The MLB hot stove is heating up with the winter meetings on the horizon.
Teams around the league are finding ways to navigate the trade market as they get set to make a run at numerous players in free agency. Additionally, a whopping 40 players were non-tendered by their old clubs, suggesting that front offices are finding new ways to evaluate players and look for most cost-effective solutions to their respective problems.
Although there has yet to be any sort of real blockbuster trade of note this offseason, teams are not afraid to take inquiries on their best players. This includes the likes of the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, both of whom could swing deals to reposition themselves for the future.
The trade market is beginning to stir. Here are a few names and teams to keep an eye on before general managers and free agents gather in San Diego next week.
White Sox checking in on Joc Pederson
The Chicago White Sox have been the clear aggressors of this offseason so far. They inked marquee catcher Yasmani Grandal to the largest contract in franchise history before also re-signing first baseman Jose Abreu, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported they are going after free-agent starting pitcher Zack Wheeler.
Meanwhile, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the White Sox are intent on adding multiple starting pitchers in free agency, rather than merely making one big splash.
In other words, the White Sox are going for it in 2020. They feel that now is the time to up the ante with young stars like Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez hitting their stride.
On Tuesday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the White Sox have engaged the Los Angeles Dodgers in trade talks surrounding outfielder Joc Pederson while also reiterating their interest in Wheeler:
"The Chicago White Sox, believing they can make a playoff push in 2020, are willing to pay a huge price for free agent starter Zack Wheeler, and have engaged in preliminary trade talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers for power-hitting outfielder Joc Pederson, according to two people with direct knowledge of the talks."
Pederson had the best year of his career in 2019, slashing .249/.339/.538 with 36 homers, and he has ranked in the top 50 in baseball in average exit velocity in each season since 2015, according to Baseball Savant. The 27-year-old also had a big year defensively, posting 11 defensive runs saved and a 6.2 ultimate zone rating in nearly 800 innings in the outfield, according to FanGraphs.
The White Sox could certainly use more pop in their lineup. They ranked 13th in both homers and slugging percentage this past season, and most of their guys do damage from the right side of the plate.
The team does have Luis Robert coming through the pipeline in a hurry, but he could slot in center field and flank Pederson with Jimenez in one of the corners.
What would Chicago have to give up? Pederson is somewhat expandable for the Dodgers given their depth and the fact that Alex Verdugo will be back healthy, but they are still likely to sell high on Pederson given that he is coming off an excellent season.
Brewers garnering plenty of interest in Keston Hiura
Murray reported that there is "strong trade interest" in Hiura but also that a deal is unlikely because the Brewers would demand a ton of assets in return.
Hiura was superb in his rookie season, slashing .303/.368/.570 with 19 homers, nine stolen bases and a 138 OPS+ in just 84 games. While he was a very poor defender at second base, his age (23) and ability to handle the bat make him a luxury as a middle infielder. Not to mention, he was Milwaukee's highest-rated prospect in their system prior to getting called up to the bigs.
The Brewers are likely to be more focused on stocking up on young talent rather than dealing it away. Hiura has barely accrued any service time and is a controllable asset, so it makes sense for Milwaukee to set a high asking price.
Mets looking to get creative in the trade market
The New York Mets recovered from a woeful first half in 2019 to post one of the best records (46-26) in baseball after the All-Star break. They would like to add pieces in free agency, but money is tight.
While New York ranked 10th in Opening Day payroll in 2019, they also owe an estimated $162 million in 2020, according to Spotrac.
With little money to spend, Rosenthal reported that the Mets are considering an in-house concept that would include matching bad salaries with other low-cost players: "As the Mets try to clear money for other moves, here's a concept they are considering, according to major league sources: Trading infielder Jed Lowrie and/or reliever Jeurys Familia by packaging him with a low-cost, zero-to-three year player such as first baseman Dom Smith."
Smith, who had a .881 OPS in nearly 200 plate appearances, is more expendable because they already have Pete Alonso at first base and plenty of options in terms of corner outfielders, which is also the reason that someone such as J.D. Davis could possibly be available.
New York signed Lowrie to a two-year deal last season, but he played in just nine games because of a litany of injuries. Familia posted a disappointing 5.70 ERA in 2019 and will make $22 million over the course of the next two years, but he has good stuff and the market is full of teams needing to add to their bullpens.
The Mets will need to improve their own bullpen and sign at least one starting pitcher should they fail to bring back Wheeler, and they might be considering an upgrade in center field.
The Mets are unlikely to shed themselves of Yoenis Cespedes' deal, but they could still be major players in the free-agent market if they can shed some other bad contracts.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless noted otherwise.