The big names involved in trade rumors this offseason are Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor and the entire Cubs lineup, but let’s shift away from those players and focus on 10 other veterans — lesser names, but all good players — who could be traded between now and opening day. There is a chance that none of them actually will be traded, but there are solid reasons all 10 players should be traded. Let’s review the pros and the cons for trading them (with their season age for 2020 included in parentheses).
Jon Gray, Rockies (age 28)
2019 stats: 3.84 ERA, 150 IP, 147 H, 56 BB, 150 SO, 4.5 WAR
Under team control though: 2021
Pro: After making the playoffs as a wild card in 2017 and 2018, the Rockies plummeted to 91 losses in 2019, raising the issue of whether the postseason window has closed with this core group — or, to put it another way, whether the supporting cast behind Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, German Marquez and Gray is good enough.
Gray has had an enigmatic career in Colorado, with impressive sub-4.00 ERA seasons in 2017 and 2019 sandwiched around a 5.12 ERA in 2018. Still, he has 9.3 WAR over his past three seasons — similar to the 8.7 WAR that Gerrit Cole had over his three seasons immediately before his trade to the Astros. Like Cole, Gray has a big fastball, and even though his career ERA at Coors Field is lower than his performance on the road (4.36 versus 4.56), inquiring front offices can dream on what he might do in a better pitching environment. If the playoffs are, indeed, in the rear window for the Rockies, it’s time to trade Gray — the odds of him signing a long-term extension to remain in Denver are thin — with two years left until free agency.
Con: Gray’s season ended in August with a foot fracture, so teams might be a little reluctant to give top value until they see him pitch again. Plus, the Cole trade should be more warning than comparison: Gray probably isn’t the next Gerrit Cole, and the Pirates’ trade with the Astros hasn’t worked out. More pressing, the Rockies had major pitching issues in 2019, and trading Gray would only create yet another hole in the rotation.
Quick take: Another consideration for general manager Jeff Bridich is that Arenado has an opt-out clause after 2021, meaning there is added pressure to win now. The Rockies could conceivably bounce back with a return to form from Kyle Freeland and better seasons from Daniel Murphy, Ryan McMahon and the bullpen. The Rockies are about as conservative as it gets, so they are unlikely to trade Gray anyway, but I would roll the dice on 2020 and at least see where you stand on July 31.
Whit Merrifield, Royals (age 31)
2019 stats: .302/.348/.463, 16 HR, 112 OPS+, 4.0 WAR
Signed through: 2023
Pro: The Royals lost 104 games in 2018. They improved all the way to 103 losses in 2019. They received big contributions from Jorge Soler (48 home runs) and Hunter Dozier (.870 OPS), and Merrifield led the majors in hits and they still scored the second-fewest runs in the American League. The pitching staff had a 5.20 ERA. Are they going to contend in the next two years? Unlikely.
Merrifield is entering his age-31 season and is signed to a team-friendly contract — he’ll make just $25 million over the next four seasons if his 2023 club option is exercised — so his value on the field combined with his salary make him an especially attractive trade chip. Thirteen teams received an OPS under .700 from their second basemen in 2019. Other teams could deploy him as a super-utility guy. Somebody will want him.
Con: Do you really want to trade your best player when you know you have him for the next four seasons? Although Merrifield is an excellent player, he isn’t likely to bring back a Grade A, top-50 overall prospect at his age. Merrifield is also the most popular Royal, and given that the Royals averaged just 18,267 fans per game in 2019 — their lowest attendance since 2006 — it might be wise to keep Merrifield to keep the fans happy. (Yes, winning cures all ills.)
Quick take: Maybe the best reason to keep Merrifield, however, is that the AL Central could be wide open in a couple of years and the Royals do have some talented young pitchers on the cusp of the majors. Merrifield will still be a valuable contributor to a potential good Royals team in 2021 or 2022. I’d lean to trading him — what are the odds all the young pitching will deliver? — but as much as we keep trying to trade Merrifield, the Royals will keep him.
Mitch Haniger, Mariners (age 29)
2019 stats: .220/.314/.463, 15 HR, 109 OPS+, 1.4 WAR
Under team control though: 2022
Pro: Haniger has hit .271/.351/.486 in three seasons with Seattle and plays a good right field. Although his 2019 season ended after 63 games due to a ruptured testicle, he was worth 6.1 WAR in 2018 — one of just five outfielders to clear 6.0 WAR. The Mariners are still in the early stages of a rebuild, and Jerry Dipoto is committed to playing his young guys in 2020, but it’s also Jerry Dipoto, and Haniger is his one obvious trade asset. Given that the Mariners still appear years away from fielding a formidable team, Haniger’s trade value only goes down the longer you hold on to him.
