MLB Trade Rumors: Top Potential Landing Spots for Impact Players on the Block

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2020

MLB Trade Rumors: Top Potential Landing Spots for Impact Players on the Block

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    Orlando Ramirez/Associated Press

    Every offseason, multiple impact MLB players spin through the rumor cycle. Not all of them are traded, but swaps can and likely will happen between this time of year and Opening Day.

    Here's a look at a half-dozen high-profile MLB trade candidates who are theoretically available and their top potential landing spots.

    We considered need and buying-or-selling status, whether the acquiring club has the requisite assets/financial flexibility to get the deal done, recent credible rumors and speculation.

Detroit Tigers LHP Matthew Boyd

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Detroit Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd posted a 4.56 ERA in 2019 but averaged an impressive 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

    He's also entering his age-29 season and is under club control through 2022. He avoided arbitration and will earn an affordable $5.3 million in 2020.

    With all of the ace-level free-agent arms signed this offseason, Boyd might be the best available option for pitching-hungry teams.

    The Tigers' asking price will be high. They don't need to deal Boyd now. But they're rebuilding, and a hefty prospect package ought to be enough to pry him away from the Motor City.


    Top Landing Spot   

    The most obvious suitor is the Los Angeles Angels, whose starters finished last in the American League with a 5.64 ERA last season.

    In December, MLB Network's Jon Paul Morosi reported the Angels were in on Boyd. Chatter has cooled since then, but it checks out for both sides. 

    The Angels should hang on to outfielder and top prospect Jo Adell, but they could offer highly regarded minor league outfielder Brandon Marsh along with ancillary pieces.

    Detroit needs to build for the future. The Halos need to get reigning AL MVP Mike Trout back to the playoffs. A Boyd trade could help to facilitate both goals.


    Other potential landing spots: Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves

Pittsburgh Pirates OF Starling Marte

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Starling Marte is a two-time Gold Glove winner who hit 23 home runs, stole 25 bases and posted an .845 OPS in 2019. He's played all three outfield positions in his major league career and can still capably man center field.

    He's signed for a reasonable $11.5 million in 2020 with a $12.5 million club option and $1 million buyout for 2021.

    After a quiet winter, the Pittsburgh Pirates are unlikely to compete in a deep National League Central. This is the moment to optimize Marte's trade value for a penny-pinching franchise that's always looking to shed salary and acquire affordable young players.


    Top Landing Spot

    In December, MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported the Pirates and New York Mets had "exchanged names" on Marte. The Mets want to boost their offense to compete in the top-heavy NL East, and Marte would aid the cause.

    One of the names mentioned as a possible return was Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo, per Heyman.

    Nimmo is coming off an injury-shortened season, but he posted an .886 OPS in 2018, will turn 27 in March and is controllable through 2022.

    New York might have to toss in a less-valuable secondary piece or two, but this has win-win written all over it. 


    Other potential landing spots: Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks

Cleveland Indians SS Francisco Lindor

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Francisco Lindor is a four-time All-Star. He's won a pair of Gold Gloves for his highlight-reel work at shortstop for the Cleveland Indians. He's 26 years old and won't become a free agent until after the 2021 season.

    So, why would Cleveland consider trading him?

    The Indians aren't big spenders and almost surely won't be able to extend Lindor or meet his asking price once he hits the open market. If they deal him now, the return could be astronomical and would set them up for success down the road after they whiffed on the postseason in 2019.

    Lindor might be with the Tribe on Opening Day. Heyman reported in December that the chances of his being traded this winter "diminished" after Cleveland sent ace Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. But if he does change uniforms...


    Top Landing Spot

    As Bleacher Report's Zachary D. Rymer outlinedLindor could be the missing piece who helps the Los Angeles Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988.

    The Dodgers should hold on to infielder and top prospect Gavin Lux. But Los Angeles could offer shortstop Corey Seager, whose $7.6 million arbitration-negotiated salary for 2020 is nearly $10 million shy of the $17.5 million Cleveland will pay Lindor.

    L.A. would probably need to add a highly regarded MiLB chip such as catcher Keibert Ruiz. He's blocked at the big league level by 24-year-old Will Smith, who posted a .907 OPS in 54 games last year.

