Predicting 1 Trade for Each MLB Team 1 Month from the Winter Meetings
The annual MLB winter meetings will be held this year from Dec. 8-12, with the entire baseball world converging on San Diego for busy days of hot stove action.
With roughly a month to go before the winter meetings arrive, now seems like the perfect time for another set of trade predictions.
For buyers, it's a chance to bolster the roster at the cost of prospect capital rather than exorbitant free-agent spending. For sellers, it's a golden opportunity to pit one contender against the other in an effort to extract the best prospect return.
Thirty teams. Fifteen trades. A little something for everyone, ordered from least to most buzzworthy.
Let's get to it.
Miami Marlins RP Jeff Brigham to the Tampa Bay Rays
Miami Marlins trade RP Jeff Brigham to the Tampa Bay Rays for SP Anthony Banda
On the surface, Jeff Brigham had a less-than-amazing 2019 season. The 27-year-old posted a 4.46 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 32 appearances out of the Miami Marlins bullpen.
However, his 9.2 K/9 and an excellent spin rate on his 96.9 mph fastball give him some intriguing upside.
According to Baseball Savant, his active spin rate ranked 21st among pitchers who threw at least 250 pitches last season, and it's no coincidence four of the players ranked ahead of him on that list pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays, as that's something the organization values.
Flipping him and his five remaining years of team control for a former top prospect in Anthony Banda could pay major dividends.
Banda, 26, was the No. 88 prospect in baseball at the start of the 2017 season, according to Baseball America.
He's dealt with some injuries the past two seasons and has struggled to a 5.28 ERA in 44.1 innings at the MLB level the past three years, but there's enough upside to make it a worthwhile roll of the dice for the Marlins.
Boston Red Sox CF Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds
Boston Red Sox trade CF Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds for OF Scott Schebler, RP Sal Romano
Slashing payroll is going to be a focal point for the Boston Red Sox this offseason, especially after J.D. Martinez opted into his $23.8 million salary for 2020. While much of the early trade talk has centered around Mookie Betts, the team could explore other avenues to save money.
Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has seen his offensive production dip since he made the AL All-Star team in 2016, with a .234/.318/.409 line and 90 OPS+ over the past three years.
The 29-year-old is projected to earn $11 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and while he still has value as a 2.0 WAR player last year, the Red Sox cannot expect to receive much from a player who profiles as a non-tender candidate.
The Reds can move Nick Senzel to second base if they are able to find an alternative in center field, and Bradley could do some damage in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.
Outfielder Scott Schebler and right-handed pitcher Sal Romano are both out of minor league options and on the roster bubble in Cincinnati, but the Red Sox could find some value in both players.
Schebler had a 30-homer season in 2017 and comes with team control through 2022, while Romano is capable of filling a role similar to Brian Johnson as a multi-inning reliever or spot starter.
It's not a significant haul, but it gives the Red Sox two potentially useful players and saves a significant chunk of money in the process.
Oakland Athletics RP Blake Treinen to the Milwaukee Brewers
Oakland Athletics trade RP Blake Treinen to the Milwaukee Brewers for SP Dylan File
Rather than paying Jim Johnson a $10 million salary in his final year of arbitration on the heels of a season in which he had nine blown saves, the Baltimore Orioles traded him to the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2014 season.
Now the A's find themselves in a similar position with Blake Treinen.
After saving 38 games while posting a pristine 0.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 in 2018, Treinen regressed considerably this past season, eventually losing the closer's role to Liam Hendriks.
The 31-year-old is now projected to earn $7.8 million in his final year of arbitration, which is a steep price tag for a cost-conscious Oakland organization.
Meanwhile, the Brewers bullpen was the driving force behind their success in 2018, but it took a step back this past year, due in large part to an injury-shortened season from Corey Knebel and a steep downturn from Jeremy Jeffress.
Buying low on Treinen and slotting him alongside Josh Hader at the back of the bullpen could be a creative means of rebuilding what was an area of strength.
Going the other way, Dylan File is a high-floor right-hander who has seen his stock rise after being taken in the 21st round of the 2017 draft. He logged a 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 136 strikeouts in 147 innings between High-A and Double-A last year.
Kansas City Royals RP Ian Kennedy to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Kansas City Royals trade RP Ian Kennedy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for RP Marshall Kasowski
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Kansas City Royals were "not inclined" to pay down the contract of Ian Kennedy to facilitate a trade at this year's deadline.
