With awards season done and dusted and qualifying offers accepted or rejected, we’re about to launch into MLB offseason ‘proper’, a long and generally tedious period of rumours, agent statements and – of course – Passan bombs.
So let’s take a look at some moves that ought to happen – even if they almost certainly won’t. This is not a predictions piece, just a suggestions piece from someone who really has no place making any suggestions at all. Let’s get into it shall we…
Tampa Bay Rays – bring back Charlie Morton
The Rays came two wins shy of their first championship in franchise history in 2020, and will return the bulk of that roster in 2021 with ambitions of finishing the job off. Their biggest priority this winter I suspect will be bringing back Charlie Morton, who has hinted frequently at retiring but seems to enjoy playing for the Rays and should be well worth a one-year deal.
New York Yankees – re-sign DJ LeMahieu
The Yankees have a pretty long wish-list this offseason, which probably focuses on bolstering a rotation that is set to lose Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and James Paxton. But the loss of DJ LeMahieu‘s bat would be a gut-punch for a roster that has come to rely on him as a productive – and most importantly healthy – member of their line-up.
— Talkin’ Yanks (@TalkinYanks) November 11, 2020
Toronto Blue Jays – go get Masahiro Tanaka
In Hyun-Jin Ryu the Jays have an ace, and in Robbie Ray, Nate Pearson and a litany of live young arms they have plenty of upside at the back of the rotation. What they lack, is a reliable right-handed innings eater to slot in behind Ryu. In Tanaka they have a perfect fit – a workhorse who has made a name for himself in the AL East and would probably be happy to take a two or three year deal.
Baltimore Orioles – hunt for value
Great prediction man, I bet no other team has thought of that one. Hear me out. In the likes of John Means, Anthony Santander and Hanser Alberto, the Os have quietly done a good job at finding value in fairly unheralded players. They’re still some years away from being competitive, but in the rule five draft and towards the end of the free agency period, they should be on the lookout for more buy-low candidates who can become a part of their long-term future or trade bait for 2021.
Boston Red Sox – sign some lottery tickets
The Boston Red Sox enjoyed an enormously successful 2020 season, ridding their roster of deadweight MVP candidate Mookie Betts and acquiring new fan-favourite Financial Flexibility on their way to the highly coveted fourth overall pick in the draft! Okay I’m done. With Chris Sale rehabbing after Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez still recovering from myocarditis, 2021 looks likely to be another transitional season. Why not sign a couple of guys like Jurickson Profar or Garrett Richards to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle?
Time to get to work. pic.twitter.com/HG1cTarSyt
— Red Sox (@RedSox) November 11, 2020
Minnesota Twins – bring back old man Cruz
Another one-and-done playoff appearance for the Twins in 2020, who seem to find more heart-breaking ways to end their season each year. The bulk of their talented roster will return next season, and a re-union with the ageless Nelson Cruz would seem to make sense for both parties.
Cleveland Indians – get a haul for Francisco Lindor
It’s not often that your franchise gets to enjoy the prime years of an all-world shortstop with ability in every facet of the game, a magnetic personality and a desire to stay and win for his team. So of course, Indians owner Larry Dolan appears hell-bent on dealing Francisco Lindor, who even one year out from free agency should command a pretty good haul from a competitive team. And hey, who doesn’t love fiscal prudence.
Francisco Lindor is probably going to be traded this winter, sources confirm, with the #Mets, #Yankees, #Phillies, #BlueJays, #STLCards the main suitors. Here’s my overview of where his marketplace stands: https://t.co/CVWKrhRdAe @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 11, 2020
Chicago White Sox – fire Tony La Russa
It’s almost extraordinary how quickly this deal has backfired on the White Sox, from high-profile free agents ruling out a move to the team, to the revelation of his second DUI arrest, to the extraordinary “I’m a Hall of Famer baseball person” transcript. But then we all saw this coming. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf seems to be committed to a bizarre and racially motivated culture war against his own roster – but even he may not be able to spare La Russa if another scandal takes shape before opening day.
