MLB Trade Speculation: One Star at Each Position Who Could Be Shopped
Trade rumors about Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto are not hard to find—they're everywhere. Still, the Reds might find shopping him an underwhelming experience, given the preponderance of available first basemen this winter.
Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Carlos Pena can be had for but a draft pick, plus eight-figure salaries, of course. Logan Morrison and a couple others would be less painful purchases in terms of talent surrendered than would Votto.
At other spots on the diamond, though, there are stars who might be available this winter at more reasonable rates. Many of even the better teams in the game have serious holes they could fill through trades this winter, and there will be no shortage this winter of teams who will look to move stud players they simply cannot afford or do not want anymore. Here is a solid player at each position who fits that description.
Catcher: Chris Iannetta
Iannetta is a great player.
His .370 OBP in 2011 bore witness to that. The most recent information tells us the Rockies will retain their backstop through the winter. Still, with prospects Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco lurking, Iannetta is an expendable piece for Colorado.
They might at least want to test the market with a catcher possessing near-elite on-base skills.
First Base: Joey Votto
Votto is an amazing player, the kind with whom no team should part with unless there is good reason to. Yonder Alonso, though, is a good reason.
Alonso cannot play any other position on the diamond. He proved as much during his ill-fated auditions at third base and left field. He can, however, rake and is under team control for far less than Votto will cost the Reds if they keep the 2010 NL MVP.
The Blue Jays would probably pair a strong positional prospect with two great young arms in order to get their hands on Votto. If they are willing, the Reds should pounce on the opportunity. They owe it to themselves to at least test the waters.
Second Base: Howie Kendrick
Kendrick had his big breakout in 2011. He stayed healthy, for once. He found power previously untapped. He had a fantastic defensive season at second base. That's all great, but really, it's also part of the problem.
The Angels are in some financial trouble. They need a first baseman this winter, or at least an upgrade at third base, which will cost a lot of money. They have Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana (among others) on the ledger for big money next season already. Kendrick will be arbitration-eligible, and could top $5 million in 2012 salary via that system. At that rate, the Angels might feel that it doesn't make sense to keep Kendrick, especially given the fact that prospect Jean Segura could be ready by Opening Day 2013 to take over second base.
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez
If the Angels are hamstrung by bad contracts and payroll concerns, the White Sox are threaded like a suckling pig. They knowingly outspent their resources in 2011, adding Adam Dunn and retaining Paul Konerko in the hope that resulting playoff revenues would help them recoup the initial losses.
No playoff revenue came. In fact, the White Sox stunk for stretches of the season, never looked like divisional favorites and ended up drawing about 2,200 fewer fans per game than they did in 2010. They probably printed red ink for the season, and now Ramirez will be among the Sox getting a nifty raise for 2012.
Chicago would surely rather be rid of Dunn or Alex Rios, but they will not find any sucker to take on those salaries. Sooner or later they need to move some money this offseason. Ramirez could draw a great return and help kick-start an overdue rebuilding and rehabilitation of the White Sox's farm system. No other player on the roster can do that as well.
Third Base: David Wright
The New York Mets will not contend for anything in 2012, and assuming they are realistic about that truth, keeping Wright (at $15 million for the year) does not make much sense.
They need to trim payroll, have no incentive to keep Wright and could use the boost Wright's ransom would provide to help a shallow farm system. If Sandy Alderson does not explore this move, he simply isn't as smart as most baseball people (this reporter included) think he is.
Left Field: Logan Morrison
The Marlins and Morrison simply cannot seem to get along. The team demoted Morrison to Triple-A in August, a move he charged was fueled by off-field considerations. This franchise is known as one of the least imaginative and most conservative in the game, and Morrison is, shall we say, the opposite (see his Twitter account).
Trading Morrison would be an odd choice as the Marlins prepare to move into Miami proper and open a new park they must fill with fans in 2012 and beyond. That said, such a deal need not be about dumping Morrison. He actually has greater utility for some team who would use him at first base, and in return, the Marlins could snag a top-tier talent who could draw fans and engage the fan base in his own right.
Center Field: B.J. Upton
The Rays are smart. The Rays are poor. No poor, smart team would be caught dead with B.J. Upton in 2012.
He could coast past $7.5 million in the arbitration process. He has been good each of the past two years, but not as good as some think. Above all, though he could do great things for the Rays once again in 2012, he could do more for them by bringing back two or three solid prospects upon whom Tampa Bay can count in the years beyond.
Right Field: Andre Ethier
Like Upton, Ethier is neither grossly overpaid nor grossly overrated. This is simply a matter of utility, which is different for every prospective consumer of any resource, and about supply versus demand. Ethier could produce another two or three wins for the Dodgers in 2012, but he'd be a free agent thereafter, and unlikely to return. In the meantime, Los Angeles does not look like a serious contender.
On another team, though, Ethier might play precisely as well but have much higher utility. He also might merit a pair of useful prospects upon whom the Dodgers can build as they try to keep their forward momentum going in the farm system.
Designated Hitter: Michael Young
Now is the time for the Rangers to move Young. His contract essentially proved immovable last winter, or else he would have been gone. He was coming off a slightly above-average season as a third baseman with a lousy glove. His deal called for three more seasons at an annual average salary of $16 million.
A year later, he still has two such years on his contract, and is a DH only. Luckily for the Rangers, who have even less use for him now than they did a year ago, Young tallied a .338/.380/.474 season in the meantime, and now, the team has a chance to trade Young (especially, perhaps, to Colorado) for some real talent. Jon Daniels does not miss opportunities like these.
Starting Pitcher: James Shields
Shields for Morrison would actually be a fair exchange. It would help both teams. Again, though, the Rays would gain by making virtually any move for Shields.
He's already well-controlled by a savvy contract signed prior to 2008 that includes three straight club options the next three years. He had a breakout season in 2011, the kind that drives people to overrate even very good players. Andrew Freidman is a smart guy, and he will find a smart taker for the excess asset that is Shields.
Relief Pitcher: Joel Hanrahan
Hanrahan had a crucial epiphany in 2011.
He found that if he chased the strikeout less, threw his slider less and relied heavily on his fastball, he could get more ground balls, walk many fewer hitters and be more effective despite less gaudy numbers. The Pirates rode his terrific season to a better record than they deserved.
They still did not compete, and they won't compete in 2012, either. Therefore, it would be no surprise if GM Neal Huntington decides to deal Hanrahan for something more useful in the long run.