1 Player Each MLB Team Should Already Be Targeting for 2019-20 Offseason Trades
Each new day brings us closer to a Major League Baseball offseason that, because of a relative shortage of star free agents, could be rife with trades.
On that note, we've come to suggest one potential trade acquisition for every MLB team in the 2019-20 offseason. These come in all shapes and sizes, but we generally went looking for immediate upgrades for contenders and buy-low building blocks for rebuilders.
We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Paul Blackburn
No pitching staff has contributed more to the great home run outburst of 2019 than that of the Baltimore Orioles. Their hurlers have surrendered a record 284 long balls—and counting.
This experience should send the Orioles on an offseason hunt for controllable pitchers who can keep the ball on the ground. Paul Blackburn matches that description. He has a long history as a ground-ball artist, and he won't be a free agent until after 2023.
Since the Oakland Athletics have had trouble finding space in their starting rotation for Blackburn, they might be willing to hear the Orioles out if they come calling.
Boston Red Sox: INF/OF Chad Pinder
Following the Boston Red Sox's ouster of president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, the big question is if they will hold on to Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez this offseason.
That speaks to the difficult spot the Red Sox are in with their payroll. Because their farm system is also in dire condition, whatever talent they lose probably won't be recouped through blockbuster trades.
Yet the Red Sox might turn to the trade market for a replacement for utility man Brock Holt, who's played his way into a hefty contract in free agency. Chad Pinder, who's a decent hitter with a versatile glove, is a potential option if the A's want to get out of paying him a raise in arbitration next year.
New York Yankees: RHP Noah Syndergaard
Before the New York Mets upended expectations with their trade for Marcus Stroman, we liked the idea of Noah Syndergaard's being at the center of their first blockbuster with the New York Yankees.
Though the Mets are likely contenders for 2020, such a trade might be back inside the realm of possibility this offseason. They would be selling low on the flamethrower following a disappointing year marked by a 4.15 ERA, yet they could nonetheless frame a trade as a chance to jettison a malcontent.
For their part, the Yankees might prefer trading, say, top prospect Deivi Garcia for Syndergaard to dropping $200 million on Gerrit Cole in free agency.
Tampa Bay Rays: OF Austin Slater
Once the Tampa Bay Rays lose Avisail Garcia to free agency, they'll have an excuse to shop for a right fielder who could give them some much-needed home run power.
The Rays might seek to go big on Mitch Haniger or Jorge Soler, yet it would be more like them to make a deal for a pre-arbitration-eligible player who hasn't quite unlocked his full potential in the majors.
Austin Slater, who's shown a penchant for hard contact while putting up a solid .834 OPS this season, should interest the Rays. And he could be available if the San Francisco Giants pivot to a full-on rebuild.
Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Nick Pivetta
The Toronto Blue Jays will be in a unique spot this offseason. They won't have much rebuilding left to do, but they're also not ready to lean in to contention just yet.
Until they are, they should try to pick up some misfit toys. As in players who are out of favor with their clubs but who have talent that could be rejuvenated via changes of scenery.
Nick Pivetta fits the bill. Though the Victoria, British Columbia, native has been hit hard in the majors, he's also shown off his live arm with a rate of 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Assuming they don't simply non-tender him, the Philadelphia Phillies might be willing to sell low on Pivetta in a trade.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: LHP J.A. Happ
More so than the Blue Jays, the Chicago White Sox are ready to leave their rebuild behind and take a step toward contention in 2020.
They should reach out to the Yankees about J.A. Happ. If New York wants to free up his $17 million salary for 2020 for the sake of a big signing, Chicago might get a good deal on a veteran who's better than his 5.07 ERA indicates.
Cleveland Indians: INF/OF Whit Merrifield
Whether or not they trade superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Cleveland Indians are likely to once again let their payroll constraints define their offseason.
Yet assuming they reject Jason Kipnis' $16.5 million option for 2020, the Indians will have a window to find a cheaper and better player to slot in at second base. Whit Merrifield, an All-Star who signed a club-friendly deal earlier this year, would be ideal.
Merrifield's availability will depend on the Kansas City Royals' direction under new owner John Sherman. But if he favors a rebuild that seems necessary, he might not have any issues with doing business with a club he formerly had a stake in.
