The 2020-21 offseason has begun and, well, nothing’s happened. That isn’t surprising though. The MLB offseason, much like the regular season, is a marathon rather than a sprint. The top free agents typically don’t sign until a few weeks into the winter, and the trade market can be slow to develop when so many free agents are still on the board.
. This isn’t a great free agent class, and because of that, teams could venture out into the trade market to address their needs. There are still plenty of rebuilding teams willing to trade their best players for prospects, and contenders making salary dump trades so they can spend elsewhere is possible as well.
With that in mind, here are MLB’s top 20 trade candidates heading into the offseason, ranked in order of how likely they are to be moved and how attractive they are to potential trade suitors.
After losing 110 games this season and 35 games during the shortened 60-game season a year ago, nothing can be off the table for the D-Backs, who don’t exactly seem poised for a quick turnaround in the rugged NL West. Marte is one of the most valuable trade commodities in the game given his play and affordable contract. This is as team friendly as it gets:
- 2022: $8 million
- 2023: $10 million club option ($1 million buyout)
- 2024: $12 million club option ($1.5 million buyout)
That is at most $30 million for Marte’s age 28-30 seasons. An absolute steal. Also, Marte can play center field or second base, though hamstring trouble led the D-Backs to playing him more at second down the stretch. Playing the infield might be the best way to keep Marte on the field going forward. Either way, he’s in his prime and capable of playing a premium position.
The D-Backs resisted trading Marte at the deadline, though it has been a few months since then, and with more time to evaluate the roster (and the uphill climb they face in the division), the club may consider putting him on the market this offseason. If nothing else, there’s no harm in listening, and I’m certain more a few contenders would come calling with big prospect offers.
Possible trade suitors: Astros, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees, just for starters. Given his contract and versatility, it’s easy to see Marte as a fit for just about any team, contender or rebuilder. That said, how a team views his ability to play center field may impact trade offers. Some clubs have a greater need there than at second.
The Rays are in a tricky spot with Glasnow this offseason. He has pitched at an ace level since joining Tampa, but has not shown ace level durability. Since Opening Day 2019, he ranks 118th in starts (37) and 121st in innings (206). Consider the following:
- Glasnow had Tommy John surgery in August and is likely to miss the entire 2022 season.
- He has two more seasons of team control remaining, so you’ll have him when he returns in 2023.
- Glasnow is projected to make roughly $6 million through arbitration in 2022.
Glasnow is at the point now where the Rays usually trade their top players, right? He’s nearing free agency and making decent money, so even if he were perfectly healthy, we’d probably hear his name in trade rumors this offseason. Now Glasnow is hurt though, and are the Rays really going to commit $6 million or so to a rehabbing player in 2022? It seems unlikely.
So, the Rays will put Glasnow on the trade market, and they’ll have to sell teams on the idea of giving up a good prospect package for a pitcher who won’t help them in 2022. He’s essentially a one-year buy, except you have to pay him two years worth of salary and give up prospects to get him. Glasnow is good enough that he’ll be in demand, though his trade value is complicated.
Potential trade suitors: Angels, Astros, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Twins. If the Rays are willing to trade Glasnow within the division, I’m sure the Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Yankees would all get involved as well.
The Cubs threw in the towel and sold at the deadline, shipping out franchise stalwarts Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo as they approached free agency. Contreras will hit the open market after next season, so it is no surprise then that The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma says Chicago will “almost certainly shop” their catcher should they fail to agree to an extension this winter.
It makes sense, right? The Cubs lost 91 games in 2021, and while the NL Central is hardly a powerhouse division, Chicago appears to be a few years away from returning to serious contention. A massive offseason spending spree could change things, though that seems unlikely at this point. Given their current state, the Cubs would be foolish not to gauge the market for Contreras.
This offseason’s free agent catching class is very weak — Brewers backup Manny Piña might be the best free agent catcher — and that works in Chicago’s favor. Quality catching is always in demand, and while Contreras doesn’t always shine defensively, he is one of the best hitting catchers in the sport. Even with only one year of control, he would be in very high demand.
Possible trade suitors: Mariners, Marlins, Yankees. Possibly Cleveland as well, though taking on money is not usually their thing, and Contreras is projected to make roughly $9 million through arbitration in 2022.
