By: Chris Larson
In the last two articles, the focus was around who the Top 10 Position Player and Pitchers were in the free agent market, but this time around we will focus on the trade market and try to identify the 10 players who have the greatest chance of being traded this offseason. Depending on a particular teams need, sometimes they are able to better address that need through the trade market as opposed to investing in the free agent market.
As is the case every offseason, there will be plenty of players whose names get discussed in potential trade packages, but those players will ultimately end up staying with their respective teams most likely. However, that doesn't mean that there won't be some trade offers that end up going through and there is always the chance that there could be a handful of blockbuster trades that happen especially around the Winter Meetings and even into January and February.
With that being said, here are the Top 10 Trade Candidates this offseason from around baseball.
* All stats listed under each players name are from the 2019 regular season. *
1. SS Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians)
.335 OBP, 118 OPS+, 4.7 WAR
Francisco Lindor is the most attractive name on the trade market this offseason and will definitely garner a lot of attention if the Cleveland Indians do decide to listen to trade offers for him. Lindor has two years remaining on his current contract, which means that if the Indians are going to trade him, now is the time for peak value in return. The best part is that Lindor will turn 26 years old next week and still could get even more talented and athletic given that he will be entering the prime of his career. So far this offseason, there have been rumors that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be interested, which makes plenty of sense as they could upgrade at shortstop over Corey Seager, and the New York Yankees reportedly have interest as well. Both teams have well regarded farm systems and the level of prospects to make a deal happen. However, another tremendous fit would be the Chicago Cubs who could acquire Lindor and then move Javier Baez to second base on a full-time basis. The Cubs are in need of a leadoff hitter and have been searching for that guy since the conclusion of the 2016 season meaning that Lindor could help fill that void as well. Although the Cubs are in a bit of a transitional period this offseason, but that doesn't mean that they are going to tear the team down to shreds and do a complete rebuild.
2. 3B Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs)
.382 OBP, 131 OPS+, 3.6 WAR
Speaking of the Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant could very well be another in-demand player on the trade market this offseason. Bryant, who is arbitration eligible for the 2020 season and has two years remaining on his current deal, would be quite the consolation prize for a team that misses out on one of the third baseman free agents in: Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas. This offseason, it appears that theres enough teams looking to upgrade at the hot corner that there might be more than one or two teams calling about Bryant and you have to imagine that not every team looking to upgrade at third base is going to land one of the three aforementioned names. After all, the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, and to a lesser degree even the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, could all be looking to upgrade at that position this winter. If a team like the Angels were to acquire him and add at least two impactful arms this offseason, then they would automatically be a potential threat in the American League West. Therefore, it would be smart for the Cubs to listen and see if they are able to trade away a player with two years of control left while getting a significant package back in return to bolster the farm system back up.
3. RF Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox)
.391 OBP, 135 OPS+, 6.8 WAR
Of all of the free agent outfielders and potential outfielders on the trade market, Mookie Betts might be the best option available. Granted, Betts has one year remaining before he hits free agency, but is coming off a season in which he drove in a career high (135) runs, won his fifth career Gold Glove Award, and is a year removed from being named the American League Most Valuable Player. When you add up all of those accolades and the type of athlete that Mookie Betts is, you can almost guarantee that there will be teams knocking on the door to acquire him with plenty of interest. The Red Sox would be wise to listen to all of that interest because of where they are as a team and the fact that the farm system could use some sort of boost. Although there is bound to be plenty of interest, there's two teams in particular that are really intriguing to watch and that's the Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox. The Braves recently resigned outfielder, Nick Markakis, for another season, but that doesn't mean that they can't move Markakis to left field and have Mookie Betts out in right. Furthermore, the Chicago White Sox are reportedly interested in upgrading in right field and given their payroll flexibility moving forward, this could be their one big investment depending on if they are able to reach a long-term deal with Betts.