Detroit Tigers: OF Andrew Stevenson
The Detroit Tigers have both the worst record (45-104) and worst run differential (minus-293) in MLB, so suffice it to say that their rebuild still has a ways to go.
For the sake of their dignity, the Tigers should at least consider adding players who could help raise their offense from the depths of the American League. Blockbusters will be out of the question, but the Tigers might seek talented players who are stuck on the fringe of the majors with other clubs.
Which brings us to Andrew Stevenson. The Washington Nationals don't have room for him in their outfield, so they might listen if the Tigers take an interest based on his .334 average at Triple-A this season.
Kansas City Royals: RHP Jeff Hoffman
As bad as the Tigers are, the Royals aren't much better. Hence the aforementioned necessary-seeming rebuild that John Sherman must consider.
If, however, Sherman would rather try for some immediate progress at the major league level in 2020, the Royals might scour the trade market for buy-low arms who could help their awful rotation.
Jeff Hoffman would be a fit. He was a well-regarded prospect when the Colorado Rockies got him in the Troy Tulowitzki trade in 2015, but he's flopped with a 6.21 ERA in the majors. His fly-ball style would play better at Kauffman Stadium than it does at Coors Field.
Minnesota Twins: LHP Robbie Ray
The Minnesota Twins will have three sizable holes in their rotation once Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda hit the free-agent market.
In light of the cleanliness of their long-term books, the Twins might simply spend to fix that problem. But if costs start to spiral on them, they might fill at least one of their rotation holes with a trade.
A deal for Robbie Ray, who's one of baseball's top strikeout artists, would be right up their alley. The Arizona Diamondbacks are bound to ask for a big return, yet his pending free agency after 2020 might force them into accepting a deal more to the Twins' liking.
American League West
Houston Astros: LHP Robbie Ray
In addition to Gerrit Cole, the Houston Astros also stand to lose Wade Miley to free agency. The two have combined for a 3.12 ERA over 354.2 innings in 2019.
Though the Astros will presumably try to bring back both hurlers, they'll be lucky if they can even re-sign one amid what's sure to be intense competition. Ultimately, they may determine they're better off looking for replacements on the trade market.
If so, Ray would make just as much sense for the Astros as he would for the Twins. He would come at a reasonable cost, and their analytics wing could then get to work on fully unlocking his electric stuff.
Los Angeles Angels: RHP Jeff Samardzija
Speaking of Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley, the Los Angeles Angels will be among the top threats to sign one or both away from the Astros as they seek to refurbish their rotation this offseason.
If the Angels turn to the trade market instead, they'll do so armed with a farm system that's thin on impact talent outside of top prospect Jo Adell. In other words, they won't have the resources for blockbusters.
Taking on unwanted money, however, is something the Angels might do. That could point them in the direction of Jeff Samardzija, whose $19.8 million salary might be partially eaten by the Giants despite the solid 3.72 ERA he's mustered in 2019.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Mike Leake
When the Diamondbacks traded for Mike Leake in July, they were acquiring a veteran replacement for just-traded ace Zack Greinke.
Rather than pick up the slack, Leake has flopped with a 5.51 ERA in eight starts. The bright side is that they're on the hook for only $3 million of his $15 million salary for 2020. If they want to flip him this offseason, it shouldn't require eating too much (or any) money.
The A's, meanwhile, will need starters after losing Tanner Roark, Brett Anderson and Homer Bailey to free agency. Between their outstanding defense and huge home ballpark, they would be perhaps the best fit for Leake and his pitch-to-contact style.
Seattle Mariners: RHP Joe Musgrove
It's been a rough year for the Seattle Mariners, but they've at least boosted their farm system along the way. Through trades of Mitch Haniger and others, further improvement is in the cards.
However, the Mariners might not shy away from adding talent at the major league level while they're at it. If they do, their likely target will be a rotation that's struggled with a 5.33 ERA.
They should consider reaching out to the Pittsburgh Pirates about Joe Musgrove. Though he's been their most reliable starter this year, he has still struggled to break free of his slightly below-average existence. That could make the Pirates amenable to ducking his first foray into arbitration by moving him.
Texas Rangers: 3B Miguel Andujar
The Texas Rangers might put Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor on the block this offseason. Alternatively, they'll protect them and look to add stars worthy of their new stadium.
If that's how the Rangers play it, a new third baseman might be their top priority. The position has produced only 0.2 wins above replacement for them in 2019, according to Baseball Reference.
