With Zack Greinke only two seasons away from free agency, it was obvious that the Royals would have to deal their ace pitcher. The 27-year-old righty would inevitably command a massive salary that Kansas City could not afford to match, and the Royals hoped to acquire a package of elite prospects rather than risk losing Greinke for nothing.
Following this weekend's trade of Greinke to Milwaukee for four of the organization's top 10 prospects, many questions were answered but even more were raised.
How will the Yankees address their pitching woes after failing to acquire Cliff Lee or Greinke? Are the Brewers a legitimate World Series contender? And with Greinke off the market, who will be the next superstar to be dealt?
Read on as we examine the 10 most likely trade targets and determine the likelihood of each deal.
Now that the Royals have dealt Zack Greinke, let’s examine the trade possibilities for his teammate, Joakim Soria.
For the past few years, Soria has been largely ignored despite proving himself to be one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. Armed with a 94 mile per hour fastball, knee-buckling curve, sweeping slider and plus change, Soria has posted a career ERA of just 2.01.
Last season, the 26-year-old closer converted on 43 of 46 saves opportunities with a 1.78 ERA and 71 K’s in 65 2/3 innings. The 6’3” righty signed a three-year, $8.75 million extension in 2008, with club options for the following three seasons.
An interested team would essentially pay Soria $26.75 million over the next four seasons—a significantly lower figure than free-agent closer Rafael Soriano will likely receive. Considering that the Kansas City Royals have little need for a dominant closer on a perennial loser and will be unable to pay him, don’t be surprised if Soria is dealt before his contract expires.
The biggest question for KC isn’t whether they will deal Soria, but rather when will they deal him? Soria makes only $4 million this season and $6 million the next. At that price, Soria is entirely affordable, but his $8 million salary in 2013 may be too steep for the small market Royals.
Dominant closers are luxury items for big-spending ball clubs, and don’t typically exist on perennial basement dwellers. It makes too much sense to deal Soria, but the team will be in no hurry to swap their best pitcher.
Trade Likelihood: 8 out of 10.
With a $23 million price tag, the Blue Jays would be more than happy to unload Vernon Wells. The question is, are there any buyers at that price?
The Blue Jays acquired their centerfielder of the future when they added Anthony Gose from the Phillies. Gose, a 20-year-old speedster, batted .262 with seven home runs and 45 steals in 130 games in A+ ball last year.
Toronto has ample outfield talent from Adam Lind, Travis Snider and Jose Bautista. As Wells' numbers continue to decline, Toronto’s willingness to eat a part of his massive salary rises exponentially.
The Blue Jays will continue to fervently shop Wells all season long, but considering Wells is still due $86 million over the final four years of his contract, it could be exceedingly difficult to trade the former All-Star.
Trade Likelihood: 2 out of 10.
Back in March of 2006, Grady Sizemore signed a six-year contract extension with the Indians that would pay the talented centerfielder just under $24 million for six years. The contract paid Sizemore the most money ever for a player with less than two years of MLB experience, but looked to be a wise investment given the vast talents of this then-24-year-old.
Sizemore batted .290 with 28 home runs and 22 steals that season, and hit 57 bombs with 71 thefts over the next two seasons combined. After injuries slowed the five-tool lefty in 2009, they derailed his 2010 campaign. Now the 28-year-old has seen his status as “face of the franchise” usurped by Shin-Soo Choo, and looks to be expendable.
Sizemore is due $7.5 million this season with an $8.5 million option for 2012, making him a well-priced trade asset that would command a big haul for a rebuilding franchise. After seeing division rival Kansas City deal Greinke instead of watching him walk, Cleveland could choose to do the same.
If Sizemore is placed on the trade block, look for potential suitors to include the Anaheim Angels, Atlanta Braves and many more.
Trade Likelihood: 7 out of 10.
Earlier in this offseason, fans and baseball personnel alike were shocked to hear that Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers was shopping Justin Upton. The 23-year-old outfielder was blessed with world-class bat speed, unbelievable wheels and a quick, smooth stroke and had just finished the first season of a six-year, $51 million contract.
Apparently, no teams were willing to meet the D'Backs' allegedly preposterous trade demands, and Upton trade rumors were quickly put to rest. But are all Upton talks really dead? Part of me thinks that the Diamondbacks were merely testing the market by putting Upton’s name out there and the other thinks they may have been genuine about dealing their star.
A season ago, the 6’2” right fielder batted a pedestrian .273 with 17 home runs and 18 steals, but he has the potential to hit .300 with 30 and 30. If the D’Backs are worried that Upton will underachieve like his brother B.J., now would be an ideal time to sell high.
Upton could command a package similar to the one received by San Diego in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, which would be a significant move in rebuilding the D’Backs.
Still, it is rare that a team trades away a superstar as young as Upton, making any trade seem highly unlikely. Unless a team like Anaheim empties their farm system, expect Upton to remain with Arizona.
