MLB Trade Talk: Predicting Every Team's Biggest Trade Target This Offseason
This piece is not intended to relay any actual trade rumors that may be floating around the Internet before the beginning of the official offseason in a couple of weeks.
The purpose of this piece is simply to identify some holes on each team and find the most likely candidate that the team would choose to fill the void.
In other words, don't misinterpret what I am writing as anything imminent. Most of these scenarios have likely not even been tossed around in discussion by the respective clubs.
The one thing that we should all be able to agree on is that regardless of the club we root for, we always hope for our hometown favorites to do their best each offseason to help build a contender and make the following season a fun one for the fans to watch deep into the summer and fall.
If you disagree with one of my picks, that's fine. Feel free to write in who you would rather see your team target instead. Or if there is an up and coming hot prospect that maybe I was unaware of or felt their development was a little further off than you believe, let me know that as well.
My point, just take this as the opening of a discussion, and let's have some fun with it from here...
Arizona Diamondbacks: Brandon Phillips
After trading away Kelly Johnson and no definite commitment to bringing Aaron Hill back for 2012, the Diamondbacks could probably use an upgrade at second base this coming offseason.
Arizona could choose to pick up the $8 million option on Hill's contract and negate this entire debate for this particular prediction, but assuming for a moment that they won't, Brandon Phillips could be a bigger jolt of energy into their lineup for a year before becoming a free agent.
In order for the Diamondbacks to pursue a trade for Phillips, the Reds would first need to pick up the $12 million team option on his contract.
The biggest question is would Phillips .300/.353/.457 line with 18 homers and 82 RBI represent a big enough upgrade to justify the extra $4 million in salary commitment?
Atlanta Braves: James Shields
The Atlanta Braves have a very talented young pitching rotation that should be very good for a very long time.
While Tim Hudson has provided the Braves with a veteran workhorse to provide leadership and eat over 200 innings for the past two seasons, he will be 36 years old and may not be able to be counted on for 200-inning seasons for much longer.
The Braves could target James Shields and add another reliable veteran arm to their rotation that will eat over 200 innings a season and help preserve their younger arms and keep their bullpen fresh.
Baltimore Orioles: Wandy Rodriguez
If the Baltimore Orioles have any illusions of competing for the AL East division title or a Wild Card berth into the playoffs any time soon, they will need to strengthen their starting rotation to hold the other powerhouse offenses in the division in check.
I'm not certain that Wandy Rodriguez is the best option for the Orioles to help strengthen their rotation, but I am certain is the most obtainable for the O's for a pitcher of his caliber.
Rodriguez went 11-11 with a 3.49 ERA this season, a stat line that would have easily qualified him as the ace of the Baltimore staff in 2011.
If nothing else, the Orioles could flip him mid-season to regain any talent they would have to give up to get him in the first place.
They could also draw the Yankees and Red Sox into a bidding war for him and drive up the price, potentially weakening the farm system of one of their division rivals even if they lose out on acquiring him.
Boston Red Sox: Dan Haren
It feels like it's about time for Dan Haren to be traded again.
He spent 2003-2004 with the Cardinals, 2005-2007 with the A's, 2008-2010 (trade deadline) with the Diamondbacks and has been with the Angels the last year and a half.
I know none of it is related, but he does seem to get traded every two to three years and the Boston Red Sox could flip a much needed bat to the Angels in exchange for a top-tier pitcher they need for their rotation.
I could see the Yankees getting involved for Haren as well to strengthen their rotation.
Chicago Cubs: Chone Figgins
Although we won't get to their slide for a while, I actually have the Cubs and Mariners matching up on a swap of bad contracts to help each other out here.
Assuming the Cubs are unable, or unwilling, to bring Aramis Ramirez back next season, they will have a void at third base.
Chone Figgins needs a change of scenery from Seattle, where he has struggled mightily, and could see a career resurgence playing in the National League for the Cubs.
The Mariners need offense in either left field or at DH, or both, and could obtain that by picking up Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs to fill either of those roles.
