The Most Likely Player from Each MLB Team to Be Traded This Offseason
We've already spent a good deal of time looking at the upcoming free-agent market, breaking down the top players at each position and exploring potential fits on a team-by-team basis.
However, this year's trade market could prove to be just as interesting.
If last year's winter meetings proved anything, it's to expect the unexpected when it comes to the offseason trade market, as today's crop of general managers are a different level of aggressive entirely.
The most likely star-caliber players to be dealt this winter appear to be a pair of closers in Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, but there is no shortage of intrigue behind them.
Yasiel Puig could be made available by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs have a middle infield abundance to potentially trade from and the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians both have more than one starting pitcher expected to be dangled.
With all of that in mind, what follows is a look at the most likely player to be traded from each MLB team this offseason.
The selections were made based on a combination of rumors, team needs, projected arbitration figures and team outlook for the 2016 season and beyond.
Arizona Diamondbacks: SP Braden Shipley
After a 15-win improvement in 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks are a team on the rise, but they will still need to vastly improve the pitching staff if they are going to take that next step and legitimately contend.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com wrote the following in an offseason-outlook article on the team:
The main goal for chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart over the next few months will undoubtedly be to add more pitching, particularly at least one starter that they know they can rely on as well as another back-end arm for the bullpen.
If they choose to trade for pitching, the D-backs do have a surplus of young players both in the infield and outfield, as well as pitching depth in the organization that should appeal to other teams.
That pitching depth starts with Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair, and any trade package for a front-line arm or elite closer would likely start with one of those two.
Shipley was the No. 13 pick in the 2013 draft, and Blair was taken that same year at No. 36 overall, and both pitchers profile as at least middle-of-the-rotation arms with the potential for a bit more.
Blair is a bit further along in his development, while Shipley probably has a slightly higher ceiling and a fresher arm after playing shortstop until his sophomore year of college.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Shipley was part of the package the Diamondbacks offered up for Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline, so at this point we'll call him the more likely of the two stud pitching prospects to be moved.
Atlanta Braves: SP Julio Teheran
The Atlanta Braves sold aggressively last offseason, when they dealt Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Evan Gattis to help restock the farm system.
That trend could continue this coming offseason, starting with right-hander Julio Teheran, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
"Considering the Braves' purge of contracts that go past 2016, look for them to take offers on Julio Teheran this winter, who's under contract through 2019," wrote Heyman. "He could be a good buy-low opportunity for someone."
The question is, will the Braves be willing to sell low on the 24-year-old former All-Star.
Teheran was one of the best pitchers in the National League in 2014, as he went 14-13 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.081 WHIP and 186 strikeouts in 221 innings of work.
However, he saw that ERA climb to 4.04 this past season and a decline in his command was a big reason why as his walk rate rose from 2.1 BB/9 to 3.3 BB/9.
He's owed just $28.6 million over the next four years, including just $3.3 million in 2016, so for a team looking to take a chance on a young arm he could be well worth offering up a few solid prospects.
Baltimore Orioles: SP Miguel Gonzalez
The Baltimore Orioles have some big decisions to make this offseason as Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Matt Wieters, Darren O'Day, Gerardo Parra and Steve Pearce are all headed for free agency.
Regardless of what happens with that crop of free agents, the team will need to find a way to improve a starting rotation that finished 25th in the league with a 4.53 ERA this past season.
One possible move the team will have to consider is cutting ties with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.
After going 30-21 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.246 WHIP in his first three seasons in the majors, he fell off dramatically in 2015 as he went 9-12 with a 4.91 ERA and 1.396 WHIP in 144.2 innings of work.
The 31-year-old was particularly bad down the stretch, going 0-6 with a 7.45 ERA in his final eight starts and missing all but one start in September while dealing with a shoulder injury.
He earned $3.28 million in his first year of arbitration last season and now looks like a potential non-tender candidate this winter.
The Orioles would likely try to shop him before simply dumping him for nothing, and there may be some teams willing to take a chance on him returning to his 2014 form when he went 10-9 with a 3.23 ERA in 26 starts.
Boston Red Sox: CF Manuel Margot
There may be no team more likely to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade this offseason than the Boston Red Sox, and they certainly have the young talent down on the farm to get a deal done.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, right-hander Anderson Espinoza, infielder Yoan Moncada and outfielder Andrew Benintendi appear to be untouchable.
