Big-Name MLB Players Who Could Get Traded This Offseason
Baseball fans need to brace themselves for a 2021 MLB offseason that features a robust free-agent class and a bitter labor dispute, in which a work stoppage seems imminent.
Unresolved issues, like revenue sharing and how salaries are determined, will drastically affect the way baseball teams operate.
To that point, it's already been reported that the markets for star free-agent shortstops Corey Seager and Marcus Semien have accelerated to get deals done before a potential lockout begins on Dec. 1.
However, don't sleep on some of these high-profile trades that are likely coming. Regardless of how the CBA shakes out, teams with big-name trade candidates have important decisions to make about their direction and how these players fit into their future.
So, with that said, let's look at some notable traded candidates for this offseason.
St. Louis Cardinals SS Paul DeJong
After exploding on to the scene with 25 home runs and a 121 OPS+ in his rookie campaign, DeJong's underlying metrics have continually regressed every year since his debut in 2017, dropping to a career-worst 86 OPS+ this past season.
Even though DeJong is not slugging the way he was in his first three seasons—when he hit a total of 74 home runs—and last year was a drastic turn for the worst, he still should have some trade value. His contract is affordable, and the 28-year-old could still return to his All-Star form from two years ago. The Cardinals should also have their sights set on one of these premier free-agent shortstops.
The bottom line for St. Louis: They don't need him. If not someone from the star-studded free-agent shortstop class, the Cardinals are content with Edmundo Sosa in that spot.
Whoever would trade for DeJong gets the next four years of potential team control, but only $15 million guaranteed in 2022-23.
Philadelphia Phillies SS Didi Gregorius, 1B Rhys Hoskins
The Phillies desperately need to find help for Bryce Harper. Having one of the most underperforming defensive infields in baseball did not help. Only three infields were worst than the Phillies in outs above average, according to Baseball Savant.
Gregorius is a pending free agent in 2022. Why not free up the $14.5 million in salary this year and just move on?
Hoskins' 2021 season ended in late August when needed surgery to repair a tear in his lower abdomen. This is Hoskins' second arbitration year, and the Phillies should decide whether to give him another raise in 2023 or spend that money elsewhere.
The National League likely adopting the designated hitter in the new CBA could place added value on Hoskins.
Tampa Bay Rays RHP Tyler Glasnow, CF Kevin Kiermaier
The Rays already shopped injured ace Glasnow and center fielder Kiermaier to the Cubs this summer, according to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. Tampa is all about making moves, and given the disappointment of how last season ended, it's a foregone conclusion that some veterans are on their way out.
The question really is which ones. Glasnow is expected to miss the entire 2022 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he will get a slight raise in these last two years of arbitration before free agency.
How much do the Rays value someone they may only have for one more healthy year?
Kiermaier is owed $12.2 million in his final guaranteed year under team control, making this the right time to sell.
Cincinnati Reds RHP Sonny Gray
It would be on-brand for the Reds to trade Gray right as he becomes relatively pricey, given how reluctant they have been to spend recently.
For a team looking to pay an affordable, quality starter the next couple of years, dealing for Gray’s $10.2 million in 2022 and $12 million club option would make sense.
The Reds have decisions to make, given their entire rotation is under team control. Gray, now 32, posted a 4.19 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 2021, and his production would interest any team.
What a disappointment if this happens, though. After struggling from 2016 to 2018 across two teams, Gray revived his career with Cincinnati, posting a 3.49 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings over the last three seasons, yet the Reds have nothing to show for it.
Oakland Athletics 3B Matt Chapman, 1B Matt Olson
There is nothing complicated about this one. Both Matts are getting expensive, a signal for Oakland to start going in a different direction.
They are quite literally the cornerstones of the A's right now, a franchise in peril with an uncertain future.
Chapman, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time Platnum Glove Award winner, is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, with the power to go with it. Olson is one of the better overall hitters in baseball, posting his highest OPS (.911) since 2017.
Trading either or both seems apocalyptic, but this is the path Oakland almost always takes. Even if they don't trade the Matts now, spending money to keep talent like that around long term is likely out of the question.
