With the Major League Baseball postseason down to just four teams, a large percentage of the league is already focused on the offseason.
For some teams, the winter will be spent retooling rosters and building off of the 2019 season. For others, it will be spent trying to build from the ground up. For pretty much every team, staying under a specific budget will be part of the equation.
Expect plenty of trades to occur in the offseason, provided they make financial sense.
According to MLB.com, the 2020 line for the Competitive Balance Tax is set at $208 million, though plenty of franchises have no interest in even approaching this high of a payroll. Even for those that do, however, cutting salary via trade is a real possibility.
Take the Boston Red Sox, for example. With slugger J.D. Martinez set to earn $23.75 million and with outfielder Mookie Betts headed toward arbitration, Boston may be forced to deal someone in order to get below the tax threshold.
Betts, by the way, is projected to earn $27.7 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
Assuming that trading Betts isn't an option—and given the lack of team control beyond 2020, finding a favorable deal may be impossible—the Red Sox will have to look elsewhere to shed salary.
According to The Athletic's Jen McCaffrey, this could lead to outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. being dealt.
"If the Red Sox are serious about shedding $30 million from a payroll that was roughly $240 million this past season, one possibility that's been floated—yet again—is trading Bradley. A more drastic step, given the large salary Bradley might earn through arbitration, would be for the Sox to non-tender him and make him a free agent."
According to MLB Trade Rumors, arbitration could land Bradley a salary in the $11 million range.
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com believes that Boston will likely tender a contract for Bradley and then try to trade him—unless they decide that dealing Betts is the better option.
While the Red Sox might keep Betts and might keep Bradley, it's looking increasingly unlikely that they'll keep both.
Indians Also Looking to Cut Payroll
The Red Sox aren't the only team looking to lower its salary number this offseason. The Cleveland Indians, who missed the postseason but won 93 games, could be looking to lower their payroll as well.
"It's doubtful the Indians will increase their payroll in 2020," Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote. "I've heard it will be about the same, or even slightly less."
If the Indians are looking to cut salary cots, they have a few options. As Pluto pointed out in his article, they're likely to lose Yasiel Puig and Jason Kipnis in free agency. However, trading a player like Francisco Lindor could be another possibility.
Cleveland's shortstop is a four-time All-Star and a player practically any team would love to have—at the right price.
"He also is likely on his way out of town after the 2021 season unless the Indians trade him first," Pluto wrote. "If he hit the free-agent market now, the bidding would probably start at $300 million and rise."
For the Indians, a lot is going to depend on how they view their title chances with the current roster over the next couple of years. They would almost certainly receive a hefty haul by moving Lindor, which could help set the franchise up for the long-term.
Count MLB Network's Chris Rose among those who won't be surprised if Lindor is moved before next year's trade deadline.
"I hope we get another year [of Lindor], but it wouldn't shock me if we don't," Rose told 92.3 The Fan's Baskin and Phelps.
At the least, we shouldn't expect the Indians to trade for a bigger payroll this offseason.