1 Risky Move Each MLB Team Should Consider Making This Offseason

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2016

1 Risky Move Each MLB Team Should Consider Making This Offseason

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    Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

    The winter meetings are just a few short weeks away as the MLB offseason figures to kick into full swing during the annual league-wide congregation that will take place this year from Dec. 4-8 in National Harbor, Maryland.

    Every offseason brings a unique crop of free agents and trade targets, but this winter in particular will be a unique one thanks to a barren starting pitching market.

    For pitching-needy teams, the trade market will be the place to go, and that could give this year's meetings a feeling similar to the July trade deadline when teams are wheeling and dealing.

    So as teams weigh their options ahead over the coming weeks, they will have some tough decisions to make and some risky propositions to consider.

    That's what we'll focus on here: one risky move that each MLB team should consider making.

    In many cases, it's potentially trading a key player, going back to the idea that the trade market will be busier than in most years. Other decisions include targeting a free agent, addressing an extension candidate and potentially clearing a path for a top prospect.

    We've laid out the potential benefits of making each move, as well as why it's a risk.

    So with that, let's begin.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Signing RP Greg Holland

    The Potential Pay Off

    The Diamondbacks are in serious need of late-inning relief help with Brad Ziegler, Tyler Clippard and Daniel Hudson all gone from last year's bullpen. They won't break the bank on a top-tier reliever, but rolling the dice on Holland could give them just that at a fraction of the cost.

    With a number of teams interested in him, he still won't come cheap, but a one-year deal with an option seems likely, so it's a high-upside play.

    The Risk

    Holland is coming off Tommy John surgery, and while scouts liked what they saw from a mechanics standpoint during his recent showcase, he was clocked only in the 89-90 mph range.

    While it could simply be a matter of continuing to build up arm strength for his velocity to return, relying on him to anchor the bullpen could leave the D-Backs scrambling if his stuff doesn't bounce all the way back and he struggles.

    At the very least, adding another veteran reliever with closer experience would seem like a necessary complementary move to signing Holland.

Atlanta Braves

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Clearing a path for 2B Ozzie Albies

    The Potential Pay Off

    The Braves aggressively promoted Dansby Swanson last season, and he responded with a .302 average and .803 OPS over 145 plate appearances, seizing the everyday shortstop job in the process.

    Taking a similar approach with Albies would give the team's future double-play combination even more time to work together while the organization is still rebuilding and development still trumps on-field results.

    Jace Peterson didn't have the best season in 2016, but he could have some trade value as a versatile and controllable young infielder.

    The Risk

    Albies looked right at home during spring training last year (13-for-25) and crushed Double-A pitching (371 PA, .321 BA, .858 OPS), but he struggled making the jump to Triple-A (247 PA, .248 BA, .659 OPS), so putting him on the Opening Day roster could be pushing him too hard.

    He's still only 19 years old and coming off a fractured elbow that prematurely ended his 2016 season.

    While he's expected to be ready for the start of spring training, there could be some lingering effects of that injury, so handing him the starting job might not be in his best interest.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Re-signing RF Mark Trumbo

    The Potential Pay Off

    The Orioles let Nelson Cruz walk after he led the AL in home runs in his one season with the team, and he's continued to rake since joining the Seattle Mariners. Now they're facing a similar decision with slugger Mark Trumbo.

    After the team invested a ton of money last year and earned a wild-card spot, closing the wallet now and letting Trumbo walk could be a mistake. That's doubly true if the Orioles have no intention of upgrading the starting rotation, as that means they'll once again be relying on the offensive attack.

    MLB Trade Rumors predicted a four-year, $60 million deal for Trumbo.

    The Risk

    The 47 home runs that Trumbo hit were great, but he's as one-dimensional as any player in baseball.

    He was a 1.6 WAR player in 2016, and with a .303 career on-base percentage and below-average defensive skills at first base and the corner outfield spots, he'll need to continue being a 40-homer guy to live up to a contract that size.

    The Orioles have placed an emphasis on improving defensively and could also look to add more team speed after stealing just 19 bases total. Trumbo doesn't check either of those boxes, so their best move might be to take the draft-pick compensation and wave goodbye.

Boston Red Sox

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Signing 3B Justin Turner

    The Potential Pay Off

    Justin Turner has evolved into one of the game's best all-around third basemen since joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014. He put together his best season to date in 2016 with an .832 OPS, 27 home runs, 90 RBI and terrific defense for a 4.9 WAR.

    He'd be a clear upgrade at the hot corner for the Boston Red Sox, who are once again set to rely on some combination of Travis Shaw and Pablo Sandoval while top prospect Yoan Moncada returns to the minors for more seasoning.

