MLB Trade Rumors: Top Potential Landing Spots for Players Still on the Block
The trade market has saved the 2017-2018 Major League Baseball offseason from inactivity infamy. Among those who have been dealt are Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Evan Longoria, Ian Kinsler and, most recently, Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen.
That's a lot, yet the end might not be in sight.
There are still a few star players left to be had. The goal here is to look at the markets for seven in particular and list their three top landing spots based on needs, available assets and timing.
Going roughly in order from least- to most-desirable trade chip, let's take it away.
Alex Colome, RP, Tampa Bay Rays
Alex Colome was an All-Star in 2016 and still managed to nail down a league-high 47 saves despite taking a step back in 2017. The 29-year-old is under club control through 2020.
These things make him the most valuable relief pitcher on the trade market. And because relievers are more relevant than ever, it's likely the Tampa Bay Rays are looking to match or beat the trade hauls fetched in recent years by Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Miller.
Chatter in Colome's section of the rumor mill has died down as more free-agent relievers have found homes. Yet, teams that could still come calling are...
3. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs bullpen has gotten both good and bad news this winter. The good is that Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek have been brought aboard. The bad is that ace closer Wade Davis fled for Colorado.
This doesn't necessarily put the Cubs in the market for a closer, but it does grab one's eye that Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times mentioned them as a possibility for Colome in December.
The catch is that Chicago doesn't have much to barter with, as Bleacher Report has its farm system ranked at No. 27 in MLB. An established major leaguer (e.g. Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez or Ian Happ) might spin the wheels, but that would make more sense for the Rays than it would for the Cubs.
2. Texas Rangers
The Rangers had one of baseball's worst bullpens in 2017. Their 4.76 ERA ranked ahead of only the Detroit Tigers among American League clubs. To date, they've done little to fix that.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Rangers were looking at Kansas City Royals right-hander Kelvin Herrera in December. Colome would be a step up in both ability and controllability, so it's possible the Rangers could use their No. 17 farm system to target him instead.
There are better farms out there, though. And if the Rangers are going to sacrifice a chunk of theirs for an upgrade, they'd be better off aiming for a starter than a reliever.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
Although Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has since thrown cold water on the idea, it isn't getting any easier to disregard a December report from Nightengale that the Cardinals were "aggressively" pursuing a deal for Colome.
St. Louis' bullpen endured a fourth-place finish in "meltdowns" (which are just what they sound like) last season. It's a stretch to think that Luke Gregerson alone can fix this. So as much as the Cardinals seem focused on adding another impact bat, it's not out of the question that they'll ultimately dip into their 13th-ranked farm system to swing a deal for Colome.
Others: Los Angeles Angels, Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays
Josh Harrison, INF/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
He's not as much of a household name, but it's not by accident that he's twice been an All-Star. He's a capable hitter with a bit of power and speed. And while he's best at second and third base, he can also handle shortstop and both corner outfield spots.
The 30-year-old is also signed to a club-friendly contract that controls him for three more years. He thus has a wide range of appeal and good value. His top fits are...
3. New York Mets
If the Mets are serious about returning to contention in 2018—and their signing of Jay Bruce indicates that they are—they need to see about the shortage of dependable infielders.
Harrison would fit the bill and could fill any number of roles in New York. He could be a regular at either second or third base, or perhaps a time-sharer at both positions.
The catch, as noted by Mike Puma of the New York Post, is Harrison's price. The somewhat disappointing returns for Cole and McCutchen do inspire some hope of a deal to send Harrison to the Mets, but having MLB's No. 29 farm system doesn't exactly boost the likelihood.
2. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers can be counted among the teams with serious interest in Harrison, according to Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Nobody should be shocked to hear that. If the Brewers are going to take the next step from a surprise 86-win season in 2017, they sure could use an upgrade over Eric Sogard at second base.
With MLB's No. 7 farm system, the Brewers have more than enough young talent to afford Harrison's acquisition cost. But do they really want to send young talent to an NL Central rival? More to the point, shouldn't they be targeting the starting pitching they need over a second baseman they want?
1. New York Yankees
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that the Yankees are interested in Harrison.
He's the ideal target for a Yankees club that's set to trust Ronald Torreyes and Miguel Andujar in the infield. And within MLB's No. 3 farm system are plenty of pieces to barter with the Pirates.
Just as important, Harrison's contract wouldn't blow away the $20.8 million in luxury tax space that the Yankees have remaining. It's therefore possible that they could trade for him and still have enough spending power to fill their starting rotation via free agency.
Others: Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays
Billy Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds
Alas, Billy Hamilton hasn't developed as a hitter. But thanks to his incredible speed, he's proven to be as advertised on the basepaths and in center field throughout his five-year MLB career.
The 27-year-old has some trade value as he heads into his penultimate year before free agency. Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini would prefer not to cash that value in, per ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. But since the Reds aren't in a position to say "No" to the right deal, here are Hamilton's top fits...