Trade Likelihood: 3 out of 10.
For Jonathan Papelbon, the writing is on the wall. This week, the Red Sox signed former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks to a two-year deal while adding former Rays reliever Dan Wheeler in an attempt to shore up the bullpen.
These moves come after the Red Sox reportedly offered Mariano Rivera a two-year, $30 million contract and considered non-tendering Papelbon. The 30-year-old closer is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, and the Red Sox do not seem willing to pay big money for Papelbon’s services.
After posting a 1.85 ERA in 2009, Papelbon saw his ERA balloon to 3.9 in 2010, as his trademark splitter was often mundane.
Boston has a dominant closer waiting in the wings in Daniel Bard (1.93 ERA and 76 K in 74 2/3 innings), making Papelbon and his expected $12 million salary expendable.
The Sox would never deal Papelbon within the league, but could help replenish some of the young talent lost in the Gonzalez deal by dealing Paps. He’s beloved in Boston, but many fans realize that Bard is a better, less expensive solution.
Trade Likelihood: 9 out of 10.
Although trade talks between the Rays and Cubs concerning Garza have fizzled, expect the 27-year-old righty to draw interest before the season begins.
Last season, Garza went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 150 punch-outs in 204 innings. Not only is Garza a workhorse, but he has also been a clutch playoff performer with a career postseason ERA of 3.48.
With Tampa Bay shedding payroll and rebuilding after losing Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena to free agency, Garza could easily be the next to be dealt. Tampa Bay has already sent Jason Bartlett to San Diego with Reid Brignac representing a more cost-conscious replacement. The Rays could do the same thing again, replacing Garza with top prospect Jeremy Hellickson.
Assuming Garza is placed on the trading block, look for the losers in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes to make a bid, including New York, Cleveland and Anaheim. The hard-throwing pitcher made just over $3 million last season and should see his salary rise with arbitration.
It’s tragic to see small-market teams being forced to slash payroll, but that’s the state of baseball in the modern era.
Trade Likelihood: 7 out of 10.
Padres GM Jed Hoyer has stated multiple times that trading away Adrian Gonzalez was a business move, and not a precursor to a rebuilding effort. And you know what? I think he means it.
The team has been aggressive this offseason, adding Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson and Cameron Maybin. Unfortunately, without Gonzo in the lineup, this already inept Padre offense should struggle through a more discouraging season than last. When this team is sitting on a losing record and looks to be out of playoff contention, we could see an all-out fire sale.
Teams are always searching for bullpen help, and there are few better options than Heath Bell. A season after recording 42 saves with a 2.71 ERA, Bell saved another 47 games with a paltry 1.93 ERA.
The hefty 33-year-old could command a top prospect, and this rebuilding San Diego team would be wise to pull the trigger on such a deal, lest they risk losing Bell for nothing.
Trade Likelihood: 9 out of 10.
Similar to teammate Roy Oswalt last season, Brett Myers could be a nice deadline acquisition for a team looking to upgrade their pitching. The 6’4”, 240-pound Myers went 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA last season, and at 30 years old makes for the perfect trade bait.
Just a season ago, the Astros gave Myers a two-year deal worth $21 million—a little pricey for a team that will struggle to both win and fill the stadium.
Myers combines a 90 mph fastball with one of the game's best curveballs and a filthy slider. He would make a great addition for a number of teams and should be dealt before the trade deadline.
Trade Likelihood: 8 out of 10.
Many readers may not be familiar with Zimmermann, but he could be a key trade piece in a potential deal for the Washington Nationals.
Already, Zimmermann’s name has come up multiple times in trade rumors, including a rumored proposal for Zack Greinke. Zimmermann is regarded by many as the best pitching prospect in the Nats system not named Strasburg. He could be the focal point in a blockbuster deal as Washington looks to make a second major splash this offseason.
The 24-year-old righty has a career ERA of a subpar 4.71, but was fantastic over his minor league career. In three-plus seasons, Zimmermann posted a 2.60 ERA with better than a strikeout per inning.
Washington has already made waves by signing Jayson Werth to a seven-year contract and seems willing to deal away young talent to gain relevancy now.
Trade Likelihood: 5 out of 10.
After signing a lucrative four-year, $36 million contract with the Mariners, Figgins was an utter disappointment. The 32-year-old second baseman/third baseman hit just .259 with 62 runs for the 61-101 Mariners.
Seattle looks to be in a rebuilding phase as evidenced by last season’s trade of Cliff Lee for young first base prospect Justin Smoak. Assuming they continue to gut their team of highly paid veterans, Figgins is likely the first to go.
The Angels struggled to replace Figgins last season, and the veteran speedster could return to his former team in Anaheim.
If Figgins gets off to a hot start, his name will be floated around constantly, as his speed and versatility could be valuable to a number of teams. And while his contract may scare off a few teams, he could still command multiple prospects from interested teams.
Trade Likelihood: 6 out of 10.