    The position produced a middling .242/.306/.380 line last season.

    Aside from adding a few bullpen arms and finding a capable designated hitter to replace David Ortiz, the Red Sox don't have a lengthy to-do list this winter, so spending on Turner could be a smart allocation of funds.

    The Risk

    While Turner has developed into a solid everyday option, a complete lack of other third base options on the free-agent market could drive up his price.

    Moncada struggled in his first taste of big league action last year, striking out 12 times in 20 plate appearances, but he still has all the makings of a future superstar and could be ready to claim the position in earnest by midseason.

    Turner figures to get at least a four-year deal and will cost the team that signs him a draft pick after he turned down a qualifying offer, so that could be a bigger investment than the Red Sox are willing to make when the long-term answer at third base is already in house.

Chicago Cubs

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading LF Jorge Soler

    The Potential Pay Off

    Jorge Soler will make just $3.67 million this coming season, after which he can opt in to arbitration and will still be under team control through the 2020 campaign.

    While injuries have cost him significant time the past two seasons, his offensive production has been solid when he has taken the field with a .741 OPS, 22 home runs and 78 RBI over 668 plate appearances.

    That means the 24-year-old should still have plenty of trade value, and with a crowded outfield situation, the Chicago Cubs' best move might be to flip him now for pitching help.

    Whether he's the centerpiece of a deal for a controllable starter or a back-end bullpen arm like Wade Davis, without a clear role in 2017 he looks like an obvious trade chip.

    The Risk

    The risk here is obvious: What if Soler turns into the dynamic middle-of-the-order threat he was expected to become?

    "We don't have any untouchables, but I still think there's a lot more in there offensively," team president Theo Epstein said of Soler while talking with Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. "He hasn't had the season yet where he has put it all together, hit 30 home runs and been a force in the middle of the lineup. But it's so obviously in there. We'd like to see him reach his full potential with us, if possible."

    If the Cubs don't re-sign Dexter Fowler, an outfield of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Soler with Ben Zobrist filling a super-utility role could be the team's best alignment.

Chicago White Sox

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Move: Trading SP Chris Sale and SP Jose Quintana

    The Potential Pay Off

    Earlier this month, I wrote about how the Chicago White Sox are lacking a clear direction for the franchise:

    If the front office doesn't think this team can realistically contend for a title next year, they need to stop throwing band-aids on the roster and playing for a .500 record and make a serious move in the other direction.

    The White Sox farm system checked in at No. 23 in Bleacher Report's final update in September, and the organization as a whole is lacking in young, impact talent.

    Pulling the trigger on trading both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana would represent a decisive move toward rebuilding and would go a long way in restocking the farm system and adding the young talent the team so desperately needs.

    With so few rotation options on the free-agent market, their value may never be higher than it is right now.

    The Risk

    The risk is not hitting on whichever prospects the White Sox wind up acquiring for two of the best starting pitchers in baseball who are both on team-friendly contracts.

    Prospect scouting and projecting has become more and more reliable over the years, but it's still far from an exact science.

    If the centerpieces of deals for Sale and Quintana were to flop, it would set the franchise back years and mean it wasted its most valuable assets. That's the risk you always face on the trade market, though.

Cincinnati Reds

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    David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading 1B Joey Votto

    The Potential Pay Off

    Trading Joey Votto would likely mean unloading a good chunk of the $179 million he's still owed over the next seven years—a contract that has him signed through his age-39 season with a buyout at 40.

    That would give the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds significant financial flexibility for an aggressive push on next year's loaded free-agent market.

    It would also bring more prospect talent to a farm system on the rise.

    The Risk

    In order to get a significant talent return, the Reds might have to eat more of that remaining salary than they'd like to, and it quickly hits a point where they're better off just holding onto one of the game's best players than paying him to play elsewhere.

    Votto has taken some heat over the years for his ultra-patient approach at the plate, but that's a skill that should age well, as he is not as reliant on power as others at his position.

    There's also the obvious hit that trading the face of the franchise takes on the fanbase and the clubhouse. Votto is the leader of the team and the lone superstar remaining in Cincinnati, so moving him would leave a significant void.

Cleveland Indians

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Clearing a path for OF Bradley Zimmer

    The Potential Pay Off

    The Cleveland Indians took a chance on Tyler Naquin this past season, giving the former first-round pick a spot on the Opening Day roster and significant playing time in a center field platoon with Rajai Davis.

    He rewarded them with an .886 OPS, 18 doubles, 14 home runs and 43 RBI over 365 plate appearances, good enough for a third-place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting, per BBWAA.com.

