Winter Meetings wish list: FA, trade targets

December 10th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Shohei Ohtani is the first Japanese star to join the Angels in his prime, instantly transforming the franchise into a global brand while upgrading the rotation and lineup in a single move. , the best baseball player on the planet, has reason to believe his team can win the World Series.
, whose longing for championship contention and mass-market stardom went largely unrequited in Miami, is about to don one of the most famous sports uniforms in the world. With , Stanton could join Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle as the only Major League teammates to each hit 50 or more home runs in the same season.
The whirlwind 24 hours left the industry gobsmacked. Legions of weary baseball professionals will shuffle toward airport check-in counters this weekend, wondering if the Winter Meetings' main menu can match the mind-boggling hors d'oeuvres.
The answer: Absolutely.
Although Ohtani and Stanton are the unquestioned stars of this winter's Hot Stove, they've shown their peers the courtesy of ceding center stage before the Meetings commence. With power brokers, deal-makers and the hardball punditry all under one roof, the moment is ripe for major moves to unravel, each one linked to the other.
Here are the key free agents and trade candidates to watch over the coming week.
Free agents
J.D. Martinez, OF: With Stanton off the market, Martinez is the top power hitter available via free agency or trade. He hit 45 home runs this year, trailing only Stanton and Judge among all Major Leaguers. Martinez ranks third among all MLB outfielders in adjusted OPS over the past four years, behind Trout and Stanton. And thanks to a July trade to Arizona, he's familiar with the pitching in both leagues.
Likely suitors: The Red Sox and Giants.
While Martinez's outfield defense improved with Arizona due to better positioning, he is probably a better long-term fit for the American League. Boston needs power, after finishing at the bottom of the AL in home runs for only the second time since 1934. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski knows Martinez well from their time with Detroit. The Giants, rebuffed by Stanton, have an even greater need to add offense.

Mike Moustakas, 3B: Agent Scott Boras is adept at basing the valuation of a free agent on his unique production at the position, and Moustakas has given him plenty of material: His 38 home runs were the most of any full-time third baseman in the Majors this year, and he did so in his age-28 season. While Moustakas is older than Manny Machado and , who will become free agents in the near future, he is younger than trade candidates and Josh Donaldson.
Likely suitors: The Angels and Giants.
Ohtani was the perfect addition in so many ways, one of which was the minimal acquisition cost. Ohtani's presence doesn't preclude Angels general manager Billy Eppler from signing Moustakas; if anything, the circumstances make the move more logical. While Ohtani wields a powerful left-handed bat, he can't be an everyday presence there because of pitching obligations. Moustakas has no such limitation and would be a significant upgrade over incumbent . The Giants, desperate to add power and without a concrete plan at third base, are another possible fit.

, RHP: To many baseball observers, 's postseason struggles solidified Arrieta's place as the top free-agent pitcher this offseason -- at least, with the exception of Ohtani. While Arrieta's Fielding Independent Pitching has declined in each of the past three seasons, his 2.71 ERA since 2015 is second only to among MLB pitchers who've thrown 500 innings or more in that span.
Likely suitors: The Brewers and Twins.
Milwaukee's robust fan support has sustained $100 million payrolls in the past, and a general lack of onerous contracts means GM David Stearns can spend strategically. Arrieta would fill the rotation spot once occupied by the injured Jimmy Nelson -- and remove a former Cy Young Award winner from the division-rival Cubs. The Twins, meanwhile, are encouraged by this year's Wild Card berth and realize they are one quality starter away from more seriously challenging the Indians.

, 1B: It's odd to hear analysts suggest Hosmer's value is based largely on intangibles. He may not be a prototypical slugging first baseman, but the numbers are there: He posted a career-best .882 OPS this year and hit 25 home runs in each of the past two seasons, to go along with the elite defense for which he's best known. And, yes, Hosmer's magnetic personality and winning reputation will matter to teams that are increasingly aware of the impact that clubhouse culture has on winning.
Likely suitors: The Cardinals and Red Sox.
Infield defense has been a concern for St. Louis for far too long. Hosmer is a four-time Gold Glove winner whose range and wingspan have improved the play of Royals teammates throughout his career. Based on the money they had earmarked for a potential Stanton acquisition, the Cardinals have plenty of resources to sign Hosmer and make one or two more major moves. The Red Sox may be the best fit of all, if they are unable to land Martinez.

