The MLB offseason is right around the corner, and it's never too early to start setting the landscape for another busy winter of wheeling and dealing on the trade market.
Last month, we counted down the top 25 upcoming free agents, and now it's time to turn our attention to the potential trade candidates that could be on the move.
Our top 25 list is a mix of speculative trade candidates and players who have previously seen their names pop up on the rumor mill. Likelihood that a player is traded helped us narrow our list to 25 players, while remaining years of control and salary commitment factored into where players fell in the rankings.
Off we go!
25. RHP Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
An underrated performer for the last-place D-backs, Kelly had a 4.44 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 130 strikeouts in 158 innings while playing out the final guaranteed season of a three-year, $9.25 million deal.
The 33-year-old has a $5.25 million club option for 2022 that will likely be exercised, but that doesn't mean he won't be shopped this offseason. With a 4.11 FIP and 4.42 SIERA, he has solid enough peripherals to be viewed as a low-cost, back-of-the-rotation innings-eater.
24. RHP Cole Sulser, Baltimore Orioles
One of the few bright spots on a 110-loss Orioles team, Sulser posted a 2.70 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 with eight saves and six holds in 60 appearances.
The 31-year-old won't be arbitration-eligible for the first time until next offseason, and he's controllable through the 2025 season. With a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a terrific changeup, he doesn't have the typical late-inning stuff, but he's cost-controlled and the 2021 results speak for themselves.
23. SS Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals
Just two years removed from a 5.3-WAR season, DeJong watched from the bench as Edmundo Sosa started at shortstop in the NL Wild Card Game. The rookie's emergence this season and a loaded free-agent class could mean the end of DeJong's time in St. Louis.
The 28-year-old has a $6.2 million salary in 2022, a $9.2 million salary in 2023 and a pair of club options to follow with a $2 million buyout in 2024. If the Cardinals are willing to eat some salary, he could be an appealing buy-low option given his All-Star-level performance just a few years ago.
22. RHP Joe Ross, Washington Nationals
With Max Scherzer gone, Stephen Strasburg recovering from thoracic outlet surgery and Patrick Corbin struggling through the worst season of his career in 2021, it's not out of the question to think that Ross could be the Nationals' de facto ace in 2021.
However, with free agency looming after the 2022 season, he is also an obvious trade candidate for the rebuilding club. The 28-year-old had a 4.17 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in 108 innings this year, and his projected $3 million salary won't break the bank.