Predicting 1 Impact Trade for Each MLB Team 2 Months from Winter Meetings

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2018

Predicting 1 Impact Trade for Each MLB Team 2 Months from Winter Meetings

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    While the MLB postseason is still in full swing, the offseason will be here before you know it.

    The month of November is generally quiet as far as free-agency news and impact trades, but things kick into gear during the winter meetings, which will be held Dec. 10-14 in Las Vegas.

    So two months out, let's take a look at trade ideas for all 30 teamswhether it's a trade chip for a non-contender to cash in or a trade target for a contender to pursue.

    In some cases, both sides of a hypothetical swap were explored, as it's never too early for speculation.

AL East

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    Alex Cobb
    Alex CobbJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Baltimore Orioles: Trade RP Mychal Givens

    The Orioles began a long overdue rebuild this summer, trading a number of upcoming free agents as well as controllable players like Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop.

    As a result, there's not much in the way of moveable talent left on the roster, but reliever Mychal Givens is one player capable of bringing back a solid return.

    The 28-year-old will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and has team control through the 2021 season. He posted a 3.99 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 69 appearances this season, tallying 15 holds and also converting eight of 10 save chances after taking over as the closer in August.

    With late-innings stuff and team control, he's a valuable asset.


    Boston Red Sox: Acquire SP Alex Cobb

    A thin farm system means the Red Sox might need to get creative if they choose to address their need for starting pitching through the trade market.

    Rebuilding Baltimore would no doubt love a mulligan on the four-year, $57 million deal they gave Alex Cobb in March, and deep-pocketed Boston might be just the team to help facilitate that.

    Cobb, 31, struggled to a 4.90 ERA over 152.1 innings in his first season with the Orioles, but he finished on a high note. He posted a 2.40 ERA in 48.2 innings over the final two months of the season—including a complete game victory over the Indians.

    If the Red Sox are willing to take on a good chunk of the $43 million he's still owed, it won't take much more to acquire a pitcher with a wealth of American League East experience and No. 2 starter upside.


    New York Yankees: Acquire SP Matthew Boyd

    The Yankees will be looking for controllable pitching to help Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka atop their starting rotation, and while they've been tied to Michael Fulmer in the past, it's another Detroit Tigers starter who might be a better target.

    While Fulmer has dealt with injuries and inconsistency since winning American League Rookie of the Year in 2016, lefty Matthew Boyd has quietly become an effective starter in his own right.

    The 27-year-old went 9-13 with a 4.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 159 strikeouts in 170.1 innings this season, holding opponents to a .228 batting average (10th in the AL) while increasing his slider usage.

    He won't be arbitration-eligible until after the 2019 season and is under team control through 2022.


    Tampa Bay Rays: Acquire SP Mike Minor

    The Rays found success employing an "opener" strategy with three of their starting rotation spots for much of the year, and they could take a similar approach in 2019.

    As such, they'll be targeting pitchers capable of filling multiple roles, and Mike Minor fits the bill.

    The 30-year-old missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons because of injury but returned strong as a reliever with the Kansas City Royals in 2017. The Rangers signed him to a three-year, $28 million deal last offseason and moved him back to the rotation, and he posted a 4.18 ERA with 132 strikeouts in 157 innings.

    His experience pitching as a multi-inning reliever and setup man, along with his proven ability to handle a high workload post-injury, makes him the perfect fit for Tampa Bay's progressive pitching approach.


    Toronto Blue Jays: Trade 1B Justin Smoak

    The Blue Jays are headed for a transition, and that could bring about a selling off of veteran pieces this offseason.

    First baseman Justin Smoak is a prime candidate to be dealt.

    The 31-year-old backed up his breakout 2017 season by posting a 122 OPS+ with 34 doubles and 25 home runs en route to a 2.3 WAR season, but the late-season emergence of prospect Rowdy Tellez (73 PA, 154 OPS+, 9 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI) made him expendable.

    Smoak is owed a team-friendly $6 million in 2019 in the form of a club option, and he could bring back a few decent prospects from a team looking for some first base help and a switch-hitter with pop.

AL Central

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    Whit Merrifield
    Whit MerrifieldBrian Davidson/Getty Images

    Chicago White Sox: Trade RP Nate Jones

    Nate Jones looked like a bullpen star in 2016 when he posted a 2.29 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings with 28 holds in 71 appearances.

    Injuries have limited him the past two seasons, however, and he missed three months in 2018 with a pronator muscle strain in his right arm.

    Still, when he's right, Jones is capable of being a lights-out late-innings option.

