MLB trade candidates 2023: Shane Bieber, Shohei Ohtani headline players to watch

The 2023 Major League Baseball season is underway with MLB trade rumors swirling around the league. As teams in the postseason picture look to make moves, there are plenty of attractive MLB trade candidates to monitor this summer.

Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani is the name everyone is keeping an eye on. Poised to become one of the top MLB free agents this winter, Ohtani is poised to leave the Angels in free agency. Facing the possibility of losing him to the open market, Ohtani headlines the top MLB trade candidates right now.

Related: MLB playoff race

Even if Ohtani isn’t traded, there are plenty of premium talents expected to be available. Whether a team is seeking an All-Star pitcher or a hitter to plug into their lineup, there will be plenty of options.

Let’s dive into the top MLB trade candidates in 2023.

Identifying the best players who could be traded

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels face the ultimate predicament this summer. Shohei Ohtani isn’t re-signing with them this winter, so Los Angeles must choose between keeping the AL MVP or trading him at a discount. Right now, the Angels want to keep him but that could change based on what the MLB standings look like in July.

  • Shohei Ohtani career stats: .268/.353/.533, .886 OPS, 3.02 ERA, 11.5 K/9 in 420.2 innings

Ultimately, the Angels’ best move is likely to trade him. It will result in an attendance drop and hurt the relationship with the fan base, but it’s the best move from a baseball perspective. Ohtani can pitch at an All-Star level and HIS .913 OPS over the last three seasons proves his worth as a hitter. That’s two impact additions with one player for a World Series contender, a bidding war everyone will want to be involved in.

  • Teams to Watch: New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners

Corbin Burnes, starting pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers

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Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Typically, teams in first place don’t make themselves sellers at the trade deadline. However, the Milwaukee Brewers demonstrated last year that they are more than willing to trade All-Star pitching to slash future payroll. Considering the deteriorating relationship with Corbin Burnes, it’s no surprise he’s been floated among the MLB trade candidates.

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Burnes, arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2024, will leave Milwaukee at the first opportunity. The Brewers’ organization hasn’t demonstrated a willingness to spend at a competitive level and the arbitration process damaged their relationship with him. This summer is the perfect time to move him from a value perspective and there would be a strong market of suitors for his services.

  • Teams to Watch: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros

Joc Pederson, outfielder, San Francisco Giants

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants have shown more fight as of late, but their team-wide performance suggests Farahan Zaidi could sell off a few pieces at the trade deadline. Among the best MLB trade candidates on San Francisco’s roster, Joc Pederson offers plenty of appeal.

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Batting from the left side, Pederson has demonstrated he can both consistently get on base (.351 OBP) and hit for power (.259 isolated power). He also hit 23 home runs last season with a 144 wRC+ and .874 OPS. While he’s a defensive liability in the outfield, Pederson’s bat is why playoff contenders will want him.

  • Teams to Watch: Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers

Shane Bieber, starting pitcher, Cleveland Guardians

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cleveland Guardians
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Guardians have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this season. Sinking further down the standings every week, with ownership unwilling to spend the money necessary to improve the team, it’s only natural for Cleveland to be a seller in July. The Guardians are flooded with starting pitchers, making Shane Bieber the perfect trade candidate.

Owed the remainder of his $10 million salary in 2023 and arbitration-eligible next winter, Bieber is perfect for teams with small payrolls or who can’t afford a high-priced pitcher. While he’s never returned to the Cy Young level we saw a few years ago, Bieber is a proven front-line starter who can be on the mound for Game 1 in a playoff series.

  • Teams to Watch: Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros

Lucas Giolito, starting pitcher, Chicago White Sox

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox have an opportunity to completely restock their farm system this summer. Already out of the playoff race, Chicago could be the most aggressive seller in July with starting pitcher Lucas Giolito among their MLB trade candidates.

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Poised to hit the open market this summer, Giolito is a dependable mid-rotation starter. He boasts a 3.34 ERA since April 12, going six-plus innings in eight of his 10 starts. The 28-year-old righty is holding opponents under a .250 batting average this season and in a competitive environment, Giolito could thrive especially with the opportunity to increase his earning power in free agency.

  • Teams to Watch: Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates

Emmanuel Clase, closer, Cleveland Guardians

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cleveland Guardians
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

There’s always a market for high-end closers at the trade deadline and it could be even more crowded with suitors if the Cleveland Guardians decide to trade closer Emmanuel Clase. The 25-year-old is one of the best relievers in baseball, sporting a career 25.9 percent strikeout rate with a .195 batting average allowed and a 1.68 ERA. Clase, who is under contract through 2028, is among the MLB saves leaders and would instantly become the closer for any team that acquires him. However, the Guardians’ improvement in June and Clase’s team-friendly contract increases the likelihood of him staying in Cleveland.

  • Teams to Watch: Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays

Marcus Stroman, starting pitcher, Chicago Cubs

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago Cubs
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

If the Chicago Cubs aren’t willing to discuss a contract extension with Marcus Stroman, there’s a strong likelihood he’ll be shopped this summer. The 32-year-old righty is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary this season then holds a $23.666 million luxury tax salary with a player option this winter. He’ll likely decline it, seeing an opportunity to make more in free agency.

