Big trades could soon stoke Hot Stove
Thin free-agent market forces teams to consider other options
The ingredients are there. The opportunities are approaching.
Trades will happen, as they always do, but this particular environment seems ripe for a winter dotted with exchanges of players as teams tweak and remake their rosters for 2011.
Mix a thin free-agent market -- especially when it comes to starting pitching -- with a number of teams on the hunt to improve without undoing financial plans, and there are bound to be trade rumors in the air.
This week is as good a place to start, as GMs will be meeting in Orlando, Fla., along with owners, in the first confab of baseball executives of the offseason. These are the first chances for some face-to-face discussions about how one team's plans might fit another's.
Every team has needs. Somewhere, there's a fit. Let the networking begin.
Already, one such deal took place between a team looking for starting pitching and a team looking for a bat, as the Royals picked up pitcher Vin Mazarro along with Minor League prospect Justin Marks and the A's took on outfielder David DeJesus. The Marlins stoked the Hot Stove a bit more by dealing outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Padres for a pair of relievers.
More trades and bigger names are sure to come. Here is a handful of possible trade targets as the Hot Stove begins to heat up for the winter:
Zack Greinke, Royals: One year removed from a remarkable Cy Young season, Greinke's name has circulated as an alternative to the free agency route, where it's basically Cliff Lee and a significant drop from there. The Royals obviously aren't eager to part with their ace, but they haven't ruled it out.
"We're not looking to trade anybody," Royals GM Dayton Moore said even before moving DeJesus. "But this year isn't any different than any other year. You always have to evaluate opportunities to improve your team for the current situation and also long-term."
With Greinke due to make a club-high $13.5 million each of the next two seasons, and a 15-team no-trade clause kicking in for 2011, it's not a smooth road to a deal. The Red Sox and Blue Jays are said to have inquired about him and, as Moore mentioned himself on MLB Network Radio, the Royals eventually will have to decide how to proceed much the way the Twins had to with Johan Santana and the Indians had to with CC Sabathia and Lee -- not exactly an assurance of Greinke's future with the Royals. But it would take a blockbuster to move Greinke, that's for sure.
Dan Uggla, Marlins: With his contract extension negotiations at an impasse, Uggla could fill a need for a power bat. After a four-year, $48 million offer from the Marlins wasn't good enough, the club figures to look at trade options. Eligible for arbitration this winter and a free agency the next, Uggla reportedly is being considered by the Tigers, who are hoping to boost their offense. He won his first Silver Slugger this year, so you'd think there might be a team or two willing to bite on this Marlin.
B.J. Upton, Rays: As the Rays anticipate the departure of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano, making trades is certainly one way for them to remake their roster. Upton would be both a valuable chip and a timely move for the Rays, financially, as he enters what could be lucrative arbitration years. Could shortstop Jason Bartlett be moved with Reid Brignac ready to take over there? Would the Rays deal from a position of depth by moving a starter? It will be a different Rays team next year, and it'd be a surprise if it's just a matter of changes through free agency.
Heath Bell, Padres: While it appears as though first baseman Adrian Gonzalez will stay put into the season, the Padres have depth in late relief -- even after dealing Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb for Maybin -- and any team in need of help in the ninth, or eighth, would have to take a serious look at Bell. Remember, he was in much the same place a year ago -- as was Gonzalez -- and then both contributed greatly to a season that came down to the 162nd game for the Padres. Seeing both on the Opening Day roster, or really either one by the time the non-waiver Trade Deadline passes next July 31, would be a surprise this time around.
Carlos Beltran, Mets: With new GM Sandy Alderson not about to sit tight with the same team that he inherited, at least one of the Mets' big-money players could be on the move, if it can be done. Already, Beltran has said he'd consider waiving his no-trade clause if a team were willing to pick up the $18.5 million he's owed in the final year of his contract. "If they approach me," Beltran said, "I'd have to listen." Could it be David Wright instead? The Mets are a team to watch this winter, regardless.
Come this week, dozens more names will be discussed, and perhaps any one of these might be deemed untouchable, too. It's early, but not too early to consider the possibilities.
The environment is ripe. The opportunities are there.
Trades will happen.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.