1 Impact Move Each MLB Team Could Make This Offseason

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2018

1 Impact Move Each MLB Team Could Make This Offseason

0 of 6

    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    The MLB trade and free-agent season has officially kicked into gear. Soon, a flurry of swaps and deals will be consummated.

    While we wait, let's examine one impact move each of the 30 clubs could make between now and spring training.

    Obviously, this is based primarily on informed speculation, but we'll incorporate the latest rumors, rumblings and a realistic sense of each team's direction heading into 2019.

American League East

1 of 6

    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Baltimore Orioles: Re-sign Adam Jones

    Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones is an impending free agent on the downside of his career. Yet, it's possible the O's could re-sign him.

    To be clear, this would be a foolish move for an Orioles team coming off a 115-loss season. But Jones clearly has loyalty to Baltimore after nixing a trade to the more competitive Philadelphia Phillies at the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline. 

    The Orioles don't have many tradable assets, nor are they likely to ink any notable free agents as they initiate a painful, overdue rebuild. But re-upping Jones for nostalgia's sake isn't out of the question.


    Boston Red Sox: Sign Japanese hurler Yusei Kikuchi

    He doesn't bring the same fanfare as Shohei Ohtani did last winter, but 27-year-old Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi has posted a 2.81 ERA in eight seasons with the Japan Pacific League.

    Executive Dave Dombrowski said the Boston Red Sox "have a pulse" for Kikuchi, who's expected to be posted soon, per WEEI.com's Rob Bradford

    The Sox's top priority might be making a decision on closer Craig Kimbrel, but Kikuchi is a name to watch in connection with Boston.


    New York Yankees: Sign Patrick Corbin

    The New York Yankees need starting pitching. They're active on the trade front and sniffing after guys such as the Cleveland Indians' Corey Kluber, according to Fancred Sports' Jon Heyman

    A trade or two is a distinct possibility, but the Yankees are also the most obvious suitors for left-hander Patrick Corbin.

    Corbin posted a 3.15 ERA with 246 strikeouts in 200 innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a career year for the 29-year-old, and it should grab New York's attention.


    Tampa Bay Rays: Sign Yasmani Grandal

    The Tampa Bay Rays won 90 games in 2018 despite selling at the trade deadline. They're in a tough division with the Yankees and Red Sox in an arms race, but they're also a sneaky contender.

    They don't have the budget to acquire any top-shelf free agents and won't deplete their farm system in a seismic trade. 

    They could use an upgrade at catcher, however. A reunion with Wilson Ramos is possible, but the Rays might be better off pursuing Yasmani Grandal, who posted an .815 OPS with 24 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers.


    Toronto Blue Jays: Trade Kevin Pillar

    Like the Orioles, the Toronto Blue Jays should be headed for a rebuild. Also like the Orioles, they aren't loaded with tradable assets.

    That said, they could fetch something for outfielder Kevin Pillar, a still-competent defensive center fielder who hit 15 home runs and stole 14 bases in 2018.

    The Jays can't expect a king's ransom, but Pillar would likely improve a contender and net Toronto some solid controllable talent. 

American League Central

2 of 6

    G Fiume/Getty Images

    Chicago White Sox: Trade Jose Abreu

    According to MLB Network's Jon Morosi, the Chicago White Sox could pursue both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. That would be an about-face for the White Sox, who have been engaged in a protracted rebuild. 

    The American League Central is a weak, winnable division. As Morosi pointed out, the White Sox have the second-lowest committed payroll for 2019.

    All that said, the safer bet is on the ChiSox continuing to stockpile cost-controlled players with an eye on the future. They could help that cause by dealing first baseman Jose Abreu, who hit 22 home runs and was an All-Star in 2018 but will be a free agent after next season.


    Cleveland Indians: Trade Carlos Carrasco

    We know, per ESPN.com's Buster Olney, that the Cleveland Indians "will listen to trade offers" for players including pitchers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. 

    It's tough to imagine the Tribe dealing the Klubot, but a Carrasco trade could be advantageous. The Indians need to keep pace with the elite teams in the American League with a middle-of-the-pack payroll. Carrasco could bring back top prospects and MLB-ready talent after posting a 3.38 ERA and striking out 231 in 192 innings.