    A similar approach with Bradley Zimmer could pay dividends as well. He's been one of the team's top prospects since going No. 21 overall in the 2014 draft and has more upside than Naquin going forward.

    "Come spring training, I want to win a job," Zimmer told Bobby DeMuro of Today's Knuckleball. "I am going to go in there with a mindset that a spot is open, and I’m going to take it. I’ll build off what I’m doing here, go into spring training, and hopefully win a job in the big leagues."

    The Risk

    The health of Michael Brantley is the big X-factor in the Indians outfield.

    If he's back to 100 percent, he'll be the starting left fielder, and Zimmer would have to compete with Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall for playing time.

    If Brantley misses significant time again, the everyday left field job would be up for grabs, and Zimmer could play his way into regular at-bats there.

    That being said, if the team doesn't add an outfielder in free agency and Zimmer struggles with the move to the big leagues, left field would then turn into an obvious hole.

Colorado Rockies

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading CF Charlie Blackmon

    The Potential Pay Off

    Charlie Blackmon put together a career year in 2016, hitting .324/.381/.552 with 35 doubles, 29 home runs, 82 RBI and 111 runs scored en route to a 4.4 WAR.

    The 30-year-old is under team control through the 2018 season, and even with a significant raise from $3.5 million to a projected $9.0 million, he's a bargain.

    This year's free-agent market is loaded with outfield talent but relatively thin on center fielders, as Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond are the only standout options.

    That makes Blackmon an attractive trade target for teams that are looking to add both a center fielder and a table-setter at the top of the order.

    If it means adding a controllable, MLB-ready starter, then flipping Blackmon may be the Rockies' best move.

    The Risk

    Even if they significantly improve the starting rotation and bullpen, the Rockies will always be a team that relies on offense.

    Subtracting Blackmon from the lineup would be a huge blow to the team's biggest strength, even with Gerardo Parra and Raimel Tapia representing capable in-house replacements.

    General manager Jeff Bridich is in the final year of his contract, so he'll be doing everything in his power to put the best possible team on the field in 2017. It's hard to see a scenario where trading Blackmon does that, even if it does benefit Colorado's long-term outlook.

Detroit Tigers

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading SP Justin Verlander

    The Potential Pay Off

    Finding the right deal to move Miguel Cabrera still seems unlikely for the Detroit Tigers, but trading ace Justin Verlander could be in the cards this offseason.

    Verlander enjoyed a nice bounce-back season in 2016, going 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA and leading the AL in WHIP (1.00) and strikeouts (254).

    His $28 million annual salary will still be a sticking point for some teams, but with just three years left on his deal, he's a far more attractive trade chip than some might think.

    Even without eating any of that remaining salary, the Tigers should be able to add a pair of top-tier prospects while picking up some significant payroll relief if they do find a trade partner for him.

    The emergence of Michael Fulmer also means the rotation would still have an ace.

    The Risk

    The Tigers are looking to shed salary this offseason, but moving Verlander would represent a far more significant shift in organizational philosophy.

    There is still a ton of money invested in the team, even if it unloads the $84 million still owed to Verlander, and trading him would be a significant blow to Detroit's chances of contending in the AL Central.

    To put it simply, it's hard to see a scenario where trading Verlander makes sense unless the team is headed for a full-on rebuild, and there's been no indication that's where things are going.

Houston Astros

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    Dallas Keuchel
    Dallas KeuchelEvan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading for a front-line starting pitcher

    The Potential Pay Off

    The Houston Astros have no shortage of rotation candidates with Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers, Joe Musgrove, Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, David Paulino and Brady Rodgers all vying for a spot on the 2017 staff.

    However, a disappointing encore performance from Keuchel after he won AL Cy Young honors in 2015 leaves the team without a front-line starter.

    With a dynamic young offensive core and plenty of pitching depth, a bona fide ace looks like the missing piece.

    The Risk

    The Astros have climbed back into contention on the strength of their cost-controlled homegrown talent, and pulling off a trade for an ace would mean mortgaging some of that talent.

    With money to spend, ideally they would add a top-tier starter in free agency, but that's not an option this winter.

    So the question becomes: Is it worth trading off a key piece of the offensive core like Alex Bregman or a potential future ace in Francis Martes for a shot at winning it all in 2017?

    Patience may be the team's best approach, even if it means spending another year on the fringe.

Kansas City Royals

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading CF Lorenzo Cain

    The Potential Pay Off

    As we mentioned earlier, the outfield market might be deep, but the market for capable center fielders is relatively thin behind Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond.

    With the Kansas City Royals looking to scale back after playing beyond their financial means in an attempt to repeat as World Series champs, center fielder Lorenzo Cain is one potential trade chip.

