Even though the 2017 winter meetings came to an end on Thursday, Major League Baseball's offseason wheeling and dealing is far from being over.
There are still plenty of top-tier free agents on the board, but the biggest stories coming out of Orlando involved superstar players being discussed in trade talks. That doesn't always guarantee a deal will come to pass, but smoke can often lead to fire.
It also speaks to the lack of star power at the top of the free-agent market this offseason that teams seem to be more engaged in trade discussions to upgrade their roster. However, J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are all excellent players with major question marks about their future potential on a long-term deal.
With all of the trade rumors that came out of the winter meetings, here are the ones to keep a close eye on.
The Manny Machado Sweepstakes
It's a surprise that the Baltimore Orioles are even listening to offers for third baseman Manny Machado but even more shocking might be the team leading the charge to acquire the All-Star.
Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Chicago White Sox have been the "most aggressive suitor" in talks with the Orioles for Machado.
Even though the White Sox, who went 67-95 in 2017, don't seem like the right fit for a player one year away from free agency, Rosenthal did note there is a method to their madness:
"The White Sox want to land Machado and sign him long-term before he becomes a free agent at the end of the season, sources said. However, the possibility also exists that the White Sox could flip Machado to another club—most likely the New York Yankees—and secure additional prospects for what already is one of the game’s best farm systems, if not the best."
The Yankees being part of the equation adds to the drama of this situation. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported there was "no way" they would do the deal because this iteration of the Yankees isn't likely to trade multiple major prospects for a player one year from free agency.
Unless the White Sox receive some indication they can re-sign Machado, which could realistically end up costing $250-300 million, it wouldn't be smart for them to move three significant prospects from a stacked farm system for a couple more wins in 2018.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the St. Louis Cardinals have also made an offer to the Orioles for Machado. They would make more sense because they are on the cusp of being a playoff contender following an 83-79 record and after acquiring Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins.
The Orioles are so bereft of starting pitching that it's hard to see them improving upon last year's 75-win effort without taking drastic action. Their rotation had an MLB-worst 5.70 ERA and threw the fewest innings in the AL (846) in 2017.
Machado is coming off his worst full season in MLB with a .259/.310/.471 slash line, but he was worth at least 6.2 FanGraphs wins above replacement three times in four seasons from 2013-16.
The Orioles should be asking for a king's ransom in exchange for Machado. They have to start thinking about replenishing the talent in their farm system, especially if they want to remain within shouting distance of the Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
The White Sox have the kind of system to offer anything the Orioles could be hoping for. It's almost too perfect a match, assuming both sides are serious in their desire to make a move.
Staying at third base in the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays are in a similar position to the Orioles with Josh Donaldson.
However, unlike the Orioles actively engaging in discussions about Machado, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported the Blue Jays have "no intention" of dealing Donaldson even though five teams have shown interest in the 2015 AL MVP.
Donaldson will be eligible for free agency after next season, so the Blue Jays have a short amount of time to decide what kind of team they will be in 2018. They went 76-86 last season and only scored 693 runs, fewest in the AL.
There still pieces in place for the Blue Jays to be better next season. The starting rotation will be better if Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ are healthy and able to make 30 starts each. Donaldson missed 49 games and was still able to hit 33 home runs with a .944 OPS.
Adding pieces to the lineup will be essential for Toronto's front office. Donaldson, Justin Smoak and Ezequiel Carrera were the only regulars who had an above-average OPS+ in 2017, per Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays' biggest problem is playing in a division with the Yankees, who are loaded with young talent and just added Giancarlo Stanton to the lineup, and Red Sox, who still have a deep core of talent and the money to add major pieces in free agency.
The Blue Jays could start the year with Donaldson and wait to trade him in July if things fall apart, but that would also diminish the return they can ask for than if they shop him now.
The Marlins' Plan
This has been an offseason from hell for fans of the Miami Marlins, and things don't seem likely to get better any time soon.
Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Marlins told teams they would trade Christian Yelich after Marcell Ozuna was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Miami's stance on Yelich has been subject to conflicting reports. Nightengale reported the Marlins said they have no intention of dealing the 26-year-old.
Heyman added the Marlins were going to talk with Yelich, who is "frustrated" by their recent deals, before making a decision on how to handle things.
The Marlins' trades of Stanton and Ozuna have been lackluster in terms of the return, as noted by Rotoworld's Drew Silva:
Yelich might be the most valuable of Miami's trade assets because of his contract status. His deal runs through 2021 with a team option for 2022, and he could be owed up to $58.25 million, per Spotrac.
By comparison, Stanton can make up to $295 million over the next 10 years if he doesn't opt out of his deal after 2020. Ozuna is under team control for two years before being eligible for free agency after 2019.
Considering where the Marlins are at right now, it makes no sense for them not to entertain deals for Yelich. They haven't done a good job replenishing their farm system so far with their recent trades.
It's hard to imagine a scenario where the Marlins' talks with Yelich result in anything other than him expressing a desire to leave what looks like a sinking ship.
Yelich is entering the prime years of his career, locked into a contract with a franchise that doesn't appear to have any plan beyond cutting as much salary as possible.
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