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10 big names that could be traded this MLB offseason

by Chris Brown

The first notable move of this year’s (virtual) MLB Winter Meetings is in the books, as the Reds dealt closer Raisel Iglesias and cash considerations to the Angels for right-hander Noé Ramirez and a player to be named later on Dec. 7. 

For the Reds, the trade is the team’s latest effort to cut payroll this offseason, as Cincinnati non-tendered experienced closer Archie Bradley, outfielder Brian Goodwin and Curt Casali last week. The departures of those three players and Iglesias reduces the team’s payroll for next season by roughly $20 million and leaves plenty of questions about the Reds’ ability to be competitive in 2021.

The Angels, meanwhile, have turned a soon-to-be 31-year-old middle reliever into one of the better closers in baseball and shown a willingness to spend this offseason. Iglesias, 30, has pitched to a 2.85 ERA and struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings while tallying 106 saves over the past five seasons.

Let’s take a look at 10 other star players who could be dealt this winter, potentially as soon as this week in some cases:

Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians

2020 stats: .258/.335/.415, 8 HR, 30 R, 27 RBI, 6 SB in 60 games

Possible destinations: Blue Jays, Mets, Yankees, Cardinals, Phillies, Reds

Multiple reports from November indicated the Indians are likely to trade their star shortstop, who’s projected to earn roughly $20 million next year, this offseason, and the list of possible suitors is extensive. A four-time All-Star, Lindor, 27, is widely considered one of the best position players in the game despite coming off a down 2020 campaign. He’s set to reach free agency after the 2021 season, though, so the low-payroll Indians are looking to get something for Lindor now rather than pay him that $20 million and then watch him walk next offseason. That means that any trade partner would only be guaranteed one season of Lindor, but he’s the kind of player that could help turn a good but not great team into a World Series contender.

Prediction: Traded to Blue Jays

Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs

2020 stats: .206/.293/.351, 4 HR, 20 R, 11 RBI, 0 SB in 34 games

Possible destinations: Nationals, Braves, Red Sox, Dodgers

Along with Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, Bryant is one of multiple core members of the Cubs offense set to hit free agency after the upcoming season. With new president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer now at the helm, the front office needs to figure out what its next direction is sooner rather than later. A trade of at least one of those players seems likely, and Bryant has generated the most buzz in recent months as a trade candidate. It doesn’t seem especially likely that he’ll be able to get back to the production of his 2016 MVP season, and Bryant is coming off a miserable 2020 campaign, but the 28-year-old hit .282 with 31 homers in 2019 and is capable of playing the outfield and first base in addition to the hot corner. Teams in need of another middle-of-the-order bat would surely love to add Bryant into the mix, but it’s not clear if he’s the core hitter the team is most likely to part with this offseason.

Prediction: Remains with Cubs

Willson Contreras, C, Chicago Cubs

2020 stats: .243/.356/.407, 7 HR, 37 R, 26 RBI, 1 SB in 57 games

Possible destinations: Phillies, Mets, Cardinals, Nationals, Astros, Rays

Unlike those other core hiters, Contreras is under team control through the 2022 season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be traded this winter. The 28-year-old two-time All-Star is one of the best backstops in the majors, but the team has a seemingly capable replacement at the ready in Víctor Caratini, who’s shown some promise at the plate and will be much more affordable in the coming years, something that could prove key if the Cubs end up agreeing to a long-term deal with Bryant and/or Rizzo. Multiple teams in need of a starting catcher this offseason could turn to the Cubs if they miss out in the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes.

Prediction: Traded to Phillies

Blake Snell, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

2020 stats: 4-2, 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 63 K, 18 BB, in 50 innings

Possible destinations: Angels, Padres, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported in late November that the Rays have informed teams they’re open to trading Snell this winter. The 27-year-old former AL Cy Young winner is owed a relatively team-friendly $39 million over the next three seasons and has built up a track record of postseason success, so there will be no shortage of suitors. Tampa Bay, which already saw Charlie Morton sign with the Braves after the team declined his $15 million option for 2021, isn’t actively shopping Snell, Feinsand reported, so it’s unclear if the team is seriously considering trading the lefty or just wisely fielding offers to see if they’re wowed. Snell is coming off a strong season but didn’t throw six innings in a start in 2020.

Prediction: Remains with Rays

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

2020 stats: .253/.303/.434, 8 HR, 23 R, 26 RBI, 0 SB in 48 games

Possible destinations: Cardinals, Dodgers, Nationals, Braves

Arenado has been the subject of trade rumors and speculation for the past two offseasons and publicly expressed his displeasure with the Rockies front office last spring. But there are several complicating factors regarding a potential trade. The five-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover is due roughly $200 million through the 2026 season and has a full no-trade clause, but also could opt out of his contract at the end of the upcoming season. The Rockies will surely want a big return for the star third baseman, but interested teams would be weary of Arenado potentially opting out after just one year. And if he doesn’t, a potential new team would be on the hook for most if not all of his remaining contract. Arenado is coming off a down 2020 but much of that can likely be attributed to shoulder issues which lingered throughout the season.