Con: The time to get maximum value for Haniger would have been last offseason, coming off his All-Star campaign. Even before the injury, his 2019 season wasn’t on the same level, as his strikeout rate climbed from 21.7% to 28.6%, causing a steep decline in batting average. That’s enough of a red flag that it’s not clear whether Haniger is a potential All-Star or merely a solid regular, hurting his trade value. Although he’s 29, he’s a good athlete and the Mariners still control him for three years. Why trade the one good outfielder you do have?
Quick take: Zack Meisel and Corey Brock of The Athletic had an interesting trade proposal with the Indians: Haniger, second baseman Dee Gordon, minor league pitcher Ray Kerr and cash (to help offset Gordon’s salary) for pitcher Aaron Civale, infielder Yu Chang and minor league pitcher Eli Morgan. The Indians could use an outfield upgrade, and the Mariners need starting pitching. Maybe there’s a match if Dipoto gets an itch.
Joc Pederson Dodgers (age 28)
2019 stats: .249/.339/.538, 36 HR, 127 OPS+, 3.3 WAR
Under team control though: 2020
Pro: Pederson is coming off his best season with a career-high 36 home runs — all off right-handed pitchers — but he has just one season left until free agency and might not even have a full-time role in 2020 if the Dodgers run with Alex Verdugo as the starter. With Gavin Lux expected to take over at second base, that pushes Max Muncy to first base and Cody Bellinger into the outfield on a regular basis. Pederson could end up in a platoon role with A.J. Pollock, but the Dodgers gave Pollock a lot of money to be more than a lesser-side platoon player.
Con: Well, 36 home runs is 36 home runs. You’re not going to get that from Verdugo or Pollock — and given that both of them had injury issues in 2019, the Dodgers will need plenty of outfield depth. The Dodgers went 76-33 when Pederson started in 2019, a testament to their success against right-handed pitchers. Why break up a good thing? Yes, Pederson frustrates Dodgers fans with his hot and cold streaks — he had 17 home runs and a 1.037 OPS in April and May and six home runs and a .609 in June and July — but he’s a productive, underrated platoon hitter.
Quick take: Pederson will make an estimated $9 million in arbitration, which makes him attractive to a small-market team such as Cleveland, Oakland or Tampa Bay that could use an outfielder/DH. Even without Pederson, the Dodgers would have Bellinger, Muncy, Verdugo, Lux, Corey Seager and Matt Beaty from the left side. The Dodgers need to construct a better playoff team, not a better regular-season team. How about trading Pederson for some relief help so you don’t have to use Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning to protect a 3-1 lead?
J.D. Davis Mets (age 27)
2019 stats: .307/.369/.527, 22 HR, 138 OPS+, 1.0 WAR
Under team control though: 2024
Pro: As good as Davis was at the plate in his first season with the Mets, he was so bad on defense — minus-20 defensive runs saved — that his overall value was only one win above replacement level. I watch a lot of Mets games and can testify that the metrics don’t lie. Of course, he was forced by injuries into left field, but he was bad at third base as well. His best position is probably first base, which I believe is presently occupied. Trade him for some bullpen/pitching help, a center fielder or even some prospects.
Con: From June 4 to the end of the season, Davis hit .337/.395/.581 — the 10th-highest OPS in the majors over that span. Why would you trade a bat like that? Sure, he’s not a left fielder, but with Todd Frazier a free agent, the Mets do have an opening at third base (unless Jeff McNeil plays there) and Davis can probably fake that. If Jed Lowrie manages to return from his injuries, Davis still has value as a bench player — depth that the Mets have lacked in recent seasons.
Quick take: Unless the Mets are going to sign Anthony Rendon — yeah, right — you might as well run with Davis at third base and see whether he can carry his second-half surge over six months (he cut down the strikeouts from minor league days). His defensive issues probably mean he wouldn’t bring as much as Mets fans think he would in a trade anyway.
Starling Marte Pirates (age 31)
2019 stats: .295/.342/.503, 23 HR, 120 OPS+, 2.9 WAR
Signed though: 2021
Pro: Marte averaged 5.0 WAR from 2013 to 2016 on the strength of some excellent defensive metrics, but he is turning 31, has lost a step in the field (minus-9 DRS in 2019) and has averaged just 3.3 WAR the past two seasons. That’s still an above-average player, however, and given the mess the Pirates are in and that Marte will be 31, his Gold Glove days are in the past. He makes $11.5 million in 2020 and there’s a club option of $12.2 million for 2021, so his salary isn’t prohibitive.
Con: The Pirates were 82-79 in 2018, so there’s a reasonable argument that if the rotation bounces back — it dropped from 2.6 WAR (14th in the majors) to minus-5.8 (29th) — this team is nowhere near as bad as the disastrous 2019 campaign.
