There might not be much imminent player movement in MLB, but discussions that will eventually lead to major deals have begun. The GM Meetings are underway this week in Phoenix, as executives set the ground work to sign free agents and make multi-player trades.
There hasn’t been much news on the top free agents, and it could be a while before the likes of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields all sign their new contracts. However, there have been several rumors surrounding potential trade candidates.
Ubaldo Jimenez has been mentioned in trade discussions, as multiple reports claim the Baltimore Orioles are looking to deal the starter. He performed poorly in the first season of his four-year deal worth $50 million, and the 30-year-old could be headed to his fourth team since 2011, if the Orioles can find a taker for his contract.
While Jimenez wasn’t even good enough to remain in the rotation for the whole season, a few of the best players at their respective positions might be playing for different teams in 2015. Below are four players that could be on the move this offseason.
Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
After failing to record a winning season in the past three years, the Phillies are finally ready to rebuild. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said as much at the GM Meetings, and it could mean the Phillies are prepared to trade away some of their best players. The New York Mets reportedly spoke to Philadelphia about acquiring Jimmy Rollins, but it’s one of the team’s top pitchers that could be on the move.
Hamels has been one of the most consistent starters in the National League for the past five years, never failing to start less than 31 games and always posting an ERA of 3.60 or better, including a 2.46 ERA in 2014. His high price-tag, though, could limit the number of teams willing to deal for him.
According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox are both interested in Hamels, for whom they might have to trade three top prospects, including two that can contribute at the Major League level soon. Hamels is owed $90 million over the next four years, and the team that trades for him might be forced to picked up his $20 million option in 2019. Hamels has 20 teams on his no-trade list, including the Red Sox.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
The shortstop was heavily involved in trade rumors during the 2014 season, and that isn’t likely to change this offseason. General manager Jeff Bridich has discussed the possibility of trading Tulowitzki, saying it’s not a “casual type of process.” Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Mets have spoken to the Rockies about Tulowitzki, even though they might not be willing to meet Colorado’s asking price.
As pitchers continue to dominate MLB, Tulowitzki becomes more and more valuable. He missed 71 games in 2014, but finished tied for second among shortstops with 21 homers. His 1.035 OPS dwarfed Hanley Ramirez’s .817 OPS, which was best among every day shortstops. According to FanGraphs, he's recorded a WAR of at least 5.1 in five of the least six seasons.
Tuolowitzki’s contract and health issues could force teams to stay away. He’s owed $114 million through 2020, and he’s had trouble staying on the field. In the last three years, the 30-year-old has played a total of 264 games.
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves
With one year left on his contract, the outfielder is garnering attention from other teams, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. He might leave Atlanta via free agency in 2015, so the Braves could decide to move him and ensure they get something in return.
Heyward didn’t put up overly impressive traditional stats in 2014, hitting .271 with 11 home runs and 58 RBI. His 5.1 WAR ranked in the top 25 of all hitters, though, according to FanGraphs. Heyward is one of the best defensive players in all of baseball, and has a chance to get even better at just 25 years old.
In addition to Heyward, teammate Justin Upton has also been linked to trade rumors. Upton's deal is set to run out at the end of the season, as well, and his 56 home runs over the last two years could attract a team that is looking to add a power hitter.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Free Agent
The San Francisco Giants are reportedly hopeful that Sandoval will return to the Bay Area and try to win a fourth World Series title, but the champs might have some competition for the third baseman. An executive with an MLB team tells Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston that the Red Sox are “all in” on Sandoval.
Sandoval was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012, and the lack of hitting depth among free agents could make him a highly sought-after commodity. After posting an OPS of at least .847 in three of his first four years, Sandoval hasn’t done better than a .789 OPS in the last three seasons, but he could be a good fit in Boston. He’d be a significant upgrade at third base for the Rex Sox, where the team struggled this past season, getting a .580 OPS from nine different players.
The three-time champion has been in the league since 2008, but he’s just 28 years old. He could eventually replace David Ortiz as Boston’s DH.