Figgins salary is only about half of Soriano's, so there would be details to be worked out, but at least there is a start there for the two teams to consider swapping unwanted contracts and giving both players a fresh start.
Chicago White Sox: Grant Balfour
The White Sox most glaring need this offseason is actually not one that can be obtained via trade.
They need Adam Dunn to start hitting like Adam Dunn again.
Since I can't help them fill that void, let's take a look at their bullpen. They could use a little help getting to their closer, Sergio Santos.
Grant Balfour of the Oakland A's would fit quite well in the South side setting up games for Santos in the ninth.
Although I'm admittedly unfamiliar with the White Sox farm system, the two teams have hooked up in trades before (Nick Swisher for Gio Gonzalez, Fautino De los Santos and Ryan Sweeney) and have a familiarity that could facilitate a deal being made this offseason.
Cincinnati Reds: Huston Street
Although Francisco Cordero did a good job closing out games for the Reds in 2011, he is no guarantee to return to the club in 2012.
He has a $12 million team option in his contract, although at 37-years old next season, he may not be worth that high of a salary if he starts to experience some regression of his skills.
Meanwhile, Huston Street has lost his closer's position in Colorado and will be shopped this offseason.
Street is just 28-years old and $5 million cheaper at a $7 million salary for the 2012 season.
Cleveland Indians: Daric Barton
Sorry Indian fans, I know Daric Barton is not a "big name" that will excite your fanbase.
The Indians do need to address the first base position though in the event that Matt LaPorta is unable to stay healthy again in 2012.
Carlos Santana could continue to be used at times at first base as well, but the ideal situation would be to bring in a capable backup-type player that would be capable of challenging LaPorta for the starting position.
Daric Barton is just that player. He needs a change of scenery from Oakland now, where he finds himself suddenly blocked by Brandon Allen. He is an excellent defensive first baseman and a walk-machine.
A shoulder injury killed his production in 2011 and required season-ending surgery, but in 2010 he batted .273 with a .393 OBP, a league-high 110 walks and he still reached double digits in homers with 10, good for a 4.2 WAR (or exactly 4.0 points higher than LaPorta in 2011).
Colorado Rockies: David Wright
After giving up on Ian Stewart earlier this year, trading for Kevin Kouzmanoff and then giving up on him as well, the Rockies need a Major League third baseman moving forward.
If the Mets make David Wright available, the Rockies will be one of the teams that is the most aggressive in trying to acquire him.
Wright has been a solid offensive threat playing in the pitching friendly Citi Field, imagine what his stats might look like playing in the hitting friendly Coors Field.
Detroit Tigers: Logan Morrison
Logan Morrison may find his way out of Florida thanks to his enthusiasm for the use of social media, an enthusiasm not shared by his current employer.
The two teams have a history of trading with each other (the Miguel Cabrera / Dontrelle Willis trade a few years back) and the Tigers could use a corner outfielder with the likelihood that Maggio Ordonez may not be coming back next season.
Morrison's power this season should be intriguing to the Tigers (among several other clubs). He hit 23 homers and drove in 72 runs in 123 games in the Majors this season.
He is a player the Tigers certainly should kick the tires on and find out what the asking price is before moving on to other targets.
Florida Marlins: Joey Votto
It's pretty unlikely that the Reds will trade Joey Votto, but that doesn't mean it will keep teams from inquiring about him and trying to make a deal anyway.
The Marlins are one such team that would get involved if Votto were to be made available. They are likely looking to make a big splash either in free agency or the trade market this offseason to set up their team for the opening of their new stadium next season.
Gaby Sanchez is certainly adequate first baseman, meaning the Marlins do not need to upgrade at first base, but Votto is a former MVP who, the same age as Sanchez, is without question a bigger impact bat to anchor the lineup.
Houston Astros: Prospects in Exchange for Wandy Rodriguez
The Houston Astros would actually be wise not to go after a big name acquisition this offseason. Rather, what they should do is trade Wandy Rodriguez and any other piece that will bring back Major League ready talent to rebuild their team moving forward.