The 34-year-old is still owed $16.5 million in what will be the final season of a five-year, $70 million deal, but he enjoyed something of a career renaissance with a full-time move to the bullpen last year. He converted 30 of 34 saves with a 3.41 ERA and 10.4 K/9 in 63 appearances, and his 2.99 FIP paints a positive picture of sustainability.
Without eating any of his remaining money, the return is going to be modest, but a thin market for late-inning relievers could be enough to generate interest. The Los Angeles Dodgers are in serious need of late-inning bullpen help, and perhaps even a contingency plan for Kenley Jansen after he turned in a less-than-stellar season with a 3.71 ERA and eight blown saves.
Hard-throwing bullpen prospect Marshall Kasowski posted a 2.27 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 31.2 innings last season, and he is essentially a one-pitch pitcher, as MLB.com explained:
"He does it with basically one pitch, a 91-97 mph fastball that seems to rise at the plate and gets an exceptional amount of swings and misses in the strike zone. He has an over-the-top delivery, similar to Josh Collmenter's, and hitters don't see his heater well because it seemingly comes straight out of his ear."
He's a tough one to project in terms of future success, which makes him the perfect trade chip for a win-now Dodgers team and the perfect risk-reward pickup for the rebuilding Royals.
Baltimore Orioles IF Jonathan Villar to the Washington Nationals
Baltimore Orioles trade 2B/SS Jonathan Villar to the Washington Nationals for IF/OF Wilmer Difo, RHP Francys Peguero
Are the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles willing to pay Jonathan Villar a projected $10.4 million in his final year of arbitration?
The 28-year-old posted a 109 OPS+ with 33 doubles and a career-high 24 home runs last season while also ranking among the AL leaders in hits (176, ninth), runs scored (111, fifth) and steals (40, third).
If the Orioles do decide to put him on the trade block, he would represent an appealing alternative to guys like Jonathan Schoop and Brian Dozier who are available in free agency.
The Washington Nationals are set to lose both Dozier and fellow veteran Howie Kendrick, which creates a hole at second base. Top prospect Carter Kieboom still profiles as the long-term answer there, but he hit just .128 with 16 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances in his first MLB action last season.
Bringing Villar aboard as a one-year bridge to Kieboom would add another dynamic table-setting threat to a lineup that already features burner Trea Turner and on-base machine Adam Eaton.
The versatile Wilmer Difo is out of minor league options and could hold some appeal as a utility option or even as a sleeper for the starting second base job in Baltimore. A similar player in Hanser Alberto turned in a breakout season for the O's in 2019 when afforded a larger opportunity.
Right-hander Francys Peguero began his career as a corner infielder before moving to the mound in 2015, and he turned in a 3.02 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 104 strikeouts in 116.1 innings in 2019. The 24-year-old has some intriguing untapped potential and would be a nice addition to the Baltimore system.
Toronto Blue Jays RP Ken Giles to the Minnesota Twins
Toronto Blue Jays trade RP Ken Giles to the Minnesota Twins for OF Trevor Larnach, RHP Cole Sands
The Toronto Blue Jays missed the opportunity to cash in Ken Giles as a trade chip this past summer when an ill-timed injury shelved him leading up to the trade deadline.
He returned strong down the stretch to finish the season with 23 saves in 24 chances, to go along with a 1.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 14.1 K/9 in 53 appearances.
Ahead of his final year of club control, the rebuilding Blue Jays would be wise to cash in, and in a thin market for high-end relievers, Giles could fetch a solid haul.
The Minnesota Twins cobbled together a relief corps once again last season, leaning heavily on lefty Taylor Rogers in the late innings. Adding a proven closer and returning Rogers to a setup role would improve the bullpen by leaps and bounds.
Outfielder Trevor Larnach was a polished bat coming out of Oregon State when he went No. 20 overall in the 2018 draft, and while he doesn't offer a ton of power upside, he's close to MLB-ready after hitting .309/.384/.458 with 30 doubles and 13 home runs between High-A and Double-A.
Cole Sands is a high-floor right-hander who reached Double-A this past season at the age of 22. He had a 2.68 ERA and a 108-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 97.1 innings, and he could be ready for the majors during the second half of the 2020 season. He's close to delivering on his ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
New York Mets 1B Dominic Smith to the Chicago White Sox
New York Mets trade 1B/OF Dominic Smith to the Chicago White Sox for OF Micker Adolfo, LHP Konnor Pilkington, LHP Jace Fry
I actually proposed this exact trade idea in a previous article and here's what I wrote:
"With the emergence of Pete Alonso at first base, the Mets had a hard time finding consistent playing time for [Dominic] Smith, despite his strong numbers. When he was in the lineup, the No. 11 pick in the 2013 draft hit .282/.355/.525 with 10 doubles and 11 home runs in 197 plate appearances, good for a 134 OPS+.
