The free-agent market isn't the only one with a lot of intrigue entering the New Year. There are a lot of big names that still could be moved via trade, even as the baseball world waits on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado's free-agent decisions.
MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal explored the key remaining trade candidates in a segment on MLB Network's "Hot Stove" on Wednesday. Rosenthal broke down who he thinks are the top targets as the 2019 season draws closer -- although he also notes that "there could be bigger trades to come that we don't even anticipate."
• 2018-19 MLB free-agent and trade rumors
Here are Rosenthal's top 5 trade candidates:
5. Sonny Gray, Yankees
Gray has been in the trade rumor mill since the beginning of the offseason -- Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has gone on record saying that the team is trying to trade Gray before the season starts, making the case that the right-hander has a better chance to succeed somewhere outside New York. That made Gray an easy pick for Rosenthal's list.
"A little bit of a surprise that he hasn't moved yet," Rosenthal said. "But given the starting pitching market from a free-agent standpoint, perhaps the Yankees are still waiting for teams to make their best offers as those teams remain active in free agency."
Gray could be a perfect change-of-scenery candidate, as MLB.com's Mike Petriello wrote earlier this offseason. He's been most recently been linked to the Brewers -- a source told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi last week that Milwaukee remained "prominent" in Gray talks with the Yankees. The Reds had previously been linked to Gray, but Morosi noted that they've "faded" after trading for Alex Wood and Tanner Roark. The Yankees also seem to have a high asking price for Gray, as the New York Post's George A. King III reported during the Winter Meetings.
4. Edwin Encarnacion, Mariners
Encarnacion has already been traded once this offseason, going from the Indians to the Mariners in a three-team December deal. But that destination, Seattle, only makes it more likely that the veteran slugger will be moved again, given the Mariners' rebuild.
"He's going to go, like Gray," Rosenthal said. "I can't say that with the same amount of certainty, perhaps, but the Mariners' intentions certainly seem clear."
The potential stumbling block, according to Rosenthal, is Encarnacion's relative decline in production over the past few seasons. He's remained a dangerous power hitter -- Encarnacion hit .246/.336/.474 with 32 home runs for the Tribe last season -- but he's about to turn 36, and his numbers aren't quite at the gaudy level they were in Toronto.
There might be limited demand for an aging, designated-hitter-only slugger, despite Encarnacion's availability. But there are some teams who do need that type of player: The Astros, who missed out on Nelson Cruz to the Twins, come to mind.
3. Robbie Ray, D-backs
The D-backs have already traded Paul Goldschmidt. Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals in free agency, and A.J. Pollock could follow him out of Arizona. Ray might be the D-backs' most valuable remaining asset, and he's started to pop up in trade rumors.
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported last week that Arizona has been getting calls about the 27-year-old left-hander, and that the Astros and Phillies in particular were "very interested." Ray had a 3.93 ERA in 24 starts for the D-backs last year, with 165 strikeouts in 123 2/3 innings.
"For Ray, they would want a high price," Rosenthal said. "He's had some injury problems, so that might diminish what teams think of him somewhat, but here's a guy who's very talented."
Ray is also a young, controllable asset -- he's arbitration-eligible for two more seasons before hitting free agency after the 2020 season -- and that, according to Rosenthal, makes it unclear if the D-backs will feel a need to trade him. They would prefer to move Zack Greinke, who is older and signed to a big contract … but Greinke would be harder to trade than Ray for those same reasons.
2. Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, Indians These two are probably the best starting pitchers who might be available -- they're just two of the best starters in all of baseball. So if the Indians are open to moving either of them, as they seem to be, they could get a nice haul.
Both Kluber and Bauer have been mentioned as trade candidates throughout the offseason. Kluber's been in the rumor mill more recently, with the Dodgers and Padres among the top suitors, and clubs like the Phillies, Brewers and Reds also interested, as Morosi reported. But the Indians could also end up holding onto their top duo as they look to remain atop the American League Central.
"The Indians have entertained offers all offseason; they've entertained offers in the past. They have yet to do anything," Rosenthal said. "And this offseason, they've also cleared a good amount of money ... so now they have a bit more financial flexibility if they want to go into the season with both Kluber and Bauer."
1. J.T. Realmuto, Marlins
Maybe the hottest name on the trade market all offseason has yet to be moved. But Rosenthal thinks that "the time for the Marlins to act is now," if they want to maximize their return for one of the top catchers in baseball.
"This is no secret," Rosenthal said. "This is a guy who has to be traded, and yet has not been traded yet: J.T. Realmuto. People will wonder, 'What is going on here? Why haven't they done this yet?' And it's a good question. Because it's hard to imagine Realmuto's value being any higher."
• Latest Realmuto trade rumors
Realmuto is 27, under control for two more seasons and coming off an All-Star year in which he hit .277/.340/.484 with 21 homers while also having one of the best arms in the Majors behind the plate. For those reasons, though, Miami's asking price for Realmuto has been very high, and they haven't budged on it. But Rosenthal thinks making a deal now is likely a better option than holding onto Realmuto in hopes of trading him to a contender closer to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"You're entertaining, at that point, the risk of injury," Rosenthal said. "You're also thinking a team is going to have an obvious need, and a team is going to be willing to give up the kind of pieces that the Marlins are seeking -- and those are Major League pieces. Teams generally don't want to do that during the regular season."