It came as no surprise when trade rumors began to swirl before the Major League Baseball postseason could even reach the World Series. It seems to happen every year.
The recent scuttlebutt was especially head-turning, however, as news broke that the Cincinnati Reds may make 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto available this winter. Reds GM Walt Jocketty has denied the claims.
While this may be the first case of a superstar getting his name tossed into the rumor mills, it definitely won't be the last.
Between rumors, speculation and sometimes pure non-sense, dozens of players get their name mentioned every winter when there seems to be no realistic chance that they'd ever be moved.
While there's a legitimate chance that a couple players on this list could be trade bait this winter, most of them will return to their current team in 2012. Either way, every one of them will find their named tossed into the trade discussion at some point this offseason.
For the sake of this list, I didn't include obvious candidates like Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn. They are a given to have their names come up and, by now, we are all aware of it.
Here are "15 Superstars Whose Names Will Come Up This Winter."
B.J. Upton was highly sought after before the July 31st trade deadline, though the Tampa Bay Rays chose to hang on to their young center fielder in hopes of making a late-season run to the playoffs.
After accomplishing the mission to wrap up a storybook kind of season, the Rays will most likely shop Upton again this winter.
With 23 home runs and 36 stolen bases in 2011, Upton has reestablished himself as one of the top young center fielders in the game.
The 27-year-old should earn north of $6 million during his final year of arbitration, but any team interested in acquiring him would more than likely seek to lock him up long term.
The New York Mets will look to decrease their payroll heading into the 2012 season, yet that doesn't mean they have to cut ties with David Wright.
For years, however, Mets owner Fred Wilpon has made it clear he doesn't believe Wright is a superstar, nor is the third baseman the type of player he wants to build a team around.
The Mets' desire to trade Wright may hinge on whether or not they're able to bring back Jose Reyes, though they may make him available whether Reyes returns or not.
Wright has one more year on his contract at $15 million, plus a $16-million team option for 2013.
The Chicago White Sox took their first step in cleaning house by firing/trading manager Ozzie Guillen to the Miami Marlins. This was the first in what could be many moves made by White Sox GM Kenny Williams this winter.
John Danks' name has frequently popped up in trade winds, so it would be no surprise to see the 26-year-old shipped off before the start of next season. At a minimum, his name will continue to swirl around in trade rumors.
Danks had a poor start to the 2011 season but fought back in the second half to end the year with a respectable 4.33 ERA. It had been between 3.32 and 3.77 during each season since 2008.
He has one more year of arbitration eligibility before hitting free agency in 2013.
Regardless of the abundance of closers testing free agency this winter, Huston Street would find plenty of suitors if he were made available.
Street would be a solid alternative to any team not wanting to lock up a closer to a multi-year deal. He has garnered 178 saves with a 3.11 ERA during his seven-year career.
Street will make $7.5 million in 2012 and holds a mutual option for $9 million in 2013.
The Kansas City Royals were able to lock up Billy Butler to a team-friendly deal paying him $8 million per season through 2014. That's a cheap price to pay for a player who has a .297 BA and 120 OPS-plus for his career.
Butler can play first base, though he became the Royals' DH due to multiple top prospects at the position.
The Royals are a very young squad with a lot of potential heading into the future. To become competitive, however, they'll need to acquire some help for their starting rotation. Trading Butler could be the first step in acquiring that much-needed help.
After Michael Young was denied his request of a trade last winter, he came out to hit a career-high .338 to go with 106 RBI. I'd be shocked if his name didn't get mentioned leading up to the winter meetings.
The Rangers will most likely be open to some big moves this offseason, whether it be re-signing C.J. Wilson or bringing in CC Sabathia.
Young is under contract for two more years at $16 million per season, so getting rid of at least a chunk of his remaining salary would free up some space to bring in younger talent via free agency.
He spent time at every infield position plus DH this season and a willingness to play a variety of positions would increase the Rangers' potential return.
While there has been much speculation regarding the Dodgers listening to offers for Andre Ethier this winter, GM Ned Colletti still claims that he'll entertain the idea of locking him up long term.
In my opinion, Colletti is just playing the game until the time is right to move his All-Star outfielder for some young arms.
Whether or not Ethier will be moved is anyone's guess at this point, though you can be sure you'll hear plenty of rumors flying around this November.
