Each MLB Team's Top Trade Chip to Unload This Offseason
With the World Series set to begin Tuesday night, we're now just one thrilling best-of-seven series away from the start of another long MLB offseason.
This year's free-agent class has long been hyped as a landscape-altering group, with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado leading the way, and plenty of other impact players also looking for new homes.
That said, it could be an equally busy winter on the trade market as more teams buy into the philosophy of either contending or rebuilding, with no middle ground.
Ahead we've broken down each team's top trade chip, with the only caveat being that there has to be a realistic chance of that player being traded. In other words, seeing any of these 30 guys moved would not qualify as a surprise.
For sellers, it's an established veteran. For contenders, it's a prospect who could be deemed expendable.
Let's get started.
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Dylan Bundy
The Orioles are short on trade chips after a busy summer.
Bundy, 25, was Baltimore's Opening Day starter this year after showing some promising flashes in 2017, but he took a big step backward with a 5.45 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 171.2 innings.
That said, his age, top-prospect pedigree and remaining control through 2021 will still make him an attractive buy-low trade target for contenders if the O's make him available.
His xFIP (4.28) paints a more positive picture of his 2018, and if he can do a better job keeping the ball in the ballpark (41 HR allowed, 17.8% HR/FB ratio), a bounce-back season could be forthcoming.
Boston Red Sox: 3B Michael Chavis
Chavis, 23, missed the first 80 games of the 2018 season serving a PED suspension.
However, he solidified his standing as a prospect to watch upon returning, hitting .298/.381/.538 with 14 doubles and nine home runs in 194 plate appearances over three levels.
With Rafael Devers entrenched at third base, his future in Boston is fuzzy at best. He played some first base last season and could also be a fit at second base, but using him as a trade chip seems equally likely at this point.
Assuming the Red Sox cling tightly to high-ceiling pitching prospects like Bryan Mata, Darwinzon Hernandez and Tanner Houck, Chavis is the most likely centerpiece in any major trade.
New York Yankees: RHP Deivi Garcia
Justus Sheffield could potentially compete for a rotation spot next season, and Estevan Florial has seen his stock trend downward after an up-and-down 2018, so odds are the Yankees won't be open to trading either of their marquee prospects.
There's a wealth of intriguing pitching talent behind them, though.
Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu, Trevor Stephan, Clarke Schmidt, Garrett Whitlock, Luis Medina, Matt Sauer and Chance Adams all offer varying levels of polish and upside.
That said, it's Garcia who could be the first name out of rival GMs' mouths this offseason.
The 19-year-old finished 2018 with five scoreless innings in his Double-A debut. All told, he went 5-4 with a 2.55 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and a 105-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 74 innings.
He's undersized at 5'10", 163 pounds, so there's limited remaining projection. He already has a plus fastball/curveball pairing, though, and the potential for a solid changeup. Expect him to be a hot commodity this winter.
Tampa Bay Rays: OF Mallex Smith
The Rays could pull from their left-handed heavy outfield mix in their search for a right-handed power bat, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times pegged Mallex Smith at the "most likely" to be dealt.
The speedy 25-year-old is fresh off a breakout season at the plate, having hit .296/.367/.406 with 27 doubles, an AL-leading 10 triples and 40 steals. He also provided solid defense in center field (3 DRS, 2.4 UZR/150) on his way to 3.5 WAR.
Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Jake Bauers and Brandon Lowe are also left-handed hitters who saw time in the Tampa Bay outfield last season, so it's easy to see why the team is looking for more balance offensively.
Smith carries team control through 2022, so he'll be an attractive alternative for teams that don't want to break the bank on Bryce Harper and are wary of A.J. Pollock's injury history.
Toronto Blue Jays: 1B Justin Smoak
The Blue Jays had the impressive foresight to give Justin Smoak a two-year, $8.5 million extension prior to his breakout 2017 season, and that deal also included a team-friendly $8 million club option for 2019.
Now, as Toronto gets set to start rebuilding, the slugger looks like an obvious trade chip.
