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Coolican: Analyzing MLB offseason trades

| Friday, February 12, 2021

Lost in the shuffle of all the major events in the sports world that have happened recently, this year’s MLB offseason has been one of the craziest in recent memory. Many teams, using the pandemic as an excuse to cut spending, traded away star players who were on expiring contracts, and contenders loaded up for what promises to be an exciting season in 2021. The players who were traded this offseason, from Francisco Lindor to Nolan Arenado to Yu Darvish, could change the landscape of the league for years to come. Without further ado, here’s my analysis of the key trades that went down over the last two months. 


Lance Lynn to the White Sox 

Chicago White Sox receive: RHP Lance Lynn

Texas Rangers receive: RHP Dane Dunning and LHP Avery Weems 

Lance Lynn has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the league recently, and the White Sox needed another quality starter. Lynn is heading into the final year of a reasonably priced contract, so this deal makes a lot of sense for both sides. Dunning is an intriguing player, and was ranked as Chicago’s fifth best prospect according to FanGraphs, but he has only pitched 34 innings in the big leagues, and he is already 26. Weems has potential, but has yet to see pro action above rookie ball. All in all, this is a fantastic trade for the White Sox, but you have to think, even with the low demand for starters this offseason, the Rangers could have gotten a little more.


Josh Bell to the Nationals 

Washington Nationals receive: 1B Josh Bell

Pittsburgh Pirates receive: RHP Will Crowe and RHP Eddy Yean

Regardless of if Josh Bell ever returns to his breakout 2019 form, one thing is certain: The Pirates bungled this situation. Yes, Bell is a career 0.261 hitter and is a defensive liability, but he’s arguably just entering the prime of his career and is only a year removed from a 37-homer season. The Pirates traded him when his value was lowest, and all they got in return were two pitching prospects, neither of whom are all that exciting. On the other hand, this is a low risk, potentially very high reward move for the Nationals, and for a retooling team, it’s the perfect trade.


Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to the Padres

San Diego Padres receive: LHP Blake Snell 

Tampa Bay Rays receive: RHP Luis Patiño, RHP Cole Wilcox, C Francisco Mejía, C Blake Hunt

San Diego Padres receive: RHP Yu Darvish, C Victor Caratini

Chicago Cubs receive: RHP Zach Davies, OF Owen Caissie, OF Ismael Mena, SS Reggie Preciado, SS Yeison Santana

The Padres are now one of the most exciting teams in baseball, and they went all in on these two trades. Acquiring two elite starters goes a long way towards achieving their world series hopes. The Rays traded Snell coming off a season in which he led them to the World Series. Their strategy is clear: trade expensive players when their value is at their highest for young players with plenty of years of team control, and they’ve done it again.

Patiño stands out as the center piece, and the other players could also make contributions to the Rays sooner rather than later. Darvish was also coming off a career year, finishing second in NL Cy Young voting. Davies is the lone established player the Cubs got in return, as the other four prospects are all very young, but it is still an impressive haul. The outcome of this trade will depend what the Cubs do: Are they moving towards a rebuild, or do they plan to retain the rest of their core and compete for the playoffs? If it is the former, then this is undoubtedly a success, but if it is the latter, this was likely a mistake. However, the clear winners in both these trades are the Padres. 


Franciso Lindor to the Mets

New York Mets receive: SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Carlos Carrasco

Cleveland Indians receive: SS Andrés Giménez, SS Amed Rosario, OF Isaiah Greene, RHP Josh Wolf

The Mets are another team going all in 2021, and they substantially upgraded their roster in this deal. Lindor is unquestionably one of the best players in the game, and Carrasco is a solid, back end starter. They didn’t give up too much, either. Rosario is a solid player, but Lindor is certainly a major upgrade.

Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene were the Mets’ 2019 and 2020 second round picks, respectively, and Giménez made his debut in 2020, and is likely to be the shortstop of the future in Cleveland. This trade looks bad for the Indians, but Lindor was entering the final year of his contract and the Indians were likely to walk away with nothing more than a compensatory draft pick if they kept him. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place, and while they could have possibly asked for more in return, they didn’t have many options. The Mets, on the other hand, will have to pay — big time — to keep Lindor, but new owner Steve Cohen has shown he is willing to spend major cash, so this is a big win for the Mets. 


Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals receive: 3B Nolan Arenado

Colorado Rockies receive: LHP Austin Gomber, INF Mateo Gil, 3B Elehuris Montero, RHP Tony Locey, RHP Jake Sommers

Arenado was long rumored to be unhappy in Denver and had an opt-out clause in his contract after the 2021 season, so Colorado, much like Cleveland, may not have had a ton of options. However, none of these prospects are very highly rated. For the Cardinals, even if Arenado stays only one year, this was still a major win simply because Arenado is a transcendent talent, and they didn’t give up all that much.

The Rockies mismanaged the Arenado situation terribly, but even when it got to this point, it seems that every contender in the league would want Arenado on their team and the Rockies did not even receive a legitimate headliner. It’s a tough way to see the face of your franchise leave. The Cardinals must find a way to keep Arenado long term, even if it costs them a lot of money.  


Elvis Andrus and Khris Davis swap

Oakland Athletics receive: SS Elvis Andrus, C Aramis Garcia

Texas Rangers receive: DH Khris Davis, C Jonah Heim, RHP Dane Acker

This is a tough one to analyze. Elvis Andrus has been a Texas cornerstone for his entire career, yet his production dropped off precipitously in recent years. Davis has been one of the best power hitters in baseball, but he doesn’t play the field or hit for average, so he’s a rather one-dimensional player.

The A’s were left with a hole at shortstop, but Andrus is expensive ($28 million and two years remain on his contract) and Davis’ contract expires at the end of 2021. The A’s will save money this year, which frees them up to upgrade other areas of need, and Andrus still can be a quality player. The Rangers, on the other hand, got another quality bat to add to their lineup and a few prospects thrown in, so both sides achieved their goals in this swap. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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