The Astros are moving to the American League West where they will have to face solid pitching staffs from the other four teams, including the two-time reigning American League Champion Texas Rangers.
They aren't built for contention right away and if they could bring back 4-5 pieces who could make up a young core down the road in exchange for a couple players currently on their roster, that would be their best move this offseason.
Kansas City Royals: Jair Jurrjens
Jair Jurrjens is still young, 25-years old, and under club control for a few more seasons (eligible for free agency following the 2013 season). He's also coming off a 13-6 season in which he posted an impressive 2.96 ERA for the Braves.
So why would be on the trading block? Well, he might not be to be honest with you, but he is entering his second arbitration eligible offseason and will command a raise from his $3.25 million salary. With the Braves depth at pitching (and I do realize that I had them adding a pitcher earlier in this slide show, just ignore that for now), Jurrjens could be an expendable trade-chip used to fill another void.
Now, why would the Royals be interested in him?
Did I not just say he is a 25-year old pitcher still under club control who just posted a 2.96 ERA? Why wouldn't they be interested in him for their pitching rotation for at least the next two seasons?
Los Angeles Angels: Jesus Montero
This one is pretty simple, the Angels need an offensive catcher.
Jeff Mathis, caught 93 games for the Angels this season, batted just .174. Bobby Wilson, caught 57 games this season, batted just .189. Hank Conger, caught in 59 games, had the best catcher among Angels backstops at .209.
The Yankees want a top-tier pitcher in exchange for Jesus Montero and the Angels could potentially part with one of their top arms, likely either Dan Haren or Ervin Santana, to acquire him (although it would likely require some cash or a low-level prospect with a high-ceiling to be included in the deal to get it done).
Los Angeles Dodgers: Denard Span
Although the Dodgers have Matt Kemp for center field and Andre Ethier (assuming he is not dealt this offseason) in right field, they could use an upgrade in left field.
Assuming the Twins would be willing to move Denard Span, he could be switched to left field to represent the upgrade the Dodgers need in their lineup.
He's not a big power guy, but he is a distraction on the base paths to bat in the lead-off spot and a solid defender in the outfield.
The Dodgers would be better suited acquiring a player through free agency, but should that fail, he's not a bad player to target via trade.
Milwaukee Brewers: Michael Morse
This scenario is based off the assumption that Prince Fielder will sign elsewhere and leave the Brewers with a void at first base and in the middle of their lineup.
Although certainly not of the same caliber as Fielder, Michael Morse made a name for himself with his first full season of action in 2011.
The veteran played in 146 games, the first time in his seven-year career he has been used a regular every day player and cracked the 100-game mark. He rewarded the Nationals faith in him by batting .303 and slugging 31 homers and 95 RBI (Fielder went .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBI, albeit in a better lineup).
If Morse can prove this season was not a fluke, he could make up for the loss of Fielder while providing them with a little more versatility because of his athleticism (he is also capable of playing shortstop and the outfield).
Just to make it a little more perfect, he goes by the nickname "The Beast," a perfect nickname to fit in with the Milwaukee Brewers "Beast Mode" style of play.
Minnesota Twins: Andre Ethier
I know I had Denard Span heading from the Twins to the Dodgers just a minute ago, but this would not be a one-for-one type scenario. It's really more an either-or type of thing with these two teams.
The Twins could be looking for an upgrade in the outfield as well this offseason and if the Dodgers decide to shed a little payroll by trading Ethier, Minnesota would seem like a reasonable fit.
Even if Michael Cuddyer is brought back, he could be moved to first base freeing up right field for Ethier and adding another valuable bat to their lineup as they try to rebound from an uncharacteristically bad 2011 season.
New York Mets: Rafael Betancourt
One area of the roster that the New York Mets could look to add some depth to is in their bullpen, perhaps in the form of a new closer, or at least a solid setup man.
I'm not really sure why, but my gut just tells me that they won't go looking to add a high-profile closer to their bullpen.
