Ideal Landing Spots for MLB's Top Trade Targets

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2022

Ideal Landing Spots for MLB's Top Trade Targets

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    It's never too early to start speculating about potential MLB trade candidates and where they might fit best if and when their current team decides to put them on the block.

    However, our list of trade candidates needs some updating.

    After an offseason of rampant trade speculation, Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez, Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds all signed extensions, which should remove their name from the trade rumor mill for the time being.

    At this early stage in the season, there are only a few obvious candidates to be sellers at the trade deadline, so for now our scope of players is somewhat limited.

    Still, the following seven players are all capable of helping a contender, and we've laid out their best potential landing spot ahead.

    Off we go!

RHP Frankie Montas, Oakland Athletics

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    Let's start with perhaps the most obvious trade candidate in baseball right now.

    After seeing Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea trading away this offseason, right-hander Frankie Montas is sort of the last man standing among impact veterans on the Oakland Athletics roster, and it's only a matter of time before he's sent packing as well.

    The 29-year-old went 13-9 with a 3.37 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 207 strikeouts in 187 innings to finish sixth in AL Cy Young voting last year, and he's earning $5.03 million in arbitration this year with one remaining year of club control left in 2023.

    The Chicago White Sox were reportedly "very close" to acquiring him just a few days ago, but negotiations ultimately crumbled when the South Siders were unwilling to include Andrew Vaughn in the return package.


    Predicted Landing Spot: Minnesota Twins

    The Twins were connected to Montas and Sean Manaea before he was traded to San Diego, and swinging a deal for Montas would not only give them a starter who helps now and in the future, but it would also take away a clear trade target from their biggest competitor in the AL Central.

1B/OF Dominic Smith, New York Mets

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    Dominic Smith appeared to be trending toward stardom heading into the 2021 season after three consecutive years of significant improvement:

    • 2018: 56 G, 85 OPS+, 17 XBH, 11 RBI
    • 2019: 89 G, 132 OPS+, 21 XBH, 25 RBI
    • 2020: 50 G, 168 OPS+, 32 XBH, 42 RBI, 13th in NL MVP voting

    However, when the universal DH disappeared last year, he again found himself in a part-time role playing out of position in left field, and the results were a significant step backward to an 84 OPS+ and only 31 extra-base hits in 493 plate appearances.

    The DH spot is back in play this year, but so is Robinson Cano. Smith has started just three of the Mets' first seven games.

    There might be no player in baseball who would benefit more from a fresh start and a change of scenery where he can play every day.


    Predicted Landing Spot: Chicago Cubs

    The Cubs skew right-handed-hitting heavy with only Jason Heyward, Rafael Ortega, rookie Alfonso Rivas and switch-hitters Ian Happ and Jonathan Villar as left-handed hitting options. There is also no clear designated hitter on the team right now with Clint Frazier and Ortega splitting time to open the year. If things don't click with Frazier, then Smith could be a nice addition who is controllable through 2024.

RHP Zach Davies, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    It's easy to scoff at the idea of Zach Davies helping a contender after he struggled to a 5.78 ERA in 32 starts with the Chicago Cubs.

    However, he entered the 2021 season with a 3.79 ERA and 114 ERA+ in 683.2 career innings, and he was a nice buy-low pickup for the Arizona Diamondbacks on a one-year, $1.5 million deal that includes $1.75 million worth of incentives and a $1.5 million option with a $250,000 buyout for 2023.

    The 29-year-old scattered four hits and two runs in five innings in his first start of the season, and the D-backs coaching staff walked away impressed.

    "Love how he works off the mound; he has a great tempo and pace. I think he's a very instinctual guy," D-backs bench coach Jeff Banister told reporters. "He's got that back and forth that can get hitters in between. And if you get hitters in between, you make pitches, you get outs. I feel confident that we're going to see some good things from him."

    The soft-tossing right-hander is not going to be a staff ace on a contender, but he can be a useful innings-eater in a No. 4/5 starter role if he's back to missing bats with his changeup and inducing ground balls.


    Predicted Landing Spot: St. Louis Cardinals

    Starting pitchers have worked just 21 innings through five games for the Cardinals, and 10.1 of those have come from veteran Adam Wainwright. The team is also without a clear No. 5 starter with Jack Flaherty on the shelf, and several of their starters have a history of injury issues. Davies' ability to chew through innings could be extremely useful if that trend continues.

SS Elvis Andrus, Oakland Athletics

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    The fact that the Texas Rangers are paying $7.25 million of the $14.25 million owed to Elvis Andrus this season makes finding a trade partner a bit less of a long shot.

