With the winter meetings set to begin in San Diego, there is growing buzz in the industry that free agent signings will pick up soon — but what about the trade market?
To kickstart the wheeling and dealing, we asked ESPN MLB experts Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield to put on their GM hats to find the best fits for players whose names have been mentioned in trade rumors this offseason.
While there might not be a Juan Soto-level blockbuster set to rock the hot stove season like we saw at the MLB trade deadline, there are still plenty of big names who could be on the move. Do our experts have an ace or a future All-Star coming to (or leaving) your favorite team?
The Toronto Blue Jays should trade one of their catchers to the …
Doolittle: St. Louis Cardinals
One of the surer bets of the hot stove season is that the Blue Jays will be dealing from their surplus of starting-worthy catchers (Gabriel Moreno, Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk), but it’s unclear who will be the one to go. Moreno probably holds the most trade value and the veteran Jansen the least. So I’m splitting the middle and sending Kirk to the Cardinals to become the successor to future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina.
Kirk could step right in as St. Louis’ regular backstop with Andrew Knizner behind him. Kirk not only hits well enough to DH on a regular basis, but he has the same kind of contact ability that was Molina’s strength at the plate. The offense is important because if catching prospect Ivan Herrera pans out, then the Cardinals would be set at the position for years to come and the DH slot would help give them both enough at-bats.
Toronto is going to need a starting pitcher with some control in return, so the Redbirds could send lefty Matthew Liberatore along with Canadian-born outfielder Tyler O’Neill. Moving O’Neill would free up a lineup spot for fast-moving hitting prospect Jordan Walker in St. Louis while, for the Blue Jays, he’d help fill the void created by the trade of Teoscar Hernandez. It would also allow John Schneider to use Whit Merrifield more as a super-utility player than as a regular in the outfield.
Schoenfield: Cleveland Guardians
There is no doubt the Cardinals will be adding a starting catcher — president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has repeatedly said that is the team’s top objective this offseason. But he has also emphasized that defense is important, understandable for a franchise that employed Molina since 2004. That could rule out Kirk, who is OK defensively, but his bat-first profile and weight issues might make him more of a DH in the long term. I do have the Cardinals acquiring a catcher (see below) — but not one from the Blue Jays.
For the Jays, I’m sending Jansen to the Cleveland Guardians. Cleveland’s backstops hit a woeful .180/.267/.267 last season. The Guardians have also been linked to Oakland’s Sean Murphy, but they also have a very good prospect ready for an opportunity in Bo Naylor, who hit .263/.392/.446 with 21 home runs (and 20 stolen bases!) across Double-A and Triple-A. The Guardians don’t usually make 3-for-1 deals unless they’re the ones receiving the three players, so I think that rules out Kirk, Moreno or Murphy, who will cost prospects the Guardians might not want to give up.
Jansen, however, makes sense to split time with Naylor and allow the rookie to ease into the job. Jansen has two years of team control and while he might not match the .855 OPS he put up in 2022, there is a solid platoon option here because Naylor hits left-handed. The Guardians have a wealth of pitching prospects in the upper minors, and the Blue Jays could use deep rotation depth, so I’ll send right-hander Xzavion Curry to Toronto. He debuted in the majors in 2022 with two starts for Cleveland after striking out 134 in 122 innings in the upper minors, relying on a low-90s fastball that plays up because of a high arm slot and efficient spin.
The Milwaukee Brewers should trade one of their aces to the …
Doolittle: Philadelphia Phillies
After playing around with Corbin Burnes-based megadeals, I decided that if I have to move one of my aces (I’m playing the part of Brewers GM here), both of whom have two years of control remaining, there are more workable deals to be had by extending him and dealing away Brandon Woodruff. So I’m sending Woodruff to the Phillies, who could then field a super rotation featuring Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Woodruff and Ranger Suarez.
The reason: Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski has never been shy about dealing prospects, so I could get an eventual Woodruff replacement back in Andrew Painter or, possibly, Mick Abel. I’d also solve my extend-him-or-not dilemma with Willy Adames by including him in the trade. The Phils could send Bryson Stott as his replacement and include Rhys Hoskins, whose bat would be a force in Milwaukee, where his offense is sorely needed. The Phils could move Kyle Schwarber to first base and look to get more dynamic in the outfield.
