MLB.com Columnist

Dan O'Dowd

5 stars who could be trade bait this offseason

5 stars who could be trade bait this offseason

Try finding a general manager who wants to trade a star player.

Any luck? Didn't think so.

But the calculus here is simple. Successful division-winning clubs tend to avoid spending more than 15 percent of their player payroll on one player. You could call it the whole "don't put all your eggs in one basket" strategy.

Of course, following such a policy is not always simple.

Say a player is given a big deal amid great expectations. The new face of the franchise, so to speak, is expected to lead his team to the postseason. But say the best-laid plans of the GM go awry, the team underperforms and said acquisition sticks around, eating up a disproportionate fraction of the franchise's resources.

In such cases, you'd simply trade the high-earning star, right? We've seen this happen with players such as Vernon Wells (Blue Jays to Angels) and Jose Reyes (Marlins to Blue Jays) to name a couple of examples, though swapping a high-priced star isn't always so simple.

This offseason, the following five clubs could be faced with the prospect of dealing a high-earning, high-potential popular player. Granted, each of the players below excelled during the second half of 2015. But they're nonetheless pricey.

The choices will be tough and the acts of consummating a swap may prove impossible. But you can guarantee that front offices will, at the least, ask questions and conduct deliberations.

Joey Votto, Reds
Have you seen the first baseman's second-half slash line? Well, in case you haven't, it's .377/.553/.656. That's an OPS of 1.209, about 100 points better than anyone else. Needless to say, the 32-year-old Votto may be enjoying the best campaign of his career. But with another $199 million coming to him through his age-40 season, he could be a prime sell-high candidate. Imagine what Votto could bring as a return, whether in prospects or financial flexibility.

Possible trade partner: If Votto would approve the deal -- he has a full no-trade clause -- something with San Francisco could make sense. The Giants have the financial flexibility to take on a big commitment and the talent to send back prospects to aid Cincinnati's future.

Votto singles to extend streak

Robinson Cano, Mariners
The six-time All-Star has played like one since this year's Midsummer Classic, with a slash line of .323/.383/.525. But as Seattle knows, Cano could be one of three players on the hook for a large percentage of the team's 2016 payroll. Can the Mariners compile enough depth to win with such constraints? The second baseman is undoubtedly talented, but he nonetheless is on the hook for $24 million per year through 2023.

Possible trade partner: If it was willing to make an intradivisional deal, Seattle might find a potential Cano suitor with the Angels, who could balance their right-handed star power -- Mike Trout and Albert Pujols -- with Cano's left-handed bat.

Must C: Cano's 2,000th hit

Jayson Werth, Nationals
We all should know what this outfielder can do when healthy. And if you don't, take a look at Werth's gaudy September stats. But the 36-year-old slugger will make $42 million from 2016-17, a sizable sum for any club to spend on a non-elite piece. Could the Nats look to deal Werth in order to gain some financial flexibility? Don't count it out.

Possible trade partner: If they continue on their path to acquiring win-now talent, San Diego could be a fit for Werth. The team, after all, has a corner outfielder in Justin Upton on the brink of free agency. And for what it's worth, the Nationals and Padres likely know each other's organizations well after completing a major three-way trade last offseason.

Werth's RBI single

Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
CarGo has had an incredible second half, slugging .642 with a .978 OPS. But the Rockies are rebuilding, so trading Gonzalez -- his talent and popularity aside -- might be the wisest long-term move. The two-time All-Star and three-time National League Gold Glove Award recipient is due $37 million for 2016-17.

Possible trade partner: As we said before, the Nationals could look to deal Werth. If such a move were to go down, would they try to upgrade his position with a star? Such is not a knock on Werth, who is very good. But CarGo has mile-high potential when healthy.

CarGo's RBI single

Matt Kemp, Padres
After early-season struggles, Kemp has quietly put together a quality second half -- as evidenced by his .285/.338/.528 slash line. But with four years left on his deal at $21.5 million per, the outfielder could be consider as a "sell" candidate if San Diego opts to go young. So, OK, the Padres could be buyers or sellers. What they opt to do remains be seen.

Possible trade partner: Set to see a sizable portion of their offensive firepower -- namely Chris Davis and Matt Wieters -- hit free agency, the Orioles could show interest in Kemp's services.

Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.