrum.

    It wasn't all bad, though. Lucroy hit well after returning from his first big injury absence, hitting .282 with a .764 OPS across his final 91 games. Elsewhere, he made soft and hard contact at better rates than his career norms. It's no wonder Rosenthal says rival executives consider Lucroy the "game’s best bounceback candidate."

    The 29-year-old Lucroy is under contract for $4 million in 2016, with a $5.25 million option for 2017. That's a very team-friendly contract, and it only gives the Brewers more negotiating power in trade talks. To roll the dice on Lucroy bouncing back, it's going to cost a team a pretty good collection of prospects.

9. Chris Davis, 1B, Free Agent

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Want to know what the ideal power hitter looks like? Basically Chris Davis. He's a giant of a man who makes swinging a bat look totally effortless. And when he hits the ball, it goes far.

    That was especially true in 2013 and 2015, in which Davis led baseball in home runs with 53 and 47, respectively. He OPS'd 1.004 in 2013 and .923 in 2015. And in the last two seasons, he's shown that he's not a one-trick pony by rating well defensively at first base.

    There are some big unknowns where Davis is concerned, however.

    For one, there's the fact that he completely fell apart in 2014, hitting just .196 with a .704 OPS before being suspended for 25 games for using Adderall. He now has a therapeutic use exemption to use the stuff, but the reality that he had such a poor season while he was on the stuff in 2014 raises questions about how much it actually means to his success.

    Naturally, this is where we shift our attention to the flaws in Davis' game. The big ones are that he has a huge swing-and-miss habit and an increasing tendency to pull the ball. The soon-to-be 30-year-old is not an advanced hitter, which will become a problem if age starts eating away at his power.

    Nonetheless, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Davis is seeking a $200 million contract. He's unlikely to actually get that much, but his final contract should come pretty close. That plus his ties to draft-pick compensation make for a pretty huge asking price.

8. Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Free Agent

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    If Desmond is the top entry under "How to [Bleep] Up a Career Year," then Yoenis Cespedes has to be the top entry under "How Not to [Bleep] Up a Career Year."

    Cespedes was a monster from start to finish in 2015, OPS'ing .829 with 18 homers in Detroit before turning it up a notch with a .942 OPS and 17 homers in New York. That's an .870 OPS with 35 homers overall. Add in superb left field defense, and you get a fantastic all-around player.

    Cespedes always did have a season like that in him. It was simply a matter of him getting his many tools to work together at the same time. That was a challenge in his first three seasons, but he finally found the right mix in 2015.

    However, the difficulty Cespedes had getting his tools to work together in his first three seasons isn't forgotten. In 2013 and 2014, especially, his hitting was dragged down by an aggressive approach that killed his on-base percentage. And in between his brilliant defensive plays were more than a few frustrating defensive plays.

    This doesn't mean Cespedes isn't going to get paid, though. He is going to get paid. A lot. 

    Cespedes' brief career means he's well-preserved compared to many other players heading into their age-30 seasons, and he's not tied to draft-pick compensation. It'll be an upset if he doesn't land a $150 million contract.

7. Alex Gordon, LF, Free Agent

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    After years of trying to find himself at third base, Alex Gordon became a full-time left fielder in 2011. Since then, no left fielder has been better.

    Gordon has built his value in every way possible. With a .359 OBP, he's been a good on-base merchant. With 89 home runs and a .450 slugging percentage, he's been a good power hitter. With 52 stolen bases, he's been a good baserunner. And defensively...Well, defensively he's been on his own level.

    The big catch is that Gordon is also a soon-to-be 32-year-old whose body didn't hold up in his age-31 season in 2015. He was limited to 104 games by a significant leg injury. And given his age and how active he's been throughout the last five seasons, you can't help but wonder if he has more injury trouble awaiting him as he gets deeper into his 30s.

    It is still possible to be optimistic about Gordon's future, however. Craig Edwards of FanGraphs is, arguing that Gordon actually figures to age well. So much so that he could actually be a bargain in free agency.

    His price could indeed make that possible. Though Gordon is very similar to Jason Heyward, he may be lucky to sign for half of the nearly $200 million that Heyward is in line for.

6. Carlos Carrasco, SP, Trade

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com

    Understand, the Cleveland Indians don't want to trade Carlos Carrasco. He's part of a starting rotation that's by far the team's biggest strength. If it's fixed, why break it?

    "There are definitely ways to improve our offense through alternatives that don't involve trading our starting pitching," president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said this week, per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. "And that would be our preference."

    There's definitely a lot of interest in Carrasco, though. As well there should be. As we discussed recently, he's been one of the league's most dominant pitchers ever since breaking into Cleveland's rotation at the end of 2014. He throws hard, and his changeup and his slider are electric pitches that keep the whiffs coming.

    What also makes Carrasco attractive is his youth and his contract. He's heading into his age-29 season and is signed through 2018 at $19 million with two club options worth $18.5 million.

    Mind you, one thing that has presumably changed from the last time we discussed Carrasco is Cleveland's asking price. It may have cost less than an arm and a leg to acquire him before the Shelby Miller tradeBut now? Not so much. It'll take all the arms and legs a team can spare to acquire Carrasco.

5. Todd Frazier, 3B, Trade

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    Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

    Source: C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer

    There's a strong possibility that the Cincinnati Reds are stuck with Aroldis Chapman—you'll notice he's not on this list, for reasons—but the fire sale they seem intent on holding should see them move Todd Frazier.