It would also likely take a bona fide ace like Sonny Gray being made available for the team to consider dealing third baseman Rafael Devers, who hit .288/.329/.443 with 38 doubles, 11 home runs and 70 RBI as an 18-year-old in Single-A.
With all of that taken into consideration, the most likely prospect to be on the move for the Boston Red Sox this offseason appears to be center fielder Manuel Margot.
Splitting last season between High-A and Double-A at the age of 20, Margot hit .276/.324/.419 with 42 extra-base hits and 39 stolen bases.
Despite his age, he brings an advanced approach and great contact skills to the plate as his 32/51 BB/K ratio can attest, and that should help him move quickly.
The Red Sox already have an abundance of young outfield talent, including Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and the aforementioned Benintendi, so moving Margot would not necessarily hurt their long-term outlook.
A trade package built around him and one other high-ranking prospect in the team's system should make them contenders for almost anyone on the trade market this winter.
Chicago Cubs: SS Starlin Castro
The Chicago Cubs could go a few different routes this offseason as they look to improve the starting rotation, and the trade market is certainly one of those routes.
Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times mentioned Julio Teheran (Braves), Tyson Ross (Padres) and Carlos Carrasco (Indians) as pitchers that the Cubs showed varying levels of interest in at the trade deadline, and those talks could be revisited this winter.
Sorting out the middle infield situation would seem to go hand-in-hand with these trade talks, as the Cubs have Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Javier Baez all vying for playing time.
Russell isn't going anywhere as an elite defender at shortstop with tremendous offensive potential, but one of the other two could be used as a centerpiece of a potential deal for pitching.
Baez has more upside, but Castro is more established as a major leaguer with three All-Star appearances and 991 career hits under his belt at the age of 25.
Castro is owed $40,428,527 over the next four years, and after hitting .369/.400/.655 in September he did rebuild some value that was lost during a down season at the plate up to that point.
The front office won't simply be looking for a way to dump Castro this offseason, but right now he looks like the most likely piece to be moved in a deal for pitching.
The other potential trade approach would be to build a package around breakout shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, but the team will be hesitant to move an 18-year-old on the rise.
Chicago White Sox: 1B Adam LaRoche
The Chicago White Sox signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $25 million deal last offseason after he posted an .817 OPS with 26 home runs and 92 RBI in 2014.
The hope was that he could provide a left-handed hitting complement for Jose Abreu in the middle of the lineup, but instead he hit just .207/.293/.340 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI in his first year with the team.
His struggles, and the White Sox's status as a non-contender, led to some speculation that LaRoche could be on the move at the trade deadline.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports pointed to him as a potential answer for the St. Louis Cardinals after Matt Adams hit the disabled list.
That trade, or any other trade involving LaRoche for that matter, never came to pass at the deadline, but shopping him this offseason is a possibility.
Truth be told, the White Sox don't figure to be all that busy on the trade market, as their farm system is still relatively weak and much of their big league roster is made up of core pieces of cheap filler.
If one player is going to be dealt, though, there's a good chance it's LaRoche, who may prefer a move back to the National League where he can play in the field as opposed to just serving as DH.
Cincinnati Reds: RP Aroldis Chapman
The Cincinnati Reds bought into the need to being rebuilding and restocking the farm system last offseason when they traded Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon ahead of their final year before free agency.
They continued that process at the trade deadline when Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Marlon Byrd were all moved to contenders, and there will likely be more veteran pieces on their way out the door this winter.
Guys like Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and perhaps even Todd Frazier could all be shopped, but one guy who seems all but certain to be dealt is All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman earned $8.050 million this past season, and that number will almost certainly climb north of $10 million in his final year of arbitration.
There is no question Chapman is one of the game's elite bullpen arms, but a rebuilding Reds team doesn't have much use for a closer making that kind of money and staring down free agency the following offseason.
Plenty of teams will be interested in adding Chapman to their relief corps, but the Reds need to be realistic on their expected return.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe offered up the following on the trade market for Chapman back in August after the Reds failed to pull the trigger on a deal at the non-waiver deadline.
When Arizona, among other teams, asked about Chapman at the deadline, it was "incredibly unrealistic" what the Reds asked for in return, according to one GM, who added, "I couldn’t believe it."
