With Major League Baseball firmly between the busy part of its offseason and the start of spring training, dreaming up trade scenarios is the best way to pass the time.
So, let's do that. Within reason, of course.
That's to say we're not going to go so wild as to imagine ways that untouchable superstars might change uniforms. We don't specifically mean Shohei Ohtani, but, well, think Shohei Ohtani.
We strictly speculated on eight players who have either appeared in trade rumors or who are in tenuous situations—whether roster-related, payroll-related or both—with their present clubs. From there, we treated them as square pegs and went looking for square holes on other teams in which to fit them.
We'll start with what we think is our biggest reach and count down to the trade that we think is the best bet to happen based on fit and resources.
8. Carson Kelly to the Tampa Bay Rays
Proposing a trade involving Carson Kelly is a reach because, per the Arizona Diamondbacks themselves, such a deal is not on their minds even after their acquisition of Gabriel Moreno.
Nevertheless, there isn't much doubt that the team's future at catcher is in Moreno's hands, not Kelly's. Kelly, 28, isn't exactly old, but Moreno is only 22 and only a year removed from debuting at No. 7 on MLB.com's list of the top prospects for 2022.
So if teams want to at least inquire about Kelly, they should. Especially if one of them is the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays reportedly poked around Sean Murphy before the Oakland Athletics sent him to Atlanta in December. That indicates that they're appropriately not thrilled about their catching tandem of Christian Bethancourt and Francisco Mejía.
For his part, Kelly has managed a solid .723 OPS and averaged 20 home runs per 162 games over the last four seasons. And while his arbitration clock was further along than Murphy's, the two had been projected to earn similar salaries in 2023: $3.5 million for Murphy and $4.1 million for Kelly before the former signed an extension with Atlanta.
With the Diamondbacks in need of young, controllable pitchers, the Rays could hope to change their minds about trading Kelly with an offer centered on an upside play. If not top prospect Taj Bradley, then maybe Luis Patiño or a true wild card in Shane Baz, who was regarded as an elite prospect before he had Tommy John surgery in September.
7. Amed Rosario to Atlanta
Atlanta's offseason would look a whole lot worse without that trade for Murphy, but it's still hard to ignore the Dansby Swanson-sized hole it has at shortstop.
With Swanson gone to the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta seems serious about playing Vaughn Grissom at short. It's a questionable notion at best. Grissom didn't hack it defensively even at second base in 2022, and he was also so cold at the plate at the end of last season that he got benched in favor of Orlando Arcia.
With the free-agent market largely picked clean, Atlanta doesn't have much to lose by aiming high for a shortstop on the trade market. Specifically, for Amed Rosario.
There isn't any indication that the Cleveland Guardians want to trade Rosario. The rationale there is perhaps obvious. He's their starting shortstop, and he's fresh off hitting .283 and posting a career-high 4.2 rWAR in 2022.
And yet, the 27-year-old Rosario keeps popping up in trade speculation anyway. That's a function of his being a member of the Guardians who's heading into his walk year. That's a point at which Cleveland has been known to cash in the chip in question.
If Atlanta does come calling about Rosario, the Guardians could set their sights on Grissom and/or right-hander Ian Anderson, who's fallen out of favor since doing impressive work in the regular season and especially the postseason in 2020 and 2021.