Predicting MLB Trade Rumors That Will Surface During 2020 Season

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJune 4, 2020

Predicting MLB Trade Rumors That Will Surface During 2020 Season

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    It's likely just a matter of time before Nolan Arenado is back on the block.
    It's likely just a matter of time before Nolan Arenado is back on the block.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Nobody yet knows when it will begin and how long it will be, but for now, it's still a realistic possibility that Major League Baseball will return in 2020.

    If and when it does, trade rumors will be among the many things making a swift comeback.

    We thought we'd get ahead by predicting 10 trade rumors that could arise at some point during the 2020 season. The first five are strictly speculative, with the idea being to link obvious trade chips with potential suitors. The last five concern rumors that have already been heard and could come up again.

    Let's take it away.    

C.J. Cron to the Philadelphia Phillies

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Detroit Tigers didn't sign C.J. Cron in December just to give their woeful offense a boost.

    The ongoing status of Detroit's rebuild means that Cron is also obvious trade bait. His value will be limited because he's only suited to play first base and designated hitter. But if the National League does indeed adopt the DH for 2020, Cron's bat could attract interest from both leagues.

    Overall, the 30-year-old posted a .799 OPS with 55 home runs across the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He especially mashed left-handers with a .972 OPS and 19 homers.

    One club that could use such a hitter is the Philadelphia Phillies. Rather than simply trusting Jay Bruce to handle everyday DH duties, they could deal for Cron and squeeze much better offense out of a Bruce-Cron timeshare. 

    If the DH leaves the NL after 2020, it'll be no problem for the Phillies. Both Bruce and Cron will be free agents this winter.     

Jonathan Villar to the Chicago White Sox

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Like with Cron in Detroit, Jonathan Villar's time with the Miami Marlins in 2020 figures to be brief.

    It's a small miracle that he's on the Marlins at all, as they were only able to pick him up because the Baltimore Orioles put him on waivers as a means of avoiding his projected $10.4 million salary.

    The 29-year-old ultimately signed for only $8.2 million, which is a steal. He can play multiple defensive positions. He's also a switch-hitter who's coming off a year in which he had a .792 OPS, 24 homers and 40 stolen bases.

    A player like Villar could hypothetically help any team. But if we must focus in on one in particular, the Chicago White Sox could be game.

    Though the White Sox addressed many weaknesses throughout the 2019-20 offseason, they left one at second base. Villar could slot in there and in the club's leadoff spot, thereby allowing the free-swinging Tim Anderson to hit lower in the order.   

Josh Bell to the Texas Rangers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Because he's under club control through 2022, there's no hurry for the Pittsburgh Pirates to trade Josh Bell. 

    However, certain circumstances should lead the Pirates to keep an open mind to the idea. The team faces a long road back to contention after losing 93 games in 2019. For Bell's part, his value is higher than ever after he broke out with a .936 OPS and 37 homers last season.

    In theory, the 27-year-old would fit with any club in need of an offensive upgrade at first base. Yet in light of his below-average defensive metrics, the best spot for him might be designated hitter.

    In either case, he might catch the eye of the Texas Rangers.

    In the immediate future, Ronald Guzman's .722 career OPS is an excuse for the Rangers to seek an upgrade at first base. Bell could be that guy for 2020, and then the Rangers would have the option of moving him to DH after Shin-Soo Choo's contract runs out at the end of the year.

Mike Clevinger to the New York Mets

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The down side of Mike Clevinger is that he's often been injured since the start of last season.

    But when he pitches, he's elite. He's whiffed 513 batters in 447.2 innings since 2017, with a 152 ERA+ that ranks fifth out of all qualified pitchers.

    This helps explain why the right-hander has drawn trade interest in the past. While the Cleveland Indians have yet to act on any of it, they might cash in Clevinger and his three remaining seasons of club control if their 2020 season goes sideways.

    Clevinger, 29, will have any number of suitors if he lands on the block. If they decide they must have a replacement for Noah Syndergaard, who's out with Tommy John surgery, the New York Mets could be an especially keen one.

    Along with Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman, Clevinger would form an elite rotation trio in Queens. The Indians, meanwhile, might like the idea of swapping him for young shortstop Ronny Mauricio in order to have an heir apparent for Francisco Lindor.    

Kirby Yates to the Los Angeles Angels

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    If the San Diego Padres live up to their expectations in 2020, Kirby Yates won't be going anywhere.

    He's been arguably the best reliever in baseball over the last two seasons, and he's part of a bullpen that has two other relief aces in Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan. If the Padres get enough out of their offense and starting rotation, those guys will have plenty of leads to protect.

    Then again, these same Padres lost 92 games in 2019. If it's deja vu all over again in 2020, they'll surely flip their 33-year-old closer before he reaches free agency at season's end.

