MLB Trade Proposals That Would Shake Up the 2021 World Series Race
The 2020-21 MLB offseason is launching slowly due to multiple headwinds, including the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread financial uncertainty.
However, multiple landscape-altering trades eventually could be consummated.
Let's examine a half-dozen such swaps, with a focus on deals that would shake up the 2021 World Series race.
We'll remain in the realm of the probable. But we'll also train our gaze upon players and squads from baseball's upper echelon.
Josh Hader Going to Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins may lose key bullpen members Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard and Trevor May in free agency. That trio led the club in appearances in 2020.
The Twinkies could use an injection of relief talent after winning a division title and suffering a disheartening Wild Card Series sweep at home against the Houston Astros.
Minnesota could tinker in the pen, or it could go big. If it chooses the latter route, a trade for Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Josh Hader would make sense.
Hader was an All-Star in 2018 and 2019 and nailed down 13 saves with 31 strikeouts in 19 innings in 2020. He's entering his age-27 season and is controllable through 2023, and he has churned through the rumor mill since at least December 2019.
The Twins would have to surrender blue-chip pieces from a farm system that Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked No. 11 in the game.
If they were willing to let go of MiLB outfielder Trevor Larnach and right-hander Jhoan Duran, it could net one of the game's elite relievers. And it would move Minnesota closer to snagging its first Commissioner's Trophy since 1991.
San Diego Padres Add an Ace in Blake Snell
In Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled left-hander Blake Snell with one out in the sixth inning and Tampa Bay leading 1-0.
The result was a 3-1 Rays loss and a Los Angeles Dodgers Fall Classic triumph.
After the game, Snell told reporters: "I don't wanna be taken out of that game."
However, he added: "For the most part, me and Cash, I'm going to side with him, because I know how good of a manager he is and it's just tough because I felt so good."
So, it isn't as though these are irreconcilable differences. Snell could again be a key piece for the Rays as they defend their American League title.
With that said, the Rays will pay Snell $11.1 million in 2021, followed by $13.1 million in 2022 and $16.6 million in 2023. For a small-market squad that ranked 28th in payroll in 2020, those swelling salaries could cause some sticker shock.
Tampa Bay would want a sky-high return for the 27-year-old, who won an AL Cy Young Award in 2018 and posted a 3.24 ERA with 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2020.
One club that could pay it? The San Diego Padres, who are close to challenging the Dodgers in the NL West and the Senior Circuit as a whole.
The Friars could use another top-shelf arm to pair with Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger. And they could afford to jettison catcher Luis Campusano, left-hander Adrian Morejon and an ancillary piece or two from their No. 7-ranked system.
Tampa Bay would diminish its odds of making a repeat run in 2021, but given its financial limitations and perpetual need for cost-controlled talent, this would be a justifiable swallow-hard swap.
Atlanta Acquires an Offensive Force in Kris Bryant
The Chicago Cubs won the NL Central in 2020 and could repeat as division champs. However, they're dealing with a financial crunch.
Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber are all entering their final years of arbitration, while first baseman Anthony Rizzo will earn $16.5 million after the Cubs picked up his 2021 option.
That quartet could command a large portion of the Cubbies' 2021 budget, so they may need to trade someone this winter if they hope to buttress their bullpen and starting rotation.
Bryant is coming off an injury-marred campaign. However, the 2016 NL MVP is heading into his age-29 season and would be a boon to any contender.
He's been linked to Atlanta in the past, and the defending NL East champs could use an upgrade at third base.
Atlanta got out to a 3-1 edge against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series before a disappointing fade. Bryant's bat would support or replace free-agent slugger Marcell Ozuna.
Bryant will likely earn a slight raise over the $18.6 million he was set to earn in 2020 before the season was truncated. Assuming Atlanta is willing to pick up the tab, it could keep the top four players from its No. 5-ranked system and offer the Cubs high-upside left-hander Kyle Muller plus a few lower-tier prospects.
Chicago White Sox Add Arm and Bat with Lance Lynn and Joey Gallo
The Chicago White Sox made the jump from rebuilder to contender in 2020 with a 35-25 finish. The ChiSox could emerge as legitimate title challengers in 2021 and ought to be aggressive this offseason.
Here's an idea: What if the South Siders engineered a swap for right-hander Lance Lynn and slugger Joey Gallo from the Texas Rangers?
Texas finished last in the AL West with the worst run differential in baseball (minus-88) and should be headed for a rebuild.
Lynn posted a 3.32 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 84 innings and would augment a White Sox rotation fronted by Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel.
Meanwhile, Gallo hit only .181, but he swatted 10 home runs in 57 games and won a Gold Glove for his play in right field. He also bashed 40 and 41 dingers in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
Entering his age-27 season, he could join youngsters Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez to form a potent outfield mix.
The White Sox might have to cough up a top-level prospect such as first baseman Andrew Vaughn along with multiple other pieces, but it would be worth it to swing their win-now window open wide.
New York Yankees Pay Cleveland for Francisco Lindor and Zach Plesac
The New York Yankees fell in five games in the division series to the Tampa Bay Rays. They'll need pitching behind ace Gerrit Cole, with right-hander Masahiro Tanaka a free agent and the rest of the starting corps unsettled. They could also bolster an offense that is potent when healthy but has battled injury issues in recent years.
So, how about this seismic trade haul: Shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-hander Zach Plesac from Cleveland?
Lindor, a four-time All-Star entering his age-27 contract year, needs no introduction. Cleveland almost surely can't afford to keep him and thus is open to dealing him this winter.
As for Plesac, he posted a 2.28 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 55.1 frames in 2020. The 25-year-old also ran afoul of his teammates when he and Mike Clevinger violated COVID-19 safety protocols.
While Clevinger was traded to San Diego, Plesac stayed put. But if he were tossed into a trade with Lindor, he could entice the Yankees to offer shortstop Gleyber Torres, outfielder Clint Frazier and more.
It would restock Cleveland in the near term and make the Yanks stronger title hopefuls in 2021.
Los Angeles Dodgers Get Nolan Arenado from Division-Rival Rockies
The defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers could lose some key bullpen arms to free agency, including Blake Treinen and Pedro Baez. However, their biggest need could be at third base, as Justin Turner is also a free agent.
L.A. could re-sign Turner, or it could look to acquire an impact shortstop such as Lindor and move Corey Seager to the hot corner.
But what about a trade for Nolan Arenado instead?
The five-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner can opt out of his contract after 2021 or could stick around and earn between $27 million and $35 million annually through 2026. He expressed unhappiness with Colorado's management in January, telling MLB.com's Thomas Harding: "There's a lot of disrespect from people there that I don't want to be a part of."
If the Dodgers and Rox are amenable to a deal within the division, L.A. could offer catching prospect Keibert Ruiz (who is blocked at the big league level by Will Smith) and another chip or two.
If Arenado is merely a rental, he'd greatly improve the Dodgers' odds of repeating as champions. And if he opts in to the rest of his contract or works out a new extension, he'd join Mookie Betts and Co. to form a ludicrous attack for the next several seasons.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.