Blockbuster MLB Trades Teams Should Already Be Thinking About for the Offseason
There's still a month of playoff baseball before the MLB offseason kicks into gear, but it's never too early to start perusing the potential trade market.
Last offseason saw a handful of blockbuster trades, most notably the megadeal that sent Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox to the Boston Red Sox.
What might this offseason bring?
Ahead we've put together five speculative blockbuster trades worth exploring.
Jake Odorizzi to the Seattle Mariners
To SEA: SP Jake Odorizzi
The Mariners will need to address the starting rotation this offseason with Hisashi Iwakuma ($15 million) and Yovani Gallardo ($13 million) likely to have their options declined and Drew Smyly as a non-tender candidate.
There are plenty of options on the free-agent market the team could pursue to address that need.
However, general manager Jerry Dipoto has been as active as anyone on the trade market in recent years and he's swung a number of trades with the Rays.
- Nov. 5, 2015: SEA traded Logan Morrison, Brad Miller and Danny Farquhar to TB for Nate Karns, Boog Powell and C.J. Riefenhauser
- Nov. 18, 2016: SEA traded Dylan Thompson, Andrew Kittredge and Dalton Kelly to TB for Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer
- Jan. 11, 2017: SEA traded Mallex Smith, Ryan Yarbrough and Carlos Vargas to TB for Drew Smyly
- July 28, 2017: SEA traded Steve Cishek to TB for Erasmo Ramirez
Adding Jake Odorizzi to a Seattle rotation that will feature James Paxton, Felix Hernandez and Mike Leake would have the makings of a solid staff.
The 27-year-old went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA and 1.24 WHIP this season, and he's averaged 167 innings over the past four seasons.
He's not the flashiest addition, but he's a capable middle-of-the-rotation starter with two years of team control remaining and some upside relative to his 2017 performance.
To TB: OF Braden Bishop, RHP Seth Elledge
Moving Odorizzi would potentially open a spot in the Tampa Bay rotation for top prospect Brent Honeywell to join Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria and Matt Andriese. A healthy Jose De Leon would also be in the mix for a spot on the staff.
The Rays won't be able to pry Kyle Lewis, Nick Neidert or 2017 draft picks Evan White and Sam Carlson away from the Mariners in this deal.
Outfielder Braden Bishop is still a solid headliner, though.
The 24-year-old hit .306/.393/.413 with 41 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A, and he has the tools to be a table-setting leadoff hitter and a solid defender in center field.
Fast-moving reliever Seth Elledge joins him as a secondary piece in the deal.
The 21-year-old was a fourth-round pick in June after setting the all-time saves record at Dallas Baptist.
He posted a 3.24 ERA and 0.96 WHIP with 42 strikeouts in 25 innings in his pro debut, and he could be in the majors by 2019 with setup-man upside.
It's not a franchise-altering return by any means, but it would give the Rays two quality prospects and save them some money—Odorizzi made $4.1 million this season and will get a decent raise in arbitration.
Brad Hand to the Houston Astros
To HOU: RP Brad Hand
The Astros have been lacking a reliable left-handed reliever the past couple seasons.
Tony Sipp was that guy in 2015, but he's struggled to a 5.33 ERA the past two seasons after signing a three-year, $18 million extension.
Without any other glaring areas of need on the roster, finding a quality southpaw should be the top priority this winter.
Brad Hand is just that.
The 27-year-old has posted a 2.56 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 154 appearances over the past two seasons since joining the Padres and making the full-time move to the bullpen.
With two years of team control remaining, now is the time for the Padres to maximize his value in a fairly thin free-agent market for lefty relievers and late-inning arms in general.
To SD: 1B/OF Yordan Alvarez, 3B Colin Moran, RHP Dean Deetz
The Padres' asking price for Hand over the summer was described as "exorbitant" by rivals and they'll no doubt continue to aim high given his multiple years of remaining control.
While Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley will be untouchable, Yordan Alvarez has enough upside to potentially be the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal.