But Reds GM Walt Jocketty appears to have an interest in at least listening to offers for the coveted lefty in the offseason when the price might be more realistic. "I think teams would give up three very good prospects for him," said one AL GM, "but I think that’s as far as it would go."
There might not be a safer bet on this entire list to be moved than Chapman, but what exactly it takes to land him remains to be seen.
Cleveland Indians: SP Danny Salazar
The Cleveland Indians fell well short of expectations in 2015, as many had them pegged as legitimate contenders in both the AL Central and the American League as a whole.
In the end, they wound up finishing third in the division and 4.5 games back for the second wild-card spot, but there is still reason to believe this team can be a contender in 2016.
There is no question it will need to add some middle-of-the-order punch if that's going to happen, though.
The Indians ranked 23rd in the league this past year with 140 home runs as a team, and no single player broke the 20-homer mark as Carlos Santana paced the team with 19 home runs and 85 RBI.
Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco both saw their name pop up in trade rumors at the deadline, and moving one of those two remains a very real possibility this offseason.
"There’s no question the Indians are going to deal a starting pitcher for a hitter this offseason," wrote Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. "As the year went on the Indians seemed more content to deal (Danny) Salazar than Carlos Carrasco, who they made available at the trading deadline. Word is they’ll continue that way this offseason."
Salazar, 25, went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.130 WHIP and 195 strikeouts in 185 innings of work in 2015.
With five years of team control left, he won't even reach arbitration until next offseason, and that makes the right-hander an incredibly attractive trade target for teams looking to add low-cost pitching.
Colorado Rockies: SS Jose Reyes
The hot name surrounding the Colorado Rockies heading into the offseason will no doubt be outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.
While there is certainly a chance he winds up traded after the team finally pulled the trigger on moving Troy Tulowitzki at the deadline, shortstop Jose Reyes looks like the more likely veteran piece to be moved.
The 32-year-old still has two years and $44 million left on the massive six-year, $106 million deal he signed with the Miami Marlins back in 2012.
He's been worth just 8.9 WAR through the first four years of that contract, but when healthy he's still capable of making a significant impact atop the lineup.
"With prospect Trevor Story on deck to take over shortstop at some point next season, I believe the Rockies will try to move Reyes this offseason, with the knowledge they will have to eat a substantial portion of his contract," wrote Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.
Story is indeed knocking on the door, as he hit .279/.350/.514 with 40 doubles, 10 triples, 20 home runs, 80 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 512 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A last season.
There will be a market for Reyes if the Rockies are in fact willing to eat a good chunk of his salary, and moving him makes sense as far as the long-term outlook of the team is concerned with Story on his way.
Detroit Tigers: SP Anibal Sanchez...maybe
Despite trading David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria at the trade deadline, the Detroit Tigers are not necessarily headed for a rebuild.
All three players were set to reach free agency this offseason and unlikely to be re-signed. With so much money tied up in the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez this team will still be looking to contend.
That said, the Tigers still have one of the thinnest farm systems in all of baseball, so they really don't have the pieces to be a significant player on the trade market this winter.
They will be looking for a pair of starters to fill out the rotation and at least a couple bullpen arms to bolster the relief corps, but those additions will likely all come in free agency.
So who is their most likely trade candidate?
Your guess is as good as mine at this point.
Maybe they can find a way to move Anibal Sanchez if they eat a good chunk of the $33.6 million he's owed over the next two years.
That would open the rotation up for young guys like Daniel Norris, Michael Fulmer and Buck Farmer as well as whomever they decide to make a run at in free agency and could free up some money in the process.
That's purely speculative, though.
Houston Astros: 1B Chris Carter
The Houston Astros have an abundance of first baseman/designated hitter types with Evan Gattis, Chris Carter, Jon Singleton and prospect A.J. Reed all in the mix for playing time at those spots in 2016.
With that in mind, there's certainly a chance someone from that group could be traded this offseason. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, it's Carter who could find himself on the block.
"While Carter had a good second half, the Astros, according to one major league source, could dangle him as trade bait," wrote Cafardo.
"Carter’s unpredictable performance, coupled with high strikeouts, could have the Astros seeking a steadier performer at the position. He’s right-handed power, which is sought-after."