Quick take: Then again, Jameson Taillon is already out for all of 2020, Trevor Williams’ half-season run of dominance in 2018 was likely a fluke, Chris Archer is pretty much a replacement-level pitcher these days and Mitch Keller got tagged for an unsightly .348 batting average in his 11-start debut. This is not an 82-win team. The Mets and White Sox could use a center fielder. Maybe he’s a replacement for Marcell Ozuna in St. Louis. Cleveland is in play here as well. There are options.
Matthew Boyd Tigers (age 29)
2019 stats: 4.56 ERA, 185.1 IP, 178 H, 50 BB, 238 SO, 3.5 WAR
Under team control though: 2022
Pro: An affordable lefty who had a strikeout breakout in 2019 — his rate improved from 22.4% to 30.2%, which ranked ninth among qualified starters — he’s the kind of quality starter teams would love to add to their rotation rather than spending $75 million or so on a free agent of similar ability. Consider this: Of the 20 qualified starters who had a strikeout rate higher than 25%, only three (Boyd, Robbie Ray and Trevor Bauer) had an ERA above 4.00. There might be some hidden upside here that makes him intriguing to playoff contenders — which the worst-in-majors Tigers are a long ways from becoming.
Con: It’s the room for improvement — he allowed 39 home runs — that illustrates why the Tigers should keep him. Down the road, a rotation of Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Daniel Norris and prospects Casey Mize and Matt Manning — Mize and Manning should reach the majors in 2020 — has a chance to be a playoff-caliber group.
Quick take: The Tigers should listen, but at some point you have to keep the good players you do have. In Boyd’s case, hope that his gopher ball issues will subside if the rabbit ball of 2019 returns to a more normal sphere and Boyd makes that leap to No. 2 starter. I’d keep him.
Ken Giles, Blue Jays (age 29)
2019 stats: 1.87 ERA, 53 IP, 36 H, 17 BB, 83 SO, 2.4 WAR
Under team control though: 2020
Pro: After being run out of Houston in 2018, Giles bounced back with a big season for the Blue Jays, including 23 saves in 24 opportunities. His slider was back in top form as batters hit just .124 against it, with a 56% strikeout rate. Given the weak state of relievers in free agency, especially since Will Smith already signed with the Braves and Aroldis Chapman re-upped with the Yankees, Giles should have decent trade value.
Con: Given his collapse in the 2017 postseason, teams might be reluctant to install Giles as their closer, plus the market is always going to be slow for relievers until some of the bigger chips of the offseason fall. Giles’ trade value doesn’t really change between now and July, so assuming he pitches well again, the Jays could wait until the deadline and hope a desperate team will pay more then than it would right now.
Quick take: Can METS you METS think METS of a team METS that METS could use METS bullpen METS help?
Trey Mancini, Orioles (age 28)
2019 stats: .291/.364/.535, 35 HR, 135 OPS+, 3.3 WAR
Under team control through: 2022
Pro: Look, Mancini had a wonderful 2019, improving his OPS 184 points and his adjusted OPS 40 points. He ranked 99th out of 141 qualified batters in 2018 and 25th out of 135 in 2019. He had a higher OPS+ than Rafael Devers, Max Muncy, Nolan Arenado or Bryce Harper. Teams will pay for this kind of bat, especially since Mancini still has three seasons until he hits free agency. Will the Orioles be ready to contend in the tough AL East in the next three seasons? Mancini might hit free agency before they even crack .500 again.
Con: Mancini’s approach was better in 2019, and while he said he didn’t make a concerted effort to launch the ball more, his launch angle did increase, leading to more line drives and more fly balls. Advanced metrics also suggest he hit into some bad luck in 2018. In other words, there’s a good chance he’s the deal and a lineup anchor the Orioles can build rebuild around. As bad as the Orioles were in 2019, general manager Mike Elias was with the Astros when they went from 111 losses in 2013 to the playoffs in 2015.
Quick take: An age-27 player who had a career year in the biggest rabbit season in recent memory? Sounds like a perfect storm. Even then, Mancini was worth only 3.3 WAR. He’s not a big star. I’d shop him around.
Josh Reddick, Astros (age 33)
2019 stats: .275/.319/.409, 14 HR, 89 OPS+, 1.2 WAR
Signed through: 2020
Pro: It’s time to clear a full-time job for Kyle Tucker.
Con: Reddick will make $13 million, and although he’s a plus defender in right field, he’s been below average with the stick the past two seasons. The Astros would have to include some cash or a prospect just to get somebody to take Reddick off their hands. Plus, you never know about injuries, and Tucker’s projections are actually only marginally better than what Reddick provided. Keep him around for depth and defense.
Quick take: Not really much trade value here. Sure, the Astros would love to clear the salary and spend it in free agency, but they’re probably stuck with Reddick.
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