Predicting 1 Trade for Every MLB Team During the 2020 Offseason
With the 2020 Major League Baseball season creeping closer to its end, it's not too soon to look ahead to the offseason.
Because every team in the league took a financial hit amid the coronavirus pandemic-shortened season, clubs may prefer to find impact talent on the trade market this winter. So with this theory in mind, we endeavored to speculate on one trade for each of the 30 teams.
This mainly involved predicting which players teams will trade for, though presumed sellers required a different approach. For them, we made our best guess as to which star players are the most likely to leave town.
We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: For Andrew Benintendi
In the wake of their 25-35 record, the Arizona Diamondbacks probably won't be major buyers on the trade market. But since they're not poised for a rebuild, they likely won't sell either.
The Snakes might scour the market for buy-low targets who could be developed into stars. For instance, Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi.
Arizona general manager Mike Hazen was part of the front office that drafted Benintendi in 2015. He may like the idea of a low-risk reunion, especially given that Benintendi is under team control through 2022.
Atlanta: For Joe Musgrove
With a trip to the World Series still within reach, Atlanta obviously won't be turning its attention to the offseason any time soon.
When the time does come, it might look to the trade market for a veteran starter who could join Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright and (if healthy) Mike Soroka in the rotation for 2021. And beyond, if possible.
Joe Musgrove is an intriguing possibility. Albeit in only eight starts, the 27-year-old finally pitched to his potential with a 3.86 ERA and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 2020. He's also under team control through 2022.
With their farm system badly in need of repair, the Pittsburgh Pirates might be all too happy to pull from Atlanta's fifth-ranked system.
Baltimore Orioles: Of Alex Cobb
The Baltimore Orioles are at a point in their rebuild where it's not really time to add, yet they don't have much left to subtract.
If the O's do subtract anyway, they'll perhaps look to cash in Renato Nunez and Anthony Santander following their breakout performances in 2020. It's much more likely, though, that the O's will seek takers for Alex Cobb.
The right-hander is due to earn $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. That's not a cheap rate for a 33-year-old who's pitched to a 5.10 ERA over just 41 starts since 2018.
Still, some teams might like Cobb as a back-end starter. In that case, the O's would only have to agree to eat most of his salary to complete a deal.
Boston Red Sox: Of Nathan Eovaldi
Even apart from Andrew Benintendi, the Red Sox have other big-name players who could hit the block this offseason.
The biggest is J.D. Martinez, who comes with all sorts of credentials as a middle-of-the-order slugger. Yet his value is way down after he mustered only a .680 OPS and seven home runs this season. The $38.7 million he's owed through 2022 and his opt-out after 2021 further complicate matters.
Instead, Boston might have an easier time moving Nathan Eovaldi.
The veteran fireballer is owed $34 million through 2022 in his own right. But after a difficult season in 2019, he pulled an anti-Martinez and boosted his value by posting a 3.72 ERA in nine starts this year. Even if it means eating some money, the Red Sox could probably get something for him.
Chicago Cubs: Of Kris Bryant
Even though the Chicago Cubs won the National League Central, this season marked their third in a row without a postseason win.
Big changes may thus be in order, up to and including trades of core stars Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber.
The catch is that all three are coming off down years, as they collectively posted just a .647 OPS in 2020. The Cubs would be selling low on any one of them, in which case saving money would presumably be their primary motivation.
If so, Bryant would be the most likely goner. Even despite his credentials as a three-time All-Star and the 2016 National League MVP, the Cubs might be wary of giving him a raise in his final year of arbitration-eligibility in 2021 after he earned an unadjusted salary of $18.6 million this season.
Chicago White Sox: For Josh Hader
After making the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the Chicago White Sox are riding high going into the offseason. What's more, they won't have much on their shopping list.
They might only need a backup catcher to replace James McCann or a closer to replace Alex Colome, both of whom are slated for free agency.
For the latter, the White Sox could be one of the first teams in line if the Milwaukee Brewers make two-time All-Star closer Josh Hader available.
