Buying or Selling Early MLB Trade Rumors Circulating Around GM Meetings
The annual MLB general manager meetings were held last week in Las Vegas, and the event is traditionally the rumor-filled calm before the storm.
(It's also not to be confused with the winter meetings, which will take place in San Diego from Dec. 4-7 and is when a ton of wheeling and dealing goes down.)
Free agents couldn't sign with new teams until 5 p.m. ET Thursday—five days after the World Series ended—but they could talk with clubs.
And, more importantly for our purposes, those GMs and team executives could rub elbows with their counterparts and start talking shop for possible trades.
In the process, some names popped up more often than others, either as players liable to be traded or reportedly nowhere close to the trade block.
Let's play a game of buy or sell with those rumors.
Blue Jays Expected to Trade a Catcher
The Rumor: The Toronto Blue Jays are expected to trade one of their three catchers: Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen or Gabriel Moreno, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi.
Buy or Sell: Buy
Of course Toronto would love to turn one of those backstops into an asset at a different position.
However, the market is unusually flooded with suitable catchers, so will the Jays be able to get fair value for Jansen or Moreno?
Willson Contreras is the biggest free agent, but there's also Omar Narváez, Christian Vázquez, Mike Zunino, Gary Sánchez, Curt Casali and a couple of other options that teams could acquire without trading anyone or anything. And if someone wants to deal for a catcher, the Oakland Athletics' Sean Murphy tops the list of candidates.
Toronto will find a club willing to bite on Jansen, though, who is under team control through 2024 and who is fresh off a career-best season in which he batted .260 with an .855 OPS.
Jansen could be an option for a team such as the Cleveland Guardians, who might not re-sign Austin Hedges and who likely don't want to get into a bidding war for Contreras. But it depends on the asking price.
Marlins Looking to Trade Pablo López for a Hitter
The Rumor: One of the biggest names discussed was Miami Marlins right-hander Pablo López, who was reportedly almost traded for Gleyber Torres this summer, per the New York Post's Jon Heyman.
Buy or Sell: Buy
That Miami will trade a starting pitcher is almost inevitable, simply because of its abundance of them.
From the trade deadline through the end of the regular season, Sandy Alcantara, Jesús Luzardo and Edward Cabrera each made at least 11 starts with a sub-3.00 ERA. The Marlins also got seven starts from Braxton Garrett with a 3.03 ERA. And though 2022 went poorly for Trevor Rogers and Elieser Hernandez, there's still hope that one or both could be a regular in the 2023 rotation.
Throw in highly touted prospects Eury Pérez and Max Meyer, as well as former "next big thing" Sixto Sánchez, and trading López—who is arbitration-eligible in 2023 and 2024—is a no-brainer.
We don't know how close the deal for Torres actually was or which side balked, but the Marlins will likely insist on a longer-term bat than that, as Torres (like López) will hit free agency after the 2024 season.
If they don't get Jacob deGrom or Carlos Rodón, the Texas Rangers could make a run at López.
Pirates Won't Trade Bryan Reynolds
The Rumor: Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds is unlikely to be traded this offseason, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi.
Buy or Sell: Sell
There's a first time for everything, but "Pirates" and "unlikely to be traded" feels like a misprint given the way the franchise has been run over the past three decades.
If Pittsburgh thinks it can contend for a World Series by 2025, then, yes, it should keep Reynolds.
But does the Pirates front office believe that?
With that pitching staff?
Reynolds still has three years remaining until he hits free agency. He'll make $6.8 million in 2023, followed by two years of arbitration-eligibility. If he has a reasonably healthy and successful go of it, $10 million in 2024 and $12 million in 2025 seem like fair, perhaps even low, estimates for those to-be-determined salary figures.
Those are perfectly acceptable numbers for most franchises, but Pittsburgh has had an Opening Day payroll ranked 27th or lower in 15 of the past 19 seasons.
Trading players before they get too expensive is just the Pirates' way. And not only will Reynolds get more expensive the longer they wait, but also the return will diminish.
Right now, Reynolds would be worth a ton on the trade block. He's 27 years old. He's inexpensive. He's had two consecutive solid seasons. And "slim pickings" doesn't even begin to describe the state of this year's crop of free-agent center fielders, which is Brandon Nimmo or bust.
Not listening to trade offers would be a big mistake because there's bound to be at least one suitor for Reynolds. Just don't expect him to be traded until after Nimmo and Aaron Judge sign since that is when Reynolds would become the top commodity.
Brewers Might Be the Most Active Trading Partner
The Rumor: The Milwaukee Brewers "may do some stuff to shake things up a bit," per the New York Post's Jon Heyman, who mentioned Hunter Renfroe and Kolten Wong. He also said he had heard bigger names that he was "reluctant to say," which probably means Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff.
Buy or Sell: Buy
The Brewers held a three-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 1, when they traded closer Josh Hader, more or less acknowledging and embracing their contract situation.