    That would still leave the Indians with Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger to front the rotation and could help them add needed depth to the outfield and offense. 


    Detroit Tigers: Trade Michael Fulmer

    The Detroit Tigers are in unambiguous rebuild mode. They should sell any pieces that will bring back impact prospects. Michael Fulmer fits that description, even after a down year in which he posted a 4.69 ERA.

    The 2016 AL Rookie of the Year was an All-Star in 2017 and is just 25 years old. Pitching-hungry contenders would surely be willing to part with MiLB blue chips and bank on a return to form. This could be another potential fit for the Yankees.

    If the deal is right, the Tigers ought to pounce. 


    Kansas City Royals: Trade Whit Merrifield

    Whit Merrifield paced baseball with 192 hits and 45 stolen bases in 2018 and is under club control through 2022. So the Kansas City Royals should...deal him now? Yes, as Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star pointed out: 

    "Internally, the Royals believe the core of their next contender will be in the big leagues by 2021, when Merrifield will be 32. Viewed coldly as return on investment, now is the best time to trade him. The younger talent acquired would be maturing by 2021, when Merrifield is likely to be fading."

    The rebuilding Royals lost 104 games last season. Now is the time to jettison assets and restock the farm.


    Minnesota Twins: Sign J.A. Happ

    The Minnesota Twins went from surprise playoff team in 2017 to sub-500 disappointment in 2018. The good news? The AL Central is a soft division, and a return to the postseason is plausible.

    To get there, the Twins should buttress a starting rotation that ranked 22nd in baseball with a 4.65 ERA.

    Enter rumors that Minnesota may be pursuing left-hander J.A. Happ, per Morosi. The 36-year-old went 17-6 with a 3.65 ERA and 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings last season between the Blue Jays and Yankees and would add an experienced arm to the Twins' stable without breaking the bank.

American League West

3 of 6

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Houston Astros: Acquire J.T. Realmuto

    The Houston Astros got feeble offensive production behind the plate in 2018 from the troika of Brian McCann (.212 average), Max Stassi (.226 average) and Martin Maldonado (.231 average). They should be in the market for an impact backstop.

    The Miami Marlins employ just such a player in J.T. Realmuto, who cracked 21 home runs and posted an .825 OPS for a last-place franchise. This looks like a match.

    Realmuto would cost the 'Stros at least one player from the upper tier of their farm system plus more. But they've got a solid MiLB stockpile, and they're in win-now mode after hoisting a Commissioner's Trophy in 2017 and getting bounced in the American League Championship Series in 2018.


    Los Angeles Angels: Sign Wilson Ramos

    Like Houston, the Los Angeles Angels have a need at catcher. They could be in on the Realmuto sweepstakes but are in the process of rebuilding a once-fallow farm system and may want to keep their prospects.

    Instead, they could sign catcher Wilson Ramos, a move Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times reported they're considering. 

    Ramos has battled injury issues but hit .306 with 15 home runs in 111 games last year and would measurably improve the Halos offense.


    Oakland Athletics: Sign Daniel Murphy

    The Oakland Athletics stunned the baseball world by winning 97 games and making the playoffs last season. Now, executive Billy Beane and Co. will look to build on that success within their limited budget.

    They've got holes to fill in the rotation, at catcher and at second base. One option for the keystone sack is Daniel Murphy.

    Murphy might be willing to sign a cheaper, show-me contract after playing 91 games due to injury and posting a .790 OPS. However, Murphy slashed .328/.365/.506 over his final 70 games and might be a veteran boon for the A's. 


    Seattle Mariners: Sign Dallas Keuchel

    The Seattle Mariners missed the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season in 2018. Their starting pitchers, meanwhile, ranked 21st in baseball with a 4.35 ERA.

    The M's and general manager Jerry Dipoto need to get bold and sign left-hander Dallas Keuchel away from the division-rival Astros. 

    The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner won't come cheaply and carries risk; he posted a 3.74 ERA last year and is entering his age-31 season.

    Seattle needs to take risks, however, and Keuchel could thrive at Safeco Field, the third-most pitcher-friendly park in baseball, according to ESPN's Park Factors metric. 


    Texas Rangers: Trade Shin-Soo Choo

    Shin-Soo Choo was the subject of trade rumors last summer but ultimately remained with the Texas Rangers. The veteran outfielder/designated hitter could be dangled this winter.

    Choo clubbed 21 home runs with an .810 OPS in a resurgent season. He's owned $42 million through 2020, meaning the Rangers would need to eat a portion of his salary.

    If they could get a decent prospect in return and shed any of that salary as they lurch toward a rebuild, it would be prudent.

National League East

4 of 6

    Elsa/Getty Images

    Atlanta Braves: Acquire Madison Bumgarner

    If the San Francisco Giants decide to sell ace and postseason legend Madison Bumgarner, their phone lines will light up. Of all the possible destinations, the Atlanta Braves make a lot of sense.

    Bumgarner is a North Carolina native and could return to his southern roots. The Braves, meanwhile, have the No. 2 farm system in the game, per Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter.

    That means they could wow the Giants without giving up any untouchable, MLB-graduated names such as Ronald Acuna Jr. or Ozzie Albies. 


    Miami Marlins: Trade J.T. Realmuto

    As mentioned, Realmuto put together an All-Star season on a sinking Marlins ship. The Fish traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon last winter. The fire sale in on in South Beach.

    Realmuto has indicated through his agent he won't ink an extension with Miami. With two years of club control remaining, his value will never be higher. 

    This is a no-brainer for the Marlins and could add an influx of controllable, high-upside talent. 


    New York Mets: Trade Jacob deGrom

    The New York Mets endured another losing season marked by injuries to the starting rotation and not enough offense to pick up the slack. Cue the broken record.

    They could try to retool, but a rebuild feels like the smarter course of action. 

    If they go that route, the Mets could command a king's ransom for ace Jacob deGrom, who is a finalist for NL Cy Young Award honors after leading MLB with a 1.70 ERA and striking out 269 in 217 innings.

    Losing him would hurt the Queens faithful, but the prospects he'd bring back might heal their wounds within a few years.


    Philadelphia Phillies: Sign Craig Kimbrel

    The Philadelphia Phillies have been connected to both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Given their payroll flexibility, there's a chance they could sign either one and an outside chance they could sign both.

    The Phils have an acute need in the bullpen, however. Their relievers finished 18th in baseball with a 4.19 ERA.

    They could remedy that by signing Craig Kimbrel, a seven-time All-Star with roots in the NL East from his days with the Braves. Kimbrel will be expensive and is entering his age-31 season, but Philadelphia is a young team with money to spend that could use an experienced late-inning arm.


    Washington Nationals: Sign D.J. LeMahieu

    The Washington Nationals' top offseason priority is figuring out whether they can (or should) re-sign Bryce Harper.

    We'll leave that aside, because we've got another destination picked out for the Nats outfielder, and instead zero in on second base.

    Washington has a hole there after trading Daniel Murphy to the Chicago Cubs last season and could fill it by inking D.J. LeMahieu. Yes, LeMahieu has some rather extreme home-road splits from his days with the Colorado Rockies, but he's a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner who would slot nicely into the Nationals infield, assuming they plan to contend. 

National League Central

5 of 6

    Jae Hong/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs: Sign Zach Britton

    The Chicago Cubs exercised their $20 million option on left-hander Cole Hamels, which theoretically shores up their starting rotation. They could still use help in a bullpen that has depth but questions at the top after closer Brandon Morrow missed significant time with an arm injury.

    The Cubs could also use another lefty, which makes Zach Britton an interesting option.

    Britton missed time recovering from a ruptured Achilles but posted a 3.10 ERA in 40.2 innings between the Orioles and Yankees and would give Chicago a battle-tested southpaw reliever.


    Cincinnati Reds: Trade Scooter Gennett

    The rebuilding Cincinnati Reds aren't loaded with top-tier trade assets, but they do have second baseman Scooter Gennett, who hit .310 with an .847 OPS last season, made his first All-Star team and could fetch a nice haul on the trade market.