    He has a $4.7 million club option for 2019 and two more option years for $5.2 million and $6 million, so he could be an impact buy-low addition for a team willing to roll the dice.


    Cleveland Indians: Acquire CF Delino DeShields

    With Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis headed for free agency, the Indians will be looking for outfield help.

    The center field position produced a particularly disappointing .249/.299/.363 line as Bradley Zimmer failed to take a step forward and then deadline pickup Leonys Martin was injured shortly after he was acquired.

    Speedster Delino DeShields would be an interesting target for a team that has found a role for Davis for the past few seasons.

    DeShields, 26, hit a disappointing .216/.310/.281 over 393 plate appearances while being slowed by a broken hamate bone. When he's healthy, he's capable of being an impact table-setter and an above-average defender, and if the price is right, he could be an excellent outside-the-box way for the Indians to address the outfield.


    Detroit Tigers: Trade SP Matthew Boyd

    What will it take for the Yankees to pry the cost-controlled Boyd from the Tigers?

    The emergence of Luke Voit could make Greg Bird available, and a rebuilding team like Detroit is exactly the kind of club that would be willing to give Bird a chance to reach his full potential despite disappointing results of late.

    Packaging Bird with a second-tier pitching prospect like Trevor Stephan, Matt Sauer, Garrett Whitlock or Chance Adams and a high-ceiling lottery ticket from the lower levels of the minors could be enough for Detroit.

    The Tigers have a farm system stacked with pitching talent, so there's a good chance Boyd won't be part of the rotation for the next contending Detroit team anyway. Now looks like as good a time as any to sell high.


    Kansas City Royals: Trade 2B Whit Merrifield

    The Royals have to at least test the market for standout second baseman Whit Merrifield this winter.

    After a breakout 2017 season, he was even better this year, hitting .304/.367/.438 for a 121 OPS+ while leading the majors in hits (192) and steals (45) en route to 5.5 WAR.

    The thing is, he's already 29 years old—he'll be 30 before Opening Day—and the Royals are just now embarking on what figures to be a lengthy rebuild. In other words, there's a good chance he's not part of the next contending team in Kansas City.

    The fanbase would no doubt take exception to the front office moving the club's best player, but from a big picture standpoint, it makes sense to sell high and cash in now.


    Minnesota Twins: Trade SP Kyle Gibson

    After a surprise run to the postseason in 2017, the Twins took a huge step backward this year, slipping to 78-84 and finishing 13 games back in the American League Central.

    They're in a position to sell aggressively with a good young core and more help on the way from a deep farm system, but in the short-term, it could make sense to move someone like Kyle Gibson.

    Gibson, 30, is entering a contract year and coming off his best season, as he set career bests in ERA (3.62), strikeouts (179), innings pitched (196.2) and WAR (3.8) in 2018.

    While he'll receive a nice bump from the $4.2 million he earned last season in his final year of arbitration, he should still be a cost-effective option for teams looking to add a quality innings-eater.

AL West

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    Mike Minor
    Mike MinorMichael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Houston Astros: Acquire RP Taylor Rogers

    The Astros and Twins matched up as trade partners in July when setup reliever Ryan Pressly was acquired for a pair of prospects, and they could be a potential fit once again this offseason. With Tony Sipp headed for free agency, the Astros stand to be without a proven lefty relief option, and the Twins happen to have a great one in Taylor Rogers.

    The 27-year-old posted a 2.63 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 72 appearances, posting the best strikeout (9.9 K/9) and walk (2.1 BB/9) rates of his three-year career and tallying 18 holds and three saves along the way.

    He was lethal against lefties (.180 BAA, .428 OPS), but was also plenty effective against righties (.225 BAA, .643 OPS), and he's under team control through the 2022 season.

    If the Astros don't like the idea of spending big on someone like Andrew Miller or Zach Britton, another trade with Minnesota could be an excellent alternative to addressing the bullpen.


    Los Angeles Angels: Acquire SP Kyle Gibson

    The Angels starting staff finished 19th in the majors with a 4.34 ERA this season.

    Even more troubling was the fact that only Andrew Heaney (180.0 IP) topped 130 innings on a team where 16 different pitchers started at least one game and only three started more than 20.

    In other words, if there's any team that could use a workhorse starter to help bring some stability to the staff, it's the Angels.

    Gibson is fresh off a career-high 196.2 innings of 3.62 ERA work, and since he's entering a walk year, it won't take a system-gutting haul of prospects to acquire him.

    A high-ceiling, lower-level prospect like right-hander Jose Soriano or middle infielder Leandro Rivas might be enough as a centerpiece to get a deal done.