Thirteen Brewers had a bWAR of 1.1 or greater in 2022. Three of them (Andrew McCutchen, Brad Boxberger and Jace Peterson) are free agents. Two (Renfroe and Wong) will hit free agency next November. Four others (Burnes, Woodruff, Eric Lauer and Willy Adames) have two seasons remaining before free agency.
And this small-market franchise already has Christian Yelich signed for $26 million per year for the next six seasons. It has to be selective about who it signs and re-signs, so a lot of those key players will simply be gone for nothing by the end of 2024 if they are not traded.
It's really just a question of how serious the Brewers are about reloading.
Trading Renfroe and Wong would make sense, but those are half-measures. Neither player in their early 30s with one year left before free agency is going to fetch all that much on the trade block. Maybe Milwaukee could save about $20 million in 2023 by trading them, but it won't do much to make it a contender in 2025.
Trading Burnes or Woodruff, though, would be a much different story; one that would come with a serious stockpile of prospects.
With the exception of Devin Williams, just about the entire roster should be on the trade block.
White Sox Might Trade Lucas Giolito and Liam Hendriks
The Rumor: To reduce payroll, the Chicago White Sox are "spending a lot of time talking about trades," per The Athletic's James Fegan. The New York Post's Jon Heyman noted Lucas Giolito was a popular name on the trade block.
Buy or Sell: Sell
The White Sox have the fifth-best 2023 World Series odds among American League teams, per DraftKings Sportsbook, trailing the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. Note there are no other AL Central teams on that list, so it stands to reason Chicago is the favorite to win the division.
Sox brass can talk about payroll concerns all they want, but when you're the favorite to win a division, you probably shouldn't cut costs for cost-cutting sake.
You have to believe all they're really doing with this early banter is setting the bar low in hopes that fans won't get too upset if Chicago spends little to nothing in free agency.
On the Giolito front, he just had a brutal season, posting a 4.90 ERA after three consecutive years of receiving votes for the AL Cy Young Award. There are undoubtedly teams interested in buying low on him, but it would be ridiculous for Chicago to trade him when it already needs to worry about replacing Johnny Cueto in the rotation.
Trading Liam Hendriks could make sense. He's owed $29.3 million over the next two seasons, and Chicago could get by with a closer by committee or one of Kendall Graveman, Aaron Bummer and Reynaldo López in the ninth inning. But it would need to be for a starting pitcher or second baseman, which probably won't happen since teams could just sign Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen instead.
Mariners Could Part with a Starting Pitcher
The Rumor: Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said starting pitcher Chris Flexen was a hot topic ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline and continued to be talked about at the GM meetings, per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.
Buy or Sell: Buy
In December 2020, the Mariners signed Flexen to a two-year, $4.8 million contract. The deal included a player option for $8 million in 2023, provided he logged 150 innings in 2022 or 300 innings in 2021 and 2022, which he did.
So now they owe $8 million to a player who was used primarily in a mop-up relief role over the final two months of the regular season.
Which would be fine if they didn't have a surplus of starting pitchers and a budget that—while certainly larger than those of the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics—isn't typically in the top 10.
The M's signed Robbie Ray to a five-year deal last offseason and then traded for and signed a long-term extension with Luis Castillo during the season. Add in the young nucleus of Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Matt Brash as well as the Marco Gonzales contract that they're pretty well stuck with for the next two seasons, and Flexen is expendable.
He had a 3.66 ERA over the past two seasons, so getting relegated to the bullpen was much more of a "no room at the inn" situation than a "we can't afford to have you starting games anymore" situation.
He could be a No. 4 starter somewhere, and he is still arbitration-eligible from 2024-26. Trading for Flexen could be a great long-term move for a team that wants to acquire a starting pitcher but maybe doesn't want to pay what Miami is asking for Pablo López.
Neither Rafael Devers nor Shohei Ohtani Will Be Traded
The Rumors: Boston Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said in October that trading Rafael Devers "isn't on our radar," but MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Devers was mentioned as a trade candidate last week.
Los Angeles Angels GM Perry Minasian said Shohei Ohtani will not be traded, per The Athletic's Sam Blum, but Sarah Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Times reported that an extension doesn't appear to be in the works.
Buy or Sell: Sell
Both the Red Sox and Angels are in an unenviable position: A fan-favorite, two-time All-Star is one year away from free agency, and by all accounts, they are nowhere close to signing that player to a long-term extension.
Worse yet, neither team is exactly a favorite to make the postseason in 2023, let alone win the World Series. So, if they do nothing with Devers and Ohtani, it's feasible they'll finish no better than around .500 and then bid adieu to a bona fide star.
Of course the higher-ups for each team are adamant that they won't trade their soon-to-be-free-agent player. They have to at least try to get the rampant speculation under control before it turns into a full-blown firestorm of rumors.
But behind closed doors, they must be talking about it and at least willing to entertain the idea if someone calls with a Godfather offer.
Of the two, Devers is probably more likely to be traded, if only because of how the Red Sox handled Mookie Betts a few years ago. But if you gave me even odds on "one of Devers or Ohtani will be traded this offseason," my money would be on "yes."