4. CF Starling Marte (Pittsburgh Pirates)
.342 OBP, 120 OPS+, 2.9 WAR
Ultimately, it's still unclear as to what the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to do this offseason and that is going to determine what ends up happening with Starling Marte. The Pirates still have yet to find their new General Manager meaning that they could end up retooling and adding to the current core of players they have there in the Steel City or tearing everything down and restarting from the bottom. Marte has one-year remaining on his current contract at a salary of $11.5 million dollars and has a $12.5 million dollar club option or $1 million dollar buyout option included, for the 2021 regular season as well. In the past, the Pirates have continually been in a cycle where they've never really torn everything down to the shreds, but they've never went all-in either when they have had an opportunity to capitalize on a postseason berth either. Rather, the team has consistently retooled on the fly and that could be the case this offseason as well depending on what the new General Manager elects to do. In regard to potential fits around the league, teams such as the: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and St. Louis Cardinals could all stand to upgrade in centerfield. However, the best fit might be with the Texas Rangers who could insert Starling Marte as their everyday centerfielder to pair with Joey Gallo in leftfield and Nomar Mazara in right. The Rangers are going to be a fascinating team to watch this offseason because there are a number of different directions they could go and a trade for Starling Marte is just one.
5. SP Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets)
95 ERA+, 3.60 FIP, 2.3 WAR
There are plenty of attractive starting pitching options on the free agent market this winter, but there might end up being more demand than there is supply which will force some teams to have to turn to the trade market for a potential upgrade. That's where Noah Syndergaard comes into play and while Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen has turned down reports that the Mets will trade Syndergaard this winter, that doesn't mean that they won't listen to offers on him or ultimately end up pulling the trigger on a deal to their liking. Syndergaard, who turned 27 years old this past August, still has the potential to be a very good pitcher and with the right team he could flourish which means that if the New York Mets do trade him, the trade package has to be significant in every regard. Last July, the Houston Astros discussed a potential trade for Zack Wheeler with the New York Mets and likely asked about Noah Syndergaard as well, meaning that there could be plenty of interest on the Astros part this offseason. Houston needs to find another upgrade in their starting rotation to pair with right-handers Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke, given the fact that they will probably lose Gerrit Cole in free agency, and Noah Syndergaard would fit the bill. Another intriguing fit would be the Minnesota Twins who are in desperate need for starting pitching and have the type of farm system to make a deal happen. If the Twins added Syndergaard to their starting rotation, they would get instant credibility and move in the right direction this offseason towards improving off of the success the organization experienced last season.
6. 2B Whit Merrifield (Kansas City Royals)
.348 OBP, 112 OPS+, 4.0 WAR
In the past, the Kansas City Royals have been very reluctant to trade second baseman, Whit Merrifield, but given the fact that Merrifield will be in his age 31 season during the 2020 regular season, trading him now makes a lot of sense. After all, the Kansas City Royals probably won't be very competitive over the course of the next few seasons and the time to get a tremendous return is right now if you are General Manager Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals. Merrifield recorded a career high (681) at bats last season as well as a career high (206) hits and (10) triples. In many regards, Merrifield is viewed as a late bloomer in terms of when he ended up reaching his peak development and has turned into a solid offensive and defensive player. If Whit Merrifield is made available on the trade market, there will be plenty of teams lining up with interest. One team who could use him are the Cleveland Indians, who could insert Merrifield at second base, sign someone like Didi Gregorious to occupy shortstop should they trade Francisco Lindor, and then utilize Jose Ramirez over at third base. This type of deal would give Cleveland a leadoff hitter and someone to help them keep their competitive window open. Other potential fits include the: Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Arizona Diamondbacks. Of that group, the Brewers become interesting because they could use a leadoff type of hitter and would have assurance in the event that current Opening Day second baseman, Keston Hiura, didn't have another season like last.
7. RF Mitch Haniger (Seattle Mariners)
.314 OBP, 109 OPS+, 1.4 WAR
Mitch Haniger is coming off a 2019 regular season in which he was injured, which means that he will be a buy low candidate and the Seattle Mariners won't receive the most value for him, but he could be a good fit for a couple of different teams looking for outfield help. Haniger is arbitration eligible heading into this season and has three years of control remaining on his current deal which could help the Mariners in their attempts to try to trade him and continue their rebuild process. Furthermore, Haniger is only a year removed from the 2018 regular season in which he was named an All-Star and finished eleventh overall in the American League Most Valuable Player Award derby. Since he will be 29 years old next season, some teams might view Haniger as a terrific bounce back type of player and he has the ability to hit in the middle of a team's lineup so that adds even greater appeal. Both the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds would probably have interest in adding someone like Haniger because he is controllable, but one intriguing team would be the Boston Red Sox. Assuming they end up trading Mookie Betts, as mentioned earlier in this article, Boston could insert Mitch Haniger into rightfield and still have a competitive player at that position. Granted, Haniger is not on the same level as Mookie Betts, at least not yet, but it would still give Boston an above average offensive player when healthy and someone capable of playing the position at a high level.