    Oakland Athletics: Acquire C Austin Hedges

    Oakland will once again be looking to fill the catcher position after veteran Jonathan Lucroy signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal late last offseason.

    Bringing back Lucroy is certainly a possibility, though his 71 OPS+ and minus-0.7 WAR left a lot to be desired.

    Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki, Devin Mesoraco, Martin Maldonado and Nick Hundley will be among the other free-agent options, but a more long-term solution would be a trade for Austin Hedges.

    Hedges, 26, is already a standout defender (12 DRS) with good power (14 HR), and he still has some offensive upside based on his minor league numbers.

    After the Padres acquired Francisco Mejia from the Indians in exchange for Brad Hand, they may be willing to entertain offers for Hedges this winter.


    Seattle Mariners: Acquire SP Ian Kennedy

    The Mariners don't have the prospect talent to swing a blockbuster deal, so they'll have to get creative if they want to make a splash on the trade market.

    Targeting a big contract on a rebuilding team like Ian Kennedy could be an option.

    The Royals would love to offload some of the $33 million he's still owed over the next two seasons as they continue to tear things down, and that means the Mariners won't need to part with much if they're willing to take on a good chunk of that salary figure.

    Kennedy, 33, has a 5.06 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 273.2 innings over the past two seasons, but he ended 2018 on a high note. After missing nearly two months with an oblique injury, he returned to go 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 25 innings in four September starts.

    Is that enough for the Mariners to consider buying low?


    Texas Rangers: Trade SP Mike Minor

    The Rangers signed Mike Minor to a three-year, $28 million deal last winter, and he returned to the starting rotation for the first time since 2014.

    While his 4.18 ERA was nothing special, it came with a strong 1.12 WHIP thanks to a .235 opponents' batting average, and he pitched surprisingly well in hitter-friendly Arlington.

    He's the one pitcher locked into a rotation spot for next year as things currently stand, but it's reasonable to think the soon-to-be-rebuilding Rangers will shop him this winter.

    We've identified the Rays as a potential landing spot, as they have a deep system filled with talented arms beyond their top-tier guys that should be of interest to the Rangers.

NL East

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    J.T. Realmuto
    J.T. RealmutoMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves: Acquire RP Raisel Iglesias

    The Braves are a team on the rise, and with perhaps MLB's deepest farm system, they have the prospect capital to be major players on the trade market.

    One area they could look to upgrade is the bullpen, which finished 17th in the majors with a 4.15 ERA and had to deal with some key guys running out of gas down the stretch. Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Chad Sobotka and Dan Winkler are a solid group to build around, while prospects Touki Toussaint and Max Fried have also pitched well in relief roles after starting in the minors.

    Adding a top-tier closer would make that entire unit stronger.

    A run at former Braves standout Craig Kimbrel in free agency is one option, but if they don't want to spend big, a trade for Raisel Iglesias is also worth exploring. The 28-year-old is signed for two more seasons at $5.7 million, and he converted 30 of 34 save chances with a 2.38 ERA and 10.0 K/9 in 2018.


    Miami Marlins: Trade C J.T. Realmuto

    Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald recently wrote: "The Marlins are expected to offer [J.T.] Realmuto a contract extension after the season. If he accepts, Realmuto could be around for years to come, the cornerstone around which the organization rebuilds the franchise. If he doesn't, it's more likely than not he'll be traded while his value is greatest."

    The 27-year-old is no stranger to trade rumors, and he's coming off a career year in which he hit .277/.340/.484 with 21 home runs and 74 RBI while leading all catchers with 4.3 WAR.

    There's no reason to think the Marlins have come down from last offseason's high asking price, especially since Realmuto is under control through 2020. However, they might be more motivated to move him if the two sides can't find common ground on extension talks.


    New York Mets: Trade SP Zack Wheeler

    Jon Heyman of Fancred identified Zack Wheeler as the most likely Mets starter to be traded in the days leading up to the trade deadline. While he wound up staying put, that sentiment remains true looking ahead to the offseason.

    Teams will inquire about Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and the Mets will do their due diligence, but Wheeler remains the most likely to be moved.

    The 28-year-old will be a free agent after the 2019 season, and he's coming off a brilliant second half during which he went 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 11 starts.

    After missing the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons to recover from Tommy John surgery, Wheeler still comes with some inherent health questions. Selling high now thus could be the Mets' best course of action.


    Philadelphia Phillies: Acquire SP Anthony DeSclafani

    Aaron Nola has emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball, Jake Arrieta had a decent first season in Philadelphia and Nick Pivetta is one to watch after he struck out 188 batters in 164 innings.

