Major League Baseball is one of the few sports in which there’s always a blockbuster trade waiting around the corner. Last year, we experienced one of the most exciting trade deadlines in the last 10 years with an unbelievable shift in league talent. It was clearly a buyer's market, which resulted in some of the league's top names finding homes at a cheap price, as well as an extremely exciting postseason. Last year's trade deadline circus directly contributed to the 2016 World Series matchup, helping the Cubs and Indians find their X-factors in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. The Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers were also able to beef up their lineups and immediately become contenders. However, other teams weren't as lucky. The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros started gaining steam, yet failed to make anything happen, and suffered as a result.
Free agency and the offseason are nothing short of unpredictable. For some perspective, Aroldis Chapman returning to the New York Yankees and signing the largest relief pitcher free-agent contract in history was nothing short of shocking. The Boston Red Sox have become a super team by acquiring former Chicago White Sox ace, Chris Sale. The Cleveland Indians proved they are still serious about winning by signing slugger Edwin Encarnacion. So now one can only wonder, what is going to happen next?
It's a fact of life that may you end up where you don't want to, and the same goes for professional athletes. Some players just get the short end of the stick, and must consider all options before their career vanishes before their eyes. Here are 15 MLB players who NEED to change teams this season.
15 Ryan Braun
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder, Ryan Braun, is coming off his best season in the past few years and has gained attention from teams around the league. It's hard to pinpoint Braun's role in Milwaukee, a club with no definitive direction for the past few years. Although Braun's hefty contract and injury-prone past may scare away some teams, his recent numbers might just be enough to get him a ticket out of Milwaukee. In 2016, Braun hit .305 with 30 home runs and 91 RBIs, not bad for the 5-time Silver Slugger.
With four years and $76 million left on his contract, the Brewers may be hesitant to part with Braun unless they get the perfect trade. Trading Jonathan Lucroy to the Rangers proved that a rebuilding Milwaukee can be swayed for the right price, particularly for a large prospect haul. But a 33-year-old with a large contract doesn't really fit into the rebuilding narrative. Come the trade deadline, Braun will definitely be on some GM's minds.
14 Joey Votto
It's no surprise that Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto is one of the most unfortunate players in the MLB. He's been one of baseball's elite players for a while, with a career batting average of .313 over ten seasons. However, the spotty play of the Reds has resulted in only three winning seasons of the last ten. This has certainly held Votto back from postseason appearances and a shot at a World Series. He should only be as lucky as former teammate Jay Bruce, who was traded the Mets last year. Votto's only problem: his contract.
Votto is under Cincinnati control until 2024, and will earn $22 million in 2017. This unfriendly contract is a nightmare for most teams. On the other side, his numbers are also way too friendly too overlook. In 2016, Votto hit .326 with 29 home runs and 97 RBI's. It may be a long shot, but the Boston Red Sox are looking to fill the void of David Ortiz's production last season due to his retirement. Votto would be the ideal fit, and would most certainly help carry Boston to the ALCS.
13 Jake Arrieta
Jake Arrieta's future as a Chicago Cub grows dimmer and dimmer everyday. The Cub's ace will be a free agent in 2018, making a contract extension an extremely tricky situation for GM Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein. Due to Epstein's genius, the Cubs won a World Series with some of the cheapest talent in the league. But as Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, and Kyle Schwarber's contracts come to end, the Cubs front office will have to decide to invest in a proven Cy Young winner, or keep the young talent they have developed thus far.
Arrieta will most likely test out free agency and walk out with a ridiculous contract. So many teams are in desperate need for starting pitching, and Arrieta is going to command the entire market. Possible homes for Arrieta could be the Dodgers, Angels, Orioles, or even the Yankees.
12 Bryce Harper
The Washington Nationals are one of the most confusing teams in the MLB right now. They have an extremely talented core supported by an outstanding pitching staff, yet they cannot seem to make serious postseason noise. Whenever the Nats take a step forward, they take two steps back. After signing slugger Daniel Murphy, they had an opportunity to go after some big names at the trade deadline and blew it. Washington has never gone all-in on one season and that is why they will lose Bryce Harper.
