Predicting 1 Impact Trade for Each MLB Team 2 Months from the Winter Meetings
With the postseason in full swing and the winter meetings two months away, the MLB hot stove has scarcely crackled to life.
Yet it's not too early to gaze ahead and project potential trades. Let's do exactly that, highlighting one possible move each team could make based on recent rumors, roster needs and a healthy dose of informed speculation.
For perceived buyers, we'll look at potential impact additions, and for sellers we'll examine big league players who could be moved.
Not all these swaps will go down, obviously, but it's fun to speculate.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Trade RHP Mychal Givens
The rebuilding Baltimore Orioles aren't flush with attractive trade chips, but they could get something of interest for right-handed reliever Mychal Givens. The 29-year-old posted a so-so 4.57 ERA in 2019 but averaged a robust 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings while notching 11 saves.
Add the fact that he's controllable through 2021, and he could interest any number of prospective buyers with needs in the bullpen.
Boston Red Sox: Trade OF Mookie Betts
The Boston Red Sox don't have to trade Mookie Betts. But with the star right fielder headed for free agency after next season and the Red Sox reportedly aiming to get below the luxury-tax threshold in 2020, expect Betts' name to float through the rumor mill.
Matthew Cerrone of SNY noted the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers are potential suitors—and indicated Boston could demand a big league outfielder, mid-rotation starter and at least two top-100 prospects.
New York Yankees: Acquire LHP Robbie Ray
At the July 31 trade deadline, the New York Yankees reportedly rejected an offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks that would have landed them left-hander Robbie Ray. As Jon Heyman reported, the D-backs demanded a four-player package headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier.
The two sides could revisit the trade this offseason. Frazier is part of a crowded Yankees outfield mix, and New York will again be in the market for starting pitching. The 28-year-old Ray averaged 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings this season in 174.1 frames. Given his impending free agency after the 2020 season, the Snakes might be willing to lower their asking price at least a little.
Tampa Bay Rays: Acquire OF Starling Marte
The Tampa Bay Rays led the American League with a 3.65 ERA in 2019 but finished in a three-way tie for seventh with 769 runs. As they try to build on this year's 96-win campaign and playoff berth, they could use a corner outfield bat.
Here's one interesting option: Starling Marte of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 30-year-old hit .295 with an .845 OPS, 23 home runs and 25 steals for the Bucs. If Pittsburgh makes him available, he'd cost at least a couple of high-upside prospects, but his bat would lift the Tampa Bay offense, and he's signed to a pair of relatively affordable team options, at $11.5 million in 2020 and $12.5 million in 2021.
Toronto Blue Jays: Trade RHP Ken Giles
The Toronto Blue Jays should keep stockpiling prospects as they look toward a future window of contention led by a trio of young, second-generation players: third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., shortstop Bo Bichette and second baseman Cavan Biggio.
Closer Ken Giles, whom the Jays acquired from the Astros the day before the 2018 deadline, could fetch a nice return. The 29-year-old posted a 1.87 ERA with 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings this season and notched 23 saves. He's set to hit free agency after next season, meaning this could be the time to move him. Contenders with a need in their bullpens—such as the Nationals, Brewers and Minnesota Twins—would surely be interested.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: Trade C James McCann
James McCann turned in a nice season for the Chicago White Sox, hitting .273 with 18 home runs and providing a veteran presence behind the dish. But with youth the order of the day on the South Side and top catching prospect Zack Collins possibly ready to take over next season despite some defensive rawness, the White Sox could move McCann to a contender in need of catching depth such as the Astros.
McCann is controllable only through 2020, so Chicago couldn't ask for the moon and stars for the 29-year-old. But quality, proven backstops are always in demand.
Cleveland Indians: Trade SS Francisco Lindor
This is an admittedly bold prediction. The Cleveland Indians stayed in postseason contention until late this season and could well try to reclaim the AL Central in 2020. Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, meanwhile, is under control through 2021. Why move him?
Simply put, because the return would be massive.