The 20-year-old landed a $2 million bonus from the Dodgers after leaving Cuba in 2016 and he was flipped to the Astros in exchange for reliever Josh Fields before his pro career began.
The 6'5", 225-pounder has some serious power potential and posted a .304/.379/.481 line with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 69 RBI in 391 plate appearances between Single-A and High-A.
Packaging him alongside Colin Moran would make two potential impact bats in this deal.
Moran, 25, hit .308/.373/.543 with 18 home runs and 63 RBI in Triple-A, so he has little left to prove in the minors. However, he's also without a clear path to playing time in Houston and could be deemed expendable.
We'll round out the package with right-hander Dean Deetz, who could develop into a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter if his changeup continues to improve. Otherwise, he has the fastball/slider combination to be a weapon out of the bullpen.
If this package sounds light, you're underestimating the upside of Alvarez.
Dee Gordon to the Los Angeles Angels
To LAA: 2B Dee Gordon
Change is coming to a Miami Marlins team that is under new ownership.
While finding the right trade to deal Giancarlo Stanton is easier said than done, second baseman Dee Gordon is one player who could be on the move this winter.
The 29-year-old has three years and $37.9 million left on the extension he signed after winning the batting title in 2015, with a $14 million option and $1 million buyout for 2021.
That's not an unreasonable price tag given the impact he makes with his disruptive speed atop the lineup.
Meanwhile, the Angels had clear holes both at second base and in the leadoff spot:
- Second basemen: .206 BA (28th in MLB), .601 OPS (30th in MLB)
- Leadoff hitters: .254 BA (18th in MLB), .703 OPS (22nd in MLB)
Veteran Brandon Phillips, who briefly filled both roles after an August waiver trade, is a free agent.
Adding Gordon to serve as a table-setter ahead of Mike Trout and whatever run producer the team decides to pursue could have the makings of a dangerous offense.
To MIA: RHP Chris Rodriguez, RHP Joe Gatto
Why trade Dee Gordon if you're the Marlins?
Not only would moving him free up some payroll room to pursue pitching help, but it would also allow clear a path for prospect Brian Anderson—who posted an .853 OPS with 22 home runs in the upper levels of the minors—to take over as the everyday third baseman, with Martin Prado shifting to second.
If the Angels are willing to take on the entirety of that $37.9 million, it probably won't take more than a couple mid-level prospects to get a deal done.
Chris Rodriguez posted a 6.16 ERA this season after going in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, but MLB.com wrote: "With his aptitude and maturity, the temptation will be to rush Rodriguez, but the Angels will want to manage his innings and give him time to focus on getting physically stronger. It would surprise no one internally if he's the best pitching prospect in the system before too long."
That's not necessarily a ringing endorsement given the current state of the system, but it shows he has the kind of upside that teams look for when mining lower-level prospect talent.
The same goes for Joe Gatto, who was a second-round pick in 2014.
He was 8-9 with a 3.43 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 101 strikeouts in 128.2 innings this season to help rebuild his stock after a disastrous 2016 season that included a 7.03 ERA in 64 innings.
MLB.com wrote: "He still has the weapons to be a starting pitching prospect if he can unlock them consistently."
Two intriguing arms with upside and a clear path for the organization's top position-player prospect along with some financial savings would make this a good move for the Marlins.
Felipe Rivero to the Los Angeles Dodgers
To LAD: LHP Felipe Rivero
If the Pirates decide it's time to rebuild, closer Felipe Rivero might be the most valuable trade chip on the roster.
The 26-year-old was acquired in the deal that sent Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals last summer and he quickly turned into his replacement in the closer's role.
Armed with a high-octane fastball (98.9 mph) and a devastating slider (.067 BAA, .022 ISO), he posted a 1.67 ERA and 0.89 WHIP while converting 21 of 23 save chances and holding opposing hitters to a .171 average.
Lefties went 7-for-85 (.082) with 38 strikeouts and just one extra-base hit.
Those stellar numbers coupled with the fact that he's under team control through the 2021 season make him an incredibly valuable asset.