3. Milwaukee Brewers
According to Rosenthal, the Brewers are interested in signing Lorenzo Cain as a free agent. His name isn't Billy Hamilton, granted, but the fact that they're interested in adding a center fielder casts Hamilton as a possible Plan B.
That's about as far as the justification for this idea goes, though. The Brewers have three in-house center field options in the persons of Keon Broxton, Brett Phillips or Lewis Brinson. Knowing that, it wouldn't make much sense for them to deal prospects to an NL Central rival just to get Hamilton.
2. Texas Rangers
The Rangers are in the same boat as the Brewers. They're said by Crasnick to be interested in Cain, and are thus a candidate to turn to Hamilton as a fallback.
The difference is that the Rangers don't have many in-house solutions for center field. Delino DeShields Jr. is the best of the bunch, but he's not so much a true center fielder as he is a speedster who can play anywhere in the outfield. Hamilton matches his speed and beats his defense.
But to repeat a familiar refrain, the Rangers' top need is starting pitching. A center field upgrade is a mere luxury.
1. San Francisco Giants
The Giants have been busy making splashes on the trade market by bringing aboard Evan Longoria to play third base and Andrew McCutchen to play right field.
Center field, however, remains a problem area. Giants center fielders have posted an MLB-worst minus-74 DRS since 2014. Gorkys Hernandez, the current projected starter, didn't help matters with a minus-three DRS in center in 2017.
Hamilton would be a suitable fix for that, so the Giants' past interest in him (per MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi) should still apply. His acquisition cost shouldn't be too large for the club's No. 28 farm system. And with $4.5 million in luxury-tax space to play with, there's a way to squeeze in his $4.6 million salary.
Others: Washington Nationals, Chicago White Sox
Manny Machado, 3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles
The deafening buzz that was emanating from Manny Machado's trade market in December has died down so much that it's no sure thing that he'll be moved.
But as ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote in late December, the Baltimore Orioles are "more open-minded than they've ever been before" about trading their superstar third baseman. It's either that or carry him into his final year before free agency, where anything could happen to his trade value.
All sorts of teams have been linked to Machado. Where he fits best are...
3. Chicago White Sox
According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the White Sox made an "impressive offer" for Machado in December. Sounds about right coming from a team with baseball's No. 2 farm system, which also happens to include players who could satisfy Baltimore's reported asking price (per Rosenthal) of two young, controllable starters.
But, complications abound.
The White Sox are in a rebuilding phase that won't be completed this year. So unless their goal is to trade for Machado and then flip him elsewhere, they would need to extend him in order to justify a trade. For that, it wouldn't help that their cause that Machado desires to play shortstop, where the White Sox have Tim Anderson signed through 2024.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks have been in the Machado sweepstakes from the beginning and, according to Rosenthal, remain the "most persistent" of his suitors.
The Diamondbacks may be hoping to do a deal in which they swap out Jake Lamb for Machado at third base. Or, they could keep Lamb and look to trade for Machado as a shortstop.
Either way, it's hard to imagine any deal in which the D-Backs don't have to reach into their farm system for complementary pieces. Since it's already on thin ice at No. 24 in MLB, doing that for just one year of Machado could be too risky for their taste.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have never been front and center in Machado's trade sweepstakes, and are said by Nightengale to prefer a deal for fellow AL East slugger Josh Donaldson.
But as far as fits go, this is and always has been as good as it gets.
The Cardinals can spare the young arms that the Orioles want, and could plug Machado in over Paul DeJong at shortstop or Jedd Gyorko at third base. As evidenced by Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Matt Holliday, it's also not unheard of for this organization to extend short-term trade acquisitions for the long-term.
Others: New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs
J.T. Realmuto, C, Miami Marlins
After the Miami Marlins traded Stanton, Ozuna and Dee Gordon, Craig Mish of SiriusXM reported that J.T. Realmuto had made it known that he wanted out.
Since he's under club control through 2020, the Marlins don't need to rush to find a taker. But trading him now would be worth their while. As a 26-year-old catcher who can do it all, Realmuto's trade value has a lot more going for it than just controllability.
Here are some teams the Marlins might do business with...
3. Milwaukee Brewers
To my knowledge, the Brewers haven't been linked at any catching upgrades this winter. That's an indication that they're content with Manny Pina and Stephen Vogt sharing catching duties.
But since both are on the wrong side of 30, neither is a long-term building block. Catching depth is also a weak spot down on the farm. These are signs that could point the Brewers in Realmuto's direction, and the wealth of non-catcher talent they have in their farm system could easily allow a deal to come together.
2. Atlanta Braves
Should the Braves decide they must have Realmuto, they could make the Marlins an offer they can't refuse. Their farm system is the best in MLB and is chock-full of impact arms that would fit well in a Miami system that could use a few of those.