    The 33-year-old hit just .235/.287/.322 for a 71 OPS+ the past two seasons, managing just 30 extra-base hits in 541 plate appearances in his first season with the Oakland Athletics last year after he was acquired in a deal that sent Khris Davis to Texas.

    However, he's off to a nice start this season with a .308/.400/.577 line and five extra-base hits in 30 plate appearances. If he continues to produce, it's easy to see a shortstop-needy contender showing interest in a proven veteran.

    He does have a vesting option for next year worth $15 million if he reaches 550 plate appearances, so that will be something to monitor.


    Predicted Landing Spot: Los Angeles Angels

    The Angels' middle-infield contingent of David Fletcher, Tyler Wade, Andrew Velazquez, Matt Duffy and Jack Mayfield is not the most exciting group of talent. If they are in the thick of the AL West race a few months from now, expect upgrading that area to be a priority.

LF David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    One of the few veteran faces on a largely anonymous Arizona Diamondbacks team, outfielder David Peralta has had a quietly productive nine-year career, winning a Silver Slugger during a 30-homer season in 2018 and a Gold Glove in left field in 2019.

    He was a 1.1-WAR player last season when he hit .259/.325/.402 with 46 extra-base hits, and he is still capable of providing a quality left-handed bat in the lineup and a solid presence in the locker room for a team that needs corner outfield help.

    The 34-year-old is earning $7.5 million in the final season of a three-year, $22 million deal. After trading away Eduardo Escobar in a contract year last season, there's a good chance the D-backs will be looking to flip him before he reaches free agency.

    It might take eating some of his remaining salary to get anything of significance in return, but for an Arizona team that ranks 24th in the majors in payroll, that would be money well spent to add another quality prospect to the system.


    Predicted Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Rays

    The Rays put a lot of faith in rookie Josh Lowe when they traded Austin Meadows to the Detroit Tigers just before the start of the season. The 24-year-old is off to a 3-for-21 start with nine strikeouts, and if he winds up needing more time in the minors, Peralta could be a nice addition to Tampa Bay's outfield rotation.

1B Josh Bell, Washington Nationals

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    It was a bit surprising to see Josh Bell stay put amid the Washington Nationals fire sale last summer, and now in his final year of arbitration control, he is a virtual lock to be traded this year.

    The 29-year-old posted a 124 OPS+ with 24 doubles, 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 144 games last season as one of the team's few offensive bright spots not named Juan Soto, and he's not far removed from a 37-homer, 116-RBI campaign with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019.

    His $10 million salary should not be a deterrent for teams looking to add a left-handed power bat to the middle of their lineup, especially if he continues a hot start that has seen him hit .310/.429/.552 with two home runs, six RBI and an NL-leading nine runs scored in eight games.

    The fact that Bell is a switch-hitter who was equally productive against right-handed pitching (.815 OPS) and left-handed pitching (.838 OPS) last season makes it even easier to plug him into the lineup of a contender in need of an offensive boost.


    Predicted Landing Spot: San Francisco Giants

    The Giants made a splash at the deadline last year when they acquired Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs, and they could be searching for a middle-of-the-order bat once again this year. Bell is not going to take the starting first base job away from Brandon Belt, but he could provide him with some occasional rest while slotting in as the starting DH the rest of the time. Darin Ruf could in turn move into a left field platoon with Joc Pederson.

LF Andrew Benintendi, Kansas City Royals

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    Andrew Benintendi is one of the more intriguing contract-year players this season.

    The former top prospect had a quietly productive first season with the Kansas City Royals last year, hitting .276/.324/.442 for a 105 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 17 home runs and 73 RBI while also winning a Gold Glove in left field.

    That included a huge final month when he hit .342/.398/.570 with five home runs and 29 RBI in 31 games, and he has picked up right where he left off so far this season, going 8-for-21 through the first six games of the new campaign.

    Still only 27 years old, Benintendi was once upon a time the Golden Spikes winner during his junior season of college at Arkansas and the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball at the start of the 2017 season, and he offers more remaining upside than most players in their seventh MLB season.

    If he continues to rake, he could be one of the biggest prizes of this year's trade deadline, and a hefty payday could be waiting next winter.


    Predicted Landing Spot: Atlanta Braves

    Even with Ronald Acuna Jr. expected back sometime next month, the Braves could still be in the market for an outfielder, especially if Eddie Rosario (1-for-23) continues to struggle mightily. They could shift Marcell Ozuna into the DH role, Rosario to the bench and use Benintendi in center field, where he would be a better option defensively than Adam Duvall. The outfield-by-committee approach worked pretty well a year ago.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Thursday's games.