After having a tremendous season in 2015, Harper slumped in 2016 only hitting a measly .243 with 24 home runs. However, Harper hasn't lost any worth due to his cannon of an arm and solid defensive play. He is still one of the best outfielders in the league which is why he will test free agency come 2019, or earlier depending on arbitration. Although the Nationals have some of the league's best talent on both sides of the ball, they still haven't found the recipe to win. Don't be surprised if you see Bryce Harper in a Yankees uniform sometime in the near future.
11 Carlos Gonzalez
It's time to say goodbye to the Colorado Rockies for star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. The stagnant Rockies have not had a winning season in six years, yet CarGo just capped off a tremendous season in 2016 hitting .298 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI's. Gonzalez is simply being wasted in Colorado and needs to break away if he wants to return to the playoffs.
Gonzalez has one year left on his contract and will definitely test out free agency. There is a huge market for outfielders with big bats, so CarGo's trade stock is currently through the roof. If Colorado is struggling around July, they will have no choice but to shop Gonzalez. The Rockies need pitchers and depth, so Gonzalez may find himself on a contender as soon as playoffs roll around.
10 Andrew McCutchen
Every year the same conversation goes around about McCutchen's future in Pittsburgh, and every year nothing happens. It's hard to imagine McCutchen in anything but a Pirates uniform, but it needs to happen. The Pirates are struggling to find their niche in an incredibly talented NL central, and an even more competitive National League. No one knows how long the Pirates will be floating in limbo, and McCutchen doesn't have the time to wait. At 30 years old, he's coming off the worst season of career thus far, hitting .256 with 24 home runs.
It's now or never for the aging McCutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates, as his contract expires in 2018. Unless the Pirates prove to have working plan for the future, McCutchen may be on his way out. Pirates GM Neal Huntington will have to make a big decision to either keep McCutchen or go after the starting pitcher his club so desperately needs. Although McCutchen's friendly contract shouldn't make that too difficult.
9 Brian Dozier
It's no secret that Brian Dozier is one of best second basemen in baseball. It's also no secret that the Minnesota Twins stink. Dozier had an incredible year in 2016, belting 42 home runs setting the American League record for second basemen, combined with 99 RBI's and 18 stolen bases. Second basemen that can rake are extremely hard to come by, and the rebuilding Twins should look to move Dozier while his value is accelerating.
Dozier's contract is almost laughable, as he will make $15 million over the next two years. With such a cheap contract, Dozier is going to have other GM's fan-girling over him all season. However, Minnesota might not be so keen to trade away their only proven asset. Dozier is the only thing keeping the sinking Twins afloat, and he may be stuck in Minneapolis for all eternity.
8 Eric Hosmer
After back-to-back World Series Appearances, the Kansas City Royals proved that they had one of the most elite rosters in baseball. That momentum began to dwindle following a series of ups and downs in 2016. Although they are still a contending club, many contracts will be expiring which will create an interesting situation. Four of Kansas City's most important players will be free agents, one of which is young first basemen Eric Hosmer.
The Royals are by no means a "big market" team and it seems as if 2014 and 2016 were a stroke of luck. After dishing out a huge contract to Alex Gordon the Royals have almost no money to play with. With that being said, 2017 might be the final hoorah for this former world champion squad.
2016 All-Star Game MVP Eric Hosmer absolutely needs to flee Kansas City while he still can. The Royals are neck deep in infield prospects which may put Hosmer on the chopping block early. This may be a good thing for the young slugger after launching 25 home runs and 104 RBI's in 2016. Free agency is always kind to numbers like that.
7 Todd Frazier
Chicago White Sox third basemen Todd Frazier will most likely find himself in a new uniform sometime this season. White Sox GM Rick Hahn has made it very clear that no one is safe from the rebuild after trading ace Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton. Frazier is one of few players left on the roster that can command some trade value, and Hahn will not let him go to waste.
Frazier struggled throughout 2016, hitting .225 and striking out a whopping 163 times. Normally, those brutal numbers would scare away any possible suitors, but Todd's career-high 40 home runs may sway some GM's on the fence. The White Sox have committed to the rebuild, so Frazier and any other players over 30 years old should be on their way out. Despite a horrible 2016, Todd may be able to turn things around with another club.