After posting a .799 OPS and launching 37 home runs in 2014, Carter saw his production dip as he had a .734 OPS and 24 home runs this past season.
However, as Cafardo noted, he did step up his production in the second half, and there is still a shortage of right-handed power around the league.
Carter made $4.175 million in his first year of arbitration last year, and MLB Trade Rumors has him projected for a $5.6 million salary in 2016.
Compare that to the $3.4 million projection for Gattis, and it makes sense that Carter would be the guy the team would look to deal.
Kansas City Royals: 2B Omar Infante...if Someone Is Crazy Enough to Take Him
The Kansas City Royals have gotten to where they are by developing their in-house talent, but they were as aggressive as anyone at the trade deadline when they acquired both Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist.
Those two came at a steep price from a prospect standpoint, and the team likely won't be as quick to deal from the farm system this winter.
There will be holes to address, specifically the corner outfield spots and the starting rotation with Alex Gordon, Alex Rios, Cueto and Chris Young all headed for free agency.
However, the team will likely address those needs on the free-agent market as opposed to further draining the farm system that it has relied on as a pipeline over the years given its small-market status.
That makes finding its most likely player to be traded a bit tricky.
While there is no clear-cut player who could be on the move, finding a way to dump Omar Infante would be a coup.
The veteran second baseman is owed $15.75 million over the next two seasons, and he hit a dreadful .220/.234/.318 this past season as his .552 OPS was the lowest among players with at least 400 at-bats.
The Royals would probably have to eat about $13 million of that remaining money for anyone to even have a shred of interest, but they'll at least explore their options in ridding themselves of the 33-year-old.
Los Angeles Angels: SP Hector Santiago
The Los Angeles Angels have an abundance of starting pitching for next season and a clear need to upgrade the offense, so moving a starter would make a lot of sense.
Here's a look at the potential starting pitching options for next year:
- Garrett Richards: 32 GS, 15-12, 3.65 ERA, 1.240 WHIP
- Hector Santiago: 32 GS, 9-9, 3.59 ERA, 1.256 WHIP
- Jered Weaver: 26 GS, 7-12, 4.64 ERA, 1.233 WHIP
- Matt Shoemaker: 24 GS, 7-10, 4.46 ERA, 1.256 WHIP
- C.J. Wilson: 21 GS, 8-8, 3.89 ERA, 1.242 WHIP
- Andrew Heaney: 18 GS, 6-4, 3.49 ERA, 1.202 WHIP
- Nick Tropeano: 7 GS, 3-2, 3.82 ERA, 1.327 WHIP
- Tyler Skaggs: Did not pitch, recovery from Tommy John surgery
The team is going to have a hard time finding a taker for Weaver ($20.2 million) or Wilson ($20.5 million) based on their salaries, while Heaney, Shoemaker, Skaggs and Tropeano are all pre-arbitration and likely viewed as long-term pieces.
That leaves Richards and Santiago, the team's two best pitchers in 2015, as the most likely pitchers to find themselves as trade candidates.
Richards has an extra year of team control and has legitimate ace potential when he's at his best, so if anyone is going to be moved it looks like Santiago would make the most sense.
The left-hander is projected to earn $5.1 million in arbitration, and with two years of team control left he would make for a relatively low-cost trade target and more than just a rental player.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RF Yasiel Puig
Bob Nightengale of USA Today was the first to report back in July that the Los Angeles Dodgers were willing to listen to offers for outfielder Yasiel Puig.
Not much came of that news in the days leading up to the trade deadline, but it's a deal the team could legitimately pursue this coming offseason.
However, the market for the outfielder is tough to gauge, as he does not have the same sky-high long-term outlook he once did.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post explained:
He is signed reasonably from 2016-18 for $19.5 million, so teams will have interest. But what can be expected in return has shriveled.
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.
A variety of injuries contributed to Puig playing just 79 games, but that only further proves the point made about his changing body type.
It's still unlikely that the Dodgers would simply dump someone with the potential and previous success of Puig, but expect him to be shopped aggressively.
Miami Marlins: CF Marcell Ozuna
Marcell Ozuna looked like a long-term piece of the puzzle for the Miami Marlins when he hit .269/.317/.455 with 23 home runs and 85 RBI in his age-23 season in 2014.
