Deal or No Deal: MLB Trade Predictions 1 Week From the Winter Meetings
Baseball's annual winter meetings kick off on Dec. 10, and the hot stove is lukewarm at best.
That's partly because everyone is waiting for the Miami Marlins to move Giancarlo Stanton and his 59 home runs. It's also because several top free agents are represented by superagent Scott Boras, who is notorious for dragging negotiations into the new year.
Eventually, the floodgates will open. Contracts will be inked. Swaps will be consummated.
In the meantime, here are seven deal-or-no-deal trade predictions, based on the latest rumors and a healthy dollop of gut feeling. This won't all be settled at the winter meetings, but what is the offseason for if not speculation?
Want to know the possible fate of a Los Angeles Dodgers catcher, a Pittsburgh Pirates outfield icon, the South Beach slugger and more? Read on.
Deal: Detroit Tigers Trade Ian Kinsler to Los Angeles Angels
The Detroit Tigers initiated their overdue rebuild in the summer of 2017, jettisoning key pieces such as outfielder Justin Upton and ace Justin Verlander.
They need to continue the process into the winter, and there's no more obvious trade candidate than second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The 35-year-old won a Gold Glove in 2016 and hit 22 home runs with 14 stolen bases last season. He also posted a ho-hum .236 batting average and has one year of team control remaining, at $11 million.
He won't net a king's ransom in prospects and could thus be an ideal fit for the Los Angeles Angels.
The Halos need help on offense after ranking last in the American League with a .712 OPS, despite the presence of Mike Trout. Their second base depth chart is topped by 25-year-old Kaleb Cowart and his .197 career average.
They've dealt with Detroit before, including the trade that sent Upton from the Motor City to Anaheim. According to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Angels "have been having extensive internal discussions" about Kinsler.
Los Angeles doesn't feature any of MLB.com's top 100 prospects, but names such as first baseman Matt Thaiss and outfielder Jahmai Jones could move the needle for the Tigers.
No Deal: Dee Gordon Stays in South Beach
Amidst the incessant chatter surrounding Stanton, another name emerged as a possible trade chip from the Marlins: second baseman Dee Gordon.
On Nov. 20, Craig Mish of SiriusXM reported Gordon's name had come up during Stanton trade discussions between Miami and the San Francisco Giants.
On the surface, it makes some sense if the Giants include second baseman Joe Panik in their package, as Mish suggested.
Gordon hit .308 with 60 stolen bases in 2017 and is one of the game's most dynamic table-setters. He's also owed at least $37.9 million through 2020. That's not a back-breaker. However, as MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported, the Marlins would expect the Giants to take on at least $250 million of the $295 million remaining on Stanton's contract.
For a San Francisco team already burdened with hefty future payroll commitments, that's some dicey math.
Gordon could be traded elsewhere, but the demand for second basemen isn't high, and a cheaper target like Kinsler—who comes without Gordon's performance-enhancing drug baggage—would probably be more appealing to the few suitors out there.
Deal: San Diego Padres Trade Brad Hand to Houston Astros
With the taste of champagne fresh in their mouths, the world champion Houston Astros enter 2018 as one of the most complete teams in baseball.
There is one area, however, where the 'Stros require an upgrade: the bullpen.
Houston relievers ranked 17th in baseball with a 4.27 ERA in the regular season. The 'pen was exposed during the postseason, with closer Ken Giles posting an 11.74 ERA. Manager A.J. Hinch turned to his starting pitchers in key late-inning situations, and it worked
As they embark on their title defense, the Astros need reinforcements.
There are experienced closers on the market—including Wade Davis and Greg Holland—and Houston could target one.
If general manager Jeff Luhnow and Co. go the trade route, they may zero in on San Diego Padres left-hander Brad Hand, whom the club reportedly pursued in July.
The 27-year-old was an All-Star in 2017 on the strength of a 2.16 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 79.1 innings. He's under team control through 2019, meaning the rebuilding Friars can demand a rich return.
Even after jettisoning a trio of top prospects to acquire Verlander at the 2017 trade deadline, the Astros have a deep farm system.
Outfielder Kyle Tucker and right-hander Forrest Whitley should be untouchable, at least for Hand. A couple other names from the Astros' top 10 prospects, via Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter, such as first baseman/outfielder Yordan Alvarez and right-hander Hector Perez should be enough to pry the stud southpaw away from San Diego.
