1 Flashy Move to Make Each MLB Team an Offseason Winner
Not every move that's made during the MLB offseason grabs headlines.
An under-the-radar signing, small-scale trade or waiver claim can often pay huge dividends, even if it's received with little fanfare at the time.
Those are not the type of moves we're focusing on here.
Ahead, we've selected one flashy transaction that each team should consider making and would turn them into offseason winners.
It's a mix of trade ideas, free-agent signings, in-house extensions and a few other odds and ends.
The moves suggested had to be feasible, given a team's financial situation and areas of need.
Baltimore Orioles: Extend or trade Trey Mancini
The Orioles would be wise to gauge the trade interest on starter Dylan Bundy and infielders Jonathan Villar and Hanser Alberto this offseason, but moving one or all of them would not exactly qualify as flashy.
Instead, making a long-term decision on slugger Trey Mancini by signing him to an extension or selling high and trading him would make a splash.
The 27-year-old posted a 135 OPS+ with 38 doubles and 35 home runs in a 3.3-WAR season, and he's under team control through 2022.
Boston Red Sox: Trade Mookie Betts
Are the Red Sox honestly going to trade one of baseball's best players?
Betts has already indicated he will test the open market after his final year of arbitration control in 2020. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will reportedly prioritize getting below the luxury-tax threshold this winter.
With Betts projected to earn a whopping $27.7 million in his final year of arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors, flipping him would be one way to trim salary. At the same time, it would be a clear sign the team is rebuilding or at least retooling, similar to when the Arizona Diamondbacks traded Paul Goldschmidt last offseason.
New York Yankees: Sign Gerrit Cole
The Yankees will be linked to Cole until he signs somewhere.
As Anthony Rieber of Newsday put it, he's "the one who got away—twice." The Yankees failed to sign him as the No. 28 overall pick in the 2008 draft out of high school and then failed to outbid the Houston Astros when the Pirates traded him in January 2018.
With Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, James Paxton (club option), Domingo German and J.A. Happ all back next season, the Yankees don't need to sign a starter. However, signing Cole would transform the pitching staff, not simply fill a need.
Tampa Bay Rays: Sign Yasmani Grandal
Travis d'Arnaud was one of the best scrap-heap pickups of the 2019 season, posting a 107 OPS+ with 16 doubles, 16 home runs and 1.4 WAR in 92 games with the Rays after they purchased him from the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, his track record and injury history suggest the team might be best served by letting someone else pay him this winter.
Instead, the Rays could aim high with a run at signing Grandal, who would immediately become the best catcher the franchise has ever employed. The 30-year-old will first need to decline his end of a $16 million mutual option with the Brewers, which means his price tag could be somewhere in the three-year, $54 million neighborhood.
That's uncharted territory for the cost-conscious Rays, but if they splurge a bit to bolster their excellent core, Grandal should be their No. 1 target.
Toronto Blue Jays: Extend Bo Bichette
The Blue Jays won't be ready to contend for at least a few years, so their offseason additions will likely be of a stopgap variety—especially regarding pitching, where they could use a few low-cost innings eaters.
However, that doesn't mean they can't still make a flashy move with the future in mind.
Extending core pieces well ahead of arbitration eligibility is a strategy that has worked well for teams in the past. Just look at the first multiyear contracts that Anthony Rizzo, Goldschmidt and Andrew McCutchen signed.
After he hit .311/.358/.571 with 18 doubles and 11 home runs in 212 plate appearances for 2.1 WAR in 46 games, Bichette looks like a prime candidate for an early long-term pact.
Chicago White Sox: Sign Nicholas Castellanos
In 2019, White Sox outfielders finished last in the majors with 56 home runs.
Rookie Eloy Jimenez accounted for 31 of those, and he will hold down left field for the foreseeable future. He'll be joined at some point in 2020 by top prospect Luis Robert, who hit .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs and 36 steals over three minor league levels while reaching Triple-A.
