In what has been a slow free-agent market, the Roy Halladay sweepstakes have grabbed the headlines. The Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Cubs, Mets and Rangers are among the teams that have been linked to Halladay, but the Blue Jays' ace isn't the only big-name star being dangled in trade talks. Because teams are wary of throwing big bucks at free agents, there could be more blockbuster trades than blockbuster signings this offseason.
Halladay aside, here are the five teams to track in the trade market:
Braves: They have a problem most (if not all) teams would love to have: too many starting pitchers. While it would be nice to maintain that depth in case of an injury, Atlanta has a glaring need for more offense. Thus, it will try to shop one its prized arms -- three of its pitchers finished the 2009 season with a sub-.300 ERA -- for a big bat. The Braves would prefer to deal Derek Lowe because they owe him $45 million over the next three season, but that salary is one reason teams would prefer to work out a deal for Javier Vazquez, who finished fourth in the majors with 238 strikeouts and ninth with a 2.87 ERA.
Red Sox: Even if they don't land Halladay, they have other lofty aspirations. On Boston's radar: Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and Mariners righthander Felix Hernandez. The Red Sox made an effort to acquire each of those superstars before this past season's nonwaiver trading deadline, and they appear poised to make another run at both of them this offseason. Assuming the Padres and Mariners are willing to listen to offers, they rightfully will demand a bounty in return. With Boston desperately trying to play catch-up with the Yankees, it should be willing to take some chances and package some prized prospects/major league-ready talent.
Cubs: The worst-kept secret in all of Major League Baseball is that Chicago would love to rid itself of the $21 million it still owes right fielder Milton Bradley. That, along with Bradley's baggage, leaves the Cubs with little leverage when it comes to trades. There are few teams willing to take on the risk of Bradley, even if the Cubs pay a large portion of his salary. A rumored three-team deal that would have sent Bradley and cash to the Rangers, righthander Kevin Millwood to the Mets, and second baseman Luis Castillo to the Cubs never really grew legs. The other rumor had Bradley going to Tampa Bay for left fielder Pat Burrell. In addition to Bradley, there were late-season rumblings that righthander Carlos Zambrano could be shopped this offseason.
Rays: A year ago at this time, things were much different. The Rays were coming off their first postseason appearance and had put an end to the Yankees' and Red Sox's domination in the A.L. East. Now, they are concerned with disappointing attendance figures and a third-place finish. Left fielder Carl Crawford and first baseman Carlos Pena are entering the final years of their (very expensive) contracts and would be appealing to plenty of teams -- Crawford especially. As mentioned previously, Burrell, also in the final year of his contract, is available.
Chris Bahr is a senior editor for Sporting News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.