The Mets have tried using him in the outfield the past two seasons, but the metrics (313 INN, -8 DRS, -30.0 UZR/150) make it abundantly clear he isn't an outfielder. Trading him now, when his value is high and he has multiple years of control remaining, would be the best way to maximize the roster.
[Jace] Fry would give the Mets bullpen a quality left-hander with swing-and-miss stuff, while [Micker] Adolfo and [Konnor] Pilkington would immediately slot in as two of the better prospects in a thinned-out farm system. Adolfo, in particular, has an extremely high ceiling if everything clicks.
Regardless of whether Jose Abreu returns, the White Sox would greatly benefit from adding a piece like Smith to the long-term puzzle. Abreu could move into the DH role going forward, while Smith could man first base until 2019 first-round pick Andrew Vaughn is MLB-ready. At that point, Abreu will be coming down the home stretch of his career, and Smith can shift into the DH spot.
With Smith under team control through the 2024 season, acquiring him now would be an investment in the future for the White Sox, and he could blossom into a star with regular playing time."
It's an idea that makes enough sense for both sides that it's worth revisiting again in the context of this article.
Colorado Rockies RP Scott Oberg to the Houston Astros
Colorado Rockies trade RP Scott Oberg to the Houston Astros for SP Rogelio Armenteros, SP Peter Solomon
While the free agency of Gerrit Cole is the biggest storyline surrounding the Houston Astros offseason, rebuilding the bullpen is arguably a more pressing issue.
Here's a look at the relievers set to depart:
- RHP Will Harris: 68 G, 26 HLD, 1.50 ERA
- RHP Hector Rondon: 62 G, 19 HLD, 3.71 ERA
- RHP Joe Smith: 28 G, 4 HLD, 1.80 ERA
- RHP Collin McHugh: 35 G, 8 GS, 4.70 ERA
The one-two punch of Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly will be back, along with Chris Devenski and hard-throwing Josh James, if he doesn't move into the rotation. Still, at least a couple of quality arms will need to be added to the mix.
Meanwhile, the Rockies took a huge step backward in 2019 after back-to-back postseason appearances, and a lack of starting pitching was once again the issue.
Flipping setup man Scott Oberg for an MLB-ready starter in Rogelio Armenteros and a high-risk/high-reward pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery in Peter Solomon could be in the team's best interest.
Over the past two seasons, Oberg has 14 wins, five saves and 22 holds in 105 appearances, and he's posted a 2.35 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while playing half his games at Coors Field. The 29-year-old has two more years of club control and is projected to earn a team-friendly $2 million in 2020.
Arizona Diamondbacks SP Robbie Ray to the New York Yankees
Arizona Diamondbacks trade SP Robbie Ray to the New York Yankees for SP Luis Medina, SP Garrett Whitlock
The New York Yankees have shown interest in Robbie Ray in the past, including this past summer, but an exorbitant asking price of Clint Frazier and three prospects stopped those trade talks in their tracks.
Ray, 28, is a good pitcher with swing-and-miss stuff, but he also has a 4.17 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP over the past two seasons, thanks in part to a 4.7 BB/9 walk rate.
He's now a year removed from free agency, and if the Diamondbacks decide to continue flipping veteran pieces like they did with the Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke trades, they will need to get a bit more reasonable with their asking price.
The tremendous upside of Luis Medina could be enough to get a deal done.
The 20-year-old has been clocked at 102 mph with his fastball, and he backs it with a high-spin curveball and a quality changeup. He used that electric arsenal to rack up 127 strikeouts in 103.2 innings between Single-A and High-A last year, but he also issued 70 walks.
He has frontline starter upside if everything clicks, and a strong late-inning reliever profile if the command never gets to where it needs to be.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Garrett Whitlock is a polished high-floor starter in the upper levels of the minors who tops out in the mid-90s but gets tremendous sink on his fastball and good deception with his 6'5" frame.
It's a good return for one year of a quality No. 3/4-starter type, and that's exactly what Ray is on a contending team.
