In Deadline's wake, top winter trade candidates
After wild end of July, offseason swap meet could feature top-tier talent
The smoke is still rising off the transaction wire after one of the busiest non-waiver Trade Deadline periods in Major League history, and fans are probably still adjusting their eyes to the sight of Jon Lester as an Athletic, David Price as a Tiger, Yoenis Cespedes taking aim at the Green Monster, etc.
But at least baseball's general managers have had ample time to recharge their smartphones after extensive July use, because they're going to need them not just in the coming weeks on the waiver wire, but in a winter trade market that could be equally active.
Just because an incredible 12 trades involving 37 players went down on Deadline day doesn't mean every deal that was discussed was consummated. Many of those talks involved players still under contract through 2015 or beyond, and so the discussions of summer could serve as the backbone for deals done in the winter.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some guys who could be trade targets in that other swapping season -- the offseason.
And yes, some of these guys are August waiver wire candidates, as well.
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies: Tulo's appearance in the stands at a Yankee game last month only further fueled rumors of him succeeding Derek Jeter in the Bronx, and both he and Cargo made comments to the Denver Post that indicated a desire to play for a contender. The Yankees, for the record, don't match up as a particularly great trading partner; it's a certainty the Rockies would want loads of young pitching in return for their franchise face, meaning the Mets might make more sense. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if the Rox dangle either of these stars in a more wide-open winter market. Tulo is signed through 2019, while Cargo is signed through '17.
Cole Hamels, Phillies: The Phillies could be much more active in August than they were in July, as they'd be wise to rid themselves of as many cumbersome contracts as possible. Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett are all good candidates to be moved. But Hamels is their best bet for an impact prospect haul, and the hunch is that they'll be more open to exploring that market in the winter. The Red Sox will definitely be in the market for an upper-echelon starter, be it in free agency or trade, and they have a wealth of young pitchers to offer for Hamels, who will make at least $90 million from 2015-18. The Dodgers are another natural fit, but the Phillies' asking price would have to come down from what it was this summer.
Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, Padres: It will be up to the Padres' new GM, whoever that turns out to be, to decide the best course with the current roster, but Cashner and Ross both could be valuable trade chips for a team in need of impact talent. Cashner has two more years of arbitration before he reaches free agency, while Ross has three more years left of team control. Some considered Cashner a July trade possibility before he injured his right shoulder in June (he'll make his first rehab start later this week). The Padres' other option, of course, is to keep Cashner, Ross and Ian Kennedy (signed through 2015) and try to build around them. It will be an interesting winter in San Diego, which, appropriately enough, will host the Winter Meetings.
Matt Kemp, Dodgers: The Dodgers' outfield situation is no more settled now than it was before the Deadline, but Joc Pederson continues to knock on the door, and at some point, the Dodgers have to answer. Of the three L.A. outfielders on colossal contracts (Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier), Kemp is the only one coming anywhere close to proving his worth. He's been one of baseball's hottest hitters in the second half (1.130 OPS), and the Dodgers could parlay his suddenly revitalized bat into an opportunity to move him and make way for Joc.
Mets starters: The Mets have enviable pitching depth that will only grow when Matt Harvey completes his recovery from last year's Tommy John surgery. What they need, unquestionably, is offense, and they could deal for the former to acquire the latter. Bartolo Colon (signed through 2015) is not going to bring much back, but the maturing Zach Wheeler certainly would. Or the Mets could split the difference and dangle a guy like Dillon Gee, who has a 3.66 ERA over the last two seasons and has two more years of arbitration eligibility.
Aaron Hill, D-backs: His bat has heated up considerably in the second half (.928), and the D-backs might find a taker if they look to move him and the $24 million he's owed in 2015 and '16 in August. If not then, though, the winter could be another time to explore Hill's worth. In general, the D-backs will be another interesting club this winter, given their unmet expectations in 2013 and Tony La Russa's arrival as chief baseball officer.
Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos, Reds: Cincinnati entered this season with a team-record payroll of $112.4 million, and that tally could rise even higher in a 2015 season in which they have about $90 million committed to 13 guys -- not to mention pending arbitration raises for Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, among others. With Cueto and Latos eligible for free agency at the end of '15, the Reds might want to capitalize on their trade value before things come to a head. Mike Leake, entering his final round of arbitration, is another candidate to be dealt for this same reason.
Ben Zobrist, Rays: The Rays wouldn't have targeted Major League-type talent like Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin in the David Price trade if they didn't expect to be a frisky AL East contender in 2015, so they might not feel compelled to deal Zobrist, who has been an underrated, versatile asset since 2006. But with Zobrist eligible for free agency at the end of '15, and the upcoming free-agent market starved for bats, it might be worth their while to revisit the discussions about Zobrist that took place before this year's Deadline.
Edwin Jackson, Cubs: The Cubbies have not exactly gotten great returns out of their four-year, $52 million investment in Jackson thus far, and they made some effort to move him before the Deadline. Other teams might determine Jackson, set to make $11 million in 2015 and '16, to be a bounceback candidate, as his Fielding Independent Pitching marks with the Cubs have been significantly lower than his ERAs.
Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: A productive shortstop under contract through 2016 at reasonable terms ($10 million per year) is valuable currency in the trade market, and the White Sox decided this summer that they'd be better off exploring his worth this winter. That doesn't mean they'll deal Ramirez, because they don't have an obvious answer to the hole Ramirez's absence would create; top shortstop prospect Tim Anderson isn't expected until 2016, at the earliest. But we'll see if the offers for Ramirez prove too overwhelming.
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: No column on trade speculation is complete without mere mention of Stanton. He's the guy who gets everybody hot and bothered, and he's going to be due a big salary increase in his second round of arbitration after putting up MVP-type numbers. But the Marlins have the seeds of a legit contender in 2015, and, until further notice, they're not seriously expected to move Stanton's big bat. Sorry, everybody.