Major League Baseball's 2017 season ended just three weeks ago, yet it feels like the game never left because of all the rumors and rumblings of what could be happening before teams arrive at spring training in February.
Trades are always more complex than free-agent signings because they require at least one team to take on, depending on the player, a lot of existing money on a contract and give up significant pieces of their future to make a deal happen.
There are always teams on the verge of competing for a World Series or playoff spot that want to make a big splash. On the other side of the equation, there are always teams trending downward with a significant asset to deal that can help them get where the Chicago Cubs were in 2016 and Houston Astros are right now.
Looking around MLB, here are the latest trade rumblings to keep an eye on.
Cards, Giants Make Pitch for Stanton
On the heels of being named the 2017 National League MVP, Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton now awaits his fate to find out where he will play next season.
It's no secret the Marlins' new ownership group wants to cut payroll, with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reporting they want to get down to the $90 million range.
That's a problem for a team that has $131 million in salary commitments to eight players in 2018, not factoring arbitration and pre-arbitration guys. Stanton has the biggest deal, by far, at $25 million next season and is signed through 2027.
With Stanton possibly on his way out of Miami, it's no surprise to see two teams in need of a big bat making an offer to the Marlins.
Per SiriusXM's Craig Mish, the San Francisco Giants offered a package of three players for Stanton and Dee Gordon:
MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the St. Louis Cardinals have also made a formal offer to the Marlins for Stanton, though names included were not released. Mish did note the proposal includes right-handed pitcher Sandy Alcantara, who appeared in eight MLB games after being called up in September.
The Giants are trying to put a band-aid on a broken leg, presumably in an effort to not waste anymore prime years of Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. They bottomed out last season with a 64-98 record, tied for the second-most losses in a season in franchise history.
One of San Francisco's problems that made 2017 so difficult is its an old team loaded with big contracts. Seven players on the roster for next season will make at least $15.2 million.
Another issue for the Giants is a bad farm system that lacks impact and depth. Baseball America ranked their system as the 24th-best at the start of last season.
Tyler Beede, one of the players reportedly included in San Francisco's trade proposal for Stanton, had a 4.79 ERA with more hits allowed (121) than innings pitched (109) and just 83 strikeouts in Triple-A last season.
Essentially, the Giants are just hoping the Marlins are so desperate to be rid of the contracts for Stanton and Gordon to sell low on a deal.
The Cardinals are better equipped to trade impact players from the minor leagues to make a deal for Stanton. Alcantara has big stuff with a fastball that averaged 98.3 mph in his brief cup of coffee at the MLB level last season, per FanGraphs.
Alcantara's 4.31 ERA in Double-A isn't impressive, but one key advantage he has as a trade chip over Beede is age. At 22, St. Louis' flame-thrower is two full years younger than Beede. He has more time to refine his command and control to develop into a potential top-of-the-rotation arm.
There's also the chance this entire discussion will be moot for both teams since Stanton has a full no-trade clause, giving him the ability to dictate his future. If he just wants out of Miami for a chance to win, teams like the Giants and Cardinals will keep working the phones.
If Stanton, who is from the Los Angeles area, wants to play for a team like the Dodgers, Miami's hands become more tied than they already are.
Mets Eyeing Ian Kinsler
Who are the New York Mets?
Are they closer to being the team that won the 2015 National League pennant and advanced to the postseason in 2016? Are they an unlucky, injury-riddled group that fell apart with a 70-92 record last season?
On raw talent, the Mets are probably closer to the former group. A core that includes Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and budding stars like Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario is a really good place to start.
If the Mets front office believes last season was more of a fluke occurrence than a sign of imminent decline, it's not a surprise they would try to make a bold move to upgrade their roster.
Per Morosi, the Mets have had "preliminary discussions" with the Detroit Tigers about second baseman Ian Kinsler.
It's not a bad idea, in theory, because the Tigers have no reason to keep a 35-year-old making $11 million in 2018. They traded Justin Verlander, Justin Wilson and Justin Upton in the middle of last season, signaling that they want to start building for the future.
The Mets need a second baseman, unless they want to put Asdrubal Cabrera or Gavin Cecchini there to start the season.
But Kinsler doesn't seem like a good answer for the Mets, given his age and current skill set. His .236 average in 2017 was the worst of his career and his .412 slugging percentage tied his lowest in a single season.
Kinsler's entire value at this point in his career is almost entirely on defense. He still grades out well, leading all American League second baseman in FanGraphs defensive value (7.8) and defensive runs saved (six) last season.
There's not a great market for second baseman in free agency. Neil Walker, who the Mets traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in August, is the best of a mediocre bunch.
The Mets are smart to explore all options as they look to improve in 2018, but investing in another aging and offensively-limited middle infielder isn't in their best interest.
The Jurickson Profar Dilemma
It's hard not to interpret the Texas Rangers' handling of Jurickson Profar as an indication they don't view him as a long-term asset.
Once the top prospect in MLB, Profar's career was derailed when he missed two full years in 2014 and 2015 due to shoulder injuries. He did return in 2016 and has appeared in 112 MLB games over the past two seasons, posting a disappointing .227/.316/.315 slash line in that time.
Even though Profar's career hasn't taken off as expected when he was an elite prospect, he's only 24 years old and hit .287/.383/.428 in Triple-A last season.
Since there still seems to be something there with Profar, it's hardly a surprise that Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported most teams have checked in with the Rangers about the young infielder.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post got it started by reporting the New York Yankees looked at Profar, despite having an abundance of infielders at the MLB level and in the minors.
If the Rangers wanted to see what Profar could do, it would've made sense to have him replace second baseman Rougned Odor at some point last season. Odor was the worst second baseman in MLB last season by FanGraphs wins above replacement, hitting just .204/.252/.397.
Profar needs a change of scenery and a chance to play for a franchise that will throw him in the lineup every day to get consistent reps against MLB pitching to see what he can do. It may not work, but we don't know because the Rangers have never given him a real opportunity.
Contract info via Cot's Baseball Contracts.
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