Shelby and Andrew Miller, Chapman among those who could be dealt
By Richard Justice
When the Dodgers inquired about the availability of 25-year-old pitcher Shelby Miller, Braves general manager John Coppolella did what a lot of young, bright, prepared baseball executives would do.
Coppolella threw out that he really liked young Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, and that -- oh, by the way -- center fielder Joc Pederson is also a nice player. Yeah, he knew the Dodgers had made those guys virtually untouchable. But, hey, if you don't ask, you'll never know what might have been.
And that conversation merits a tip of the hat to Atlanta's new general manager, who is furiously rebuilding a baseball team around power arms and youth. Coppolella is not there yet, but he's getting there.
Coppolella is also not offering any discounts. In recent days, he has asked for Luis Severino, A.J. Pollock and an assortment of other young franchise-type players. Coppolella believes Miller is worth that kind of return, that Miller's age and stuff make him an upper-echelon starter. In the past three seasons, Miller has pitched 561 2/3 innings with a 3.27 ERA.
Miller is also three years from free agency, and with the Braves largely focused on a 2017 renaissance, Coppolella will only make a deal for a player like Miller if he can get an impact player or a package of potential impact players in return.
Some of this stuff surely is general managers throwing names at one another, fishing for gossip and ideas. Baseball's best executives have always had a feel for the marketplace -- not just things that impact their own team, but others as well. In that way, they're seldom surprised.
This offseason is different in two important ways. One is the intensity with which a large number of teams are attempting to upgrade their rosters. This is a byproduct of a landscape in which the difference in talent among the top 20-25 teams appears to be smaller than ever.
That's why 18 of baseball's 30 teams have played at least one postseason series the past three years. The Mets, Astros and Cubs are relevant again. The Blue Jays were back in the postseason for the first time in 22 years this past season. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees haven't won a postseason series since 2013 and '12, respectively.
Another thing that's different is that big names could be on the move. That's already happened with the Red Sox acquiring closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres, and the Angels getting shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the Braves.
A long list of others are being discussed as clubs weigh whether to spend big money in free agency or surrender talent for a veteran. Some of the potentially available players are good enough to disrupt the free-agent market in a significant way.
Here are 10 keep an eye on:
He could be a pivotal figure over the next few weeks. Not every team will spend for big-money free agents, but very few teams have enough quality prospects to get Miller. The Astros could certainly do it. So could the Cubs and Red Sox, and probably the Dodgers.
He's a year from free agency, so it's unlikely the Reds are going to get multiple top prospects for Chapman. Their choice is whether to play out the market this offseason and take the best offer on the table or hope for a better deal as the non-waiver Trade Deadline nears next summer.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is listening, and that's about all we know for sure. Melancon is also a year from free agency, and conventional wisdom is that this is the best time to trade him. But the Bucs are in a win-now mode, and Melancon has been such a key part of their success, it's possible he won't be dealt.
The Athletics are closer to being competitive than a team coming off a 94-loss season sometimes is. They've got pitching depth and money to spend, so Gray could help get the A's back into contention. But Beane, Oakland's president of baseball operations, could use Gray to upgrade his roster in two or three other spots. Part of Beane's genius has been his willingness to listen to and consider almost anything.
5. Andrew Miller, Yankees reliever
Could Yankees general manager Brian Cashman land a quality starting pitcher for Miller? How about if he included Miller and Gardner in the deal? Few teams have enough starting pitching to trade top-tier arm, which means the price will be high. More likely, this deal would only happen if a team sees it as the front end of a larger plan, which would include signing a free-agent starter.
6. Andrew Cashner, Padres starter
Ask a dozen different baseball people, and there'll be probably just as many opinions about Cashner as he approaches his free-agent season. Some still see him as a potential ace, and they believe that his fade in the second half of 2015 was attributable to rebuilding his arm strength. Padres general manager A.J. Preller may allow the pitching market to thin out before pushing Cashner or one of his other starters -- probably Tyson Ross.
7. A.J. Pollock, D-backs center fielder
He emerged as a star in his fourth season, both as an offensive player who had 20 home runs, 39 steals and an .865 OPS, and as a defensive player who is one of the 10 best center fielders in the game. The D-backs have depth in the outfield, but Pollock would only get dealt if the trade brings back a front-of-the-rotation starter to Arizona.
8. Trevor Plouffe, Twins third baseman
General manager Terry Ryan's plan is to move rookie sensation Miguel Sano to left field and leave Plouffe at third. But the potential signing of designated hitter Byung Ho Park would deepen Minnesota's lineup enough that Plouffe could be dealt for more pitching. Ryan has shown no inclination to trade Plouffe, but markets shift as the offseason moves forward.
9. Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox first baseman
Ramirez has at least three years and $68 million remaining on his contract, and he is coming off a season in which he missed 57 games and hit .249. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has said he'll move Ramirez to first, and Dombrowski has met with Ramirez to discuss his conditioning and enthusiasm about the switch. But Boston has Pablo Sandoval (also available) at third and rookie Travis Shaw pushing for playing time at first. Unless the Red Sox are willing to eat a big chunk of Ramirez's money, he probably won't be traded.
10. Jonathan Papelbon, Nationals closer
General manager Mike Rizzo says he's comfortable bringing Papelbon back despite the dugout fight with Bryce Harper in September. A bigger issue probably is that Rizzo would have to eat a significant portion of Papelbon's $11 million salary in any deal. Almost lost amid discussion of Papelbon's salary and his relationship with Harper is that he remains an effective closer, and plenty of teams need one. If the Nats also sign free-agent reliever Darren O'Day, it would be the makings of a tremendous bullpen.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.