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Juan Soto, Mike Trout highlight MLB’s 10 most enticing trade candidates this winter

Amid a weak free-agent market, which stars could be on the move as MLB teams look ahead to a busy offseason?

Juan Soto of the San Diego Padres celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 30, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The champagne is hardly dry from the Texas Rangers’ World Series celebration, but every team in the league is already shifting their attention to the offseason. We’ve already gone ahead and ranked the top 25 free agents this winter, but this remains a relatively thin class behind Shohei Ohtani — meaning that plenty of teams will be forced to turn to the trade market to address their needs.

With that in mind, here’s our list of MLB’s top 10 trade candidates, ranked in descending order of how likely they are to be moved and how attractive they are to potential suitors.

Most likely MLB trade candidates this offseason

1. Juan Soto, San Diego Padres

We didn’t even make it to the end of the playoffs before smoke started rising out of San Diego about a potential Soto deal. The Padres are reportedly looking to trim payroll a bit after a tremendously disappointing 2023 season, and a Soto trade would clear some $30 million — and get something in return before the Scott Boras client almost certainly tests free agency next winter. The Padres won’t get as much as they gave up for him last year, but he’s still an elite hitter just entering his prime.

Suitors: A big salary and a one-year rental will likely limit this to only contenders, with the Blue Jays, Cubs and Yankees all making obvious sense — and the Phillies and Rangers lurking as wild cards.

2. Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers

Brandon Woodruff will miss all of next season after shoulder surgery, clouding Milwaukee’s path to contention — and upping the chances that they deal Burnes, set to become a free agent after 2024. There’s almost certainly no chance of the Brewers bringing him back once he hits the market, so with Craig Counsell potentially moving on and this season looking more and more like a retooling one, why not strike now and maximize your return for the three-time All-Star?

Suitors: Dodgers, Mets, Padres

3. Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays

It’s not fun to assume that the Rays will automatically send their most expensive players packing, but, well, recent history doesn’t lie. Glasnow is due $25 million in his final season before hitting free agency, and Tampa already has approximately $122 million on the books for next season — well above their previous record payroll of $83.9. Those savings have to come from somewhere, and trading their injury-prone but still very much in demand righty is the quickest path.

Suitors: Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Padres

4. Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians

In December 2019, Cleveland traded another accomplished starter with health question marks a year out from free agency: Corey Kluber. Could they do the same with Bieber this winter? Shoulder trouble limited the former Cy Young winner to 128 innings in 2023, and while his fastball velocity and whiff rates are both way down, he’s still found ways to be reasonably effective — and he’s still just 28.

Suitors: Cardinals, Giants, Mets, Orioles

5. Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox

Cease had a very rocky 2023, but he’s still just 28, with two years of control remaining, and he was the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award as recently as 2022. His stuff remains as electric as ever, and it won’t be hard for some contender to talk themselves into their ability to harness it a bit more and unlock a true ace. With Chicago set to strip their roster to the studs under new head of baseball operations Chris Getz, Cease could jumpstart that rebuild and help reinvigorate an organization that has needs just about everywhere.

Suitors: Astros, Cardinals, Rangers, Diamondbacks

6. Insert Orioles prospect here

Okay, this is admittedly a bit of a cheat, but it’s also a testament to just how much young talent the O’s have on hand — especially in the infield. After winning 101 games this year but flaming out in the ALDS, the time is now for GM Mike Elias to consolidate some of that talent in a trade to help Baltimore win big in 2024, and just about everyone besides top overall prospect Jackson Holliday should be on the table. Jordan Westburg? Coby Mayo? Joey Ortiz? Connor Norby? Other teams can take their pick of top prospects, in addition to useful role players like Jorge Mateo and Ramon Urias.

Suitors: Every rebuilding team should be in here, especially the likes of the Nationals, Pirates, and Tigers.

7. Alex Verdugo, Boston Red Sox

New chief baseball officer Craig Breslow inherits a team suddenly chock full of intriguing outfielders, from from established starters like Masataka Yoshida and Jarren Duran to promising prospects like Ceddanne Rafaela and Wilyer Abreu. (Not to mention pending free agent Adam Duvall, who may be open to a reunion in Boston.) The question becomes: Where does that leave Verdugo, a talented player who’s nonetheless felt like a bit of a disappointment since coming over in the Mookie Betts trade — and who seems to have worn out his welcome with manager Alex Cora? Verdugo has one year left before free agency, and the Sox have shown no interest in signing him to a long-term deal, so a trade could make sense for both sides.

Suitors: Giants, Marlins, Yankees

8. Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds

We talked about the Orioles above, but Baltimore isn’t the only ascending team with more infield prospects than it has available spots. Cincinnati has young cornerstones Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain, plus two more top prospects in Noelvi Marte and Christian Encarnacion-Strand who got their feet wet in the Majors this year. Oh, and another highly-touted shortstop, Edwin Arroyo, reached Double-A in 2023 and isn’t too far behind. With India the oldest (27 in December) and most expensive of that bunch, he could be a trade candidate in a market bereft of middle infielders — even though he’s still three years away from free agency. For a Reds team that needs pitching and is always trying to stay young and cheap, this could make sense.

Suitors: Mariners, Red Sox, Yankees, Diamondbacks

9. Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees

Brian Cashman has told anyone who’d listen that the Yankees view Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza as their middle-infield tandem of the future. That would mean now’s the time for a Torres trade, coming off a solid offensive season and still a year away from free agency. Torres may not ever become the superstar New York dreamed of, but he’s still an above-average bat entering his age-27 season who’s a credible defender at second base. That’s a valuable player, one the Yankees could use to try and plug holes elsewhere (like, say, third base or any number of outfield spots).

Suitors: Mariners, Marlins

10. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Do I think Trout will actually be traded this winter? Not really, no. There are simply too many obstacles: the $250 million remaining on his contract, for starters, not to mention his full no-trade clause as well as a growing injury history that’s sure to scare some teams off from the Angels’ desired price tag. But for the first time ever, Los Angeles is reportedly open to listening on its franchise cornerstone, and that merits mention here. Yes, Trout is now 32, and yes, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the past two or three years. But he’s still Mike Trout, and while he told reporters he’s planning to report to spring training with the Angels, he could change his mind if the right opportunity presents itself – and it would certainly kickstart L.A.’s impending rebuild.

Suitors: Giants, Phillies, Mets