I can see them making a play for the Colorado Rockies' Rafael Betancourt though. In 2011 Betancourt posted a 2.89 ERA and 2-0 record in 68 appearances.
He took over the closer role from Huston Street towards the end of the season, meaning he could be used as the closer for the Mets if the Rockies for some reason decided to stick with Street instead.
Either way, Betancourt fits the bill as both a solid setup man and a potential closer.
I'd guess that Street is dealt and Betancourt remains with the Rockies, but that doesn't mean the Mets won't target him this offseason and make a strong play for his services.
New York Yankees: Felix Hernandez (then Matt Cain When They're Turned Down)
This slide and scenario gets two names, with a few more for consideration tossed in.
The Yankees will probably do their best to entice the Mariners to surrender Felix Hernandez for a king's ransom package of prospects.
They need a top-tier pitcher for their rotation and Hernandez is certainly that.
It's unlikely that the Mariners will part ways with their ace though, meaning the Yankees will be forced to set their sites on other top level pitchers.
Given the Giants potential need for a catcher with the uncertainty surrounding Buster Posey's injury, the Yankees could quickly turn their attention to acquiring Matt Cain in exchange for Jesus Montero.
As I already stated, though, Montero would be a fit with the Angels too, who could offer up either Dan Haren or Ervin Santana.
The A's Kurt Suzuki saw his production slide this year too, meaning the A's could be in the market for a catcher and may be willing to part with either Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez if the return were Montero.
The Yankees will have options...
Oakland Athletics: B.J. Upton
B.J. Upton fits Billy Beane's typical trade-target pattern perfectly.
He'd be a big name acquisition that has all the tools to potentially help the A's make a run at the postseason.
They would conceivably deal from a position of strength in order to acquire him, dealing away prospects that are either expendable or blocked, yet still valuable to the Rays. If they fall out of contention before the trade deadline, they will flip him in another blockbuster to acquire a prospect to fill a void somewhere else.
They could also let him walk in free agency following the season and obtain the compensatory draft picks that would come with his status as a Type-A free agent.
If he's made available, I'd be shocked if the A's weren't involved.
Philadelphia Phillies: James Loney
Although some baseball people are saying Ryan Howard will potentially be back around the All-Star break from his ruptured Achilles tendon, the likelihood is that the Phillies should be prepared for him to be out the entire 2012 season.
In such a scenario, which unfortunately is very plausible, the Phillies will need a one-year band aid at first base.
James Loney will be a free agent following the 2012 season and thus could be on the trading block if the Dodgers decide to maximize their return by making him more than just a half-season rental for interested teams.
Loney is not going to completely fill Howard's shoes, but he'd be an adequate replacement until he can return from injury. If that happens to be by the All-Star break, then the Phillies can trade Loney and receive some prospects or other necessary help to get them back to the postseason and deep into fall.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andre Ethier
The Pirates mid-season trade for Ryan Ludwick didn't quite workout as they had hoped.
They were in contention through the trade deadline before finally falling off and finishing another losing season. They showed signs that they are close to being a contender in the NL Central though.
They're willing to deal prospects to bring back quality Major League talent, and Andre Ethier and the Dodgers make perfect sense as a potential match.
Ethier would be a huge addition to the Pirates lineup and the Dodgers may be wise to take the payroll savings and collect a few high-ceiling prospects in return that will help them in the near future.
San Diego Padres: Logan Morrison
The Padres are another team that could make a play for Logan Morrison if the Marlins decide to part ways with him over their displeasure in his Tweeting ways.
The Padres traded their left fielder, Ryan Ludwick, midway through the season to the Pirates and currently have Kyle Banks atop their depth chart at the position.
No need to offer much in the way of stat comparison, Morrison is by far the better player with the higher ceiling.
He's also young enough, 24-years old, to be a part of their young core moving forward well into the future.
San Francisco Giants: B.J. Upton
B.J. Upton could bring new meaning to the term "Battle of the Bay" if he is made available again this offseason.
As I already outlined, the A's would likely be in play for Upton, but so would their cross-Bay rival San Francisco Giants.