    Cain will earn $11 million in the final year of his current contract before reaching free agency next offseason, so if the team doesn't intend on locking him up long-term, then a trade now might make sense.

    The Risk

    After finishing third in AL MVP voting in 2015, Cain struggled through a disappointing 2016 season.

    • 2015: 140 G, .307/.361/.477, 34 2B, 16 HR, 72 RBI, 101 R, 7.2 WAR
    • 2016: 103 G, .287/.339/.408, 19 2B, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 56 R, 2.9 WAR

    Cain missed most of July with a hamstring injury and then played just one game in September before being shut down with a Grade 2 wrist strain as health issues obviously cut into his production.

    That being said, that diminished production also cuts into his trade value, and the Royals' best move might be to hold onto him until the July trade deadline, when his stock may have climbed once again.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading SP Matt Shoemaker

    The Potential Pay Off

    Matt Shoemaker burst on to the scene as a 27-year-old rookie in 2014, going 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP to finish second in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    However, the right-hander has been inconsistent in the two years since, going 16-23 with a 4.14 ERA and 1.24 WHIP while spending time in the minors.

    Shoemaker was terrific in the second half last season, though, going 5-4 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 10 starts. That included a dominant performance against the Chicago White Sox on July 16 when he threw a six-hit shutout and fanned 13.

    In this market and with his strong finish to the season, selling high on an inconsistent starter could help the Los Angeles Angels add some much-needed prospect talent.

    The Risk

    To this point, the Angels have wasted Mike Trout. It's as simple as that.

    They would have a chance to add some quality prospect talent if they traded Shoemaker, and that's something the organization needs.

    It doesn't make L.A. better in 2017, though, and with Trout signed for only four more years, the team may continue to prefer a more short-term approach.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Signing RP Kenley Jansen and RP Aroldis Chapman

    The Potential Pay Off

    The age of the dominant bullpen is upon us, and two of the best relievers in baseball are available this winter, as Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman hit the open market.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers figure to make a strong push to sign at least one of them, but what if they signed both?

    MLB Trade Rumors predicts a five-year, $90 million deal for Chapman and a five-year, $85 million deal for Jansen, so it would be a huge investment, but this is the Dodgers we're talking about.

    With Chapman not subject to a qualifying offer and Jansen playing with the Dodgers last season, it wouldn't cost the team anything in the way of draft picks and would give them a pair of dynamic late-inning weapons.

    After the Dodgers came up short of reaching the World Series once again, it may be time for something drastic in L.A.

    The Risk

    The risk in committing so much money to a pair of relievers is lessened by the Dodgers' spending power, but they don't have infinity dollars.

    A scenario where they sign both bullpen aces probably means they won't add any significant pieces to the starting rotation. It could also mean letting Justin Turner walk, which creates a hole at third base.

    It's all a delicate balance, even with the league's biggest spenders, and a pair of five-year commitments to relievers would be uncharted territory.

Miami Marlins

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading C J.T. Realmuto

    The Potential Pay Off

    The Miami Marlins are in desperate need of starting pitching help, with Adam Conley, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler being the only locks for rotation spots in 2017.

    Chances are they will turn their attention to the trade market in search of a cheap, controllable starter, and with a thin farm system, they will likely be forced to flip big league talent in any significant deal.

    Derek Dietrich and Marcell Ozuna are two potential trade chips who could interest opposing teams, but at the end of the day, they may not be enough as a centerpiece in a competitive market for available arms.

    Instead, teams might prefer a package built around catcher J.T. Realmuto, which would be a steep price to pay but perhaps a necessary one if Miami is going to bolster the rotation as hoped.

    The Risk

    Finding a franchise catcher is never easy, but it looks like the Marlins have found theirs in Realmuto.

    The 25-year-old unseated veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia as a rookie in 2015 and then turned in a breakout offensive season in 2016 when he hit .303/.343/.428 with 31 doubles, 11 home runs, 48 RBI, 60 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.

    He also threw out 35 percent of base stealers, though his pitch framing skills still need work, per StatCorner.

    With no clear in-house replacement for Realmuto, trading him would mean turning to a stopgap veteran like Kurt Suzuki or Nick Hundley, so the franchise would once again be searching for a long-term answer behind the plate.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading RP Tyler Thornburg

    The Potential Pay Off

    We saw last offseason the value on controllable late-inning relieverseven ones with limited closing experiencewhen the Philadelphia Phillies flipped Ken Giles for a package of five pitching prospects headlined by Vincent Velasquez and Mark Appel.

    Tyler Thornburg could be this year's version of Giles.