Seattle Mariners OF Mitch Haniger to the San Francisco Giants
Seattle Mariners trade OF Mitch Haniger to the San Francisco Giants for OF Alexander Canario, SP Blake Rivera, SP Garrett Williams
The San Francisco Giants as buyers?
In his second year steering the ship, team president Farhan Zaidi has made it clear the team is in the market to add a power bat this offseason, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Reeling in high-profile free agents has been a struggle for the Giants in recent years, so the trade market may prove more fruitful.
Could buying low on Mitch Haniger be the answer to finding an impact bat?
The 28-year-old was a 6.1 WAR player in 2018 when he hit .285/.366/.493 for a 139 OPS+ with 38 doubles and 26 home runs. A gruesome injury limited him to just 63 games this past season, but he still hit 13 doubles and 15 home runs in 283 plate appearances.
Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto loves a good trade, and with Haniger set for a hefty raise in his first year of arbitration, flipping him is not out of the question.
While the proposed package does not include any of the Giants' elite-level prospects, outfielder Alexander Canario could quickly jump onto leaguewide top-100 lists, while Blake Rivera and Garrett Williams both offer appealing upside on the mound.
Canario, 19, hit .318/.377/.623 with 20 doubles and 16 home runs in 265 plate appearances, but he's behind Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop among outfield prospects in the organization.
St. Louis Cardinals SP/RP Carlos Martinez to the Los Angeles Angels
St. Louis Cardinals trade SP/RP Carlos Martinez to the Los Angeles Angels for 2B/SS Jeremiah Jackson, SP Hector Yan
It's been an interesting last few years for Carlos Martinez.
The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander was the ace of the staff from 2015 to 2017, when he posted a 3.24 ERA while averaging 193 innings and making a pair of All-Star appearances.
He made 18 starts in 2018 before a shoulder strain cost him nearly a month. Then, he returned in a bullpen role, recording five saves over the season's final month.
Slotted in the bullpen to start the 2019 season, he stepped into the ninth-inning gig once again after flame-thrower Jordan Hicks was lost for the season and nailed down 24 of 27 save chances with a 3.17 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 48 appearances.
The 28-year-old is owed $11.7 million in 2020 and 2021, with a pair of club options to follow valued at $17 million and $18 million, and the team was willing to listen to offers for him at the trade deadline, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels are in serious need of starting pitching, and even if they land Gerrit Cole or one of the market's other top arms, they could still look for more rotation help on the trade market.
Despite his shifting role, Martinez still has plenty of value, and moving him should bring a solid prospect return. Middle infielder Jeremiah Jackson led the Pioneer League with 23 home runs in his age-19 campaign, while undersized lefty Hector Yan piled up 148 strikeouts in 109 innings at Single-A in a breakout season.
Detroit Tigers SP Matthew Boyd to the Philadelphia Phillies
Detroit Tigers trade SP Matthew Boyd to the Philadelphia Phillies for OF Adam Haseley, SP Francisco Morales, OF Simon Muzziotti, IF Nick Maton
The Detroit Tigers were reportedly seeking a package similar to what the Chicago Cubs gave up to acquire Jose Quintana—which notably included Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease—in exchange for Matthew Boyd at the trade deadline, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com.
No one was willing to pay that price, and Boyd ended up struggling to a 6.11 ERA over his final 10 starts.
Despite that rocky finish, he's still an attractive trade target thanks to his 238 strikeouts in 185.1 innings and three remaining years of team control.
The Philadelphia Phillies tried and failed to add a lefty starter to their all-right-handed starting rotation last offseason, and upgrading the rotation figures to be a bigger priority this winter.
While the proposed return package heading to Detroit pales in comparison to what the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana, it's still a solid collection of young talent.
Adam Haseley would immediately slot into a starting spot in the Detroit outfield, while Francisco Morales is a pitching prospect on the rise after racking up 129 strikeouts in 96.2 innings while posting a 3.82 ERA as a 19-year-old at Single-A.
Those two are the headliners, while outfielder Simon Muzziotti has everyday-player upside and middle infielder Nick Maton profiles as an above-average utility player with the upside to develop into an everyday option himself.
Pittsburgh Pirates CF Starling Marte to the San Diego Padres
Pittsburgh Pirates trade CF Starling Marte to the San Diego Padres for SS Gabriel Arias, SP Joey Cantillo
After gutting the front office and firing manager Clint Hurdle and several of his coaches, it's going to be an offseason of change for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Outfielder Starling Marte is the team's most obvious trade chip. On the heels of a second straight 20-20 season and with 29.1 WAR to his credit over the course of his eight-year career, he's a consistent performer and one of the better all-around outfielders in baseball.