The Giants need both a boost in their offense, which Upton represents, and they need a capable defensive center fielder after parting ways with Aaron Rowand and witnessing a drop-off in play from Andres Torres in 2011.
Just as I can't envision a scenario in which the A's wouldn't get involved, I can't see the Giants not making a run at Upton either.
As if the two clubs didn't have enough bad blood over the ongoing territorial rights controversy...
Seattle Mariners: Alfonso Soriano
I already outlined this scenario in the Chicago Cubs slide.
The two teams both have bad contracts they'd like to shed, and the Mariners could use an upgrade to the lineup at both left field and DH.
Alfonso Soriano is capable of sliding into either of those slots.
If the Cubs pick up some salary, the two teams could match-up nicely to fill each other's voids by swapping Chone Figgins for Soriano.
St. Louis Cardinals: Kelly Johnson
I'm not sure how fond Cardinals' fans are of Skip Schumaker, you can feel free to express your thoughts on whether your satisfied with him as the every day second baseman or not in the comments.
While he seems statistically to be an adequate, if not above average second baseman, Kelly Johnson would be an overall upgrade for St. Louis.
Johnson hit 21 homers compared to Schumaker's two. Johnson had a .984 fielding percentage and 2.5 UZR compared to Schumaker's .982 fielding percentage and -6.6 UZR rating. Schumaker did have the superior batting average (.283 and .333) compared to Johnson though (.222 and .304).
Tampa Bay Rays: Ramon Hernandez
The Kelly Schoppach / John Jaso platoon at catcher for the Rays worked out well enough in 2011, but could certainly use an upgrade in 2012.
Hernandez's 91 games behind the plate for the Reds in 2011 was more than both Schoppach's 87 and Jaso's 89, and he had more better offensive statistics than both players as well.
Hernandez batted .282 and had 12 homers this season while Schoppach batted .176 with 11 homers and Jaso batted .224 with five homers.
They'd be better suited finding a full-time catcher and having Schoppach as the primary backup, but without an obvious fit out there, a platoon featuring Hernandez as the primary catcher would still be a massive upgrade over the 2011 pairing of Jaso and Schoppach.
Texas Rangers: Matt Cain
The Texas Rangers could use a reliable pitcher who would also qualify as a workhorse and eat up innings for them.
As good as their rotation was all season, and has been in the postseason, some of their arms started to tire down the stretch.
Matt Cain is the definition of a workhorse, having posted five straight seasons over 200 innings pitched. He's also about as reliable as they come with a 3.35 career ERA (2.88 ERA this season).
The Giants need offense, something the Rangers have plenty of, so the two teams could match-up well for a trade.
The Giants could counter-offer with Jonathan Sanchez and receive a lesser-quality offensive player (who would still represent a huge upgrade over what the Giants threw out there this year).
Toronto Blue Jays: Huston Street
Frank Francisco went 17-of-21 in save opportunities this season for the Toronto Blue Jays, but he is probably still better suited for a setup role if the Blue Jays had another option for closer.
Huston Street lost his closer's job to Rafael Betancourt (as we already established earlier in the slide show) and should be available this offseason.
Street was 29-of-33 in save opportunities for the Rockies this year and is still just 28-years old and affordable at just $7.5 million next season.
He would be an excellent addition to the Toronto bullpen in 2012.
Washington Nationals: B.J. Upton
It's really no secret that the Washington Nationals have coveted B.J. Upton for the past few seasons.
They were linked to him again this season before the trade deadline when Upton was briefly made available.
This offseason may be the most likely opportunity for the Nationals to finally acquire their prized target.
As Evan Brunell of CBSsports.com speculates, it may only require Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina in exchange for the former All-Star and five-tool Upton.
It seems like a reasonable price for Upton's services and it's a trade that would fill a hole for both clubs.
If the speculation is accurate, which there is no reason to believe it wouldn't be, then this one actually stands a good chance at getting done. That is, unless of course another team swoops in and blows the Nationals offer out of the water.