Because Stroman isn’t eligible to receive a qualifying offer, Chicago risks losing him for nothing this winter. He’s been excellent on the mound this year – 2.42 ERA,1.04 WHIP in 14 starts – and would project as a high-end starter for multiple contenders. As a half-season rental with low strikeout rates, he should be an affordable target.

  • Teams to Watch: San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles

Tim Anderson, shortstop, Chicago White Sox

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

An All-Star selection in each of the last two seasons, Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson likely knows the direction things are headed. He’s a free agent in 2025 and with Chicago not close to contending, the organization might believe it’s time for both sides to part ways.

Anderson is struggling at the plate this season, posting a 73 wRC+ and .621 OPS through his first 41 games. However, he holds a 120 wRC+ with a .309/.342/.457 slash line over his previous three seasons and the $14 million club option for next season makes him even more attractive. Considering the limited number of starting infielders likely available this summer, Chicago could trade Anderson for a premium return.

  • Teams to Watch: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants

Alexis Diaz, closer, Cincinnati Reds

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Colorado Rockies
John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

There is always a market for relievers, especially closers with team control, which makes Cincinnati Reds closer Alexis Diaz one of the most intriguing MLB trade candidates this year. He’s not even arbitration-eligible until 2025, but Cincinnati could have an opportunity to flip one of the best closers in baseball for a huge return.

Diaz – 1.61 ERA, 16.52 K/9 in 22.1 innings – can serve as the closer for just about any World Series contender. The hard-throwing righty has proven himself over the past two seasons and getting him out of a hitter-friendly ballpark would help him even more. While this would typically be a player for the Reds to keep, the premium trade value for closers should influence them to at least entertain offers in July.

  • Teams to Watch: Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves

Cody Bellinger, outfielder, Chicago Cubs

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Cubs decide to be sellers at the trade deadline, outfielder Cody Bellinger will generate significant interest. He’s only owed the remaining portion of his $12 million salary this season and there’s a $12 million mutual option for 2024.

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Viewing him as a half-season rental, Bellinger’s positional versatility and left-handed power will be very enticing for teams. He’s an ideal target for a club like the Houston Astros, but the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates could also become suitors.

Yasmani Grandal, catcher, Chicago White Sox

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Guardians
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

There are going to be a number of playoff contenders looking for help at catcher this summer, which should be music to the ears of the White Sox. Yasmani Grandal, owed $18.25 million in a contract year, is one of the more compelling options on the market. While the 34-year-old isn’t a strong option defensively, he remains a high-end option at the plate (101 wRC+, .715 OPS). Chicago might have to eat some of the remainder of his salary to increase the return it receives in a deal, but that’s a worthwhile expense and will help facilitate a trade.

  • Teams to Watch: San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays

Lance Lynn, starting pitcher, Chicago White Sox

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox missed their opportunity to trade Lynn at his peak value. The 36-year-old righty holds a 6.55 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and .278 batting average allowed through his first 12 starts this season. It certainly makes declining his $18 million club option for 2024, with a $1 million buyout, a much easier decision.

With that said, he’s also the type of veteran starter who other teams will be willing to take a chance on. Lynn compiled a 3.42 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP across 571 innings over the last four seasons. He still ranks in the 90th percentile for fastball spin and has demonstrated in the past that he can pull out of these slumps. For teams who just need innings-eaters in the back of their rotation, Lynn is a compelling option.

  • Teams to Watch: Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies

Salvador Perez, catcher, Kansas City Royals

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Miami Marlins
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals are already committed to selling, so teams will have their choice of MLB trade candidates from their roster this year. As recently reported by The Athletic, Kansas City gave teams the impression it’s very willing to trade Salvador Perez. The All-Star catcher’s contract ($62 million owed over three years), his age (33) and his declining defensive ability will limit his trade value. However, Perez would also provide a significant upgrade for several contenders.

  • Teams to Watch: New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres

Eduardo Rodriguez, starting pitcher, Detroit Tigers

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Guardians
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was poised to be one of the best MLB trade candidates this year until he ruptured a pulley in his left index finger. Now, the 6-foot-2 southpaw isn’t expected to return until late July.

Teams interested in Rodriguez might not see him pitch in an MLB game until after the trade deadline, but his 2.13 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in his first 11 starts this season made him an extremely attractive option. Considering Rodriguez’s injury and his ability to become a free agent this winter, Detroit won’t get a strong return for him in a trade.

  • Teams to Watch: Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles

MLB trade candidates to monitor

  • Brent Rooker, outfielder, Oakland A’s
  • Aroldis Chapman, relief pitcher, Kansas City Royals
  • Jurickson Profar, utility, Colorado Rockies
  • Kyle Freeland, starting pitcher, Colorado Rockies
  • Charlie Blackmon, outfielder, Colorado Rockies
  • Jack Flaherty, starting pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Tyler O’Neill, outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals
  • J.D. Davis, third baseman, San Francisco Giants
  • Thairo Estrada, second baseman, San Francisco Giants
  • Tyler Rogers, relief pitcher, San Francisco Giants
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