Even though spring training is when you start to see what a team is capable of doing in the regular season, the offseason is when you get a real sense of where all 30 Major League Baseball teams view themselves heading into the next year. 

While many rumors will be floated around, some of which will never happen, it’s important to keep track of them because you can learn how a front office is thinking.

For instance, the Cubs have a young nucleus of position players that has already started to arrive, so they will be linked to many pitchers through free agency or trades because that’s their one weakness, and they are trending upward. 

Scouring through the latest trade rumors, the sense you get from this offseason is that the list of potential sellers will be high. Each team has its reasons for making a move, which is what makes all of the talk compelling. 

Here are the rumors that could shape that offseason for at least three franchises. 


Braves Listening On Jason Heyward, Others

Even though they haven’t come out and said as much, it’s looking more and more like the Atlanta Braves are going to start rebuilding their roster. 

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart made a point to mention that there’s not much financial flexibility because of bad contracts already on the books, per David O’Brien of The Atlanta Journal Constitution:

One thing that we’ve looked at and we’ve talked about is that quite clearly we’re wearing some bad contracts. And so your ability economically to maybe play in the free-agent game is going to be more restricted. So we’re looking at certain levels of free-agent starters. I would assume as we finish up these (general manager) meetings, we’ll have a pretty good idea at what other clubs are looking to do…

As a result, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that teams have called the Braves about Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis:

Heyman did note in his article that the Braves aren’t shopping those three players around, but he does acknowledge that the contract status of Heyward and Upton could force their hand:

Atlanta has an interesting decision to make on some of its young stars, especially Heyward and Justin Upton, who are free-agent eligible after the 2015 season. Gattis is in a different spot, as a player under the Braves’ control for several years, but Atlanta is expected to start young catcher Christian Bethancourt this year, so teams may see an opening.

Heyward seems like the player who will draw the most attention. He’s the youngest of the trio at 25 years old, gets on base at a high clip (.351 career OBP) and was the best defensive player regardless of position by defensive runs saved in 2014, per FanGraphs.

Upton isn’t old at 27 years old, but has likely plateaued as a player. He’s still a very good asset to have, hitting 29 home runs last year, though he’s due to make nearly $7 million more ($14.5 million) than Heyward ($7.8 million) next season.

Gattis is a player who provides you with a lot of power, as evidenced by his 43 homers in two seasons, but he has a terrible approach and little plate discipline (.304 OBP). 

Bernie Miklasz of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculates that the St. Louis Cardinals could be a good trade partner with the Braves for Heyward:

Even with the iffy power and platoon limitations, Heyward is more talented overall than any of the Cardinals’ current outfielders. The defense in RF would improve dramatically. And Heyward‘s ability to bat leadoff would enable the Cardinals to move Matt Carpenter to more of a so-called RBI spot in the lineup.

While the farm system isn’t as strong as it once, the Cardinals do have prospects that could intrigue Atlanta in a potential deal. Stephen Piscotty is a terrific hitting outfielder who spent all last season at Triple-A Memphis. 

If the Braves were to engage the Cardinals in trade talks for Heyward, it would make sense to start the conversation with Piscotty and go from there. St. Louis certainly has the need for more outfield depth and is a team in win-now mode that Heyward would fit in with nicely. 


Orioles Want To Deal Ubaldo Jimenez

If you’re looking for a pitcher who posted a 4.81 ERA and walked 77 hitters in 125.1 innings who has three years left on his contract, the Baltimore Orioles would like to speak with you. 

According to Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com, the Orioles have put Ubaldo Jimenez on the trade block and have already had discussions with teams about the right-hander:

Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who made only two starts and three relief appearances in the final 41 games of the regular season and didn’t appear in a postseason game, is being made available by the Baltimore Orioles, according to Major League sources.

The Orioles have discussed Jimenez with several teams during the GM Meetings being held in Phoenix this week.

The concerns with Jimenez coming off his strong finish to 2013 with Cleveland turned out to be true. He’s had ERA totals of at least 4.68 in three of the last four years and hasn’t hit 190 innings since 2010 with Colorado. 

Given the success Jimenez had with the Indians two years, Heyman and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports speculated that a potential reunion could be good for the right-hander:

Morosi did follow that up by saying there haven’t been any serious discussions between the Indians and Orioles about Jimenez:

While the Indians could use more depth in the rotation behind Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Jimenez doesn’t seem like a solution.

As good as Jimenez’s 2013 season looks in hindsight, it was really the result of an unsustainable second half with a 1.82 ERA. He was basically the same guy we’ve seen before and after that with a 4.56 ERA and 53 walks in 98.2 innings prior to the All-Star break. 

If the Orioles are going to move Jimenez, it can only be classified as addition by subtraction. They aren’t going to get anything of real value for him, nor are they likely to get much salary relief since teams will likely want them to kick in a lot of the money remaining on his contract. 

In other words, the Orioles are going to have a hard time finding much value by keeping or trading Jimenez. 


San Diego Padres Want Offense

Who would’ve guessed that the Padres would enter an offseason trying to find more offensive production? At some point, the franchise should just accept that no one can hit in Petco Park, but we don’t have time for rational solutions. 

Instead, according to a report from Heyman on CBSSports.com, the Padres are listening to offers for their starting pitchers and catchers Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera:

San Diego is listening on starters Ian KennedyAndrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Kennedy has performed very well since going to San Diego, but is in the last year of arbitration before becoming a free agent, and presumably wouldn’t have quite the trade value of Cashner and Ross, two extremely promising young pitchers.

The Padres’ catchers were Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, and they also have a defensively strong prospect Austin Hedges, who gives them a bit of depth there.

Unfortunately for the Padres, those players don’t present much potential for return in a deal for various reasons. As Heyman notes about Kennedy, he’s only got one year of control left before hitting free agency.

Tyson Ross has to overcome the stigma of being a Petco creation since he had a 5.33 ERA in parts of three seasons with Oakland before being traded to the Padres.

Andrew Cashner has the best combination of stuff and potential, but he’s only been starting full time for two years and has been on the disabled list at least once in three of the last four years. 

Yasmani Grandal, who was supposed to be one of the key pieces acquired from Cincinnati in the Mat Latos trade, is the one intriguing option in the group. He hasn’t hit for average since 2011, but a catcher who posts a .321 on-base percentage with 15 homers playing most of his games at Petco Park offers something good. 

Of course, therein lies the problem for San Diego. The Padres want to upgrade its offense, yet trading Grandal means losing their most prolific home run hitter last season. It’s a classic Catch-22 scenario for a franchise that doesn’t have any easy solutions because of its home park. 

Ideally, the front office can find a way to trade at least one of those pitchers because that park can make mediocre arms look like rotation stalwarts. 

Stats via Baseball Reference


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