In fact, he was among a number of players the team was reportedly pushing to extend last offseason after locking up Giancarlo Stanton, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
A lot has changed in the past year, though.
A slow start from Ozuna saw him hitting just .249/.301/.337 in early July, and the Marlins opted to demote him to Triple-A in an effort to kick-start his season.
He did not take the demotion well, though, saying his time in the minors was "like a jail," according to Adam Zuvanich of the Miami Herald.
His name popped up in trade rumors at the deadline and on into August as a result, and agent Scott Boras accused the Marlins of keeping him in the minors to delay his arbitration eligibility.
The 24-year-old finished out the season with the Marlins, but expect his name to swirl on the rumor mill once again this offseason.
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors suggested a potential trade fit with the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Trevor Bauer, as that would fill a clear area of need for both teams.
Milwaukee Brewers: SS Jean Segura
The Milwaukee Brewers showed a willingness to rebuild or at least retool the roster when they shipped Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Houston Astros in exchange for prospects at the trade deadline.
As clear bottom-feeders in a deep NL Central, further rebuilding seems like the clear direction for the franchise in the immediate future, and that could mean more significant pieces being dealt this winter.
Ideally they would find a way to unload Matt Garza and the $25 million left on his deal over the next two years, but in terms of the most likely player to be moved, that appears to be shortstop Jean Segura.
An All-Star in 2013, Segura battled through a 2014 season that included the loss of his son back in the Dominican Republic.
He then put up similar numbers this past season, as he hit .257/.281/.336 with 27 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases for a 0.0 WAR.
As a 25-year-old with three more years of team control, he would seem like the kind of player a rebuilding team like the Brewers would want to hold onto.
However, with 21-year-old shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia enjoying a breakout season in Double-A where he hit .307/.347/.453 with 52 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases, the team could be looking to clear a path for him.
The free-agent market for shortstops is thin behind Ian Desmond and Asdrubal Cabrera, so there could be a market for Segura as a bounce-back candidate.
Minnesota Twins: 3B Trevor Plouffe
The Minnesota Twins are a team on the rise, but they're still a small-market team by comparison to the rest of the league.
Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com talked to general manager Terry Ryan about the upcoming offseason, and among the topics of conversation was third base and the future of rookie standout Miguel Sano.
Ryan said Sano can't get into the mindset of being a designated hitter and he would like him to play in the field next year. But he also said Trevor Plouffe is only a third baseman moving forward and that Joe Mauer will return at first base next year. So Ryan has some interesting decisions to make this offseason, including the option to trade to Plouffe.
Third base is an incredibly weak position in free agency this offseason, as David Freese and David Murphy—if he decides to make the move off of second base—are the only real starting options.
That means there would almost certainly be a significant market for Plouffe who hit .244/.307/.435 with 35 doubles, 22 home runs and 86 RBI for a 2.5 WAR.
His 249 total bases ranked 11th among qualified third basemen.
Moving a solid run producer and a good defender may not make sense on the surface, but it would open things up for Sano to take over at the hot corner, and it could potentially bring back some impact pitching for a team that needs it.
New York Mets: SS Gavin Cecchini
The New York Mets took infielder Gavin Cecchini with the No. 12 pick in the 2012 draft, but his first three seasons with the team were largely disappointing.
He entered the 2015 season ranked as the team's No. 10 prospect, according to Baseball America, and things finally seemed to click in a full season at the Double-A level.
The 21-year-old hit .317/.377/.442 with 26 doubles, seven home runs and 51 RBI, and he showed a terrific approach at the plate with a 42/55 BB/K ratio in 439 at-bats.
That breakout season led to Cecchini seeing his name come up in trade rumors at the deadline when the team was searching for a bat, as Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that the team viewed him as a potential trade chip.
That makes sense given the presence of Amed Rosario as the No. 1 shortstop prospect in the Mets system.
Rosario hit .253/.302/.329 with 25 extra-base hits and 13 steals last season while playing strong defense at shortstop, and he got his feet wet with two games at the Double-A level to close out the year.
Building a trade package around Cecchini and some of the remaining pitching prospect talent in the system could be enough for the Mets to make a run at an impact bat if they fail to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes.
New York Yankees: LF Brett Gardner
The New York Yankees are no longer a team that will simply throw hundreds of millions of dollars at the top free agents on the market.