Prospect Rowdy Tellez made his MLB debut on Sept. 5 and hit .314/.329/.614 with four home runs and 14 RBI in 73 plate appearances, so moving Smoak could open up a large role for him in 2019.
Chicago White Sox: 1B Jose Abreu
Abreu might have just as good a chance of being extended by the White Sox as he does of being traded this offseason.
He's embraced his role as a mentor on a young team, and his value is not exactly at an all-time high after he dealt with some injury issues to post career lows in OPS+ (118), home runs (22) and RBI (78).
That said, he's still the most attractive trade chip on a roster that has essentially been stripped to the studs in recent seasons.
Abreu, 31, is a free agent after the 2019 season, so the White Sox will need to make a decision about his future with the team some time between now and next winter.
Cleveland Indians: 3B Nolan Jones
As one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, it's safe to say that Triston McKenzie is as close to untouchable as anyone.
That leaves Nolan Jones as the most appealing trade chip at the Indians' disposal, should they choose to make a splash on the trade market.
Jones, 20, was the No. 55 overall pick in 2016. After a slow start to his pro career, he took a big step forward this season with a .283/.405/.466 line between Single-A and High-A that included 21 doubles, 19 home runs and 66 RBI.
Stellar on-base skills and budding raw power make him a prospect on the rise, and if the Indians make a play for a controllable outfield bat or late-inning bullpen help, he could be the centerpiece.
Detroit Tigers: RF Nicholas Castellanos
The Tigers have a few players they could look to move this winter, including controllable starter Michael Fulmer and Matthew Boyd if someone is willing to meet what will likely be a steep asking price.
But as far as their most likely trade chip to be moved is concerned, Castellanos is the guy.
The 26-year-old is entering his final year of team control, and while the Tigers could explore an extension, they're still far enough away from contention that flipping him for prospects seems more likely.
While there's no question he can rake—he posted a 130 OPS+ with 46 doubles, 23 home runs and 89 RBI hitting in the middle of one of the worst offenses in baseball—he's a liability defensively (-19 DRS, -12.3 UZR/150 in RF) and that limits his value.
Kansas City Royals: 2B Whit Merrifield
Merrifield's value will never be higher.
After a breakout 2017 season, the late-bloomer was even better this year, hitting .304/.367/.438 while leading the majors in hits (192) and steals (45) en route to 5.5 WAR.
He's under team control through the 2022 season, but he's not a long-term building block for the Royals, as he'll turn 30 on Jan. 24.
It makes perfect sense to sell high now and use the prospect haul to further the ongoing rebuild. It'll be a tough pill for the fanbase to swallow to see its best player traded away, but it's a necessary evil when it comes to rebuilding, and the team will be better for it in the long run.
Minnesota Twins: SP Kyle Gibson
According to Derek Wetmore of 1500ESPN, the Twins should have around $70 million to spend this offseason before arbitration raises.
After a disappointing 78-84 season, they could take an equal opportunity approach to the offseason, adding some long-term assets on the free-agent market, while also shopping some short-term veteran pieces.
Gibson falls into the latter category, and in a market that's thin on quality starting pitching, his potential trade value could be too good to pass up.
The 30-year-old is entering a contract year, and after posting career-highs in ERA (3.62), strikeouts (179), innings pitched (196.2) and WAR (3.8), his stock is way up. Look for the Twins to explore an extension first, but if the two sides can't come to terms, things could quickly shift to the trade block.
Houston Astros: RHP Corbin Martin
Top prospects Forrest Whitely and Kyle Tucker will both be off-limits in trade talks, and the same is likely true for rising slugger Yordan Alvarez and flame-thrower Josh James.
Simply put, the Astros don't have any needs on the MLB roster that are glaring enough to justify trading any of those guys.
That said, they could still be active on the trade market, and they have plenty of second-level prospect talent to pull from.