Some of the players left in Chicago's 15th-ranked farm system might interest Milwaukee. For their part, the White Sox might like the idea of adding a fireman who more than doubled Colome's strikeout rate in 2020. Hader would also remain under Chicago's control through 2023.
Cincinnati Reds: For Lance Lynn
The Cincinnati Reds lasted only two games against Atlanta in the Wild Card Series precisely because their offense mustered all of zero runs.
Yet the Reds will probably be focused on their pitching staff. It stands to lose Cy Young Award favorite Trevor Bauer via free agency, which would open a massive hole at the top of the rotation.
Frankly, the Reds wouldn't be able to replace the 1.73 ERA that Bauer gave them. But if they set their sights on Lance Lynn, they could at least come close.
Cleveland: Of Francisco Lindor
When Cleveland's season ended, Francisco Lindor's time with the club may have as well.
Though the superstar shortstop is under club control for one more year, the prospects that he will stay in Cleveland beyond 2021 seem bleak. Even if Cleveland can afford him, it's not that simple.
As president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti told reporters, including MLB.com's Mandy Bell: "It's about how do we build a team that's capable of contending? And how do we allocate resources in a way that gives us the best chance to win as many games as possible?"
Granted, Lindor's value took a hit amid a career-worst season (i.e., 0.8 rWAR). Yet he's still a player whom other teams would love to have. And if Cleveland is going to trade him, it's probably now or never.
Colorado Rockies: Of Mychal Givens
The Colorado Rockies started 2020 off right with wins in 11 of their first 14 games. But then came a 15-31 slide, resulting in their second straight dismal season.
The Rockies should shake things up, but how?
Nolan Arenado's trade candidacy—which was iffy to begin with—was obliterated by a shoulder injury and a massive offensive regression in 2020. In lieu of him, the Rockies may be more likely to move steady right-hander German Marquez or even star shortstop Trevor Story.
Or they could settle for trading righty reliever Mychal Givens, who flopped with a 6.75 ERA after coming over from the Orioles in August. Doing so wouldn't accomplish much, but that would fit with Colorado's M.O. from recent offseasons.
Detroit Tigers: Of Matthew Boyd
Similar to the Orioles, the Detroit Tigers are at an in-between junction in their rebuild. It's not time to add, but they also don't have much left to subtract.
Yet the Tigers do have some arms that might interest other teams. Lefty swingman Daniel Norris is one of them, and there might even be renewed interest in fellow southpaw Matthew Boyd.
Boyd has been on a rough track of late, posting a 6.08 ERA over 25 starts since July 18, 2019. He was especially bad in 2020, wherein he had a 6.71 ERA and allowed an MLB-worst 15 home runs in only 60.1 innings.
Yet it wasn't that long ago that Boyd's slider had everyone's attention. He's also under club control through 2022. Such things make the 29-year-old an intriguing buy-low option.
Houston Astros: For Starling Marte
For the moment, the Houston Astros are a tad preoccupied with something called the American League Championship Series.
Come the offseason, they'll have to put some gears in motion to replace as many as three lineup stalwarts who are ticketed for free agency: George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick.
Springer, in particular, is likely to have options beyond Houston. The Astros would need a new center fielder if he leaves, which might prompt them to call the Miami Marlins about Starling Marte.
To be sure, the Marlins could just keep Marte after exercising his $12.5 million option for 2021. But if they're game to play Magneuris Sierra in center and also keen to save money for big splashes, Marte could hit the block.
Kansas City Royals: Of Danny Duffy
The Kansas City Royals are yet another team that is rebuilding. What separates them from the Orioles and Tigers, however, is they still have some shiny trade chips.
This offseason, the Royals could dangle slugger Jorge Soler, the versatile Whit Merrifield or perhaps even longtime catcher Salvador Perez or southpaw Danny Duffy.
Thing is, the Royals have thus far resisted trading these guys as they've carried out more of a gradual, low-key rebuild. If they stick with it, all four of them will still be in town next year.
