We’re writing this with the caveat that it’s still early, and teams that look like sellers now could very well get hot and become buyers in a matter of weeks. That said, it’s still fun to plan ahead. Here are the guys we think will be donning new uniforms come August first.
Guys we’d like to see traded (but who will probably stay put)
He’s only played in nine games thus far thanks to a nagging calf injury, but make no mistake, Donaldson is the premier bat available. He’s also controllable for 2018, so the acquiring team wouldn’t be depleting Old MacDonald’s stock for a pure rental. The question is whether the Jays are truly committed to selling and starting from scratch. We can already see the schlong-measuring competition between the Yankees and Red Sox, to see who’s willing to give up more to snag the former MVP.
There were plenty of rumors this offseason about Ozuna being shipped, with questions about his work ethic leading to his placement on the trade block. But alas, the Marlins hung onto him, and boy are they glad they did. Ozuna looks like a new hitter in 2017, getting on base at a significantly higher rate and slugging the seams off the ball. He also won’t hit the open market until 2020, meaning Miami can set the asking price in the clouds. If they can find someone to fork over the right package, they’d be wise to sell high.
Thanks to a plethora of the worst trades and free agent signings ever seen, the Angels are going to suck for a long time. This is unfortunate due to the fact that they have the best player on the planet withering away in their outfield. If, and this is a big if, Trout were to be shopped, the Angels would be looking at the most loaded package ever assembled in return. LAA’s farm system is beyond depleted and their window of competition currently doesn’t exist, so moving Trout could be their only chance to salvage their future. That said, trading the game’s best player would be a tad unpopular with the fanbase.
10. Marco Estrada
The injury bug has not so much bitten the Blue Jays in the early-going this season as it has absolutely devoured them. Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, J.A. Happ, Russell Martin, and Kendrys Morales have all dealt with some sort of ailment, and as a result, the Blue Jays are in last place in the AL East. Of course, it’s not unreasonable to think they could turn it around once guys get healthy – after all, this is still the team that’s been to the ALCS in back-to-back seasons. But assuming they don’t get healthy and stay in the cellar, free-agent-to-be Marco Estrada could net them a handsome return. He’s exactly the kind of starter teams look for at the deadline — dependable, consistent, and playoff-tested.
9. Kelvin Herrera
If Herrera becomes available, any team with a prayer of making the postseason will be calling up Royals GM Dayton Moore and sending him mini-muffin gift baskets. He’s controllable for another season after this one, throws 100 MPH, and brings the kind of intensity late in games that says “I don’t care who you are, if you’re standing in the opposing batters box I want to ruin your life.” After seeing the haul the Yankees got last year for Chapman and Miller, Moore would be silly not to shop his flame-throwing closer.
8. Derek Holland
The White Sox went digging in the bargain bin and pulled out one of Grandma’s old furs that everyone thought was fake when they signed Holland. After his time in Texas was marred by injuries, Holland signed a one-year, six-million-dollar deal last offseason to join the Sox. In seven starts so far he’s picked up three wins and compiled a 2.43 ERA. Chicago is still right in the thick of things, but this team’s best days are ahead of them and they shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to turn a crafty signing into quality prospects.
7. Lorenzo Cain
The small-market Royals got their World Series in 2015 but failed to lock up any of their core beyond Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon, meaning Cain, Hosmer, Moustakas, and Escobar will all be free agents this offseason. Cain is a game changer for a contending team. Adding a true five-tool center fielder with postseason experience can be the difference between a ring and coming up short. We see the Nationals, Indians, and Red Sox as potential fits for Zo.
6. Mike Moustakas
If the Royals are going to lock anyone up, we see it being Hosmer. That means the Moose might need to find a place to roam. He hasn’t gotten off to a blazing start, but he hasn’t gotten off to a bad one either, and his defense remains solid at the hot corner. The Red Sox are an obvious fit, the Yankees make sense, as he could slot in and move Chase Headley to first, and the Astros could be a possibility if Alex Bregman continues to struggle.
5. Ervin Santana
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know the Twins are off to a decent start and aren’t think about selling, but as the realists we are, we see them fading off in the near future. It’s not a strong market for starting pitchers, so a veteran arm like Santana who hits free agency next season could net the Twins a sizable return. Minnesota’s glory days lie in the future and they’d be silly not to cash in their winning ticket.
4. Yunel Escobar
He’s not the Angel everyone wants, but he’s probably the only one you can get. Anaheim can’t trade Mike Trout (though they should) due to the fact that people would stop showing up to their games in protest, and with the exception of a couple of intriguing relievers, Escobar is the only valuable piece they have. Basically he should serve as the consolation prize to Moustakas and Donaldson.
3. Tony Watson
A good closer on a bad team almost always equals a sayonara. Watson is a dynamic lefty, meaning the acquiring team could utilize him in a number of ways, and if last postseason taught us anything, it’s that a flexible bullpen is the number one priority come October. With Andrew McCutchen a ghost of his former self, Starling Marte suspended, and an ever-so-tough division, the Pirates simply have too much to overcome.
2. Any Philly over the age of 25
One. That’s the number of players the Phillies have under contract for next season. On the pitching side, Jeremy Hellickson makes the most sense and should receive plenty of interest, as should veteran bullpen arms Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit. Meanwhile, on offense, Howie Kendrick will likely be on the move along with outfielder Michael Saunders. Philly was active this offseason, acquiring veteran talent at relatively low cost; now it’s time to convert those investments into pieces for the future.
1. Any Oakland A
I mean, come on, it’s Billy Beane. He trades players like they’re Pokémon cards. The A’s are not catching the Astros in the West, and they’d be hard-pressed to snag a Wild Card spot, which means it’s swapping season for the famed GM. Yonder Alonso, Khris Davis, and Jed Lowrie would be solid additions for any contender, while battle-tested bullpenners Ryan Madson and Santiago Casilla could help plug some leaks for playoff hopefuls.