    Gennett would be a free agent after next season. Maybe Cincinnati will toss a big extension his way and make him part of the future.

    If not, now is the moment to optimize his value and reel in some prospects.  


    Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade Starling Marte

    Are the Pittsburgh Pirates rebuilding or trying to contend? It's hard to tell. They traded ace Gerrit Cole and outfielder Andrew McCutchen last winter but acquired ace Chris Archer at the non-waiver trade deadline in 2018.

    In the end, the Bucs finished well off the playoff pace. Let's assume they see the writing on the wall and get back to selling.

    If so, they could find takers for outfielder Starling Marte, who hit .277 with 20 home runs and 33 stolen bases and is controlled through 2021 with a pair of affordable team options. 


    Milwaukee Brewers: Sign Nathan Eovaldi

    The Milwaukee Brewers got to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, but their starting rotation ranked 11th in baseball and eighth in the NL with a 3.92 ERA. 

    The Brewers could be in on top aces such as Corbin and Keuchel, but a more realistic play for the small-market Brew Crew is Nathan Eovaldi.

    The hard-throwing Eovaldi missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and battled injuries last season as well, but he posted a 3.33 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 53 innings after a trade from the Rays to the Red Sox and could be a great high-risk, high-reward bargain for Milwaukee. 


    St. Louis Cardinals: Sign Manny Machado

    The St. Louis Cardinals were quiet contenders in 2018. While they missed the dance, they proved they can hang with Chicago and Milwaukee in the NL Central.

    Consider them quiet contenders for the services of infielder Manny Machado as well. In September, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported the Cardinals could be a "major player" in the Machado sweepstakes. 

    Machado will be linked to virtually everyone until he signs, but he makes sense for St. Louis, which is counting on the uncertain duo of Paul DeJong and Jedd Gyorko on the left side of the infield. 

    It'd be a splashy move for the Cards and would surely grab the attention of their division foes. 

National League West

6 of 6

    Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

    Arizona Diamondbacks: Sign J.A. Happ

    The Arizona Diamondbacks are likely going to lose ace Patrick Corbin to free agency, unless they open the wallet wide.

    They could still snag a consolation prize in veteran lefty J.A. Happ, who is 35 years old but struck out 9.8 per nine innings in 2018.

    Given his age, Happ could likely be had on a shorter, cheaper contract than Corbin, who may end up as the highest-paid pitcher of the winter. 


    Colorado Rockies: Sign Marwin Gonzalez

    The Colorado Rockies have recently spent big on pitchers, including the record-breaking deal they gave closer Wade Davis last winter.

    This offseason, they should consider adding a bat and making use of their Mile High advantage.

    Consider versatile Marwin Gonzalez, who can capably man the corner infield positions and the outfield and who hit 16 home runs for the Houston Astros, a figure that would likely inch upward in Coors Field. 


    Los Angeles Dodgers: Sign Bryce Harper

    If you want to read our long-form argument for why the Dodgers should sign Harper, it's here.

    To sum it up: The Dodgers' title drought is now more than 30 years old. They're big spenders in full-blown win-now mode. Harper is a generational talent whose brash personality and hair-tossing antics would be a perfect fit for the glitz of Southern California.

    It's a marriage that makes too much sense. 


    San Diego Padres: Trade Kirby Yates

    Reliever Kirby Yates racked up 90 strikeouts in 63 innings for the San Diego Padres last season while posting a 2.14 ERA. He's controllable through 2020. 

    Needless to say, if the Friars made him available, there would be interest.

    The Pads could keep him at least until the 2019 trade deadline. But if they could get a shiny prospect package now to gild an already loaded farm system, they should go for it.


    San Francisco Giants: Trade Madison Bumgarner

    The Giants endured another losing season in 2018 after adding veterans last winter. Their even-year championship core is aging. Their window of contention might be closed.

    Trading Bumgarner would be painful. The Bay Area faithful might revolt.

    It would also help the Giants rebuild a moribund farm system as they look to the future. Even after a year marred by injury (notably a broken left pinkie), Bumgarner remains a postseason demigod and one of the game's top left-handers. He's entering a contract year.

    The writing is on the wall.


    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs