Predicting 1 Trade for Your MLB Team at the 2020 Winter Meetings
Major League Baseball's winter meetings may only be happening in a virtual capacity this year, but there will surely still be a few trades during the proceedings.
Let's predict, shall we?
We've imagined one trade that each of MLB's 30 teams might pursue during next week's annual "gathering" of front-office executives. Though actual rumors were helpful in some cases, we generally speculated on which players might be traded by sellers and acquired by buyers.
There are some repeats along the way, in which case we justified the trade from each team's perspective. For cases in which we predicted multiple players from one team will move, we prioritized breaking down the biggest trade for the team in question.
We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Of Eduardo Escobar
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in cost-cutting mode and have been for a while now.
For their next cost-cutting move, the Snakes probably can't trade Madison Bumgarner and the $79 million he's owed through 2024. David Peralta ($15 million through 2022), Kole Calhoun ($8 million in 2021, $9 million club option or $2 million buyout for 2022) and Eduardo Escobar ($7.7 million in 2021) might have takers out there, however.
Of the three, Escobar is the most likely goner. Though he slugged 35 home runs in 2019, Arizona might see moving him as addition by subtraction after he slipped to a .605 OPS and four homers in 2020.
Atlanta: Of Ender Inciarte
As noted by Mike Rosenbaum of MLB.com, Atlanta is set up well for a blockbuster trade by way of its deep collection of young talent.
The front office has been protective of its prospects in recent years, however, and the club needs blue-chip right-hander Ian Anderson and outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters.
After rounding out its starting pitching depth with one-year deals for Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly, Atlanta might prefer to fill its remaining needs (i.e., a middle-of-the-order slugger and bullpen depth) on the free-agent market. To this end, it wouldn't hurt to free up some money.
The easiest way Atlanta can do that is with a trade of Ender Inciarte, whose $8.7 million salary for 2021 is a bit much for a guy who's just keeping left field warm for Waters.
Baltimore Orioles: Of Alex Cobb
The most likely scenario for the Baltimore Orioles next week doesn't involve a trade.
During their rebuild, they have already jettisoned most of their trade chips, beginning with Manny Machado in July 2018 and (for now) ending with Jose Iglesias on Wednesday. If a player is still with the Orioles, he is a long-term building block or a veteran with questionable trade value.
But if we must choose one player from the latter group, we'll go with Alex Cobb.
Granted, Baltimore probably can't move him unless it agrees to eat a chunk of his $15 million salary for 2021. But if said chunk is big enough, some clubs could be drawn to Cobb as a back-end innings eater.
Boston Red Sox: For Eduardo Escobar
In the wake of their ugly 2020 season, the Boston Red Sox have lots of breathing room under the $210 million luxury-tax threshold for 2021.
The Red Sox will presumably commit much of that flexibility to pitching upgrades, but they also have needs on offense. They have holes in center field and at second base.
At least in relation to Christian Arroyo, Eduardo Escobar would represent an upgrade at the latter. His power potential from the left side would also be welcome, as Rafael Devers is Boston's only real left-handed power threat.
Arizona, meanwhile, could get payroll relief and perhaps a mid-level prospect (i.e., Nick Decker) in a trade with Boston.
Chicago Cubs: Of Kris Bryant
Though the situation was uncertain for a minute there, the Chicago Cubs tendered a contract to 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant on Wednesday.
Now they can proceed with trying to trade him.
After four years of diminishing returns since their long-awaited World Series triumph in 2016, it's little wonder the Cubs are open to breaking up their core. That could involve trades of Yu Darvish or Willson Contreras, but Bryant and Javier Baez are the more likely sacrifices.
There are two reasons why the Cubs might trade Bryant, specifically: His track record might outweigh his career-worst 2020 season for other clubs, and because Chicago stands to save $18.6 million by moving him.
Chicago White Sox: For Lance Lynn
Even after their $151.5 million splurge last offseason, the Chicago White Sox are positioned to make some noise once again.
It wouldn't be surprising if the White Sox upgraded in right field via a megadeal with George Springer. They might also re-sign Alex Colome or perhaps pursue a better closer such as Liam Hendriks.
