Whether the Red Sox trade Mookie Betts this offseason seems pretty much beside the point. That his name is even being discussed among executives and agents is what’s really interesting. In that way, he seems to represent something larger.
Betts is among a handful of stars whose names have been thrown around as this trade market begins to take shape. That doesn’t mean any of them will be traded. It simply means that teams are exploring all their options as they weigh the advantages of filling needs via trades or free agency.
Here’s a look at nine well-known veterans who could be dealt:
1. Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs
If the Cubs are going to do it, now is the time. After missing the playoffs with baseball’s second-highest payroll in 2019, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said this will be an offseason of “real change.” The Cubs would also like to avoid the penalties of a second straight year of exceeding the luxury-tax threshold. With Bryant two seasons from free agency, he could help replenish a depleted Minor League system.
Possible landing spots: Rangers, Dodgers, Braves, Phillies, Nationals
2. Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox
Color us skeptical about the Red Sox actually trading their biggest star, even to get under the luxury-tax threshold. Besides that, it may be too late since Betts is a year from free agency. Is there a team out there that would give up a bounty of prospects for a one-year rental? Anything is possible, but it seems unlikely.
Possible landing spots: Phillies, White Sox, Padres, Giants
3. David Price, LHP, Red Sox
The Red Sox appear more open to trading the veteran lefty and using the savings on Betts. Problem is, Price has missed significant time with left elbow and wrist issues in two of the last three seasons and also has three years and $96 million remaining on his contract. To make this work, the Red Sox would have to pay a sizable portion of Price’s contract, and whatever they pay would still count against their payroll for the purposes of the luxury-tax threshold, which club execs have said they’d like to get under.
Possible landing spots: Astros, Dodgers, Padres
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
This would be the toughest kind of deal. To deal away a bright, charismatic star in the prime of his career would come with some pain. On the other hand, he’s two years from free agency, so his value is very high.
Possible landing spots: Dodgers, Angels, Brewers
5. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
The Dodgers under Andrew Friedman have resisted trading their best young players. Now, after another disappointing October, industry speculation is that he’d like a different look in 2020. Seager is 25, has a career .853 OPS and is two years from free agency. If the Dodgers make him available, teams would line up to make an offer.
Possible landing spots: Phillies, Yankees, White Sox, Nationals
6. Trey Mancini, OF/1B, Orioles
He had a breakout season in 2019 with 35 home runs and an .899 OPS, and with the Orioles still in a rebuilding mold, they could continue the reconstruction of the Minor League system by bringing in multiple prospects. Three seasons of club control adds to his value.
Possible landing spots: Blue Jays, Rockies, Reds, Giants
7. Stephen Piscotty, OF, A’s
He’s two years removed from hitting 27 home runs with an .821 OPS, so an injury-shortened 2019 season can be discounted. He’s also signed to a team-friendly contract for three more seasons, and with Oakland’s deep outfield, he could be dealt for bullpen help.
Possible landing spots: Blue Jays, Reds, Rays
8. Robbie Ray, LHP, D-backs
His second-half struggles will give some teams pause, but his overall track record the last three seasons is solid (85 starts, 460 innings, 3.72 ERA). In addition, his strikeout rate was in the 88th percentile. He’s a year away from free agency, which lowers his value, but starting pitching is in enough demand that the market for him should be healthy after the top free agents begin to sign.
Possible landing spots: Padres, Phillies, Nationals, Braves
9. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Giants
The 34-year-old remade his game nicely in 2019 and made 32 starts with 181 1/3 innings and a 1.108 WHIP. He has limited no-trade protection and an $18 million salary in 2020, but he’s a good bet to log a lot of quality innings.
Possible landing spots: Astros, Rays, Nationals, White Sox
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.