10 MLB Trades That Would Change Everything for 2021 Season
At this early stage of Major League Baseball's 2020-21 offseason, the list of players who could be moved in trades is practically endless.
As such, it wasn't hard to imagine 10 trades that would shake things up for the 2021 season.
For this, we simply matched potentially available stars with teams that could use them and also have the resources to trade for them. These deals might not actually happen, but they're trades that we want to see anyway.
Let's count down to the one that we want to see the most.
Gary Sanchez to the St. Louis Cardinals
After the year he just had, it was no great surprise when Dan Martin, Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the New York Yankees are open to moving Gary Sanchez.
Granted, Sanchez's trade value is essentially nonexistent after he put up minus-0.5 rWAR in 2020. So if the Yankees nonetheless find a taker for him, it'll presumably be a team that needs a catcher and is also desperate for a home run hitter.
No team matches that description as well as the St. Louis Cardinals. Yadier Molina's free agency has opened a massive hole at catcher, and the club's offense is coming off an MLB-low 51 homers in 2020. Though Sanchez isn't Molina's equal defensively, he would grace St. Louis' lineup with 30-homer power.
If the Cardinals were to do a deal for Sanchez, it might involve a fellow change-of-scenery candidate—i.e., Carlos Martinez—going to New York.
Kevin Kiermaier to the Houston Astros
The Tampa Bay Rays are never not in a difficult financial position. But according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, their current predicament is so dire that they might trade what high-priced stars they do have.
One is center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who's set to earn $11.2 million in the second-to-last guaranteed year of his contract in 2021. Though he isn't much of an offensive threat, he still has value by way of his Gold Glove-winning (and metrics-approved) defense.
Meanwhile in Houston, the Astros have three outfielders—George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick—on the free-agent market. They also have a general manager in James Click who came to them from a post in the Rays' front office.
If Click were to trade for Kiermaier, it could be in a deal that sees Houston take on the bulk of the 30-year-old's contract while also sending a superfluous pitcher (e.g., Bryan Abreu) to Tampa Bay.
Brandon Belt to the Washington Nationals
In a normal season, Belt is a reliable yet unspectacular first baseman. Not so in 2020, wherein he slashed .309/.425/.591 with similarly eye-popping peripheral numbers. After a year like that, his $17.2 million salary for 2021 isn't the least bit unreasonable.
To say that the Washington Nationals need a guy like Belt would be underselling it. Their first basemen posted minus-0.5 rWAR in 2020. And despite Juan Soto's significant presence, the Nats are projected to have a right-leaning everyday lineup in 2021.
If Washington was willing to take on all of Belt's 2021 salary, it might only need to send a low-level prospect to San Francisco to complete the deal. Which is good, because low-level prospects are all the Nats have.
Lance Lynn to the Los Angeles Angels
There may be no more obvious trade candidate on the winter market than Lance Lynn.
The right-hander has been spectacular over the last two seasons, racking up a 140 ERA+ over an MLB-high 292.1 innings for the Texas Rangers. The trouble is, the Rangers were a sub-.500 team in 2019 and the worst team in the American League in 2020.
Lynn is owed only $9.3 million in the last year of his contract in 2021. A rate like that won't scare any team off, but few clubs truly need Lynn as much as the Los Angeles Angels.
For them, he would be a savior for a starting rotation that ranked 29th in MLB with a 5.52 ERA in 2020. In exchange, the Angels might interest the Rangers in Jahmai Jones and one or more players from their cache of infield prospects.
Josh Hader to the Philadelphia Phillies
Josh Hader has had a heck of a run with the Milwaukee Brewers, but Robert Murray of FanSided reported that the club is nonetheless open to moving him this winter.
The Brewers surely don't want to trade Hader, who's compiled a 171 ERA+ and whiffed 15.3 batters per nine innings since 2017. But such a move would be a significant cost-cutting maneuver, as Hader earned $4.1 million in just the first of four arbitration-eligible seasons in 2020.
