With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training this week, it's truly the best time for baseball fans as the 2017 season is upon us.
With the offseason in the rearview mirror and most of the big-name free agents off of the board, the roster that your favorite team has will by and large be the same as it will be come Opening Day.
But as the 2017 season transitions from Spring to Summer, a lot of things can change.
Teams that were believed to be contenders could falter, making the organization want to trade some of their bigger names. On the flipside, fringe contenders could perform at a higher level than they believed they could, which could make them trade away young players for a talent that can be the final piece between a first-round exit and a World Series Trophy. The Cubs' window to win is right now and after losing some big names in free agency like Aroldis Chapman and Dexter Fowler, as well as losing David Ross to retirement. You have to wonder if they'll look to make a big move by the summer to go for a repeat.
The season will be interesting as it is — but trades could make it even better. Let's take a look at 15 trades that could very well happen this season.
15 Brandon Finnegan to the New York Yankees
Heading into 2017, the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds couldn't be further apart. On one hand, the Bronx Bombers are seeing their young prospects manefest at the big league level, and title contention is in their very near future. On the other, the Reds continue to flounder as they look towards a full scale rebuild. While one would think Finnegan is a part of said rebuild, the Yankees have the prospects to get him — and the Reds should be all ears.
Despite going 10-11 with an ERA of 2.98 in 2016, the 23-year-old had a banner campaign, as the left-hander gave up just 150 hits in 172 innings and struck out 145 batters in that same span. The Yankees are desperate for a young southpaw in their rotation — and although Finnegan still has a way to go before reaching his potential, New York could part with a hefty package to acquire him.
14 Justin Wilson to the Miami Marlins
The terrible and untimely death of ace Jose Fernandez hurt the team both on and off the field. But when you look forward to 2017, the Miami Marlins still have a great shot to compete in the NL East, as they have a young, deep lineup that's complemented by a decent starting staff. One place they need an upgrade, however, is the bullpen. And with the Detroit Tigers looking to get younger, the Marlins should call and ask for lefty Justin Wilson.
Wilson may have had a down season in 2016 (4.14 ERA, 61 hits, 65 strikeouts, and 17 walks in 58.2 innings pitched) but he's only two years removed from the best season in his career (3.10 ERA, 49 hits, 66 strikeouts, and 20 walks in 61 innings pitched). The Marlins do have a middle-of-the-road closer in A.J. Ramos, but adding Wilson to the 'pen could give them another option late in games — one that is sorely needed.
13 David Robertson to Washington Nationals
The Miami Marlins aren't the only team in the NL East that can use help at the reliever position. The Washington Nationals are the defending champions of the division and will have their hands full this season. That gives them even more of a reason to replace Mark Melancon, who signed with the San Francisco Giants this offseason. With the Chicago White Sox selling all of their veteran pieces due to a full-on rebuild, David Robertson is a logical fit for the Nats.
Robertson isn't going to wow you with a blazing fastball or unhittable curveball, but he gets the job done in the ninth inning. His 37 saves in 2016 have him at three straight seasons with 36 or more and his 3.47 ERA is nothing to scoff at. Shawn Kelley — the Nationals current closer — is better suited as a set-up man, which makes a trade even more likely.
12 Brett Gardner to the St. Louis Cardinals
Coming into the 2017 season, the St. Louis Cardinals may have one of the more complete lineups in all of baseball. While Randal Grichuk — the team's current starter out in left field — has displayed immense potential as a power hitter, he's done little else to justify a spot in the everyday lineup. And with the team competing for a World Series ring, they could use an upgrade at the position. Someone like Brett Gardner could be the perfect fit.
The career New York Yankee is an inconsistent player, no doubt — but when he's on, he's arguably the best table setter in the game. Noted for his defense, blazing speed, ability to hit to all fields, and leadership, Gardner would be a tremendous fit both at the bottom of the Cardinals lineup and in the outfield. And since he's only under contract until 2018, it would give the organization a short-term fix as they continue to evaluate Grichuk's potential.
