The Perfect Trade Target for Every MLB Contender

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 27, 2021

The Perfect Trade Target for Every MLB Contender

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    More than one contender should have its eyes on Luis Castillo.
    More than one contender should have its eyes on Luis Castillo.Associated Press

    It's only been a couple of weeks since the lockout, yet it already feels like forever ago that Major League Baseball's free-agent market was roaring with signing after signing.

    The trade market, on the other hand, was relatively inactive. So if there's anything to look forward to on the other side of the lockout, it's that part of the hot-stove market getting its own chance to heat up.

    As for which trades could go down, we've highlighted specific trade chips that the league's contenders could potentially go after. This involved weighing their needs and available resources and trying to match them to hypothetically available players.

    We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.

American League East

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    Ketel Marte
    Ketel MarteDarryl Webb/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay Rays: OF Aristides Aquino (Cincinnati Reds)

    The Rays could use a right-handed slugger to fill the void left by the as-yet-unsigned Nelson Cruz, but it's unrealistic to expect them to break their prospect bank for a star. It would be more like them to make an upside play on a guy like Aquino. It was only two years ago that he slugged his way into the history books, but he's now out of options and also has no clear role on a Reds team that seems open for business.


    New York Yankees: RHP Luis Castillo (Reds)

    This isn't exactly an original suggestion, as Castillo was linked to the Yankees last winter and generally tends to get tied to them every time his name appears on the rumor mill. But that's because the fit is obviously a good one, and he's still needed in the Bronx as a co-ace for Gerrit Cole. Castillo had a 2.73 ERA after May, so don't be fooled by the 16 losses he sustained this season.


    Boston Red Sox: LHP Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers)

    Chaim Bloom, Boston's chief baseball officer, is open about wanting to add a right-handed hitter and bullpen help after the lockout. The free-agent market has options for both, but the trade market has the best possible option for the latter in Hader. As for why Milwaukee would trade arguably baseball's best closer, he's projected to make $10 million in 2022, with another raise due in 2023.


    Toronto Blue Jays: 2B/CF Ketel Marte (Arizona Diamondbacks)

    The Blue Jays could also be in the hunt for Hader, or they could target a hitter who could replace Marcus Semien and balance a lineup that leans to the right. Such things make them an ideal candidate to push for Marte, a switch-hitter who could take over at second base while sharing time with George Springer in center field.

American League Central

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    Sonny Gray
    Sonny GrayPaul Vernon/Associated Press

    Chicago White Sox: RHP Sonny Gray (Reds)

    You can look at the White Sox roster and see it as mostly set, but there was that one report that the team wants a "front-line starter." That makes them a fit for Castillo in theory, but he's going to have a huge price tag that doesn't align with Chicago's barren farm system. Gray is more attainable. He's more of a buy-low guy after his pedestrian 2021 campaign, with a contract the Reds would probably like to move.


    Cleveland Guardians: SS Paul DeJong (St. Louis Cardinals)

    This is, of course, assuming that the Guardians are actually interested in adding talent and not simply keeping their payroll at the very bottom of MLB. But if they do make a play on the trade market, it should be for DeJong. He's a good buy-low guy with a club-friendly deal who would have a much better shot at playing time in Cleveland than he does in St. Louis.


    Detroit Tigers: RHP Sonny Gray (Reds)

    Even after inking Eduardo Rodriguez, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the Tigers were in on Kevin Gausman prior to his deal with Toronto. If they still want another top-of-the-rotation starter, they're yet another team that could push for Gray. At least compared to Castillo, he'd cost less from a farm system that the Tigers shouldn't want to empty just yet.


    Minnesota Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (Houston Astros)

    The Twins are another AL Central team that needs starting pitching, but their iffy contention timeline and middling farm system likely preclude them from making big splashes on the trade market. It would make more sense for them to take on a short-term reclamation project. A reunion with Odorizzi, who doesn't have a rotation job in Houston, should be doable.

American League West

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    Wil Myers
    Wil MyersDerrick Tuskan/Associated Press

    Houston Astros: SS Nick Ahmed (Diamondbacks)

    Whether it's by replacing him with Trevor Story or simply re-signing Carlos Correa himself, the free-agent market offers the best solutions for Houston's problem at shortstop. But if the club does turn to the trade market, it can at least account for Correa's outstanding defense by dealing for Ahmed. He's one of very few shortstops in MLB who's on the same tier as Correa with the glove.


    Seattle Mariners: RHP Luis Castillo (Reds)

    According to Corey Brock of The Athletic, the Mariners should be expected to pursue additional starting rotation depth after the lockout. They could use a proper co-ace for newcomer Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, and nobody fits the bill better than Castillo. Because they have arguably baseball's best farm system, the Mariners would just need to be willing to subtract from their prospect depth.