It seems very unlikely that the Red Sox could or even would trade Carl Crawford after his first season in Beantown, though it was an utter disappointment, to say the least.
After Theo Epstein left Boston to be a GM with more power for the Chicago Cubs, Sox owner John Henry publicly stated that he "personally opposed" the Carl Crawford deal.
Who knows what might happen with Crawford now that Epstein is gone in Boston, but you can bet there will be rumors aplenty this winter.
While it's hard to call Jesus Montero an actual "superstar" seeing as he has one month of major league experience, the New York media did their job by making him the biggest thing in baseball well before he ever donned pinstripes.
After a successful stint with the Yanks in September—where he hit .328 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 18 games—the Yanks could go a long way in improving their starting rotation by making him available this winter.
The Yankees have two of the other Top 10 catching prospects in baseball with Gary Sanchez (No. 3) and Austin Romine (No. 8), plus they will probably try to retain Russell Martin for at least one more year.
Speaking of a pitcher the Yankees may be able to land for the likes of Jesus Montero, the time may have finally come for the Giants to part ways with Matt Cain. There have been rumors about this possible trade ever since the Yanks were bounced out of the ALDS two weeks ago.
Cain—who pitched to a 2.88 ERA this season and has a career-ERA of 3.35 over his first seven seasons with the Giants—has been no stranger to trade speculation in recent seasons and there is no reason to think otherwise heading into this offseason.
The Giants need a couple more bats to upstart their beleaguered offense and Cain seems like the logical candidate to be moved. He has one more year at $15 million before hitting free agency for the first time.
The Rays have more pitching depth than any team in baseball, which in a round-about way should make All-Star James Shields available this winter.
Shields—who pitched to a 2.82 ERA with 11 complete games and four shutouts this season—would garner a lot of attention if he were made available this winter. The soon to be 30-year-old has three team-friendly options remaining on his contract totaling $28 million.
It'll be interesting to see which direction the Rays choose to go the offseason, though their owner has already made it clear that once again they will be shedding payroll. Where else to begin than with Shields?
Coming off an MVP-type season in 2011, the Dodgers' No. 1 priority will be to lock up Matt Kemp this offseason. Depending on how those talks progress, however, could determine whether or not he is made available at some point this winter.
I don't expect the Dodgers to move Kemp either way, but I can guarantee rumors will be flying once the World Series champion is crowned later this month.
Kemp should earn more than $10 million during his final round of arbitration this winter and any possible extension would top the seven-year, $142 million deal Carl Crawford signed last winter.
Felix Hernandez makes this list solely because his name seems to find its way into the rumor mills during every offseason. While I still wouldn't expect him to be moved, the odds become more likely with each passing season of disappointment in Seattle.
The 25-year-old Hernandez has three years, $58 million remaining on his current deal.
The Mariners have once again been awakened to the reality that the team can't compete in the AL West without an offense. They should have room to bring in a big bat this winter, though if all else fails, the Mariners may bite on an offer if they are absolutely blown away.
Another player who is no stranger to the rumor mill, Hanley Ramirez may actually be on the outs this winter.
For one, I'm not sure how well his personality would mesh with new manager Ozzie Guillen. They are both attention seekers, while Han-Ram was walking a thin line in Miami even before his disappointing 2011 season.
While his value may be low at this point, the soon to be 28-year-old Ramirez is still one of the best shortstops in baseball when healthy and could net an enormous return.
The Marlins may increase their payroll to $90 million this season as they move into their new stadium. If they're able to lure in a big name like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols via free agency, they may look to shed Ramirez's contract to bring in a few other pieces.
Robinson Cano isn't going anywhere, in my opinion, but that doesn't mean his name won't be floating around as a possible trade candidate this winter.
Cano is the best second baseman in baseball and has two options remaining for a combined $31 million.
How in depth the rumors get will hinge on the Yankees' success luring in free agents this winter. If they fail at getting help for CC Sabathia (or C.J. Wilson, at this point) in the rotation, rumors will come into fruition regarding any and all trade-worthy Yankees. Cano will be at the top of the list.
It wouldn't be shocking to see the Scott Boras client approach $200 million on his next deal, so one can only wonder how out of control the the Yankees will allow their payroll to become heading into the future.