It also wouldn't hurt for the White Sox to add a top-of-the-rotation starter, but that's where the free-agent pickings are slim after National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer.
If Chicago turns to the trade market instead, it might rekindle its previous interest in Texas Rangers ace Lance Lynn. He's owed just $9.3 million in 2021, which is nothing for a guy with a 3.57 ERA over 292.1 innings since 2019.
Cincinnati Reds: For Trevor Story
According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Cincinnati Reds' desire to upgrade at shortstop has them looking at two All-Stars on the trade market: Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story.
As we'll discuss shortly, the former is seemingly more available than the latter. But from the Reds' perspective, the catch with Lindor is that Cleveland will probably only move him for major leaguers or MLB-ready prospects who can contribute right now.
Because trading Story would effectively begin a rebuild, the Colorado Rockies might be more willing to take on long-term projects.
That would work better for the Reds, who frankly can't spare much from their major league roster. And with Story, they'd be massively improving a shortstop spot that produced minus-0.3 rWAR in 2020.
Cleveland: Of Francisco Lindor
According to Morosi, Lindor "probably won't be" with Cleveland come Opening Day.
It's not that Cleveland is looking to rebuild. Indeed, it's been one of the most consistent contenders over the last five seasons, racking up a .587 winning percentage with four playoff berths.
Cleveland's conundrum is more financial in nature. Lindor could make as much as $21.5 million in 2021, which is a lot of money for a shallow-pocketed club. And with no contract extension in sight, the team would stand to lose him to free agency next offseason anyway.
To be sure, Lindor's career-worst effort in 2020 didn't help his value. But given that he's a two-time Gold Glover who offers power and speed, said value is indeed still very high.
Colorado Rockies: Of Trevor Story
Something has to change with Colorado.
After their first back-to-back playoff berths in 2017 and 2018, the Rockies lost 91 games and finished fourth in the National League West in 2019. After a strong start to 2020, they faded and once again finished fourth.
If change is going to happen, it's more likely to occur via a trade of Story than of fellow star Nolan Arenado, who's basically immovable right now. If the Rockies were to oblige the Reds, they could aim for former top prospect Nick Senzel and current blue chips such as left-hander Nick Lodolo and catcher Tyler Stephenson.
Detroit Tigers: Of Joe Jimenez
Similar to the Orioles, it's hard to imagine trades for the Detroit Tigers at this stage of their rebuild.
They began shedding stars back in 2017, and now the only player they have under contract is Miguel Cabrera. By way of his diminished offensive prowess and $94 million in remaining salary through 2023, he's the definition of an albatross.
Out of Detroit's arbitration-eligibles, few have trade value at the moment. Right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez is at the top of the list.
The 2018 All-Star's value isn't necessarily high after he posted a 7.15 ERA in 25 appearances in 2020. But with above-average velocity and well-above-average spin rate—not to mention club control through 2023—still going for him, some teams might still see him as an asset for the late innings.
Houston Astros: For Chris Stratton
With both George Springer and Michael Brantley among the free-agent population, the Houston Astros need two impact hitters.
That makes it hard to imagine they would part with Carlos Correa, despite a hint from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that he could be available. The club might not be able to buy in a blockbuster deal either, as its farm system is short on talent.
So if the Astros do add via the trade market, it might be to address lesser needs. Say, a guy who could work as a multi-inning reliever or spot starter.
Kansas City Royals: For Justin Williams
The Kansas City Royals have been rebuilding over the last three seasons, but general manager Dayton Moore said in November that he expected his team to compete in 2021.
He's put his money where his mouth is with contracts for Mike Minor and Michael A. Taylor. That checks two of the club's purported boxes, with the only remaining one being a middle-of-the-order hitter.
If the Royals trade for one, it could be in a deal in which they take a chance on a player who's superfluous on his current team.
For instance, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Justin Williams. He doesn't have any options left, so the Cardinals might be fine with letting the Royals find out if the 25-year-old can tap in to his considerable power potential in the majors.
