To the delight of MLB fans, media and, more than anyone, free agents themselves, the hot stove needed very little time to heat up this winter.
The New York Yankees showered Gerrit Cole with cash. The Los Angeles Angels spent a fortune on Anthony Rendon. The Washington Nationals gathered every armored truck in the District to convince Stephen Strasburg to stay. The Arizona Diamondbacks lured in the franchise face of one of their NL West rivals, by inking legendary San Francisco Giants starter Madison Bumgarner to a five-year pact.
Incredibly, if you trust the rumblings of the trade market, this might only be the beginning.
Multiple stars are generating major trade buzz at the moment, so we'll dissect the latest tidbits below.
Yankees Setting Sights on Josh Hader?
What do you do after signing the best starting pitcher in baseball? Well, if you're the Yankees, you apparently try to add arguably the game's top reliever, too.
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, New York wants Josh Hader and might have the centerpiece of a swap in 24-year-old third baseman Miguel Andujar. For now, though, Heyman added that "interested teams still aren't totally convinced Milwaukee would move the star closer."
It would probably take a fortune to make the Brewers even consider biting. Hader's career averages through three seasons include a 2.42 ERA, a 0.850 WHIP and an absurd 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings. He's already been an All-Star twice, and he landed seventh in the 2018 NL Cy Young voting.
But maybe Milwaukee sees a Hader trade as a way to address other areas of need. If it's convinced Andujar has the glove to man the hot corner, it would surely love adding his bat to the lineup. While his 2019 season was cut short by shoulder surgery, he was 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up in the AL with a .297 average, 27 home runs and 92 RBI.
Rangers Eyeing Nolan Arenado?
In February, the Colorado Rockies inked five-time All-Star Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million contract. Fast forward to now, and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal is reporting a potential trade involving Arenado no longer seems preposterous.
That might feel like a sudden, stunning change of events. But the talented third baseman has an opt-out clause already in 2021. And with the Rockies disappointing to the tune of 91 losses this past season, they might have to consider moving him sooner than risk him leaving for nothing later.
They haven't shut down the possibility. Rosenthal reported the Rockies are talking to multiple teams, including the Texas Rangers, who were the second-highest bidder for Rendon. Rosenthal mentioned the Nationals, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers as other possibilities, though he notes skepticism within the Dodgers that the Rockies would trade Arenado to another NL West team.
Of course, listening to offers and finding an acceptable one are two different things. Arenado's long-term money and short-term uncertainty both make it tricky to craft a respectable return package. Absorbing some salary might sweeten the pot, but the Rockets probably aren't crazy about paying someone else to take their best player off their hands.
Arenado has as many Gold Gloves as MLB seasons played, and he's nearly as brilliant with the bat. His average 162-game output over the past five years includes a .300 batting average, 41 home runs and 128 RBI.
Dodgers Still Hoping for a Splash?
The Los Angeles Dodgers were linked to nearly every big-name free agent available, but their biggest investment to date has been a one-year, prove-it contract with Blake Treinen.
That hasn't kept the Dodgers from dreaming big, though. USA Today's Bob Nightengale labeled them "the team to watch," while noting their "very aggressive" pursuits of Francisco Lindor and Mike Clevinger, plus ongoing contact with the Boston Red Sox regarding Mookie Betts.
As good as L.A. has been, any one of these players could transform the team. The only problem is that's true of any MLB club, as Lindor, Clevinger and Betts are among the best in the business.
There's no guarantee any of the three are moved. If they are, there's no guarantee the Dodgers put up the best offer. Nightengale mentioned Corey Seager as their "top trade chip," but clubs might covet prospects like Gavin Lux and Dustin May.
The Dodgers have the assets to broker a blockbuster deal, but as they seem to be learning in free agency, things that make sense on paper don't always work out in practice.