Martin, 22, is one player who figures to be of great interest to opposing teams. With a polished four-pitch mix and a strong 6'2", 200-pound frame, he looks like a future big league starter, and after going 9-2 with a 2.51 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 122 strikeouts in 122 innings between High-A and Double-A, he's close to MLB ready.
Los Angeles Angels: SS Luis Rengifo
The Angels have done a nice job restocking a farm system that was far and away the worst in baseball just a few years ago.
Outfielder Jo Adell is untouchable, and it will take a golden opportunity to pry loose guys like Griffin Canning, Brandon Marsh, Matt Thaiss, Jose Suarez and Jahmai Jones.
Rengifo, 21, is one notable prospect who could be available.
Acquired from the Rays in the deal that sent C.J. Cron to Tampa Bay, Rengifo broke out with a .299/.399/.452 line that included 50 extra-base hits and 41 steals over three minor league levels.
With Andrelton Simmons blocking him at the MLB level and the Angels in serious need of pitching help, he looks like a prime candidate to be dealt after his stock soared in 2018.
Oakland Athletics: 3B Sheldon Neuse
As long as the Athletics continue operating on a shoestring budget, trading high-level prospect talent is not going to be part of their plans.
At the same time, after winning 97 games, they're well-positioned to be more aggressive than normal this winter.
So while elite-level guys like Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Sean Murphy, Lazaro Armenteros and Austin Beck will be non-starters, the team could be willing to listen on someone like Neuse.
The 23-year-old is blocked at third base by Matt Chapman and at first base by Matt Olson, and his defensive skills are too good to waste in a DH role. His numbers weren't great in 2018, but his strong track record and polished approach give him the potential to be an everyday player at the MLB level.
Seattle Mariners: RHP Wyatt Mills
As long as general manager Jerry Dipoto has a pulse, the Mariners will find a way to be active on the trade market.
The farm system is extremely thin—ranked No. 30 in our final rankings update—and Dipoto specifically mentioned Kyle Lewis, Evan White and Braden Bishop as potential contributors for next season, per Greg Johns of MLB.com.
Teenage outfielder Julio Rodriguez and 2018 first-round pick Logan Gilbert are also likely off-limits, but the rest of the system should be readily available.
Mills, 23, posted a 3.57 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 11 saves and 10.1 K/9 in 44 appearances between High-A and Double-A. His fastball/slider combo plays well in the late innings, and as the value of controllable bullpen arms continues to increase, he could be a viable centerpiece in an impact trade.
Texas Rangers: RHP Jose Leclerc
The Rangers will be one of the most interesting teams to watch this offseason.
Mike Minor, Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara could all wind up being available, depending on how aggressively they decide to commit to rebuilding.
Regardless, one player who figures to be a frequent subject of trade talks is their young closer.
Leclerc, 24, was quietly one of the best relievers in baseball this season, posting a 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 13.3 K/9 with 12 saves and 15 holds in 59 appearances.
With team control through 2022 and the stuff to develop into a dominant closer, Leclerc could bring a substantial prospect return.
Atlanta Braves: RHP Kyle Wright
Winning the NL East title this year figures to be just the tip of the iceberg for a Braves team on the rise, and with a stocked farm system, they could be as busy as anyone on the trade market.
No team has a deeper stable of up-and-coming pitching talent.
Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Touki Toussaint, Luiz Gohara, Ian Anderson, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Muller and Joey Wentz could all factor into the team's long-term rotation plans, along with young big leaguers Max Fried and Sean Newcomb.
Wright, 23, has the most tantalizing mix of current polish and future upside, so he's the pick here, but really it's that group of arms as a whole that makes the Braves serious players for any marquee name that pops up on the trade block.
Miami Marlins: C J.T. Realmuto
Realmuto was baseball's best catcher in 2018.
The 27-year-old hit .277/.340/.484 with 30 doubles, 21 home runs, 74 RBI and 74 runs scored to lead the position with a career-high 4.3 WAR.
Still just 27 and with two more years of team control, he's an extremely valuable trade chip for a Marlins team that sent a number of star players packing last offseason.
Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald wrote: "The Marlins are expected to offer 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."
After requesting a trade last offseason, an extension seems unlikely.
New York Mets: SP Zack Wheeler
Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will see their names pop up plenty on the offseason rumor mill, but an understandably exorbitant asking price will likely prevent them from being dealt.
Wheeler, on the other hand, looks like an obvious sell-high candidate as he gets set to enter a contract year.
The 28-year-old was finally healthy after missing the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons to Tommy John surgery and then showing some obvious signs of rust in 2017.
He wound up going 12-7 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 179 strikeouts in 182.1 innings—including a lights-out second half that saw him go 9-1 with a 1.68 ERA in 11 starts.
Given his injury history and the uncertain direction of the franchise, trading him now and selling high is the right move.
Philadelphia Phillies: 3B Maikel Franco
Whether or not the Phillies wind up signing Manny Machado, there's a good chance Franco will be on the trade block this winter.
The 26-year-old enjoyed a nice bounce-back season after posting a brutal 79 OPS+ in 2017, as he hit .270/.314/.467 with 22 home runs and 68 RBI for a 106 OPS+.
That said, those numbers are still far from what was expected from the former top prospect, and his below-average glove made him a 0.2 WAR player overall.
Even if the Phillies don't sign Machado, they could decide to move Rhys Hoskins back to first base and slide Carlos Santana over to third base. It would essentially be a push defensively at the hot corner, and getting Hoskins out of left field would significantly improve the team's outfield defense.
Washington Nationals: SS Carter Kieboom
The Nationals have refused to part with Victor Robles in trade talks to this point, and if Bryce Harper walks in free agency, he could be in a position to claim a starting spot alongside Juan Soto and Adam Eaton in the 2019 outfield.
Even if Harper does return, flipping Eaton looks like a more likely outcome than changing their stance on Robles.
That leaves Kieboom as the team's top trade chip. The 21-year-old posted an .801 OPS with 31 doubles, 16 home runs and 69 RBI between High-A and Double-A, and he still has room to add muscle to his 6'2", 190-pound frame.
With Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon blocking him on the left side of the infield, he makes sense as a trade candidate.
Chicago Cubs: IF/OF Ian Happ
The Cubs are set to do some offensive retooling this offseason after their bats went cold down the stretch.
Happ, 24, has been more luxury than necessity on the roster since he debuted in 2017.
His ability to play all three outfield spots, second base and third base has kept him in the lineup on a semi-regular basis, but he could benefit from the defensive stability that a change of scenery might afford him.
Trading from their outfield logjam seems like the most obvious move for the Cubs this offseason, which means Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. have to also be viewed as potential trade chips.
The smart money is on Happ being the one who is moved, though.
Cincinnati Reds: RP Raisel Iglesias
A lights-out closer will always be a luxury for a rebuilding team.
Iglesias, 28, has been just that for the Reds the past two seasons, converting 58 of 64 save chances with a 2.43 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 129 appearances.
He's owed identical $5,714,285 salaries in 2019 and 2020, which is a steal in today's market wherein setup relievers command significantly more than that.
The Reds could also shop fellow relievers Michael Lorenzen, Jared Hughes and David Hernandez, but there's no doubt Iglesias would fetch the biggest return.
Milwaukee Brewers: OF Corey Ray
The Brewers won't entertain trading young right-handers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff this offseason, and the same is likely true of No. 1 prospect Keston Hiura.
However, with Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain locked into two outfield spots long-term and some pegging Hiura for left field if he can't cut it defensively at second base, the team might be willing to deal Ray for the right controllable starter.
The 24-year-old was the No. 5 overall pick in 2016, and while he still has a lot of work to do cutting down his strikeout rate (176 K, 29.3 K% in 2018), his upside is considerable.
After posting an .801 OPS with 32 doubles, 27 home runs and 37 steals at Double-A, a breakout season could be forthcoming in 2019. Anyone trading for a package built around him will be banking on it.