There is still a big hole in right field, though, and Castellanos would give the lineup another good bat. The 27-year-old hit .289/.337/.525 with 58 doubles and 27 home runs last season, including a 150 OPS+ in 51 games after Detroit traded him to the Chicago Cubs.
Cleveland Indians: Sign Marcell Ozuna
Oscar Mercado has center field locked down, and a platoon of Jordan Luplow and Tyler Naquin is a viable option at one of the corners, but they will need to address the other corner spot.
Ozuna posted a 108 OPS+ and hit 29 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019. He also quietly raised his walk rate from 6.1 to 11.3 percent, and while he should secure a solid multiyear deal, it would be money well spent to plug a large hole.
Detroit Tigers: Trade Matthew Boyd for prospects
Is Matthew Boyd the real deal?
The 28-year-old posted a 4.56 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 185.1 innings while ranking ranking sixth in the AL with 238 strikeouts, and he comes with team control through the 2022 season.
However, he also gave up an AL-high 39 home runs, and his 4.32 FIP paints him more as a quality middle-of-the-rotation starter with swing-and-miss stuff than a front-line option. The Tigers missed the opportunity to sell high on Michael Fulmer in 2017, and they would be wise to avoid a similar mistake with Boyd as they continue to rebuild.
Kansas City Royals: Trade Ian Kennedy for prospects; eat salary for best return
There's no sense in speculating about a Whit Merrifield trade, as it seems the Royals have no intention of moving their All-Star second baseman, despite his significant value and their rebuilding status.
However, there are other worthy trade chips on the roster.
Ian Kennedy is entering the final season of a five-year, $70 million deal and will earn $16.5 million on a back-loaded contract. The 34-year-old made the move from starter to reliever last year, converting 30 of 34 save chances with a 3.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 10.4 K/9.
If the Royals are willing to pay roughly half his 2020 salary, they might pry loose a quality prospect or two from a contender that's looking for relief help.
Minnesota Twins: Sign Madison Bumgarner
With Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Kyle Gibson all potentially departing in free agency and Martin Perez likely to have his $7.5 million option declined, Jose Berrios could be the only pitcher left from the 2019 rotation.
Even if the front office believes in the likes of Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Brusdar Graterol, the Twins will still be in the market for at least one proven arm.
A workhorse such as Bumgarner could be the perfect fit to serve as co-ace alongside Berrios, and he'd bring a wealth of postseason success to a young locker room that's looking to break through in October.
Houston Astros: Sign Michael Wacha
The Astros seem prepared to let Gerrit Cole walk, as the Zack Greinke trade and the late-season emergence of Jose Urquidy provide the team with a contingency plan to round out the staff behind Justin Verlander.
However, the Astros will still be in the market for at least one starter, with the health of Aaron Sanchez's shoulder in question and Wade Miley headed for free agency.
St. Louis' Michael Wacha has enjoyed varying levels of success, and a change of scenery could help him unlock his full potential. The Astros found a way to get the most out of Charlie Morton and Miley, and Wacha could be their next successful reclamation project.
Los Angeles Angels: Sign Michael Pineda, Cole Hamels and Alex Wood
The popular opinion appears to be that the Angels should go all-in on signing UCLA alum and Newport Beach native Gerrit Cole to address their starting pitching need.
However, after finishing 29th in the majors with a 5.64 starters' ERA, this team is more than one pitcher away from having a quality staff.
The Angels would be better served by spreading their money around to a handful of starters. Michael Pineda finished the season on a roll with a 2.76 ERA over his final 11 starts, Cole Hamels offers a proven veteran presence and has plenty left in the tank, and Alex Wood is an appealing buy-low option after an injury-shortened 2019.
That trio might wind up costing just as much as Cole for 2020, and adding three solid starters would go a lot further for the Angels than splurging on one ace-caliber arm.
Oakland Athletics: Extend one or more of Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Marcus Semien
The Athletics have quietly built one of baseball's best infields.
