If the 2020 MLB season was one of the most bizarre in fans’ memories, so will this offseason be, that under normal times would be filled with major signings for many teams. Baseball has been mostly silent while the owners and players alike sit and wonder what at 2021 season will look like. Mostly caused by the coronavirus, all teams lost huge amounts of money that have left them trying to cut costs due to the upcoming uncertainty that lies ahead. Today we look at what substantial moves that have taken place and some that are likely.
Big and Medium Market teams that are/will spend to improve
The San Diego Padres:
The San Diego Padres have surprised many with their moves last year and so far in this offseason. They seem to be a team on the move that truly wants to reach the National League’s postseason. Last season they made the big move to obtain pitcher Mike Clevinger a Yankee target. He has had Tommy John surgery and will not pitch during the 2021 season. The Padres have not let that stop their plans; they have gone out and got a deal done with the Rays for their ace Blake Snell. Now the news is that they are close to a deal for Yu Darvish. A Snell Darvish one-two will have an impact in the National League West.
Just before this writing, the Padres have reached a deal with Japanese shortstop Ha-seong Kim. With the addition of Kim, Snell, and if they get Darvish too, it will make them the most aggressive team this offseason.
The Chicago White Sox:
The “Southsiders,” as they are called in Chicago, are not planning on the future; they want to make a huge impact right now in the American League Central. After some great adds last season, they reached the postseason for the first time since 2008. This year they are looking to add to that and again make a run for the postseason. They are looking to build their pitching and have already traded the Texas Rangers for Lance Lynn, a Yankee target, to help with their mid-rotation needs. General manager Rick Hahn could dole out high-priced, one-year deals to improve the team, especially in the outfield.
The Toronto Blue Jays:
The Toronto Blue Jays have a bright, talented, and energetic team that wants decidedly to make it tough for those teams in the American League East, the division the Yankees are in. Of MLB teams, they are one of the most improved with the addition of Hyun Jin Ryu, who came out 3rd in the Cy Young Award voting. The team brought back Robbie Ray after acquiring him at the 2020 trade deadline, and top prospect Nate Pearson. The Toronto Blue Jays have money to spend, and they are key players in obtaining the Yankees DJ LeMahieu and pitcher Jake Odorizzi. They are also reportedly in the mix for Springer and Realmuto.
The New York Mets:
The big news this offseason is the sale of the MLB New York Mets to financier Steve Cohen. Cohen has already announced that he wants to make the team a contender in the National League and the number one team in New York City. Having a ton of money, he will try to make that happen. He also has an additional $24 million to spend with Robinson Cano’s forfeiture of salary due to a one-year suspension for testing positive for PED’s. The team has already signed Marcus Stroman, catcher James McCann another New York Yankee target, and two left-hand pitchers. They are another team interested in the Yankees DJ LeMahieu. 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer was impressed with Cohen’s introduction, which adds intrigue to New York’s possible pursuit of the top pitcher available.
The San Francisco Giants:
Going into the 2021 season, the San Francisco Giants don’t have many high impact players that will make a difference in the upcoming season. However, the Giants have a ton of payroll coming off the books. The Giants already made a fairly aggressive play by extending starting pitcher Kevin Gausman a qualifying offer, which he accepted. They are also reportedly in the mix for Jake Odorizzi. Look for more from the Giants before spring training.
The Atlanta Braves:
The Atlantic Braves always seem to be perennial movers and shakers in the offseason. The year is no different; they didn’t waste any time signing one of the best postseason pitchers, Charlie Morton, who pitched brilliantly for the Tampa Bay Rays and brought them just two games short of a World Series win. They also had signed left-hander Drew Smyly (one year, $11 million) late last week. To add to that, they are reportedly also interested in Marcell Ozuna resigning.
The Los Angeles Angels:
The Los Angeles Angels are a curious team that went out and signed the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, but have done little to make his addition to the team a meaningful one. But that may finally be changing. The Halos have a new general manager in Perry Minasian, and Angels owner Arte Moreno said his payroll is “not going down,” in fact, he will be spending at least $20 million more than last year. They are one of the MLB teams that have made an offer for the Yankees DJ LeMahieu. Industry insiders say they are closer to a deal with the batting champ than the Yankees are. The Angels have been able to sign marquee names like Rendon and Shohei Ohtani in recent years and will spend more this year with Pujols and Upton off the books.
Big Market teams likely not to break the bank
The New York Yankees:
The New York Yankees have been mostly silent, almost to the extreme of wondering if the front office is on vacation. The Yankees seem to be banking everything on the re-signing of DJ LeMahieu while having only one veteran experienced pitcher and a depleted bullpen. The Yankees also have questions at backstop and shortstop but have made it pretty clear that they will do little to provide an upgrade at those positions. With owner Hal Steinbrenner’s statement that he wants to spend $30-40 million less than last year, it’s doubtful that the Yankees will be spending this offseason.