Chicago Cubs C Willson Contreras
This is the final arbitration year for Contreras, a survivor of the Cubs' purge of their World Series core—for now. Contreras could be Chicago's primary building block as they try to rebuild, or they can get something for him while they have the chance.
As Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic pointed out, only five catchers have accumulated more WAR since Contreras made his big-league debut in 2016: Yasmani Grandal, J.T. Realmuto, Buster Posey, Mike Zunino and Gary Sanchez.
With such a weak free-agent catching class, there will be interest in Contreras, especially considering the Cubs' aggressive fire sale at the deadline. Their willingness to trade makes the 29-year-old backstop one of the most attractive options available.
The writing is on the wall for the last major domino to fall from that 2016 championship team.
Minnesota Twins CF Byron Buxton, 3B Josh Donaldson
After this past season blew up in the Twins' face, they could stand to make moves to bring in younger talent. It also makes little sense to pay an oft-injured, 35-year-old third baseman $50 million over the next two years.
That is where trading Buxton and Donaldson comes into play. Buxton is in his final year of team control, and he's Minnesota's most valuable trade asset. Though Buxton has a laundry list of injuries as well, he slashed a career-high .306/.358/.647 in 2021, albeit in just 61 games. Nonetheless, Buxton finally demonstrated what made him such a highly-touted prospect.
Donaldson may not be the offensive force he once was, but he could still serve as a power bat for a contender willing to roll the dice.
The Twins are desperate for pitching, and without a significant talent infusion, Buxton and Donaldson won't be around when this team is good again. It might take parting ways with them to get there.
San Diego Padres 1B Eric Hosmer, RF Wil Myers
Hosmer has been a massive disappointment in San Diego after signing an eight-year, $144 million deal in 2018. While he was supposed to help lead the franchise from the depths of the NL West, the franchise has risen to prominence in spite of him, not because of him. The Padres have been shopping Hosmer for a while, but a lack of enthusiasm from a potential trade partner should come as no surprise.
The first baseman is due $20 million in 2022 and $13 million per year from 2023-25. That wouldn't be a problem if he slugged better than .395 in 2021, his worst mark since 2012.
Myers would also be another salary dump. While his offensive production is respectable (113 OPS+ last year), it fails to match the $20 million he's owed in 2022 with a club option the following season.
Myers made sense as a trade candidate well before the Padres collapsed in the second half and were forced to do some introspection. He should certainly be in play now.
Arizona Diamondbacks CF Ketel Marte
A player with this kind of positional versatility, offensive skill set and contract affordability has to be enticing to any team looking to add an immediate impact player. There is no use in wasting Marte’s prime years in Arizona, where the rebuild is an uphill battle against a powerful NL West.
Marte, 28, makes $8 million in 2022, with club options for $10 million in 2023 and $12 million in 2024. He can play center field, second base or shortstop and slashed .318/.377/.532 in an injury-shortened 2021.
It makes sense why the D-backs did not want to trade him at the deadline, but they should at least be willing to listen to offers.
Chicago White Sox RHP Craig Kimbrel, Milwaukee Brewers LHP Josh Hader
Kimbrel and Hader are two elite relievers that may find a new home as their respective organizations try to figure out ways to get over the hump.
The White Sox and Brewers had strong seasons, but it's clear that neither is good enough to win a World Series as currently assembled.
In Kimbrel's case, it seems odd the White Sox traded for him without clearly defining or understanding his role, whether it be in a familiar capacity as a closer or unchartered territory as a setup man.
Having him in a bullpen with Liam Hendricks should have been a rousing success, but Kimbrel never seemed comfortable in the South Side. After posting an other-worldly 0.49 ERA in 35 appearances with the Cubs, Kimbrel's ERA ballooned to 5.09 in 24 appearances with the White Sox. However, any contender should be willing to acquire his services and pay his $16 million salary in 2022.
Meanwhile, Hader has been a perennial trade candidate, and he's now only two years away from free agency. Every season that goes by only drives his value up, as he recorded a career-best 1.23 ERA in 2021.
Hader is affordable, too, as Spotrac estimates his 2022 salary to be around $8 million. With their plethora of arm talent in the starting rotation and the bullpen, Milwaukee can dangle Hader as trade bait to upgrade an offense that finished 23rd in OPS+.