Lindor is 25 years old and a four-time All-Star. The Indians almost certainly won't be able to afford him once he hits free agency. Offering him up with two years of team control, though, could net the Tribe a bushel of highly rated prospects as well as big league-ready talent to stock their outfield and starting rotation.
Detroit Tigers: Trade LHP Matthew Boyd
The Detroit Tigers' Matthew Boyd dinged his stock a bit by posting a 4.56 ERA and surrendering an AL-high 39 home runs in 2019, but he did average a career-best 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in a career-high 32 starts.
The 28-year-old is controllable through 2022 and could draw interest from both leagues, with the Brewers, Twins (assuming the Tigers would deal within the division) and San Francisco Giants logical landing spots. For rebuilding Detroit, the goal would be to restock the farm with an eye squarely on the future.
Kansas City Royals: Trade INF/OF Whit Merrifield
Whit Merrifield hit .302 with an .811 OPS and was an All-Star for the Kansas City Royals. He'll also be entering his age-31 season, meaning the remainder of his productive years may not coincide with the rebuilding Royals' still-distant contention window.
K.C. set an exceedingly high price for Merrifield at the deadline before taking him off the trading block entirely, per MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi. Merrifield is locked in at exceedingly affordable rates through 2022 with a $10.5 million team option for 2023. The Royals should act now and try to get a maximum return from a contender such as the Cardinals or Reds.
Minnesota Twins: Acquire LHP Mike Minor
The Twins could look to free agency to add an impact starter to their rotation. If they go the trade route, they could target Texas Rangers southpaw Mike Minor.
Minor posted a 3.59 ERA in 208.1 innings and is signed for an affordable $9.8 million next season.
He would cost at least a couple of noteworthy prospects (assuming Texas is willing to sell), but that would be a more-affordable option than a massive free-agent splurge for the cost-conscious Twins.
American League West
Houston Astros: Acquire C James McCann
The Astros are a complete team, but, as mentioned, they could use depth behind the plate.
A mid-level prospect or two for the White Sox's James McCann would make sense for a win-now club such as the 'Stros, especially if they also pursue starting pitchers in free agency, including re-signing co-ace Gerrit Cole.
Los Angeles Angels: Acquire RHP Noah Syndergaard
It is, quite simply, time for the Los Angeles Angels to quit squandering Mike Trout's prime. Watching the best player on the planet and likely 2019 AL MVP ply his trade on a losing team is painful. The Halos need to get bold.
Yes, they've expended time and energy restocking a once-barren farm system and might be loathe to part with multiple top prospects. Too bad. We proposed the Angels as a possible landing spot for Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard in June. We stand by that.
Assuming New York makes Thor available, which it should, Los Angeles should open its prospect purse and pounce on a chance to acquire two seasons of Syndergaard and add some needed star wattage to an uninspiring rotation.
Oakland Athletics: Trade RHP Blake Treinen
After posting a 0.78 ERA in 68 appearances with the Oakland Athletics in 2018, Blake Treinen missed time with a shoulder injury and posted a 4.91 ERA in 2019.
This may seem like a sell-low moment, but as he enters his final year of arbitration, Oakland "will almost certainly look to move him ahead of deciding whether to non-tender him," per MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince.
Clubs such as the Angels and Brewers should jump at the possibility of a bounce-back by the 31-year-old, even if it means paying a decent prospect price.
Seattle Mariners: Trade OF Domingo Santana
Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto loves to tinker with his roster, and the team always seems to be somewhere between buying and selling.
Given Dipoto's propensity for trades, it could make sense for the M's to move outfielder Domingo Santana for some combination of prospects and/or big league talent. Santana hit 21 homers with a .770 OPS in 121 games and is controllable through 2021 at what should be reasonable arbitration rates.
The Rays, Indians and Cardinals could have interest in a 27-year-old with pop who might be the odd man out in an outfield filled with interesting young players, as MLB.com's Greg Johns opined.
Texas Rangers: Trade LHP Mike Minor
We mentioned the Twins as a suitor for Mike Minor, but teams would line up if the Rangers made him available.
