Six MLB Players to Monitor This Offseason
The MLB Hot Stove Season is officially underway. Tuesday, the MLB Owners Meetings get underway and last thru Thursday. In typical 2020 fashion, the meetings are being held virtually. However, they will still allow all 30 front offices to converse with one another and exchange ideas.
Typically, these meetings start the groundwork for some of the trades that happen during the Winter Meetings or later on in the offseason. MLB General Managers love brainstorming about potential trades and thinking of ways to improve their respective team. Furthermore, there is the point about being creative and that usually comes to a head in these discussions.
Although the World Series concluded three weeks ago, the MLB is getting set to enter the heart of the offseason. With that being said, here are five names to watch on the trade market over the next few months.
MLB Trade Candidates
1. Francisco Lindor (Cleveland Indians)
Easily, the biggest name to watch is Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. Lindor is entering the final year of his contract and is projected to earn $16 million dollars next season. The four-time All Star and two-time Gold Glove winner had a bit of a down season in 2020. However, you can’t ignore what Lindor has done over his big league career or the stardom that comes with the name itself. Part of the stardom comes from the accolades that the 27-year old has earned including finishing in the Top 15 in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting four of the six seasons he has played in the big leagues.
There are a number of potential fits around the game for Lindor. One of the most obvious or most commonly brought up teams is the New York Yankees. The Yankees have the ability to sliding Gleyber Torres over to second base, inserting Lindor at short, and have the financial wear withal to potentially sign him long-term. Another potential fit are the Toronto Blue Jays, but they might elect to hold off a season and sign him in free agency instead. Finally, one intriguing fit is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have Corey Seager penciled in at shortstop, but he could be a piece that goes back to Cleveland. Additionally, the Dodgers have plenty of payroll flexibility moving forward with only $48 million dollars committed in 2023.
2. Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs)
The Chicago Cubs are in an interesting spot this offseason. The team has already stated that they are willing to move one of their veteran players to improve their future outlook. Chicago finished the 2020 season with a 34-26 record which was good enough to win the National League Central. Although, with some of the financial uncertainty surrounding the game moving forward, the Cubs realize they might need to trade someone to be more financially flexible heading into the future. While Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez could be trade candidates, Kris Bryant seems like the name more likely to be on the move. After all, he was heavily circulated on the trade market last offseason.
Like Lindor, Bryant is getting set to enter his final season before free agency. The soon-to-be 29 year-old concluded the season hitting a measly .206/.293/.351 over 147 plate appearances. He did only play in 34 games due to a left ring finger sprain. However, there are plenty of teams that would be interested in acquiring Bryant to bolster their lineup. One potential fit are the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are in need of a third baseman and could plug that hole for a season with Bryant. Another potential fit lies in the National League East in the Washington Nationals. Washington has a significant hole at third base and Bryant would easily solidify their lineup.
3-4. Nolan Arenado/Trevor Story (Colorado Rockies)
Looking ahead to this offseason, the Colorado Rockies have some tough decisions to make. As it stands right now, the team is projected to have an Opening Day payroll of $130.3 million dollars. That puts them ninth overall in baseball behind the aforementioned Washington Nationals. Where things get tricky is regarding what the team does moving forward. Colorado has two very attractive trade chips in third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story. Arenado has one season left before he can opt-out of his current deal. Meanwhile, Story is set to make $18.5 million in the second-year of his current deal.
For the Rockies, there should be plenty of suitors for either player. That depends on the direction the team decides to go. There are two really intriguing teams to watch for Arenado – the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals. The Rangers were interested in Arenado last offseason and still could use an impact position player with excellent defensive skills. In addition, the Cardinals still want to add impact to their lineup and Arenado would definitely do that in a big way.
When it comes to Trevor Story, all of the teams mentioned for Francisco Lindor apply. Although, there is a team out west in the Los Angeles Angels that might be really interested. Depending on the negotiations, the Angels might be able to acquire Story at a reasonable cost. Maybe they could expand this deal to include a pitcher as well which is something the team desperately needs to address this offseason.
5. Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers)
After holding onto left-handed reliever Josh Hader at the August 31st Trade Deadline this year, the Milwaukee Brewers might revisit those discussions this offseason. Milwaukee knows they have to do something to improve the offense. The Brewers finished the 2020 season hitting .223/.313/.389 which was good enough for a .702 OPS. That put them 24th in baseball or 13th in the National League. For a team that wants to contend and bring a World Series back to Milwaukee, that simply isn’t an equation to accomplish those goals.
Therefore, Josh Hader is arguably the team’s biggest trade chip. Hader concluded the 2020 season with a 3.79 ERA over 21 appearances this year and had an astonishing 14.7 K/9 rate in that span. The fun part comes when you try to nail down a potential fit for the southpaw because there are several good ones. Although, one really good fit would be the San Diego Padres. Yes, the Padres already have a deep bullpen, but after learning about the news on Mike Clevinger on Monday, they might feel as though another bullpen addition of this magnitude would bolster the pitching staff. Other potential fits include the: aforementioned New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, and Houston Astros.
6. Joe Musgrove (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Joe Musgrove is an easy trade candidate this offseason. Musgrove is entering his second year of arbitration and would give a potential contending team an option for the middle-to-back end of their starting rotation. The 27-year old, former World Series Champion concluded the 2020 season with a 3.86 ERA over eight games or 39 and two-thirds innings of work. In that span, he recorded a 3.42 Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP) along with 55 strikeouts.
At the August 31st Trade Deadline, there was some interest from teams in acquiring Musgrove. Most notably, the aforementioned Toronto Blue Jays were one of the teams to call the Pirates. However, a deal was not consummated, but Toronto is still a good fit for him. Another potential fit for Musgrove is the Boston Red Sox who certainly need starting pitching and could utilize Musgrove as an innings eater. The Oakland Athletics could have some interest given the uncertainty in their starting rotation as well and so could the Los Angeles Angels.
These are just six MLB players that could be heavily involved in trade discussions this offseason. Given that the heart of the offseason is approaching, teams are going to start getting antsy to make a deal happen. Whether or not these players ultimately get traded, remains to be seen. Regardless though, each individual would provide some sort of value to a new team.
Each of these six individuals have built up a track record in the big leagues. That alone could make some of them very attractive especially to MLB General Managers of contending teams.
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