Trouble is, the Braves' need for Realmuto isn't immediate while Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki are still in town. And since their rebuild isn't yet complete, there's also the question of how wise it would be for them to deal top prospects to an NL East rival that's also rebuilding.
1. Washington Nationals
When Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reported that the Nationals have interest in Realmuto, he was stating the obvious.
Matt Wieters flopped as a regular in 2017, resulting in the Nationals finishing dead-last in wins above replacement out of the catching position, according to FanGraphs. With Wieters once again set to handle the bulk of the catching duties in 2018, the Nationals would do well to upgrade.
They don't have too much left in a farm system that checks in at No. 19 in MLB, but there should be enough in there for Realmuto. And since their goal is to win an elusive World Series, preserving their farm system shouldn't be a top priority anyway.
Others: Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Boston Red Sox
Christian Yelich, LF/CF, Miami Marlins
Even Realmuto, heck of a trade chip though he is, doesn't have the value of Marlins teammate Christian Yelich.
Yelich can hit, run and field, whether he's playing left or center field. He's only 26 years old and signed to a club-friendly contract that runs as far as 2022. He's thus a hugely valuable player with a wide range of appeal, which could potentially boost his price tag even beyond what's fair.
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said on Sportsnet 590 that "all 30 teams" are in on Yelich. If that's an exaggeration, it's probably only a small one. But to narrow things down to his three best suitors...
3. Atlanta Braves
Whereas Atlanta's catching situation is already solid, the club doesn't have anything in left field now and also has a looming hole in right field with Nick Markakis heading into the final year of his contract. Yelich could fill either in the long term, with Ronald Acuna eventually taking the other corner-outfield spot.
But once again, the complication here is the idea of the Braves sending a boatload of prospects to a fellow NL East rebuilder.
2. Chicago White Sox
Immediately beneath Atlanta's farm system in B/R's rankings is Chicago's. That alone is reason enough to take the White Sox seriously as a potential landing spot for Yelich.
They also have a similar need for him in the long haul. Chicago has two excellent outfield prospects in Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, but both are likely going to be corner outfielders. Yelich would look awfully good as a long-term center fielder in between them.
Even if the White Sox aren't ready to win now, making a move for Yelich is in their best interest and within their capabilities.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
As good as Yelich looks in the futures of the Braves and White Sox, he looks even better in the present of the Dodgers.
The Dodgers already have what they need to return to the World Series in 2018. But to win it, it wouldn't hurt to have an outfielder who could work either as a regular in left field or in center field, where the Dodgers are banking that Chris Taylor's 2017 breakout was the real deal.
With MLB's No. 5 farm system at their disposal, the Dodgers have what they need to make a deal for Yelich. Since his contract creates only a $7 million tax hit, they also wouldn't be losing all of their $17.4 million in luxury tax space.
Others: Arizona Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies
Chris Archer, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
The most desirable pitcher to appear in trade rumors this winter is Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer. But since he's all but disappeared from the rumor mill, Chris Archer will have to do in his stead.
By sending Longoria to the Giants, the Rays have already shown they're open to dealing their franchise cornerstones. As a two-time All-Star who's only 29 and signed for cheap through 2021, Archer is a prime candidate to go next.
Provided a suitor can meet the Rays' asking price, of course. For that, the Rays can look to equal or exceed the haul that the White Sox got for Jose Quintana last July. Teams that might oblige are...
3. New York Yankees
According to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Yankees were looking at Archer around the same time they were looking at Gerrit Cole in December.
Cole ended up with the Houston Astros instead. The Yankees can't be happy about that, as the Astros are the team they have to go through to get to the World Series. In a chat with MLB Network Radio's Casey Stern, Yankees GM Brian Cashman referred to them as a "beast" that must be dealt with.
A trade for Archer would be a fine way for the Yankees to respond to Houston's acquisition of Cole. The catch is that they'd have to live with some of their best prospects moving to an AL East rival.
2. Atlanta Braves
Archer was a hot topic during the winter meetings. According to Topkin, the Braves were doing some of the talking.
They're certainly not lacking in elite young arms. What they do lack is an established ace to front their rotation in 2018 and beyond. It would be understandable if they concluded that satisfying that need were worth sacrificing some of their prospect depth.
Either that, or they could be patient and let their young arms mature.
1. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are another team that Topkin linked to Archer during the winter meetings. The only thing to say to that is, "Darn right."
The Brewers' rotation isn't without upside. Chase Anderson is coming off a breakout year. Jimmy Nelson is as well, and is said by MLB.com's Adam McCalvy to be "way" ahead of schedule in his return from shoulder surgery. Rounding things out are solid arms belonging to Zach Davies and Jhoulys Chacin.
Still, a 200-inning, 200-strikeout machine like Archer would look awfully good in Milwaukee. He would help the close the gap between the Brewers and the Cardinals and Cubs in the NL Central. As far as excuses for them to dip into their excellent farm system go, that's the best there is.
Others: Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins