Predicting the 2018-19 MLB Offseason's Biggest Blockbuster Trades
With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, the 2018-19 MLB offseason will soon pivot from hot-stove speculation to a flurry of actual deals.
While we wait, let's outline a half-dozen blockbuster trades that will be consummated this winter. This isn't pumpkin pie-in-the-sky spitballing. We're predicting, so help us.
In making these calls, we used credible rumors, a sense of each club's needs and a healthy dollop of gut feeling.
Our crystal ball may not be perfectly calibrated, but all these swaps are rooted in ostensible reality and would significantly upend the big league landscape.
Astros Acquire J.T. Realmuto from Marlins
The Houston Astros' quest to repeat as MLB champions fell short in 2018. With much of their title-winning core intact, they'll surely reload this offseason.
They need to make a decision on free agent Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner, and could use reinforcements in the bullpen.
Their biggest priority should be upgrading a weak-hitting catching corps that consisted of Brian McCann (.212 average), Max Stassi (.226) and Martin Maldonado (.231). McCann and Maldonado are free agents, leaving Stassi alone atop the depth chart.
The Miami Marlins' J.T. Realmuto led all catchers with 4.8 WAR by FanGraphs' measure while cracking 21 home runs with an .825 OPS. He's entering his age-28 season and is controllable through 2020. The rebuilding Fish don't have to trade him, but his value may never be higher.
That seems like a great fit for the Astros, but the Marlins' asking price is reportedly sky-high.
According to MLB Network's Jon Paul Morosi, Houston and Miami have "remained in contact" regarding Realmuto. The Marlins, Morosi added, want either right-hander Forrest Whitley or outfielder Kyle Tucker, the Astros' No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, per Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter.
That's steep. Both profile as impact players at the highest level. But the Astros are in a win-now window, and top-shelf catchers on the right side of 30 don't come along every offseason.
Losing Whitley or Tucker plus ancillary pieces will sting, but it will also set Houston up for a return to Commissioner's Trophy glory.
Rockies Acquire Jose Abreu from White Sox
Jose Abreu wants to remain with the Chicago White Sox.
"Everybody knows that 2019 is going to be the last season of my current contract, but I try not to think about that because I'm part of the White Sox and believe I'm going to be part of this organization for a very long time," the slugging Cuban said, per Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
That's not under Abreu's control, obviously, and the rebuilding ChiSox might move him to acquire more young pieces.
His production dipped a bit in 2018, but the 31-year-old made his second career All-Star appearance while swatting 22 home runs. A move to the mile-high air of Coors Field could pad those stats.
The Colorado Rockies were viewed by various insiders, including Fancred's Jon Heyman, as a possible landing spot for Abreu before the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline. The Rox didn't pull the trigger then, but they would be wise to do so now.
Ian Desmond is penciled in at first base, but he hit a scant .236 and has the defensive versatility to move to the outfield.
As a one-year rental coming off a down year, Abreu won't break the Rockies farm. A high-upside project such as 21-year-old right-hander Riley Pint would offer Chicago another dose of burgeoning talent and allow Colorado to land a proven slugger as it tries for a third straight postseason berth.
Athletics Acquire Sonny Gray from Yankees
Sonny Gray's New York Yankees tenure hasn't gone smoothly, to put it mildly.
Since the Yankees acquired him from the Oakland Athletics at the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline, Gray has vacillated between so-so and downright bad. In 2018, he posted a 4.90 ERA in 30 starts. Strikingly, his ERA at Yankee Stadium (6.98) was more than double his ERA away from the Bronx (3.17).
The 29-year-old was an All-Star and top-three AL Cy Young Award finisher in 2015. He was on track for stardom. Might the Yanks flip him in a change-of-scenery swap?
"I think he [has value] because with the way starting pitching is right now, you look at him as a reclamation project," an AL front office evaluator said, per George A. King III of the New York Post.
An array of pitching-hungry contenders will kick the tires on Gray, but here's an enticing possibility: the A's.
According to Morosi, Oakland and New York have "had contact" about a potential Gray trade. The Athletics won 97 games last season and need starting pitching. And, as Morosi noted, they haven't been shy about bringing back former A's such as Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson.
Gray will become a free agent after 2019. Coming off a bumpy season, he shouldn't cost Oakland any pieces from the upper echelon of its system. A fringy prospect with upside such as right-hander Grant Holmes ought to be enough to bring back Gray to the East Bay.
