MLB’s Winter Meetings have wrapped up, and now, the MLB Off season begins in earnest.
The meetings give rival executives and scouts time to meet with each other to put the framework together for a team’s off season or getting an idea of where the market stands and what moves could be made in the future.
While the free agent market will be active, the trade market should offer a few interesting options as well for teams looking to improve their rosters.
Of course, with the way contracts are structured and extensions are discussed, some trade targets become more obvious than others.
Here are the top 5 players I believe will be moved this off season:
IF/OF Whit Merrifield – Kansas City Royals
Merrifield is an interesting case. He will play next season at age 30, but is under team control until 2023. However, the Royals aren’t planning to be competitive until 2021, making Merrifield more of a luxury than a need.
He is the team’s best trade chip, making it likely that he is moved. By playing a variety of positions and having such a low salary, Merrifield will be of interest to many teams, making his value higher.
I’d expect the Phillies, Brewers, Giants, Angels, Dodgers, and Rockies to be among the most interested teams.
2B Cesar Hernandez – Philadelphia Phillies
It appears that Hernandez’s day as a Phillie are numbered.
After signing top prospect 2B Scott Kingery to a six-year deal last Spring Training before he even had a Major League at-bat, the clock began ticking on Hernandez.
Now, entering the last year of his contract and coming off a year in which he struggled with injury, it appears the team will move on from the 29-year-old Hernandez.
When healthy, Hernandez can provide a team quality at-bats and defense. While he has played mostly second base over the past few seasons, Hernandez has shown the ability to move around the diamond in the past.
I think the Angels, Padres, and Rays could have various degrees of interest in Hernandez manning the keystone.
C J.T. Realmuto – Miami Marlins
Realmuto and his agent have already said he won’t be a member of the Marlins next season. While they don’t have complete control over that, it does seem like the team will move on from its catcher, who has made it clear he doesn’t want to be there.
One of the best offensive catchers in the league, Realmuto hit 21 HR’s with 74 RBI’s one one of the worst teams in baseball last season. He will play the 2019 season at age 29, and be under team control until 2021, raising his value.
The Washington Nationals have been long rumored to be interested in acquiring Realmuto. I’d expect the Mariners, Dodgers, Rockies, Angels, and Rangers to also be interested.
SP James Paxton – Seattle Mariners
The big left-handed ace is entering a season in which the Mariners are said to be considering a roster overhaul.
Despite dealing with injury issues throughout his career, the 30-year-old Paxton should still bring a decent haul to Seattle. He will be under team control until 2021, and throws with high velocity from the left side, which is a rarity around the league.
Competing teams in need of a rotation piece that won’t break the bank will be the most interested in Paxton, and I’d expect his suitors to include the Yankees, Astros, Phillies, Braves, Rockies, and Dodgers.
SP Carlos Carrasco – Cleveland Indians
The Indians are one of the league’s small market teams trying to compete on a big scale. As the team’s young superstars get older, they get closer to free agency and more expensive each season.
Carrasco, 32, is under contract for 2019 with a manageable $9.5MM club option for 2020, making him a valuable trade chip.
For a team like the Indians, moving Carrasco would alleviate salary constraints while also allowing the team to plug other holes.
Carrasco has been a model of consistency over the past few years, so I’d expect a number of competing teams to be interested in him.
Look for the Phillies, Yankees, Reds, Rockies, Dodgers and Cardinals to be among the suitors for Carrasco.