MLB Trade Speculation: MLB Stars That Could Be Trade Bait
Last offseason, it was Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey going to Toronto in separate blockbuster deals. Justin Upton was sent to the Braves. Shin-Soo Choo ended up with the Reds in a three-team deal involving the Indians and Diamondbacks. James Shields was acquired by Kansas City. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty eventful winter on the trade market with plenty of big names changing teams.
Could we see more superstar players popping up in trade rumors over the next few months. Very likely. Will they actually be traded? Maybe. Will it be fun either way? Definitely.
Here are seven big-name players with big-time value who could be on the trade block as their team either looks to shake things up after a down year, clear salary or rebuild the farm system. Or in some cases, it just receives an offer it can't refuse.
Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Last winter, the Blue Jays acquired several star players in two separate blockbuster deals. After a disappointing season, however, they could be on the other end of the spectrum this time around. Trading one of their superstar hitters would result in a major roster shakeup and could also be the quickest way to replenishing their farm system.
With Bautista under contract for three more seasons (2014-15; 2016 club option) at what appears to be a bargain of a price ($14 million per season) and coming off of his fourth consecutive terrific year at the plate, the price would be very high.
For a legitimate No. 3 hitter who has homered once every 12.3 at-bats over the past four seasons, general manager Alex Anthopoulos won't need to aggressively shop his 32-year-old superstar. If the word gets around that Bautista could be had, Anthopoulos could have trade offers from 29 different teams within days.
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
There aren't too many major leaguers with as much value as Jose Bautista. But it just so happens that one of the few that can match him is the guy who hits behind him in the Jays lineup, Edwin Encarnacion.
Not only is Encarnacion terrific at hitting a baseball—he has a .923 OPS with an average of 39 homers and 107 runs batted in the past two seasons—he's younger (31 in January) than Bautista and his contract is even more team-friendly. It will cost whoever employs the right-handed slugger just $29 million over the next three seasons (includes 2016 club option).
The Jays could turn Encarnacion's back-to-back seasons of greatness into a package of top prospects, although it would be hard to justify giving up three years of an elite power hitter, at an inexpensive rate, for any unproven players.
Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are expected to trade an outfielder this offseason since they have four under contract—Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig—who are good enough to start on any team in the majors.
While Ethier appears to be the logical choice, especially after he rebuilt his value with a strong second half, teams won't be willing to take on the remainder of his contract (guaranteed $71.5 million through 2017) and give up something of value. Ditto Crawford, who is due over $80 million through 2017 and hasn't been an elite player in years.
That doesn't mean that either of them won't be the one traded. The Dodgers could eat part of the contracts to make a deal more feasible. But that's not ideal.
So why would a team want Kemp, who is due over $125 million through 2018, and has struggled to stay on the field the past season-and-a-half due to injuries? Because he's still just 29 years of age and was playing at an MVP-caliber level when healthy.
The bigger question is whether general manager Ned Colletti would trade his star center fielder. After the success they've had in 2013, mostly without Kemp, I'm sure he's open to it. Clearing more than $20 million of payroll per season to reinvest elsewhere, along with the young talent infusion that a trade would bring, could put the team in great shape for years to come.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
After a disappointing end to the season, the Reds have already shaken things up in the clubhouse by firing manager Dusty Baker. It might not end there.
Several lineup regulars had subpar seasons, and the possible departure of free agent Shin-Soo Choo leaves the team particularly vulnerable as a right-handed heavy team at the plate without many hitters who are good at getting on base. Trading one of those right-handed hitters in order to clear space for a hitter or two that would be more ideal fits at the top of the lineup might be a priority.
It could make sense to shop Phillips, a right-handed hitting second baseman who has plenty of value because of his power (20 homers per season since 2006) and defense (three Gold Glove awards in last six years) but struggled with a .310 on-base percentage in 2013.
The 32-year-old is due $50 million over the next four seasons, an affordable price tag for most teams. Dealing him could also free up the necessary payroll space to re-sign Choo, who could command as much as $20 million per season.
David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
It's no secret that the Rays can't afford to keep David Price long term. He's a free agent after the 2015 season and he's due another raise on this season's $10.1 million salary.
They traded away James Shields last offseason with two years left on his deal and Matt Garza was dealt three years before he was eligible to become a free agent. If the Rays want to maximize their return on the 28-year-old Price, which they probably do, they'll do their best to trade him before the start of the 2014 season.
In addition to netting a return that would very likely include one or two elite prospects and much more, trading the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner would give general manager Andrew Friedman some much-needed wiggle room as he tries to fill holes throughout his roster with a very limited budget .
Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit Tigers
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports recently reported that there was a "very real chance" that the Tigers deal Cy Young Award candidate Max Scherzer this offseason—I wrote about some potential suitors and the trade packages they could offer.
With Scherzer's agent Scott Boras unlikely to negotiate a long-term deal with a year left on his client's contract, the Tigers might not want to risk losing the 21-game winner as a free agent after next season.
Trading him before the start of next season would likely be their last chance to get something in return since the expectation is that they'll be contending in July and unwilling to trade him then. With lefty Drew Smyly ready to step into his rotation spot and a farm system that is desperate for a talent infusion, Scherzer's days with the Tigers could be coming to an end.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
The Marlins insist that they aren't trading 23-year-old right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who already has 117 major league homers in his short career. But the truth is that every player has a price. In a few cases, teams just don't have the resources to match that price.
In Stanton's case, there are probably a handful of teams who can entice the Marlins with a strong enough trade package. And the Marlins should be willing to listen, simply because they only control his rights for three more seasons and there's no guarantee he'll want to stay longer than that.
Stanton wasn't happy when they traded away their best players last offseason, and he's probably not very excited about playing half of his games in a pitcher-friendly ballpark that takes away from his strength.
They do have three years to change his mind, however. They can move in the fences. They can put together a highly competitive team. And they can offer him a market-value contract extension.
On the other hand, trading him at a time while he's at peak value, which includes this offseason, has to at least be on the minds of owner Jeffrey Loria, new general manager Dan Jennings and the team's front office.