Teams around Major League Baseball that are unable to find the right player for a reasonable price in free agency turn to the trade market instead. It could become a common theme this winter with a limited number of impact free agents available.

It comes down to maximizing value. General managers must decide whether it makes more sense to pay slightly over market value to secure a free agent or move an asset already within the organization to acquire a player to fill the same void.

Let’s check out some of the players who could be available for trade based on the latest rumblings from around the league.


Jeff Samardzija

Samardzija is an intriguing player despite lackluster numbers. The Chicago Cubs starter, who began his career in the bullpen, sports a 4.19 ERA and 1.35 WHIP through six seasons. Yet, a high strikeout rate and stretches of dominance point to a brighter future.

He could be a terrific addition to a team looking to strength their rotation, and it sounds like the Cubs are ready to wheel and deal. David Kaplan of CSN Chicago reports that sources say it’s a virtual certainty the pitcher will be traded before Opening Day.

On Wednesday, major league sources who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed to me that the front runners to land Samardzija in a trade are the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks, with the price according to one evaluator being extremely significant.

“I don’t see him throwing another pitch in a Cubs uniform. I think it’s 99 percent that he gets moved. They’re not ready to win and he brings you the young pitching you need for the future,” said a major league source.

With serious competition for Samardzija, it’s unlikely he can be acquired at a bargain price. That said, he’s under team control for a couple of more years and should be on the verge of a breakout season. Of the teams mentioned, the Blue Jays seem like a logical fit after their frustrating 2013 season.


Jim Johnson

An unheralded middle reliever during his first handful of seasons in the league, Johnson has developed into a lights-out closer for the Baltimore Orioles. But with his contract on the rise, the team might be willing to move him, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.

Johnson has 101 saves over the past two seasons while maintaining an ERA below three. The one thing he doesn’t have, which could concern teams, is a high strikeout rate. He’s struck out a shade under 6.3 batters per nine innings since taking over as the closer, well off the pace of other elite closers.

Still, his ability to close out games, even if it’s in a different fashion than the likes of Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman will be attractive to teams seeking stability in the bullpen. The Orioles’ asking price will determine if a serious trade market develops for Johnson, though.


Mitch Moreland

Moreland finally got a chance to receive nearly 150 games worth of playing time for the Texas Rangers after years in platoons. He responded with 23 home runs, but his batting average and on-base percentage numbers both dropped to career lows.

Following Texas’ addition of Prince Fielder to man first base, Moreland could be on the move. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports the Tampa Bay Rays are interested, and he could become one piece of a much larger deal for David Price.

Here’s the issue, though: Texas is also known to like David Price, and is one of the clubs expected to make a run at trading for him this winter. The Rays are said to like Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland, who the Rangers no longer need, and could include in a larger Price deal. If Moreland ends up in Tampa, the Mets will lose a strong trade partner for Davis.

Obviously, Moreland would just be one part of any blockbuster deal for Price. The Rays could also try to acquire him in a smaller deal if the other pieces aren’t in place to move the ace. Either way, Moreland is the type of versatile player that seems to thrive under Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon.


Read more MLB news on