    The 28-year-old posted a 2.15 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 for the Milwaukee Brewers this past season, racking up 20 holds and then saving 11 games in 15 chances after taking over the closer's role following the trade of Jeremy Jeffress.

    The right-hander is under team control through 2019, and trading him now could be the best way to maximize his value.

    The Risk

    On the other hand, in a free-agent market littered with quality bullpen arms, perhaps the Brewers would be better suited holding onto him until July.

    That would mean banking on his duplicating his 2016 success and staying healthy, but it could pay off with an even bigger return.

    It's a tough call for a rebuilding team that is looking to add as much young talent as possible.

Minnesota Twins

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    Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading 2B Brian Dozier

    The Potential Pay Off

    According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, second baseman Brian Dozier drew interest from multiple teams during last week's GM meetings.

    That's not a huge surprise after the season Dozier put together in 2016, as he posted an .886 OPS with 35 doubles, 42 home runs, 99 RBI and 104 runs scored.

    With just two years left on his deal, you have to question whether Dozier will be a part of the next contending Twins team. Given he's owed just $15 million, his contract is as attractive as any in baseball.

    It would be a tough blow to the fanbase to lose one of the few bright spots from a dismal 2016 campaign, but it might be the right move.

    The Risk

    Trading Dozier might make sense, but finding the right trade package may be easier said than done, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press explained.

    The second base position is arguably the deepest in baseball right now, which makes finding a trade partner for Dozier more difficult than you might think given his production.

    Expected regression also plays a role in limiting his value.

    "You aren’t going to back up the truck for Dozier," one NL executive told Berardino. "It might make sense to try to trade him now, but nobody expects him to hit 40 homers again. You can count on him for 20 to 25, but that means you’d probably get two top-10 prospects for him. Or maybe a big league arm and a prospect."

    There's no reason to trade Dozier now unless it's for a huge return, so holding onto himat least until next offseasonmay be the preferred approach.

New York Mets

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading RF Jay Bruce

    The Potential Pay Off

    In an effort to add some offensive punch in their push to reach the postseason, the New York Mets acquired Jay Brucewho had an .875 OPS with 25 home runs and 80 RBIahead of the July trade deadline.

    He hit just .219/.294/.391 with eight home runs and 19 RBI in 50 games with the Mets, but they still moved quickly to exercise his $13 million team option.

    However, that doesn't mean he's a lock to play for the Mets in 2017, and they have reportedly discussed trading Bruce to the Blue Jays, per Jim Bowden of MLB Network.

    If the Mets are confident they can re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, moving Bruce to recoup some prospect talent makes sense, since Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares all serve as outfield options alongside the slugger.

    The Risk

    The Mets will do everything in their power to bring back Cespedes, but if he signs elsewhere, Bruce would be an integral part of the offense.

    Even with his second-half swoon, Bruce still finished the season with 33 home runs and 99 RBI, and if Cespedes doesn't return, he'd be counted on as the team's primary run producer alongside Neil Walker and the potentially healthy duo of Lucas Duda and David Wright.

    Until Cespedes is back in the fold, trading Bruce would be a huge leap of faith that the team will finalize a new deal with the slugger.

New York Yankees

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Signing SP Rich Hill

    The Potential Pay Off

    Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are locked into rotation spots for the New York Yankees, with Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino and Luis Cessa among the in-house options expected to get a look this spring.

    Adding a quality No. 2 starter could give the team a real shot at contending in 2017, something the club will be looking to do even in a transition period of sorts.

    According to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, the Yankees are planning on reaching out to veteran Rich Hill, and he would slot nicely behind Tanaka.

    The 36-year-old missed time last year with a groin injury and a recurring blister problem, but he still managed to go 12-5 with a 2.12 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings over 20 starts.

    The Risk

    Hill was brilliant last season when healthy, but the risk here is obvious.

    It will almost certainly take a deal of at least three years worth at least $45 million to sign Hill, and that would take him through his age-39 season.

    As good as he was last season, we're still talking about someone who was pitching in the independent league as recently as 2015 and enjoyed a career year at the age of 36.

Oakland Athletics

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Signing SP Brett Anderson

    The Potential Pay Off

    Brett Anderson has always been a solid MLB starter when healthy, as he carries a 3.86 ERA over 685.2 career innings of work.

    However, he's reached 30 starts just twice in his eight-year career and worked just 11.1 innings last season after undergoing back surgery in March.

    That will make him one of the more intriguing bounce-back candidates on the market this offseason, as just a year ago he went 10-9 with a 3.69 ERA over a career-high 180.1 innings of work and earned a qualifying offer that he accepted.