6 Sonny Gray
Despite his recent numbers, Sonny Gray is one of the brightest young pitchers in the game. He has exceptional stuff paired with huge upside potential. His only problem is an injury-filled 2016 season. Given the proper run support and defense behind him, Gray can be an elite pitcher. There have been talks of a possible trade involving Gray for almost a year, but the A's have remained confident that success will return once their minor league prospects develop. However, this is a slim chance because the A's only have one prospect in the league's top 50. Gray needs to leave Oakland to save his career.
Whether the A's would like to admit it or not, there will be a time when Gray's trade value will exceed his value in Oakland. If he starts off this season strong, he will be on every team's radar at the deadline. There are many teams that will need to add a pitcher to contend such as Houston or Baltimore. Gray's best bet is to escape Oakland as soon as possible.
5 Kyle Schwarber
Chicago Cubs phenom Kyle Schwarber undoubtedly needs to part ways with the World Series Champions. Schwarber is one of the most explosive bats among the league's young players, as witnessed in the World Series after he missed the entire 2016 season. The fact of the matter is, the Cubs don't need him. What a wonderful problem to have, right?
With or without Schwarber, the Cubs are the best team in baseball. Their roster is so deep that parting ways with Schwarber would actually play to their advantage. The 23-year-old outfielder/catcher is a defensive liability and would fit in exceptionally as a DH in the American League. The Cubs need to move Schwarber before his contract expires, and nab a reliever or catcher in return to make their lineup truly unstoppable.
4 Yasiel Puig
Puig's departure from Los Angeles has been LONG overdue. The former All-Star's career has been a series of dramatic ups and downs, due to Puig's immature behavior. However, Dodger's way of handling Puig hasn't been ideal either. So despite Puig's attitude towards his teammates and the game of baseball itself, he is still young and talented enough to bounce back.
Under the proper discipline and leadership of a new franchise, it's not wishful thinking that Puig can still recover from such a troubled past. For a contending Los Angeles team, it is now or never to go all in. Puig's bitter resentment and struggles at the plate have no business on a team that is trying to win a World Series. No contending team in their right mind would go after Puig, but there may be a team out there willing to gamble.
3 Chris Archer
Tampa Bay Rays young pitcher Chris Archer has been the focal point of trade talks this offseason. Archer and the struggling Rays haven't been able to figure out how to rekindle the success they had from 2008-2013. It may be time for the Ray's to consider their options as other teams have their eyes on Tampa Bay's young pitching talent. Archer had a rough time in 2016, going 9-19 with an ERA of 4.02.
Despite his struggle last season, Archer still commands decent upside and will likely attract some attention at the deadline. The Rays added rotation depth by acquiring young pitcher Jose De Leon from the Dodgers, so given the proper deal the Rays could afford to trade Archer. He may find himself as a useful arm on contending team such as Houston, Miami, or Texas.
2 David Robertson
White Sox closer David Robertson may find his talents useless on the rebuilding south side. In 2016, Robertson saw his numbers take a slight downhill spiral as the White Sox were one of the league's late-inning teams. However, Robertson is still a top ten closer and should be viewed as such. He may not be the best arm on the market, but he is certainly the cheapest, and also reliable.
In typical Washington Nationals fashion, they missed the bus on adding an elite late-inning man such as Aroldis Chapman ,Wade Davis or even Greg Holland. Enter David Robertson, the perfect fallback option for Washington. I'm not sure the Nationals know what the phrase "pull the trigger" means, but if they do, they need claim Robertson. He could be just what they need to make some serious noise in the playoffs.
1 Jose Quintana
The Chicago White Sox wasted some of Chris Sale's best years, and most certainly will waste Jose Quintana's if they fail to trade him. Jose Quintana is one of the League's best pitchers in terms of WAR (wins above replacement), yet he is one of the most forgotten pitchers in baseball. It's a strange phenomenon, but Quintana is one of baseball's unluckiest pitchers when it comes to no-decisions. Of 151 career starts, Quintana only has 92 decisions in which his record is 46-46. Such odd win-loss numbers have rendered him almost forgotten and underappreciated, even though he was named an All-Star in 2016.
Simply put, the White Sox are destroying Quintana's career. Even the most diehard White Sox fans want to see him traded simply for his own sake. He is currently one of the best pitchers available and many experts are shocked he hasn't been dealt yet. With so many clubs desperate for an All-Star pitcher at such a cheap price, Quintana will likely be gone within the blink of an eye.
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