    The Phillies could still use more starting pitching, though.

    With the free-agency focus expected to be on their pursuit of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the trade market could be their preferred method of addressing the rotation. An under-the-radar target like Anthony DeSclafani could be a great fit.

    The 28-year-old has shown flashes when healthy, including a terrific month of August during which he went 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in five starts.

    The chance to add a few mid-level prospects while opening up a rotation spot for one of their prospects could be motivation enough for the Reds to trade away DeSclafani. With team control through 2020, the Phillies would be getting more than just a one-year rental.


    Washington Nationals: Acquire C J.T. Realmuto

    The Nationals were first linked to Realmuto at the start of last offseason, but their unwillingness to include Victor Robles in trade talks proved to be a non-starter.

    According to Craig Mish of SiriusXM, they changed their tune at the deadline. Robles was no longer off-limits, but the two sides were still unable to strike a deal.

    With Matt Wieters headed for free agency and the light-hitting duo of Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom both best suited for backup roles, catcher remains a glaring need for the Nats.

    If the Marlins can't come to terms on an extension with Realmuto, the Nationals might want to move quickly with their best offer before a team with a deeper system (like the Braves) swoops in.

NL Central

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    Raisel Iglesias
    Raisel IglesiasKirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Chicago Cubs: Acquire RP Will Smith

    The Cubs finished the 2018 season with the best bullpen ERA in the NL (3.35), but anyone who watched them regularly knows the relief corps went through some major ups and downs.

    Assuming Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop are both back to full health next season, finding a quality lefty who can join that duo in that late innings should be a top priority.

    Andrew Miller and Zach Britton are the top free-agent options, and they could also explore a reunion with Jorge De La Rosa, who posted a 1.29 ERA in 17 appearances after joining the team on Aug. 10.

    Otherwise, a trade for Will Smith might be their best option.

    The 29-year-old returned strong from a lost 2017 season, posting a 2.55 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 with 14 saves and six holds for the Giants. He's a free agent following the 2019 season, so the Giants should be motivated sellers.


    Cincinnati Reds: Trade RP Raisel Iglesias

    The Reds have clung tightly to their bullpen arms to this point in their rebuild, opting against shopping cheap veterans David Hernandez and Jared Hughes at the deadline. They've taken the same stance on controllable guys like Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and Wandy Peralta.

    That's made the bullpen a strength, but an elite closer is a luxury when you aren't yet ready to contend.

    Selling high on Iglesias this offseason while he still has two years of control left could bring a huge return, especially if a team like the Braves gets involved.

    A package built around one of Atlanta's many top-tier pitching prospects might be too good to pass up.


    Milwaukee Brewers: Acquire SP Zack Wheeler

    The Brewers have arrived as legitimate title contenders much sooner than expected. That figures to change their approach to the upcoming offseason.

    If they whiff on signing a top-of-the-rotation starter like Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin on the free-agent market, trading for Zack Wheeler could be their preferred fallback plan.

    Wheeler is entering his final year of arbitration, so the Brewers will likely make No. 1 prospect Keston Hiura untouchable in talks for a one-year rental. With that said, Wheeler won't come cheap.

    Would a package built around Corey Ray or Lucas Erceg be enough to keep the Mets on the phone?


    Pittsburgh Pirates: Acquire IF Yangervis Solarte

    After they orchestrated blockbuster deals to acquire Chris Archer and Keone Kela at the trade deadline, no one knows what to expect from the Pirates this winter.

    Change is coming at the middle infield spots, with Jordy Mercer reaching free agency and Josh Harrison expected to have his $10.5 million option declined. Prospects Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker or 26-year-old Adam Frazier are all internal options to take their place.

    That will make adding a veteran utility man a priority, and Yangervis Solarte could be a good fit.

    The 31-year-old can play all four infield positions. He has a reasonable $5.5 million salary for 2019 and should cost next to nothing to acquire after a disappointing 2018 season.

    He's only two years removed from a 118 OPS+, 2.3 WAR season. A return to the NL would allow his versatility to be put to better use.


    St. Louis Cardinals: Acquire RP Kirby Yates

    The Cardinals front office has a history of going outside the box to address the closer role.

    They signed Luke Gregerson to close last offseason and then added Greg Holland at the last minute, only to end up with Bud Norris handling ninth-inning duties for most of the year.

    Now, it's back to the drawing board.

    Trading for Kirby Yates would give St. Louis an emerging late-inning option who is controllable through the 2020 season. That would allow Jordan Hicks further time to develop without costing the team another big free-agent deal like those given out to Gregerson and Brett Cecil.

