This MLB offseason is going to be different from any we’ve seen in recent years. However, there is hope that there will still be plenty of player movement, especially on the trade front.
More than ever, there are teams looking to cut payroll with revenue down throughout the game because there are no fans in attendance. At the same time, there could be several teams looking to take advantage of the situation and land a star player via trade. A year ago, the likes of Mookie Betts, David Price, Starling Marte and Corey Kluber were among the players traded.
Here is a look at some of the star players we think could be on the move this winter.
It’d be shocking if Lindor wasn’t traded this offseason. Despite having a subpar season in 2019, he’s a bonafide star who’s going to command a massive contract when he hits the free-agent market next winter. Cleveland would love to sign him to a long-term deal, but his contract demands are likely to surpass what the club can afford. The only option the Indians have left is to trade him, much like how they dealt Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger.
The silver lining is that Cleveland should be able to work out a lucrative deal for Lindor, perhaps similar to what the Red Sox got for Mookie Betts. Even teams that have a shortstop may inquire about Lindor because he’s an upgrade over just about every other shortstop in baseball. However, teams that think they can sign him to a long-term deal will be more likely to pay a big price to trade for Lindor.
For the teams that can’t work out a deal for Lindor, Story could be a consolation prize. He’s also heading for free agency next winter and the Rockies might be unable to lock him up long-term. Colorado has given Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon big-money contracts, so they’re already stretched financially.
Giving Story a similar contract may not be feasible unless they can trade Arenado. Story hit 72 home runs between 2018 and 2019 and was on pace to hit at least 30 in 2020 if the season had gone 162 games. If the Rockies thought they could contend in 2021, they might be more inclined to hold onto him. But they weren’t close this past season, so they’ll surely dangle Story on the trade market and see what kind of package they can get for him.
The Cubs are facing quite a quandary, as Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber are free agents after the 2021 season while Anthony Rizzo is under team control through 2022. That means 2021 could be Chicago’s last chance to compete for another championship with the current core in place.
Surely, the Cubs will have the means to offer extensions to some of those players. But Bryant is unlikely to re-sign with the Cubs because of the way they manipulated his service time early in his career. Plus, Baez is likely ahead of him on the list of players the Cubs would prefer to keep around. That situation has long created speculation that Bryant could be traded. Obviously, there’s a chance the Cubs will keep Bryant and make a serious run in 2021, even if they lose him in free agency next winter. However, if they make him available via trade, there’s bound to be plenty of suitors.
All signs point to a major rebuilding project in Arizona, which will likely put Escobar on the trade block, as he’ll be on the free-agent market next winter. The shortened 2020 campaign wasn’t kind to Escobar, who posted an OPS of .605, which hurt his value substantially. However, he posted back-to-back seasons with an OPS over .800 in 2018 and 2019, hitting 58 home runs over those two seasons, so teams will look at him as a bounce-back candidate.
The other thing Escobar has going for him is that he’s versatile defensively. He’s played mostly third base in recent years. But he logged over 500 innings at shortstop as recently as 2016 and can play second base as well. That versatility should increase the number of teams with an interest in trading for Escobar, which will make it easier for the Diamondbacks to get a good deal.
Gallo may not be the most likely player to be traded this winter, but his name will likely be heard in the rumor mill. The Rangers at least entertained the idea of moving him this past summer, so they will surely listen to offers if teams call them in the offseason. Since Gallo has two years of team control left, Texas is under no pressure to move him. But they could get a Godfather offer that’s too good to pass up.
Let’s face it, the Rangers are a total mess right now. It looks like they’ll have a lot of rebuilding to do in the years ahead. Even if Gallo bounces back after a subpar 2020 season, Texas is far from being a contender in the AL West. Of course, Gallo’s value could be down after he hit .181 this season with an OPS of .679. On the other hand, he’s still just 27, has two more years before he hits free agency and has obscene amounts of power. A player like that will have plenty of value, especially if the DH becomes permanent in the National League. If the Rangers make Gallo available, they’re bound to receive some compelling offers.
