Updating the Top 15 Available MLB Trade Targets Post-Winter Meetings
A lot of talented MLB trade targets are still available after the winter meetings in San Diego came to a close Thursday afternoon.
True, the annual summit filled Twitter feeds across the country with arguably more news than any one person could conceivably digest in four days. For a rundown of the winners and losers of the four-day melee, see this post by Bleacher Report’s Jason Catania.
That said, we are here to look at the top 15 trade targets left after the dust settled.
To be clear, only players who had active rumors tied to them during the winter meetings will be included. That way, names aren’t randomly selected off MLB rosters.
Each player will be ranked based on bWAR (Baseball-Reference’s version of wins above replacement). This gives the list some structure, as several of the players are within decimal points of each other, and we are not about to debate the inherent value of a catcher against that of a left-handed reliever.
Beginning with two players who did not make the list, here are the top 15 targets potentially available via trade following the MLB winter meetings.
There is a chance the Texas Rangers could move Elvis Andrus, but as Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal noted, the club “believes he is headed for [a] big year” in 2015. And it doesn’t help that two of the teams most in need of a shortstop—the New York Mets and New York Yankees—are said to be uninterested, per New York Newsday’s Marc Carig and ESPN.com’s Andrew Marchand, respectively.
The fact that Dayan Viciedo’s name is being floated around the league is hardly surprising. After all, he is full of raw power and plays a corner outfield position.
That said, he has never taken advantage of his potential, posting a .254/.298/.424 slash line with an unimpressive 96 OPS+ over five MLB seasons. Add in the fact that he has never been worth more than 1.0 bWAR, and Viciedo is largely an empty trade candidate. Sure, he may end up getting dealt, but he certainly won’t be one of the top targets following the winter meetings.
15. Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: .249/.322/.370, 4 HR, 42 RBI, 17 2B, 97 OPS+, 0.0 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 5 outfielder
Coming off his worst season in the big leagues, Andre Ethier’s production value has never been lower. Add in a total of $56 million in guaranteed money left on his deal, and the outfielder doesn’t make for a very attractive trade candidate.
But if we consider that he is one year removed from a .783 OPS and a 3.0 bWAR, it is reasonable to believe that with regular playing time, Ethier can once again be a valuable asset. The Dodgers will have to accept little in return and will likely have to cover a part of the remaining money, but a move is there to be made.
But Matt Kemp was traded, making Ethier a guy the Dodgers can’t afford to trade, you say?
Well, with Scott Van Slyke and Joc Pederson set to open the season on the 25-man roster and Scott Schebler on the verge of being ready, the club figures to have enough in-house. And with a low-level depth addition, manager Don Mattingly would have all he needs to field a fine outfield.
14. Brian Matusz, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats: 3.48 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 1.316 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.0 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 1 reliever
Brian Matusz is a fine reliever, posting a 3.51 ERA with a 3.46 FIP over the past two seasons, per Baseball-Reference. True, his command could use some refinement, but his transition from being a starter has gone fairly well.
He is also available. From MASNSports.com’s Roch Kubatko:
While their primary focus has shifted to the outfield, they also are targeting a left-handed reliever. Which makes it interesting that, according to the aforementioned lobby buzz, the Orioles are willing to move Brian Matusz in a trade.
The Orioles may not be actively shopping Matusz, but clubs are aware that he's available in the right deal. His value outside the organization rests on whether he's viewed as a lefty specialist or potential starter - his role coming out of college as the fourth overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
And considering that the O’s lost both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to free agency, Matusz could be part of a package they use to grab an outfielder, potentially Marlon Byrd from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Either way, expect clubs to target the lefty as the offseason wears on.
13. Dillon Gee, SP, New York Mets
2014 Stats: 7-8, 4.00 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 1.245 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.7 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 5 starting pitcher
Dillon Gee’s name is everywhere.
Joel Sherman from the New York Post mentioned the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants as being the “most serious” in their pursuit. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal added the Colorado Rockies to the list. And Jon Morosi, also from Fox Sports, throws the Minnesota Twins into the conversation.
Like we said, Gee is drawing a ton of interest.
As far as the return for him goes, the Mets are realistic, looking at a left-handed reliever, right-handed bat or a prospect, per a separate tweet from Rosenthal. Considering that his stuff isn’t electric and he is coming off a mediocre season, being pragmatic about the players coming back is a good idea.
12. Andrew Cashner, SP, San Diego Padres
2014 Stats: 5-7, 2.55 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 1.127 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.9 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 4 starting pitcher
San Diego Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner brings a lot to a rotation.
True, his strikeout rate has dropped considerably since 2012, but he has fine command of the strike zone and has the ability to keep hitters off-balance with a strong sinker that he balances with his slider and change. The latter two pitches are both 9-10 mph slower than his slider, per BrooksBaseball.net, allowing him to control most at-bats.
There are somewhat conflicting reports on Cashner’s future. MLB.com’s Corey Brock noted not too long ago that “the Padres are giving strong consideration to keeping" the hurler. Meanwhile, Evan Grant from the The Dallas Morning News reported that the right-hander “remains the top target” for the Texas Rangers.
