By Cliff Corcoran
The holiday free agent shopping season is almost over. Of the 12 players I listed as the top free agents heading into this offseason in early November, just two remain unsigned -- Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Most teams looking for high-end talent have just one remaining recourse: a trade. With that in mind, here are the top remaining trade targets at many key positions (we left out first base since we don't know yet where Encarnacion will land, and there are other solid first baseman on the free agent market -- such as Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli and Chris Carter -- who could be fits for many teams).
2B: Brian Dozier, Twins
The late-blooming Dozier has been worth more than five wins above replacement in two of the last three seasons, per Baseball-Reference's WAR, and is coming off a likely career year in which he became just the second player in Major League history to hit 40 home runs as a second baseman in a single season (he had 42 overall). The Twins seem unlikely to contend in either of the next two seasons, and Dozier's trade value will never be higher, so there's reason for them to consider a deal, even though new general manager Thad Levine said before the Winter Meetings that the Twins would have to be "really inspired" to trade Dozier. A more cost-effective target might be the Rays' Logan Forsythe, while teams willing to take on salary could target Detroit's Ian Kinsler, provided they aren't on his 10-team no-trade list. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, who have reportedly inquired about all three, they are on that list.
SS: Zack Cozart, Reds
The Reds would prefer to trade Cozart and double-play partner Brandon Phillips to clear room for youngsters Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera. However, the one team that had been showing consistent interest in the slick-fielding Cozart, both at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July and this offseason, was the Mariners, who solved their shortstop shortcoming by acquiring Jean Segura from the Diamondbacks in late November.
3B: Todd Frazier, White Sox
By trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, who can be controlled at team-friendly prices for three and five more seasons, respectively, the White Sox sent a clear signal that they don't expect to contend in the near future, if at all this decade. That makes trading a quality veteran entering his walk year, such as Frazier, a must. Frazier had a down year in 2016 at the age of 30, but still played solid defense, hit 40 home runs and was worth 3.4 wins above replacement per bWAR. With Turner back on the Dodgers, the White Sox could run into a lack of demand for Frazier, but he'd improve both the Red Sox and the Yankees at the hot corner, just to name two high-profile destinations.
C: Evan Gattis, Astros
Matt Wieters, Nick Hundley and Kurt Suzuki are among the top remaining free agent catchers. Gattis and Stephen Vogt are the top trade targets. Wieters and Gattis are the best of that bunch, with Gattis seemingly squeezed out of an everyday spot in the Astros' lineup by Houston's acquisitions this offseason of catcher Brian McCann, designated hitter Carlos Beltran, and left fielder Nori Aoki. Gattis didn't catch a single game in 2015, but made 49 starts behind the plate in 2016 and excelled on both sides of the ball in what was his best Major-League season. Entering his walk year on a very affordable $5.2 million option, the 30-year-old Gattis would make a great stop-gap at catcher for numerous teams with even a long-shot hope of contention in 2017.
OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Trading McCutchen after his worst Major League season would be selling low for the Pirates. However, Pittsburgh needs to clear room in its lineup for the arrival of top hitting prospects Josh Bell and Austin Meadows, and if McCutchen fails to bounce back in the coming season, his value will drop precipitously from where it already is, making the decision to pick up his $14.5 million option for 2018 a fraught one for the Pirates. With all of that in mind, Pittsburgh came close to trading McCutchen to Washington during the Winter Meetings. That deal fell through (and McCutchen admitted he was "bothered" by the rumors), but the Bucs continue to field offers and reportedly seek major league talent in return, as they still consider themselves a potential contender despite their losing record in 2016.
As a former MVP with two affordable years of control remaining, McCutchen is the top outfield target despite his down year. Other compelling names who may be available include the Tigers' J.D. Martinez (who is entering his walk year); the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon (two arbitration years left); the Mets' Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce; and Melky Cabrera of the White Sox (all entering their walk years); and, as ever, the Brewers' Ryan Braun, who is owed $76 million for the next four seasons and can block trades to all but six teams.
RHP: Chris Archer, Rays
Archer is on a team-friendly contract that would allow the Rays to control him for five more seasons for a total of just $38.5 million, so it's difficult to understand why they would be willing to effectively sell low on Archer after what was likely a fluky down year (Archer went 9-19 with a 4.02 ERA, but his deserved run average was 2.92). Still, instead of ruling out a deal, the Rays have let it be known that it would take a package comparable to or even in excess of the one the White Sox got for Chris Sale to pry Archer from their roster. Given the fact that there is no team in the Majors that wouldn't benefit from adding Archer given his ability and his contract, it's not impossible that such a deal is out there for them.
LHP: Jose Quintana, White Sox
Able to control Quintana for four more seasons for just $36.85 million, the White Sox would need a third monster haul to part with him. However, having already traded three affordable years of Sale and five of Eaton, for admittedly fantastic returns, such a deal is well within the realm of possibility, particularly given presence of the near-ready rotation prospects the White Sox acquired in the Eaton deal who could rise to replace the soon-to-be-28-year-old lefty.
Closer: David Robertson, White Sox
With just two years remaining on his contract, Robertson, who will be 32 in April, is a player the White Sox must trade in order to maximize the potential of their rebuild. Unlike with Frazier, Cabrera or Brett Lawrie, they need not do so in the next eight months. However, with Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon off the market, the demand for Robertson should be spiking. The Nationals tried to get Robertson in the Eaton deal and remain the best fit for him, as well as his most likely destination, but given the recent postseason success of the Royals and Indians, having a closer may not necessarily preclude a team from pursuing a second relief ace. What will be interesting to see is if the White Sox are willing to eat any of the $25 million Robertson is owed over the next two seasons in order to improve their return for their closer.
Other high-leverage relief targets include Detroit's Francisco Rodriguez and the A's Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, the latter of whom can be controlled for four more years for less than $20 million, but has thrown just 52 2/3 innings over the last two seasons due to shoulder problems.
Cliff Corcoran is a Sports on Earth contributor and a regular guest analyst on MLB Network. An editor or contributor to 13 books about baseball, including seven Baseball Prospectus annuals, he spent the last 10 seasons covering baseball for SI.com and has also written for USA Today and SB Nation, among others.