    Yates, 31, has become a different pitcher since he joined the Padres. In 65 appearances this year, he posted a 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 12.9 K/9. He also converted 10 of 11 save chances after Brad Hand was traded to the Indians.

NL West

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    Justin Smoak
    Justin SmoakTom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Arizona Diamondbacks: Acquire RP Mychal Givens

    The Diamondbacks faded badly down the stretch with a 8-19 record in September. Part of that had to do with a faltering bullpen.

    Archie Bradley (12 G, 0/4 SV, 7.00 ERA), Andrew Chafin (12 G, 11.12 ERA) and Brad Boxberger (9 G, 1/3 SV, 11.37 ERA) all seemed to run out of steam. That could leave the front office looking for some late-inning help this offseason.

    With big free-agency decisions surrounding Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock this winter and Paul Goldschmidt next winter, the D-backs aren't likely consider any of the free-agent market's pricier options. They also don't have the prospect talent to go after someone like Raisel Iglesias or Kyle Barraclough.

    Mychal Givens will come a bit cheaper, and the Orioles should be motivated sellers.


    Colorado Rockies: Acquire 1B Justin Smoak

    For a team that plays half of its games in the hitter's paradise that is Coors Field, a .232/.314/.405 line with only 20 home runs and 79 RBI from the first base position doesn't cut it.

    The Rockies need to accept that Ian Desmond was a $70 million mistake and move him to the bench. They then either need to give the everyday first base job to Ryan McMahon to see what he can do, or look outside the organization.

    If they take the latter approach, Justin Smoak should be their top target.

    The 31-year-old is onlya year removed from a 38-homer season, and he's far from an all-or-nothing slugger. He posted a .350 on-base percentage on the strength of a career-high 14.0 percent walk rate this year, and he hit .289/.400/.535 with runners in scoring position.

    The Blue Jays might be willing to deal Smoak for McMahon straight up, and if the Rockies don't think McMahon is the guy, they have no reason to say no.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: Acquire 2B Whit Merrifield

    The second base position produced a middling .209/.307/.332 for the Dodgers this season. With deadline-pickup Brian Dozier headed for free agency and Chase Utley set for retirement, addressing the position should feature prominently on the Dodgers' offseason to-do list.

    One option would be to move Chris Taylor into the everyday role. He's spent 2018 bouncing around between shortstop (81), center field (50), left field (24) and second base (12).

    If they prefer him in that utility role and aren't interested in any of the veteran options on the free-agent market, exploring a trade for Whit Merrifield could fill the void at second base and atop the lineup.

    Merrifield led the majors in hits (192) and stolen bases (45) while batting .304/.367/.438 and scoring 88 runs for a 104-loss Royals team. Meanwhile, the Dodgers primarily used Taylor (.331 OBP, NL-leading 178 strikeouts) and Joc Pederson (.321 OBP) in the leadoff spot, so Merrifield could potentially transform the lineup.


    San Diego Padres: Trade RP Kirby Yates

    The Padres have two excellent trade chips in veteran relievers Kirby Yates (65 G, 12/13 SV, 16 HLD, 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 12.9 K/9) and Craig Stammen (73 G, 24 HLD, 2.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.0 K/9).

    Both players have team-friendly salaries, but Yates is the far more valuable trade chip. He has team control through the 2020 season, while Stammen will be a free agent after 2019.

    The Padres were patient when it came to finding a deal for All-Star Brad Hand. They even signed the lefty to an extension before finally flipping him to the Indians for catcher Francisco Mejia.

    If the Cardinals decide to make a run at him, a high-ceiling prospect like Ryan Helsley or Randy Arozarena could be the ask. Otherwise, the Padres might continue to hold onto perhaps their most valuable chip.


    San Francisco Giants: Trade RP Will Smith

    The Giants should be open for business this offseason. While they're going to have a hard time moving high-priced veterans like Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, a handful of their veteran bullpen arms that figure to be of interest to contenders:

    • Will Smith: 54 G, 14 SV, 2.55 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 12.1 K/9
    • Sam Dyson: 74 G, 15 HLD, 2.69 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.2 K/9
    • Tony Watson: 72 G, 32 HLD, 2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.8 K/9

    Smith is the most attractive target of the bunch.

    His high strikeout rate and ninth-inning experience make him a high-leverage option for a contender. With Smith entering a contract year, the Giants figure to be the most motivated to deal him.

    The Cubs won't be the only team pursuing the lefty, but they do have the high-ceiling prospects to get the Giants to bite.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.