That depends on how Texas views its chances in 2020 after a sub-.500, third-place finish in the AL West. If the Rangers see the writing on the wall and look to boost their farm system and gaze toward the future, trading Minor would be a virtual no-brainer, as he'd be a less-expensive (and admittedly less high-profile) alternative to the Gerrit Coles and Madison Bumgarners of the free-agent market.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: Acquire 3B Kris Bryant
Here's what we know: After a disappointing third-place finish in the National League Central, the Chicago Cubs might be looking to significantly shake up their roster. That could include trading star third baseman Kris Bryant.
The 2016 NL MVP returned from an injury-marred down year in 2018 to post a .903 OPS and make his third All-Star team. He's 27 years old and under team control through 2021. Like Francisco Lindor, he'd surely cost a fortune in prospects and MLB-ready talent.
Enter the Braves, owners of a deep farm system. They'd have to raid it to get Bryant as a replacement for free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson (whom they could re-sign), but pairing Bryant with Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman may be too alluring to pass up if the Cubbies are looking to restock their own barren farm.
Miami Marlins: Acquire OF Mitch Haniger
This one's a bit of a long shot, but the Miami Marlins have dealt with the Mariners before, notably in the December 2017 Dee Gordon swap. As we mentioned, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto loves to trade, and his outfield will be crowded.
Mitch Haniger is coming off a down year in which he hit .220 and was limited to 63 games by injury. He is also controllable through 2022, is 28 years old and was an All-Star in 2018 when he posted an .859 OPS. He could be a solid buy-low candidate for the rebuilding Marlins provided they're willing to offer the Mariners at least a couple of interesting prospects.
New York Mets: Trade Noah Syndergaard
We posited the Angels as a landing spot for Noah Syndergaard, but the Mets would be able to create a bidding war for the 27-year-old, who averaged 9.2 strikeouts per nine in 197.2 innings with a 3.60 FIP in 2019.
With his two years of remaining club control, he would create a huge splash wherever he landed. As for the Queens contingent, it's time for them to acknowledge last offseason's plan to retool the roster and contend was ill-advised and instead start looking to add prospects and sell high on MLB assets, even high-profile ones such as Syndergaard.
Philadelphia Phillies: Acquire Mookie Betts
If the Red Sox make Betts available, the Philadelphia Phillies should do what it takes to land him.
Sure, they could wait a couple of years and open their wallet to sign him in free agency. But the prospect of pairing him with Bryce Harper in the outfield right away should give Phils fans who are sour after a fourth-place finish a jolt of excitement.
Based on the Red Sox's reported asking price, the Phillies would need to part with an MLB-quality starter plus a big league-ready outfielder and the top few names from their farm system. It would be a hit, but players of Betts' caliber don't come along often, and superstar pairings of this magnitude are even rarer in MLB.
Washington Nationals: Acquire Blake Treinen
The Nationals need to upgrade a bullpen that was a serious weakness for much of the regular season and finished last in baseball with a 5.66 ERA, per ESPN.com. There will be multiple options in trades and free agency, and they should pursue them all.
Blake Treinen would be an intriguing fit. After his rough 2019, the Oakland righty wouldn't cost the Nats any top-tier prospects or young big leaguers. But if he could return to anything approaching his 2018 form, he'd instantly and notably upgrade Washington's suspect relief unit.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: Trade 3B Kris Bryant
We already made the case for why the Cubs could—and just might—move Bryant. It would take a massive offer from a team with a loaded farm system such as the Braves or Padres (who already have a third baseman named Manny Machado).
Still, this feels like the kind of bold move executive Theo Epstein could make after watching his dynasty wilt in a Wild Card Game loss last season and miss the playoffs in 2019.
The Cubs need prospects. Bryant would fetch a whole bunch. Stay tuned.
Cincinnati Reds: Acquire INF Whit Merrifield
The Reds front office has made it clear the club intends to increase payroll and try to contend in 2020. It could use an impact bat to upgrade an offense that ranked 12th in the NL in runs scored with 701.
The Royals' Whit Merrifield would fit the Reds' win-now mentality while being controllable for the next four seasons, and he's a proven .300-plus hitter who'd add a balanced offensive weapon to Cincinnati's lineup. His defensive versatility, meanwhile, would give the Reds flexibility to make other additions.