    Frazier first emerged as a potential star in 2012, when he was a contender for the National League Rookie of the Year. He's become a legit star in the last two seasons, OPS'ing .801 with 64 home runs and 33 stolen bases. And though he's not Manny Machado, he's a pretty good defender at the hot corner as well.

    There are red flags. Frazier is a much more aggressive hitter than his passable strikeout rates imply. That's a big reason that consistency seems to elude him, particular when it's late in the season.

    Still, a good-fielding third baseman with power and speed is a rare thing. Frazier's power is especially attractive, and his rising hard-hit rate suggests he's not done peaking in that department yet. As a 29-year-old with two years of club control left, he's definitely worth targeting.

    As for what it will take to acquire Frazier, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark says the Reds won't move him unless they get MLB-ready talent. It's not a small price, but it is fair.

     

4. Justin Upton, LF, Free Agent

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Justin Upton is a former No. 1 overall pick who debuted in the majors at 19 and is heading into free agency off just his age-27 season. Sounds like a superstar, no?

    Well, you wouldn't know it from listening to Upton's corner of the rumor mill. It's awfully quiet. Eno Sarris of FanGraphs figures this is because Upton stands out as very expensive, but not as the best hitter, power hitter or defender on the open market. Which is all true.

    But lest we downplay Upton too much, let's be real: He's a pretty good player.

    Upton owns an .825 career OPS and has averaged 25 home runs and 16 stolen bases per season over the last seven years. He's not deviating from these numbers, as the last two seasons have seen him post an .812 OPS with a total of 55 homers and 27 stolen bases. In 2015, he also played a pretty good left field.

    To be sure, Upton does have his shortcomings. He's not good at making contact. He's not as speedy as he was earlier in his career. Realistically, he's nothing special on defense. But even despite these shortcomings, he's still talented enough to be a star-level player. And because he's only 28, he should remain a star for a few more years.

    So we're probably talking about a $150 million player here, plus a lost draft pick. Upton's not great, but he's just good enough to cost a lot of money.

3. George Springer, OF, Trade

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Source: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle

    Like with Gomez, George Springer isn't so much "available" as he is "not not available." And if we're being frank with each other—and I think we're at that stage by now—Springer is certainly the more unlikely of the two to be moved. Somebody would have to blow Houston away with an offer.

    We can say this, though: Springer's the kind of guy who would attract such an offer.

    For beginners, Springer is a 26-year-old pre-arbitration player who's controllable through 2020. That's a lot of youth and cheap controllability, two things that are good to have a lot of.

    Springer also has a lot of talent. He's an outstanding athlete who authored a monster season in the minors (1.010 OPS, 37 homers, 45 steals) in 2013 and has since established himself as a promising big leaguer. In two seasons, Springer has OPS'd .817 with 36 home runs and 21 stolen bases. He also showed in 2015 that he can play a pretty good right field.

    One problem Springer has run into is staying healthy, as injuries have limited him to just 180 games in his two major league seasons. He also has a big swing that leads to plenty of strikeouts.

    Even still, there's too much present and potential talent here for teams to ignore. If a team has a controllable top-of-the-rotation starter or a power-hitting first baseman to spare, it might be able to pry Springer from Houston.

     

     

     

2. Jose Fernandez, SP, Trade

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Source: Jon Morosi of Fox Sports

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Based on what's out there, the chances of the Miami Marlins actually trading Jose Fernandez are somewhere between "Yeah, right" and "Psh."

    But if Lloyd Christmas was here, he'd tell us there's still a chance.

    The Marlins are clearly listening, after all. They're also clearly the Marlins. They've been known to trade talented assets rather than risk having to pay them. With his first trip through arbitration on tap and free agency just three years away, they're at that point with Fernandez.

    Who, by the way, is really, really good.

    Tommy John surgery has taken a big bite out of his career, but he still owns a 2.40 ERA in three seasons. He also showed in 2015 that Tommy John didn't rob him of his blistering fastball or wicked curveball. Those continued to miss bats, and his control also continued to improve. As we discussed recently, these are just a few reasons why the 23-year-old could justify a blockbuster trade.

    However, we now know that it would take more like a mega-blockbuster trade for Fernandez to actually be moved. If the Atlanta Braves could get a young, controllable outfielder and two top prospects for Miller, then the Marlins stand to acquire even more for Fernandez.

    He's great if you can get him, but good luck with that.

1. Jason Heyward, RF, Free Agent

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    UPDATE: Jason Heyward has signed an 8-year, $184 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. His days on the market are officially over, moving Jose Fernandez into the top spot on this list.

     

    Jason Heyward went into his rookie season in 2010 as arguably baseball's No. 1 prospect and drawing Hank Aaron comparisons from people in the know. In retrospect, it all seems like a bit much.

    But only a bit.

    Heyward has been an elite player in his six seasons, basically because he does everything well. He's a good hitter, a good baserunner and a very, very good fielder. Maybe even the best fielder.

    None of these skills are fading. Heyward posted a strong .797 OPS in 2015, in which he carried on as an above-average walk and strikeout artist while hitting for decent power. He also topped 20 stolen bases for a second year in a row and won a well-deserved third Gold Glove.

    Mind you, there are concerns with Heyward. As we discussed recently, a lot of his value is tied up in what his legs bring to his game on the bases and in the field. If those go, those sources of value go. If those sources of value go, there's not much left.

    However, Heyward's youth allows for plenty of optimism. He's only heading into his age-26 season, making him absurdly young by free-agent standards. 

    Even with his ties to draft-pick compensation, he could sign for 10 years and $200 million. Or, as Stark says he prefers, $24 million per year over eight or nine years. Either way, you can expect him to get paid like the top player on the open market.

     

    Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.