That doesn't mean there won't be any significant moves in the Bronx this offseason, though, and a trade of Brett Gardner is one deal of the team could consider.
Bryan Hoch of MLB.com talked about that very subject when asked if the Yankees would consider trading Gardner in a mailbag article.
It's possible, as it may be one of the only ways that they can get creative and add flexibility around the roster.
Initial indications are that this will not be one of those big-spending winters in the Bronx, with only three lesser free agents coming off the books, but this free-agent class seems more appealing than what will be out there in a year or two, when Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia and A-Rod all see their contracts expire.
Gardner is heading into the second year of a four-year, $52 million deal, which is relatively attractive; we've seen bigger contracts moved in recent years. As a legitimate center fielder with speed who can bat leadoff -- something the Yanks, in theory, already have in Ellsbury -- Gardner would pique the interest of quite a few teams in the marketplace.
The Yankees will likely be after another bullpen arm this offseason as they look for a reliable right-hander to pair with Dellin Betances, and a multi-player trade that sends Gardner to San Diego and Craig Kimbrel to the Yankees is something to keep an eye on.
That's purely speculation, but it looks like a potentially beneficial deal for both sides.
Oakland Athletics: SP Jesse Chavez
Trying to predict what Billy Beane and the rest of the Oakland Athletics front office has planned for this coming offseason is an exercise in futility.
However, one name to keep an eye on as a potential trade chip is right-hander Jesse Chavez.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle described Chavez as "unlikely to be in next year's rotation" and "coveted by many teams for his versatility" in an article near the end of the regular season.
The 32-year-old went 7-15 with a 4.18 ERA (3.85 FIP) and 1.350 WHIP in 26 starts and four relief appearances, throwing a career-high 157 innings in the process.
Chavez earned $2.15 million in his first year of arbitration this past year, and he's projected for a $4.7 million in the season ahead, which would make him one of the higher-paid players on the small-market Athletics.
He's an ideal fit in a swingman role of sorts, as he has enjoyed success both as a starter and a reliever, and there's a good chance the A's will be looking to unload his salary before spring training rolls around.
Philadelphia Phillies: 1B Ryan Howard
Once they exercise their buyout on Cliff Lee, the Philadelphia Phillies will only have four players under contract for the upcoming season.
Ryan Howard is one of those four, as he is set to earn $25 million in the final guaranteed year of the five-year, $125 million extension he signed prior to the 2010 season.
The 35-year-old also has a $23 million option with a $10 million buyout for next season, and if the Phillies have any chance of unloading the veteran slugger it will likely take eating nearly all of that $35 million left on the books.
Howard still has some useful power, as he had 29 doubles, 23 home runs and 77 RBI last season.
He's never been a good defensive first baseman, so he's probably best suited as a designated hitter at this point.
The Phillies aren't going to get much for him, but trading him to free up more at-bats for young players just makes sense at this point.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 1B Pedro Alvarez
Pedro Alvarez made the full-time move to first base in 2015, and the results were not pretty.
The 28-year-old was a complete disaster defensively (23 errors, -14 DRS, -26.4 UZR/150), and despite leading the Pittsburgh Pirates with 27 home runs he hardly made up for it on the offensive side with a .243/.318/.469 line and 131 strikeouts.
That all added up to a 0.1 WAR, and with a $5.75 million salary this past season and an $8.1 million projected salary for 2016, a strong case can be made that his price tag now outweighs his value on the field.
The Pirates reportedly aggressively shopped Alvarez at the deadline, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, but they were unable to find a taker.
Now that his salary is set to climb significantly higher, they will likely up their efforts to move him with the idea of perhaps even non-tendering him if they can't find a taker.
For all of his shortcomings, Alvarez still has 111 home runs over the past four seasons, so it's hard to imagine the Pirates won't be able to find someone willing to give up a low-level prospect or two to acquire him.
San Diego Padres: RP Craig Kimbrel
After an incredibly busy offseason last year, the San Diego Padres may opt to take a step back this winter in an effort to help restock the farm system after their push for contention this past season came up short.
The team was surprisingly quiet at the trade deadline in terms of actually making moves, but it did listen to offers for the likes of James Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Craig Kimbrel, and all four are potential trade chips this offseason.
