Trade proposals that make sense entering '23

December 23rd, 2022

Free agency is winding down, but we could see the trade market pick up coming out of the holiday season as the rest of the offseason plays out and playoff hopefuls look to further improve their rosters before Spring Training.

With this in mind, here are five trade proposals -- proposed by writers/reporters -- that make sense entering 2023. Each of these hypothetical deals aims to strike a fair balance, taking into account the needs of both sides.

Who says no? Let's find out.

Yankees wrap up Reynolds

Yankees get: OF Bryan Reynolds, RHP David Bednar
Pirates get: OF Jasson Domínguez (Yankees' No. 2 prospect), RHP Clayton Beeter (No. 9), RHP Drew Thorpe (No. 13), OF Elijah Dunham (No. 19)

Reynolds has asked for a trade, and while the Pirates’ asking price is sky-high, the Yankees are in win-now mode after re-signing Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo and adding Carlos Rodón this winter. Judge, Reynolds and Harrison Bader would give New York a stellar defensive outfield, while Reynolds -- who is under club control through the 2025 season -- could hit leadoff. Although the Yankees’ prospect surplus is at shortstop, the Pirates are set there for some time with Oneil Cruz. Domínguez, baseball’s No. 39 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, would give Pittsburgh a long-term replacement for Reynolds, while Beeter and Dunham would provide immediate help.

Who says no? The Pirates likely say no, not because the talent coming back isn’t strong, but because with so many years of control, they’re not in any hurry to deal Reynolds despite his request to be moved.

-- Mark Feinsand

An AL East exchange

Red Sox get: C Danny Jansen
Blue Jays get: OF Alex Verdugo, 2B Nick Yorke (Red Sox's No. 4 prospect)

Honestly, I don’t know what the Red Sox are doing this winter, and I’m not entirely convinced they know, either. If they really are “galaxies apart” in contract extension talks with Rafael Devers, as ESPN’s Joon Lee has reported, then they should seriously consider moving him now. But if they are serious about trying to field a 2023 contender, post-Xander Bogaerts, then upgrading their currently dicey catching outlook would sure help. Intra-division trades are awkward but not impossible, and the Red Sox could offer the Blue Jays a needed left-handed bat in Verdugo, along with a 2020 first-rounder in Yorke. Jansen is under contractual control for two more seasons, and the Blue Jays, with All-Star Alejandro Kirk and top prospect Gabriel Moreno in tow, can afford to deal him now. To take this a step further, if Boston were to fill Verdugo’s outfield spot with Michael Conforto, they will have potentially upgraded two positions.

Who says no? Probably the Blue Jays. Though the market for catching help has dwindled in recent weeks, it’s still a valuable position to have depth, and Toronto might be better-served to take that depth into the season and see what transpires. They do sorely need a left-handed bat, but, if they are going to deal a catcher, there might be better trade options available to them than Verdugo, who has been just a bit better than league average over the last two seasons (105 OPS+).

-- Anthony Castrovince

Rangers further bolster rotation

Rangers get: RHP Pablo López
Marlins get: RHP Dane Dunning, OF Anthony Gutierrez (Rangers' No. 12 prospect)

The Rangers made a splash with the addition of Jacob deGrom this offseason, a year after the Marcus Semien and Corey Seager signings. They added Andrew Heaney and Jake Odorizzi, too, but competing in the AL West and beyond will take all the pitching Texas can get. López would be another reliable arm behind deGrom, and he’s under team control through 2024, so this isn’t a move that piles on the immediate pressure. On the Marlins’ side, they’d get a 2016 first-rounder in Dunning – and he’s under contract two years past when López is. He was drafted by the Nationals, traded to the White Sox in the Adam Eaton deal later in ’16, then traded to the Rangers in ’20 for Lance Lynn. Dunning has not reached his full potential yet, but the Marlins’ track record with young pitchers lately speaks for itself. Gutierrez provides another outfield option down the line.

Who says no? Likely the Marlins, but maybe just for now. López’s name seems likely to come up frequently in the trade rumor mill moving forward, with the biggest free-agent pitchers all signed. Miami may look to wait out the market until the Trade Deadline or next winter, but if the Rangers are competing, the landing spot certainly may come up.