Kansas City Royals – do a bullpen trick
In much the same way that their intra-state rival (I said what I said) St Louis Cardinals have a knack for turning random outfielders into All Stars, so too do the Kansas City Royals have a strange devil magic compelling them to turn any old washed up reliever into a shutdown closer. After turning the trick with Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland last season, why not have a crack at Wade Davis and David Robertson next year?
Detroit Tigers – do nothing (sort of)
The Tigers have completely cleaned house in the coaching staff, bringing in A.J. Hinch alongside some all-new support staff as they look to turn the corner in their long-term rebuilding project. So short of adding a couple of impact bats on one-year deals, the best course of action might be to let that new staff get hands-on with an exciting stock of young arms and save money for a big run in 2022 or beyond.
Oakland Athletics – go get Andrelton Simmons
They may prioritise re-signing talented shortstop Marcus Semien instead but it’s hard to imagine Billy Beane not being enamoured by the prospect of acquiring one of the game’s premium defenders at a discount price.
Houston Astros – re-sign Springer
George Springer may decide that a new beginning is what he wants after almost a decade in the Astros organisation but it’s hard to imagine Houston not fighting hard to keep him in their colours. Not only a hugely talented player who can cover all three outfield spots, Springer is synonymous with Houston’s rise to postseason powerhouse – although it may be a marriage he’s keen to divorce.
Seattle Mariners – let Jerry be Jerry
Most offseason predictions seem to have the Mariners pencilled in for a quiet winter which seems roughly equivalent to expecting Trevor Bauer to go ‘under the radar’ in 2021. There are no obvious areas to upgrade for this young and generally exciting team, but that doesn’t mean Jerry Dipoto won’t take any and every opportunity to make a splash in free agency or strike a Winter Meetings deal. Let him do his thing.
Los Angeles Angels – go get Bauer
Speaking of the mercurial newly-minted Cy Young award winner, Trevor Bauer is arguably the top free agent on the board this year and should earn himself a pay day in the $150m+ range. The Angels continue to make a pig’s ear out of the (seemingly simple) task of building a winning roster around Mike Trout, and they’re starting to run out of chances to utilise his prime. Yes, this would stretch the budget in the final year of Albert Pujols‘ contract, but it might – finally – push them over the edge.
— MLB (@MLB) November 12, 2020
Texas Rangers – shop Lance Lynn
The Rangers were bad in 2020 and will be bad again in 2021. They don’t have a ton of talent on the major league roster, and there isn’t much waiting in the farm system either. Lance Lynn is a good – potentially great – pitcher on a cheap contract ($8m next season) and should earn them a blue-chip prospect or two to start building around – but it’s a long path back to contention from here.
Atlanta Braves – give Freddie Freeman a blank cheque
The freshly anointed National League MVP is a free agent after the 2021 season, but there seems to be mutual interest in an extension that will keep him in Atlanta for a long time. And why wouldn’t there be? He’s one of the best hitters in baseball and the face of the Braves franchise who at 31 shows no signs of slowing down. Besides, when has a big contract for a first baseman ever backfired?
Miami Marlins – go get Kirby Yates
The Marlins were the cinderella story of 2020, defying the odds – and a COVID outbreak – to reach the NLDS. That said, their 2021 outlook is probably still that of a team in the middle of a big rebuild. Next season should be about giving plenty of playing time to their talented young core and buying a few lottery tickets through guys like Kirby Yates who can either become trade bait or a weapon for 2022 and beyond.
Philadelphia Phillies – re-sign J.T. Realmuto
This seems pretty obvious – the Phillies had a crushingly disappointing 2020 campaign thanks largely to one of the most ineffective bullpens in MLB history but priority number one for this team has to be locking up their talented backstop Realmuto. Bullpen arms grow on trees but catchers with huge offensive upside who will also help you behind the dish? You can count those on one hand.
Washington Nationals – nail down Juan Soto
I get it – why the rush? Soto is still just 22 years of age and won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season. But we’ve been witnessing one of the greatest starts to a career in baseball history – and if 2020 is any indication then the best may still be to come. A player his age with that offensive profile is about as sure a thing as you can get – the Nationals should try to engage him now on a deal that will keep him in D.C. for a decade.
