Deal or No Deal: Should These Sports Superstars Be Traded?
Athletes are not as interchangeable as numbered briefcases, but every player has a price.
Sports owners and executives are not known for their loyalty. If someone is getting too old or isn't validating his current contract, they will waive away years of service and ship him out of town.
The Philadelphia 76ers have waited years for Joel Embiid to validate The Process, but wouldn't they listen if the New Orleans Pelicans offered Anthony Davis?
Even superstars—many of whom have spent years and/or their entire career with their current organization—are not spared from trade chatter. The hot stove craves big names to ignite the flames. Some will spend years sizzling before a team finally makes a move.
These prominent athletes can't escape trade buzz. Some is pure speculation, but a deal makes sense in most of the highlighted situations.
Note, however, that a "Deal" endorsement means that a trade should happen, not that it will. These are not predictions to who will stay or go, but assessments of whether a change of scenery is wise.
A "depends on the offer" disclaimer applies to every verdict, but let's reach a decision assuming each team will receive fair market value.
The 19-25 New York Knicks are in danger of missing their fourth straight postseason. Most players stuck in such dysfunction would clamor for a one-way ticket anywhere else, but Carmelo Anthony isn't jaded enough to demand a change.
After other offseason of short-sighted veteran additions, the Knicks may finally realize rebuilding is the sensible plight. As reported by ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne, team president Phil Jackson met with Anthony on Tuesday to ask if he wants to remain with the organization.
The 32-year-old reaffirmed his desire to stay in the Big Apple, per Shelburne.
He has every right to exercise his no-trade clause as he sees fit. Moving isn't easy, and he will also consider non-basketball factors in his choice. Maybe he doesn't want to uproot his family and find a new school for his son.
From a pure basketball standpoint, however, Anthony and the Knicks are overdue to separate.
The elite scorer deserves to contend alongside a top-shelf partner in crime. One specific place, which will receive further attention later, especially makes sense from his standpoint.
New York needs to build around Kristaps Porzingis instead of an aging star. A deal doesn't look likely, but it would benefit both parties.
After missing three weeks due to a lower-body injury, a returning Ben Bishop has yielded five goals over three strong starts. He can't get too comfortable in front of the Tampa Bay Lightning's net, though, as trade talks will now resume.
The 30-year-old goalie will enter free agency this summer, and the Lightning currently must leapfrog five teams to net an Eastern Conference playoff bid. Although Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't dazzle during Bishop's absence, the 22-year-old is still a viable long-term option.
As detailed by Bleacher Report's Lyle Richardson in August, the upcoming expansion draft also forces the Lightning's hand. Unless Bishop waives his full no-movement clause, they must protect him. The rules limit them to blocking one goalie from the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who would likely target Vasilevskiy if given the chance.
To avoid that dilemma, Tampa Bay needs to trade Bishop before the Feb. 28 deadline. At 21-21-5 with Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan sidelined, there's little incentive to keep the experienced goalie around for the final few weeks.
One way or another, Bishop won't play for the Lightning next season. The injury may have dented his trade stock, but they need to exchange him for something before losing him and/or Vasilevskiy during the offseason.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Ryan Braun has four years and $72 million left on his contract. After hitting .305/.365/.538 in 2016 with his most home runs (30) since 2012, the deal no longer looks like a hindrance. The 33-year-old outfielder would net far more on the open market today.
It's still, however, a risky arrangement for the retooling Milwaukee Brewers, whose five-year postseason drought will probably expand. Even if they were serious about improving last year's 73-win tally, they still have to contend with a tough National League Central led by the Chicago Cubs.
They're nowhere near the defending champions, who are too young and talented to vanish anytime soon. Braun, meanwhile, hasn't played more than 140 games in each of the past four seasons. He spent the last three years on perennial day-by-day watch, but one significant injury could drastically deflate his trade appeal.
"When a guy with that contract has been busted once, it’s hard to commit those dollars and those player resources because if he gets busted again, you lose all of your guys and you lose Braun," the executive said. "Nobody is saying he’d do it again, but while he’s a very good impact player, it’s just a tough one."
Maybe that eliminates some teams, but a failed test didn't stop Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz from signing lucrative free-agent deals. Someone will still take the star slugger, but the window to pawn him for a fair price is closing.
If nothing catches their eye now, the Brewers should aggressively shop him this summer. They shouldn't want to sign the veteran's checks during his looming declining stage.
The Minnesota Twins are in a perfect position to sell high on Brian Dozier.
