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With the possible start of the shortened 2020 MLB season in a state of limbo, any trades are obviously on ice.
Still, if we assume baseball will return at some point this year (which is, admittedly, far from certain), it’s interesting to speculate about players who could soon be swapped.
Here’s a look at a half-dozen impact guys who should be dealt by their current clubs if and when possible, either because they are simply no longer a fit for their present employer or because the sooner they’re moved, the higher the return will be. (Or, in some cases, both.)
Most have featured in relatively recent and credible trade rumors, but with so much up in the air, this is obviously based largely on our own speculation.
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In February 2019, fresh off back-to-back playoff appearances, the Colorado Rockies signed third baseman Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension.
Then, after finishing a disappointing 71-91 in 2019, they reportedly put him on the trading block. No deal was consummated, but Arenado bristled at the chatter.
“There’s a lot of disrespect from people there that I don’t want to be a part of,” he told MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. “… I’m not mad at the trade rumors. There’s more to it.”
The relationship between Colorado and its franchise star might not be broken, but it was obviously damaged. And his extension features a player option after the 2021 season.
All this points toward the Rockies continuing to shop him, and the list of clubs that would at least kick the tires on a 29-year-old five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner is a lengthy one.
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The Detroit Tigers are in the midst of a full-scale rebuild and are at least a few years away from contention, but they have stockpiled a stable of young pitching talent in their minor league system such as right-handers and top prospects Casey Mize and Matt Manning and left-hander Tarik Skubal.
That makes left-hander Matthew Boyd an obvious trade candidate.
Boyd posted a so-so 4.56 ERA in 2019 but averaged a career-best 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 185.1 frames. He’s 29 years old and controllable through 2022.
Detroit made Boyd available this winter, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, though its asking price was reportedly an MLB-ready impact position player.
If the 2020 season happens and Boyd gets out of the gate strong, the Tigers might find a suitor willing to meet their demands. If so, they should pounce.
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Kris Bryant has won a Rookie of the Year Award, an NL MVP and a drought-busting championship in five memorable seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
He’s also been featured in an array of recent trade rumors as the Cubs decide how many of their increasingly expensive stars they can afford to keep.
Bryant was set to earn $18.6 million in 2020 and will enter his final year of arbitration in 2021. After a slightly down year (by his standards) in 2018, he hit 31 home runs with a .903 OPS in 2019.
Chicago could play out the thread and let him hit free agency in 2022, or it could try to sign the 28-year-old to what would surely be a massive extension.
But if the Cubs want to trade him and receive optimum value, the time to do so will be as soon as possible.
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The San Francisco Giants are rebuilding and should jettison any expensive veterans to shed salary and continue restocking their farm system.
Johnny Cueto is an interesting case.
He’s 34 years old and threw just 16 innings in 2019 while returning from Tommy John surgery. He’s owed $21 million in 2021 with a $22 million club option and $5 million buyout for 2022.
He was also an All-Star who finished sixth in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2016 and is one of the most entertaining, beguiling pitchers in baseball when he’s right.
If Cueto gets a chance to prove he’s fully healthy in 2020 and the Giants are willing to eat a portion of his contract, it’s not impossible to imagine a team looking for an experienced, playoff-tested starter and offering something of value.
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Talks of a possible extension between the Cleveland Indians and star shortstop Francisco Lindor stalled this spring, per Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.
Assuming they don’t re-start, the Indians need to trade him posthaste.
It’ll be painful for the franchise and its fans to part with a guy who has made four All-Star teams, won two Gold Gloves and hit 32 or more home runs each of the past three seasons. But the 26-year-old will reach arbitration in 2021 and can become a free agent before the 2022 campaign. He’s going to get prohibitively expensive for a cost-conscious franchise like Cleveland.
A player of his age and ability would fetch a massive return of top prospects and MLB-ready talent, especially from a deep-pocketed contender that feels it can pay what it takes to extend him.
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It’s unclear what, exactly, the Seattle Mariners are doing, but they clearly aren’t planning to contend. They lost 94 games in 2019 and again figure to be bottom-feeders in the American League West (or whatever possibly reconfigured division they end up in this season).
They don’t have a lot of obvious trade assets, but third baseman Kyle Seager could fetch something in return.
He hit just .239 in 106 games last season, though he did swat 23 home runs with a respectable .789 OPS. He’s also hit at least 20 homers every season since 2012.
Multiple clubs expressed interest in Seager over the winter, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. He’s owed $18.5 million in 2021 with a $15 million club option for 2022 that becomes a player option if he’s dealt.
That makes the 32-year-old expensive but also much more than a rental. If the Mariners can get a contender to cough up a decent prospect or two, they need to ship Seager away from the only MLB club he’s ever known.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.