There's actually progress happening in the collective bargaining negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, so it's worth hoping the lockout will be over soon.
While we're at it, we might as well speculate on some trades for when the market reopens.
We came up with eight proposals that we think would be wins for both of the teams involved. For one team, because they got at least one star player. For the other, because they got an appropriate level of talent in return and/or cleared some valuable payroll space.
Going in no particular order, let's check 'em off one by one.
Kevin Kiermaier to the Philadelphia Phillies
As FanGraphs projects the Philadelphia Phillies for an MLB-low 0.6 wins above replacement from the position in 2022, center field must be a priority after the lockout.
Philadelphia's ideal options on the trade market are stars such as Cedric Mullins and Ketel Marte. However, their availability is about as iffy as the Phillies' capacity to afford their high price tags.
Kevin Kiermaier is a different story. The Tampa Bay Rays seem willing to move him, and Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported the Phillies were interested when the markets were still open. He isn't much of a hitter anymore, but the defensive skills that won him Gold Glove Awards in 2015, 2016 and 2019 remain intact.
If the Rays do move Kiermaier, their primary motivation will be to unload the $14.7 million they owe him. The Phillies can afford those rates better than the Rays, but the latter surely values Kiermaier too much to simply dump his contract.
Philadelphia might sway Tampa Bay by offering it the sort of wild cards the Rays specialize in turning into productive major leaguers. Say, 2016 No. 1 pick Mickey Moniak and live-armed lefty Cristopher Sanchez, who originated in the Tampa Bay system before going to Philly in an under-the-radar deal in 2019.
Proposed Deal: Philadelphia Phillies get CF Kevin Kiermaier; Tampa Bay Rays get CF Mickey Moniak and LHP Cristopher Sanchez
Craig Kimbrel to the Toronto Blue Jays
After narrowly missing out on a playoff berth in 2021, the Toronto Blue Jays will look to realize their potential as an American League superpower in 2022.
Still, it's no secret their bullpen could use a proper closer. And if the Jays would rather not do a multiyear deal with Kenley Jansen in free agency, fellow veteran Craig Kimbrel will be there as a trade alternative.
Like with the Rays and Kevin Kiermaier, there isn't much question as to the Chicago White Sox's willingness to move Kimbrel. Yet he comes with a heftier $16 million salary for 2022, not to mention concerns about his status as an elite reliever after he crumbled to the tune of a 5.09 ERA with the South Siders in 2021.
What the Blue Jays can zero in on, though, is that Kimbrel was working out of his comfort zone as a setup man for Liam Hendriks. As you'd expect from someone with 372 career saves, he lives for save situations.
Granted, just because their payroll is more bloated than it's ever been, it doesn't mean the White Sox would simply hand over Kimbrel. Provided they kick in some cash, they could make a play for speedy and sneakily powerful prospect Samad Taylor, who would go from superfluous in the Toronto system to a standout in Chicago's.
Proposed Deal: Toronto Blue Jays get RHP Craig Kimbrel and cash; Chicago White Sox get INF/OF Samad Taylor
Josh Hader to the Boston Red Sox
Speaking of American League East contenders in need of closers, the Boston Red Sox arguably match that description even better than the Blue Jays.
Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel are hypothetical possibilities for Boston, but the best hypothetical involves a trade for Milwaukee Brewers southpaw Josh Hader. To that end, kudos to Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com for daring to predict Hader will land on the Red Sox by Opening Day.
Hader is a three-time All-Star who's fresh off a 1.23 ERA with 102 strikeouts over 58.2 innings in 2021. And the Brewers, who are very much contenders in the National League Central, control him through 2023.
Yet Hader is oft mentioned as a trade chip partly because he's getting to be expensive. Moving him could also be Milwaukee's ticket to upgrading its offense. As such, it could be happy to reteam Hunter Renfroe with Bobby Dalbec if Boston offers the slugging first baseman.
Since Dalbec is a bit too volatile to be enough for Hader, the Red Sox would also have to dip into their prospect pool. For instance, subtracting fast-rising infielder Nick Yorke and capable right-hander Bryan Mata from their top 10 could get it done.
Proposed Deal: Boston Red Sox get LHP Josh Hader; Milwaukee Brewers get 1B Bobby Dalbec, 2B Nick Yorke and RHP Bryan Mata
Bryan Reynolds to the Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins backslid from a surprise playoff berth in 2020 to a 95-loss season in 2021, yet there's little question they are on an upward trajectory that could soon lead to the top of the NL East.
That could happen as early as 2022 if the club can get another impact hitter to go with free-agent signee Avisail Garcia. Specifically, general manager Kim Ng wants another outfielder, and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported in January that Bryan Reynolds has been discussed.
Rightfully so, given that Reynolds has been a well-above-average hitter in two of his three seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Particularly last season, as he hit .302/.390/.522 to go with 6.0 rWAR.
The catch is that Reynolds is controlled through 2025, by which time the Pirates might be finished rebuilding. So if they move him, it'll only be because they got an absolute H-A-U-L of a haul.
As in Pablo Lopez would only work as an appetizer in trade talks. The Pirates would also have to plunder the Marlins farm system for, say, Max Meyer or Edward Cabrera and 2021 first-rounder Kahlil Watson. And you know what? Throw in Garrett Cooper as a trade chip in need of refurbishing.