Their second baseman hit everything in sight last summer, pelting 28 home runs after the All-Star break. Although he ended his career year with 42 dingers and a .268/.340/.546 slash line, Minnesota still submitted MLB's worst record (59-103).
Dozier—who will turn 30 in May—will make $15 million over the next two seasons, per Cot's Baseball Contracts. He's not only a producer, but an immense bargain to boot. The Twins could wait, but they currently hold all the leverage.
Since he had never recorded a slugging percentage above .444 before 2016, the Twins shouldn't bank on a repeat performance. A contender, however, may take that risk.
It just so happens the Los Angeles Dodgers have plenty of young talent and a glaring hole at second. Yet according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, their negotiations have stalled.
"Those discussions are at an impasse, with no momentum toward a deal, according to major league sources," Rosenthal wrote on Jan. 10. "The impasse does not preclude future talks, but as spring training draws closer, the Twins had wanted to give Dozier a heightened peace of mind about his status with the club."
Nevertheless, an arrangement is too logical for both teams to walk away. By keeping Dozier, the Twins risk watching his value dwindle during the season. The Dodgers, meanwhile, could reek of desperation if they call back midseason during a pennant push.
Just as the Los Angeles Clippers gained steam, they suffered another substantial injury.
They extended their winning streak to seven games at a steep price, as Chris Paul left Monday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder with a thumb injury. The star point guard will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair the torn ligament.
The Clippers won all seven games without Blake Griffin, who hasn't played since undergoing knee surgery last month. For the second straight year, Paul was keeping the team afloat without the star forward.
With both studs sidelined, the No. 4 seed will probably stumble deeper down the Western Conference standings. That will create a tough path to the conference finals, and they can both enter free agency after the 2016-17 season.
Given all these factors, the Clippers should at least stroll around the trade block and see what Griffin would fetch before the Feb. 23 deadline. One popular suggestion: Send him to New York for Anthony.
This swap gives Los Angeles a contingency plan for the summer and a recruiting ploy to convince his banana-boat buddy to stay. It also, however, prompts the franchise to build around two stars north of 30 rather than a highly popular 27-year-old made for Hollywood.
Anthony doesn't increase the Clippers' chances of upsetting the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. Selling Griffin for mid-level talent and draft picks definitely isn't the answer.
Although it's a risky road to take, the Clippers have little choice but to hope a healthy Paul and Griffin decide to re-sign after finally breaking the playoff hump.
Verdict: No Deal
If Brandon Marshall has properly gauged his worth, the New York Jets will have no trouble trading him this offseason.
"People need to get away from me due $7.5 [million]," Marshall said on WFAN's Boomer and Carton Show, via NJ.com's Connor Hughes. "Get away from my salary. That's underpaid. Any team should be happy to have me for $7.5 million."
The Jets, along with the rest of the league, may disagree. After all, he corralled just 59 of his 128 targets for 788 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 2016.
None of that salary is guaranteed, meaning Gang Green can cut the 32-year-old wideout without a cap penalty. ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini predicted they will take that path:
He will be 33 years old in March, his production dropped significantly and he's due to make a non-guaranteed $7.5 million in 2017. He was also a distraction in the locker room. His boisterous style chafed teammates, creating factions. For the sake of team chemistry, it's probably best to move on from Marshall and lean on the team's young receivers.
All valid points, but NFL fans should be experiencing deja vu. Two years ago, the Chicago Bears dealt him for a fifth-round draft pick after an underwhelming season. He responded with 1,502 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
Pair him with a quarterback more accurate than Ryan Fitzpatrick—28 passers would have qualified for that distinction this season—and the veteran could bounce back again. Perhaps an opportunistic contender will take him for a late-round pick.
James Van Riemsdyk
Winners of nine of their last 12 games, the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs have soared into the Stanley Cup playoff picture. Considerable credit belongs to James van Riemsdyk, who has tallied a goal or assist in each of the past nine contests.
The 27-year-old winger has recorded 13 points over that streak, giving him 37 in 43 total games. That puts him comfortably on pace to eclipse his previous career high of 61, and it also poses Toronto with a difficult decision.
Currently tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card slot, do the Maple Leafs keep riding JDR's hot hand to the playoffs? Or do they sell high on a player who will struggle to maintain a personal-best 13.7 shot percentage?
By moving him before the deadline, the Maple Leafs could fortify their blue line and augment their young nucleus with more burgeoning talent. Under contract through the 2017-18 season, he's an appealing trade chip during this scoring bonanza.