The Brewers wouldn’t be punting the 2023 season with this deal. They’d be doing what the Brewers do and would still have a quality base rotation headed by Burnes, followed by Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer, Adrian Houser and Aaron Ashby.
Schoenfield: New York Mets
I toyed around with a Corbin Burnes-to-the-Dodgers deal, perhaps centered around catching prospect Diego Cartaya and pitcher Dustin May, but L.A. does need to start adding some youth to the big league roster and might be reluctant to give up prospects. Frankly, it would be easier to just sign Justin Verlander and keep the kids.
There’s another contender more desperate for starting pitching than the Dodgers, however, and that’s the Mets, with Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker all free agents. The Mets need to rebuild the rotation, and that will get very expensive if done only via free agency. That makes Woodruff’s projected $11 million salary much more palatable than bringing back deGrom at the $40 million per year it might require to sign him.
Yes, it will cost the Mets prospects and while they’ve hinted at wanting to become more like the Dodgers — meaning, build up a strong farm system — the Mets have kind of painted themselves into a corner for the time being. When you’re paying Max Scherzer $43.3 million, you’re trying to build a championship team right now.
The Mets do have two top catching prospects in Francisco Alvarez (he’s not going anywhere) and Kevin Parada, the team’s first-round pick in 2022 out of Georgia Tech (where he hit .361 with 26 home runs). Brewers catchers hit .202, and Parada’s bat should allow him to move quickly. We’ll also send corner infielder Mark Vientos to the Brewers in the deal. He’s major league ready after hitting .280/.358/.519 at Triple-A. His defense at third is a little questionable, but if the Brewers think he can handle the position, they could then move Luis Urias to second base and trade Kolten Wong (they’d love to move Wong’s $10 million off the payroll).
The Oakland Athletics should trade Sean Murphy to the …
Doolittle: Houston Astros
The Astros seem to be flirting with signing Willson Contreras, but if those talks aren’t going anywhere then targeting Murphy would give Houston the upgrade it’s looking for behind the plate. The cost would be some combination of prospects and young big leaguers with multiple years of team control. Houston might have to dig deep to put together the right package, and names like Jose Urquidy and oft-injured perennial prospect Forrest Whitley spring to mind.
Still, I think it’s worthwhile for the Astros to ante up for a young catcher of Murphy’s caliber, as he not only is good enough to improve the champs — not an easy thing — but his strengths align perfectly with what Houston does so well.
Schoenfield: St. Louis Cardinals
This is where I have the Cardinals landing their catcher. They could also sign Contreras, but he lacks the defensive chops the Cardinals prefer. Christian Vazquez is also in free agency, but the Cardinals should use their depth to make the deal for Murphy, a strong two-way performer who will provide a big offensive upgrade over what the Cardinals received in recent years from Molina.
And there looks like a perfect match: Nolan Gorman is a man without a position after Nolan Arenado exercised his option to remain in St. Louis. The Cardinals shoe-horned Gorman into second base in 2022, but his defensive metrics were poor: minus-6 defensive runs saved and a bottom-of-the-barrel ranking in Statcast’s outs above average. (Although, it should be noted he made more plays per nine innings than Tommy Edman at second base and also turned more double plays in fewer innings). With the new shift rules coming in 2023, Gorman’s lack of range will be further exposed — and the Cardinals can slide Brendan Donovan in at second base (he won a Gold Glove as a utility player) and keep Edman at shortstop, at least until prospect Masyn Winn arrives.
Is three years of Murphy worth six years of Gorman? I think so. All-around catchers are at a premium these days, and Murphy is fifth in bWAR and third in fWAR at the position over the past three seasons. There is no doubting Gorman’s 30-homer potential, but Murphy fills the bigger need. Meanwhile, the A’s can move Gorman back to his natural position of third base while handing the catching duties to Shea Langeliers.
Doolittle: Milwaukee Brewers
After one lousy, injury-marred season in Seattle, Winker seems like a good change-of-scenery player, and the Mariners match up nicely with the Brewers, who could send back Kolten Wong in a straight-up swap. The Mariners need a second baseman with plus defense, a need Wong fulfills, and at the plate, he’d be a nice complement to righty-hitting Dylan Moore. The Brewers could plug young middle infielder Brice Turang into Wong’s slot, and Winker could give them needed offense from the DH slot. Though if all my Milwaukee scenarios were to come together, Winker might have to play some in the outfield if Rhys Hoskins and Rowdy Tellez need to share first base/DH playing time. Am I getting ahead of myself?
