Top 4 MLB Trade Candidates

by Corey Pieper
MLB Trade Candidates

One of the most fun aspects of the MLB Winter Meetings is that with all the General Managers in the same location, you expect that MLB trade candidates are being discussed. We have already seen a few of those discussions lead to trades being executed. On Sunday evening, outfielder Jarred Kelenic was traded to the Atlanta Braves. On Tuesday evening, outfielder Alex Verdugo was traded to the New York Yankees.

While those are certainly enjoyable appetizer trades, this article is looking for the main course. The four players listed below may change the outlook of a contending team's future if they are moved. If your team is searching for pitching, you have dominant starting pitchers available at the top. If it's an offensive upgrade your team needs, how about adding a player who has the following list of comparable players through their age 24 season according to Baseball Reference?

I expect to see all four of the players below traded before the MLB 2024 season gets underway. That doesn't necessarily mean that the trades will happen during the next couple of days. The Winter Meetings are ending today. Teams though may be laying the groundwork for trades to be completed throughout the off-season.

That is why you need to keep checking the Fantasy Six Pack for updates on the MLB Trade Candidates all off-season.

MLB Trade Candidates

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Corbin Burnes, Starting Pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers Traded to Baltimore Orioles

You know the bar is set high for you when a 3.39 ERA over 193 innings with over 200 strikeouts for the third consecutive season was widely viewed as a disappointment. That is exactly the season that Corbin Burnes had in 2023.

2023 was still clearly a step back for Burnes. The 3.39 ERA while still very good was also the highest ERA he has had since 2019.  That year a flukey home run rate ballooned his ERA to almost 9 as a young relief pitcher. In 2023, it wasn't that he was just unlucky. His 3.81 FIP was also the highest it has been other than the 2019 season.

200 strikeouts is still an elite number as Burnes was one of only 17 pitchers to reach that mark. My goal with pitchers is to maintain a strikeout per inning. Burnes was able to do that with 9.29 per nine innings, but that was also his lowest mark since 2018.

Burnes still has all the ace traits for an MLB team looking to add a star to their rotation. He has proven to be durable with 93 starts and 562 innings over the past three seasons. Even with last year's slightly elevated ERA, he still has just a 2.94 ERA over all those innings. In the past four seasons, he's been in the top ten in National League Cy Young voting and won the award in 2021.

The asking price for Burnes may not be as high as you would expect for a pitcher of that caliber due to just one year of team control left. Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola recently received a new contract of seven years and 172 million dollars. That leads me to believe that Burnes has to think he is worth more than 200 million dollars.

So far, I've seen very little speculation on possible landing spots for Burnes. The Los Angeles Dodgers currently have a very young and unproven rotation which is atypical for them. The MLB Network believes they are suitors too.

There has also been some speculation of another California team in the San Diego Padres having interest. They seem likely to lose defending Cy Young winner Blake Snell so they could use an ace to replace him at the top of the rotation.

Dylan Cease, Starting Pitcher, Chicago White Sox

Dylan Cease is a popular name in trade rumors. Unlike every other name on this list, he is not a free agent after next season. He is in his arbitration years and is not a free agent until after the 2025 season.

Cease also took a notable step back in his 2023 season from his 2022 season. That 2022 season involved a second-place finish in Cy Young Award voting to Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. Cease looked phenomenal pitching to a 2.2 ERA while striking out 227 batters in only 184 innings. He also led the American League in walks that season with 78.

The 2023 season didn't see the walks improve as he walked 79 again. Unfortunately, many more batted balls found their way in as hits too. In 2023, Cease pitched seven fewer innings than in 2022, but gave up 46 more hits! All those extra baserunners led to an ERA that over doubled from 2.2 in 2022 to a 4.58 in 2023. The strikeouts were still fantastic as once again he struck out 214 batters.

While the ERA is more erratic with Cease than it is with Burnes, he is also a reliable option every fifth day. He has made even more starts than Burnes the last three seasons with 97!

The trade market for Cease seems to be robust because of that extra year of control.

Jon Morosi mentions the Baltimore Orioles as a possible destination. That makes the most sense to me. The team has an abundance of positional prospects to facilitate that trade. The Orioles finished the regular season with the best record in the American League. Then, in the playoffs were swept by the Texas Rangers. A true ace at the top of the rotation would go a long way toward more postseason success.

Tyler Glasnow, Starting Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers

Tyler Glasnow has not taken any steps back in his production. He has also struggled to take a step forward in the innings that he has pitched.

Glasnow has been with the Rays for five full seasons now. In those seasons, he has pitched a total of 332 innings. That's fewer innings than Burnes and Cease have pitched in just the last two seasons! Last season, was the most innings that Glasnow has managed in his career in a season but it was still only 120 innings.

When he pitches, Glasnow is one of the very best pitchers in the game. In his 332 Rays innings, he has a total ERA of only 3.03 with 462 strikeouts to only 102 walks. With numbers like that, if you were to get 160 innings of Glasnow, he is as likely as anyone to win a Cy Young Award, and be a difference-maker for a fantasy team.

Like Corbin Burnes, Glasnow only has one year of team control left. Glasnow's contract has one year and 25 million dollars left on it. That is a lot of money for the thrifty Tampa Bay Rays, so expect Glasnow to be on the move. At this point, two National League Central teams seem to be the focus of speculation between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds.

Juan Soto, Outfielder, San Diego Padres Traded to New York Yankees

The biggest trade piece among hitters is outfielder Juan Soto. This would be Soto's second trade since the start of the 2022 season. The last trade was in August 2022 from the Washington Nationals to the San Diego Padres.

Expecting a return like that again for Soto is unrealistic. Not that Soto isn't worthy of a massive return, but he is now down to one year of team control as opposed to the two-and-a-half years he had at that time.

Soto's time in San Diego has been considered disappointing. When you check the statistics, it reveals Soto's incredible talent, that is is consdiered a letdown. Last season, Soto scored 97 runs, hit a career-high 35 home runs, had 109 RBI, stole a career-high 12 bases, and still hit .275. He also led major league baseball in walks for the third consecutive season!  Amazingly, he has yet to post a season-long OBP below .400!

Even though Soto has played six seasons in Major League Baseball, he is still going to be playing the next season at just 25 years old. He has already turned down one mega-contract from the Washington Nationals. The contract he signs next off-season will likely be the second largest all-time behind only the contract Shohei Ohtani will sign later this off-season.

Most of the Soto trade rumors so far have focused on the New York Yankees. But time will tell where Soto is moved, if at all.

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