    The 28-year-old looks like a prime candidate for a one-year, incentive-laden deal, and that's exactly the kind of bargain shopping the Oakland Athletics tend to favor in their pursuit of starting pitching.

    The Risk

    Even after another injury-plagued season, Anderson could still be looking at a base salary of $8 to $10 million, given his upside and the dearth of pitching on the market.

    As it stands, the highest-paid player on the books for Oakland in 2017 is reliever Ryan Madson with his $7.5 million salary, so while an $8 million investment might be a worthwhile gamble for many teams, the A's don't have that same financial flexibility.

    The team invested $4.25 million in Henderson Alvarez last offseason as he worked his way back from shoulder surgery, only for him to undergo a second operation in September after 33 innings of work in the minors.

    A similar risk might not be in the cards this winter.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The Move: Trading SP Vincent Velasquez

    The Potential Pay Off

    After a strong first full season in the majors and with team control running through the 2021 season, Vincent Velasquez is among the most valuable assets in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

    The 24-year-old right-hander—who was acquired from the Houston Astros last winter in the Ken Giles trade—went 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 152 strikeouts in 131.0 innings.

    It may seem counterproductive for a rebuilding team to trade a promising young starter, but flipping Velasquez now when so many teams are fighting over so few available pitchers could be the best way to maximize his value and further build for the future.

    According to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, the Texas Rangers made it "pretty deep" into trade talks surrounding Velasquez leading up to the trade deadline, and they certainly have no shortage of intriguing young talent.

    The Risk

    Velasquez finished the 2016 season with strong overall numbers, but there is potential for more, as he tallied just nine quality starts in 24 games.

    He showed what he's capable of when he twirled a three-hit shutout against the San Diego Padres in April, walking none and striking out 16.

    Selling high in this market would net a solid return, but the Phillies could be giving up a future ace in the process.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The Move: Trading CF Andrew McCutchen

    The Potential Pay Off

    A year ago, the idea of the Pittsburgh Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen would have sounded outrageous.

    Things have changed, though, as the Pirates were among the league's biggest disappointments in 2016, and McCutchen was one of the biggest culprits with a minus-0.7 WAR.

    "There are people I've talked to who are convinced the Pirates are going to trade McCutchen this winter," MLB Network Radio analyst Jim Duquette told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    The Pirates have a suitable replacement waiting in the wings in top prospect Austin Meadows, and moving McCutchen, who has a $14 million salary for 2017 and a $14.5 million option for 2018, would save a small-market team some significant money.

    Even with McCutchen coming off a down season, teams would line up for a chance to acquire the 30-year-old superstar given his track record and upside, so Pittsburgh can expect a healthy prospect return as well.

    The Risk

    McCutchen has been the face of the Pirates franchise for years now and is one of the greatest players in franchise history, helping lead the team back to contention after a 20-year playoff drought.

    His .766 OPS last season was a career low, and he's not the dynamic athlete he was when he first entered the league, but he's still capable of significantly more than he showed in 2016.

    Trading McCutchen and watching him return to MVP form elsewhere would be a tough pill to swallow for the Pirates.

    There's also the question of whether Meadows is ready, as he's played just 37 games at the Triple-A level and looked overmatched after crushing Double-A pitching.

San Diego Padres

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Extending 1B Wil Myers

    The Potential Pay Off

    After back-to-back injury-plagued seasons, Wil Myers finally stayed healthy in 2016 and showed why he was such a highly regarded prospect with the Kansas City Royals and the AL Rookie of the Year during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays.

    The 25-year-old earned his first All-Star trip in front of the home fans at Petco Park and finished the season with a .259/.336/.461 line that included 29 doubles, 28 home runs, 94 RBI, 99 runs scored and 28 stolen bases.

    Perhaps more importantly, he's proved capable of conquering the pitcher's paradise that is Petco Park, posting a .306/.385/.569 line with 18 home runs and 58 RBI at home.

    Now the team is exploring an extension with what looks to be the one surefire building block on the current MLB roster.

    "A.J. Preller said he plans to sit down with Wil Myers' agent this week to begin exploring an extension," Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted on Nov. 9.

    He's arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter with a $4.7 million projected salary and is under team control through 2019, so now could be the perfect time for a team-friendly extension.

    The Risk

    Injury history is the obvious red flag here, and perhaps waiting another year for Myers to prove he can stay healthy would be in the team's best interest.

    There's also the matter of his confusingly bad road splits, as he hit a dismal .210/.284/.349 away from Petco Park.

    There's no rush for the Padres to extend Myers, even if they view him as a key building block for the future.

