Most of the focus on MLB offseason roster moves will be on the free agents, who will become eligible to sign with new teams somewhere in the Nov. 4-8 range, depending on how long the World Series lasts.
But offseason trades can also have a big impact on expectations for the year ahead.
Just last December, San Diego dealt for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell on the same day and instantly became one of the favorites to win the National League. In early January, the Mets made their move for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. And then the Cardinals got Nolan Arenado in early February.
None of those teams ended up even making it to the NLDS this year, but we do typically see at least a few substantial names/contracts on the move during the winter.
So, what are a few swaps that could make sense for the next few months?
We've put together five hypothetical trades that figure to benefit both clubs. They aren't all as big as Lindor or Arenado, but we're not going to waste your time with "backup utility man for cash considerations" proposals. In each of these five deals, the centerpiece is slated to make more than $7 million in 2022—$23 million in the most noteworthy case.
Just do me a favor and don't grade me on these until at least Christmas. Significant trades usually don't happen within the first few weeks of free agency, as most teams are waiting to see if they can fix their problems without giving up anything in return.
Trey Mancini Leaves the Bird Nest
The Trade: Baltimore's Trey Mancini to Tampa Bay for Cole Wilcox and cash
Trading away a fan favorite is always a painful proposition.
But let's be real: Baltimore is not competing in the loaded AL East in 2022. The Orioles finished 39 games behind the fourth-place Blue Jays this year, and next season might not go any better. So, they might as well try to get something in return for a guy hitting free agency one year from now.
Trey Mancini missed the 2020 campaign with colon cancer, but he played in 147 games this past season with a .255 batting average and 21 home runs. And that's after he ran out of gas over the latter third of the season. Through his first 97 games, Mancini had an OPS of .827 and was on a 162-game pace of 32 home runs.
He is arbitration-eligible for the upcoming season, and Spotrac estimates his 2022 salary at $8 million. That's a small price to pay for a 1B/DH with good power, so the bidding war for acquiring Mancini's services could be interesting if his name is floated out there during winter meetings.
One team sure to be interested is Tampa Bay, which probably isn't going to re-sign DH Nelson Cruz even if the 41-year-old opts to play another season. The Rays could also benefit from another option in the first base rotation following a second consecutive mediocre year from Ji-Man Choi.
How much the Rays would be willing to give up for one year of Mancini's services is the big question, but minor league right-handed pitcher Cole Wilcox seems like a good starting point.
Wilcox was one of the players Tampa Bay got in return for Blake Snell last winter. He was a third-round pick in the 2020 draft who had a 2.03 ERA in 10 starts with the Charleston RiverDogs (Single A) in 2021. However, Wilcox had Tommy John surgery in September and will most likely miss all of 2022 as a result, so it might be another three or four years before he's ready for the big leagues. Considering it might be another three or four years before Baltimore truly competes again, though, that could be a great long-term deal for the O's.
Angels Re-Acquire Mike Clevinger
The Trade: San Diego's Mike Clevinger to the Angels for Kyren Paris and cash
The starting pitching market is about to be flooded with ridiculously big names. Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman top a long list of major arms hitting free agency.
The Los Angeles Angels will be very interested in that market, considering—with Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy on their way out the door—their 2022 starting rotation is currently looking like Shohei Ohtani and a whole bunch of question marks.
In Cobb, Bundy, Albert Pujols and Dexter Fowler, the Angels do have a substantial amount of money coming off the books this winter. However, with more than $101 million tied up in Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton next season, they're not exactly in a position to go out and get Scherzer and Kershaw. Maybe one, but not both. They're going to need to make at least one budget-savvy move to fill out the rotation, and the Padres should be able to help.
San Diego currently has six starting pitchers—Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Mike Clevinger, Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack—under contract through next season, plus 2018 first-round pick Ryan Weathers (18 starts in 2021) still on a rookie deal through 2023.
While they certainly don't need to deal any of those guys, they could absolutely afford to move one or two. And most likely, they would prefer to move either Clevinger ($8 million in 2022; free agent in 2023) or Musgrove (estimated $8.8 million in 2022; free agent in 2023).