One can debate whether or not Andujar is a star right now, but he’s proven in the past that he surely has star potential. The problem is that the Yankees don’t have a spot for him. Gio Urshela has usurped him at third base because he’s an all-world defensive player who can also hit. The Yankees tried Andujar in left field, but the New York outfield is a little crowded. The Yankees also want to use the injury-prone Giancarlo Stanton in the DH as much as possible, so there just isn’t enough room for Andujar.
It’d be shocking if the Yankees didn’t try to trade Andujar this winter, giving him the kind of fresh start that he needs. He’ll only be 26 on opening day and has three years of team control, which should have teams lining up to make the Yankees an offer. Granted, his value is a little down because he hasn’t done much since 2018. But there are a lot of teams that would probably part with a decent package of prospects to acquire a player with Andujar’s upside.
The Giants are clearly a team that needs to get younger. Trading the 32-year-old Belt in the final year of his contract is one way to accomplish that. It’s not like anybody is expecting the Giants to emerge as serious contenders in 2021. San Francisco also has to create room for Buster Posey with young catcher Joey Bart likely to be the club’s primary backstop moving forward. In short, there are multiple reasons why it makes sense for the Giants to trade Belt.
Fortunately, they’ll be looking to trade him off an outstanding season. Belt hit .309 with an OPS of 1.015 during the shortened 2020 campaign. Over the course of a full season, he would have set a new career-high for home runs and perhaps RBI as well. That should help facilitate a deal, as teams in the market for a first baseman will think that Belt has one more good year left in him.
For more than a year, Hader has had his name pop up in the rumor mill. That’s unlikely to change, as he’s still one of the best relievers in baseball. Hader also has three more years of team control, so he’s more than just a one-year rental. He’ll be able to anchor a team’s bullpen for at least three more seasons. While the Brewers probably hope to compete moving forward, they might be better served trading him now when his value is as high as it’s going to get.
Obviously, the Brewers should feel no pressure to trade Hader. He’s still an asset who can help them win games and compete for a playoff spot in 2021. But Milwaukee is a budget-conscious club and Hader’s salary is only going to go up over the next three years despite the lefty losing his arbitration hearing last winter. If the Brewers get a substantial offer for Hader, it could be hard to turn it down. The caveat is that there are plenty of late-game relievers on the free-agent market. However, outside of Liam Hendriks, none are as good as Hader.
The Padres were so close to being a serious World Series contender this year that it doesn’t make sense to trade one of their big bats, right? Well, San Diego had made so many bold moves over the last couple of years that it could be time to shed some payroll. Myers would be an obvious candidate, as the club nearly traded him last winter. He also has three years of team control left, which could make him a valuable commodity on the trade market, especially after he hit 15 home runs and posted an OPS of .959 in 2020.
That kind of season is bound to stir up a little more trade interest in Myers, who’s still just 30. It’s also worth noting that Myers can play first base or either corner outfield position. Teams with various needs could all look at him as a potential solution, leading to several potential trade partners for the Padres. While it would be a hit to San Diego’s lineup, the Padres should have enough star power to absorb the loss while also restocking a farm system that’s been a little depleted by recent win-now trades.
Lynn’s status as a trade candidate will be interesting to watch this winter. The free-agent market has no shortage of starting pitchers who can make a significant impact. But what kind of long-term contracts will the pitchers at the top demand? Meanwhile, Lynn is making just $8 million in 2021 before returning to the free-agent market. He was 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA this past season and was a 16-game winner in 2019. Surely, he can help a team fill the No. 2 or 3 spot in their rotation without breaking the bank.
As mentioned, the Rangers don’t appear ready to compete in 2021, so unless they make a huge splash in free agency, it might be in their best interest to trade Lynn for prospects. The question that teams will have to ask themselves is whether giving up prospects for Lynn and his salary is a better deal than giving a multi-year deal to one of the starters on the free-agent market. It’s a tough question to answer, which is why it’ll be fascinating to see how the trade market for Lynn develops.
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