The offseason is here. Trades will be made. It's hard to know who exactly could be moved. From experience, I know we could see just about anyone get traded during the winter. I compiled a list of four possible trade candidates this offseason, what could make them appealing, and why they may be dealt.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals
Just a few years ago, I don't think anyone could have expected the Nationals to move Stephen Strasburg in a trade. However, the possibility is definitely there this offseason. Strasburg is arbitration eligible for the final time this offseason and is projected to make $10.5 million, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, meaning that he will be a free agent after the season.
Strasburg would be an appealing target to teams for obvious reasons. When he's on, he pitches like an ace. Overall, he went 11-7 with a 3.46 ERA (2.81 FIP) in 127 1/3 innings pitched last season. He also comes with some less obvious benefits. If a team acquires Strasburg during the offseason, he would be eligible for a qualifying offer next offseason, meaning that the team that acquires him could get an extra first round pick from him later down the line.
The Nationals might want to make another hurrah at the postseason again this season, which would probably deter them from wanting to deal Strasburg. However, it's very possible that in the right deal they do move him, as he could lament a large return, perhaps even bigger than just getting the first round pick next offseason from a qualifying offer. If I was GM Mike Rizzo, I'd take a long look at dealing Strasburg.
Jay Bruce, OF, Cinncinati Reds
Bruce was almost dealt during the trade deadline season this past season, with the Mets showing by far the most interest. The Reds ultimately hung on to Bruce, but as long as they stay out of contention within the next year, his name should continue to pop up in trade talks.
Bruce wasn't the best hitter this past year, slugging 26 home runs and slashing .226/.294/.434 over 649 plate appearances. With that said, however, his power may play better in a different ballpark, and in today's baseball, power hitting comes at a premium.
Bruce is a free agent following the 2016 season, and while he may not be as much of a slam dunk to receive a qualifying offer as Stephen Strasburg is, a team that acquires him could still extend him the deal in hopes that he declines. The Reds could use the same philosophy as a way to hold on to Bruce, possibly believing they couldn't get anything better for him in a trade than the draft pick they will get in the 2017 MLB Draft. He could be moved, but it may be more likely he gets traded midseason next year.
Aroldis Champman, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Of the two Reds on this list, I'd consider Aroldis Chapman more likely to be moved than Bruce. In my eyes, Chapman is equally likely or even more likely to receive a qualifying offer than Bruce, and will draw more interest, purely because it is so hard to find good relief pitching.
Chapman has been an All-Star in each of the past four years. This past season, he went 4-4 with a 1.63 ERA (1.94 FIP) and saved 33 games in 36 opportunities. Chapman consistently lights up radar guns and would be a nice addition to basically any team.
The 27-year-old is also arbitration-eligible for the final time this offseason and is projected to earn $12.9 million, according to MLBTradeRumors.com. The Diamondbacks showed interest in Chapman during the trade deadline and could be a leader to go after him again this offseason. It's hard to know exactly what the Reds could get for Chapman, but it is very possible that it could be much better than the first round pick they'd get for giving him a qualifying offer (assuming he declines).
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have multiple options this offseason in regards to Jonathan Lucroy: extend him, trade him, or stick with what they have. Lucroy is in the final year of a five-year, $10.28 million contract. However, he also has a team option for 2017 valued at $5.25 million, basically a guarantee to be picked up. This makes him the least likely to be traded this offseason because he has that extra year of team control.
Lucroy is one of the best all-around catchers in baseball. He is valuable defensively and his career .770 OPS (109 OPS+) as well as a .837 OPS two seasons ago prove how great his bat is. Lucroy is a homegrown Brewer, which makes it hard for me to see him be moved, but there definitely is that outside chance if GM David Stearns decides to take the rebuilding route.
The Brewers would get a plethora of prospects in return for Lucroy, which would speed their rebuilding process. But if the front office regime believes they could contend next season, in 2017, or even extend him, they probably will hold on to him. I would be very surprised, however, if they do not even listen on Lucroy.