If K.C. is still asking for a treasure trove of minor league and MLB-ready talent, this likely won't happen. But if the Royals' ask is within the stratosphere, Cincinnati should pick up the phone.
Milwaukee Brewers: Acquire RHP Jeff Samardzija
The Brewers need to add at least one impact starting pitcher. They could dip into free agency, but the trade route offers intriguing possibilities.
One with some warts but plenty of upside is Giants righty Jeff Samardzija.
Yes, he posted a 6.25 ERA in 44.2 injury-shortened innings in 2018. But this year he bounced back with a 3.52 ERA in 181.1 frames. If the Brewers could get the Giants to eat some of the $19.8 million he's owed in 2020 and accept a more modest prospect package, this could be a win-win.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade OF Starling Marte
We noted the Rays could be a fit for Pirates outfielder Starling Marte, though he'd likely generate ample interest across both leagues with his combination of speed and pop if the Bucs make him available.
Pittsburgh doesn't look like a contender in 2020 without significant upgrades across the roster. Instead, with its modest budget, it should look to trade a piece like Marte and stock the MiLB stash.
St. Louis Cardinals: Acquire OF Domingo Santana
The Cardinals could be in on Merrifield, who seems like a good fit for the Redbirds. Another viable option is the Mariners' Domingo Santana.
Santana's power bat could be squeezed out of Seattle's outfield depth chart, and his pop would help bolster a Cardinals offense that finished 21st in baseball with a .737 OPS yet won the Senior Circuit's top wild-card position anyway.
The Cards would have to give up some young talent but likely wouldn't have to pull from the top of their farm system.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: Trade LHP Robbie Ray
It's time for the Diamondbacks to rebuild—or at least significantly retool—after missing the postseason and finishing 21 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (albeit in second place in the NL West and only four games out of the second wild card).
We mentioned trading Robbie Ray and name-dropped the Yankees as a probable destination. But every other contender listed here as a suitor for starting pitching would at least kick the tires and possibly drive the return for the bat-missing Ray to a level Arizona couldn't refuse.
Colorado Rockies: Trade OF Charlie Blackmon
This could be a tall order for the Colorado Rockies unless they're willing to swallow some cash. Outfielder Charlie Blackmon is 33 years old and is owed $42 million over the next two seasons with player options totaling $31 million in 2022 and 2023.
Still, he's a four-time All-Star who posted a .940 OPS this season. If the Rockies want to get out from under some of the money he's owed and are willing to accept a less-than-glistening prospect return, they could get a club like St. Louis to bite.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Acquire RHP Kirby Yates
The Dodgers were one of the most complete teams in the game in 2019, but they had a few wobbles in the back end of the bullpen, with closer Kenley Jansen looking more than mortal.
That won't do for L.A., which could choose from a number of late-inning impact arms. If the Padres are willing to deal within the division, they could send right-hander Kirby Yates up the I-5 freeway in his final season before free agency. Yates posted a 1.19 ERA with 41 saves this season.
And the Dodgers certainly have the prospects to make it worth the Friars' while.
San Diego Padres: Trade RHP Kirby Yates
We just explained the two sides of this one, but it's worth reiterating that San Diego could and should charge an in-division surcharge and try to pry a top prospect or two away from L.A.
The Padres' contention window probably isn't opening for another couple of years, and they should still be focused on stockpiling young talent, even if it means making the Dodgers better in the short term.
San Francisco Giants: Trade RHP Jeff Samardzija
If the Giants allow ace Madison Bumgarner to walk via free agency, they'll officially be waving the white flag (if they haven't already) on their even-year glory days of 2010-14.
There have been speculative rumblings about them going in on the Red Sox's Betts. They did make a run at Bryce Harper in free agency last year, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi would probably have to part with every top prospect in his gradually improving farm system to get Boston on the horn.
Instead, look for the Giants to try to shed some salary with a Samardzija trade, make a handful of creative under-the-radar additions, as is Zaidi's way, and wait for some untradable contracts (Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford) to wind down and eventually come off the books.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.