10 players who might be traded before Opening Day

March 11th, 2022

Now that the lockout is over and player movement is permitted again, the free-agent market could reach a fever pitch. But don’t sleep on the trade market.

With many talented free agents signing before the lockout, trades might be the best way for some teams to get what they need.

Here are 10 players who could find themselves on the move before Opening Day.

Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
One of the last remaining pieces of the Cubs’ 2016 World Series championship-winning team, Contreras could join Yu Darvish, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Craig Kimbrel on the list of stars Chicago has traded since the end of the 2020 season. With the free-agent catching market devoid of premium options, the Cubs could capitalize by dangling the 29-year-old Contreras, who has one season of team control remaining. Chicago has veteran Yan Gomes waiting in the wings to take the starting catcher job after signing him in December to a two-year, $13 million deal with a 2024 team option.

Josh Donaldson, 3B, Twins
Donaldson is 36 years old, missed 59 games over the past two seasons and has two years left on the four-year, $92 million contract he signed with the Twins after 2019, so he probably won’t have a long list of suitors. But when he’s healthy, the third baseman remains a superb hitter, not to mention a solid defender at the hot corner. Donaldson recorded 26 homers and a 127 OPS+ over 135 games in 2021, and he ranked in the 94th percentile or better in barrel rate, hard-hit rate, walk rate and average exit velocity.

Sonny Gray, RHP, Reds
Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle also drew trade interest before the lockout, but Gray remains the Cincinnati starter most likely to be dealt, considering he’s three years older than Castillo and five years older than Mahle. Gray, 32, has one year left on his four-year, $38 million contract, plus a $12 million club option in 2023. After a rough stint with the Yankees, he has posted a 136 ERA+ and a 28.5% strikeout rate in three seasons with the Reds.

Kevin Kiermaier, CF, Rays
Kiermaier is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, but the Rays could look to clear a spot in the outfield for No. 2 prospect Vidal Bruján or No. 4 prospect Josh Lowe by trading the three-time Gold Glove Award winner. The team owes Kiermaier nearly $15 million in guaranteed money, including his 2022 salary and the buyout on his $13 million team option for 2023. With Starling Marte off the market and Byron Buxton no longer a trade candidate after signing an extension with the Twins, Kiermaier could be a popular target for teams in need of a center fielder. The Rays would surely miss his glove, but either Manuel Margot or Brett Phillips would make for a capable defensive replacement.

Craig Kimbrel, RHP, White Sox
The White Sox acquired Kimbrel from their crosstown rivals last July and installed him in a setup role in front of closer Liam Hendriks, but the eight-time All-Star struggled after the trade. The White Sox nevertheless picked up his $16 million option for 2022, but general manager Rick Hahn made it clear in December that the team would be open to trading him. The free-agent market isn’t brimming with elite closing options after Raisel Iglesias and Mark Melancon signed with the Angels and D-backs, respectively, so Kimbrel could have more value to Chicago as a trade chip than as an eighth-inning reliever.

Ketel Marte, CF/2B, D-backs
Another center-field option, Marte isn’t anywhere close to the defensive player Kiermaier is, but he’s a much better hitter and also has experience in the infield. Although his power comes and goes, Marte has hit .318/.374/.543 (139 OPS+) since the beginning of 2019. It will take a lot to acquire him, but for the right offer, the rebuilding D-backs could consider moving the 28-year-old, who has one year left on his five-year, $24 million deal and can be retained via club options for $10 million in 2023 and $12 million in 2024.

Wil Myers, RF, Padres
The Padres were expected to be one of the best teams in MLB last season, but a second-half collapse left San Diego under .500 at 79-83, while the club exceeded the Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the first time in franchise history. The Padres replaced manager Jayce Tingler with Bob Melvin in November but otherwise stayed quiet prior to the lockout. President of baseball operations A.J. Preller could look to shed payroll in a trade to pave the way for a big splash before Opening Day, and Myers is the most likely trade candidate among the Friars’ higher-priced players. Trade rumors have swirled around the right-handed slugger for years, but with only one year left on his six-year, $83 million contract, he’s arguably more tradeable now than he’s been at any point since he signed the deal. Myers finished 2021 with 17 homers and a 113 OPS+.

Jeff McNeil, 2B/LF, Mets
The signings of Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha and the return of Robinson Canó from a full-season suspension gives new Mets manager Buck Showalter myriad options when filling out his daily lineup card and could make McNeil expendable. The 29-year-old struggled in 2021, but he was a .318 hitter with a 139 OPS+ across 2018-20 and has three years of control remaining, so the Mets should be able to find a solid trade market for him if it decides to shop him to address other roster weaknesses.

Matt Olson, 1B, Athletics
At the start of the offseason, the A’s reportedly were willing to listen to trade offers for some of their top players with the intention of trimming their payroll heading into 2022. Now that player movement is permitted again, we could see Oakland move forward with its plans. While third baseman Matt Chapman, left-hander Sean Manaea and right-hander Chris Bassitt could also be available, Olson is the team’s most valuable trade asset after hitting .271/.371/.540 with 39 homers in 2021. He’d be a nice fallback option for the teams that miss out on free agent Freddie Freeman.

Luke Voit, 1B, Yankees
The Yankees tendered a contract to Voit for 2022, but that doesn’t mean the 2020 MLB home run champion will be wearing pinstripes on Opening Day. Voit isn’t a strong defender at first base and his offensive skill set is redundant on a New York roster that isn’t lacking for right-handed power. He’s also had trouble staying healthy and is heading into his age-31 season. The Yanks are expected to look for an upgrade, with Freeman, Olson and Anthony Rizzo among the potential options.