By Isaac Marks
In part two of a two-part series, I take a look at the outfield trade market. After Jason Heyward set the stage with his 8-year, $184 million dollar contract with the Chicago Cubs, the rest of baseball narrows in on the remainder of the outfield market. Today I look at the trade candidates after reviewing the top-five free agents last week.
Potential Destinations: Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles
As I mentioned in our Weekly Roundtable, CarGo is still the most valuable player in the trade market and the Rockies need to ship him if they’re serious about the rebuild. After an injury-filled two-plus years, a healthy CarGo showed everyone how good he can be. In his last 78 games, Gonzalez hit more home runs than 98.6% of all position players did in an entire season, after struggling through the first half of the season. He isn’t stealing bases like he used to – only two last season – but that’s more of a preventative measure than anything. Any team would trade an extra 40 games of CarGo instead of 20 steals.
The Nationals, Indians and Mets all have the prospects to meet the demands from Rockies GM Jeff Bridich but are all looking for a center fielder. CarGo’s center fielding days are numbered and is more valuable defensively in the corner, making his position fit questionable for all three of these teams. The White Sox have a ready-made spot in right but might not have any more prospects after the Todd Frazier trade. The Angels are in the same boat as the White Sox; they might not have enough pieces after acquiring Yunel Escobar and Andrelton Simmons via trade. The Orioles have been the most commonly linked team to Gonzalez – a left-handed corner outfielder to replace Chris Davis – but the Rockies want Colorado native Kevin Gausman and that’s not going to happen. Teams might be waiting to see if Gonzalez’s second half wasn’t a fluke. If he performs in the first half of 2016, his value will skyrocket.
Chance Gonzalez is traded: 80%
Prediction: Cleveland Indians
Potential Destinations: New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals
Blackmon followed up a 2014 All-Star campaign with an even better showing. His slash lines were similar – .288/.335/.440 in 2014 and .287/.347/.450 in 2015 – but he added fifteen stolen bases to his total. Blackmon is a potential 20-40 guy that can set the table for a contender. Blackmon is nothing else if not consistent; his career 162-game average slash line is .288/.336/.437 with slightly above average defense. His defensive range profiles better as a corner outfielder but still works in center. Blackmon just hit his first year of arbitration and is under team control until 2019; the first four years of his prime.
The Mets, Royals, Giants and Nationals all need center fielders. The Mets might be able to get Blackmon without giving up any top prospects, like Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler, which has to be appealing to GM Sandy Alderson. Blackmon fits into the Royals “type” of player; he makes a good amount of contact, plays solid defense, has good speed and doesn’t have many, if any, holes in his game. The Giants have Gregor Blanco (a fourth outfielder) and oft-injured Angel Pagan manning left and center and Blackmon could fill either of those spots. The Nationals currently have Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the corners and highly touted prospect Michael Taylor slated in center, but they might not be ready to put the full burden on the young man.
Chance Blackmon is traded: 60%
Prediction: Washington Nationals
Potential Destinations: Los Angeles Angels, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox
The Yankees are in an interesting spot. They have a bunch of fat contracts attached to veterans over 35, and very few trade pieces to build their roster for the future. Gardner is one of the few valuable pieces left and should be moved while his value is still relatively high and the demand is there. They’ve acquired Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks this offseason but don’t have a spot for Hicks, a young, promising outfielder. He’s blocked by Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran with Gardner the only one of the three that has a semi-movable contract and any value.
The Yankees are looking for major-league ready starting pitching, which hamstrings the Royals and Orioles. He fits the high contact strategy the Royals employ and would slot in nicely to the void left by Alex Gordon, but there’s little that the Royals have to entice the Yankees. The Angels have about eight starters on their 40-man that belong in the majors and the Indians have Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco as trade chips. The White Sox have a good amount of top pitching prospects that could contribute over the next two years and bring back the most potential value for Gardner.
Chance Gardner is traded: 50%
Prediction: Chicago White Sox
Potential Destinations: Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles
I don’t think Puig’s trade value will ever be lower. He’s had a rough year; he had trouble staying on the field, was an alleged clubhouse problem and is being investigated for a domestic incident involving his sister at a Miami nightclub. Still, Puig was the most exciting thing in baseball in 2013 and for parts of 2014, both for his talent and the youthful energy he brought with him. The Dodgers would be selling low on a 25-year-old potential star, but maybe a change of scenery could benefit both Puig and the Dodgers.
As I mentioned before, the White Sox have an opening in right, Puig’s usual position, but they’re looking for someone more stable as they just went all in after the Frazier trade. Same goes for the Orioles, although their intention of immediate contention isn’t as clear as Chicago’s. The Marlins are Braves are interesting; Puig’s youth has to be appealing and would be worth taking a chance on, especially since they’re not looking to contend immediately. Taking a flier on a talent like Puig is right up the Braves alley and the Marlins could look at a Puig-Marcell Ozuna swap. Miami wants pitching for Ozuna, but Puig still could be on the table. Plus, being in Miami would bring Puig closer to Cuba and into more familiar confines, which could go either way.
Chance Puig is traded: 25%
Prediction: No trade
Potential Destinations: Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City Royals
The Marlins are demanding a young number two starter in return for Ozuna. Teams don’t want to part with young arms like Taijuan Walker or Danny Salazar for one outfielder coming off of a down year. Sure, he has five years of team control and has a lot of upside, but the Marlins have made a point this offseason; if you want one of their young players, it will cost a lot. There was a lot of buzz surrounding an Ozuna trade early on in the offseason, but it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll be dealt. Why Miami wanted to trade him in the first place doesn’t make much sense to me, but hey, they traded Andrew Heaney away last offseason, who is a future top of the rotation starter.
Miami is asking for Walker from Seattle, Salazar or Trevor Bauer from Cleveland, Heaney or Tyler Skaggs from the Angels or Yordano Ventura from Kansas City. The absurd asking price, especially when pitching is at a premium, is going to prevent any trade from happening.
Chance Ozuna is traded: 15%
Prediction: No trade