Of that group, Kimbrel appears to be the most likely to be dealt, based simply on the fact that he will have the most suitors.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports listed the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Tigers, Cubs, Rangers, Yankees and perhaps the Braves as teams that could be interested in the All-Star closer.
And why not?
Over the past five seasons, he's piled up 224 saves with a 1.70 ERA, 0.909 WHIP and 14.4 K/9 as one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball.
The 27-year-old is also more than just a rental, as he's owed $24 million over the next two years with a $13 million option for 2018.
San Francisco Giants: SS Christian Arroyo
The San Francisco Giants don't have a clear-cut trade chip at the major league level. But if they decide to go the trade-market route in their efforts to improve the starting rotation, there are a few prospects who seem likely to be dangled.
Tops on that list shortstop is Christian Arroyo, who was taken with the No. 25 pick in the 2013 draft out of Hernando High School in Florida.
The 20-year-old has done nothing but hit to this point in his pro career, posting a .303/.348/.448 line over parts of three minor league seasons.
That includes a .304/.344/.459 this past season with 28 doubles, nine home runs and 42 RBI in a full season at High-A San Jose.
He may wind up shifting to third base long term, but there is at least a chance he sticks at shortstop as his primary position so that certainly adds to his value.
The Giants are more or less set on the infield for the foreseeable future with Joe Panik at second base, Brandon Crawford at shortstop and Matt Duffy at third base.
That should be reason enough to make Arroyo the preferred centerpiece of any major offseason trade.
Seattle Mariners: 1B/3B Patrick Kivlehan
With Kyle Seager entrenched at third base for the Seattle Mariners after signing a seven-year, $100 million extension prior to the 2015 season, it appeared that prospects D.J. Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan were battling to be the future everyday first baseman.
Both prospects turned in big seasons in 2014 while splitting the year between High-A and Double-A:
- Peterson: 495 AB, .297/.360/.552, 31 2B, 31 HR, 111 RBI
- Kivlehan: 519 AB, .295/.363/.507, 32 2B, 20 HR, 103 RBI
However, both fell off significantly this past season:
- Peterson: 372 AB, .223/.287/.344, 20 2B, 7 HR, 44 RBI
- Kivlehan: 472 AB, .256/.313/.453, 25 2B, 22 HR, 73 RBI
Despite the dreadful numbers, Peterson still has the higher ceiling of the two if he can turn things around, and he's also two years younger so it seems unlikely the team will be willing to sell low on him at this point.
However, Kivlehan could be a nice starting point in any big-time trade the team decides to pursue this offseason, whether it's to improve the bullpen or add some pop in left field.
St. Louis Cardinals: CF Peter Bourjos
When the St. Louis Cardinals decided to swap David Freese for Peter Bourjos in a four-player deal prior to the 2014 season, few if anyone expected prospect Randal Grichuk to wind up being the most significant piece of that trade.
However, two years later, there's a good chance Grichuk opens the 2016 season as the Cardinals' primary center fielder and Bourjos is playing elsewhere.
General manager John Mozeliak had the following to say when asked about his future with the team earlier this month, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"As far as Peter goes, I don’t think it ever worked to the point where we were hopeful of. That doesn’t mean we’re at the point to give up either. We’ll reassess and look at what our opportunities look like over the next six weeks or so."
The 28-year-old is still a good defender with plus speed, but he has hit just .218/.292/.342 in 459 at-bats over the past two seasons.
With Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty, Grichuk, Jon Jay and Tommy Pham all in the mix for outfield at-bats, and Jason Heyward still very much a part of the team's long-term plans if it can manage to re-sign him, outfield playing time for Bourjos figures to be sparse.
He's projected to make $1.8 million next season, which isn't unreasonable by any means, but there may legitimately be no place on the roster for him.
"A non-tender strikes me as unlikely, simply because Bourjos’ defensive ceiling is so high," wrote Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors. "A team in need of center field options such as the Brewers, Indians, Mariners or Padres would make some sense to me as a fit."
Tampa Bay Rays: RP Jake McGee
The Tampa Bay Rays have done a fantastic job of piecing together their bullpen over the years with a combination of young in-house talent and bargain-bin signings on the free-agent market.
With that in mind, and considering the overall financial situation of the franchise, the $4.7 million projected salary of Jake McGee may be enough for the team to put him on the block this winter.