New York Mets – try not to screw it up
The New York Mets have had about as good a winter as you could hope for and it’s only been three weeks. Steve Cohen seems like the archetype of what fans want from an owner, Marcus Stroman is back for 2021 and Noah Syndergaard is oiled up and topless throwing gas. This should terrify you if you’re a Mets fan. This amount of good news seems like a set-up for a crushing fall from grace, so the one thing worth praying for is this: please, please don’t Mets it up.
Chicago Cubs – go get James Paxton
The Cubs are in this icky, weird in-between of having quite a lot of good, talented players who aren’t playing like good, talented players. Between Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs have three players who stank in 2020 and will be free agents after 2021. Trading them at the nadir of their value seems counterproductive, so why not take a punt on Paxton re-finding form, get the band back together for one last dance and bring home another ring (or die trying).
St Louis Cardinals – go get Springer or Ozuna
Yes, the possible return of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright will dominate the column inches, but what this Cardinals team desperately needs is offence. They got virtually nothing from the outfield in 2020, and whilst you can be sure some no-name minor leaguer called something like Lars Nootbaar (real player, real prediction) will put up 3.5 wins in half a season, they should probably try to upgrade via free agency. Either of these top outfield talents would be a big boon for the lineup.
Cincinnati Reds – go get Didi
The Reds underperformed expectations in 2020 and their pitiful playoff exit was a microcosm for their struggles: no offence at all. Didi Gregorius started his career in Cincinnati and may favour a return to a ballpark that suits his pull-heavy approach and a club that will be looking to win now.
Milwaukee Brewers – go get Semien or Kim
The Brewers are actually in decent shape going into 2021 – we can expect bigger contributions from Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain whilst the pitching staff looks healthy with Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and ROY Devin Williams, even if they choose to trade Josh Hader. The one hole is on the infield, where guys like Orlando Arcia, Luis Urias and Daniel Vogelbach are in line for starting gigs. With Braun’s contract off the books, why not make a play at Marcus Semien or KBO import Ha-Seong Kim?
Pittsburgh Pirates – trade away someone
The Pirates have a stinky Major League roster and very little impact talent approaching the big leagues. With Ke’Bryan Hayes looking like a legitimately great third baseman and a first overall pick secured for next season (hello, Kumar Rocker), the future does look bright – but not until 2024 at the earliest. Time to see what the trade market has to say about guys like Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco who are unlikely to be a part of that future.
Los Angeles Dodgers – go get Liam Hendriks
What to buy the man who has everything? The Dodgers roster is an embarrassment of riches, and even without Justin Turner, the offence doesn’t really need any help. But great teams don’t sit on their hands. The Dodgers should go out and sign the best reliever on the market and upgrade their one slight chink in the armour – late inning pitching.
San Diego Padres – lock up Tatis
He may have cooled off in the second half but it’s hard to look beyond Fernando Tatis Jr. as the breakout star of 2020. He was the spearhead of a phenomenally fun – and pretty damn good – Padres team. As with Soto, Tatis won’t hit free agency until after 2024, but the Padres would be wise to lock up the face of the franchise for the next decade now and let him be the guy to build a dynasty around.
San Francisco Giants – go get Taijuan Walker
It’s probably on offence that the Giants need the most help, but with a lot of positions blocked at least for next season, the easiest position to upgrade via free agency may well be the rotation. The Giants got a great season out of former top prospect Kevin Gausman last year and might look to repeat the trick with Taijuan Walker who has the kind of stuff that pitching coaches can work with.
Colorado Rockies – go get Jackie Bradley Jr.
Maybe it’s time to tear it down in Colorado? Can they really bring themselves to trade away franchise icon Nolan Arenado? Will he be desirable after a terrible season with the bat? My guess is that nothing much really materialises on that front, so why not get an elite centre fielder to patrol the cavernous Coors outfield and see how that plays out? JBJ is what he is with the bat at this point, but the glove will play.
Arizona Diamondbacks – go after DJ LeMahieu
The D-Backs were really bad in 2020, which is a troubling sign for a team that has made their intention to win now very clear. If guys like Madison Bumgarner and Luke Weaver don’t bounce back then they’re in trouble, but the obvious area to upgrade is the infield. Why not see if you can lure LeMahieu out to the desert?