Yankees Acquire Corey Kluber from Indians
Trading Gray would be one step in a series of moves the Yankees could make to shore up a suspect starting rotation.
On Monday, the Yankees acquired left-hander James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners for top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield and two other minor leaguers, the team announced. Next, New York might sign superstar infielder Manny Machado, to whom it's been extensively linked.
After that, the Bombers could exchange up-and-coming third baseman Miguel Andujar for an undisputed ace (though Paxton comes close). Specifically, the Yankees could pry Corey Kluber from the Cleveland Indians.
Heyman reported New York had interest in Paxton and Kluber as well as another Cleveland hurler, Carlos Carrasco. He also name-dropped free-agent lefties Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ as options to improve the Yanks starting corps.
Of those arms, Kluber is by far the strongest. A two-time AL Cy Young Award recipient, Kluber posted a 2.89 ERA and led the Junior Circuit with 215 innings in 2018. He's also controllable through 2021 via a pair of team options.
Let's assume New York signs Machado, which is merely an assumption at this point. Let's also assume shortstop Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery at some point in 2019.
If so, the Yankees could offer Andujar, who hit 27 home runs with an .855 OPS in 2018 and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. The Indians could slot Andujar at third with Francisco Lindor at shortstop and Jose Ramirez at second.
Add another high-upside prospect such as hard-throwing righty Domingo Acevedo plus a few other chips, and the Yankees could program the Klubot into their 2019 algorithm.
Padres Acquire Noah Syndergaard from Mets
The San Diego Padres finished last in the National League West in 2018. They've got the top farm system in the game, per Reuter. Logic dictates they should hang on to their MiLB assets and set their gaze on the future.
Then again, when opportunity knocks, it's wise to answer.
Enter the rumor, courtesy of The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, that the Pads have expressed interest in New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard. Andy Martino of SNY added that "while the Padres weren't aggressive enough in July for talks to become serious, they are expected to go harder after Syndergaard now."
The Mets are coming off another disappointing season in which they finished 77-85. It's unclear whether they plan to rebuild or retool, but changes are required in Queens.
A litany of injuries has dimmed Thor's thunder over the past two seasons. When he's right, however, Syndergaard has one of the most electric arms in baseball.
The Friars play their home games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Syndergaard is 26 years old and under club control through 2021. Assuming he stays healthy, he could speed their ascent from rebuilder to contender.
The Padres should guard minor league infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. at all costs but could offer top pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore along with a rising name such as teenage right-hander Luis Patino (plus more) to acquire Syndergaard and help the Mets restock their middling farm.
Mets fans will cringe. But as New York tries to keep pace with the up-and-coming Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East, this might be a necessary sacrifice.
Cardinals Acquire Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke from Diamondbacks
The idea that the Arizona Diamondbacks would trade first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and right-hander Zack Greinke seemed implausible.
As the rumor mill churns, though, it sounds like the Diamondbacks are indeed headed for a rebuild after missing the playoffs in 2018 with an 82-80 record. The player they're shopping most aggressively? Greinke.
"I'd be stunned if he is [with Arizona in 2019], I really would be," USA Today's Bob Nightengale said on Doug and Wolf. "They're shopping him everywhere. It may take a package with Paul Goldschmidt just because of the money involved."
That's the second piece of the puzzle: Goldschmidt. A six-time All-Star and four-time top-10 National League MVP finisher, Goldy is entering his contract year with an affordable $14.5 million salary in 2019. If the D-backs are willing to include him in a deal and eat some of the $104.5 million remaining on Greinke's contract, they could move their two highest-profile players.
Paging the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cards are trying to keep pace with the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs in the National League Central. They could use a power bat to anchor the offense. They also have a trove of young, controllable pitchers that would pique Arizona's interest.
Nightengale mentioned the Cardinals as a possible suitor and speculated they're not on Greinke's 15-team no-trade list.
"I think he would actually love pitching in a city like St. Louis, where it's all baseball, all positive, everything. It's a player's dream," Nightengale said.
The Cardinals could demand cash to offset Greinke's salary while offering young right-hander Dakota Hudson and power-hitting first baseman Jose Martinez.
It would set up St. Louis for contention while giving Arizona payroll relief and building blocks for its next phase.