Homegrown sluggers Matt Chapman (6.7 WAR) and Matt Olson (5.1 WAR) will both be arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason, while breakout shortstop Marcus Semien (8.1 WAR) will be a free agent after the 2020 season.
All three players are core pieces for an Oakland squad that has reached the postseason in back-to-back years, and locking up one or more of them this offseason would be a big step toward sustainable success. Given his proximity to free agency, Semien should be the top priority.
Seattle Mariners: Trade Kyle Seager for prospects
Seager hit a dismal .221/.273/.400 during a 0.8-WAR season in 2018, and he missed the first 53 games of 2019 while recovering from spring hand surgery.
Once he returned, he put together a solid season, logging a 112 OPS+ with 23 home runs and 2.4 WAR in 106 games. That included a huge August, in which he posted a 1.116 OPS with nine home runs and 25 RBI.
The 31-year-old is still owed $38 million over the next two years and carries a $15 million team option for 2022, but the Mariners front office found a way to unload Robinson Cano and his hefty contract last offseason.
Texas Rangers: Sign Zack Wheeler
The Rangers have done a nice job with the additions of Mike Minor (208.1 IP, 3.59 ERA, 200 K) and Lance Lynn (208.1 IP, 3.67 ERA, 246 K) the past two offseasons, and they were quietly one of baseball's best starting pitching duos in 2019.
However, even with their stellar work, the team finished 25th in the majors with a 5.37 starters' ERA, and that kept them from contending in a 78-84 season.
The 29-year-old Wheeler will be one of the most coveted starters on the market this offseason, and while he won't come cheaply, he could be the perfect splash to help usher in a new stadium as the team looks to contend in 2020.
Atlanta Braves: Sign Anthony Rendon
The Braves could look to pursue a reunion with Josh Donaldson after he posted a 127 OPS+ with 33 doubles and 37 home runs in a 6.1 WAR season on a one-year, $23 million deal.
However, they could also aim higher with a run at signing Rendon, who is four years younger than Donaldson and coming off a fantastic season where he hit .319/.412/.598 with 44 doubles, 34 home runs and 126 RBI for 6.3 WAR.
After a red-hot start to his MLB career, Austin Riley hit a brutal .161/.211/.276 with a 41.1 percent strikeout rate in 95 plate appearances after the All-Star break. Given those struggles, it looks like the Braves will need to address the third base situation in some capacity this offseason.
Miami Marlins: Sign Jose Abreu
On the heels of a 57-105 season, the Marlins are still at least a few years away from making a serious push toward contention.
However, if Abreu does not wind up re-signing with the White Sox, he could be the perfect veteran presence to add to an increasingly young roster.
The 32-year-old posted a 119 OPS+ with 38 doubles, 33 home runs and an AL-leading 123 RBI in 2019, and the Cuban-born slugger would be an extremely marketable player in the Miami community, giving the team the much-needed face of the franchise that it is lacking at this stage in the rebuilding process.
New York Mets: Re-sign Zack Wheeler
After trading for Marcus Stroman at the deadline rather than moving any of their own starters, the Mets have a chance to double-down by re-signing Wheeler to put together one of the best rotations in baseball.
A rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Stroman, Wheeler and Steven Matz looks strong on paper, and while there will be other holes to plug, maintaining the starting rotation as the strength of the team would be a wise approach.
Wheeler, 29, has a 3.65 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with 374 strikeouts in 377.2 innings the past two years, proving healthy after missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons and half of the 2017 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Mets were exploring the idea of extending Wheeler in July.
Philadelphia Phillies: Sign Madison Bumgarner
Despite kicking the tires on several different left-handed starters last offseason, the Phillies ended up going with an all right-handed rotation of incumbent starters.
After finishing 17th in the majors with a 4.64 starters' ERA, and with only Aaron Nola (202.1 IP) and Zach Eflin (163.1 IP) topping 150 innings, bolstering the rotation should be the No. 1 focus of the offseason.
