MLB Rumors: Latest Free-Agency Buzz on Adam Wainwright, Kolten Wong, More
With the unique 2020 MLB season having reached its conclusion on the heels of the Los Angeles Dodgers beating the Tampa Bay Rays in six games to win the World Series, the focus has shifted toward the offseason.
While the COVID-19 pandemic creates something of an uncertain environment both in terms of finances and how the 2021 season will look, there still figures to be plenty of player movement in free agency.
There is no shortage of quality players available on the open market, especially with many teams and players opting out of contracts and adding even more talent to the free-agent pool.
As teams look to close the gap between them and the Dodgers, here is a rundown of some of the latest rumors surrounding free agents who could be on the move this offseason.
Pitcher Adam Wainwright has spent his entire 15-year MLB career with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he could be on the move as a free agent.
According to David O'Brien and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, one team that has already shown interest in the 39-year-old is the Atlanta Braves.
They selected Wainwright in the first round of the 2000 MLB draft but traded him to St. Louis in 2003 before he ever played a game for Atlanta's big league club.
The Brunswick, Georgia native made his MLB debut for the Cards in 2005 and went on to become one of the best pitchers in team history, as evidenced by his three All-Star nods, two Gold Glove awards and four finishes of third or better in the National League Cy Young award voting.
He also helped lead the Cardinals to a World Series title in 2006 by serving as the team's closer during the postseason. He was dominant in that role with four saves and a 0.00 ERA.
Wainwright is best known for his work as a starter, though, and he owns a career record of 167-98 with a 3.38 ERA and 1,830 strikeouts in 2,169.1 innings.
It is difficult to envision him suiting up for another team, but the Braves could be a strong fit due to their need for a veteran starter in their rotation.
Atlanta relied on the young arms of Max Fried and Ian Anderson last season, as well as Mike Soroka before he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. The Braves signed veteran starter Cole Hamels before the 2020 season, but he made only one start due to injury.
Wainwright was excellent last season with a 5-3 record and 3.15 ERA, and he could fill the role the Braves envisioned for Hamels.
If Wainwright is going to pitch anywhere other than St. Louis in 2021, Atlanta may be the most sensible option.
Like Wainwright, second baseman Kolten Wong is another longtime Cardinals player who could be on the move after hitting free agency.
The Cards declined the $12.5 million option for 2021 in the 30-year-old's contract, and according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, many teams have contracted him already, including the Los Angeles Angels.
Wong made his MLB debut for the Cardinals in 2013 and has spent the past eight seasons in St. Louis. Although he seemingly fell out of favor on a few occasions, he primarily acted as the Cards' starting second baseman.
His best season arguably came in 2011 when he hit .262 with 11 home runs, 61 RBI, 71 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. Plenty was expected out of him following that performance, but he struggled to return to that level over the next few seasons.
Wong finally bounced back in 2019, hitting a career-best .285 with 11 homers, 59 RBI, 61 runs and 24 steals. He was once again unable to build on that last season, though, as he hit .265 with only one home run, 16 RBI, 26 runs and five steals in 53 games during the truncated 2020 campaign.
While the Hawaiian is something of an enigma, he is a quality hitter with some pop and speed when he is at his best. He is also a capable fielder, having won a Gold Glove award in 2019.
After trading Tommy La Stella last season, the Angels got very little production out of the second base position. Luis Rengifo started the majority of the season at second and hit just .156 with one home run and three RBI in 33 games.
The Angels can ill afford to get so little out of the position again next season since they would run the risk of wasting another year with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon in the lineup like they did in 2020.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have a suitable replacement in Tommy Edman should they decide to primarily play him at second base, so the odds may be in favor of Wong playing elsewhere.
One of the biggest free-agent acquisitions of the offseason could be a player who has never played a single MLB game in reliever Hirokazu Sawamura.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, the 32-year-old has drawn interest from "multiple" MLB teams. Since he will be a free agent this winter, he can be signed by an MLB team without going through the NPB-MLB posting system.
Sawamura is a nine-year veteran of the Nippon Professional Baseball league, pitching for the Yomiuri Giants from 2011-2020 before being traded to the Chiba Lotte Marines.
While he was a starter for most of his first few seasons and was named the NBP Central League Rookie of the Year in 2011, most of his success has come as a reliever.
In 345 career NBP games, Sawamura is 48-51 with a 2.77 ERA, 75 saves and 780 strikeouts over 862 innings pitched. He was also part of the Japanese team that finished third at the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
After getting off to a rough start in 2020 and getting dealt to Chiba Lotte, he improved with a 1.23 ERA in 15 appearances for his new team.
Sawamura has been among the most consistent and dominant relievers in Japan over the past several years, and he could be a big bullpen piece for any team looking for reliever help in free agency.