The San Diego Padres' top priority will be finding an established starting pitcher to front their young rotation, but they would also benefit from an upgrade in center field.
Manuel Margot is a standout defender, but he hit just .234/.304/.387 for an 83 OPS+ last season, and his .301 career on-base percentage speaks to a glaring hole in his offensive game.
Moving Margot into a fourth outfielder role and slotting Marte in as the everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter would add another dimension to the lineup.
Shortstop Gabriel Arias and left-hander Joey Cantillo both have significant upside, to the point that they would immediately become two of the top prospects in Pittsburgh. However, with such a stacked farm system, neither would be close to untouchable in San Diego if it meant a chance to add Marte.
Arias, 19, hit .302/.339/.470 with 42 extra-base hits at High-A while showing plus defensive skills. Cantillo, also 19, logged a 2.26 ERA with 144 strikeouts in 111.2 innings between Single-A and High-A after going in the 16th round of the 2017 draft.
With an $11.5 million salary in 2020 and a club option for $12.5 million in 2021, Marte would be the perfect bridge to center fielder of the future Taylor Trammell in San Diego.
Cleveland Indians SP Corey Kluber to the Atlanta Braves
Cleveland Indians trade SP Corey Kluber to the Atlanta Braves for CF Ender Inciarte, SP Kyle Muller, OF Trey Harris
The Cleveland Indians entertained the idea of trading Corey Kluber last offseason, ultimately holding on to the two-time AL Cy Young winner while trimming payroll with a handful of other trades.
One of baseball's best pitchers since his breakout 2014 season, Kluber was limited to just seven starts in 2019, struggling to a 5.80 ERA before suffering a fractured forearm on May 1.
That raises some question as to whether the front office would exercise a $17.5 million club option for 2020, which it ultimately did. However, that doesn't mean he won't be shopped. The 33-year-old has another club option in 2021 worth $18 million before hitting free agency, so he would be more than just a one-year rental.
With the Indians pinching pennies and young starters Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber taking a significant step forward, while Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale also impressed, the idea of a Kluber trade might be more palatable than it was a year ago.
The Atlanta Braves have a stacked farm system and a glaring need for a veteran starter to join Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Mike Foltynewicz atop the rotation.
Sending Ender Inciarte and the final two years and $16.4 million on his contract the other way would offset some of Kluber's salary, and it would give the Indians some needed outfield help.
Left-hander Kyle Muller shined in 2019 with a 3.14 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 111.2 innings at Double-A, though the 22-year-old still has work to do refining his command. Outfielder Trey Harris hit .323/.389/.498 with 47 extra-base hits over three minor league levels while reaching Double-A after being taken in the 32nd round of the 2018 draft.
Chicago Cubs 3B Kris Bryant to the Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs trade 3B Kris Bryant to the Texas Rangers for SP Hans Crouse, SP Brock Burke, SP Jonathan Hernandez, UT Danny Santana
It's looking more and more likely that the Chicago Cubs will move one of their homegrown offensive stars this offseason, and Kris Bryant makes the most sense as a Scott Boras client two years away from free agency.
He's almost certainly going to test the open market after the 2021 season, and after he dealt with some nagging injury issues the past two seasons, now might be the time to sell high.
The Cubs have a lengthy trade history with the Texas Rangers, including a pair of blockbuster deadline deals that sent veteran starters Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza to Texas. The former notably brought Kyle Hendricks to Chicago.
A package of pitching prospects will be what the Cubs are looking for, including at least one who is ready to step into the 2020 rotation.
Hans Crouse is the top arm in the Texas system, and his electric fastball-slider combination gives him one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect in baseball. The 21-year-old is still at least a few years away from reaching the majors, though.
Brock Burke and Jonathan Hernandez both saw the majors in 2019, and while they don't have the same ceiling as Crouse, they have MLB starter potential and are ready to compete for a rotation spot.
Throwing in the versatile Danny Santana would give the Cubs a suitable replacement for Ben Zobrist, who is an unrestricted free agent.
Meanwhile, the Rangers would add a much-needed big bat at third base to slot alongside Joey Gallo in the middle of the lineup, allowing them to turn their free-agency focus toward the pitching side of things as they look to contend in 2020.