San Francisco Giants

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    Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Signing LF Yoenis Cespedes

    The Potential Pay Off

    Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported earlier this month that the San Francisco Giants are at least surveying the outfield market and that Yoenis Cespedes is a potential target.

    For a team that ranked 28th in the majors with 130 home runs last season and was led by Brandon Belt with 17, his power bat would be a welcome addition to the middle of the lineup.

    After splurging on Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija last offseason, and with upgrading the bullpen the clear No. 1 priority this winter, it remains to be seen if Cespedes fits in the budget.

    There's no doubt he'd help the team's chances of returning to the postseason and challenging the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West title, though.

    The Risk

    According to Roster Resource, the Giants already have a projected payroll of $170 million for the upcoming season, and that's without making any significant additions to the bullpen.

    Signing one of the market's top closers and a few other MLB-caliber relievers could push that number closer to $190 million, and they will almost certainly blow past last year's team-record $175 million payroll.

    That begs the question just how much further they'll be willing to stretch things financially, as Cespedes figures to command somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million annually over at least five years.

    They will have Matt Cain's contract coming off the books after this season, but that doesn't cover the difference or help the 2017 situation.

Seattle Mariners

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Clearing a path for CF Tyler O'Neill

    The Potential Pay Off

    If the 2017 season started today, the Seattle Mariners would boast a starting outfield of Seth Smith, Leonys Martin and either Ben Gamel or Stefen Romero.


    The team will kick the tires on the full scope of the free-agent outfield market and at the very least figures to add a right-handed-hitting platoon partner for Smith.

    However, an outside-the-box option would be to give top prospect Tyler O'Neill a long look this spring and a real chance at winning a starting job.

    The 21-year-old hit .293/.374/.508 with 26 doubles, 24 home runs and 102 RBI in a full season with Double-A Jackson and could be ready to make a significant impact.

    The Risk

    O'Neill made significant strides in his approach at the plate in 2016, raising his walk rate (6.5% to 10.8%) and lowering his strikeout rate (30.5% to 26.1%).

    That being said, that 26.1 percent strikeout rate is still somewhat concerning and certainly a red flag when it comes to his projected success against MLB pitching, at least at this point in his development.

    O'Neill has all the tools to be a star for the Mariners, and most expect him to arrive at some point in 2017. Pushing him too aggressively could lead to a setback in his development, though, and the organization is not exactly overflowing with top-tier prospect talent.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Kolten Wong
    Kolten WongGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading for a top-tier center fielder

    The Potential Pay Off

    The St. Louis Cardinals' No. 1 priority this offseason appears to be adding a center fielder. Randal Grichuk is expected to slide over to left field in place of the departed Matt Holliday, and Stephen Piscotty will once again man right field.

    Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond are the top options in an otherwise thin free-agent pool; however, there are a number of hypothetically available trade targets.

    Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified Charlie Blackmon, A.J. Pollock and Adam Eaton as three such targets, while MLB Trade Rumors predicted a four-year, $64 million deal for Fowler.

    Adding a capable center fielder would upgrade the St. Louis defense by default, as Grichuk figures to be a significant upgrade over last season's left field situation.

    Someone like Eaton or Fowler would give the team a good on-base table-setter, while Desmond, Blackmon and Pollock are all 20-20 threats who could fit in a number of different spots in the lineup.

    The Risk

    Desmond comes with some obvious risk after a disappointing second half, while Fowler figures to be one of the pricier options on the market. Plus, the Cardinals have generally shied away from significant free-agent signings.

    As for the trade market, acquiring any of the controllable options suggested above would cost a significant prospect return.

    Teams would almost certainly ask for Alex Reyes, but even giving up Luke Weaver or Harrison Bader would represent a huge decision for a franchise that has relied on internal development during its recent run of sustained success.

    Starting the season with Kolten Wong as the starting center fielder and eventually working Bader into the mix seems like a much more conventional move for the organization.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading SP Chris Archer

    The Potential Pay Off

    There has already been plenty of speculation on the potential availability of Tampa Bay Rays starters Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly, with a healthy dose of it coming from yours truly.

    However, a more intriguing trade chip is Chris Archer.

    The 28-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, emerging as the ace of the staff while going 12-13 with a 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 252 strikeouts in 212 innings.

    He failed to match that performance this past season, as his ERA climbed to 4.02 and he allowed 30 home runs, but that front-line potential is still enough to make him the most valuable asset on the roster.

    Archer is owed a meager $19 million over the next three seasons, with team options for 2020 ($9 million) and 2021 ($11 million), so a team could conceivably get him for the next five seasons at $39 million total.

    For a Rays team that is perpetually trying to get younger and cheaper to stay within its financial limitations, Archer is the one piece that could bring back multiple top-tier prospects.

