MLB Trade Rumors: Evaluating Candidates to be Dealt

As we embark on the second full week of the new year and with most of the top free agents having found new homes, many MLB clubs are looking to trade for talent in the final weeks of the off-season. Several clubs are dangling their franchise players’ names in the direction of other general managers to gauge the temperature of the trade waters as some superstars are approaching free agency in the coming years. Here are some predictions on which rumored trade bait is likely to stay or go prior to Opening Day. 

Nolan Arenado, 3B – Colorado 

Colorado’s perennial MVP candidate signed an eight-year, $260 million extension at the beginning of the 2020 season. Some reports indicate Arenado is frustrated with the direction the Rockies’ franchise and a trade of Arenado would net multiple top prospects to help Colorado reboot. Arenado has an opt-out of his contract in two years so any serious clubs would likely want to try to negotiate with Arenado to have that removed; this further complicates a potential trade. The Rockies are likely looking for several top prospects from clubs in exchange for Arenado, which will also complicate the completion of the deal for Colorado. It seems more likely with each day that Nolan Arenado will likely be dealt once Colorado finds the right return.

Verdict: Team will trade player

Kris Bryant, 3B – Chicago (NL) 

Third base is a position in demand this offseason and since the Angels completed the signing of Anthony Rendon, several teams have been battling for the services of remaining free agent Josh Donaldson. Once Donaldson finds his home for 2020 the contenders for his services will be ready to deal for Bryant. The Chicago Cubs seem to be looking at reducing payroll and are viewed to be challenged in re-signing Bryant when he becomes a free agent. Things are complicated somewhat by Bryant’s court battle to get an extra year of service time. Chances are good that the ruling will land in MLB’s favor and Bryant will have two years remaining before free agency. Atlanta, Washington, and Texas would all be leading contenders for his services. As things seem to be heating up on the Nolan Arenado front, Bryant might be a prime candidate for being dealt closer to the July trade deadline.

Verdict: Team will keep player 

Francisco Lindor, SS – Cleveland 

Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor is one of the game’s best all-around players and it seems crazy to think of the Indians dealing him away. Multiple reports have suggested clubs have been in talks with Cleveland involving Lindor. The Los Angeles Dodgers have swung and missed at the top free agents his offseason and have several highly-regarded prospects to deal. Cincinnati also has young talent that could be tempting for the Tribe to pursue. St. Louis could use recently-acquired prospects and other talent in their organization to acquire Lindor and shift current shortstop Paul Dejong to third. If multiple clubs are in serious pursuit of Lindor, it will be hard for Cleveland to avoid moving him with the right package in return. 

Verdict: Team will trade player

David Price, SP – Boston 

Boston signed the then-30-year-old David Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract prior to the 2016 season. While the Red Sox won the 2018 World Series with Price, they now find themselves looking to shed some payroll. Price is owed $96 million over the next three seasons and the lefty has thrown more than 110 innings only once in the past three seasons. Being that any club that acquires Price will be responsible for the remaining contract from his age 34 through 36 seasons makes a trade difficult. The Sox would likely find themselves eating a large portion of Price’s contract or be forced to include other controllable talent in the deal to convince new club to pay the rest of the contract. If that’s the case, Boston is likely to keep Price and let him play out his contract for the Red Sox. 

Verdict: Team will keep player

Matthew Boyd, SP – Detroit 

As the free agent class of starting pitchers found new homes, teams in need of staff aces began looking at sellers for best options in trade. Matthew Boyd is an attractive starting pitcher due to the control factor to any potential suitor. Boyd will not be a free agent until 2023 and therefore Detroit has all the leverage in trade talks regarding the pitcher. The Angels have been known to be in discussions with Detroit but are unwilling to part with top prospects at this point. Boyd’s value, as well as the values of rotation-mates Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, could be higher at the deadline or next winter if they put up improved numbers in the coming year.

Verdict: Team will keep player

Robbie Ray, SP – Arizona 

The Diamondbacks made a sizable investment in the signing of Madison Bumgarner to their starting rotation. Bumgarner is joining previous staff ace Robbie Ray in a rotation that also includes veterans Mike Leake and Merrill Kelly along with young talents Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver, Taylor Clarke, and Alex Young. The thought is that with Bumgarner under control for the next few years and Ray heading into free agency a year from now, the time is right to move him for prospects. Ray could fetch a big return but it also makes sense to see how the improved pitching staff competes in 2020 and consider a July trade if they are not contending this season. 

Verdict: Team will keep player (for now)

Mookie Betts, OF – Boston 

Betts is only one season removed from an MVP and World Series championship season but is rumored as possible trade bait this off-season. Betts is a franchise player and it would be surprising if Boston doesn’t find a way to re-sign their star right fielder before considering a trade to the Dodgers or another suitor. If Betts is traded, it would net a huge return for the Red Sox who haven’t been afraid to move a franchise star in the past. The Dodgers have the prospects to give and the return should be of blockbuster proportions before the Sox pull the trigger on any deal for Betts.  

Verdict: Team will keep player unless blown away by offer

Jon Gray, SP – Colorado 

Jon Gray has defied the odds of a power pitcher having success in Denver over the past couple of seasons. Gray has always displayed incredible upside for the Rockies and that’s extremely tempting to many teams that missed out on the top free agent starters this off-season. Gray has pitched 150 or more innings in three of the past four seasons and is coming off 3.84 ERA and 135 ERA+ year in Colorado. The Rockies are looking for young talent at just about every position so finding the right return could happen prior to Opening Day. Gray is not a free agent until after the 2021 season so he should also see a good return for the Rockies in any deal that is completed. 

Verdict: Team will trade player

Willson Contreras, C – Chicago (NL) 

There a few positions more coveted of a perennial All-Star talent than the catcher position. Contreras has been an All-Star the past two seasons and the Chicago Cubs seem to be in the mood to move talent heading into arbitration and free agent seasons. Contreras still has three years remaining of team control so the Cubs should feel no pressure to move him soon but the need for frontline catchers by other clubs could yield a strong return. J.T. Realmuto will be a free agent following this upcoming season and those who miss out on his services might be willing to give up more for Contreras next winter. The Cubs are likely to hang on to Contreras for 2020 but are clearly actively listening to offers all season. 

Verdict: Team will keep player

Mike Clevinger, SP – Cleveland 

The Indians have been rumored to be in discussions with several clubs regarding Clevinger. Teams have good reason to have an increased interest in Clevinger, who has 12.6 bWAR across 97 games pitched and 87 starts for Cleveland. Clevinger is coming off a 13-4 season with a 2.71 ERA with the Tribe and is under team control for the next three seasons. Cleveland has depth at starting pitching with a combination of remaining veterans and a mix of young talent emerging through their system. Due to the fact that Clevinger is under team control for three years, the asking price by Cleveland is steep and trade prior to Opening Day less likely than trade deadline deal. 

Verdict: Team will keep player

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