In lieu of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Anthony Rendon or tens of millions on Josh Donaldson, the Rangers should consider Miguel Andujar. The Yankees' 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up is a buy-low candidate in light of his shoulder surgery and the apparent loss of his job to Gio Urshela.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: RF Mookie Betts
Free agency will open up plenty of holes for the Atlanta Braves to fill. Among other things, they're going to need a right fielder (Nick Markakis) and a right-handed slugger (Josh Donaldson).
The Braves could hit both birds with a single stone by trading for Betts. Even in taking a step back from his brilliant MVP-winning 2018 season, he's remained one of the best players in baseball via a .918 OPS, 28 home runs and 6.6 WAR.
Betts could help the Braves win a World Series before hitting free agency after 2020. Between that and their wealth of young talent, they're one of few teams that works as a trading partner for the Red Sox.
Miami Marlins: OF Adolis Garcia
Though they've at least established a top-five farm system, the Miami Marlins are yet another club that still has a long way to go with its rebuild.
Like the Tigers, however, the Marlins should seek upgrades for their MLB-worst offense. Miami will want club control and can offer major league at-bats for players on the fringe elsewhere.
Because he's lost somewhere in the St. Louis Cardinals' outfield logjam, the Marlins should reach out to the Cards about Adolis Garcia. The idea would be to give him a chance to prove his power—which has produced 54 homers in the minors over the last two years—can play in the majors.
New York Mets: RHP Blake Treinen
Regardless of whether they keep Noah Syndergaard in their rotation, the Mets will need reinforcements for a bullpen that's produced minus-0.2 WAR in 2019.
San Diego Padres closer Kirby Yates will be the pie in the sky on the trade market, but the likely high acquisition cost won't line up with the Mets' lowly farm system. They'll have a better shot at Blake Treinen, whose arbitration situation—he's due a raise on a $6.4 million salary—will be problematic for the A's.
The Mets might take Treinen off Oakland's hands for a relative pittance and then hope he reverts back to the All-Star form that also produced a 0.78 ERA in 2018.
Philadelphia Phillies: LHP Robbie Ray
The Phillies are all but assured to be on the lookout for top-of-the-rotation starters this offseason. The only question is if they'll prefer to focus on the free-agent market or the trade market.
If it ends up being the latter, the Phillies are another potential fit for Robbie Ray. He's certainly the kind of pitcher they need to be coveting, as his strikeout talent would help him overcome the dangers of the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park.
Though the Phillies almost certainly won't part with top prospects Alec Bohm or Spencer Howard, they might not have to in order secure Ray for 2020.
Washington Nationals: SS Francisco Lindor
Between Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, who's likely to opt out of his contract, the Nationals stand to lose two core players to free agency this offseason.
No matter how those matters pan out, they should consider a trade for Francisco Lindor. That would be a means of acquiring the best shortstop in baseball for the next two years, and the Nats could make room for him by shifting Trea Turner to second base.
At worst, a trade for Lindor would soften the blow of losing Rendon. At best, Lindor, Rendon and Turner could team up and lead Washington to a World Series or two.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: RHP Ken Giles
There's a real chance the Chicago Cubs will miss out on the postseason. If they do, their next step would likely be a house-cleaning that touches their front office, coaching staff and roster.
Yet whatever turnover the Cubs undertake this offseason will presumably be less of a rebuilding and more of a retooling. In other words, they'll still have the 2020 postseason in their sights.
They'll need bodies for a bullpen that stands to lose Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler to free agency. Blake Treinen would be a possibility, but Blue Jays closer Ken Giles may be just as attainable and a better fit to serve as insurance for Craig Kimbrel.
Cincinnati Reds: SS Francisco Lindor
The effort the Cincinnati Reds made last offseason to build a contender overnight didn't pan out, but they're not going away.
On the contrary, they're speeding toward 2020 with a strong pitching staff and an offense that merely needs depth around Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Aristides Aquino and Derek Dietrich. Notably, they'll have room for an impact player at shortstop, which will soon be vacated by Jose Iglesias.
That makes the Reds a dark horse for Lindor so long as they're willing to pay the price. Given the wide-open nature of the NL Central these days, they should be.
Milwaukee Brewers: 3B Miguel Andujar
With Keston Hiura at second base and Eric Thames at first base, the right side of the Milwaukee Brewers' infield will be set.