    The Risk

    The risk here is potentially selling low on a pitcher who is capable of being one of the game's elite starters.

    There's no real financial reason for the Rays to trade Archer thanks to one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball, so it would have to be a franchise-altering return for them to pull the trigger on moving him.

    Even then, prospects are never a sure thing, and Archer is the type of player on and off the field whom the franchise should be building around.

Texas Rangers

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Re-signing CF Carlos Gomez

    The Potential Pay Off

    The Texas Rangers plucked Carlos Gomez from the scrap heap after he was released by the Houston Astros in August, and it wound up being one of the best additions of the summer.

    After a middling .210/.272/.322 line over 323 plate appearances in Houston, Gomez enjoyed a career renaissance in Texas with a .284/.362/.543 line that included 14 extra-base hits and 24 RBI in 130 plate appearances.

    That makes Gomez one of the most intriguing players on this year's free-agent market. How much stock do you put in a two-month stretch after nearly two full seasons of mediocrity?

    Those question marks could make a one-year deal with plenty of incentives the best route for Gomez this winter, and for a Rangers team that is also losing Ian Desmond to free agency, that could be a risk worth taking to fill the void in center field.

    It's a risk-reward play, but on something like a one-year, $10 million deal plus incentives, the Rangers could get tremendous value from a player who posted an 8.5 WAR as recently as 2013.

    The Risk

    The issue here will be on what the Rangers would employ as a contingency plan in the event Gomez reverts back to the form he showed during his time in Houston.

    Delino DeShields Jr. struggled in his sophomore season, and Texas shipped top prospect Lewis Brinson to the Milwaukee Brewers at the deadline, which leaves no clear in-house replacement should Gomez fail to fill the everyday role.

    At the very least, pairing him with a low-cost veteran such as Michael Bourn or Rajai Davis would be necessary insurance.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Re-signing LF Michael Saunders

    The Potential Pay Off

    Michael Saunders played nine total games in 2015 while nursing a knee injury, yet the Toronto Blue Jays felt confident enough in his abilities and health that they traded away Ben Revere last offseason and handed Saunders the starting left field job.

    He rewarded that faith with a terrific first half, posting a .923 OPS with 16 home runs and 42 RBI to earn his first All-Star nod.

    The 29-year-old slumped badly after the break, though, recording a .638 OPS and just 15 RBI in 214 plate appearances.

    The Blue Jays opted against giving him a qualifying offer as a result, but a reunion is not out of the question. That poor second-half performance could actually drive down his price and turn him into a bargain if he can land somewhere in the middle of his Jekyll and Hyde performance.

    Melvin Upton Jr., Ezequiel Carrera and Dalton Pompey are the leading in-house candidates to take over the corner outfield spots, with Jose Bautista also reaching free agency.

    The Risk

    Even with his late-season struggles, it might take a two-year deal to sign Saunders, and MLB Trade Rumors actually predicted a three-year, $33 million deal.

    If that's the case, that's a significant commitment to a guy who was almost unplayable down the stretch, opening the door for the surprise emergence of the aforementioned Carrera.

    If Toronto can re-sign Saunders on a one-year deal with a mutual option, it's a worthwhile move for the Blue Jays. Beyond that, it's probably best they let him walk.

Washington Nationals

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    The Move: Trading SP Joe Ross

    The Potential Pay Off

    Sticking with the idea that controllable starting pitching is the most valuable commodity on the market this winter and teams should at least test the waters on some of their young arms, Joe Ross fits the bill for the Washington Nationals.

    A sore shoulder limited the 23-year-old to just 105.0 innings this past season, but he was terrific when healthy, going 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and a ratio of 93 strikeouts to 29 walks.

    According to Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball, the New York Yankees showed interest in Ross at the trade deadline when the two sides were discussing a potential Aroldis Chapman deal, and it's easy to see teams would be willing to give up a good deal for the young right-hander.

    Ross is under team control through the 2021 season and won't be arbitration-eligible for the first time until after the 2018 season, so it would take a massive return for him to be dealt, but it's something the Nats should at least explore.

    The Risk

    If the Nationals were to trade Ross, they have a pair of highly regarded pitching prospects waiting in the wings in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez.

    Both saw MLB action last season and struggled, but Giolito has legitimate ace potential, and Lopez has electric stuff that may actually play better in the closer's role down the line.

    At any rate, the Nats would be putting a lot of faith in an unproven commodity to fill out the starting rotation.

    For a team that is looking to contend for a title, Ross may be too valuable a weapon for 2017 to even consider moving him.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Projected salaries courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors. Contract information via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.


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