8. OF Joe Pederson (Los Angeles Dodgers)
.339 OBP, 127 OPS+, 3.3 WAR
Heading into this offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers have informed teams that they want to get more balance in their lineup and become less left-handed heavy. As a result, that likely means that someone like outfielder, Joe Pederson, could be available on the trade market this winter. Pederson is going to enter his final year of arbitration this coming season and then will hit free agency meaning that he's another candidate on this list with short-term team control, but that doesn't mean that he can't have an impact on a team's lineup. Given the fact that Joc Pederson is capable of playing all three outfield positions, that could open up the number of teams interested in his services tremendously. A team like the Atlanta Braves could potentially acquire Pederson with the thinking of utilizing him in left field and moving Austin Riley to a fourth outfielder role or using Joc Pederson in rightfield with Nick Markakis in leftfield and Austin Riley in the fourth outfielder role. Additionally, a team might even view Joc Pederson as someone that could be that fourth outfielder for them and that's where the Milwaukee Brewers could come into play. The Brewers have Ryan Braun in left, Gold Glove winner Lorenzo Cain in center, and National League Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich over in rightfield. Pederson could be the fourth outfielder for Milwaukee and be a really good depth option in the event of an injury to one of Milwaukee's three starting outfielders.
9. RHP Ken Giles (Toronto Blue Jays)
244 ERA+, 2.27 FIP, 2.4 WAR
Last season, Ken Giles finished the year with the highest Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value of his big league career and had quite the season for the Toronto Blue Jays. That led for there to be a lot of interest from contending teams trying to acquire Giles prior to the July 31st Trade Deadline, but due to concerns regarding his pitching elbow, teams were hesitant to pull the trigger and Ken Giles ultimately ended up staying north of the border with the Blue Jays. However, that doesn't mean that attempts to trade him this offseason won't happen or that teams won't be interested in acquiring him especially considering the lack of impactful bullpen arms available in free agency this offseason. When you look at the free agent relief market, right-handers Will Smith and Will Harris are probably the two most impactful type of guys. With the demand that both will command, this is another situation where there will be more demand than supply meaning that teams will once again be forced to turn to the trade market for replacements. As a result, Ken Giles name is bound to come up and he could be a fit for a number of teams in need of bullpen help including the: Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, and the Minnesota Twins. While Giles only has one year of control remaining before free agency, a team like the Dodgers could use him to pair with right-handers, Joe Kelly and Kenley Jansen.
10. LHP Matthew Boyd (Detroit Tigers)
105 ERA+, 4.32 FIP, 3.5 WAR
Matthew Boyd is another name that was floated around on numerous different occasions prior to this year's July 31st Trade Deadline and he could be someone that the Detroit Tigers heavily shop again this offseason. Boyd, who will turn 29 years old in February, is under control for three more seasons meaning that the package going back to Detroit still has to be significant, but this could be another buy low situation for a team looking to bolster it's starting rotation. Over five seasons in the big leagues, Boyd has a cumulative 4.92 ERA over 645.1 innings of work, but in the right analytical environment and with the right coaching staff, you have to believe that he could be a bounce back type of pitcher. For instance, the Houston Astros might have interest still this offseason in acquiring someone like Matthew Boyd to give them a left-handed option in their starting rotation. Boyd could slot in between Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke or behind both of those guys in the number three spot and add length to the Astros starting rotation with the expected departure of Gerrit Cole in free agency. Furthermore, there should be other teams interested as well including the: Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, and Philadelphia Phillies. What would be really interesting to see is if a rebuilding team like the Baltimore Orioles or Miami Marlins trade for Matthew Boyd and get him to perform at a higher level, before flipping him at next year's July 31st Trade Deadline or next offseason, for an even better package in return.