The offseason cost-cutting has already begun in Oakland.— the A’s didn’t even receive any compensation for letting Melvin out of his contract — and he will undoubtedly be replaced by a cheaper manager (perhaps third base coach Mark Kotsay, who’s been viewed as a future manager for years).
Oakland has a long history of trading their best players as they start to get expensive through arbitration and the Matts are both at that point now. They’re both two years away from free agency, and Olson is projected to make $12 million through arbitration in 2022. Chapman is a bit behind him at $9 million or so, projected. Those are pricey salaries for the budget-conscious Athletics.
Chapman had a down 2021 season, relatively speaking, though he remains a power threat and an elite defender at the hot corner. Olson drastically cut down on his strikeouts this year and moved himself into the upper echelon of MLB hitters. He’s also a Gold Glove defender, albeit at the least premium position. Still, he has big value, and the A’s appear motivated to cut salary.
Possible trade suitors: Blue Jays, Nationals, and Phillies for Chapman. Olson makes sense for the Brewers, Red Sox, Yankees, and maybe even the Dodgers should the National League adopt the universal DH. If the A’s do indeed prioritize cutting payroll this offseason, righties Chris Bassitt and Frankie Montas will be in demand, ditto lefty Sean Manaea.
Anything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Twins this past season, and it prompted them to trade Nelson Cruz and José Berríos at the deadline. Trading Berríos weakened the 2022 team, as did losing ace Kenta Maeda to Tommy John surgery late in the season. Who will pitch for Minnesota next season? That question is very much up in the air.
The Twins reportedly shopped Buxton and Donaldson at the trade deadline, so it stands to reason they’ll push them both in trades again this offseason. At the very least, they’ll listen. Buxton is projected to make about $7 million through arbitration in 2022, his final year of team control. His injury history drags down his value, though he’s an impact player at a premium position when healthy.
Donaldson turns 35 in December is owed $50 million from 2022-23 (that includes the buyout of his 2024 club option) and that will be a tough sell given his injury history. The Twins may have to kick in money (or take money back in a trade) to move Donaldson. Trading Buxton would be about adding prospects and talent. Trading Donaldson would be more about clearing payroll.
Possible trade suitors: Blue Jays, Nationals, and Phillies for Donaldson, whose market would grow with the expected adoption of the universal DH. As for Buxton, the Astros, Giants, Phillies, and Yankees immediately jump to mind as potential landing spots. Then again, you can’t rule out any contender when it comes to a player of Buxton’s caliber. He’d make any team better.
Kiermaier pops up in trade rumors every offseason and the Rays always keep him, ostensibly because they value his defense so highly. At the same time, Kiermaier has been a below-average hitter throughout his career, and he’s played only 591 of 870 possible games since 2016, or 68 percent. The offense, injury history, and climbing salaries have limited his trade value.
Next season is the final guaranteed season on Kiermaier’s contract. He’ll make $12 million in 2022 with a $13 million club option for 2023, which is awfully pricey for the Rays, especially when they have a similar defensive stud ready to take over center field in Brett Phillips (not to mention top prospect Vidal Bruján). Moving Kiermaier now in a cost-cutting move would be very Tampa.
It helps the Rays that the free agent center field market behind Starling Marte is not great this offseason. Miss out on Marte and your best option is, uh, Mark Canha out of position? We’ve been waiting a few years now for the Rays to trade Kiermaier. With his contract set to expire next offseason and Tampa having a bevy of in-house replacements, the time seems right for a deal.
Possible trade suitors: Astros, Giants, Phillies. The Yankees reportedly asked about Kiermaier at the trade deadline and perhaps their interest could be rekindled this winter, though I’d bet against the two AL East rivals hooking up for a significant trade.
Last winter Cleveland reached the point of no return with Francisco Lindor. He was one season away from free agency, so they could either trade their franchise player for as much as possible before Opening Day, trade him for less at the deadline, or let him walk as a free agent after the season and take the dinky compensation draft pick. Obviously they chose door No. 1.
The Guardians are not yet at that point with Ramírez, though it’s inching closer and closer. His contract includes no-brainer club options for 2022 ($11 million) and 2023 ($13 million), after which he’ll hit free agency at age 31 and most likely price himself out of town. Hard to see Cleveland winning an open market bidding war to keep Ramírez long-term.