    Plenty of teams would want him, but few could need him as badly as the Los Angeles Angels. Even if their rebuilt rotation does good work in 2020, a bullpen that logged the second-most innings last season might need reinforcements to keep it from going to waste.

    Plus, a trade for Yates would help rectify the mistake the Angels made when they let him go in 2017.

Ken Giles to the Washington Nationals

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    He may not be in as much demand this summer, but Ken Giles has much in common with Kirby Yates.

    For one, he's a fellow closer who's coming off a dominant 2019 season marked by a 1.87 ERA and 83 strikeouts in only 53 innings. For two, the 29-year-old is due for free agency at the end of the year.

    Giles will stick with the Toronto Blue Jays if they contend this year, but the odds of that are slim as long as they share the American League East with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.

    If Giles does become available, the Washington Nationals might circle back around on him. They were eyeing him last July, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, before they settled on acquiring Daniel Hudson from the Blue Jays instead.

    Hudson is back in Washington's bullpen, along with fellow late-inning relievers Sean Doolittle and Will Harris. But because all three worked deep into October last year, a trade for Giles might quickly transform from a luxury into a necessity.                                         

Whit Merrifield to the Chicago Cubs

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Chicago Cubs might have more pressing needs if their all-30-something rotation falls flat in 2020. But for now, second base looks like a potential issue.

    The Cubs got zero WAR out of the position in 2019. If neither Jason Kipnis nor top prospect Nico Hoerner is up to the challenge of doing better, the Cubs may turn to the trade market for help.

    On that front, their fondness for Kansas City Royals star Whit Merrifield hasn't been much of a secret.

    Merrifield, 31, was a .303 hitter with an .809 OPS, 28 homers and 65 steals over the last two seasons. And while second base is his primary position, he can also play the outfield in a pinch. As a bonus, he's signed to a team-friendly contract that runs through 2022, with an option for 2023. 

    Though the Royals have resisted trading Merrifield in the past, they might be persuaded by the right offer. For the Cubs, one involving the aforementioned Hoerner might do the trick.

Mike Minor to the New York Yankees

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    At the outset of 2020, the New York Yankees seemed to be all set with their starting rotation.

    That idea fell to pieces early in spring training. Though James Paxton is feeling good now, his back surgery was only the latest in a long line of injuries. Young ace Luis Severino, meanwhile, is out until 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

    If the Yankees' rotation ultimately falters after newcomer Gerrit Cole and ol' standby Masahiro Tanaka, they may look to bring in help from the outside. That could necessitate a fresh look at Rangers ace Mike Minor.

    To be fair, the 32-year-old will stay in Texas if the Rangers contend this season. Indeed, he and fellow aces Corey Kluber and Lance Lynn could go a long way toward making that happen.

    Yet these same Rangers lost 84 games in 2019, and they might now only be the fourth-best team in the AL West. Such things could lead to Minor, who's fresh off leading all pitchers in WAR, finishing the final season of his three-year, $28 million contract elsewhere.     

Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    As soon as baseball comes back, the return of the Nolan Arenado trade sweepstakes will swiftly follow.

    Things between the Colorado Rockies and their superstar third baseman got ugly during the offseason. He didn't quite say he wanted out, but he clearly didn't approve that the club was toying with trading him just one year into his eight-year contract.

    Yet unless the Rockies are much more competitive than many expect of them following their 91-loss effort in 2019, they're bound to get back to said toying during the season.

    If so, the St. Louis Cardinals could rekindle their interest in the 29-year-old. Per Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, the two organizations even went as far as exchanging names in trade talks during January.

    Granted, the Cardinals might leave good enough alone at third base if Matt Carpenter puts his rough '19 campaign behind him and hits more like his All-Star self. But if that doesn't happen, Arenado's Gold Glove defense and 40-homer offense will surely look that much more appealing to the Redbirds.

Francisco Lindor to the Cincinnati Reds

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    At this point, a trade of Francisco Lindor might be the only sure thing in the immediate future of the Cleveland Indians.

    He's two seasons from free agency, and the possibility of the Indians extending him is basically nil. The two sides suspended contract talks in March, according to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, shortly before baseball broke because of the coronavirus pandemic. Given the revenue hit the Indians are now taking, it's beyond doubtful that they can meet Lindor's asking price.

    If all this results in Lindor hitting the trade block this summer, the Cincinnati Reds may be first in line for the 26-year-old. 

    The two clubs engaged on a potential Lindor trade last December, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Nothing obviously came of it, but the shortstop deficiency that ostensibly drove the Reds' interest still remains.

    To this end, Lindor leads all shortstops in WAR since 2015. After loading up on bats over the winter, the Reds could cement themselves as the team to beat in the NL Central by bringing him aboard.

                                   

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.