If just one of them is likely to go, it may be Duffy. The Royals stand to save as much as $15.5 million by trading him, and now is the time to do it after the oft-injured 31-year-old made it through 2020 without landing on the injured list.
Los Angeles Angels: For Matthew Boyd
Though his two big additions (Anthony Rendon and Dylan Bundy) from the 2019-20 offseason paid dividends, the Los Angeles Angels' 2020 season was disastrous enough to cost GM Billy Eppler his job.
Even still, whomever replaces Eppler might take a page from the book that landed Bundy in Anaheim. Given its relatively limited spending flexibility and shallow farm system, taking a chance on a depreciated asset might be the team's best bet to add an impact arm.
Which brings us back to Matthew Boyd.
Though he was never an elite prospect, Boyd is in a similar spot to where Bundy was after the 2019 campaign. Just as the Angels scored on Bundy by unlocking his slider, they might do the same with Boyd before free agency comes calling him after 2022.
Los Angeles Dodgers: For Francisco Lindor
If ever there were a year for the Los Angeles Dodgers to snap a World Series championship drought that dates back to 1988, it's probably this one.
Regardless, the Dodgers are sure to keep their foot on the gas when the offseason rolls around. And if Cleveland does indeed make Francisco Lindor available, Jon Heyman of MLB Network has heard that the Dodgers would be favorites for him.
In Corey Seager, the Dodgers already have a star shortstop who's under club control through 2021. Yet the Dodgers proved with the Mookie Betts trade that they're not afraid to deal for pending free agents. In this case, they could accommodate Lindor by moving Seager to third base.
L.A. could sway Cleveland with an offer of Gavin Lux, who was Baseball America's 2019 Minor League Player of the Year for 2019.
Miami Marlins: For Wil Myers
In the wake of their surprise playoff berth, the Marlins' next move may well be during a noisy offseason.
By way of its third-ranked farm system and utterly clean long-term books, Miami has two avenues to significant upgrades on the market. If it trades Starling Marte, said books will get that much cleaner.
More than anything, the Marlins need thump for an offense that finished with only a .384 slugging percentage. If the San Diego Padres make him available—more on whether they should later—Wil Myers could interest Miami.
Myers is coming off a career-high .959 OPS and 15 homers, both of which would have led the Marlins in 2020. And if enough prospect talent went the other way, Miami could probably get San Diego to eat a chunk of the $46 million remaining on Myers' contract.
Milwaukee Brewers: Of Josh Hader
And now for the answer to the question that might have popped into your head back on the White Sox slide: Why, exactly, would the Brewers trade Hader?
They're fresh off earning a third straight postseason berth, and a fourth should be within their grasp in 2021. They'll get Lorenzo Cain back, and Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura will be up for rebound seasons.
Yet the Brewers could stand to clear some money and add prospects to their 26th-ranked system. To this end, a closer who netted a $4.1 million salary in the first of four rounds of arbitration is arguably a luxury they can and should part with.
Minnesota Twins: For Johnny Cueto
After blasting a record 307 home runs in 2019, the Minnesota Twins were an oddly mediocre offensive club in 2020.
But if the Twins can re-sign Nelson Cruz, they'll have everything they need to turn things around in 2021. They could otherwise focus on their starting rotation, which stands to lose Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill via free agency.
If the Twins were to turn to the trade market, they could dip into their 11th-ranked farm system for a blockbuster. If not, they might settle for someone more like a Johnny Cueto.
The San Francisco Giants are only going to move the veteran ace if they eat most of the $26.8 million remaining on his contract. If they do, the Twins could see Cueto's fastball-light approach as a good fit for their own fastball-light philosophy.
New York Mets: For Nathan Eovaldi
With ownership set to change hands from the Wilpon family to Steve Cohen, the New York Mets are ready for a new era.
The first step will presumably involve an offseason loaded with splashes. The starting rotation is sure to be a beneficiary, as there wasn't much in the way of reliability after two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom in 2020.
The Mets won't have to turn to the trade market for answers, especially given that they only have so much to deal from their 20th-ranked farm system. Nathan Eovaldi, however, could make some sense.
