MLB Players Most Likely to Be Dangled in Trade Talk This Offseason
As the free-agent dominoes fall this offseason, it is still important to consider which players we might see wearing different uniforms next season.
How robust the trade market is depends on what happens in free agency and the status of a potentially bitter labor dispute between players and team owners looming at the beginning of December.
But either way, expect deals at some point.
Teams with good players who don't make sense for their current state will shop around for a better fit. And in some cases, it might be time for a player to move on, whether or not the pastures are greener on the other side.
New York Yankees SS Gleyber Torres
It did not work out for Gleyber Torres at shortstop with the Yankees. He was their plan at that position, but his performance over the last two seasons hasn't measured up to what's in front of the team in free agency.
Torres has declined since entering the majors with back-to-back All-Star seasons in 2018 and 2019. He slugged .480 in '18 and .535 in '19. But since then, Torres is slugging .366.
If the Yankees intend to sign Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, or even Marcus Semien or Javier Baez, Torres could be expendable.
Sure, the team moved him to second base at the end of last season, and he could be salvageable there, but Torres has three more seasons under team control, and the Yankees can still sell him as unrealized potential at just 25.
Chicago White Sox DH Yermin Mercedes
Yermin Mercedes plays for a bona fide playoff team stuck in place. The Chicago White Sox have just one playoff win in the last two seasons, losing in the AL Wild Card Round to the Oakland Athletics in 2020 and then the ALDS to the Houston Astros last season.
The White Sox have not been to the ALCS since winning the World Series in 2005, so how do they go from good to great? It's a question that the front office has to be asking itself, considering the core is set with Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada and a very good pitching staff (third-highest rWAR among starters; fifth-highest among relievers).
Dealing Mercedes may not be what gets the franchise over the hump, but the 28-year-old could probably use a change of scenery after hinting at retirement not long after a sublime start to the season.
If the White Sox can sell Mercedes' April performance, when he posted a whopping 1.113 OPS, there should be a market for their designated hitter, who's under team control through 2027. Perhaps in the National League if they adopt the DH in the new collective bargaining agreement?
Baltimore Orioles OF/1B Trey Mancini
A Trey Mancini trade would be an emotional dilemma for Orioles fans who appreciate his story after he returned from colon cancer.
Baltimore has to decide whether the 29-year-old aligns with its rebuild. Mancini has been adamant about wanting to remain with the franchise, but he can become a free agent at the end of the 2022 season when the Orioles do not project to be much better than in 2021.
To that end, could they trade him now while still affordable and allow the next team to decide whether to invest past 2022? Or is Mancini expected to be there if and whenever Baltimore finally turns it all around?
Of Mancini, B/R's Erik Beaston wrote this Nov. 3:
"Paired with breakout star Cedric Mullins, they would be a combination that could help spark the O's back into contention in a loaded AL East and form the foundation of the organization for years to come.
"Letting him walk not only adversely affects the team's overall quality but it also creates the impression that the team would rather save money than field a competent team. Not that Baltimore fans don't already feel that way."
Even if nothing materializes, Mancini's name is bound to come up. He is a free agent after 2022, when he is projected to make $8 million and should be looking for a big pay day for 2023.
Washington Nationals 1B Josh Bell
This makes sense for both the Washington Nationals and Josh Bell, with the Nationals rebuilding around Juan Soto and Bell still being a productive veteran who could help a contending team.
The 29-year-old first baseman posted a roughly career-average slash line in 2021 of .261/.347/.476 and is only under team control for one more season. He is likely to go elsewhere as a free agent in 2023, so it makes sense to pull the plug as soon as possible.
The Nationals, with almost no shot at being good in 2022, should be floating Bell’s name out there to anyone who will listen.
Houston Astros RHP Jake Odorizzi
With the Houston Astros bringing back Justin Verlander for the next two seasons (player option for 2023), Jake Odorizzi is expendable.
In fact, the 2019 All-Star might have been the odd man out of the Astros rotation even without Verlander. Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier are all part of the Astros' future.
Add Verlander into the mix, and there's two odd men out of that rotation. Odorizzi was signed late in spring training last season after Valdez suffered a broken finger during an exhibition game, and he has one guaranteed year remaining on his deal, with a $6.5 million player option for 2023.
But Odorizzi started slowly, given how late he signed, and then found himself off the Astros' ALDS roster and in the bullpen for the remainder of the postseason.