Similar to the Angels with Lynn, there isn't much question which team needs Hader the most. That would be the Philadelphia Phillies, whose bullpen posted a truly awful 7.06 ERA in 2020.
The Phillies would have to give up an ample package to secure Hader's last three years of club control. It might be centered around 23-year-old shortstop Bryson Stott, with other pieces on the side.
Wil Myers to the Miami Marlins
The San Diego Padres broke out as an up-and-coming contender in 2020. Yet their payroll is already in uncharted territory, and their young stars haven't even started making the big bucks yet.
That could result in Wil Myers hitting the trading block.
Myers looked like an albatross as recently as last year. But now that he's coming off a 2020 season marked by a 159 OPS+ and 15 home runs, the Padres have a chance to unload the $46 million remaining on his contract through 2022.
For their part, the Miami Marlins also achieved up-and-coming contender status in 2020. But it was almost entirely thanks to their pitching, as their offense produced only 60 homers with a subpar 92 OPS+.
Rather than spend their payroll space on a longer, more expensive deal with a free agent, the Marlins might put it toward a trade for Myers. In return, San Diego could get a lesser-yet-MLB-ready pitcher like Nick Neidert.
Blake Snell to the Los Angeles Dodgers
According to Topkin, Kiermaier isn't the only star who could be on the move if the Rays cut payroll. Blake Snell might be on the table as well.
Snell is guaranteed only $40.8 million through 2023. While that may be a lot of money for the Rays, it's mere pennies for a Cy Young Award winner with some of the best pure stuff in the league.
The Rays would need more than just salary relief if they were to trade Snell. They would also need to get back impact players, and preferably ones with both youth and many years of club control.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have many players (e.g., catching prospect Keibert Ruiz) like that. And while they don't necessarily need a starter, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman might nonetheless jump at the chance to reunite with a pitcher whom he originally drafted when he was Tampa Bay's GM.
Kris Bryant to the Toronto Blue Jays
Said shakeup is most likely to involve Kris Bryant, Javier Baez or Kyle Schwarber. But since none has especially high trade value after each had a down year in 2020, the Cubs may settle for simply saving money in a trade. If so, Bryant's $18.6 million projected salary for 2021 could make him the odd man out.
In the American League, the Toronto Blue Jays stand out as a potential fit for Bryant on two accounts: They need a third baseman, and they can afford to add his salary to their books for next season.
The Cubs might also like the idea of trading with a talent-rich club like the Blue Jays, who might spare a young infielder such as Austin Martin or Jordan Groshans.
Francisco Lindor to the New York Yankees
People have been speculating about a Francisco Lindor trade for years. Now it might actually happen, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported that Cleveland is planning on trading Lindor this winter.
The four-time All-Star's value isn't at its peak following a season in which he managed a career-low 102 OPS+. Yet it surely hasn't been forgotten that he averaged a 122 OPS+, 34 homers and 21 steals across the three prior seasons, all while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop.
Though other teams have more pressing needs for a new shortstop, the New York Yankees could create such a need by moving Gleyber Torres back to second base. And they should, given how badly Torres struggled on defense in 2020.
For its part, Cleveland might like the idea of prying Clint Frazier and/or Miguel Andujar from the Yankees.
Nolan Arenado to the New York Mets
The Colorado Rockies probably should have traded Nolan Arenado last winter, when he still looked like a player worthy of a contract with an average annual value of $32.5 million through 2026.
Arenado's value is now more suspect after 2020, in which he played through a shoulder injury and mustered only an 84 OPS+. What's more, his post-2021 opt-out and no-trade clause also complicate matters.
Still, the five-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover might appeal to a team that has more than enough money to throw around. The Dodgers are one, yet the New York Mets make just as much sense for Arenado.
The Mets need a middle-of-the-order infielder to replace Robinson Cano, who'll miss all of the 2021 season because of a performance-enhancing drug suspension. If they like Arenado for that role, the Rockies might be happy to place the entirety of his remaining contract in the care of Steve Cohen, who can surely afford it.