The MLB offseason has officially begun for every team save the final four in the playoffs, so trade speculation will continue swirling from now through the Fall Classic and well into the winter.
If the caliber of players making headlines in the latest trade buzz is any indication of what's to come, it could ignite a captivating series of transactions as front offices work to retool their rosters.
Three big names who have experienced significant stardom at early stages in their respective careers are being whispered about as potential trade candidates. Read on to find out the specifics on these current franchise cornerstones.
Yasiel Puig's Trade Value Has Diminished
The arrival of first-year general manager Farhan Zaidi gave Puig a reprieve of sorts with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Puig has reportedly not done enough this year to fully convince the L.A. brass he's worth keeping around for the long haul, though.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports other teams have noticed flaws in Puig as well, which is harming his trade stock. The following excerpt from Sherman's report outlines the red flags the Dodgers and Puig's prospective suitors are taking into account in assessing his future outlook:
Beyond attitude concerns, other teams also see what worries the Dodgers — that Puig is thickening, which is not only a potential catalyst for further injury, but could slowly erode the quick-twitch explosiveness in his bat and running that made Puig seem such a star in the making just 12-to-24 months ago.
Rotoworld's Patrick Daugherty hinted at Puig's dubious usage in the postseason as circumstantial evidence Los Angeles has soured on him to a degree:
Puig has undeniable, raw talent and has made an incredible journey just to reach the highest level of baseball, much less burst onto the scene for a big-market franchise in the way he did. The 24-year-old has a cannon arm baserunners should nary dare challenge and immense, innate pop in his bat to change any given game with one swing.
All of those positive factors have to be under consideration as well, which is what creates the anguishing dilemma the Dodgers have to deal with in the coming years.
A nagging hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list twice this past season plagued Puig's ability to live up to tremendous expectations. It also may have attributed to the weight gain cited in the apparent behind-the-scenes reservations Puig's doubters have.
Perhaps more importantly, his sample size is still too small to determine exactly what he'll be as a player or a clubhouse personality. If Puig struggles in 2016, though, the Dodgers may be kicking themselves for not executing a trade this winter that they feel they may regret.
Nationals 'Could' Make Stephen Strasburg Available
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reports that he's heard Strasburg may be on the way out of Washington.
A World Series hopeful before the start of the 2015 campaign, the Nationals fell well short and missed the playoffs. Manager Matt Williams was fired for essentially losing a team with enough talent to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy. It would make some sense for Washington to rebuild and start fresh.
Quality starting pitching is difficult to come by. Players like Strasburg don't come along very often. But that also hints at the massive haul the Nationals could gain in exchange for him.
Given the turbulence going on in Washington at the moment, it's hard to imagine Strasburg will re-sign. Plus, fellow starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann is a free agent this offseason and could well join another club, which would lessen the incentive for Strasburg to stay.
At age 27, Strasburg's best days seem to be ahead of him. A glimpse of Strasburg's prime could be seen in his final 13 starts of the 2015 season, when he posted a 1.76 ERA. After his last start of the year, he spoke about how his game has evolved, per the Washington Post's James Wagner:
You definitely use your whole body to throw, and when one little thing that's not necessarily arm related occurs, you really have to figure out if that's going to alter your evenings. I want to compete every single time because I've been around long enough that I know I'm not going to feel 100 percent every time. But I've got a little more insight on what’s okay and what I shouldn't go out there with. I learned from it.
Strasburg's odyssey with the Nationals may lead him to flee the club when he has the chance to as it is, because he'll be a free agent after next season.
Washington has had trouble determining what to do with the immensely gifted flamethrower since his arrival in the nation's capital. Between the ill-fated decision to hold him out of the 2012 postseason and the Nats' pay-as-you-go plan to avert arbitration and a long-term agreement, a fresh start may be best for both sides.
Evan Longoria's 'Reasonable' Contract Bolsters Trade Prospects
Cafardo's report also mentions Longoria, the longtime face of the franchise for the Tampa Bay Rays, as someone who could be on the move.
"The contract he signed is long but reasonable," said one AL general manager of Longoria's current deal.
Baseball people Cafardo has spoken to have wondered for a few years whether Tampa Bay would give up Longoria in exchange for a few younger players or prospects.
With such a small payroll and a former All-Star in Longoria playing at a position that will be highly coveted, it behooves Tampa Bay to entertain the possibility. Rays director of communications Dave Haller highlights how Longoria's could be a big selling point in a thin market of third basemen:
Longoria has shown exemplary durability in missing just two games over the past three seasons. He's carried a lot of weight for a depleted Rays roster that has been unable to compete in a deep American League East Division in the past two years.
If he wants a shot at a World Series crown before his career ends, Longoria would be best suited to get out of Tampa Bay for greener fields.
The Rays may be reluctant to trade a rare franchise player in Longoria. Unless they expand their finances in the years to come, they must continue to recycle in-house success stories for blue-chip prospects in an effort to climb back into AL East contention.