Deal or No Deal: Updated MLB Trade Predictions Heading into the New Year

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2017

Deal or No Deal: Updated MLB Trade Predictions Heading into the New Year

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    We're about to close the book on 2017, and a number of top MLB trade candidates remain on the board. Some will don new uniforms, while others will stay put.

    As you get ready to pop the bubbly and belt out an off-key rendition of "Auld Lang Syne," here are six deal-or-no-deal predictions based on the latest credible rumors and a healthy helping of gut feeling.

    Put the Champagne on ice, cue up those resolutions and, from all of us at Bleacher Report, happy new year.

Deal: San Francisco Giants Acquire CF Billy Hamilton

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    The San Francisco Giants already acquired third baseman Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays for a package that included infield prospect Christian Arroyo. Clearly, they're committed to pivoting away from a 98-loss season and back into contention.

    Their biggest deficiency is power; the Giants' league-worst 128 home runs last season were 23 fewer than the next-closest team. But they're also looking to improve their outfield defense, as MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported in November. 

    Billy Hamilton won't help in the power department. He owns a .632 career OPS and cleared the fence just four times last season despite playing his home games at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

    The Cincinnati Reds speedster does check the outfield defense box, however. He's been the best defensive center fielder in the National League between 2014 and 2017, per FanGraphs, and has stolen more than 50 bases in each of those seasons to boot.

    The Giants and Reds are engaged "in active communication" regarding Hamilton, per Morosi, with Cincinnati eyeing outfield prospect and 2017 first-round pick Heliot Ramos.

    That's a steep ask for a player, in Hamilton, who posted a .247/.299/.335 slash line. That said, San Francisco desperately needs to bolster its outfield after trading veteran Denard Span to Tampa Bay. There are options on the free-agent front, including Jay Bruce and Lorenzo Cain. 

    The Giants might go that route, too, but Hamilton looks like a piece of their admittedly risky win-now puzzle.

No Deal: Pittsburgh Pirates Don't Trade RHP Gerrit Cole

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    The New York Yankees made the trade of the offseason when they netted Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins. They might not be done.

    New York has been heavily linked to Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole, who was an All-Star and top-five NL Cy Young Award finisher in 2015.

    The Pirates could demand outfielder Clint Frazier and a big-league-ready arm such as right-hander Chance Adams, per the New York Post's George A. King III. Frazier is blocked on the depth chart with Stanton in the fold but is also a potential five-tool talent. Adams, meanwhile, is the Yankees' top pitching prospect, per MLB.com.

    That's a lot for Cole, who battled injuries in 2016 and posted a 4.26 ERA last season. The Yanks and general manager Brian Cashman have shown a willingness to dip into their rebuilt farm system, but they haven't been in the habit of shedding top MiLB talent at the drop of a hat.

    Plus, their rotation is fairly well-stocked, with re-signed veteran CC Sabathia joining Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray.

    Unless the Bucs lower their asking price, Cole should begin the 2018 season in black and yellow.

Deal: Oakland Athletics Acquire C J.T. Realmuto

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    Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins/Getty Images

    The Marlins have already shed Giancarlo Stanton and outfielder Marcell Ozuna as they purge their roster under a new ownership group fronted by Derek Jeter.

    Now, catcher J.T. Realmuto has asked to be traded out of South Beach, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. 

    The Fish aren't required to oblige. Realmuto is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility and is under club control through 2020. Still, that won't prevent Miami from listening to offers.

    Enter the Oakland Athletics, who are in the midst of their own rebuild but proved they'll add big league talent with the acquisition of former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty on Dec. 14.

    At the moment, the A's catching depth chart is topped by Bruce Maxwell, who hit .237 in 76 games last season and was arrested in mid-November on gun charges.

    Oakland would have to dip into the top tier of its farm system to land Realmuto. The 26-year-old backstop is worth the expenditure after slashing .278/.332/.451 last season and rating as the game's seventh-best defensive catcher, per FanGraphs. 

    Given Realmuto's youth and controllability, this move makes sense for the small-market A'snow and into the future. 

No Deal: Tampa Bay Rays Don't Trade RHP Chris Archer

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    It wouldn't be an offseason—or a July trade deadline, for that matter—without Chris Archer churning through the rumor mill.

    After trading Evan Longoria to the Giants, the Rays are obviously open for business. Archer is a two-time All-Star who surpassed 200 frames and averaged 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017. He's 29 years old and locked into an affordable contract that runs through 2021 with a pair of club options.

    No wonder, then, multiple suitors have come calling, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. 

    That said, the Rays have listened to offers for Archer before but opted to keep him. With free agents such as Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta still on the market, this may not be the moment to optimize Archer's trade value. Because of the length of his contract, Tampa Bay can afford to be patient.

    Archer could be dealt as soon as this summer, when a contender with a hole in its rotation is willing to open the prospect vault. But the lack of recent rumors indicates the Rays are prepared to keep their ace for now.

Deal: Houston Astros Acquire LHP Brad Hand

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    The Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series despite a suspect bullpen that posted a 5.40 ERA in the postseason. Not surprisingly, GM Jeff Luhnow said upgrading the 'pen was his "highest priority," per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. 

    Houston already signed right-hander Joe Smith but could use a reliable lefty.

    Here's one obvious target: San Diego Padres southpaw Brad Hand, who posted a 2.16 ERA last season with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings and is under team control through 2019.

    The Pads would surely demand a rich return, but the Astros farm system is well-stocked. Outfielder Kyle Tucker, the squad's top prospect according to MLB.com, should be off limits. A package centered around Cuban outfielder/first baseman Yordan Alvarez and big-armed 21-year-old right-hander Hector Perez, however, ought to entice San Diego.

    As they angle for a repeat, the 'Stros shouldn't be shy about pulling the trigger on a deal of this magnitude and shoring up one of their few weaknesses.

No Deal: Baltimore Orioles Don't Trade 3B Manny Machado

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    Manny Machado has won two Gold Gloves at third base, enjoyed a pair of top-five American League MVP finishes, posted the 10th-highest fWAR since 2015 and is just 25 years old. There are all sorts of reasons why any team would covet his services.

    Machado is also set to hit free agency after next season, when he'll surely command a ludicrous contract.

    The O's put him on the trading block, but their demands were reportedly sky-high. According to MASN's Roch Kubatko, the Chicago Cubs offered a package that included shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Albert Almora Jr. and left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery, three quality big league players.

    If that wasn't enough to entice the Orioles, it's a safe assumption Machado will remain in Baltimore. As USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported, "Unless someone drastically changes their offer, [Machado] is staying put for now."

    That could come back to bite the O's, who are unlikely to hang with the Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the AL East and might lose Machado next winter for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

       

    All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.