No Deal: Jose Abreu Remains with the Chicago White Sox
Jose Abreu put together a quietly stellar season for the rebuilding Chicago White Sox in 2017, hitting .304 with a .906 OPS, 33 homers and 102 RBI.
The Cuban slugger turns 31 in January and will get progressively more expensive in his three remaining arbitration years.
Hence rumors that the White Sox may be shopping him. The Boston Red Sox need power after finishing dead last in the American League in home runs. Plus, Boston has a hole at first base.
It seems like a fit, but an unnamed evaluator told ESPN.com's Scott Lauber that Chicago is asking "an arm and a leg" for Abreu. At the same time, as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reported Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski may be loathe to further deplete Boston's already heavily thinned farm system.
"I still think we have enough depth if we want to [make a trade]. But we have to be careful at some point. We traded a lot of young guys," Dombrowski said, per Abraham.
There could be other takers for Abreu, but the free-agent shelves feature several enticing first basemen, including Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda.
Not all of those names are Abreu-caliber. It's enough supply to staurate the market, however, and keep Abreu on the South Side.
Deal: Los Angeles Dodgers Trade Yasmani Grandal to Oakland A's
Yasmani Grandal was an All-Star in 2015 and picked up stray MVP votes in 2016. The Los Angeles Dodgers catcher hit 22 home runs in 2017 and rated as the game's second-best pitch framer, per StatCorner.
Still, Grandal ceded playing time to Austin Barnes, who started 13 of the Dodgers' 15 postseason games behind the dish.
Now, according to MLB Network's Morosi, Los Angeles is listening to offers for Grandal, who is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility.
Enter the Oakland A's, a possible suitor name-dropped by MLB.com's Manny Randhawa. Yes, Oakland is in the midst of another sell-off after trading top pieces such as right-hander Sonny Gray in July and dealing infielder Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners in November.
The A's are thin at catcher, however. Bruce Maxwell is probably the best option on the roster, and he hit .237 in 76 games last season and was arrested in early November on gun charges.
The A's won't gut their retooled farm system to swing a trade, but assuming L.A.'s asking price is reasonable, executive Billy Beane would surely covet 29-year-old Grandal's power and ability to handle and mentor Oakland's young arms.
No Deal: Pittsburgh Pirates Keep Andrew McCutchen
After a disappointing 2016 season, Andrew McCutchen's name churned through the rumor mill last winter. Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Pirates held on to the five-time All-Star and 2013 National League MVP.
McCutchen rewarded them with a bounce-back campaign, as he hit .279 with 28 home runs and an .849 OPS.
With the Bucs at a crossroads between contention and a possible rebuild, McCutchen trade talk is again bubbling up.
The Giants have been in contact with the Pirates and may view McCutchen as Plan B if a Stanton deal falls through, per MLB Network's Morosi. McCutchen represents a cheaper, shorter-term commitment. He's owed $14.5 million in 2018 and will become a free agent after that.
Still, there's no clear indication the Pirates are ready to blow up the ship just yet. If they're sinking in the standings come July, McCutchen could be dealt as a deadline rental.
For now, the safe money is on him staying put.
Deal: Miami Marlins Trade Giancarlo Stanton to San Francisco Giants
There's a 6'6", 245-pound logjam gumming up the market, and until the Marlins move him, we might not see much action on the trade and free-agent fronts.
If and when Stanton is dealt, other dominoes will begin to fall. Teams that whiff will move on to contingencies. Clubs impacted by where he lands will make counter-moves.
So where will the Marlins masher go?
The Los Angeles Dodgers loom as an ideal destination for Stanton, a Southern California native. So far, however, the Dodgers don't appear to be mounting an aggressive pursuit.
That leaves the Giants, who have made a formal offer and met with Stanton and his representatives, per Heyman.
San Francisco could sorely use Stanton's pop as it tries to rebound from a disastrous 98-loss season. The Giants aren't in SoCal, but they satisfy Stanton's preference to play on the west coast, per Morosi.
This deal could come back to bite the Orange and Black. At the least, it'll deplete an already-weak farm system and place a heavy burden on San Francisco's payroll.
If the Giants want to return to relevance and maintain contact with the archrival Dodgers, however, they need to reel in a big fish.
They don't get much bigger than Stanton.
All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.