Blockbuster MLB Trades That Can Still Happen Before 2019 Spring Training

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Blockbuster MLB Trades That Can Still Happen Before 2019 Spring Training

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    With spring training fast approaching and an array of impact players still available via free agency, it’s possible we won’t see any more splashy trades until close to the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

    Then again, blockbuster swaps can and do occur right up to the start of the February-March exhibition slate. 

    Here’s a look at five such blockbusters that could still happen, based on relatively recent, credible rumors and a dollop of informed speculation. 

    It’s unlikely all of these guys will switch uniforms in the immediate future—but some of them might.

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    We’re stretching the definition of “blockbuster,” but 26-year-old Nick Castellanos is coming off a strong season with the Detroit Tigers in which he hit .298 with an .854 OPS and 23 home runs.

    The Atlanta Braves and Tigers engaged in Castellanos talks at the winter meetings, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, but that ship seems to have sailed with news that the Braves re-signed outfielder Nick Markakis.

    Here’s another thought: the Los Angeles Angels.

    The Halos need to add pieces around superstar Mike Trout as his free-agency clock continues to tick (he can hit the market after the 2020 season). Castellanos would be a significant upgrade over projected starting right fielder Kole Calhoun (.208 average and .283 on-base percentage in 2018) and can play third base.

    The Angels should be able to bring the rebuilding Tigers to the table without raiding the top tier of a once-barren farm system they’ve worked to rebuild, especially since Castellanos is entering his final season before free agency.

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Edwin Encarnacion has never worn a Seattle Mariners uniform in a game…and he might never wear one. 

    Yes, Encarnacion is a member of the Mariners after he headed over in a three-team deal. But Seattle was “increasingly confident” it would be able to trade the veteran slugger before spring training, as Morosi reported on MLB Network’s Hot Stove in late December.

    Obviously no trade has happened, but Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is never afraid to wheel and deal.

    Multiple teams could use Encarnacion’s bat, as he swatted 32 home runs and put up an .810 OPS in 2018. Among the interested clubs Morosi name-dropped: the Tampa Bay Rays, who won 90 games last season despite finishing 27th in baseball with 150 home runs. 

    The Rays seemed like a fit for veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz before he signed with the Minnesota Twins. Now, they could pivot to Encarnacion. It probably wouldn’t cost much more than a mediocre prospect or two, especially if the normally budget-conscious Rays are willing to take on all or most of the $21.7 million Encarnacion is owed in 2019 ($5 million buyout for 2020).

    It’s worth noting that Tampa Bay was involved, along with the Cleveland Indians, in the three-team deal that sent Encarnacion to the M’s, so we know the sides are willing to engage.

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    After the Miami Marlins gutted their roster last winter and traded star players like they were going out of style, catcher J.T. Realmuto seemed like one of this offseason’s most obvious trade targets. 

    Yet, as we head into late January, he remains on the Marlins.

    That could change. Multiple teams could use an upgrade at catcher, though the list has shrunk with various trades and signings.

    Realmuto is coming off a superlative season in which he slashed .277/.340/.484 and emerged as arguably the best all-around backstop in baseball. He’s 27 years old and controllable through 2020.

    One obvious fit is the Houston Astros, who are looking to regain supremacy in the Junior Circuit and are counting on the catching duo of Robinson Chirinos (.222 average in 2018) and Max Stassi (.226 average).

    In late December, Morosi reported the Marlins were demanding either outfielder Kyle Tucker or right-hander Forrest Whitley in a Realmuto swap. Those are the Astros’ top two prospects and represent a steep ask.

    Catchers of Realmuto’s caliber aren’t available every winter, however, and Houston is in a clear win-now window with a glaring need behind the dish. 

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    Scot Tucker/Associated Press

    It’s not clear what direction the San Francisco Giants are headed under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. So far, their biggest offseason move has been re-upping veteran left-hander Derek Holland on a one-year, $7 million deal with a team option for 2020.

    Not exactly a game-changing move. 

    The big chatter surrounding the team all winter has been about the fate of ace southpaw and postseason legend Madison Bumgarner, who is entering his final year before free agency and will earn an affordable $12 million in 2019.

    It appears increasingly likely San Francisco will keep MadBum at least until the July 31 non-waiver deadline, when (assuming he’s healthy and pitching relatively well) his value could be sky-high for a team with a need in the rotation and designs on a deep playoff run.

    That said, the recent rumors haven’t fizzled. Again we’ll turn to Morosi, who reported Jan. 7 that the Giants and Milwaukee Brewers have had “substantive communication” regarding Bumgarner. 

    As Bleacher Report’s Zachary D. Rymer pointed out, acquiring a pitcher of Bumgarner’s reputation and pedigree would cement the Brewers’ status as alpha dogs in the crowded, competitive National League Central and put pressure on other division contenders, including the Chicago Cubs.

    The Giants would demand a rich return that could further set back a Brewers farm system Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter ranked No. 27. But after advancing to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in 2018, the Brew Crew should push in their chips.

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    After Corey Kluber’s name churned through the rumor mill earlier this winter, talk surrounding the Cleveland Indians ace has died down.

    A deal could still happen, however. 

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have been fairly quiet since they inked ace Clayton Kershaw to a three-year, $93 million extension in November. Sure, they’ve made moves such as trading outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp along with lefty Alex Wood in a salary-dump deal with the Cincinnati Reds and acquiring veteran catcher and old friend Russell Martin from the Toronto Blue Jays. 

    But it feels like Los Angeles will make a major move before the offseason ends. It could be signing Bryce Harper. Or, it could be trading for Kluber.

    On Dec. 21, NBC Los Angeles’ Michael J. Duarte quoted an unnamed executive who said he “would be blown away if [the] Dodgers don’t get Kluber.”

    It would surely cost them dearly. It’s tough to imagine the Indians would accept less than top outfield prospect Alex Verdugo plus more.

    After L.A. lost the last two World Series, though, this is the kind of bold action executive Andrew Friedman needs to take. A lefty-righty, two-headed monster of Kershaw and Kluber could be the thing that nets the Dodgers their first Commissioner’s Trophy since 1988.

    Make it happen.

                 

    All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference

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