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Sense of rumor: Top trade target list no joke

December 19, 2017

There are plenty of top free agents still available, but that's not the only way teams can make key additions in preparation for 2018. There's also the trade market, which has seen plenty of action this Hot Stove season, and it could see plenty more as the offseason continues.Some huge

There are plenty of top free agents still available, but that's not the only way teams can make key additions in preparation for 2018. There's also the trade market, which has seen plenty of action this Hot Stove season, and it could see plenty more as the offseason continues.
Some huge dominoes have already fallen. The Marlins have traded Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon. Ian Kinsler was traded to the Angels. The Braves and Dodgers swapped Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez (among others), then Gonzalez was released.
There are many more big names out there, players who could make a difference for a club next season. As the rumors build, MLB.com has put together an "All-Trade-Rumor Team," one position at a time, with key players coming up in talks this winter.
C: J.T. Realmuto, Marlins
Could Realmuto be the next player traded from the Marlins? He doesn't want to be the last core player left on a rebuilding team, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, and his representatives recently spoke with the team about its direction. However, the Marlins aren't actively shopping their 26-year-old backstop at this time.
If they were willing to trade Realmuto, it would likely take a lot to pry him away from Miami -- Realmuto is young, talented and under team control until 2021. This past season, he hit .278/.332/.451 with 17 home runs, and behind the plate, he posted some of the best Statcast-tracked pop times on stolen-base attempts of any catcher.
Buzz factor: It's tempered for the time being. Realmuto might prefer to avoid a full-scale rebuild, but the Marlins don't seem to have much reason to trade him at this point, unless a great deal falls in their lap.

1B: Jose Abreu, White Sox
The biggest first-base name in the rumor mill currently is Eric Hosmer, but he's a free agent. As far as trade targets go, the position's been a lot quieter. Abreu's name has been floated since early in the offseason as someone drawing interest from multiple teams, but MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal has reported the White Sox are unlikely to trade him.
Not only that, but the big rumored Abreu suitor was the Red Sox, and they just re-signed Mitch Moreland to a two-year deal, which would seem to make a move for someone like Abreu or Hosmer much less likely. It's still possible Boston makes a move for a big bat, but they'd have to fit him into a crowded roster.
Buzz factor: The Abreu buzz was stronger in late November and early December, but it's cooled off now. Still, the 30-year-old slugger would be an attractive option for any team -- Abreu isn't a free agent until 2020, and he's coming off a year in which he hit .304/.354/.552 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs.
2B: Jason Kipnis, Indians
Kipnis was first linked to the Mets a while ago, but the trade rumors haven't really subsided. In fact, they've recently picked up, with the Tigers trading Kinsler to the Angels. The Mets had extensive talks with Detroit about Kinsler, so now that he's off the table, they have to turn elsewhere to address their second-base need.
According to SB Nation's Chris Cotillo, the Mets have had "serious talks" with the Tribe about Kipnis, who had an injury-shortened 2017, but returned by the playoffs and played center field against the Yankees in the American League Division Series. The 30-year-old is a two-time All-Star and would make plenty of sense for the Mets, while he may be without a defined position in Cleveland if Jose Ramirez remains at second.
Buzz factor: Moderate. While Kipnis is a fit for the Mets, and a trade is certainly possible (to New York or elsewhere), there are also mitigating factors. The New York Post's Ken Davidoff has reported that Carlos Santana's signing with the Phillies could make the Indians less inclined to move Kipnis, a key hitter in their lineup. Additionally, the Mets don't have a ton of high-value trade chips in their farm system.
3B: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
Talk has picked up around the possibility of the Cardinals swinging a trade for Donaldson, Toronto's star third baseman, who hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs in 2017. Rosenthal has reported that St. Louis is pushing for Donaldson, but it would require quite a haul to convince the Blue Jays to move the 2015 AL Most Valuable Player.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel, the Cardinals would likely have to send two Major Leaguers, such as a third baseman and starting pitcher, as well as a prospect, to potentially get Donaldson.
Buzz factor: The Donaldson buzz is moderate for now. It's unclear if the Blue Jays are actually willing to trade him, and the fact that he could be a rental, as he's set to become a free agent following 2018. But if Toronto can't work out an extension with the 32-year-old, a trade starts to make a lot more sense. And the Cardinals could have the necessary pieces, with position players like Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko and a deep pitching rotation.

