Things are about to get very busy and very interesting for Major League Baseball's 30 clubs over the coming days and weeks, as free agents will be finding new homes left and right. But there will also be a fair share of movement through trades as clubs look to move around money, create vacancies for younger players, and the like. The Philadelphia Phillies, as usual, figure to be players in the trade market this offseason, but finding out who they ultimately target will be the fun part.
To this end, MLB Trade Rumors has created a list of the top 25 trade candidates, an interesting piece that brings immediate intrigue from fans of contending teams in the market for upgrades. And while it would be nice to think that the Phillies could somehow pilfer a bevy of names from this group to bolster their championship aspirations, any realistic observer should study the list for appropriate fits that could fall reasonably within roster and budget constraints.
So, who makes sense for the Phillies to target in offseason trade talks?
Starters the Phillies should target
For starters, you can look at ... well, the starters. Corbin Burnes is the top SP on the list, coming in at No. 2, followed by Shane Bieber (No. 4), Tyler Glasnow (No. 5), and Dylan Cease (No. 6) before you have to drop down much further for names like Paul Blackburn (meh) and Alek Manoah (yikes!). Of course, the Phillies' need for a front-end starter entirely hinges on whether or not they bring back Aaron Nola, something which is still very much up in the air.
Failing a new contract to keep Nola in Philadelphia for the long haul, the Phillies could also dive into the free agent market to scoop up someone like Sonny Gray or Jordan Montgomery. But if they are unable or unwilling to float a fresh contract to a newcomer, some of the aforementioned pitchers make sense to some degree.
Burnes sits at the top of the wish list, and for good reason, as he has been one of the top pitchers in the game over the past three seasons. His situation is a bit tenuous, however, as he can become a free agent as soon as the end of next season, so obviously any trade would have to also come with some sort of assured extension. No club will pony up serious assets for one year of Burnes. All in all, though, Burnes makes the most sense as a trade target to fill an immediate need for the Phillies.
Bieber and Glasnow would be quality options as well, although both have more durability concerns than Burnes. Bieber in particular did not look as sharp as usual in 2023, and one wonders if he can regain the kind of form that saw him put up an ERA of 2.91 from 2019 through 2022.
Cease is a wild card here, and he would probably be the best long-term investment of the bunch. 2023 was a bump in the road for him, but Cease's White Sox club was a disaster from start to finish. He could use a change of scenery and, at age 27, figures to have several good years ahead of him. He did finish second in AL Cy Young voting in 2022 and has topped 200 strikeouts three years in a row. Any team trading for him would have him under control for at least two more years. Is he a better "win-now" option than Burnes? Probably not, but the Phillies would be wise to show interest.
Hitters the Phillies should target
Turning to hitters, Juan Soto tops MLB Trade Rumors' list. It's not happening, though. The Phillies do not have the organizational assets or the budget to fit Soto in. Moving further down, we find several intriguing names, such as Randy Arozarena (No. 15), Dylan Carlson (No. 17), Brandon Drury (No. 20), and Christian Vázquez (No. 23). It'd be nice to talk ourselves into the possibility of Eloy Jiménez (No. 12), but he is probably relegated to DH duty, and the Phillies have enough of a logjam there to begin with.
As for the others, Arozarena is a bit aspirational, but never put it past Tampa to trim payroll by trading their best players. Arozarena would bring some legitimate firepower to the Phillies' outfield, although it would come at the cost of playing time for (or perhaps even trading away) Brandon Marsh or Johan Rojas. Moving Nick Castellanos also might be a direct cause or result of an Arozarena trade.
Carlson is more of a project, but the Cardinals seem to have soured on him and would presumably sell him off relatively cheaply. He might be worth a flier at the right price. And Drury would be a nice jack-of-all-trades addition to a contending club if the Phillies could find 350 plate appearances or so for him next year. Christopher Morel (No. 22) might also fit this mold, although he is more limited defensively than Drury.
Finally, there's Christian Vázquez. The 33-year-old backstop is a pretty unspectacular option, but the Twins are fairly motivated to move him and might even eat some of his salary. He would be a solid backup to J.T. Realmuto and address the team's low-key but vital need for a more dependable backup catcher.
We all loved Garrett Stubbs' rah-rah act in the dugout and clubhouse, but he just didn't cut it on the field in 2023, where he was positively Andrew Knapp-like. It's sad to say, but it's time to move on from Stubbs, most likely in the form of a more dependable veteran like Vázquez, who can competently spell Realmuto more often. Give him 50 or so starts behind the dish so that Realmuto can get a few extra days of DH duty or all-out rest per month. It can only help the club once they arrive at the playoffs, provided they get there, of course.
These are the main names that jump off the page from MLB Trade Rumors' top 25 trade target list as being good fits for the Phillies. It'd be nice to go on a shopping spree both here and in free agency, but Dave Dombrowski and company will have to be judicious about what additions they make this offseason and what they spend to acquire said new blood. As usual, it will be interesting to see how everything plays out, because the unexpected often occurs.