Trade Ramírez now and the Guardians will get more than they would if they trade him next offseason, when they would get more than they would if they trade him at the 2023 deadline. Cleveland has traded away other key players with multiple years of team control (Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, etc.), so doing the same with Ramírez would not be unprecedented.
No, the Guardians do not want to trade Ramírez. They are also unrelentingly pragmatic, and know trading him is their best chance to add cheap young talent to the organization following an 80-82 season. Cleveland is in the driver’s seat because they don’t have to trade Ramírez, though I imagine they will get some awfully tempting offers this winter.
Possible trade suitors: Blue Jays, Mariners, Nationals. Almost every team except the very deep rebuilders (Orioles, Pirates, etc.), really. It would be easy to justify bringing in Ramírez even if you look like nothing more than a postseason bubble team heading into 2022 (if fact, it would be easiest for a bubble team to justify bringing him in, because Ramírez could put them over the top).
Hader pops up on trade candidates lists every year (and prior to the trade deadline) yet he’s still with the Brewers. That said, he’s now only two years away from free agency, and he’s projected to earn approximately $10 million through arbitration in 2022. As good as Hader is, that’s pricey for a team that seems to drum up great relievers at will.
After struggling a bit during the shortened 60-game 2020 season, Hader just had his best year ever, and the postseason again showed the importance of a powerful and deep bullpen. Elite relievers no longer net franchise-altering trade packages, though Hader is so good and under control long enough that he would net the Brewers a significant return. He may actually go this winter.
Possible trade suitors: Every contender, basically, though the big market contenders make more sense given Hader’s projected salary. The Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox, White Sox, and Yankees could all get involved.
In an effort to clear payroll at the deadline, the Padres were said to be willing to attach a top prospect (reportedly outfielder Robert Hassell) to Hosmer to unload his contract. Myers has been mentioned as a salary dump candidate multiple times over the years, and I assume San Diego would be willing to attach a prospect to him as well. The contracts are ugly:
- Hosmer: $20 million in 2022, plus $13 million per year from 2023-25
- Myers: $20 million in 2022 plus $1 million buyout of $20 million club option for 2024
That’s four years and $59 million for Hosmer but only one year and $21 million for Myers. That makes Myers more likely to be traded, though absorbing Hosmer’s contract has a better chance to land you a premier prospect like Hassell or CJ Abrams. Either way, the Padres already have over $200 million on the books next year when you include projected arbitration salaries, which equals motivation to move Myers and/or Hosmer.
Possible trade suitors: Rangers, Tigers, maybe the Orioles. Hosmer and Myers represent an opportunity for a rebuilding team to essentially buy a top prospect. Take on their contract, add that high-end talent to your pipeline, and then figure out how they fit on your roster. Heck, why not take on Myers’ contract to get a prospect, then eat his entire salary and flip himself elsewhere for more prospects? It seems doable. All it takes is an owner willing to spend a little cash. The injury prone Drew Pomeranz has two years and $16M remaining on his contract. He could be another San Diego salary dump candidate.
Wild Card Game blunders aside, Edmundo Sosa took over as the shortstop of the present for the Cardinals down the stretch, making DeJong expendable. His bat has gone backwards the last few years, though he still has power and remains an above-average defender at a premium position. Also, DeJong has an affordable contract, one that includes $15 million in guaranteed money from 2022-23, with club options for 2024 ($12.5 million) and 2025 ($15 million). Any team that believes they can get his bat back to its pre-2020 form undoubtedly views DeJong as a great buy-low opportunity.
Possible trade suitors: Angels, Astros, Phillies, Nationals, Tigers, Twins, Yankees. Houston might be the only team that could lose a big name shortstop this offseason and need to find a replacement. The Dodgers have Trea Turner to replace Corey Seager, the Rockies have Brendan Rodgers to replace Trevor Story, and neither Javier Báez nor Marcus Semien was playing shortstop for their previous team (Mets and Blue Jays, respectively). That said, shortstops are always in demand. There will be market for DeJong.
For whatever reason, things didn’t work out for Kimbrel on Chicago’s South Side, as he gave up seven more runs with the White Sox than he did with the Cubs despite throwing 13 2/3 fewer innings. The White Sox hold a $16 million club option and could pay the $1 million buyout and make a clean break, but that seems unwise. Kimbrel still has trade value, even at that salary and even after struggling down the stretch. The trade was worth a shot for the ChiSox, though it didn’t work out as hoped, and now a change of scenario seems best for both the team and Kimbrel.