SS: Manny Machado, Orioles
It's cheating a little to put both Donaldson and Machado in here, but hey, Machado's played some shortstop, too. Teams are sending Baltimore trade proposals for the star infielder, and Rosenthal reported that those offers improved over the weekend and the O's will likely make a decision on whether to trade him or not soon.
The White Sox, Cardinals, Giants, Red Sox, Yankees and D-backs are all among teams who have been reported to be in the mix for Machado, who eclipsed the 30-homer mark for a third straight season with 33 in 2017. He's only 25, he's an offensive and defensive stud and he's set to become a free agent next offseason, so this could be the Orioles' best shot to get a good return for him.
Buzz factor: High. Rumors surrounding Machado started to fly during the Winter Meetings, and they haven't stopped yet. It could cool down if the Orioles decide they don't want to part with Machado after all, or if teams find the asking price too high without knowing if Machado would agree to sign an extension with them. Baltimore is reportedly asking for two controllable, Major League-ready starting pitchers in a prospective Machado deal. We'll see if any team has what it takes to get a deal done.
OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
The Giants are in clear need of an outfielder, and they missed out on Stanton. McCutchen is another option who they've been linked to this offseason -- although there hasn't been much in the way of rumors recently. McCutchen is entering the last year of his contract, coming off a 2017 season in which he hit .279/.363/.486 with 28 homers and 88 RBIs.
The 31-year-old's tenure in Pittsburgh could be up even before that if the Pirates can work out a beneficial trade. McCutchen came close to being traded last offseason; maybe this will be the year.
Buzz factor: It's low, but it's there. The Giants have outfield prospect Steven Duggar waiting in the wings, but McCutchen would make sense for the time being, especially if the team expects to vault back into playoff contention in 2018.

OF: Billy Hamilton, Reds
Hamilton is another potential Giants trade target, and he'd be something to watch patrolling the cavernous center field at AT&T Park. The Blue Jays have also checked in with the Reds about their speedy center fielder, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith. In fact, Hamilton seems to have generated interest from many teams during the Winter Meetings.
San Francisco was at the forefront of Hamilton rumors; however, talks between the two teams have stalled because the Giants don't want to include 18-year-old outfield prospect Heliot Ramos in a deal. According to The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly, though, the Giants haven't given up on acquiring Hamilton, who stole a career-high 59 bases in 2017, his fourth straight 50-steal season.
Buzz factor: Tempered, but reasonable. Hamilton to the Giants would be a good match -- he could cover a lot of ground in the outfield in San Francisco, and if he hit a ball into the gaps or off the high wall in right field, he'd be a thrill to watch run around the bases. But the two teams would have to find common ground to make a trade happen. Or another club could enter the picture and swing a deal for Hamilton.
OF: Christian Yelich, Marlins
Yelich could be the real prize to acquire from the Marlins, but he'd likely take a king's ransom to land. Yelich hit .282/.369/.439 with 18 homers and 81 RBIs in 2017, he's a rising star at age 26 who plays a premium position in center field and he's under team control on an affordable contract until at least 2021 (with a club option for '22).
Like Realmuto, Yelich is set to meet with the Marlins to discuss the team's direction, and if they decided to make him available, he would command serious interest. Multiple teams, like the Padres, have already reportedly shown interest in Yelich -- but according to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, if Yelich is to be in play, the price would be even higher than for Stanton or Ozuna.
Buzz factor: Subdued for now, but with the potential to shoot up to red-hot depending on the Marlins' direction for the rest of the offseason. Yelich's friendly contract and sky-high potential would make him an ideal target for many teams, if he can be had.
SP: Gerrit Cole, Pirates
The Pirates' flamethrowing staff ace has been linked to the Yankees several times this week. New York just re-signed Carsten Sabathia to shore up the back end of its starting rotation, but adding a pitcher like Cole would cement the Yankees' staff as one of the most fearsome in baseball.
They already have Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray fronting the rotation, but their mix of pitchers like Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery and Chad Green at the back end certainly leaves room for Cole, especially because they missed out on Shohei Ohtani. The 27-year-old Cole made 33 starts for the Pirates in 2017, going 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 203 innings.
Buzz factor: Medium. The Yankees and Pirates are a good fit, if they can agree on a price. The two teams have discussed a trade for Cole that would involve highly touted Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier, according to multiple reports, but according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Pittsburgh is pushing for shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, the crown jewel of the Yankees' farm system and baseball's No. 2 overall prospect, per MLBPipeline.com. That might be too much, but a deal centered on Frazier could happen, especially with the Yankees' outfield now crowded after their trade for Stanton. The Pirates are also said to want a young starting pitcher who's close to MLB-ready; the Yankees have pitchers like that, for example, Chance Adams.

RP: Alex Colome, Rays
The free-agent relief market has been hot, with many top bullpen arms signing by the end of the Winter Meetings. Big names like Wade Davis and Greg Holland are also still available. The trade market for relievers hasn't been as strong, but Colome is one name who has come up in connection with multiple teams.
The Cardinals and Rockies have been reported as actively pursuing the 28-year-old closer, who led the Major Leagues with 47 saves last season and is not set to become a free agent until 2021. The Mets are also reportedly interested, and the Cubs might be too, with Davis now a free agent.
Buzz factor: This one's a medium, too. There hasn't been a ton of new buzz around Colome since the Winter Meetings, and there are still some high-end free-agent relief options out there, but it's easy to envision a trade for Colome getting done. Plenty of teams still need bullpen help -- really, teams always do. Colome is a young, upper-tier closer under team control, and the Rays are a franchise that's always been willing to make a deal when the opportunity arises. Colome will certainly be a name to monitor moving forward this winter.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.