MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Stars in Their Prime Who Could Be Moved This Winter
Trading a player in his prime, the blockbuster trade, is one of the most exciting moments of an offseason for fans of the team.
These days it often begins with a Tweet or blog reference from one of the team's beat writers with speculation or a "credible source" speculating that talks have begun.
Then there is the analysis and debate surrounding the trade around the Internet and blogosphere (and here on Bleacher Report, of course) as the two teams involve hammer out the details.
Once the deal has been completed, the debates about who won the deal begin. Was the price too high? What immediate impact will the deal have on playoff chances? How long until the prospects involved will help their new team (assuming prospects were dealt in exchange for the star)?
The excitement for spring training and seeing the player in his new uniform, for your team.
Of course, as I stated, it all starts with speculation, and we're still a few weeks away from that becoming a reality.
It's never too early to start speculating which star players may be the subject of such debate, anticipation and excitement this winter, though.
So let the speculating begin...
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It's probably unlikely that Andrew Bailey will be dealt this offseason, but since his name surfaced in rumors linked to the Texas Rangers before the trade deadline, here he is on this list.
Any decision to trade Bailey would be linked to the A's stadium situation.
If they choose to go into a total rebuild towards building a contender to open a new stadium, Bailey would bring back a solid return, since he still under club control through the end of the 2014 season.
He is a two-time All-Star, has a career 2.07 ERA and 75 saves through three seasons in the majors, and is still very affordable.
Teams targeting Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell or Jonathan Broxton this offseason may be calling Oakland if they miss their original target.
In reality, Bailey should probably be their primary target.
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Opinions are split on whether James Shields will be staying in Tampa Bay this winter or if he will be dealt before the beginning of spring training.
Shields' value to the Rays in a trade would be huge.
He's a very durable and reliable workhorse who has accounted for over 200 innings pitched the last five consecutive seasons.
He also managed a 2.82 ERA and pitched a league-high 11 complete games and four shutouts in 2011.
Considering both his value to the rotation, and the return he would bring to the Rays in a trade, the team is in a no-lose situation regardless of their decision regarding his future with the club.
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Although the Dodgers have said that they are going to explore locking up Andre Ethier to a new contract this winter, their financial and ownership struggles mean nothing is off the table.
After the monster season posted by Matt Kemp, the team would be better served building their offense around Kemp for the future and looking to bring back some solid young prospects in exchange for Ethier.
It doesn't help matters much that Ethier has stated in the past that he believes he will be with a different team when his current deal expires (or sooner).
In Buster Olney's Insider Blog (subscription required) on ESPN.com, he states that those close to Ethier believe there is no chance he will re-sign with the Dodgers after 2012.
If true, it makes sense for them to explore dealing him this offseason.
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Last offseason, Michael Young was the subject of constant trade rumors after the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre.
Texas is understandably glad that they held onto him. He posted a .338 average, .380 on-base percentage and 106 RBI.
Considering that they are in the World Series for the second straight year, it's easy to see the Rangers choosing to hold onto Young again.
There are still teams out there in need of a third baseman, though, and Young increased his trade value with his All-Star performance this year.
At 34 years old, Young may be exiting his prime, but given that he just had one of the best years of his career, I'm willing to give him the benefit of doubt that he certainly still has a few years of elite hitting left in his bat.
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Gio Gonzalez's fate is very similar to his teammate Andrew Bailey's fate this offseason.
If the A's decide to rebuild, Gio will almost certainly be shopped in exchange for a ransom of prospects in return.
The 26-year-old All-Star lefty topped 200 innings pitched for a second consecutive season and increased his 2011 win total to 16 after finishing with 15 in 2010 (both for losing A's teams).
He averages 8.6 K/9 over his career and finished just shy of 200 strikeouts this season with 197.
There is no shortage of teams that would bid for his services, perhaps with the steepest prices being paid by either the Yankees or Red Sox.
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Matt Cain is another Bay Area pitcher who could find himself on the move this winter, although it is far less likely than either the Bailey or Gonzalez scenarios.
Matt Cain is in the final year before reaching free agency and the Giants are in desperate need of offense.
Cain's career record is very deceptive. His 69-73 career record is more a representation of the lack of run support he has experienced than his true pitching abilities.
He has topped 200 innings pitched for the past five seasons and is the proud owner of a 3.35 ERA (2.88 ERA last season) and a 7.4 K/9 ratio for his career. His career K/BB ratio is 2.84.
Cain on a team with a decent lineup would be a perennial 20-game winner, which may make him an irresistible trade target to teams in search of front-of-the-rotation pitching talent.
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B.J. Upton's name came up often prior to the trade deadline this year.
The Rays decided to hold onto him, but many baseball analysts felt that the pre-deadline speculation was just a warmup for the true trade discussions that were going to take place during the winter.
Upton is a five-tool talent that would presumably targeted by the Washington Nationals (who have coveted Upton for years), perhaps the A's (if they lose Coco Crisp and don't choose to rebuild), the Giants (also in need of a center fielder and lead-off hitter) and probably a handful of surprise teams that will want to take a shot at landing the former All-Star.
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Despite the Marlins' desire to open their new ballpark with their marquee talent, it's just hard to imagine Hanley Ramirez and new manager Ozzie Guillen co-existing in the same clubhouse and dugout.
Ramirez's work ethic has been called into question throughout his career, but he is still an undeniable star player.
Despite having an injury-plagued disappointment of a season in 2011, you can pretty much pencil him in for a .300 batting average with 25 homers and 75+ RBI a year.
HanRam would become the top shortstop target of every team that tries for Jose Reyes and loses out.
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David Wright's future in New York seems tied to Jose Reyes.
If the Mets are able to re-sign Reyes, will they have enough financial flexibility to keep Wright in the fold, too?
It seems more likely that they would trade the 28-year-old third baseman for a high-priced return and build their offense around Reyes instead.
Of course, if they lose out on Reyes and he signs elsewhere, Wright will stay in New York and the offense will be built around him instead.
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The Reds probably don't truly want to trade their star first baseman in the prime of his career, but they'd be foolish not to at least listen to offers from teams that have missed out on signing Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder this offseason.
The market and desire for the top two free-agent first basemen this winter will have record contract numbers being thrown around.
The teams that lose the bidding may feel pressure to make a big splash at first base and wind up overpaying the Reds to pry Joey Votto free of Cincinnati.
Votto is the current reigning MVP, a two-time All-Star and owner of a career .313 batting average and 119 homers in four full seasons (and 24 additional games in 2007).
If he is traded this offseason, Votto would likely be the centerpiece of the biggest position-player blockbuster of the winter.