Los Angeles Angels: For Sean Newcomb
His first order of business is to address a starting rotation that ranked 29th with a 5.52 ERA in 2020. Indeed, there would still be work to do even if Minasian landed Trevor Bauer off the free-agent market.
As it happens, his former team has some extra pitching depth after its deals with Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly. Perhaps Atlanta would be willing to deal with Minasian.
To this end, Sean Newcomb is an intriguing buy-low opportunity. He's not yet arbitration-eligible, and his fastball and curveball maintained above-average velocity and spin even as he posted an 11.20 ERA in 2020.
Los Angeles Dodgers: For Francisco Lindor
In February, the Los Angeles Dodgers threw caution to the wind and made a blockbuster deal for a superstar who was nearing free agency. Suffice it to say that worked out well.
What if they do it again with a trade for Lindor?
It's far from out of the question, as the star shortstop has been and still is an alluring target for the Dodgers. And while the presence of Corey Seager at shortstop might be the best argument against trading for Lindor, the Dodgers could undo it simply by moving Seager to third base.
For its part, Cleveland would surely love to deal with Los Angeles, which could spare up-and-comers such as infielder Gavin Lux and right-hander Tony Gonsolin in a trade.
Miami Marlins: For Gary Sanchez
After a couple of years of rebuilding, the Miami Marlins arrived ahead of schedule and made the playoffs in 2020.
If they endeavor to dig in their heels, catcher is one area that's ripe for an upgrade. Jorge Alfaro was set to be the club's cornerstone behind the dish after he came over in the J.T. Realmuto trade, but he fell out of favor amid a trying 2020 season.
If the Marlins do pursue a catcher, it'll presumably be one who could also add power to an offense that hit only 60 home runs.
Milwaukee Brewers: For Kyle Seager
According to Robert Murray of FanSided, the Milwaukee Brewers "intend to listen" to offers for ace closer Josh Hader.
However, Hader didn't help his value in a 2020 season marked by a 3.79 ERA and a career-high walk rate. Meanwhile, the free-agent market is loaded with late-inning relief options.
But no matter. Also according to Murray, Milwaukee's top priority is to upgrade its offense—specifically at third base after getting just a .574 OPS from the hot corner in 2020.
A deal for Kyle Seager would do the trick. The veteran has been going strong with a .789 OPS and 32 homers over the last two seasons, and the Seattle Mariners might pick up some of his $18.5 million salary for 2021 in a trade.
Minnesota Twins: For Jordan Lyles
The Minnesota Twins have holes to fill after winning a second straight American League Central title in 2020, but they might not be willing to go all out to fill them.
Per Dan Hayes of The Athletic, the Twins "seem more focused on rounding out the roster than adding another big name." That makes some sense, as they have only so much payroll space and pretty much all their top prospects will soon be needed in Minneapolis.
So, perhaps the Twins will play it safe and focus their trade efforts on a back-end starter.
With the Texas Rangers primed for a rebuild, the Twins could circle back on Jordan Lyles after missing out on him last offseason. If nothing else, his 7.02 ERA from 2020 makes him a buy-low candidate.
New York Mets: For Carlos Martinez
Though the New York Mets have been linked to some big names on the trade market, this seems to be a "don't hold your breath" situation.
As team president Sandy Alderson said on MLB Network Radio, via Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors: "There are only two currencies in baseball: players and money. Right now, especially in the upper levels of our system, we don't have the players."
However, the Mets do indeed have the money now that multibillionaire Steve Cohen is signing the checks. That might make them amenable to taking on other teams' bad contracts.
Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, who's owed $11.7 million in 2021, is one such possibility. He had a horrid season in 2020, but he's been effective as both a starter and reliever in prior years.
New York Yankees: Of Gary Sanchez
Relative to their needs at middle infield and in the starting rotation, the New York Yankees' catching situation is theoretically an afterthought.
Gary Sanchez is nevertheless on the trading block, according to Dan Martin, Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
The Yankees may think they've reached a point of no return with the 28-year-old. Though he's a two-time All-Star, his inconsistencies on both sides of the ball have hurt the team in two of the last three seasons. Plus, they could save as much as $6.4 million by trading him.
