Ranking the 10 Most Impactful Trades of the 2021 MLB Offseason
As expected, it was a relatively slow year for the MLB free-agent market. However, the same can’t be said of the trade market, which was active throughout the winter. Most teams were trying to save money, which meant they weren’t spending a lot in free agency but they were more than willing to get creative with trades. That led to a flurry of trades involving both all-stars and even Cy Young winners that have a chance to shift the balance of power in both leagues. In case you missed one of the big deals made this offseason, let’s take a look back at the 10 most impactful trades of the MLB offseason ahead of the 2021 season.
10. Dexter Fowler, Jose Iglesias, Raisel Iglesias, Alex Cobb to Angels
Technically, these were four separate trades, but together, they add up to one big impactful offseason for the Angels.
A year ago, we saw the Halos spend big money to sign Anthony Rendon. This year, they took a more pragmatic approach, making small incremental additions with the hope that it will add up to a better and more balanced team.
With Raisel Iglesias, they get a bonafide closer to help solidify their bullpen while Jose Iglesias will replace Andrelton Simmons at shortstop. Alex Cobb provides depth to a rotation that has been struck with injuries in recent years but also added Jose Quintana and hopes to get Shohei Ohtani back healthy this season.
Finally, Fowler provides outfield depth and guards against youngster Jo Adell struggling and the continuing decline of Justin Upton.
Each trade only moved the needle a little, but when you add it all up, the Angels undoubtedly have a deeper roster than last season.
9. Elvis Andrus for Khris Davis
This was an interesting swap of aging stars who could benefit from a change of scenery between two AL West rivals.
Oakland couldn’t afford to re-sign Marcus Semien, so they traded for Andrus to fill their void at shortstop. The 32-year-old has had better days, especially after hitting just .194 in 2020. But he’s still worth taking a shot on in case he has one more good year left in the tank.
Likewise, Davis had a rough 2020 campaign, hitting just .200 with just two home runs in 30 games. However, the 33-year-old DH hit 48 home runs in 2018, so he still provides the threat of power and will help provide some protection for Joey Gallo.
8. Andrew Benintendi for Franchy Cordero
Once a promising talent, Benintendi hit just .103 in 14 games last year before suffering a season-ending injury. His numbers also dipped somewhat in 2019 from the first three seasons of his career. But at just 26, he's the perfect candidate to have a bounce-back season with his new team.
The Royals paid a big price to get him, but if Benintendi can get back on track, he can become an important part of an intriguing Kansas City lineup. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will replace him with Cordero and Hunter Renfroe, as they try to shake things up after a couple of disappointing seasons.
7. Josh Bell to Nationals
The Nationals flew under the radar this offseason with the Mets making headlines while the Braves are still the likely favorites in the NL East. But trading for Bell was a great move by the Nats, who tried to take advantage of the Pirates' fire sale.
Despite some inconsistency in 2020, Bell is only one year removed from a breakout season in 2019 when he hit 37 home runs and posted an OPS of .936. Assuming last year was just an aberration, Bell will provide another big bat in the middle of Washington’s lineup behind Juan Soto.
The signing of Kyle Schwarber should also give the Nationals a boost. Keep in mind this team lost Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in consecutive years. It showed last season, but someone like Bell can help them replace those departed stars.
6. Lance Lynn to White Sox
This trade was made so early in the offseason that some folks may have forgotten that it happened or the kind of impact it should have on the White Sox.
For starters, Lance Lynn is making a paltry $8 million this year, which makes him a bargain coming off a season in which he posted a 3.32 ERA over 13 starts. The shortened 2020 season is the only thing that stopped Lynn from winning at least 10 games for the eighth straight season. That includes a 16-win campaign in 2019.
Outside of a rough 2018 season, Lynn has pitched like a frontline starter for much of his career. Yet, he may only be the no. 3 starter in Chicago’s rotation behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, giving the White Sox a rotation that can match almost any other in the American League.
5. Jameson Taillon to Yankees
Even the Yankees were careful about spending money this winter outside of bringing back DJ LeMahieu. But they were aggressive on the trade front by going after Jameson Taillon.
Obviously, there’s some risk because Taillon didn’t pitch in 2020 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. But the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft had hit his stride in 2018, posting a 3.20 ERA over 32 starts. If he’s healthy, he and Corey Kluber will be great complementary pieces behind Gerrit Cole atop the New York rotation.
With several other young arms behind them, Taillon helps give the Yankees great upside with their starting pitching to complement their formidable lineup.
4. Nolan Arenado to Cardinals
The Cardinals have been starved for offense in recent years and they finally made a big move in acquiring Nolan Arenado from the Rockies.
While he had a down year by his standards, the disgruntled Arenado should be much happier now that he’s left Colorado and going to a legitimate contender. Plus, he’s just 29, so there’s no question he’s capable of bouncing back and having a few more big seasons.
Obviously, his massive contract could be a long-term issue. But in the short-term, the Cardinals have struck gold, as they’ll be able to pair Arenado with Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of their order.
In such a tight division, the addition of Arenado might be enough to put St. Louis over the top.
3. Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to Padres
The Cubs were desperate to cut payroll this winter and the Padres were more than happy to help make that happen.
San Diego’s deep farm system also allowed the Padres to boost their catching depth by adding Victor Caratini, although Darvish is clearly the headliner of this deal. The 34-year-old never looked better than he did in 2020, going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA over 12 starts, making a serious run at the Cy Young. He gives the Padres the kind of established frontline starter that their rotation was missing last season, giving them the credibility and confidence to compete with the Dodgers atop the NL East.
2. Blake Snell to Padres
Speaking of established frontline starters, the Padres also traded for Blake Snell this offseason.
The former Cy Young winner is fresh off helping Tampa Bay reach the World Series in 2020 and will now be the ace of the San Diego rotation. The 28-year-old lefty is very much in his prime and is under contract for three more seasons at an affordable price for a Cy Young winner, so this trade was more than just a win-now move by San Diego.
With Snell and Darvish leading the way and Dinelson Lamet, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Paddack behind them, the Padres have a deep rotation to complement an exciting lineup. Perhaps the San Diego rotation isn’t as deep as what the Dodgers have, but it’s a lot closer than it was a year ago.
1. Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to Mets
New owner Steve Cohen made it clear right away that the Mets are going to be bold and act like a big-market club.
The Mets pulled off the biggest trade of the offseason when they landed Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland, improving their offense, defense, and pitching at the same time.
Lindor gives the Mets a sure thing and a brilliant two-way player at shortstop, not to mention one who doesn’t have to worry about his team being committed to winning. Despite a down year in 2020, it’s not hard to envision Lindor bouncing back, especially now that he has a lot more help in the lineup around him.
Meanwhile, don’t discount the impact Carrasco can make after posting a 2.91 ERA over 12 starts in 2020. Outside of the 2019 season when he was diagnosed with leukemia, Carrasco has posted an ERA no higher than 3.63 every year since 2014. Behind Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman, Carrasco will only be New York’s No. 3 starter, and that’s only until Noah Syndergaard return from Tommy John, giving the Mets the kind of rotation depth they’ll need to compete with the top teams in the National League.
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