The 2019 MLB winter meetings begin Sunday in San Diego, and things are heating up at just the right time.
There were a number of high-profile moves Wednesday, with Zack Wheeler signing with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cole Hamels agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves.
Thursday offered more action in the trade market, as the New York Mets acquired former Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick and the Milwaukee Brewers traded for former Seattle Mariners catcher Omar Narvaez as a replacement for Yasmani Grandal.
Plenty of teams are starting to ramp up activity with just a couple of days until the meetings begin. This could include clubs like the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, who are looking to get back in the playoffs after missing out in 2019.
Here is some of the latest trade buzz before various front offices head to San Diego.
Astros Could Deal for Willson Contreras
The Astros are in the market for a catcher given that both Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado are free agents. Meanwhile, the Cubs might be dangling All-Star catcher Willson Contreras in trade talks as they look to replenish their farm system.
Might the two sides work out a deal?
Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic reported that the Astros have shown interest in Contreras since the beginning of the offseason, and David Schoenfield of ESPN devised a hypothetical trade offer (which also involves the Cincinnati Reds) that would send Contreras to Houston while bringing the Cubs a massive prospect haul.
Contreras has established himself as one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old was named to his second consecutive All-Star team last year, and he clubbed 24 homers in just 409 plate appearances while posting a career-high 127 weighted runs created plus (wRC+), according to FanGraphs.
Not to mention Contreras is valuable because he is only just entering his first year of arbitration and also has two more years of control after 2020. Acquiring Contreras would likely put a sizable dent in Houston's farm system, but general manager Jeff Luhnow proved that he is not afraid to gamble when he executed the last-minute trade for Zack Greinke at the trade deadline in July.
Meanwhile, the Cubs might be operating out of desperation at this point. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the Cubs have been "aggressive" and "obvious" in their desire to make a move.
Teams Asking About Nolan Arenado's Availability
Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is probably one of the last star players that MLB fans would expect to see popping up in trade rumors.
After all, the Rockies signed Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension in February with the idea that he would be a franchise cornerstone. Nevertheless, Passan reported that "multiple teams" have contacted the Rockies about Arenado's availability this winter.
Arenado was certainly not the problem during Colorado's 71-91 season. He slashed .315/.379/.583 with 41 homers and also won his seventh consecutive Gold Glove. But there are reasons to suggest the Rockies could listen to offers for Arenado.
For starters, Arenado has an opt-out after the 2021 season. He will be entering his age-31 season in 2022, and there is no reason that he could not sign another large contract in free agency if he continues to produce at his current level.
Second, the Rockies just increased payroll for the sixth consecutive season, and owner Dick Monfort said that the team's new TV deal will not kick in additional funds until 2021. The Rockies still need to consider what they are going to do with shortstop Trevor Story, who will be a free agent after 2021.
A trade involving Arenado seems unlikely, especially because the Rockies would like to compete in 2020. But perhaps there is a team that can blow the Rockies away with an offer that is too good to refuse.
Red Sox Looking to Move a Starter
Speaking of teams with financial questions, the Boston Red Sox are in quite the bind. Boston is projected to be sporting a $227 million payroll on Opening Day, according to Baseball Reference.
Although the Red Sox would consider trading Mookie Betts given his projected salary ($27.7 million) as well as the fact that he is in a walk year, Passan reported that most executives believe he will not be dealt.
Instead, the Red Sox might be looking for other avenues to move money around. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that Boston is hoping to move at least one of their high-priced starters.
This likely implies that the Red Sox are shopping David Price and Nathan Eovaldi. Price will make $32 million in each of the next three seasons, with Eovaldi set to make $17 million.
It seems improbable the Sox would trade Chris Sale after signing him to a five-year extension in March. Then again, anything is possible given that owner John Henry is determined to get below the competitive-balance tax threshold.
Trading either Price or Eovaldi figures to be difficult. Both are making plenty of money, plus Price will be 34 next summer and Eovaldi has a history of injury concerns. Not to mention the Red Sox need all the pitching they can get after their starters ranked 20th in ERA in 2019, according to FanGraphs.
Regardless, Red Sox general manager Chaim Bloom has his work cut out for him this offseason.