Schoenfield: San Diego Padres
Brad’s idea makes a lot of sense, especially because the Mariners have said they’re looking for a left-handed-hitting second baseman. But I have another deal there for the Mariners, so I’m sending Winker to the Padres, who have openings at both first base and DH — and, believe me, no team wants to play Winker in left field after his struggles there in 2022. (Sorry, Brad, the Brewers better keep him to DH duties only.)
Indeed, Winker won’t cost the Padres much as Winker fell out of favor with the Mariners. Seattle Times writer Ryan Divish detailed what happened in a radio interview after the season, saying, “It’s what scouts call a tired act. I just think some of his teammates were done with him,” and then compared Mitch Haniger’s work ethic to Winker’s apparent lack of one. Winker is already signed for $8.25 million for 2023 and still has elite plate discipline (84 walks), so the Padres can hope for a bounce-back to his big 2021 numbers with the Reds, when he hit .305/.394/.556. The bonus is he shouldn’t cost the Padres much, other than Winker’s salary. We’ll give the Mariners minor league reliever Moises Lugo.
Doolittle: Detroit Tigers
I kept trying to play with a deal that would get Torres to the Chicago White Sox in a larger exchange including Lucas Giolito, who gets traded elsewhere below. I just couldn’t find a match that quite worked and realized I was trying too hard, probably because I relished the idea of Torres teaming up with fellow ex-Cubs prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease on the South Side. That’s a good narrative but not a good foundation for a trade.
In the end, I decided to send Torres to the Tigers for bullpen help, probably for two relievers from a list that includes Gregory Soto, Joe Jimenez, Alex Lange and Jose Cisnero. I think between Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees would be more than fine in the middle of the infield to withstand the departure of Torres. And a contender can never have too many high-leverage relief options.
As for the Tigers, they just need quality position players, full stop.
Schoenfield: San Francisco Giants
There are few possibilities here, including the White Sox and Mariners, but I’m sending Torres to the Giants — contingent on the Giants NOT signing one of the free agent shortstops and keeping Brandon Crawford there in the final year of his contract. Giants second basemen (mostly Thairo Estrada and Wilmer Flores) were solid enough at the plate but terrible on defense, ranking 29th in the majors with minus-20 DRS. Plus, Flores will need to play more first base in 2023 if Brandon Belt leaves as a free agent. Torres proved miscast as a shortstop, but he was very good with the glove in 2022 (plus-9 DRS) and is also more of a proven offensive performer than Estrada.
Of course, if the Giants end up signing Aaron Judge, there might be no love lost between these two organizations, so the Giants better move quickly here. In fact, I like Brad’s Tigers idea, so let’s make it a three-way trade with the Detroit relievers going to the Yankees and the Giants sending pitching prospects Will Bednar and Ryan Murphy to the Tigers.
Doolittle: Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles need a frontline starter (or, really, a couple of them) to supercharge their ascension in the American League. The Marlins need talented players whose primary job description is not starting pitcher because they are deep in those. So they can ship Lopez to Baltimore for Cedric Mullins. Miami has the starting pitching depth from which to deal a quality, proven hurler like Lopez, and Mullins would be a huge outfield upgrade, plus he’s just hitting his first season of arbitration eligibility.
Meanwhile, the Orioles would give a jolt to their rotation, but this would open up a hole in center field. Maybe they could get away with playing Kyle Stowers there for his bat and go hard after Kevin Kiermaier in free agency for his defense. Or maybe they could outbid the market on the one-year deal Cody Bellinger is seeking.
Schoenfield: St. Louis Cardinals
The Marlins are going to get a lot of calls on Lopez, who has two years of team control and will make an estimated $5.4 million in 2023 while coming off a season when he threw 180 innings. Given Adam Wainwright’s age and Jack Flaherty’s uncertain health, the Cardinals could use another starting pitcher. The Marlins definitely could use some outfield help after Avisail Garcia busted as a free agent and prospects like JJ Bleday have failed to ignite. How about Lopez for Lars Nootbaar or Alec Burleson and pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore?