Bolstering the bullpen might emerge as the No. 1 priority for the Dodgers this offseason, and there's a clear need for a shutdown lefty to serve in a setup role ahead of Kenley Jansen.
The free-agent market is thin in that area with Jake McGee and current Dodger Tony Watson as the headliners, so a run at someone like Rivero makes sense as a higher-profile alternative.
To PIT: C Keibert Ruiz, RHP Mitchell White, LHP Caleb Ferguson, RHP Josh Sborz
Catcher is a long-term question mark for the Pirates.
Tony Sanchez was a bust as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft, light-hitting Elias Diaz looks best suited as a backup, and the incumbent duo of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are both on the wrong side of 30.
Keibert Ruiz could be the answer.
The 19-year-old hit .316/.361/.452 with 33 extra-base hits between Single-A and High-A as one of the breakout prospects of 2017, and he's already viewed as a plus defender. Don't be surprised if he cracks leaguewide top-100 prospect lists to begin next season.
Pairing him with right-hander Mitchell White would give this package two top-tier prospects.
White, 22, was a second-round pick in 2016, and he posted a 2.93 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while striking out 88 in 73.2 innings and reaching Double-A in his first full pro season. He has middle-of-the-rotation upside and could reach the majors in short order.
Left-hander Caleb Ferguson went 9-4 with a 2.87 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 122.1 innings for High-A Rancho Cucamonga, while Josh Sborz is a former top prospect who could be viewed as a reclamation project. The 23-year-old saw his strikeout rate (9.0 to 6.2 K/9) and walk rate (2.6 to 4.3 BB/9) both move in the wrong direction, but those 2016 results are intriguing.
Two top prospects who would be among the headliners in the Pittsburgh system and a couple pitching fliers for a controllable reliever with closer stuff seems like a reasonable return.
Josh Donaldson to the St. Louis Cardinals
To STL: 3B Josh Donaldson
The Cardinals are expected to "strongly pursue" Josh Donaldson on the trade market this offseason, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
For a team that hasn't had a true middle-of-the-order slugger since Albert Pujols departed, he would be a transformative addition to the lineup.
The 31-year-old was limited to 113 games this season after missing time early with a calf injury, but he still posted a .944 OPS with 33 home runs in 496 plate appearances.
In his three seasons with the Blue Jays, he ranks among the MLB leaders in OPS (.946, fifth), home runs (111, sixth), RBI (300, seventh), runs scored (309, eighth) and WAR (21.1, third).
He's also tallied 16 DRS during that span as one of the better defensive third basemen in the league.
If the Blue Jays don't feel they'll be able to sign him to a long-term deal, trading him this offseason ahead of his final year of arbitration makes sense.
He made $17 million this season and that figure will almost certainly exceed $20 million next year.
To TOR: OF Randal Grichuk, OF Harrison Bader, RHP Sandy Alcantara
It's important to remember how much team control factors into a player's trade value.
Yes, Donaldson is a former MVP, but he's also a rental with free agency awaiting after the 2018 season.
He's not going to come cheap, but it's also not going to take the Alex Reyes/Carson Kelly package that some armchair general managers might be seeking.
The Cardinals have an abundance of outfielders, so packaging Randal Grichuk with one of Harrison Bader, Tyler O'Neill and Magneuris Sierra would be a nice start toward uncluttering that situation. That also plays into an area of need for the Blue Jays.
Grichuk is an intriguing buy-low candidate with team control through 2020 and 30-homer potential if he finds some consistency. Bader is probably the most MLB-ready of that prospect trio and he also has the highest ceiling with 20/20 potential and the glove to stick in center field.
Rounding out the package with hard-throwing Sandy Alcantara gives the Blue Jays a high-ceiling arm to add to the system.
MLB.com gives him a 70-grade fastball and wrote that he has "everything he needs to develop into a front-line starter in the future" if he can take a step forward with his command. Otherwise, his power stuff would play well at the back of the bullpen, where the Cardinals used him during a September call-up.
That's a fair offer for one year of an elite-level player who will almost certainly test the free-agent waters.