Pittsburgh Pirates: SP Ivan Nova
The Pirates made it clear they have their sights set on contending in 2019 when they traded for Chris Archer and Keone Kela at the deadline.
That hasn't stopped them from getting creative when it comes to shedding payroll in years past, however. The trade that sent Francisco Liriano and prospects to the Jays was the perfect example.
With that in mind, moving Nova and his $9.2 million salary could be on the offseason to-do list.
It shouldn't be hard to find a taker. That's a reasonable price point for a middle-of-the-rotation starter, and it'd be a short-term commitment since he's in the final year of his contract.
The Pirates can then move forward with a rotation that is fronted by Archer, Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams while using that money to address other needs.
St. Louis Cardinals: 1B/OF Jose Martinez
Martinez can flat-out rake.
The 30-year-old hit .305/.364/.457 with 30 doubles, 17 home runs and 83 RBI in 590 plate appearances this season.
He'd be a great fit for a designated hitter-needy team like the Rays or Mariners, and his remaining team control through 2022 should be enough to bring back at least one quality prospect.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 1B Paul Goldschmidt
The D-backs could be open for business this offseason, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today recently reported Goldschmidt is among the players for whom they'll be willing to entertain offers.
The 31-year-old is one of the game's most dangerous offensive players, and he rebounded nicely from a slow start to post a 139 OPS+ with 35 doubles, 33 home runs and 5.4 WAR.
His $14.5 million salary in the final year of his contract makes him all the more appealing as a trade chip, and even only one year prior to free agency, he'd bring back a huge prospect haul.
The fact the Yankees could be in the market for a first baseman makes his potential availability all the more intriguing.
Colorado Rockies: 3B Nolan Arenado
Trading someone like Arenado is the kind of move that can alter the course of a franchise.
There's no question he's one of the best players in baseball, but the consensus is also that he's going to price himself out of Colorado when he hits free agency after the 2019 season.
So the Rockies can either go all-in on the 2019 season or move him now for a huge return and potentially better set themselves up for sustainable contention.
The presence of infield prospects Brendan Rodgers and Colton Welker in the farm system could take some of the sting out of trading a perennial MVP candidate.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Dustin May
Infielder Gavin Lux was the Orioles' "main target" leading up to the Manny Machado trade, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred, but the Dodgers found a way to get the deal done without including him.
It's fair to assume then they'd be reluctant to part with Lux in any deal, so we'll call him untouchable along with outfielder Alex Verdugo and catchers Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith since the future of the catcher position is up in the air.
That leaves right-hander Dustin May as the most attractive name among the team's top prospects.
May, 21, already has a dynamic four-pitch repertoire, and there's some intriguing projection left in his 6'6, 180-pound frame.
He too could be off-limits in anything but a trade for an All-Star-caliber player.
San Diego Padres: RF Hunter Renfroe
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune offered up the following nugget back in August: "Manuel Margot, [Wil] Myers and [Franchy] Cordero would seem to be locks to return in 2019—as long as they are not part of a trade. ... That leaves Travis Jankowski, Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes being intensely evaluated for what might be one available spot."
Renfroe fits the profile of the high-power (.504 SLG, 26 HR), low on-base (.302 OBP) slugger whose value in today's game has diminished greatly in recent years.
A similar player—Ryon Healy—was traded from Oakland to Seattle last offseason for a controllable middle reliever (Emilio Pagan) and a low-level infielder (Alexander Campos).
The Padres might be happy to take a similar return.
San Francisco Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner
Even if the Giants do finally commit to rebuilding—which is a big if given their clueless approach last offseason—moving some of their high-priced veterans will be easier said than done.
One player they wouldn't have any trouble moving is Bumgarner.
The 29-year-old will earn $12 million in the form of a team option next year before reaching free agency for the first time.
Even as a one-year rental, Bumgarner would undoubtedly bring back at least one top-50 prospect and plenty more quality pieces to help restock a thin farm system.
The question is just how bold the San Francisco front office will be.