The Chicago White Sox should trade Lucas Giolito to the …
Doolittle: Tampa Bay Rays
I’m trading Giolito for the next player on our list, Brandon Lowe, so I’m going to focus my commentary here on the White Sox. Giolito is a good pitcher and a team leader in the White Sox clubhouse, a strong bounce-back candidate after a lackluster 2022 campaign and somebody Chicago should think seriously about extending. Without that extension, though, Giolito will be a free agent after next season, which is why he’s on trade candidate lists in the first place.
If the White Sox were to deal Giolito and it wasn’t part of a larger deal with the Rays that brought back a starter, they’d have to pivot to filling out a base rotation that includes Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn and recently signed Mike Clevinger. If they were willing to pay Clevinger $12 million on a one-year, make-good deal, then surely they’d be able to find someone comparable to fill in his slot for a season for the $10 or $11 million Giolito is likely to receive for 2023 via the arbitration system. One free agent option that leaps to mind is former White Sox starter and current free agent Jose Quintana.
Meanwhile, I love the fit for Lowe, provided his defense holds up in a post-shift world at the keystone and that he’s healthy after an injury-riddled 2022 season. He would add another lefty bat to balance a White Sox lineup that still figures to tilt toward righty hitters. He adds power to a team that struggled to hit the long ball consistently in 2022. While Lowe is generally a low-average hitter, the ban of extreme shifts could help out the results on his pull-oriented swing. And, more than anything, the White Sox simply need a second baseman. Badly.
Schoenfield: Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks are a potential sleeper team, but the rotation needs another sure thing after Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. Madison Bumgarner is still around, and rookies Ryne Nelson and Drew Jameson have potential, but the D-backs obviously could use another veteran presence with more upside than Bumgarner offers.
What the Diamondbacks have is what the White Sox need: Left-handed-hitting outfielders. They have four of them in Corbin Carroll (untouchable), Daulton Varsho (probably untouchable), Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy. If I’m the Diamondbacks, I’m not sure I want to trade Varsho (4.9 WAR in 2022) or Thomas (struggled as a rookie with a .619 OPS but hit in the minors) for one year of Giolito. That leaves McCarthy, who wasn’t a top prospect like Carroll or Thomas, but outplayed Thomas as a rookie in 2022, hitting .283/.342/.427 while stealing 23 bases in 99 games. The question is whether the bat is legit, as Statcast gives him an expected batting average of .249. McCarthy doesn’t have big upside, but six years of a solid regular (and perhaps another low-level prospect thrown in) would be a nice addition for the White Sox — assuming the White Sox, as Brad suggested, sign a starter to replace Giolito.
The Tampa Bay Rays should trade Brandon Lowe to the …
Doolittle: Chicago White Sox
The Rays have added name veterans for short runs with the team in the past, like Corey Kluber last season. Giolito could fill that role while building value for free agency by working with the Rays’ vaunted pitching infrastructure. Dealing Lowe — who has four controllable seasons left at team-friendly salaries on his contract, including a pair of team options — is tough, and the White Sox, or any Lowe suitor, might have to sweeten the pot by folding in a decent prospect. As good as Giolito could be for the Rays, it’s still for only one season.
The Rays have the middle infielders to cover the loss of Lowe in the field. Of more concern would be replacing his bat, which plays in the middle of the order when he’s going well. A one-year splurge for a free agent bat (Bellinger?) might help shore that up. Either way, a rotation headed up by Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow and Giolito, filled out by Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs, can go toe-to-toe with anybody. Plus, if Giolito indeed were to depart after 2023, the Rays would have Shane Baz back from surgery to take his place.
Schoenfield: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners need a second baseman and lefty hitter, and president of baseball ops Jerry Dipoto has made numerous deals with the Rays through the years. Lowe was eighth in the MVP voting in 2020 and 10th in 2021 (when he hit 39 home runs), so he won’t come cheap, not when he’s making just $14 million over the next two seasons (with those club options at $10.5 and $11.5). On the other hand, he played just 65 games last year because of back issues and with his strikeouts and below-average defense, there is some chance he goes all Dan Uggla here and declines rapidly.
But this would be a great roll of the dice for the Mariners. It’s going to cost them top pitching prospect Emerson Hancock, the first-round pick in 2020 who still has electric stuff but hasn’t racked up big strikeout totals in the minors. The Mariners will have to include a couple other pieces, maybe major league depth, like outfielder Taylor Trammell and pitching prospect Taylor Dollard.
Source : Sky.com