Proposed Deal: Miami Marlins get CF Bryan Reynolds; Pittsburgh Pirates get RHP Pablo Lopez, OF Garrett Cooper, RHP Max Meyer and SS Kahlil Watson
Matt Olson to the Texas Rangers
Elsewhere in the NL East, Atlanta had better be ready to make a deal for Matt Olson if reports about Freddie Freeman's likely departure prove to be accurate.
But while the Oakland Athletics will surely be open for business on the other side of the lockout, Atlanta doesn't really match up with them as a trade partner for Olson. At least not as much as an emerging dark horse in the Olson sweepstakes: the Texas Rangers.
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers had their eye on Olson before the lockout. Because after spending $500 million on infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, why not also target a Gold Glove first baseman with 35-homer power?
Since Olson is under club control for two more seasons, the Rangers would have to pay a steep price. They could start with incumbent first baseman Nathaniel Lowe, who is controlled through 2026, but would also have to pull talent from their system.
It's hard to fathom the Rangers' putting third baseman Josh Jung or right-handers Jack Leiter or Cole Winn on the line, but second baseman Justin Foscue and first baseman Dustin Harris could be in play. Both are talented hitters who could be ready for the majors by next season.
Proposed Deal: Texas Rangers get 1B Matt Olson; Oakland Athletics get 1B Nathaniel Lowe, 2B Justin Foscue and 1B Dustin Harris
Joey Gallo to Atlanta
So if not Matt Olson, where might Atlanta turn if it needs to find a left-handed slugger to replace Freddie Freeman in the middle of its lineup?
Well, how about to the New York Yankees? And specifically to Joey Gallo.
It was a big deal when the Yankees sent four players to the Rangers to get Gallo in July. Yet the two-time All-Star and Gold Glover busted badly, hitting just .160 with an astronomical 38.6 strikeout percentage in 58 games. As time went on, the Yankees faithful turned their cheers to jeers.
It was thus before October was even out that Joel Sherman of the New York Post pondered an offseason trade of Gallo. That pondering included other teams that had missed out on him at the trade deadline. Atlanta was one of them, and Gallo still fits there even if he wouldn't necessarily spell Freeman at first base.
Though trading Gallo would clear $10.2 million for the Yankees to spend on other needs—i.e., a shortstop such as Carlos Correa or Trevor Story—they would still have to get a substantial return. Speculatively, catching prospect Shea Langeliers and flame-throwing hurler Victor Vodnik might be enough.
Proposed Deal: Atlanta gets RF Joey Gallo; New York Yankees get C Shea Langeliers and RHP Victor Vodnik
Luis Castillo to the Los Angeles Angels
Concerning the trade market for starting pitchers on the other side of the lockout, much will depend on how the Cincinnati Reds handle their three aces.
Though ESPN's Buster Olney reported prior to the lockout that Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle were "off limits," that didn't stop rumors about the former from circulating. No team seemed to want Castillo more than the Los Angeles Angels, as MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported them to be at "the forefront" for the right-hander.
This was notably well after the Angels inked Noah Syndergaard, so it's reasonable to believe they'll still want Castillo after the lockout. The trick will be convincing the Reds to part with him, especially if they think they have a shot at getting into a potentially expanded playoff field.
The big card the Angels would have to play is outfielder Jo Adell. He has yet to find his footing in the majors, but he was a top-five prospect as recently as 2020, and his club control runs through 2026.
Would Adell alone fetch Castillo, who is controlled through 2023? Probably not, so the Angels had better be ready to sweeten the deal with right-hander Sam Bachman. Between him and Hunter Greene, the Reds would then have perhaps the two best arms in the minors within their system.
Proposed Deal: Los Angeles Angels get RHP Luis Castillo; Cincinnati Reds get OF Jo Adell and RHP Sam Bachman
Sonny Gray and Jesse Winker to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Whereas Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle seem to be in the realm of "maybe" trade candidates, Sonny Gray is as strong a candidate as anyone to get dealt after the lockout.
That's largely because moving his $10.7 million salary would fit with the Reds' desire to align their payroll to their resources. The problem, though, is that the two-time All-Star's trade value is iffy after two years of diminishing returns.
If the Reds want to ditch Gray's salary and fetch a worthwhile prospect return, they may have to pair him with someone else. Jesse Winker, for example. As Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors wrote early this month, Cincinnati should be thinking of trading the slugger if it's not going to extend him.
If any team can pull off a deal for Gray and Winker, it's the Los Angeles Dodgers. They've had previous interest in Gray, and Winker fits them as a regular left fielder and lefty slugger to replace Corey Seager.
The Dodgers could entice the Reds with former top prospect Gavin Lux but would likely also have to sacrifice at least one of their top prospects. Though catcher Diego Cartaya is the big prize there, the Dodgers might get away with lesser headliners such as outfielder Andy Pages and shortstop Eddys Leonard.
Proposed Deal: Los Angeles Dodgers get RHP Sonny Gray and LF Jesse Winker; Cincinnati Reds get INF/OF Gavin Lux, OF Andy Pages and SS Eddys Leonard
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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