Then again, he's now looking like a vital piece to their short- and long-term plans. The Toronto Star's Damien Cox argued in favor of standing pat.
"Keep him. Include him as part of a team that appears to be building toward becoming a contender in the next few seasons," Cox wrote. "Perhaps sign him to a new contract."
The Maple Leafs may be placing too much merit on recent results by yanking him from trade discussions. No player can stay this hot forever, but van Riemsdyk is young and inexpensive enough to justify a wait-and-see approach.
Verdict: No deal
There's a 99.999999 percent chance Dak Prescott remains the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback next season.
After ending a brilliant rookie campaign with a 104.9 quarterback rating, the fourth-round pick nearly orchestrated a divisional-round comeback with 302 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and a pick against the Green Bay Packers. He's 13 years younger than Tony Romo and has a $635,848 cap hit for 2017 compared to the veteran's $24.7 million, per Spotrac.
There's no quarterback controversy. The question is whether the Cowboys trade, sit or cut Romo.
Since their starter represents the NFL's biggest bargain, would they consider keeping Romo as an expensive insurance policy? That's a massive stretch even for Jerry Jones' organization, especially if another team expresses the slightest interest.
According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, trading Romo is Dallas' "No. 1 priority this offseason." Romo is eyeing the Denver Broncos, who have not reciprocated his attraction.
Denver is the most appealing landing spot with a quarterback need, but the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, Jets and Bears may all want a new passer. And hey, the Cleveland Browns are littered with draft picks.
Romo deserves another chance to start. The Cowboys won't receive much barring a contract restructuring, but they should reward their former franchise star by giving him an opportunity to play elsewhere.
Although fans have dissected possible trade scenarios involving Ricky Rubio, the Minnesota Timberwolves hadn't expressed the same interest in moving the pass-first point guard—that is, until now.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Timberwolves are "actively shopping" Rubio around the league. They have combined him with Shabazz Muhammad in hopes of receiving a "bridge" point guard who can buy time for rookie Kris Dunn.
The Sacramento Kings are reportedly interested, but the two sides haven't made any progress.
While Rubio remains one of the NBA's most exciting distributors, he has recorded a ghastly 36.9 field-goal percentage since joining the league in 2011. Despite his crisp passing and quick hands on defense, it's hard for anyone, especially a guard, to excel without any shooting skills.
The 26-year-old would make a greater impact surrounded by shooters, and the young Wolves rank No. 21 in three-point percentage. Although Dunn isn't ready to assume the starting spot yet, the 15-28 club hasn't met the lofty preseason hype. They're not contending with Rubio, and he's no longer a prominent component to their future plans.
Hours after Wojnarowski's report, the playmaker recorded 21 points and 14 assists in a 122-114 loss to the Spurs. Perhaps he's making his case to stay, but maybe he's helping Minnesota by boosting his market value.
Minnesota shouldn't feel any pressure to trade him for anything, but a split makes sense for the right return.
Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. If he plays this well for another 10-15 years, he could retire as MLB's greatest player ever.
In any other sport, trading such a transcendent superstar would be a non-starter. Yet the Los Angeles Angels have notched one playoff appearance during his five MVP-caliber seasons—he finished first or second on the ballot every year. This has sparked rampant trade speculation, which currently exists as a mere what-if exercise.
This is only a conversation worth entertaining because of the Angels' barren supporting roster. No other regular position player posted an OPS above .800 last season, and only two starters (Matt Shoemaker and free agent Jered Weaver) pitched over 125 innings.
Entering the 2016 season, ESPN Insider Keith Law called the Angels' farm "by far the worst system I've ever seen." They can certainly use the talent influx, and a few big-market teams could present an enticing package of prospects and young major leaguers. The Cubs, Dodgers and New York Yankees would probably jump at the opportunity to obtain this generation's premier player.
But it should take an insane Godfather offer just to stop general manager Billy Eppler from hanging up the phone. The Angels aren't some small-market club that can't afford Trout, who signed an extension through 2020.
The 25-year-old stud dismissed the idea of leaving to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez when the trade chatter started percolating in May.
"I just laugh about it," Trout said. "I love where I'm at. I love Anaheim, the stadium, the organization, and obviously the teammates. Teams go through injuries. That's the way it is."
Trout has no desire of leaving, and a superstar of his ilk may never come around again. Moving the team's lone bright spot won't fix its problems, especially if it keeps overpaying veterans like Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols.
Verdict: No Deal