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With COVID protocols ravaging MLB profits, spending isn’t exactly on owners’ minds. That means that some top-flight free agents could be headed towards short-term deals. That’s great news for major market teams looking to add talent, so let’s check out the top 5 choices.
1. J.T. Realmuto
Realmuto is the major prize of the 2020 off-season. There aren’t many catchers in today’s game that can field their position while commanding a pitching staff to the next level. Most catchers are one-dimensional, and that makes J.T. Realmuto worth the asking price. Before we address his price tag, it helps to check out the market from last year. Catcher Yasmani Grandal signed a 4-year, $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox last off-season, even though he was coming off a lackluster defensive performance.
Realmuto is a premier offensive and defensive player that honestly has no weakness. He can even be fleet of foot on the bases, which indicates that his athleticism could sustain him through a long-term deal.
JT Realmuto will be a _______ next year pic.twitter.com/Idhf5wfGis— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) August 8, 2020
Landing spot: New York Mets
New owner Steve Cohen is going to court star players aggressively to earn the respect of his fan base. Realmuto will likely command north of $100 million, which is steep for a catcher. Other than the Phillies, who already offered him the $18.9 million qualifying offer, New York likely won’t have many competitors with pockets this deep.
2. Trevor Bauer
Bauer and his agent, Rachel Luba, have already stated they’re looking to land another one-year deal. He’s a top-end talent who’s likely to win the NL Cy Young, and superstars coming off a dominant season usually chase long-term contracts. Since he is not interested in anything long term, Bauer is now an owner’s dream. Every big league team is likely in play.
Breaking news: I’m hearing whisperers about people potentially whispering about whispers today. 👀👀— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) November 4, 2020
Landing spot: Angels
No team needs Trevor Bauer more than the Los Angeles Angels, and it’s not close. They had trouble getting anyone out in 2020. They also wasted another year of Mike Trout’s contract after they were eliminated from playoff contention, despite the expanded playoff format.
A one-year deal should make the Angels more willing to invest almost $35 million in Bauer. That price sounds steep, Gerrit Cole kind of steep actually, but if it doesn’t work out, it expires the following off-season.
3. D.J. LeMahieu
The New York Yankees already know this one is going to get expensive. Most MLB executives expect LeMahieu to return to the pinstripes, but he still got to free agency, which was a questionable decision by Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Now, every team gets their chance to bid on the two-time batting champion, who’ll demand roughly 4-year, $100 million.
Landing spot: Yankees
There’s no way the Yankees let him walk no matter the cost, unless they have an exit strategy. Francisco Lindor is on the trade block, so if D.J. is let go, then Lindor better be in the plans. If the Yankees send LeMahieu packing to save money like the Bo Sox did with Mookie Betts, expect riots out front of Yankee Stadium. Who could blame them?
4. Marcus Stroman
Stroman has shown he can perform in the New York spotlight, which is easier said than done. Reds pitcher Sonny Gray looked lost in pinstripes just a couple years ago and then returned to form when he left. Not everyone is cut out for the New York baseball market, but Stroman is. Major organizations will feel comfortable allowing Stroman to deal with the media, driving his price through the roof.
Stroman has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to say them, and he now expects everyone to race for his services. Even if he doesn’t end up in pinstripes, the Yankees’ interest makes him more money. Appreciate the hustle, Stro.
Landing Spot: Braves
Atlanta was a starting pitcher away from doing major damage in this year’s postseason. With ace Mike Soroka recovering from a torn Achilles, Stroman would pair well with Max Fried at the top of their rotation. Adding Stroman can help most teams, but Atlanta’s ability to strike discounted deals on their stars puts them in play with Stroman.
5. George Springer
Springer was a juggernaut in the 2020 postseason, as annoying as that may be for those who hate the Astros. His price tag catapulted because of that clutch gene, and he’ll cash in for it now. A long injury history should scare some teams off a long-term deal, but desperation will push someone to a four- or five-year deal.
George Springer’s Last 162 Games:— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) November 5, 2020
.285/.378/.581 50 HR/127 R/121 RBI/6 SB
11.6% BB/18.9% K
11.9% Barrel/42.5% Hard-Hit
It will be interesting to see where he lands this offseason, but at his #2EarlyMock ADP of 59.6, he could provide a nice return on investment.#FantasyBaseball pic.twitter.com/ZXJz9MiTqq
Landing spot: Cardinals
They need a bat to place behind Paul Goldschmidt. Their outfield struggled at the plate in 2020. George Springer fixes that problem in St. Louis immediately, and the Cardinals will likely give Yadi Molina one last postseason run, if he returns.