The trade for Matt Kemp that Kirk Kennedy and Dennis Lin from the U-T San Diego broke down could preclude general manager A.J. Preller from moving Cashner, but if the right deal was presented, the GM could be swayed. That is especially true if a strong middle infielder is the return.
11. Ian Kennedy, SP, San Diego Padres
2014 Stats: 13-13, 3.63 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 1.289 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.4 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 3 starting pitcher
Ian Kennedy is a prime candidate to be moved. True, he is the ace of the Padres staff, but he is also a free agent after this season and is likely to earn $10 million in 2015, per MLB.com’s Corey Brock.
That has led Padres general manager A.J. Preller to consider moving the right-hander. In fact, Brock added that the club “continues to receive inquiries" on Kennedy, and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal noted some time ago that he “is perhaps the most likely to get moved” out of a group that includes Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner.
Like Cashner, however, the Padres may be reticent to make a move since they just acquired Matt Kemp in a blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, per Kirk Kennedy and Dennis Lin from U-T San Diego. Given the club’s new financial commitment, however, Kennedy’s potential for future earnings may be enough for the Padres to be proactive.
10. Welington Castillo, C, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats: .237/.296/.389, 13 HR, 46 RBI, 19 2B, 89 OPS+, 1.8 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 3 catcher
Welington Castillo could be a player who needs to be traded. After all, the Chicago Cubs just acquired Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks to be the everyday catcher and could grab David Ross following the club’s signing of free-agent starter Jon Lester, according to Mike Cole from NESN.com.
Adding to Castillo’s value is the fact that in 2013 and 2014, he put up a combined .749 OPS and compiled a 105 OPS+, per Baseball-Reference. Those are strong metrics for a catcher.
9. Aroldis Chapman, CL, Cincinnati Reds
2014 Stats: 0-3, 36 SV, 2.00 ERA, 0.89 FIP, 0.833 WHIP, 17.7 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 1.9 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 1 closer
Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has a ton of value. Flat out, the three-time All-Star is one of the best ninth-inning specialists in the game thanks to a dominating fastball.
That said, the Reds just traded Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon on the final day of the winter meetings, per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman and ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, respectively. Why, then, wouldn’t they consider moving Chapman if teams inquire. After all, if a club is going to divest itself of talent, why hold on to a piece that will hit free agency in two seasons.
As far as his availability goes, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal recently noted that the Reds are “drawing heavy interest in Chapman.” And general manager Walt Jocketty isn’t averse to moving the big right-hander, per USA Today’s C. Trent Rosecrans.
Now, Jocketty went on to say that “nobody’s given us anything” in the form of a trade proposal. But that was before the Reds made several high-profile moves. Consider Chapman a long shot to be traded, but he is certainly a top target.
8. Evan Gattis, OF/DH/C, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: .263/.317/.493, 22 HR, 52 RBI, 17 2B, 125 OPS+, 2.2 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 1 designated hitter; No. 2 catcher; No. 4 outfielder
There is no doubt that Evan Gattis can dramatically improve a club, especially in the American League. He can catch, play the outfield (albeit in a limited fashion) and serve as the designated hitter.
Like we said, he can do a lot to help improve offensive production. He is also drawing a ton of interest.
Andy McCullough from The Kansas City Star, for example, has the Kansas City Royals interested in him. Now, they recently acquired Kendrys Morales, per Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, but the interest as an outfielder and backup catcher likely still exists.
MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan also noted that the Texas Rangers have an interest, but the asking price is too high. And we can’t discount the Seattle Mariners, who still need to add a right-handed power bat.
All that said, there is a rather large caveat attached to Gattis.
According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart “told one American League team that if they want Evan Gattis, they have to take B.J. Upton too.” Seeing as how Upton has $46.4 million remaining on his contract, that could be a deal-breaker.
7. Dioner Navarro, C, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats: .274/.317/.395, 12 HR, 69 RBI, 22 2B, 100 OPS+, 2.3 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 1 catcher
Easily the best catcher thought to be available, Dioner Navarro is another guy who may be without a spot thanks to a free-agent acquisition. In Navarro’s case, the addition of Russell Martin by the Toronto Blue Jays upended his presumed role.
So what now? Well, the switch-hitter is already generating trade buzz.
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart, for example, noted that Navarro is a “possible trade target” while the club waits for Peter O’Brien to take the reins, according to Zach Buchanan from AZCentral.com.
And Jon Heyman from CBS Sports noted that at least three teams had contacted Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos in the aftermath of Martin’s signing. Heyman also added that Navarro “expressed an interest in being dealt” so that he could play every day.
Either way, clubs looking to add a catcher will surely make it a point to check on Navarro’s availability. And if they come at Anthopoulos with a fair deal, there is a chance he will be traded.
6. Marlon Byrd, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats: .264/.312/.445, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 28 2B, 110 OPS+, 2.6 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 3 outfielder
Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd is in a tricky spot.