The Philadelphia Phillies:
Philadelphia Phillies Club president Andy MacPhail has basically said to Phillies fans that the team is near broke. After getting Bryce Harper, Didi Gregorius, and J.T. Realmuto and not reaching the postseason the past two years, they will not be spending; they will be dumping. They are stuck with a huge Harper contract, much like the Yankees are on the hook for Giancarlo Stanton. The Phillies have already let Realmuto and Gregorius walk, saying they don’t have the money to pay them.
The Houston Astros:
The Houston Astros, after being beat out by the lowly Tampa Bay Rays in the 2020 ALCS, will likely remain mostly static. There are several reasons for this. Probably the most important one is that they will likely have to spend big next year. Three reasons for their recent success are Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. With Houston Astros, other than cheating, they have been all about starting pitching. This season they lost Cole to the Yankees in free agency, and after this season, they will lose both Verlander and Grinke leaving them with no pitching and big bills.
These teams spending will be unclear
These teams question whether they will spend or not; it’s really unclear to analyze at this point in the offseason. Starting with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the World Series last year, they have the most talented team in all of baseball. If I were to take bets, I would say it is likely they will make few changes to the team. Minnesota Twins president Derek Falvey spent big on Josh Donaldson last winter (four years, $92 million). At the same time, however, most of Minnesota’s positions are filled, and the starting pitching market, one area of need, fairly weak. The Twins could play for Trevor Bauer and more likely will resign Nelson Cruz now that Bauer has said he wants a 5-6 year contract for big money.
The Washington Nationals are an interesting team to watch after many big acquisitions and winning the World Series in 2019; none of those expenditures paid off this year when then totally flopped. With Strasburg and Corbin’s big contracts on the books, don’t look for them to be big spenders. Don’t look for the Boston Red Sox do much more than the embarrassing re-signing of Houston Astro’s cheating developer Alex Cora. Like the Yankees, the Red Sox can fill Fenway park no matter how bad the team is and is only interested in cutting payroll, as exhibited by letting Mookie Betts go west.
The St. Luis Cardinals have done nothing so far this winter, but that was expected. They are working to re-sign Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright and won’t do much heavy lifting until either situation is resolved. The Cardinals will be contenders this season, but like the New York Yankees, will take the wait and see stance.
Offseason news from other MLB teams
The Kansas City Royals, once one of the toughest competitors for the New York Yankees, hasn’t been much of a team since then. Their last 100 game winning season was in 1977 when they lost to the Dodgers. The Royal’s are a sad team the doesn’t spend the money, and when they get an outstanding player, homegrown or not, they seem to trade them away and get little in return. The odd thing is that they have one of the most loyal fan bases in baseball for a small market.
The Tampa Bay Rays, although almost winning a World Series, are dumping payroll this offseason, first by letting Charlie Morton walk and then trading away pitching ace Blake Snell. Although the Rays have more than doubled their payroll in the past few years, don’t look for them to be spending big. The Rays have bigger problems like getting a new Stadium that isn’t the laughing stock of baseball. If anything, the Rays will likely remain crafty and rely on their strong farm system.
The Oakland A’s will also do whatever they can to keep costs down, as exhibited by not offering qualifying offers to two of the best MLB players, Liam Hendriks and Marcus Semien. The Cincinnati Reds would like to re-sign Trevor Bauer, but that won’t happen, especially with his recent demands. They mistakingly believe they can make the postseason even with their holes in the outfield. Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort has also hinted at slashing payroll. For a team that will not make it close to a postseason, it is doubtful there will be any spending there.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are saddled with Madison Bumgardner’s contract, who turned out to be a bum pitcher for the D-Backs; it is unlikely they will be spending big this offseason. General manager Mike Hazen likely realizes the Dodgers and Padres figure to have dominion over the NL West, which could lead to a more measured offseason approach. The only big news of the offseason for the Cleveland Indians is that they will trade off their number one player in Francisco Lindor right before spring training. With Theo Epstein’s loss, one of the best general managers in baseball, the Chicago Cubs have a rough offseason ahead for an otherwise good team.
The Milwaukee Brewers lost in the wild-card round in 2020. They have a shortage of arms in the rotation and lack run-producers in the lineup. They could still contend in the NL Central. The Brewers are a traditionally low-payroll team and have the 26th-ranked farm system in baseball. It is likely they won’t be spending much. The Texas Rangers failed to land a top free agent last year and are stuck. They are a team they thought they could but never did. They have a brand new state of the art MLB Stadium that has yet to have fans in it. Don’t look for much as they try to keep their fans entertained. The only thing they have done so far is the trade-off, of Lance Lynn.
There is little information available on the other MLB teams. The Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Detroit Tigers are all in rebuild mode but with little money to spend. Most will rely on low-end trades.
A photo accompanying this article is the recently acquired Ha-seong Kim by the San Diego Padres. EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.