Indeed, any trade involving him is sure to be more salary dump than prospect swap. And with New York, his 97.4 mph fastball would fit alongside those of deGrom and a (presumably) healthy Noah Syndergaard.
New York Yankees: Of Gary Sanchez
After an 11th straight season without a trip to the World Series, the New York Yankees are likely in for a busy offseason.
Among the many questions that needs answering is what to do with Gary Sanchez.
At his best, the 27-year-old has been a rare power threat from the catcher position. But he was a liability at the plate and behind the dish in 2018 and again this season. Come the playoffs, he was benched in deference to Kyle Higashioka.
Because his value is down and he's under team control through 2022, the Yankees don't need to trade Sanchez. But if they were to grant him a change of scenery, they'd be doing him and themselves a solid.
Oakland Athletics: Of Stephen Piscotty
This offseason, the Oakland Athletics will finally be at that point with Matt Chapman and Matt Olson.
This would be the point at which both stars are going to start making real money. They'll be eligible for arbitration for the first time, which will push their respective salaries from the $600,000 range into the millions.
But in lieu of trading Chapman or Olson straightaway, the ever-cash-strapped A's might find alternative means of keeping their payroll in check. For instance, they could move Stephen Piscotty instead.
He's owed only $16.2 million through 2022, which isn't much for a 29-year-old who's mostly played well in six major league seasons. But for the A's, it might be too much for a guy with a .693 OPS over the last two seasons.
Philadelphia Phillies: For Austin Barnes
Once they replace Matt Klentak with a new GM, the Philadelphia Phillies will invariably turn their attention to J.T. Realmuto.
The Phillies never really got close to extending Realmuto after acquiring him from the Marlins in February 2019. Now he is set to be a free agent and has a resume that includes the most rWAR of any catcher since 2017.
If the Phillies fail to re-sign Realmuto, the trade market could be their ticket to a new everyday catcher. Gary Sanchez would be an option, but his defensive issues could push Philadelphia in another direction.
The club might call the Dodgers about Austin Barnes, whom L.A. might want to move to make way for prospect Keibert Ruiz. Barnes is an above-average framer who would remain under Philly's control through 2022.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Of Joe Musgrove
The Pirates might be the only team that will absolutely, positively be a seller.
The question is who they'll trade this offseason. They have plenty of theoretical trade chips, but first baseman Josh Bell, left fielder Bryan Reynolds and second baseman Adam Frazier compromised their value in 2020. Rather than sell low, the Pirates could wait and hope to sell high on them later.
Joe Musgrove, on the other hand, is a sell-high candidate.
As previously mentioned, he made good on his untapped potential during the 2020 season. However, he was previously a merely average pitcher, and even his breakout campaign was marred by a stint on the IL. Such things should have Pittsburgh motivated to deal while the dealing's good.
San Diego Padres: Of Wil Myers
The Padres couldn't get past the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. But on the whole, they certainly announced their arrival as a powerhouse contender in 2020.
If there's a concern in San Diego, it's a financial one. The Padres opened the season with the 15th-highest payroll. That's uncharted territory, and more expenses—e.g., possible extensions for Fernando Tatis Jr. and Dinelson Lamet—are on the horizon.
Hence why the Padres could be amenable to shedding Wil Myers and his contract.
Mind you, San Diego probably can't jettison all of Myers' deal. But the season he just had could be a window into offloading most of it and also getting talent for the farm system or major league roster.
San Francisco Giants: Of Johnny Cueto
Though we're operating under the assumption that teams will make trades, that's admittedly a hard thing to take for granted with the Giants.
Since he was hired as president of baseball operations in 2018, Farhan Zaidi hasn't seemed to have any urgency to move the big contracts he inherited. As such, he might let it ride with Johnny Cueto, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, who will be in the final guaranteed years on their deals in 2021.
But if just one of them is likely to move, it could be Cueto.
No, the Giants can't exactly spare pitching. They might nonetheless want to save as much of Cueto's $21.8 million salary for 2021 as they can, especially given that the 34-year-old's durability is no sure thing.