See, his production over the past two seasons—.277/.323/.476, 49 HR, 173 RBI, 123 OPS+—makes him a valuable commodity. On the other hand, he is 37 years old and is owed $8 million next season with a vesting option based on plate appearances for 2016.
In other words, clubs may be reluctant to offer up too much in return. And if the get isn’t good enough for the Phillies, they will just as soon keep him on the roster, according to interim president Pat Gillick, via CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury.
That hasn’t stopped teams from discussing a trade. The Baltimore Orioles are but one example, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
And while a deal between the two clubs may not materialize, expect the rumors regarding Byrd to continue swirling. He is a known variable and fills a need on many clubs, particularly in the American League, where he can also serve as a designated hitter.
5. Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: .270/.342/.491, 29 HR, 102 RBI, 34 2b, 132 OPS+, 3.3 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 2 outfielder
Justin Upton has finished with an OPS over .800 in five out of his last seven seasons. And he’s finished with fewer than 25 doubles only once since 2009. Throw in fine defensive abilities, and Upton is a target many clubs would love to have, including the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs.
To be sure, Upton’s availability is uncertain. To that end, Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart is “adamant about keeping” Upton “unless he gets exactly what he wants,” per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
That won’t stop teams from inquiring. And prior to the San Diego Padres acquiring Matt Kemp, David O’Brien from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that the Cubs were “turning up their pursuit of corner-outfield power,” and Upton is “one of the few elite ones available.”
The San Francisco Giants are also rumored to be interested, per John Shea from the San Francisco Chronicle.
4. Corey Dickerson, OF, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats: .312/.364/.567, 24 HR, 76 RBI, 27 2B, 142 OPS+, 3.4 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 1 outfielder
Understandably, there is a lot of hype surrounding Corey Dickerson.
After all, he exploded onto the scene in 2014, and at 25 years old, he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. There is quite a bit to like.
That said, there are warning signs about his production anywhere other than Coors Field. The most glaring example, of course, is that he put up a 1.098 OPS at home but a meager .735 mark on the road, per Baseball-Reference. More alarming is that his on-base percentage dropped to .305 away from home.
Concerning splits aside, multiple clubs are inquiring about his availability. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal went so far as to call the interest “massive.” Now, Rosenthal went on to note that the Rockies will “need to be overwhelmed to move” Dickerson, but he is still one of the best outfield target in MLB.
3. Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: .255/.313/.430, 24 HR, 91 RBI, 26 2B, 103 OPS+, 3.8 WAR
Position Rank: No. 1 shortstop
Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond does a few things that make him an offseason target. He can run, is a plus defender and has won three straight Silver Slugger awards. That is a fine combination
Because of that, there is a distinct market for Desmond. The Seattle Mariners, for example, are in on the right-handed hitter, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Sure, the M’s have a wealth of middle infielders, but Desmond provides more in the way of offense than anyone general manager Jack Zduriencik has at his disposal. And according to Rosenthal, the Nationals like Brad Miller, making a deal at least doable.
Another thing that needs to be considered is that unlike Jordan Zimmermann (more on him in a second), general manager Mike Rizzo has not spoken with Desmond’s representation regarding an extension, per James Wagner from The Washington Post. Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, that’s a notable difference.
2. Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: 14-5, 2.66 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 1.072 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, 4.9 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 2 starting pitcher
James Wagner from The Washington Post has more:
But now, the Nationals have a short time frame to work something out with Zimmermann. [General manager Mike] Rizzo said he didn’t want to put a time frame on negotiations, but Zimmermann and his agent have declined to negotiate during the season in the past. What the Nationals do this offseason — perhaps trade Zimmermann if they have a good offer — could depend on whether they feel they can ink him to a long-term deal. Zimmermann has received interest from teams, and the Nationals have listened.
Flat out, Zimmermann is a legitimate ace entering the final year of arbitration and is worth a ton. That has to be appealing to Rizzo.
Zimmermann is drawing heavy interest, per Fox Sports' Jon Morosi. More, Morosi notes, than shortstop Ian Desmond.
We shall see where this one goes.
1. Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats: 9-9, 2.46 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 1.148 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 6.6 bWAR
Position Rank: No. 1 starting pitcher
Coming off of his best season since 2012, Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels is available—for the right price.
As far as clubs with an interest are concerned, there are a few.
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark, for example, reported that all of the teams that lost out on Jon Lester—the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers—“are in” on the left-hander. And given the depth of each franchise’s farm system, they have the talent to facilitate a trade. It’s a matter of meeting Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s asking price.
There are financial obstacles, of course. As Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal noted, clubs like the Red Sox and Dodgers “have been reluctant all along to assume remaining financial commitment AND part with top prospects.”
Rosenthal added in a subsequent tweet that with no-trade protection to the Red Sox, they would have to pick up his fifth-year option, making the total cost $110 million over five years. That stands in sharp contrast to the four-year, $90 million investment a club like the Dodgers (who aren’t on Hamels’ no-trade list) would have to make.
Unless otherwise noted, all traditional, team and advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com. Contract information pulled from Cot's Contracts. Transaction, injury and game information are courtesy of MLB.com.