Each MLB Team's Top Trade Chip to Unload This OffseasonOctober 21, 2019
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 is headlined by hard-throwing right-hander Gerrit Cole and well-rounded third baseman Anthony Rendon, while big decisions await on potential opt-outs from J.D. Martinez, Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman.
That said, it could be an equally busy winter on the trade market as more teams continue to 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: 2B/SS Jonathan Villar
The Orioles have an interesting decision to make regarding middle infielder Jonathan Villar, who hit .274/.339/.453 with 33 doubles, 24 home runs and 40 steals in a 4.0 WAR season.
The 28-year-old is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and he's projected to earn $10.4 million, so now looks like the time to sell high. The free-agent class for middle infielders is thin behind Didi Gregorius, so there could be some interest in the speedy Villar.
Boston Red Sox: RF Mookie Betts
The Red Sox wrapped up the 2019 season with the highest payroll in baseball at just over $229 million, putting them well north of the $206 million luxury tax threshold. Now the front office has its sights set on getting below what will be a $208 million tax line in 2020, according to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe.
That could mean pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade of Mookie Betts, who is projected to earn a hefty $27.7 million in his final year of arbitration. The Red Sox have an extremely thin farm system, and Betts could bring back some top-tier prospects and controllable MLB-level talent as the 2018 World Series winners look to reboot.
New York Yankees: RHP Luis Gil
While hard-throwing Deivi Garcia and prized international signing Jasson Dominguez are likely off limits in trade talks, the Yankees could be willing to dip into the rest of their farm system in any potential blockbuster deals they explore this winter.
Outfielder Clint Frazier is certainly still a candidate to be moved, but teams might be more interested in the club's wealth of high-ceiling pitching prospects. The breakout performer in that group in 2019 was Luis Gil, who used a 70-grade fastball and a biting curveball to post a 2.72 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 96 innings between Single-A and High-A in his age-21 season.
Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Joe Ryan
It's unlikely the small-market Rays will be willing to part with any of their top prospects since cheap, controllable talent is the lifeblood of their organization. However, breakout right-hander Joe Ryan is one lower-ranked prospect who could be of interest to opposing teams.
A seventh-round pick in 2018, he used a polished repertoire and advanced pitchability to post a 1.96 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and .173 opponents' batting average while ranking second in all of minor league baseball with 183 strikeouts in 123.2 innings.
Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Ken Giles
If not for an ill-timed elbow injury, Ken Giles would likely have been on the move at this year's trade deadline. Instead, the 29-year-old and his $8.4 million projected salary are an expensive luxury for a rebuilding Blue Jays team heading into 2020.
He returned strong down the stretch to erase any questions about the health of his arm, and all told he converted 23 of 24 save chances with a 1.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 14.1 K/9 in 53 appearances. After missing a chance to flip him over the summer, the Blue Jays would be wise to seize the opportunity this winter.
Chicago White Sox: 2B Yolmer Sanchez
Do the White Sox want to pay Yolmer Sanchez a projected $6.2 million in his final year of arbitration?
While he was a 2.1 WAR player in 2019 on the strength of his strong defensive skills, Sanchez hit just .252/.318/.321 with 26 extra-base hits in 555 plate appearances. The 27-year-old could simply be non-tendered this offseason, but first the White Sox will likely look to move him via trade.
Cleveland Indians: RHP Corey Kluber
The Indians plan to exercise their $17.5 million club option on two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, according to Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal. That doesn't mean he won't be on the trade block this offseason.
The 33-year-old suffered a fractured forearm and then a strained oblique during the 2019 season, limiting him to just seven starts. While it was a disappointing performance for one of the game's best pitchers, he's still just that when healthy after posting a 2.85 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while averaging 218 innings over the previous five years.
Detroit Tigers: LHP Matthew Boyd
One of the few bright spots for the Tigers during a 114-loss season, Matthew Boyd posted a 4.56 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over a career-high 185.1 innings while finishing sixth in the AL with 238 strikeouts.