-- Sarah Langs

Orioles take flight

Orioles get: RHP Corbin Burnes
Brewers get: OF Colton Cowser (Orioles' No. 4 prospect), INF Jordan Westburg (No. 5), LHP Cade Povich (No. 14), RHP Kyle Bradish

With AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Adley Rutschman entering his second season and more elite prospects on the way, it would be easy for the Orioles to run it back with a similar roster to the one that posted a surprising 83-79 record in 2022. But as we’ve seen time and time again, development in baseball is not always linear. If you’re the O’s, you can’t simply sit back and expect progress from within to propel the team forward in 2023. Baltimore did sign veteran righty Kyle Gibson and second baseman Adam Frazier, but with all due respect to those players, neither moves the needle all that much. Burnes does. The 28-year-old, who is controllable through 2024, won the NL Cy Young Award in 2021 and has posted a 2.62 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and an 11.9 K/9 across 428 2/3 innings over the past three seasons. This is a steep price for the Orioles to pay, but we’re not asking them to part with any of their top three prospects -- Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez and Jackson Holliday.

From the Brewers’ perspective, it would be difficult to part with Burnes, but pitching development has been an organizational strength for Milwaukee. Drafting and developing position players has been a different story. This trade would give the Brewers two Top 100 position-player prospects who should be ready to contribute in 2023, as well as a 22-year-old lefty with upside and a back-end rotation piece for a pitcher who is going to be a free agent two years from now. And with Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer, Aaron Ashby and Adrian Houser remaining on the roster, the Brewers would still have the arms to contend in the NL Central next season.

Who says no? Of the two teams, the Orioles would be more likely to pass on this offer, if only because Burnes has just two years of control remaining and doesn’t perfectly align with the team’s perceived contention window.

-- Thomas Harrigan

Giants try to rebound with Kepler

Note: This Kepler proposal was published about 12 hours before the Giants reportedly came to terms with Michael Conforto, another left-handed hitting outfielder. A trade for Kepler -- or any other left-handed hitting outfielder -- is certainly less likely now, but it's clear the need for a player with this type of profile was there.

Giants get: OF Max Kepler
Twins get: C Adrian Sugastey (Giants' No. 19 prospect), RHP R.J. Dabovich (No. 20)

Kepler, obviously, is not Carlos Correa, and this isn’t the salve needed to soothe the hurt feelings that reside inside the organization and fanbase. However, even with Correa, the Giants would have had other holes to fill. Acquiring Kepler addresses one of those voids as it moves Joc Pederson to DH and gives San Francisco another quality outfielder to cover ground inside spacious Oracle Park. Kepler hit 36 homers and logged a 122 wRC+ in 2019. He has been a below-average offensive player through his past two injury-marred seasons (97 wRC+ in 2021; 95 wRC+ in 2022), but there is a very good hitter somewhere in this 29-year-old body. Kepler has improved his chase rate throughout his career. His strikeout rate is consistently below 20% while his walk rate has remained in double digits. Plus, his 93rd percentile ranking in max exit velocity this past year hints at the power Kepler still possesses.

Even if the Giants don’t fully know what they are getting from Kepler at the plate, there is no question he upgrades their outfield defense, which ranked 23rd last season with -18 Outs Above Average. He has plus reaction times and arm strength, and his 12 OAA led all right fielders in 2022. Since the start of '16, Kepler’s 60 OAA is tied for 13th among qualified players. While he can play some center field, Kepler is better off at a corner spot. The Giants already added a longtime right fielder this offseason in Mitch Haniger, so someone will have to shift over to left to make this work. But subtracting Pederson for Kepler in that expanse on a daily basis is a huge upgrade.

The Twins have been fielding calls on Kepler for a while, and now that they have added Joey Gallo to their glut of left-handed-hitting outfielders, the Germany native seems even more unlikely to return to Minnesota. He is under contract for $8.5 million in 2023 and carries a $10 million club option for '24. Kepler’s lack of production over the past two years should lower the price to obtain him, and he’s a much more viable option than someone such as the Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds for the Giants, whose farm system isn’t flush with high-end prospects. Dabovich is close to Major League-ready. The 6-foot-3 righty has powerful stuff but has yet to harness it consistently. The 20-year-old Sugastey is far from making any kind of MLB impact, but he gives the Twins their possible catcher of the future, something they don’t really have in their system right now.

Who says no? No one! OK, probably the Twins, but only because Kepler seems to be a popular commodity on the trade market. With no shortage of possible suitors, the Twins can hold onto Kepler until some team offers a more surefire return.

-- Brian Murphy