This free agency is absolutely loaded with talent with the top 5 names being players that could completely change a franchise. With that being said, there are only 5 of those players which means, at the minimum, there will be 25 other teams who missed out and need to find other ways to bolster their lineups, rotations, and bullpens. One way to do this is to sign lower end free agents, but this strategy is not always the most successful (recent examples being Rich Porcello to the Mets or Todd Frazier to the Rangers). The other way to do this is to trade for guys that have upside. There are some big names on the trade market like Francisco Lindor and Nolan Arenado, but you’d have to give up the farm to get those two. Here are a few names that might be available this off season that wouldn’t break the bank for most teams.
Joe Musgrove: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates are, for lack of a better term, a complete dumpster fire. They traded away nearly their entire farm system, Andrew McCutchen, and Gerrit Cole for washed up players who amounted to absolutely nothing in Pittsburgh. One name that is still kicking though is Joe Musgrove, who they acquired from Houston in the trade for Gerrit Cole. Musgrove was a highly touted prospect for the Astros who has shown signs of greatness but has struggled for much of his Major League Career. I think the Pirates may look into trading him because this is probably the highest his value will be as a 27 year old who can hold an ERA around 4. I think he would be a very enticing trade target because if you can put him in the right program with the right coaches and players, I think he can figure it out. The Pirates are not well known for developing talent so if I needed a back of the rotation starting pitcher, I would 100% take a flyer on Joe to see if we could develop him to his full talent.
Eduardo Escobar: Twins
Eduardo is coming off a rough 2020 Covid season, as many players are. However, if you’re judging him off the few years before and taking this season with a grain of salt, he looks to be a very valuable piece. The 31 year old utility infielder can be a good replacement for a team that wants someone like DJ LeMahieu in free agency but doesn’t have enough to pay for him. He’s obviously not as good at the plate as DJ but Escobar has proven he has the ability to be productive at the plate posting an OPS+of 119 and 110 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. He can also bring some surprising power to the table as he was able to hit 35 homeruns in 2019. I think the Diamondbacks will certainly look into dealing him, as they finished in last place in their division and Escobar is beginning to get up there in age. If a team is looking for a solid everyday infielder or even a player to come off the bench or platoon, I think Eduardo is a great lower cost target that could really help make a lineup better.
Jesse Hahn: Royals
This is not a common name in most baseball fans minds but Jesse Hahn is a very solid reliever in the Kansas City Royals bullpen. The 30 year old posted a 0.52 ERA in 17.1 innings in 2020 coming off an abysmal year in 2019. Hahn also racked up 3 saves for the Royals in 3 save appearances. I do not believe he is a closer on most teams but he is not a bad piece at all to bring in to help bolster a bullpen. I think the Royals know where they are as a franchise and can try to capitalize and get whatever value they can out of a 30 year old reliever that had a great 2020 campaign. Trading for guys like this is so important for a lot of teams because the more reliable arms you have in a bullpen the better off you are suited come playoff time. I think Hahn could be a great and extremely cheap bullpen option for teams that need help in that department.
German Márquez: Rockies
Márquez is definitely going to be the most expensive player of all the ones listed. Everyone is talking about the Rockies trading Arenado but I think Márquez goes a little under the radar as a potential trade piece for the Rockies. I don’t think it is an argument that Colorado is the hardest place to pitch in the MLB. The Rockies have essentially never had a true ace because of this. Márquez was able to keep an ERA of 3.75 as well as a K/9 rate of 8.0 while pitching in that horrible stadium. His ERA+ is off the charts at 140 partly due to the fact that he pitches there. You may read this and think why would the Rockies trade a pitcher who is actually having success in Colorado? My answer is that the Rockies are not a World Series team (especially if they trade Arenado), so why gamble having Márquez come back and get blown up and have his value go from extremely high to virtually nothing in the matter of one season. I think a lot of teams would be willing to trade for him being that there are some good arms in free agency, but a lot of them are on the riskier side (For example Tanaka and Kluber). I think a Márquez trade would make so much sense for both sides and I hope it is something we see during this offseason.
Christian Vázquez: Red Sox
Everyone is talking about JT Realmuto and James McCann when it comes to the Catcher Market. One name that was brought up a bunch at the trade deadline but never got traded is Christian Vázquez. The 29 year old hit .283 with 7 homers in 173 at bats during his 2020 Campaign. I think he is a great option for a team that needs a catcher and does not want to pay what the two aforementioned options are asking for. Vázquez has 1 year left on his deal with a team option for 2022. I don’t think the Red Sox are going to making a deep run in either of those years, and they also have Kevin Plawecki who had a quietly good year, so I see trading Boston trading Vázquez as realistic. Vázquez is solid behind the plate and is an above average hitter for a catcher, so I could see this being a great value pick up for a playoff team. JT Realmuto might get 6 years $200 mil+, so I think taking a flyer on Vázquez could be a much more efficient option for a smaller market team to fill their need at catcher without giving up too much of the farm.
I believe all of the names I listed are names that we may see in a lot of trade rumors this offseason. If you root for a smaller market team, or even a big market team who misses out on all of the top free agents, look at these names.