Holiday shopping isn’t limited to citizens, as all 30 Major League Baseball teams continue to scour the market to find trades that will benefit them in 2017 and beyond. 

Just as all of us are doing deep research on whether The Last Guardian or Final Fantasy XV is the better holiday video-game release to purchase, front offices are vigorously debating the best way to approach things with a free-agent investment or deal will make the most impact. 

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s operate under the assumption deals will be the order of the day because they are often more interesting to dissect since two teams, in theory, stand to benefit from a trade. 


Dodgers Opening Path to Dozier

No team best exemplifies the fickle nature of offseason dealing than the Los Angeles Dodgers, who may be changing their tune about one of their best prospects in an effort to upgrade the MLB roster. 

Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Dodgers are now showing a “willingness” to include right-handed pitcher Jose De Leon in a trade for Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. 

This report comes two days after ESPN’s Doug Padilla reported the Dodgers were reluctant to build a package around De Leon for Dozier. 

De Leon was rated as the No. 33 prospect in baseball by last season, with this glowing scouting report:

De Leon’s stuff significantly improved in pro ball after he upgraded his conditioning and mechanics. He works at 92-94 mph and can reach 96 mph with his fastball, which has riding life. De Leon’s changeup progressed so much in 2015 that it has become his best secondary pitch, and he also has a low-80s slider that’s effective.

De Leon made a brief appearance in the big leagues last season, posting a 6.35 ERA with 15 strikeouts and seven walks in 17 innings. 

Considering how bad the Twins pitching staff was in 2016, including getting the sixth-fewest innings (875.1) from their starters, it’s no wonder why they would be pursuing young, cost-controlled starters if they are going to deal Dozier. 

The Dodgers are in an interesting position, especially with their young pitchers. They are going to need a lot of depth since they will start 2017 with injury-prone starters Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood penciled into the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw

But they are also not in a position to wait for those young starters, like De Leon, to develop in the big leagues with a roster capable of making a deep playoff run. The biggest hole among their position players is at second base, which is currently unoccupied with Chase Utley being a free agent. 

Dozier would certainly be an upgrade over anything the Dodgers got at the position in 2016. He won’t hit 42 home runs, which was 14 more than he ever hit in a season, again. But even if he reverts back to his 2014 form with a .242/.345/.416 slash line with 23 home runs, that’s a win for them because he’s eight years younger than Utley and under contract through 2018. 


Rockies’ Blackmon Plan

The Colorado Rockies have had one of the most interesting offseasons to date, though not in ways that make them strong playoff contenders.

Ian Desmond had a fantastic first half in 2016 before reverting back to his 2015 self with a .237/.283/.347 line after the All-Star break, yet the Rockies decided to guarantee him five years and give up the No. 11 draft pick to do so. 

The Rockies followed that up by signing 31-year-old reliever Mike Dunn, who has a 3.54 career ERA and 1.37 WHIP, to a three-year deal that was announced on Thursday. 

One potential move that seemed like a foregone conclusion for the Rockies was a trade involving Charlie Blackmon, though that doesn’t seem likely given what they are asking in return. 

Per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, rival teams are less sure about Blackmon getting dealt because they will only do it if they receive “an Adam Eaton type deal.”

The Washington Nationals acquired Eaton from the Chicago White Sox for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning. 

In case you are wondering what kind of package that is, ranked Giolito as the No. 3 prospect in baseball, Lopez as the No. 38 prospect and Dunning was Washington’s No. 6 prospect. 

There are two key differences between Eaton and Blackmon, which make a comparable deal seem unlikely. The first—and most obvious—is contract status.

Eaton will make a total of $38.4 million on his current deal that runs through 2021, per Spotrac. Blackmon has just two more years of team control before he can become a free agent. 

The other major difference is Blackmon has played his entire career in Colorado, which has played a substantial role inflating his numbers since his MLB debut in 2011.

If teams could guarantee they were getting the Coors Field version of Blackmon, then his two years of control wouldn’t be as big of an issue in giving up a huge return. But Colorado has a knack for inflating numbers for pedestrian hitters, which is why the Rockies shouldn’t overplay their hand. 


Rays House of Pitchers

The Tampa Bay Rays are constantly exploring ways to improve their roster, mostly out of necessity because there is always a very-limited amount of money they can spend on talent, which is why rumblings of them dealing a starter have basically been non-stop for a year. 

Passan reported on Dec. 6 the Rays were “almost certain to deal a starter,” with Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb generating strong interest. 

However, there’s likely a reason nearly two weeks have passed with no deals involving Rays pitchers. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported on Dec. 10 they are “are seeking massive returns on just about everybody asked about.”

It’s certainly a reasonable position for the Rays to take. The starting-pitching market for free agents is dreadful, with Hill being the best available option before he re-signed with the Dodgers. 

Smyly is coming off a down year in 2016 with a 4.88 ERA in 175.1 innings, but he’s a left-hander under team control for two more seasons and has a 3.74 career ERA with 552 strikeouts in 570.1 innings since 2012. 

Cobb is a more interesting case because last year doesn’t really count. He returned on September 2 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014, so his 8.59 ERA in 22 innings comes with a huge asterisk. 

In 2013-14, Cobb was terrific with a 2.82 ERA with 283 strikeouts and just 262 hits allowed in 309.2 innings. He only has one more year of control left, leaving the Rays between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand, moving Cobb now could net a better return since a team acquiring him would receive a full year of starts from him. And on the chance his elbow flares up on him again, the Rays don’t have to worry about it. 

On the other hand, supposing Cobb puts together a strong first half, he could end up being one of the most attractive trade chips in July and get several contenders seeking another starter in a bidding war. 

It’s not an ideal situation for the Rays to be in, but they have proven in the past with players like Matt Moore they won’t hesitate to make a deal when they get an offer to their liking. 

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