Seattle Mariners: Of Mitch Haniger
The Seattle Mariners have traded plenty of players in recent years, which has helped them put together the second-best farm system in all of MLB.
But because they're still in the hands of noted trade junkie Jerry Dipoto, it's safe to assume the Mariners will keep trading.
Right fielder Mitch Haniger is one Mariner who could attract trade interest. He broke out as an All-Star in 2018 but then played only 63 games in 2019 and zero in 2020 because of injuries.
Of course, Dipoto could pencil Haniger in to right for 2021 and hope he builds value. But if he'd rather set that spot aside for uberprospect Jarred Kelenic, Dipoto could send Haniger on his way before (or maybe even after) spring training rolls around.
St. Louis Cardinals: For Gary Sanchez
This may be the offseason the St. Louis Cardinals finally move on from Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.
The two have been a battery in St. Louis since 2005 but are set to become free agents. If the Cardinals want to go younger, they'll let Molina, 38, and Wainwright, 39, be on their way.
Replacing Molina could be an opportunity for the Cardinals to upgrade their offense. It was downright bad in 2020, scoring 4.1 runs per game with an MLB-low 51 home runs.
As such, there might be no better home for Gary Sanchez if he becomes available. Even if it meant living with a defensive downgrade, he would serve the Cardinals well if he reinvigorated the power that led him to 30-homer seasons in 2017 and 2019.
Tampa Bay Rays: For Touki Toussaint
As of now, the Rays are focused on dispatching the Astros and getting to their second World Series.
Whenever their offseason begins, they won't actually have that many holes to fill. Yet they might have a big one in their starting rotation if they decline Charlie Morton's $15 million option for 2021.
One option would be for the Rays to promptly reinvest those savings in free agency. It would be more like them, however, to reach out and snag a low-risk, high-reward project from another team.
Maybe it's a long shot, but we just plain like the idea of Touki Toussaint with the Rays. His control issues have landed him in no-man's land with Atlanta. But if he came to Tampa Bay, the 24-year-old's size (6'3", 215 lbs) and electric stuff could make him the next Tyler Glasnow.
Texas Rangers: Of Lance Lynn
Next year may be the first season in which the Rangers can host fans at Globe Life Field.
This prospect may make the club's leadership reluctant to transition into a rebuild. And yet, the winds should be blowing in that direction after four straight losing seasons. To boot, the Rangers badly need prospects.
If the Rangers do sell, Lance Lynn and Joey Gallo will be their top trade chips. The latter, though, is coming off a rough season with two years still to go until free agency. He's best approached with patience.
In contrast, there's no reason for the Rangers to wait on trading Lynn. He's heading into the final season of his contract, and his value can likely only go down as he nears his 34th birthday May 12.
Toronto Blue Jays: Of Randal Grichuk
The Toronto Blue Jays are another team that arrived as a contender in 2020, yet their way forward is a bit more uncertain than the White Sox's or Padres'.
The Blue Jays need to balance themselves, as they were overly reliant on their offense. They need to deepen their pitching staff and also upgrade a defense that ranked 29th in defensive runs saved and outs above average.
To the latter end, Toronto can spare Randal Grichuk. He continued to be a good source of power with 12 home runs in 2020, but it came at the expense of subpar defense in center field.
The Blue Jays could look to move Grichuk and the $31 million remaining on his deal and then invest in, say, Jackie Bradley Jr.
Washington Nationals: For Kris Bryant
There's more than just one reason why the Washington Nationals went from World Series champs in 2019 to 26-34 duds in 2020.
One of the bigger ones was the loss of Anthony Rendon via free agency. Without him, the Nats had to suffer through a .575 OPS from their third basemen. Only Milwaukee got a lower OPS from the hot corner this season.
Rather than go through that again, the Nationals should revisit an idea they had in December: trade for Kris Bryant.
He'll be more attainable this time around and therefore an option for the Nats despite their MLB-worst farm system. If they were to get Bryant from the Cubs, they would have to hope good health and extra motivation would pave his way to a renaissance season.