Bumgarner would give the team the left-handed option it was seeking last offseason while also providing some needed stability to a staff that used 12 different starters in 2019. The club seems to be all-in on the current core, and adding Bumgarner to the mix could be the move that pushes it over the top.
Washington Nationals: Re-sign Anthony Rendon
According to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post, the Nationals offered Rendon a seven-year extension in the $210 million to $215 million neighborhood in early September.
He also offered up the following: "According to two people with knowledge of the negotiations, the proposal differs vastly from the 10-year, $300 million offer the Nationals made last September to outfielder Bryce Harper. That contract included about $100 million in deferred salary, with the final payment coming in 2052."
That would seem to imply that the Nationals are more serious about keeping the NL MVP candidate around, and with so much money committed to the pitching side of things, it makes sense to spend on the perennially underrated Rendon.
Chicago Cubs: Trade Kris Bryant for a young, controllable starter
Cutting ties with manager Joe Maddon was likely just the first step in a busy offseason for the Cubs. While talking with reporters following the season, team president Theo Epstein didn't shoot down the idea of trading Javier Baez or Kris Bryant this winter.
"I think they're both hugely important, and it'd be hard to see them out of a Cubs uniform, but we're at a transition point, and we have to do whatever is best for the Cubs. I hope it includes both of those guys," Epstein told reporters.
Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue proposed a deal sending Bryant to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for young left-hander Max Fried, who posted a 4.02 ERA with 173 strikeouts in 165.2 innings and is under control through the 2024 season. That's the kind of deal that might make sense from the Cubs' standpoint.
Cincinnati Reds: Trade for Mookie Betts
In a recent article predicting the biggest shockers of the upcoming offseason, I had Betts wearing a Cincinnati Reds jersey when 2020 Opening Day arrives.
My proposed return package was built around outfielder Jesse Winker, who is under control through the 2023 season, and left-hander Nick Lodolo, who was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 draft, with complementary pieces thrown in as needed to get a deal done.
After the Reds took an aggressive approach to improving their starting staff last offseason and then doubled down with the trade for Trevor Bauer in July despite a sub-.500 record, it's not out of the realm of possibility. They have already indicated they intend to increase payroll this winter and have their sights set on reaching the playoffs in 2020.
Milwaukee Brewers: Sign Jake Odorizzi
The Brewers originally selected Jake Odorizzi with the No. 32 overall pick in the 2008 draft.
He was sent to the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2011 season in the six-player blockbuster that brought Zack Greinke to Milwaukee, and he was traded twice more before finally turning in an All-Star performance in 2019.
The 29-year-old logged a 3.51 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with 178 strikeouts in 159 innings this year, making him a candidate for a qualifying offer. It's unlikely that the Brewers will be willing to spend on any of the arms at the top of the market, but Odorizzi could be the perfect second-tier target. Even if it does cost a draft pick to sign him, it would be a worthwhile investment.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade Starling Marte for prospects
The Pirates were an unmitigated dumpster fire in 2019, going 25-48 after the All-Star break en route to a 93-loss season while also dealing with myriad injuries and in-fighting by the players.
Manager Clint Hurdle was fired at the start of the offseason, and that could be the first step in an offseason of change. There's a good chance they will decide to take a step back and sell, and if that's the case, outfielder Starling Marte is their most valuable trade chip.
The 31-year-old posted a 120 OPS+ with 60 extra-base hits and 25 steals en route to 2.9 WAR, and he now has back-to-back 20-20 seasons under his belt. With an $11.5 million option for 2020 and a $12.5 million option for 2021, his team-friendly remaining control makes him an attractive target in a thin market for center fielders.
St. Louis Cardinals: Re-sign Marcell Ozuna
Despite playing just 130 games, Ozuna finished the 2019 season with 29 home runs and 89 RBI while logging a 108 OPS+ and 2.1 WAR.
