Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
While Justin Upton is clearly atop the free agent outfield market, Gonzalez is currently the biggest outfield prize on the trade market. Gonzalez had a monster second half in 2015 following an abysmal first half, driving his value at least partially back up to where it used to be. Gonzalez comes as a somewhat affordable alternative to the players on the free agent market, at two years and just shy of $40 million, but also comes with a lot of injury and consistency concerns. Gonzalez has rarely been able to stay healthy throughout his career, and even when healthy he has struggled to maintain consistent performance. Even so, Gonzalez is a pretty decent two-year investment that shouldn’t cost an acquiring team too much in the way of prospects. With thin prospect depth and a focus on the free agent market, the Orioles seem more inclined to sign one of Davis/Cespedes/Upton. The same goes for the Angels, who could use an upgrade but may not have the necessary players to get a deal done. That leaves the St. Louis Cardinals who make a lot of sense as a team in need of some outfield depth with the prospects to get a deal done. Apparently the Rockies GM has told Gonzalez he is staying put, but it is still likely he gets traded, if not now then certainly at this year’s All-Star Break.
Potential Fits: Baltimore Orioles/Los Angeles Angels/St. Louis Cardinals
Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals
With the signing of Gerardo Parra this past week, the Rockies have made it pretty clear that at least one of their outfielders will be traded in the immediate future. While Gonzalez may hold the most value, which is arguable given Dickerson’s age and years of team control, both Dickerson and Blackmon have been the subject of quite a bit of trade chatter as well. Blackmon is controlled for less time than Dickerson and has already likely reached his peak level of talent. Dickerson on the other hand has been slowed by injuries and has yet to reach his full potential. The same teams mentioned above seem to be interested in these players as well. At this point, it appears likely that neither player will be traded, with Gonzalez being the likeliest trade candidate. However, anything can happen before Opening Day.
Potential Fits: Los Angeles Angels/Detroit Tigers/Baltimore Orioles
Prediction: No Trade
Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves
Next up on the list of outfielders available on the trade market is a player who was already traded once this offseason by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Inciarte. From the moment Inciarte became a Brave, trade rumors swirled about a potential trade that would send him elsewhere. Inciarte is coming off a career year that a few around the game believe could be his peak performance level. Inciarte is under team control for the next five years, making him a valuable commodity if he can sustain that performance. It would make sense for the Braves to cash in that chip, even if they plan to compete in 2017, given the uncertainty surrounding Inciarte’s future performance. Both the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs have inquired about, or been connected to, Inciarte this offseason. However, the Braves are currently asking quite a hefty price in return for Inciarte which makes any trade much less likely, at least this offseason.
Potential Fits: Chicago Cubs/Houston Astros
Prediction: No Trade
Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
One player on the trading block this offseason who likely should have been traded earlier is Reds outfielder Bruce. Other than the trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake at last year’s trade deadline, the Reds mostly stood pat. This offseason the Reds have traded both Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier, for less-than-desirable returns, leaving Bruce as the likeliest player to be moved on the team. Similarly to Frazier and Chapman, Bruce’s value has diminished greatly recently, even in the past year. At this point, the Reds would be lucky to get any sort of good return for him at all. Even so, Bruce still comes at an affordable price relative to the players on the free agent market, making his value at least somewhat decent. The Indians, Orioles, and Angels all make the most sense as trade partners with the Reds, with the Angels appearing to be the best fit, despite their concerns to go over the luxury tax threshold.
Potential Fits: Cleveland Indians/Baltimore Orioles/Los Angeles Angels
Prediction: Los Angeles Angels
Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
The final player on the trade market is a player who has simultaneously been the player most likely to be traded and least likely to be traded this offseason. For the Chicago Cubs, the offseason goal was relatively clear: somehow get even better than 97 wins. With the additions of Adam Warren, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, the Cubs have done just that. However, the team currently has Heyward slated to play in center field, due to Soler still manning right field. Even with the great defense of Heyward, the Cubs project rather poorly defensively as a whole in the outfield given the poor defense of both Soler and left fielder Kyle Schwarber. That brings us to the trade discussions. Earlier in the offseason it appeared almost inevitable that Soler would be traded. Now it appears less likely. At this point the two most obvious suitors would be the Braves or Rays, who both desire outfield help and have the pieces to give. From the Braves the Cubs could get Ender Inciarte, who could play center and significantly improve the Cubs defense by allowing Heyward to move back to right field. From the Rays, the Cubs could get yet another strong starting pitcher, in Jake Odorizzi or Alex Cobb, solidifying the rotation even further. Despite all the talk, at this point the Cubs seem content to hold onto Soler at least for the time being and roll with Heyward in center field for 2016.
Potential Fits: Atlanta Braves/Tampa Bay Rays
Prediction: No Trade