The 2020-21 MLB offseason is just about over. Pitchers and catchers have began reporting to camp, and in less than a week, we will be watching Spring Training games. The offseason was highly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Free agents generally did not get the contract length, or salary figures that they expected to get this offseason. There are even a few quality players still remaining on the free agent market. While there were only a few bombshell free agent signings this year, many clubs did find a way to improve their rosters drastically through the trade market. GMs across the league made dozens of smart moves this offseason. Here are the top 10:
1. Padres add two aces
The Padres made a pair of blockbuster trades this offseason, acquiring two of the game’s best starting pitchers. The first trade made by San Diego was for 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. Snell posted one of the greatest statistical seasons ever by a starting pitcher in 2018. That year Snell had an ERA of 1.89, a 21-5 win-loss record, and 221 strikeouts in 180.2 innings. Snell has also proved himself to be a very reliable postseason starter. He has a career postseason ERA of 2.83 in 7 starts, and was fantastic in the World Series against the Dodgers this past year. The second trade made by San Diego was for 4-time all-star Yu Darvish. Darvish had a spectacular 2020 season, posting a 2.01 ERA, proving he can still be the ace of a staff. San Diego cemented their rotation as a top 5 staff in the sport after adding these 2 aces, posing themselves as a legitimate threat to the Dodgers in the NL west.
2. Mets pull off monster trade
Perhaps the biggest trade of the offseason was between the Mets and the Cleveland Indians. The Indians had been actively shopping superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, and the Mets were able to pounce on it and land him. Lindor is a 5-tool player who makes the Mets better in every phase of the game. The Mets will be throwing Lindor into a lineup that already features Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith. That lineup can be scary good. The Mets were also able to acquire quality starting picther Carlos Carrasco in the deal. Carrasco posted a 2.91 ERA over 12 2020 starts. He will be slotted into the middle of a very strong rotation in New York. Adding Lindor and Carrasco to an already talented roster makes the Mets World Series contenders.
3. Cardinals fleece Rockies for Arenado
I ranked the Lindor trade above this because the Mets were able to get a superstar, plus another above average player, but the steal of the offseason has to be the Cardinals pulling off the Nolan Arenado trade. Arenado has been regarded as one of the best players in the game over the last 5 years, both offensively and defensively at third base. I am not sure if his former team realizes this; however, as they shipped him away to St. Louis without receiving a significant prospect as compensation. To top it all off, the Rockies sent the Cards $50 million in the deal as well. No, that is not a typo. Acquiring the superstar third baseman makes St. Louis the clear favorites in the NL Central.
4. Dodgers land Bauer
The rich get richer. The reigning World Series champions will perhaps have an even better roster in 2021, thanks to the addition of reigning NL Cy Young award winner Trevor Bauer. There was a lot of speculation that Bauer would sign with the Mets or the Angels, but the Dodgers swooped in at the end and grabbed him with a 3 year contract worth a total of $102 million. I love this contract for the Dodgers. They were able to acquire the best pitcher on the market this offseason, without having to make too much of a long-term commitment. While Bauer is very talented, his numbers before 2020 do not indicate that he is an elite pitcher by any means. It was a great job by the Dodgers to get him on a relatively short, 3 year deal.
5. Blue Jays land Springer
The Blue Jays had a very productive offseason, headlined by the signing of centerfielder George Springer. Toronto was able to land the former World Series MVP to a 6 year contract worth a total of $150 million. Springer is the more proven player, but I ranked the Bauer signing higher because I like Bauer’s contract better. Springer is a great player, but I am not a huge fan of giving a player in his 30s a long term contract, especially a 6 year deal. However, Springer gives Toronto the veteran star in the middle of their lineup that they were lacking. Springer will also serve as a mentor and leader to guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette. While I think the deal is a little long for Toronto, it is definitely a great move for them to add a veteran star.
6. Royals trade for Benintendi
The Royals quietly made one of the offseason’s best trades. They were able to acquire Red Sox centerfielder Andrew Benintedni without surrendering any significant prospect. Benintendi was injured for most of 2020, but he posted an on base percentage of over .343 in each of his first 4 seasons in Boston. Benintendi also drove in 90 and 87 runs in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and notched at least 20 stolen bases in both of those seasons as well. Benintedni is still only 26 years old and has the potential to become a star. I love how the Royals grabbed him at his lowest value.
7. White Sox ink top reliever
The Chicago White Sox made several key improvements this offseason. Chicago was able to land the best reliever on the free agent market: Liam Hendricks. Chicago’s new closer posted a 1.80 ERA in 75 2019 appearances, and followed that up with a fantastic 2020 campaign where he posted an ERA of 1.78. You can make the argument that Hendriks has been the best reliever in baseball over the past 2 years. Hendriks can be the catalyst for a very talented White Sox team. Chicago finished 10 games above .500 last year, and with the addition of Hendriks to the back of their bullpen, the sky is the limit for the White Sox in 2021. I also like the terms of the deal for Chicago: 3 years worth a total of $54 million.
8. Nats acquire young slugger
After a poor showing in the shortened 2020 season, Josh Bell landed on the trade block for a Pittsburgh team looking to improve their farm system. Washington became an instant trade partner for Pittsburgh, as the Nats sought out their first baseman of the future with Ryan Zimmerman’s career waning. The Nationals were able to get their guy in Bell. Washington did not give up any significant prospects either. Bell proved that he can be one of the most prominent power hitters in the sport in 2019. Playing in 143 2019 games, Bell hit 37 homers, knocked in 116 runs, and got on base at a very impressive .367 clip. If Bell can return to his 2019 form, this is an absolute steal for the Nats.
9. Braves add quality starter
The Braves could have made zero offseason moves, and still would have been contenders. If it were not for an epic meltdown in the NLCS against the Dodgers, I think we might be referring to the Braves as the defending world champions right now. One of the main reasons Atlanta blew their commanding 3-1 NLCS lead was due to a lack of starting pitching depth. Adding veteran starter Charlie Morton should do a lot to help fix that. Morton posted a sub-4 ERA in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and won 45 games over that 3 year span. Morton was also the best starting pitcher in last year’s postseason up until the World Series. He did not allow a single run in 4 ALCS appearances. Morton will slide into the middle of the Atlanta rotation, solidifying it as one of the better staffs in the game.
10. Yankees trade for young starter
The Yankees were quiet in the free agent market this offseason, but they were able to acquire a promising young starter via trade. As Pittsburgh looked to continue to bolster their farm system, the Yankees were able to add rotation depth by acquiring Jameson Taillon from the Pirates. Taillon, once a very highly touted prospect, had a 3.67 ERA in 82 career starts with the Pirates. Taillon’s floor is a quality middle of the rotation starter. Taillon’s ceiling has ace potential. This is a fantastic low risk, high reward trade for the Yankees to bolster their rotation.
Well, there you have it. I chose not to include moves that involved clubs retaining a player that was already on the team. Those moves included the Yankees extending D.J. LeMahieu, the Padres extending Fernando Tatis Jr., and the Dodgers re-signing Justin Turner. I commend the Padres, the Mets, and the Cardinals for using their resources to acquire superstar talent via trade. I tip my cap to the Dodgers and the Blue Jays for being the only teams to throw big money at star free agents. The remaining 5 teams on this list did a great job of acquiring impactful players without having to surrender much in return. If your team is not on this list, you have your answer for why they might struggle in 2021.