Possible trade suitors: Blue Jays, Padres, Phillies. Kimbrel’s market is teams that want to contend in 2022, and have both deep pockets and a clear opening in the ninth inning.
As noted earlier, nothing should be off the table for the D-Backs this offseason, and the free agent catching market is extremely thin. Kelly has been quite productive (moreso at the plate than behind it, though his glove is solid) in non-pandemic shortened seasons and he comes with three years of affordable team control. Daulton Varsho had a breakout second half and is ready to step in as the everyday catcher, giving Arizona a chance to turn Kelly into prospects in an offseason short on quality catchers.
Possible trade suitors: Cubs, Mariners, Marlins, Rays, Yankees. Really, with a dearth of quality catchers around the league and Kelly having three years of control, every team in the league figures to check in on him.
The Reds reportedly dangled Gray last offseason in a “hey, why not? let’s see what’s out there” kind of way, and I’m sure they’ll do the same this offseason. There’s no harm in listening, after all. Gray is one year closer to free agency and he’s now into the more expensive years of his contract. Expensive is a relative term, however, because $10 million in 2022 with a $12 million club option for 2023 is quite affordable. Cincinnati has been overly stingy with payroll in recent years. Trading Gray for younger, cheaper players, and then reallocating his the money that would’ve have gone to his salary could be in the cards.
Possible trade suitors: Angels, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres. You don’t have to try too hard to see Gray fitting with just about any team given his performance and reasonable contract. Except the Yankees. They’re not going there again.
Based on talent and trade value, Reynolds would rank near the top on this list. I’m just not sold on the Pirates actually trading him this offseason. They’ll listen, absolutely, but the asking price was reportedly through the roof at the trade deadline. Pittsburgh is said to have asked the Mariners for a package led by top prospect Julio Rodríguez, for example. The Pirates are rebuilding and Reynolds is their very best trade chip, so we must mention him here. I just think he’s less likely to be traded that some other top players on rebuilding teams seeing how he’s a 26-year-old All-Star who can’t become a free agent until after 2025. (This all applies to O’s center fielder Cedric Mullins as well.)
Possible trade suitors: Astros, Braves, Giants, Yankees. Any team, really. Reynolds is a legitimate All-Star caliber player with a lot of team control years remaining. He’s one of the most valuable trade commodities in the sport.
Very quietly, Cooper has been one of the most productive hitters in the game the last three seasons, and he’s adapted well to right field after coming up through the minors as a first baseman. Also, he’s an exit velocity monster who checks all the analytical boxes. Cooper is a sneaky good player who was in-demand last offseason and at the trade deadline this summer. The production and the underlying data make him a valuable trade chip, and the two remaining years of team control perfectly thread the needle between “desirable to potential suitors” and “probably won’t be around long enough to be part of the next great Marlins team,” increasing the chances of a trade.
Possible trade suitors: Brewers, Guardians, Mariners, Rays, Red Sox. The universal DH coming to the National League would open up a few more trade possibilities as well.
The Orioles are four years into their scorched earth rebuild and we’re kinda sorta maybe possibly starting to see the makings of the next contending O’s team. Cedric Mullins is the centerpiece, and others like Austin Hays, Trey Mancini, and John Means can be part of the picture as well. That said, the last thing a bad team needs is good relievers, so Sulser and Scott figure to be available this offseason. Sulser has four years of team control remaining and can handle high leverage work. Scott is a lefty who throws in the upper-90s and those guys are always in demand. He has three years of control remaining. These two are obvious offseason trade candidates.
Possible trade suitors: Literally every team. Sulser and Scott are inexpensive relievers and each have at least three more years of team control remaining. Contenders can bring them in to help win now and rebuilders can bring them in to help win later. These two will generate plenty of trade interesting this winter.
Other trade candidates: 1B Josh Bell, Nationals; 3B/OF JD Davis, Mets; RHP Michael Fulmer, Tigers; RHP Pablo López, Marlins; OF David Peralta, D-Backs; C Jacob Stallings, Pirates; 1B Luke Voit, Yankees