With the MLB offseason underway, contending ballclubs are searching for gems that could make a major impact via trade. Several lesser-known talents have emerged as high-upside targets. St. Louis outfielder Dylan Carlson has untapped power at 24 years old despite losing playing time last season. Toronto starter Alek Manoah is trying to rebound from struggling with rule changes a year after finishing 3rd in Cy Young voting. San Diego infielder Jake Cronenworth provides strong defense and could thrive offensively on a new team if the cost-cutting Padres move him. Defensive stud shortstop Willy Adames and Oakland starter Paul Blackburn round out this list of intriguing names to watch for on the trade market this winter. These five players have breakout potential that makes them intriguing options for trade suitors over the coming months.
With the emergence of Lars Nootbar, Dylan Carlson has fallen out of favor with the St. Louis Cardinals. Carlson made just 255 plate appearances last season while fighting multiple injuries. The former first-round pick is still just 24 years old, flashing power potential early in his career. Carlson could be an offensive catalyst in the bottom half of the order for any team willing to acquire his services.
No one had a more challenging time adapting to MLB’s rule changes than Alek Manoah. The Toronto Blue Jays’ former ace made 19 starts in 2023, yo-yoing between the bigs and the minors. Things reached a tipping point when Manoah didn’t show up for assignment toward the end of the campaign, casting doubt on his future with the team. Manoah is just one year removed from his third-place Cy Young finish. If he uses this offseason to get acclimated to the pitch clock, Manoah could be a value pickup.
Plenty of treads are left on Jake Cronenworth’s tires, but he might have to spin them with a different team in 2024. The San Diego Padres are looking to cut costs, and the infielder could be a cash savings casualty. Cronenworth is still an above-average defender, and a fresh start could help him get his offensive metrics back on track.
A couple of seasons ago, Willy Adames was garnering MVP votes while straddling a wide line between defensive stalwart and offensive catalyst. Adames’s offensive metrics have taken a modest hit over the past couple of seasons, but he still has a career slugging percentage of .439 and a barrel rate of 10.7. Adames would be an upgrade at shortstop for most teams.
It’s a sad state of affairs when your $3.2 million salary is too much for your beleaguered franchise, but that’s the reality facing Paul Blackburn. The righty was one of the lone bright spots on an otherwise disastrous starting rotation last year, anchoring the Oakland Athletics with a team-best 4.43 ERA. Blackburn has a gnarly five-pitch mix, making him an ideal mid-to-end of the rotation arm.