According to Jason Beck of MLB.com, the Tigers placed an extremely high asking price on Boyd at the trade deadline, seeking a package similar to what the White Sox received in exchange for Jose Quintana. He ended up staying put and then struggled to a 6.12 ERA over his final six starts, but he could still bring back a strong return this offseason.
Kansas City Royals: RHP Ian Kennedy
Veteran Ian Kennedy enjoyed an impressive resurgence in 2019 with a move to the bullpen, nailing down 30 of 34 save chances with a 3.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in 63 appearances.
The Royals were unwilling to pay down his salary to facilitate a trade at the deadline, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, and he's owed $16.5 million in 2020 in the final year of a five-year, $70 million pact. In a thin market for relievers behind Will Smith and Will Harris, there should be plenty of interest if the Royals change their tune.
Minnesota Twins: OF Trevor Larnach
With Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton locked into starting roles and others like Jake Cave, Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Arraez also capable of manning outfield spots, the Twins have a crowded outfield situation.
Add to that top prospect Alex Kirilloff, and there's no clear path to a long-term role in Minnesota for 2018 first-round pick Trevor Larnach. The 22-year-old hit .309/.384/.458 with 30 doubles and 13 home runs between High-A and Double-A, and he could serve as the centerpiece in a blockbuster deal to acquire some starting pitching help.
Houston Astros: SS Jeremy Pena
After giving up several top prospects in the Zack Greinke trade, the Astros might decide to cling tightly to the remaining top-tier players in the farm system, which includes pitchers Forrest Whitley and Bryan Abreu, shortstop Freudis Nova and 2019 first-round pick Korey Lee.
Breakout shortstop prospect Jeremy Pena could be of interest to opposing teams after hitting .303/.385/.440 with 35 extra-base hits and 20 steals between Single-A and High-A. The 22-year-old was also identified as the "top defender among shortstops in the Houston system" by MLB.com, and the step forward he took offensively has given his stock a considerable boost.
Los Angeles Angels: 2B/SS Jeremiah Jackson
The Angels took NC State shortstop Will Wilson with the No. 15 overall pick in 2019 and then went above-slot to sign prep shortstop Kyren Paris with their second-round selection, which could make them more willing to trade Jeremiah Jackson on the heels of a big 2019 campaign.
Jackson, 19, posted a .939 OPS and led the rookie-level Pioneer League with 23 home runs in 65 games. With the strong arm and athleticism to stick at shortstop, he has considerable upside, and that could make him the perfect trade chip to acquire some controllable pitching this offseason.
Oakland Athletics: RHP Blake Treinen
One of the best closers in baseball in 2018 when he saved 38 games and posted an 0.78 ERA and 11.2 K/9 to finish sixth in AL Cy Young voting, Blake Treinen ended up losing his closer's role to Liam Hendriks during a disappointing 2019 season.
He struggled to a 4.91 ERA and watched his WHIP nearly double from 0.83 to 1.62, but after earning a significant raise to $6.4 million last year, he's still projected for a $7.8 million salary in his final year of arbitration. The cost-conscious Athletics might not be willing to pay that much, and bullpen-needy teams could see a chance to buy low on a former All-Star.
Seattle Mariners: 3B Kyle Seager
After struggling to an 86 OPS+ in 2018 and then missing the first 53 games of the 2019 season, Kyle Seager returned to post a 112 OPS+ with 23 home runs in 106 games.
The 31-year-old is owed $38 million over the next two years and he has a club option for 2022, so salary is going to be a hurdle in any potential trade. Then again, the Seattle front office found a way to unload Robinson Cano last winter, so it's not out of the realm of possibility Seager could be moved.
Texas Rangers: RHP Ronny Henriquez
The Rangers will hold onto top prospects Josh Jung, Sam Huff and Hans Crouse, and chances are their upper-level pitching prospects will also be off the table since bolstering the pitching staff will be their biggest focus.