If the Yankees were to trade Sanchez to the Marlins, they'd surely try to pry loose one of Miami's young arms. For example, right-handed prospect Nick Neidert.
Oakland Athletics: For Alex Blandino
For the Oakland Athletics, the most likely trade scenario for the winter meetings is one that saves them money.
Yet they actually have few options in that regard. Khris Davis and his $16.8 million salary for 2021 are basically immovable. The A's might have more leeway with Stephen Piscotty and his $15.2 million through 2022, but they'd be selling low on him after two straight subpar seasons.
As such, we're going to shrug and project the A's for the other kind of trade they're known for: one in which they take on a player without a clear role on another team.
Alex Blandino, for instance, is buried deep on the Cincinnati depth chart. The A's might look at the 28-year-old and see some potential in his .386 on-base percentage at Triple-A.
Philadelphia Phillies: For Joe Musgrove
The Philadelphia Phillies need to either re-sign or replace star catcher J.T. Realmuto, and they also need to fix a bullpen that posted a 7.06 ERA in 2020.
Even if they fill these needs on the free-agent market, the Phillies will still have to address a rotation that's a little thin after co-aces Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.
If the Phils turn to the trade market for a No. 3 starter, they might look for somebody who could work with new pitching coach Caleb Cotham, who was last seen aiding a spin rate revolution in Cincinnati.
Since a deal for Reds ace Sonny Gray is likely unattainable, the Phillies might look elsewhere in the NL Central to Pirates righty Joe Musgrove. His deadly slider alone gives him top-of-the-rotation upside.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Of Joe Musgrove (And Others)
Speaking of the Pirates, their incentives for dealing Joe Musgrove and other players aren't exactly subtle.
The Pirates haven't made the playoffs since 2015, and they haven't actually won a postseason series since the 1979 Fall Classic. They also haven't been trending in the right direction, as they followed a 93-loss 2019 with a 19-41 flop in 2020.
Things aren't so great down on the farm, either. Pittsburgh's collection of talent ranks in the middle of the pack even with third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes, who's already locked into a job at third base.
Therefore, any veteran with value can and should go at the winter meetings. Musgrove, who whiffed 55 batters in only 39.2 innings in 2020, is the Pirates' biggest chip. He could bring back a well-regarded prospect such as shortstop Bryson Stott in a deal with Philadelphia.
San Diego Padres: For Blake Snell
Unsurprisingly, the San Diego Padres aren't playing it cool after snapping a 14-year playoff drought in 2020.
Especially after Mike Clevinger's Tommy John surgery, the Padres need a top-of-the-rotation starter. Per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the club is in on Trevor Bauer and even Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell.
Snell may never again reach the heights of his Cy Young Award-winning season in 2018, but his 2020 effort—in which he had a 3.16 ERA between the regular season and the playoffs—is proof that even his lesser self is a No. 1 starter.
Because of both his talent and his club-friendly (i.e., $40.8 million) contract through 2023, Snell won't come cheap in a trade. Fortunately, San Diego has the talent to barter with the Rays.
San Francisco Giants: For Nate Lowe
Because they're technically rebuilding, the San Francisco Giants might attempt to shed some payroll by trading, say, Johnny Cueto ($21 million in 2021) or Brandon Belt ($17.2 million).
But the Giants have thus far resisted trading brand-name veterans just to save money. They might only feel emboldened to keep it up after the last two seasons yielded surprisingly competitive efforts.
If anything, the Giants could look to add on the trade market. A blockbuster is probably out of the question at this juncture, but they might turn their need for a left-handed hitter into a search for an upside play.
In Tampa Bay, the Rays don't have a clear role for Nate Lowe despite his solid production in the minors (.883 OPS) and majors (.770 OPS). The Giants could seek to take him off their hands and use him in a platoon role at third and first base.
Seattle Mariners: Of Kyle Seager
Though there was speculation that the Seattle Mariners could trade Kyle Seager at the August 31 trade deadline, GM Jerry Dipoto's mind was elsewhere.
