Trader pros: Next year's free agents on market?
A's Reddick, Reds' Chapman headline potential gems of 2016-17 offseason
The Hot Stove season is upon us, and naturally, all the focus has shifted to the 2015-16 free-agent class. That's understandable. There is some serious talent available on the open market this offseason.
But it's still worth looking ahead to the 2016-17 free-agent group for one very important reason: Next year's free agents are often this year's trade bait. Why? Because under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players acquired before Opening Day can be given a qualifying offer the following offseason, which means clubs can recoup a Draft pick if the player signs elsewhere. (Players traded during the season cannot be given qualifying offers.)
Since the qualifying offer was put into effect three years ago, we've seen 44 players traded in the offseason before free agency, an average of more than 14 per year. Last offseason was particularly active, with Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes and Jeff Samardzija among the high-profile players to be dealt a year before free agency. Of course, not every player entering the final year of his deal is a trade candidate. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre isn't going anywhere. Neither is Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen or Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg. They're all simply too valuable to their teams in the coming season.
But there are quite a few players whose contract status makes them prime candidates to be dealt this offseason. With that in mind, here are 10 potential trade chips whose current deals have one guaranteed year left:
Josh Reddick, RF, A's
Reddick seems like an obvious trade candidate, given the team he plays for. The A's are no stranger to wheeling and dealing, and they're looking to build for the future at this point, after a 68-94 finish. Reddick regained his power stroke last season, hitting 20 homers for the first time since 2012. At 28, he's a perfect candidate for a team in search of a quality corner outfielder, both offensively and defensively.
Pedro Alvarez, 1B, Pirates
One of the most enigmatic hitters in baseball, Alvarez can flat-out mash when he's hot. But his defense is suspect, and the Pirates, who could be in search of pitching help, might be willing to part ways with Alvarez for a decent return. If they do, however, they'd need to fill the void left in their lineup with a power bat. Power is scarce, so Alvarez has trade value.
Aaron Hill, 2B/3B, D-backs
The D-backs have the makings of a very bright future offensively with A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt anchoring the lineup. That said, contending in 2016 may be a stretch, and flipping Hill for a young pitcher or two would fit nicely into Arizona's rebuilding model, giving youngsters Chris Owings and Jake Lamb more playing time at second and third, respectively.
Cameron Maybin, CF, Braves
There aren't many readily available center fielders, so Maybin figures to be a prime candidate to be dealt from a Braves team that's looking to rebuild. According to both his ultimate zone rating and defensive runs saved statistics, Maybin was below average defensively in 2015, but not dreadful, and he still presents a viable option for reaching base and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. Maybin is owed $8 million in 2016 and has a team option for $9 million in '17.
Mark Trumbo, 1B, Mariners
Trumbo's inability to reach base consistently has been well documented. But he's still a reliable power threat who slugged .449 last season. For teams in search of some pop in the five or six spots in a lineup, Trumbo -- entering his last year of arbitration eligibility -- is an affordable option.
Martin Prado, 3B, Marlins
The Yankees dealt Prado to the Marlins last offseason and got younger, acquiring Nathan Eovaldi in return. Now, Miami could be looking to do the same. Prado should fetch a decent return, following a season in which he batted .288/.338/.394 and played superb defense at third base. There figure to be plenty of teams in the market for a versatile infielder who can be plugged into the top part of a lineup.
Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds
As mentioned earlier, the Reds are looking to get younger, and with that in mind, it wouldn't seem prudent to hold onto Chapman. He's clearly a generational talent at closer, but great closers are useful only when they have leads to protect. With one year remaining on Chapman's deal, Cincinnati might be best served to bring in some young talent, with plenty of contenders in the market for a closer.
Andrew Cashner, RHP, Padres
Cashner struggled in 2015, but he also received some awful luck behind him, allowing a league-high 22 unearned runs. That doesn't excuse the 4.34 ERA, but he pitched some unnecessarily long innings, which taxed his arm. Anyway, the Padres need to bolster their farm system, and Cashner, whose fastball sits 95-96 mph, should fetch a solid return in that regard.
Matt Moore, LHP, Rays
The Rays have a history of dealing pitchers on expiring contracts, and Moore could become the latest. He's obviously not as high profile as, say, David Price, but Moore is a capable big league starter when healthy. (Unfortunately, the "when healthy" part has been an issue.) Moore has club options for 2017-19, and if he returns to form, those options are relatively team friendly. That fact could net Tampa Bay a bigger return than you'd expect for a pitcher who has made only 14 starts in the past two seasons.
Travis Wood, LHP, Cubs
Wood has proven himself capable as both a starter and a reliever, and he could be a nice addition for any team in search of a versatile left-hander. The Cubs don't exactly need to get younger, but they could be in search of some help at the back end of their bullpen, and if they acquire another starter in free agency -- which many expect them to do -- Wood could become somewhat expendable.
Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Nationals
Don't be surprised if the Nats go for a complete overhaul within their pen. Papelbon's midseason arrival didn't go so well, and it's easy to see why Washington might want to move him after his scuffle with Bryce Harper .
Drew Storen, RHP, Nationals
Storen gave up his closer role when Papelbon arrived, and his confidence seemed to take a severe hit as a result. (Storen had a 1.89 ERA in the first half but a 5.82 ERA after the All-Star break.) It's been a trying couple of seasons for Storen in D.C., and a change of scenery might do him some good. After all, it's clear he has the stuff to be a top-tier Major League closer.