Prediction: Remains with Rockies

Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies

2020 stats: .289/.355/.519, 11 HR, 41 R, 28 RBI, 15 SB in 59 games

Possible destinations: Angels, Reds, Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays

It’s possible that both parts of Colorado’s stellar left side of the infield could be gone by 2022, as Story is set to hit free agency after this upcoming season. The 28-year-old has cemented himself as one of the best shortstops in the game, notching roughly 35 homers and 25 steals along with a batting average around .290 in each of his last two full seasons. Story, a two-time All-Star, would seem to have a better chance than Arenado of being traded this offseason given the lack of complicating factors with him and the Rockies’ desire to get something for him instead of just letting him walk next offseason. For what it’s worth, shortstop is one area with multiple quality starters on the free agent market, as Marcus Semien, Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons have yet to sign this winter.

Prediction: Traded to Reds

Sonny Gray, SP, Cincinnati Reds

2020 stats: 5-3, 3.70 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 72 K, 26 BB in 56 innings

Possible destinations: Padres, Angels, White Sox, Twins, Marlins, Blue Jays

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported in late November that the Reds are “open to moving” Gray, but as is the case with Blake Snell, it’s unclear if Cincinnati is actually interested in moving the starter or just willing to listen. The big question for the Reds is if they could remain competitive in 2021 without Gray, assuming Trevor Bauer signs elsewhere. The 31-year-old Gray has posted a 3.07 ERA and 3.33 FIP in 230+ innings across the past two seasons and is owed $10 million over the next two seasons, a highly affordable cost for a solid No. 2 or great No. 3 starter.

Prediction: Remains with Reds

Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees

2020 stats: .147/.253/.365, 10 HR, 19 R, 24 RBI, 0 SB in 49 games

Possible destinations: Nationals, Marlins, Rockies, Mets, Cardinals

Sanchez is the best power hitter at the catcher position in MLB, having smacked 30+ longballs in both 2017 and 2019 in under 125 games each season, but he’s coming off a truly atrocious season both at the plate and behind it. Sanchez’s defensive issues are well-documented, as are his three true outcomes nature in the batter’s box. Statcast data reveals a batter that hit the ball extremely hard and had really bad luck on balls in play, so there are some reasons for optimism that he can get back to his All-Star form. The Yankees don’t seem very high on him right now, though, and are reportedly going to at least listen to offers for Sanchez this offseason. The club could make a run at J.T. Realmuto or another backstop if Sanchez is traded.

Prediction: Remains with Yankees

Lance Lynn, SP, Texas Rangers

12/8 UPDATE: The White Sox are reportedly acquiring Lynn from the Rangers.

2020 stats: 6-3, 3.32 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 89 K, 25 BB, in 84 innings

Possible destinations: White Sox, Angeles, Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers, Padres, Blue Jays

As I wrote back in early September, the Rangers made a mistake in not dealing Lynn prior to this past season’s trade deadline. The second-best time to deal him is this offseason, though, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted in mid-November that rival clubs expect the veteran right-hander to be moved this winter. Lynn, 33, is a proven workhorse, having led the majors in innings pitched in 2020, and could help provide stability to a rotation. With a limited number of high-caliber starters on the free agent market this offseason, the Rangers will certainly be fielding calls of interest from several clubs in need of a No. 2 or No. 3 option in the rotation. 

Prediction: Traded to Padres

Josh Hader, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

2020 stats: 1-2, 3.79 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 31 K, 10 BB in 19 innings

Possible destinations: Braves, Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers, Nationals, Angels

A few weeks ago, new Brewers general manager Matt Arnold downplayed rumors that the ace left-hander could be on the move this winter, saying the club anticipates Hader being a part of their bullpen in 2021. But Arnold indicated that the team is getting a lot of calls on Hader and will keep their options open. Hader has emerged as one of the best relievers in baseball in recent years, posting a 2.66 ERA and 312 strikeouts in 176 innings over the past three seasons, and is under team control for several years to come. But Milwaukee does have a logical replacement in NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams should Hader be traded, and there are a number of major holes on the team’s roster that a trade of Hader could help fix.

Prediction: Remains with Brewers

Other notable trade candidates: 

  • Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Jean Segura, INF, Philadelphia Phillies
  • Eduardo Escobar, 3B/2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Michael Fulmer, SP, Detroit Tigers
  • Whit Merrifield, OF/2B, Kansas City Royals

Photos by Julie Fennell / Flickr (Bryant), Erik Drost / Flickr (Lindor), Joey S / Flickr (Arenado)

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