Hard-throwing Ronny Henriquez used a fastball that touches 98 mph and a plus curveball to rack up 99 strikeouts in 82 innings at Single-A. The 19-year-old will need to prove his undersized 5'10", 155-pound frame can hold up to a starter's workload, but his two plus pitches give him a high floor as a late-inning reliever. If the Rangers are committed to winning in 2020, he could be dealt for someone who can help now.
Atlanta Braves: LHP Kyle Muller
The Braves have climbed to the top of the NL East heap thanks in large part to the development of several former top prospects, including Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Mike Soroka. With that in mind, it's reasonable to expect current top prospects like Cristian Pache, Drew Waters, Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright to be off limits in any trade talks.
Lefty Kyle Muller boosted his prospect status with a strong showing at Double-A where he posted a 3.14 ERA with a .208 opponents' batting average and 120 strikeouts in 111.2 innings. The 22-year-old still has work to do harnessing his command, but his upside is considerable, and he might be the best readily available prospect in the system.
Miami Marlins: RHP Jeff Brigham
Significant regression from Caleb Smith in the second half might mean the Marlins missed their chance to sell high, and it's unlikely he'll be moved this winter as a result.
There's not much in the way of moveable pieces on the MLB roster, but teams looking for low-cost bullpen help could inquire on Jeff Brigham. The 27-year-old used a 96.9 mph fastball and an effective slider (.145 BAA, .044 ISO) to post a 4.46 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 38.1 innings, and he's under team control through the 2024 season.
New York Mets: 1B/OF Dominic Smith
The Mets did what they could to get Dominic Smith's bat in the lineup amid a breakout season from rookie slugger Pete Alonso, but the defensive metrics (-3 DRS, -22.6 UZR/150) make it fairly clear he was miscast as an outfielder.
Teams with an opening at his natural position of first base could look at his 134 OPS+ and 11 home runs in 197 plate appearances and see a potential long-term piece in the middle of their lineup. The 24-year-old is under control through the 2024 season, and his trade value may never be higher.
Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Francisco Morales
Unless they decide to make a serious run at Mookie Betts, it's unlikely the Phillies will be willing to part with top prospects Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard who both reached Double-A in 2019 and could be ready to make an impact at some point next season.
Instead, with the team in win-now mode, they might be more inclined to deal from the lower levels of the minors. With a projectable 6'4" frame and a big fastball, Francisco Morales racked up 129 strikeouts in 96.2 innings at Single-A last season. He won't turn 20 until later this month and likely won't see the majors until at least 2022, so he could be flipped for someone who can help immediately.
Washington Nationals: OF Michael A. Taylor
Once a top prospect in the Nationals system, Michael Taylor never quite lived up to the expectations that his impressive combination of power and speed created. He was a 2.4 WAR player in 2017 when he slugged 19 home runs and swiped 17 bases, but he's been worth just 0.9 WAR combined the past two years.
The upcoming free-agent market is extremely thin on players capable of manning center field, and while Taylor's $3.25 million projected salary might be deemed expendable by the Nationals, he could be an attractive buy-low target for teams looking to shore up the position.
Chicago Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant
Would the Cubs really consider trading homegrown superstar and former MVP Kris Bryant?
Team president Theo Epstein didn't rule it out while talking with reporters at the conclusion of the regular season, and with the Scott Boras client unlikely to be open to an extension and just two years removed from free agency, now could be the time to test the trade market. One way or another, significant change is coming on the North Side.
Cincinnati Reds: IF Jonathan India
The No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Jonathan India hit a modest .259/.365/.402 with 34 extra-base hits in 121 games while reaching Double-A last season. With Eugenio Suarez signed long-term to man the hot corner, India might need to move to second base to find his way into the everyday lineup in Cincinnati.
At the same time, he could also be used as a trade chip. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Reds were "quietly shopping" India last offseason, in the sense that they would steer trade talks in his direction. That could be the case again this winter.
Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Drew Rasmussen
Fully healthy after two Tommy John surgeries, Drew Rasmussen began showing the potential that made him the No. 31 overall pick in the 2017 draft by the Rays, before a post-draft MRI revealed elbow issues and he didn't sign.
The Brewers grabbed him in the sixth round of the 2018 draft despite the fact that he spent his entire senior season on the shelf, and he rewarded their faith by posting a 3.15 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 74.1 innings in 2019. With a 70-grade fastball and a solid slider-changeup pairing, he'll be a popular name in any Milwaukee trade talks.
Pittsburgh Pirates: CF Starling Marte
Manager Clint Hurdle was fired after nine years at the helm following a disastrous 25-48 second half, and that could be just the start of a busy offseason of retooling for the Pirates.
If they decide to rebuild, Starling Marte looks like the most obvious trade chip on the roster. The 31-year-old posted a 120 OPS+ and his second straight 20-20 season in 2019, and he's owed a reasonable $24 million over the next two years by way of a pair of club options. Expect him to be employed elsewhere on Opening Day.
St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez
The Cardinals were open to trading Carlos Martinez at the deadline, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, and that will likely be the case once again this offseason.
The former ace of the staff moved into the closer's role in 2019 and converted 24 of 27 save chances with a 3.17 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 48 appearances before struggling in the postseason. He's owed $23.4 million over the next two years, followed by a pair of club options, and for a team that thinks he can return to his previous form as a starter, he's an appealing buy-low target.
Arizona Diamondbacks: LHP Robbie Ray
A year removed from free agency, Robbie Ray is projected to earn $10.8 million in his final go-around in arbitration.
The 28-year-old posted a respectable 4.34 ERA while lowering his walk rate (5.1 to 4.3 BB/9) and maintaining his impressive strikeout numbers with 235 punchouts in 174.1 innings. For teams unwilling to break the bank to sign Gerrit Cole or Zack Wheeler, he represents an interesting alternative, and this could be the D-backs best chance to extract max value in a trade.
Colorado Rockies: CF Charlie Blackmon
More than a few eyebrows were raised when it was reported in late July that the Rockies were willing to listen to trade offers for All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
While his 123 OPS+ and 81 extra-base hits are appealing at surface level, his dramatic home (.379 BA, 1.174 OPS) and road (.256 BA, .731 OPS) splits and the $43 million left on his contract over the next two years do take a bite out of his value. It will come down to how motivated the Rockies are to deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Josiah Gray
Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, Josiah Gray was one of the breakout pitching prospects of 2019, posting a 2.28 ERA and 0.99 WHIP with 147 strikeouts in 130 innings over three levels while reaching Double-A.
While Gavin Lux and Dustin May will almost certainly be untouchable and the team has balked at trading catching prospect Keibert Ruiz in the past, Gray could be used as the centerpiece in any major trade NL West champs explore.
San Diego Padres: 2B/SS Xavier Edwards
With Luis Urias and Fernando Tatis Jr. expected to lock down the middle infield spots in San Diego for the foreseeable future, it stands to reason that Xavier Edwards will be available in the right deal.
The No. 38 pick in the 2018 draft, Edwards has hit .328 with a .395 on-base percentage and 56 steals in 168 games since starting his pro career. He doesn't offer much in the way of power, but checks all the boxes of a future top-of-the-order table-setter who should be able to play on either side of second base.
San Francisco Giants: OF Alexander Canario
With Heliot Ramos and Marco Luciano tearing the cover off the ball as teenagers, fellow outfield prospect Alexander Canario can go somewhat overlooked in the Giants system. The 19-year-old hit .318/.377/.623 with 20 doubles and 16 home runs in 59 games while reaching the Low-A level last year, and he has a chance for five average or better tools.
It doesn't look like the Giants are going to go the full-rebuild route, as they will instead look to contend while simultaneously getting younger. With ace Madison Bumgarner set to walk in free agency, they could make a play to add a controllable arm on the trade market, and Canario could be the main piece going the other way.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.