Also, judging from Odorizzi's frustration with how he was managed at times during the season, this has never felt like a long-term relationship.
The numbers point to his still being a productive pitcher, though. Odorizzi finished 2021 with a 4.21 ERA, but that's mostly from his dreadful first three starts in April (10.13 ERA).
Kansas City Royals 2B/Outfielder Whit Merrifield
It wouldn't be a trade-talk piece without a mention of Whit Merrifield, who's seemingly spent years in the rumor mill.
There was a report in July from MLB.com that the Seattle Mariners were making a push for Merrifield, who is under team control through 2023 at a reasonable cost. He is due $2.75 million base salary with escalators in 2022 and a club option for the following season.
At age 32, Merrifield still provides positional flexibility, excellent speed and fits well on any team ready to contend.
Sports Illustrated's Royals website proposed a trade package last month sending Merrifield to Seattle for left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzalez, right-handed pitcher Paul Sewald and third baseman Milkar Perez.
The Mariners, who are knocking on the door of being serious contenders in the American League, should be willing to part with significant pieces to acquire a player of Merrifield's caliber.
New York Yankees 1B Luke Voit
The belief among insiders around the league is that the New York Yankees have been shopping Luke Voit ever since acquiring Anthony Rizzo via trade from the Chicago Cubs before the deadline.
If that was the case in July, it should be even more so now seeing how free agent Rizzo wants to stick around and Voit found himself stuck to the bench toward the end of the season.
Voit is due about $5.25 million in 2022 with two more years of arbitration. It’s a salary the Yankees should probably offload so they can pursue players they actually want.
What they get in return for Voit is immaterial compared to simply freeing up some salary, which seems wild considering he was the league’s home run leader in 2020.
Remember, Voit still believes he deserves to play as much as Rizzo.
Arizona Diamondbacks SS Nick Ahmed
With two years and $17.5 million left on Nick Ahmed's contract extension, the Arizona Diamondbacks could consider offloading Ahmed's salary and allowing shortstop prospect Geraldo Perdomo to develop in the big leagues.
Ahmed this past season had his lowest OPS (.619) since 2016 (.564). In his Gold Glove years (2018 and 2019), he at least slashed.234/.290/.411 and .254/.316/.437, respectively. But in 2021, he managed just .221/.280/.399.
Does this rebuilding team want to continue playing a descending player instead flipping for compensation?
The D-backs have to decide how much sense it makes to pay any expensive contract to a player who does not figure into their long-term future.
Miami Marlins Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara and Elieser Hernandez
Miami Marlins pitchers Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara and Elieser Hernandez are inching closer to free agency, and various reports have indicated the team is considering trading at least one of them.
If one is dealt, this would be in part to clear a rotation spot for the next young, inexpensive starter in 2022, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi.
Hernandez has made the least impact of the trio, and the Marlins have enough depth to fill his shoes, especially considering Sixto Sanchez's expected return from shoulder surgery. Hernandez has never thrown 83 innings or started more than 15 games in a season.
Lopez and Alcantara are different stories. The former pitched well before landing on the injured list with a right rotator cuff strain, but Lopez hada seven-game stretch holding a 3.32 ERA with 52 strikeouts.
Alcantara had been in talks for a contract extension with the Marlins just a few months ago, but that appears to have stalled, per Marlins reporter Craig Mish. He had a productive season with 33 starts in 2021, posting a 3.19 ERA and career-low 1.075 WHIP.
But if trading any of these pitchers brings back an impact position player, expect there to be some interest to deal in Miami.
Josh Donaldson, Eric Hosmer, Willson Contreras
The Minnesota Twins are trying to bounce back from a down season in a winnable AL Central, but they clearly need more than what they have to get there.
There is no sense in paying 35-year-old Josh Donaldson $50 million over the next two years if they can't contend. They'd likely have to pay down a significant portion of that pact to offload him as the organization tries to retool after the trades of Jose Berrios and Nelson Cruz.
Similarly, Eric Hosmer's contract is the deal San Diego wishes it could take back since he's posted a mere 101 OPS+ with the team, and the club had clear offensive woes last season. The Padres are practically begging someone to take on his $20 million in 2022 and the $13 million per year in the three seasons after that (all player options).
In a different situation from the above pair of veterans with albatross contracts, Willson Contreras was the lone survivor of the Chicago Cubs' trade-deadline fire sale of their 2016 World Series core, but absent a contract extension, the free agent-to-be should come up in trade discussions.