11 Todd Frazier to New York Mets
Like the previously mentioned Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals, the New York Mets, too, will try and win the National League East. If healthy, their starting rotation will be the best in baseball — but they still need some help in their starting lineup. Team captain David Wright is expected to be ready this season but his injury history is too deep for him to be relied on. Fortunately, there's a local boy on a team that is trading away their vets.
It's likely that the Chicago White Sox will trade away Todd Frazier, and he's someone who could help the Mets in a big way. The 31-year-old did have a down year in average (.225) but also posted a career-high 40 home runs in 2016, which should be the main interest of the Mets. Looking for help behind Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup, Frazier could be the perfect reinforcement to help the Mets in the run column. Not to mention, Frazier can play first base as well as third base, another positive and reason why they should call the White Sox for him.
10 Eric Hosmer to the Philadelphia Phillies
It was only two years ago when the Kansas City Royals finally saw all of their years of losing and rebuilding pay off as they went on to win the 2015 World Series. That team's core is still intact — but the small market club has a number of those top players becoming free agents after 2017. Because they struggled last season, they would be wise to trade some of those assets and retool for the future. First baseman Eric Hosmer would be a good starting point.
The Philadelphia Phillies, meanwhile, are starting to crawl out of the basement, as they've formed a nice young core with players like Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Nola, and Jerad Eickhoff. Adding Hosmer to that crop of talent wouldn't only boost offensive production (Hosmer slashed .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI) but would also add a winning pedigree to the locker room. If the Phillies could add him long-term, the organization would be in a much better position.
9 Joey Votto to the Toronto Blue Jays
For years, the Toronto Blue Jays have been on the cusp of competing for a championship, as their powerful offense and above-average rotation has been trending upwards. One position that hasn't featured much production has been first base. Joey Votto — a native of Toronto and member of the lowly Cincinnati Reds — makes the most sense for the Blue Jays.
Is Votto's contract a problem? Yes. He's signed through 2023 and is already 33 years old. But there's no denying that he's among one of the best players in baseball at first base, as evidenced by his .326/.434/.550 slash line and 29 home runs and 97 RBI. The Blue Jays haven't cared about surrendering prospects who can help now, and that's exactly what Votto could do. Slotting him in between Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista could get the franchise the elusive crown they've been yearning for.
8 Joe Mauer to the Washington Nationals
On one hand, Joe Mauer is far from the player who was an elite catcher that hit .365 in 2009. But now that the veteran has made the switch to first base and has overcome some injuries, he's become a steady presence in the middle of the Minnesota Twins lineup. The team, however, is among the worst in baseball. Trading away the face of the franchise will be tough but it would help bring young players back in return.
One team that should be asking for Mauer is the Washington Nationals, who have an impressive lineup as it is but can use an upgrade at first base. Ryan Zimmerman has been a longtime member of the organization but injuries and ineffectiveness have plagued his career. Mauer, meanwhile, can be revitalized by playing for a winner and hitting towards the bottom have of the lineup. His bat would make the Nationals lineup even more left-handed heavy, but it could be a risk worth taking.
7 Sonny Gray to the Kansas City Royals
As stated in the Eric Hosmer slide, the Kansas City Royals may need to sell off some pieces this season — but instead of rebuilding, the team should instead retool and stay in contention. With their starting rotation in serious need of new blood, a pitcher like Sonny Gray would be the perfect player to target.
Gray wasn't a standout in 2016 but his previous campaign made him look like one of the best young pitchers in baseball. In 2015, he was named to the All-Star team and sported a 2.73 ERA over 31 starts. While he gave up nearly six runs per game last season, the hope is that the 27-year-old will return to form in 2017. With the Oakland Athletics seemingly always on the outside looking in, the Royals should do their best to bring Gray into the fold.
6 Andrew McCutchen to the Seattle Mariners
Throughout the offseason, Andrew McCutchen's name has been frequently mentioned in trade talks. While he's currently positioned to start in right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates, it'll be hard to see him sticking with the organization since they've been shopping him for months.
