Ready for a weird winter like only 2020 could provide?
This offseason feels ripe for bold maneuvers. The financial landscape of the game has never been more uncertain, leading to plenty of speculation as to which teams will be spending money and which ones will be shedding it. It’s hard to imagine there will be robust competition for this winter’s free agents, but it feels safe to say there will be plenty of “weirdness” to go down this offseason. I mean, a 76-year-old Hall of Fame manager has already been pulled out of retirement. We’re off to a good start.
You want bold? The Yankees pull off a blockbuster. Unconvinced of Gleyber Torres at shortstop, in need of left-handed hitting to balance a right-handed-heavy lineup, and jumping in front of the shortstop market next year, they trade for Francisco Lindor from Cleveland with the intention of signing him to a long-term deal. Torres, Clint Frazier and young pitchers are part of a package going to the Indians.
Trevor Bauer actually signs a one-year contract. In September, he went back on his longtime stated desire to sign such a short deal, and it never seemed like a particularly reasonable strategy… but given the unpredictability of the market this year, even though he’s the consensus best starting pitcher available, I’ll make a bold guess that Bauer only goes in for one year and tries again in 2021.
More turbulence between Nolan Arenado and the Rockies is not a bold prediction. Water is wet. The sun is hot. But this winter the two parties finally make a clean break and Colorado deals the star third baseman … to the White Sox. There’s already plenty of weirdness going on in Chicago with Tony La Russa’s return, so why not deal some valuable young players in exchange for a bona fide star? (Who could opt out of his massive deal after 2021, but after a lackluster season it’s hard to know what will play out.)
The Indians will make a blockbuster trade this winter, but star shortstop Francisco Lindor won’t be included. Instead, Cleveland will deal José Ramírez, who will yield a stronger return as a switch-hitting third baseman. The Indians simply waited too long to get maximum value in a deal for Lindor.
Ramírez has club options for both 2022 ($11 million) and 2023 ($13 million), meaning the team he goes to could have him for the next three seasons at a rather affordable rate for a player who’s been an AL MVP finalist in three of the last four years. The free-agent classes of third basemen over the next few offseasons are not deep, especially when compared to the loaded group of shortstops hitting the market next winter. Teams should be willing to meet the prospect demands that Cleveland certainly would ask for Ramírez. Of course, the Indians would be parting with their best hitter after a year in which their offense ranked second worst in the AL (86 OPS+). Their top prospect, third baseman Nolan Jones is the obvious choice to replace Ramírez if they deal him.
The Cardinals will trade for Francisco Lindor. St. Louis scored the second fewest runs in the National League last year, and shortstop Paul DeJong put up an underwhelming .250/.322/.349 slash line with just three home runs in 45 games. After the team declined Kolten Wong’s 2021 option, DeJong could slide over to second base to make room for Lindor, who’s set to hit free agency after the 2021 season. The Cardinals certainly have the prospect capital to entice Cleveland into making a deal, as some combination of Nolan Gorman, Matthew Liberatore, Ivan Herrera and Zack Thompson should be enough of a return.
The Yankees’ young core has paved the way to four straight playoff appearances, but the franchise appears to be at a bit of a crossroads. I predict they’re going to trade infielder Gleyber Torres and catcher Gary Sanchez. There’s concern regarding the depth and defense of Aaron Boone’s club. Is Torres a permanent shortstop? Can Sanchez be trusted? Each postseason reveals another crack in the Yankees’ roster.
There are plenty of options at play for Brian Cashman to make a splash. New York could opt to jettison Sanchez and chase J.T. Realmuto in free agency, and perhaps Torres or Luke Voit could be dealt in search of pitching depth. Bringing back largely the same roster in 2021 feels a bit untenable after the most recent playoff heartbreak.
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