"We've never really wavered on Kyle Seager, he's here for a reason," he said on August 20.
This, however, was around when Seager was performing like one of the top hitters in baseball. That eventually ceased to be the case as he cooled off with a .662 OPS over his final 33 games.
This was as good an indication as any that Seager is indeed past his prime as a star. If the Mariners take a hint and cash in what value he has in a deal with Milwaukee, they might eat some money to leverage a prospect such as outfielder Tristen Lutz in return.
St. Louis Cardinals: Of Carlos Martinez
Even after passing on Kolten Wong's $12.5 million option for 2021, the St. Louis Cardinals might not be finished finding ways to reduce their 2021 payroll.
As President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak explained in October, the pandemic-shortened 2020 hit the organization especially hard: "Obviously, the success of the Cardinals the last 20 years has been our gate revenue. I do think we might be more negatively affected than others."
Which brings us back to Carlos Martinez.
The veteran righty is a classic change-of-scenery candidate, and right now his $11.7 million guarantee is frankly the most movable of the six eight-figure salaries the Cards have on their books for 2021. In a deal with the Mets, they might aim for a cheaper, more controllable arm like Franklyn Kilome.
Tampa Bay Rays: Of Blake Snell
According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the Tampa Bay Rays are indeed open to moving Blake Snell.
Why would a team fresh off a World Series run trade its best pitcher? Well, maybe it's because it's afraid Snell will hold a grudge from the lack of trust that manager Kevin Cash showed in him in said World Series.
Or, it could just be the money. It's rare that the Rays don't have a bottom-three payroll, and now they're reeling from huge losses brought on by the shortened season. They may see little choice but to offload the $40.8 million Snell is still owed.
If the Rays do trade Snell, the Padres might be the best partner they could ask for. In exchange, the Rays could fill the hole left by Mike Zunino's free agency—who, to begin with, was part of a catching corps that produced minus-0.3 rWAR in 2020—with catcher Francisco Mejia and replace Snell with a top pitching prospect such as Luis Patino or even MacKenzie Gore.
Texas Rangers: Of Lance Lynn
The Texas Rangers need to rebuild after experiencing their fourth straight losing season in 2020. However, they have a problem.
As much as they might like to offload big-money players like Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor, both are basically devoid of trade value right now. Slugger Joey Gallo's value is also suspect, as he followed a breakout 2019 campaign with a huge step back in 2020.
All this is all the more reason for the Rangers to cash in Lance Lynn. It's not as if they'll be contending in his final season under contract, after all, and they shouldn't want to risk his value deflating like Mike Minor's did throughout 2020.
If the Rangers deal with the White Sox, they could aim for a bright young pitcher like Jonathan Stiever.
Toronto Blue Jays: For Ender Inciarte
If Atlanta does indeed make Ender Inciarte available, the most sensible suitor for him would be the Toronto Blue Jays.
Their offense? It's plenty solid, as it produced five runs per game in 2020 and has 20-somethings locked into pretty much every position for the foreseeable future.
Toronto's defense is another matter. The Jays ranked 29th in both defensive runs saved and outs above average in 2020. They especially had issues in their outfield, which produced an MLB-low minus-11 outs above average.
Even if it was merely in a part-time capacity, a three-time Gold Glove center fielder like Inciarte could help. And because his stature has diminished in relation to his pay, Toronto would probably only have to trade a low-level prospect to get him from Atlanta.
Washington Nationals: For Kris Bryant
It's possible that no team wants Kris Bryant as badly as the Washington Nationals.
Morosi first reported that the Nats were interested in Bryant last December, at which point they were weighing alternatives at third base in case they didn't re-sign Anthony Rendon. Ultimately, neither Rendon nor Bryant landed with Washington for 2020.
That proved to be a major problem, as Nats third sackers produced only a .575 OPS with 0.1 rWAR. It was no great surprise, then, when Morosi reported in November that the club is once again eyeing Bryant.
The Nationals would have to do more than simply take on Bryant's financial commitment in order to get him from the Cubs. Going the other way would have to be a real prospect, such as right-hander Jackson Rutledge.