    Oakland Athletics

    We're leaving this one blank because while it wouldn't be right to ignore the A's altogether, it's also hard to view them as a buyer on the trade market. As noted by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and others, the team's short-term goals more so revolve around cutting payroll, no matter who they have to trade.


    Los Angeles Angels: RHP Chris Bassitt (Athletics)

    Speaking of A's trade chips, in Bassitt, they have a guy with a 2.90 ERA since the start of 2020 who's also headed for his last season under team control. He's a good fit for a team that needs a rotation stabilizer but also can't afford Castillo's acquisition cost. That's basically the Angels, though the obvious catch is that they might have to pay a premium to pluck Bassitt from a division rival.


    Texas Rangers: OF Wil Myers (San Diego Padres)

    The Rangers have already made a huge splash in free agency, yet Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has also linked them to Japanese slugger Seiya Suzuki. If it's right-handed power they want, they could potentially pivot to Myers. Getting him from the Padres might be as simple as taking on his remaining contract, though the trade would likely have to include a deal-sweetening prospect for Texas.

National League East

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    Matt Chapman
    Matt ChapmanDuane Burleson/Associated Press

    Atlanta: 1B Matt Olson (Athletics)

    Atlanta's No. 1 post-lockout priority will still be re-signing Freddie Freeman, but it no longer seems like an impossibility that the 2020 NL MVP would actually leave for another team. So, Atlanta had better have the A's on speed dial in case they need to make a deal for Olson. As a left-handed power hitter and Gold Glove-winning first baseman, he's the best facsimile for Freeman that MLB has to offer.


    New York Mets: RHP Chris Bassitt (Athletics)

    If Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker stay healthy and productive, starting pitching won't be a problem for the Mets going forward. But all four have question marks, so the Mets would do well to add a sturdier starter to the mix. Bassitt is more in their price range than Castillo and more reliable than the backward-trending Gray.


    Philadelphia Phillies: 2B/CF Ketel Marte (Diamondbacks)

    The Phillies could stand to upgrade multiple positions on the field, but none more so than a center field spot that doesn't have a clear regular going into 2022. Now that Byron Buxton is off the market, Marte is the best the Phillies can do there. His ability to play second base would also suit them well, as he could moonlight there if Jean Segura is needed at third base.

National League Central

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    Like Voit
    Like VoitJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    Milwaukee Brewers: 1B Luke Voit (New York Yankees)

    Even after adding Hunter Renfroe, it still feels like the Brewers need another right-handed hitter. And the more power said hitter has, the better. This is their excuse to reach out to the Yankees about Voit. Though it was just in 2020 that he led the majors in home runs, he looks expendable now, especially if the Yankees push DJ LeMahieu to first base by adding a shortstop.


    St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Lou Trivino (Athletics)

    The Cardinals roster actually looks mostly set, but Katie Woo of The Athletic reported that the club will target relief help after the lockout. Free agency will have plenty of options, yet Trivino is one trade candidate who would suit them. He's yet another player the A's could be willing to unload, and his typical pitch-to-contact style would be well-suited for St. Louis' excellent defense.


    Chicago Cubs: SS/3B Adalberto Mondesi (Kansas City Royals)

    The Cubs have had a good offseason so far, but they still need impact players. Trouble is, their timeline is so uncertain that any trades they make almost certainly wouldn't involve prospects going out the door for an established star. That's why we like the idea of them going for Mondesi. Even though his stock has plummeted in recent years, he's shown power and speed in the past, and he's still only 26.

National League West

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    Matt Olson
    Matt OlsonTed S. Warren/Associated Press

    San Francisco Giants: 3B Matt Chapman (Athletics)

    Kiley McDaniel of ESPN has heard that the Giants don't want to go over $100 million to sign any free agents, which nixes Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos and others. If they're more willing to make a big splash on the trade market, easily the biggest they can make is a deal for Chapman. He's an electrifying defender whose offense should rise back out of mediocrity as he gets further removed from the hip surgery he had in 2020.


    Los Angeles Dodgers: 1B Matt Olson (Athletics)

    Jon Morosi of reported that the Dodgers have their eyes on Freeman, a Southern California native who'd account for the loss of Corey Seager's left-handed power. But if they can't get him, they could just as easily pivot to Olson. Even more so than Atlanta, they also have the prospect capital to satisfy whatever huge demands Oakland has for him.


    San Diego Padres: 1B/RF Garrett Cooper (Miami Marlins)

    The Padres are interested in Castellanos, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, but their payroll situation is such that they might not be able to sign him unless they cut Myers or Eric Hosmer loose first. If they can't do that, they could aim for a low-risk, high-reward righty slugger by taking Cooper off the Marlins' hands. When he's been healthy, he's hit a we


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.