, closer: One year after , and took turns setting records for closer contracts, Davis awaits his payday. Davis's FIP over the past four seasons was slightly better than that of Melancon's during a similar span before he signed with the Giants for $62 million over four years. Davis is likely seeking a similar package.
Likely suitors: The Rockies and Cardinals.
Even with a youthful rotation, Colorado must maximize its opportunity to win now. Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu are eligible for free agency after the upcoming season, and Arenado the year after that. With Greg Holland, Pat Neshek and Jake McGee all free agents now, the Rockies must rebuild a bullpen that helped them navigate often-frenetic games at Coors Field in 2017. The Cardinals have been active on the trade market for closers -- Tampa Bay's Alex Colome, most notably -- but they could apply some of their Stanton money to Davis, as well.

Trade candidates
, OF, Pirates: Turns out, the chances of a McCutchen trade were overhyped last offseason and under-hyped this time. That should change, now that the Stanton agreement has opened up bandwidth for chatter across the industry. McCutchen, 31, is coming off a quietly strong season in which he posted an .849 OPS, and Pirates officials have done little to downplay reports that he is available on the trade market.
Likely suitors: After their tedious and ultimately unfulfilling courtship of Stanton, the Giants would welcome a simpler trade negotiation. Enter McCutchen, who is signed for one more season at $14.5 million and does not have a no-trade clause. San Francisco's outfield situation is so fluid that the uncertainty over McCutchen's optimal role -- center field or a corner -- is not problematic. One word of caution: McCutchen's .818 OPS at AT&T Park, albeit in only 120 plate appearances, is below his overall career mark. The Blue Jays have had interest in McCutchen previously and remain a good fit, especially given the organization's short-term focus.

, OF, Marlins: The Marlins will save money by trading Stanton to the Yankees, but they have yet to restock their depleted farm system -- the other half of their offseason checklist. They should be able to achieve that by moving Yelich, who's proven that he can hit 20-plus home runs while playing a smooth center field. He's under control through 2022 on a very reasonable contract.
Likely suitors: The Giants and Cardinals, naturally. The Marlins had extensive talks with both clubs regarding Stanton, and so it shouldn't be too challenging to resume the conversations -- if that hasn't happened already. St. Louis has the top-level pitching prospects Miami needs.

Chris Archer, RHP, Rays: Archer is a prime change-of-scenery candidate. His ERA has surpassed 4.00 in each of the past two seasons, but his FIP suggests he's been unlucky. And Archer has demonstrated his durability as one of only five MLB pitchers to surpass 200 innings in each of the past three seasons. His performance likely would improve away from the AL East.
Likely suitors: The Cubs are a natural fit, given Archer's familiarity with new Chicago pitching coach Jim Hickey. But if the Cubs address their rotation need by signing Alex Cobb, then the Twins could emerge as a top suitor for Archer. As long as the prospect price isn't too steep, the Twins would rather have Archer on a club-friendly deal through 2021 than pay the market price for Arrieta or Darvish.

Longoria, 3B, Rays, and Machado, 3B, Orioles: The attainability of Longoria and Machado will be a key storyline early in the Winter Meetings. The Orioles have had preliminary dialogue with teams on Machado, but their true motivation to move him remains unknown, entering the final year of contracts for executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter, center fielder and Machado himself. Longoria is more readily available than Machado, given the Rays' economic circumstances. Longoria's reliability is one key attribute: He has played 798 games over the past five seasons, the most in the Majors during that span.
Likely suitors: The Cardinals and Giants. Sense a theme? Both teams could upgrade at third base, for many of the same reasons they pursued Stanton. (The Cards and Rays have been engaged in talks on Colome, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they reached a larger deal that involved Longoria, too.) The Phillies also are a fit for Machado or Longoria, because they possess the most flexible payroll of any MLB team and are ready to begin adding veteran talent.

, 2B, Tigers: Detroit remains in the early stages of its rebuild, with burdensome contracts still weighing down the payroll. Kinsler, though, is priced to move. He has only one year and $11 million left on his contract. And while Kinsler does have a no-trade clause that permits him to block deals to 10 teams, he'd likely welcome the opportunity to play on a contender at age 35.
Likely suitors: The Mets have shown interest in Kinsler, who would bring much-needed experience to an infield that could include shortstop and first baseman . The Angels and Brewers reportedly have pursued trades for Kinsler in the past, but it's not clear if either team is actively discussing proposals with the Tigers now.