Blockbuster Trades That Could Shake Up the 2016-17 MLB Offseason
This winter's MLB free-agent class offers little in the way of impact players. As a result, we could see unusually high movement among the game's biggest names who are still under contract.
With baseball winter meetings a little less than a month away, a number of star players are already rumored in potential blockbuster deals. There are others rostered on teams amidst a rebuild. It can be reasonably speculated that those players, too, could be on the move this winter.
This offseason may be unusual in that the trade market could net more impact moves than free agency. What might those moves be?
3B Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox
In Todd Frazier, it seems as though the White Sox have the kind of player the organization covets: a big home run bat regardless of any other shortcomings.
Frazier strikes out in bunches—163 times in 2016—but he has the potential to lead MLB in homers, which prompted Chicago to overlook his swing-and-miss tendencies when the organization traded for him last offseason.
As power is concerned, Frazier delivered in 2016, homering 40 times. But with the organization eyeing a rebuild, it might be wise to move Frazier this winter.
Any interested teams would have to, like the White Sox, take the good with the bad. Any potential trade is one that comes with some risk.
The top two National League West finishers this season could vie for Frazier's services. If the Los Angeles Dodgers are unable to re-sign third baseman Justin Turner—something that should be a priority for the organization—they could enter the Frazier sweepstakes. The San Francisco Giants should look to add a power bat this season.
Hitting in a more potent lineup could help reduce Frazier's strikeouts. With more capable hitters around him, Frazier would be less likely to see as many breaking pitches.
That would give him a chance to put balls in play more consistently. He slashed .225/.302/.464.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday that the White Sox are listening to offers for Frazier. The report was not specific as to which teams had shown interest.
SP Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
There may not be an under-contract player more talked about this winter than White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale, who has made five straight American League All-Star teams and has been the league's best pitcher over that period of time.
Sale, a lefty, has a career 3.00 ERA and 3.06 fielding independent pitching (FIP). The glaring hole in his resume: Sale has yet to pitch in a postseason game.
The irony is that there are few players who could impact an October run like Sale.
So with the White Sox struggling to keep up in an improving AL Central, the organization has to consider dealing Sale, who would command a haul of prospects that could alter the organization's future. As for teams looking to contend in 2017, they would salivate at the chance to acquire him.
There has been hesitation on Chicago's South Side to undergo a full-scale rebuild like the Chicago Cubs, their counterparts to the north. But Sale would command such a high value that the prospects the team would get in return could accelerate that process.
A White Sox rebuild won't necessarily be as long as that of the Cubs.
Sale had a tenuous relationship with the organization this season. During spring training, he spoke out against management after Adam LaRoche retired. He then was suspended after refusing to wear throwback jerseys on a day he was scheduled to pitch.
Given his performance, he's a bargain: Sale is pitching on a five-year, $32.5 million contract with team options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, making him attractive to small-market teams, too.
Both the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, who were swept out of the playoffs this season, sought starting pitching all year. They both have the kind of prospects the White Sox would command in a deal. The New York Yankees—2017 contenders—could also jump into Sale trade talks if he is shopped.
SP Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Earlier this month, Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila told MLB Network (via ESPN.com) that the team would look to shed payroll this winter.
That means longtime starting pitcher Justin Verlander could be on the move. The 2016 AL Cy Young finalist had a 3.04 ERA in 2016 and led the league with 254 strikeouts.
The right-hander would be attractive to the aforementioned AL teams and, quite possibly, to some NL teams looking to fill a hole in their starting rotations. The San Francisco Giants, for example, could add him to the already-potent one-two punch of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto.
The Dodgers are also a potential landing spot for Verlander. Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit Business reported that Los Angeles has shown interest in Verlander.
Verlander is more of an upgrade than any free-agent starting pitcher this year, which makes it an advantageous time for the Tigers to trade him.
1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Like Verlander, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera represents more of an offensive upgrade than any other bat on the market.
Though there are hitters like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista available in free agency, Cabrera offers a steadier bat in the middle of any lineup.
In 2016, Cabrera slashed .316/.393/.563 with 38 homers and 108 RBI. He's still an MVP candidate who can make a number of contending teams division favorites.
MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported on Wednesday (via the Detroit News) that the Houston Astros are in pursuit of Cabrera. The Astros disappointed in 2016 by failing to make the playoffs. They have prospects in their system they could send to Detroit, which would help with the organization's restructure.
2B Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds finished last in the NL Central in 2016 and may lag further behind in the division than any other team.
As such, the organization must undergo a massive rebuild. It's highly unlikely second baseman Brandon Phillips, 35, will be able to impact a playoff race in a Reds uniform. That prompted the team to try to trade him last offseason to the Washington Nationals.
Phillips vetoed the trade. He has 10-and-5 rights, which allow any player who has played 10 MLB seasons and five with the same team to veto any trade.
But Morosi reported that Phillips is now more willing to waive those rights.
There are drawbacks to Phillips. Though he hit .291 last season, he had a .320 on-base percentage, which is lower than one would like to see from a top-of-the-order hitter. Phillips hasn't had an OBP higher than .328 since 2011 when he posted a career-high .353.
He can offer Gold Glove-like play at second base, however. He won the award as recently as 2013, the third time in four seasons he was recognized as the NL's best-fielding second baseman.
OF Jay Bruce, New York Mets
For the New York Mets to trade outfielder Jay Bruce, the team would first need to re-sign free-agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
New York struggled offensively last season, so trading Bruce before a Cespedes deal was inked would be foolish. If the Mets are unable to sign Cespedes, they may need to keep Bruce.
But given that Bruce (.219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last season) struggled in 2016 after New York acquired him from the Reds at the trade deadline, dealing him would make sense.
Sometimes a change of scenery can have a negative impact on a player as it did on Bruce, who led the NL in RBI at the time of his trade.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Philadelphia Phillies could be a landing spot for Bruce. The Phillies are also said to be a contender to land Cespedes.
But in the case that the Mets re-sign him, that would create the need for Bruce in Philadelphia. However, trading him within the division would need to be a highly beneficial deal for the Mets.
Bruce's RBI ability makes him an easy plug into the middle of any lineup.