Both on and off the field, McCutchen could be a tremendous asset to any team he's sent to. The Seattle Mariners appear to be a hitter away from taking it to the next level, and adding the player and person in McCutchen could do wonders for the team. The longtime Pirate did have a down year by his standards (.256/.336/.430, 24 home runs, 79 RBI) but is primed for a bounce back year. Imagine McCutchen — who could play right field as Jarrod Dyson shifts to left — being the three hitter, with Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz following suit? If that becomes the case, they could boast arguably the top lineup in baseball.
5 Jose Abreu to the Miami Marlins
In what has been stated multiple times on this countdown, the Chicago White Sox are officially in rebuild mode. Trading David Robertson and Todd Frazier seem logical, but shipping Jose Abreu out of town would be almost as big as trading Chris Sale — but if the right package comes along, they must pull the trigger on the move.
Miami is noted for their huge Cuban presence, and Abreu, of course, is a native of Cuba. In addition, the team could use an upgrade at first base, making Abreu even more of a fit. The 30-year-old only has three years of experience in the big leagues but has combined to hit .299/.360/.515, making him amongst one of the best pure hitters in baseball. The Marlins lineup is deep enough as it is, but adding Abreu to the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, and Martin Prado would be a massive upgrade.
4 Dellin Betances to the San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants could've continued their streak alive of winning a World Series every other season — if they had a decent bullpen. Unfortunately, the position was in shambles throughout all of 2016 and was a massive reason behind their late season struggles. The organization began to reshape the bullpen by signing Mark Melancon to a lucrative free agent contract this offseason but reinforcements are still needed.
Even when the New York Yankees were boasting a trio of top relievers, Dellin Betances may have been the best one. The tall right-hander is among the best strikeout pitchers in baseball, which is obvious in his 404 strikeout mark in just 254.2 career innings. Currently far apart in arbitration hearings, GM Brian Cashman has stated that the team hasn't discussed a long term deal with Betances. Because of that, it appears as though the Yankees could be looking to sell another arm — ala Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season — for a large return. If the Giants see that, they should do everything they can to bring Betances out west.
3 Chris Archer to Los Angeles Dodgers
Ever since Chris Archer became a star pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, he's long been discussed in trade rumors. With the organization not trending upwards, they'll look to ship anyone out of Florida as long as they can get substantial prospects in return. When it comes to the Los Angeles Dodgers, they have said prospects to get a deal done, making an Archer to LA move even more logical.
The Dodgers aren't necessarily hurting for starting pitchers, as they have Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, and Julio Urias as their starting five in 2017. But Archer would be their best pitcher not named Kershaw, even with his down season from last year (9-19, 4.02 ERA). Would the Dodgers have to gut their farm system to bring in Archer? Yes. But he's just 28 years old and Los Angeles is always in the running for a World Series. Let's chalk it up as the rich get richer.
2 Jose Quintana to Astros
Speaking of the rich getting richer, the Houston Astros are quietly positioning themselves as the Chicago Cubs of the American League. They have the young talent in Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Alex Bregman. They've brought in Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Josh Redick as veteran reinforcements. It appears that they're one pitcher away from having a top-notch rotation.
Like Robertson, Frazier, and Abreu, Jose Quintana, too, has been someone linked to a variety of team's the offseason. But the Chicago White Sox want a lot for their southpaw — and deservedly so. Fortunately for the Astros, they have the necessary prospects to meet their demands. Bringing Quintana in the fold — who had a 3.20 ERA in 32 starts last season — would give them a left-handed one-two punch atop the rotation that is would be unmatched.
1 Los Angeles Angels Trade Mike Trout
When looking up and down every single MLB roster, there is no other player that can be named the face of the league than Mike Trout. The Los Angeles Angels center fielder does it all on the field — he can hit for power and average, is a fast runner, and is a tremendous defender — and is a model citizen off of it. Unfortunately, his organization has done him wrong by not giving him any bit of help on the field.
Throughout his six-year career, the Angels have finished in first place just one time — and as Trout ages, he's going to want to play for a winner. The reason there is no prediction on what team he'll be traded to is because every single team in baseball will be vying for his services. The Angels are in no position to win in 2017 and Trout's frustrations will show. Don't be shocked if he demands a trade and he's playing elsewhere before the year is over.