    Slotting Lindor into the lineup next to reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger ought to be worth nearly any price for the title-starved Dodgers.


    Other potential landing spots: Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees

Boston Red Sox OF Mookie Betts

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Mookie Betts will be a free agent after the 2020 season. He'll earn a record-breaking $27 million in 2020 after avoiding arbitration with the Boston Red Sox.

    The Sox, meanwhile, are reportedly trying to shed salary and stay under the luxury-tax threshold. Unsurpirsingly, Betts' name has crackled on the hot stove all offseason.

    The 2018 AL MVP is one of the best players in the game. Even as a one-year rental, he's worth a gaggle of prospects and/or controllable major league players.

    As with Lindor and the Indians, the Red Sox might keep Betts at least until the 2020 July trade deadline. But we can't discount the possibility of them trading him before then.


    Top Landing Spot

    The San Diego Padres expressed interest in Betts as recently as December, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. They have a stacked farm system and are on the verge of contention, with an offensive core built around third baseman Manny Machado and budding superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.

    If the Friars add Betts, they might be off and running in the NL West.

    Trading for Betts would be a gamble for San Diego. They're an emerging squad, but the Dodgers are the class of the division until further notice.

    However, they have the chips to get it done. It could mean surrendering outfielder and No. 2 prospect (per Taylor Trammell as well as center fielder Manuel Margot. General manager A.J. Preller has never been afraid to make bold gambles, though.


    Other potential landing spots: Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves

Chicago Cubs 3B Kris Bryant

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Josh Donaldson, the top free-agent third baseman, signed with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday. With that, the market for third basemen via trade became exponentially more interesting...and urgent.

    There are two big names. Let's begin with the Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant.

    The 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and 2016 NL MVP was an All-Star in 2019. He has also dealt with injuries and occasional inconsistency and will earn $18.6 million in 2020 after avoiding arbitration with the Cubs.

    Then again, he's a 28-year-old with a career's worth of accomplishments packed into a handful of years, and he won't reach free agency until after the 2021 season.

    The Cubs are in a state of flux after missing the postseason in 2019. Are they reloading? Retooling? Rebuilding?

    The answer is likely a combination of the three, but moving Bryant could help them in any case.


    Top Landing Spot

    With Donaldson bound for Minnesota, the Atlanta Braves have a hole to plug at the hot corner. At the moment, Johan Camargo and his .663 OPS sits atop the defending NL East champs' third base depth chart.

    The Braves have a deep farm system and are in a win-now window. Top-tier prospects such as outfielder Drew Waters and right-hander Ian Anderson (No. 23 and No. 31 in baseball, respectively, per might be the steep-but-necessary cost for Bryant.

    As USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported in the wake of the Donaldson signing, "The [Braves] had trade talks earlier with the Cubs on Kris Bryant, but considered the asking price too steep. Those talks are expected to be revisited."


    Other potential landing spots: Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers

Colorado Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is a seven-time Gold Glove winner, the face of the franchise and is signed through 2026. There's no imperative for the Rox to trade him now.

    However, he has an opt-out after 2021. The Rockies finished fourth in the NL West last season after winning a wild-card slot in 2018. They haven't done enough this offseason to establish themselves as contenders.

    And with Donaldson off the board, elite third basemen are in demand. 

    The Rox face a tough decision. If they ship Arenado out, they will enrage a significant portion of the Mile High faithful. If they keep him, don't compete in 2020 and get a lesser return next winter or at the 2021 trade deadline, they'll look like fools who failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity.


    Top Potential Landing Spot

    Before the Donaldson-to-Minnesota news broke, Morosi reported on Jan. 12 that the St. Louis Cardinals had engaged the Rockies on Arenado.

    Arenado has a full no-trade clause, but he is close with Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, with whom he played with in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and won a gold medal, per Morosi.

    Morosi also noted Arenado "is said to have deep respect for the Cardinals' winning tradition."

    The Cardinals could build a package around emerging right-hander Dakota Hudson, and they might have to add a blue-chip prospect such as third baseman Nolan Gorman (their No. 2 prospect, per

    But if they're willing to pay the price and the Rockies are prepared to deal, a Goldschmidt/Arenado pairing would make the Cards a legitimate Fall Classic threat.


    Other potential landing spots: Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers


    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.