Disappointing seasons from Harrison Bader (78 OPS+) and Tyler O'Neill (88 OPS+) have raised some questions about the future outfield alignment in St. Louis—even if top prospect Dylan Carlson is ready to make an impact in 2020—and that could motivate the team to seek a reunion with Ozuna.
The 28-year-old is interested in returning, telling reporters: "That's my priority. My agents just have to do their job."
Arizona Diamondbacks: Sign Zack Wheeler
After trading Zack Greinke and with Robbie Ray and Mike Leake both a year removed from free agency, the Diamondbacks could look to add some top-tier starting pitching help this winter.
Chase Field is a tough environment for pitchers, but Wheeler has enjoyed solid success in five career starts there, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 30 strikeouts in 31.2 innings.
Using some of the money freed up by moving Greinke to sign Wheeler would provide the rotation with a significant boost in 2020 and serve as a contingency plan if Ray bolts in free agency following the 2020 season.
Colorado Rockies: Trade Charlie Blackmon for a controllable starter
Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported on July 23 that the Rockies were willing to listen to offers for Blackmon, who made his third straight NL All-Star team in 2019.
Morosi wrote: "Blackmon, who turned 33 this month, has a 15-team no-trade clause, which would complicate any trade negotiations. Colorado would need to consider the reaction -- inside and outside its clubhouse -- to trading a cornerstone player so soon after signing Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension through 2026."
While his dramatic home/road splits and the $64 million he's owed over the next three seasons waters down his value a bit, he's still a dynamic offensive player. The Rockies desperately need pitching help, and flipping Blackmon could be the best way to find a controllable arm, considering how hard it is to lure top-tier free-agent pitchers to Colorado.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Sign Will Harris and Will Smith
While the Dodgers bullpen finished fourth in the majors and first in the NL with a 3.78 ERA, shoring up the relief corps should still be a top priority this winter.
Closer Kenley Jansen finished the season with eight blown saves and a 3.71 ERA, high-priced setup man Joe Kelly failed to live up to expectations, and the rest of the relief corps was largely inconsistent.
Assuming Aroldis Chapman doesn't opt out of his contract with the Yankees, lefty closer Will Smith (63 G, 34 SV, 2.76 ERA, 13.2 K/9) and righty setup man Will Harris (68 G, 26 HLD, 1.50 ERA, 9.3 K/9) look like the top two bullpen options on the market. The Dodgers have the money to sign them both, and that's exactly what they should do.
San Diego Padres: Sign Gerrit Cole
In a recent article predicting the biggest surprises of the upcoming MLB offseason, I went out on a limb and had Gerrit Cole signing with the Padres. Here's part of what I wrote:
"While handing out another big contract after the Hosmer and Machado deals may seem daunting, in actuality the team has just over $100 million on the books for 2020, and with a wealth of young, cheap talent, there's no reason a megadeal for Cole can't also fit on the payroll."
Padres general manager A.J. Preller has been nothing if not aggressive since taking the reins, and signing Cole would vastly improve the rotation after a disappointing 70-92 finish that represented just a four-win improvement over their 2018 record.
San Francisco Giants: Trade Brandon Belt, give Joey Bart an Opening Day spot
The Giants should start the offseason by doing whatever it takes to unload Belt and the final two years and $34.4 million left on his contract, even if it means eating the vast majority of that remaining money.
That would allow them to move Buster Posey, who had a down season in his return from hip surgery, out from behind the plate and into the everyday first base role where he could focus on the offensive side of his game.
Meanwhile, top prospect Joey Bart would then have a clear path to the catcher job. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft reached Double-A in his first full pro season and then hit .333/.524/.767 with four home runs and more walks (9) than strikeouts (7) in 10 games in the Arizona Fall League before a fractured thumb sent him home.
He'll be ready for the start of spring training, and giving him a spot on the Opening Day roster would be a great way to create some buzz around a team in the midst of a rebuild that is set to lose face of the franchise Madison Bumgarner.