After converting 19 of 23 save chances with a 1.89 ERA in 2014, McGee began the 2015 season on the disabled list, recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow.
That opened the door for Brad Boxberger to step into the closer's role, and he wound up making the All-Star team on his way to nailing down 41 saves with a 3.71 ERA, 1.365 WHIP and 10.6 K/9.
One can argue that a healthy McGee is the better pitcher of the two, but considering Boxberger won't even be arbitration-eligible for the first time until next offseason, he's probably the preferred option on a small-market team.
The market for left-handed relievers is fronted by Antonio Bastardo and Tony Sipp as things currently stand, so McGee would shoot to the top of that list if he became available.
Desmond Jennings is another player to keep an eye on as a potential trade candidate, as the Rays could go with an outfield of Brandon Guyer, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza moving forward. The injury-prone Jennings is projected to earn $3.1 million in arbitration.
Texas Rangers: CF Leonys Martin
On their way to a 95-loss season in 2014, the bright spots were few and far between for the Texas Rangers.
However, one such bright spot was the play of center fielder Leonys Martin, who ranked second on the team with a 4.6 WAR thanks in large part to his terrific defense (15 DRS, 10.7 UZR/150) and good speed (31 steals).
While he was a terrific defensive option once again (15 DRS, 15.4 UZR/150) in roughly half the innings, a lack of offensive production led to a decrease in playing time.
By season's end, Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields was the team's everyday center fielder, and Texas left Martin off the postseason roster with a .219/.264/.313 line in 288 at-bats in favor of Drew Stubbs.
The Rangers sent him to instructional league team at the end of the regular season, along with a handful of others who were left off the postseason roster, to stay in shape in case they needed him as an injury replacement in the playoffs.
However, Martin declined to report, according to Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News.
That could be reason enough for the team to try to unload the 27-year-old, and his defense should create a trade market similar to the aforementioned Peter Bourjos.
Martin is in an odd situation from a salary standpoint, though.
He signed a five-year, $15.5 million deal after defecting from Cuba and earned $4.75 million this past season in the last year of that deal.
Now he's arbitration-eligible for the first time and projected to earn just $1.6 million next year, so he's actually less of a drain on the payroll.
Toronto Blue Jays: LF Michael Saunders
The Toronto Blue Jays' move to acquire Michael Saunders from the Seattle Mariners looked like it had a chance to be one of the better under-the-radar moves of the offseason heading into spring training.
Saunders saw his playing time drop significantly in 2014 when he fell out of favor in Seattle, but he remained a productive hitter, as he batted .273/.341/.450 with 11 doubles and eight home runs in 231 at-bats.
Projected to be the Blue Jays starting left fielder, Saunders instead missed the start of the regular season with a knee injury and then played in just nine games before re-aggravating the surgically repaired knee and missing the rest of the season.
In the meantime, Kevin Pillar emerged as an elite defensive outfielder and solid offensive producer, and the team acquired Ben Revere, who is under team control through 2017 at the trade deadline.
That leaves Saunders on the outside looking in for playing time in 2016, and with his $2.9 million projected salary, the Blue Jays could look to cut ties as a cost-saving move.
That may well mean a non-tender, but someone could be willing to trade for the 28-year-old as a fairly cheap bounce-back candidate.
Washington Nationals: RP Drew Storen
Drew Storen was none too pleased when the Washington Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline and ousted him from the closer's role in the process, and rightfully so.
To that point, Storen had converted 29 of 31 save chances with a 1.73 ERA, 1.018 WHIP and 10.9 K/9 to rank as one of the best closers in baseball.
The friction caused by that move makes Storen an obvious potential trade chip this offseason, as a change of scenery for him seems like the best course of action for everyone involved.
"The Nats are expected to try to trade Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon (good luck with that second one)," wrote Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. "Storen absolutely has to go after the team showed what they thought of him as a closer by bringing in Papelbon to replace him. They really need a bullpen makeover."
Storen earned $5.7 million this past season and is projected for a raise to $8.8 million, so that hefty salary could be a sticking point in negotiations.
He's also a free agent after the 2016 season, so teams likely won't be quick to part with any top prospects for one year of the 28-year-old reliever.
His market will be directly tied to what the Reds and Padres decide to do with Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, respectively.