But if Mike Moustakas declines his $11 million mutual option, they'll have a hole at third base. They'll also need to consider upgrading at shortstop, where Orlando Arcia has struggled with minus-0.6 WAR in 2019.
The latter issue could put the Brewers in the running for Lindor, but their NL-worst farm system isn't conducive to making a deal with the Indians. They'd have a better shot at landing Miguel Andujar from the Yankees, who might accept a project hurler such as Freddy Peralta or Corbin Burnes.
Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Chance Adams
The Pirates are perhaps the one team in the NL Central that will be in a rebuilding mood this offseason. It would be a reasonable response to a last-place season marred by in-house drama.
Yet there might be room in the Pirates' plans for ultra-low-risk additions who might prop up their major league roster amid the lean years that lie ahead. To wit, PNC Park makes them a potential home for fly-ball pitchers whose parent clubs have no use for such hurlers.
That's the situation the Yankees are in with former top prospect Chance Adams, who's served up eight home runs in only 31.2 major league innings. Pittsburgh may offer an ideal change of scenery for him.
St. Louis Cardinals: RF Mookie Betts
The Cardinals should be preoccupied with holding on to first place right now, but they're only a handful of weeks from a star outfielder's testing the free-agent waters.
If they want, the Cardinals could simply fill Marcell Ozuna's shoes with an incumbent such as Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson or Randy Arozarena. Or they could aim higher by calling the Red Sox about Mookie Betts.
If one of the aforementioned outfielders doesn't work as a centerpiece in a deal for Betts, the Cardinals could always pivot to one of their spare arms, namely Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes or Ryan Helsley.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Blake Treinen
A recent cold stretch effectively ended the Diamondbacks' playoff push. Up next is an offseason in which they'll have to choose between trading their post-2020 free agents and loading up for another run.
It's not out of the question that the D-backs will prefer Door No. 2, but leaning all the way in to contention wouldn't be a good idea. A better one would be to collect additional 2020 rentals so they have the option of a summer fire sale if next season goes awry.
Ken Giles, Blake Treinen and White Sox closer Alex Colome will be potential options for a bullpen that needs depth underneath Archie Bradley. Of the three, Treinen should have the best low-risk, high-reward balance.
Colorado Rockies: OF Myles Straw
As Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic posited, the Rockies' 2019 season has been so bad that they can't not field offers for superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado this offseason.
The alternative would be to write off 2019 as a fluke and surround Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, German Marquez and Jon Gray with proper depth. In light of the minus-1.8 WAR they've gotten out of the position this season, a new center fielder would be a good place to start.
A speedster who could cover Coors Fields' huge dimensions would be ideal. Myles Straw matches that description, and he seems to be expendable by way of the Astros' loaded outfield depth chart.
Los Angeles Dodgers: LHP Brad Hand
The Los Angeles Dodgers have gotten through the regular season just fine, but it may not be long before a bullpen that's posted just 0.6 WAR is exposed.
That would only embolden whatever resolve the Dodgers already have to seek impact relievers. We originally had a notion they would trade for Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez, but his arrest on computer pornography, solicitation of a child and providing obscene material to minors charges certainly puts his future in baseball in doubt.
Instead, the Dodgers could reach out to the Indians about closer Brad Hand. They've coveted the three-time All-Star for years, according to Michael Duarte of NBC4 Los Angeles. For its part, Cleveland may be glad to move Hand's remaining contract in the wake of the wall he's hit in the stretch run.
San Diego Padres: RHP Noah Syndergaard
Though the San Diego Padres are on track for their best season since 2015, any team that spends hundreds of millions of dollars on Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer obviously aspires for more.
Adding a No. 1 starter would certainly push the Padres closer to winning a World Series. Their best hope of doing so this offseason lies in a farm system that is loaded with more talent than any other.
San Francisco Giants: RHP Chance Adams
Save for the stuff about in-house drama, much of what we wrote about the Pirates also applies to the Giants.
Though they've had a better season than the Buccos, it will still be their third straight losing campaign. Factor in the retirement of future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy and the likely departures of Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith via free agency, and all the ingredients for a rebuild are there.
Also like the Pirates, however, the Giants could offer safe harbor to fly-ball pitchers who might be rejuvenated by Oracle Park. That is to say they also might as well take a look at Chance Adams.