As the Chicago Cubs’ celebration over a century in the making wraps up, MLB has quickly shifted to offseason mode.

All 30 teams will waste no time mapping out their winter blueprints in preparation for 2017. Birds have started chirping about baseball’s hottest free agents, but not everyone has enough cash to spend. Even those who do would still like to pawn off recent signings for newer models.

Two of the league’s wealthiest clubs are each reportedly shopping a veteran hitter. Another team is looking to follow the Cubs’ breakout formula and transform a promising assortment of talent into a title fixture.

More than one week removed from Game 7’s final World Series out, the hot stove is officially flaming. The rumor mill is open for business, so let’s take a look at some early trade chatter percolating around the league.


Astros Targeting Marquee Sluggers

After years of losing, the Houston Astros have built up a contender bolstered by a crop of young position players. With a World Series run now possible, they are open to more rigorous spending.

This should sound familiar, as the Cubs were in a similar spot last year. They fortified their team through free agency, adding Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Jason Heyward to the mix. If Houston can land some key upgrades, it could enjoy a comparable rise to dominance.

Per Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi, ownership senses the opportunity and is now willing to pay for top talent. Along with eyeing a premier free-agent slugger, the Astros also have another All-Star in sight:

Don’t bank on anything happening with Miguel Cabrera, who hit .316/.393/.563 with 38 home runs for the Detroit Tigers. As Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told the Houston Chronicle‘s Jake Kaplan, the speculation has been blown out of proportion.

“I was asked, ‘Would we consider a trade for a Hall of Fame-caliber first baseman,’ and we’re considering everything. I think the media kind of ran with that,” Luhnow said Wednesday. “Whoever started that rumor, it wasn’t us.”

Even if they agreed on a blockbuster, the two-time MVP could exercise his full no-trade clause to block the deal. No matter how improbable, the Astros’ potential interest highlights a willingness to spend big to win now, as the first baseman—who turns 34 next April—has seven years and $212 million remaining on his contract.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has hit 193 home runs over the last five years, would also require a hefty, long-term investment. Look for the Astros to settle on mid-tier targets such as Carlos Beltran, who they are “hot” for, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.


Dodgers Examining Market for Howie Kendrick

According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Los Angeles Dodgers are open to moving Howie Kendrick, who would prefer a change of scenery.

Although he racked up 543 plate appearances over 146 games in 2016, the veteran wants a full-time role at a set position. Kendrick, a second baseman for most of his career, spent most of his time in left field in addition to second and first base.

Whether or not the instability affected him at the plate, he delivered substandard offensive production. Having previously never batted below .279, he hit .255 with a career-worst .303 weighted on-base average (wOBA). 

The 33-year-old is due $10 million during the second and final year of his contract. Despite his struggles in 2016, teams will be hard-pressed to locate a more affordable major league starter of his caliber in free agency.

Rosenthal mentioned the Philadelphia Phillies and a Los Angeles Angels reunion as possibilities. His former team especially needs help at second base after its options netted a .268 wOBA in 2016.

Kendrick makes a decent short-term replacement for either squad, especially if the Dodgers deal him at a marked-down price. 


Yankees Exploring Deals for Brian McCann

With the offseason underway, the New York Yankees will resume trade talks regarding Brian McCann.

According to the New York Post‘s Joel Sherman, the Yankees already have offers involving the 32-year-old catcher:

Brian Cashman has deals he can make for Brian McCann right now. But some were from teams the Yankees general manager dismissed because he does not believe the catcher would waive his no-trade clause (think West Coast and/or non-contenders) and others have yet to offer a return that Cashman finds satisfactory.

Sherman cited the Astros, Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves as interested teams. The Astros and Nationals both have holes behind the plate with their starters (Jason Castro for Houston, Wilson Ramos for Washington) on the open market. The Braves, meanwhile, were tied to their old catcher before the summer’s trade deadline.

McCann wields a full no-trade clause, but his agent, B.B. Abbott, told Sherman that his client would consider accepting a move back to Atlanta.

“He calls that home and loves it in the offseason,” Abbott said. “He would look hypothetically at them very seriously if Cash is able to do it. If it is a team a little closer to home that has a chance to contend that fits X, Y and Z, Mac will look at it and determine if it is a fit.”

After Gary Sanchez’s Herculean debut, the Bronx Bombers can afford to trade their pricier veteran and let the newcomer handle the full-time catching duties. They would especially benefit by receiving pitching in any exchange.


All advanced stats courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Contract information courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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