Get ready for the strangest MLB Winter Meetings any of us can remember.
This year won’t involve a fancy hotel, rumors coming out of late-night conversations in the bar or lobby, or trades completed in the secrecy of hotel rooms. That was pre-COVID life. In 2020, the most interesting week of the Major League Baseball offseason will happen like most everything else in 2020: Virtually.
So get ready for even more rumors (less in-person talk means more virtual banter), some big moves and a wild week that can change the landscape of the sport for 2021 and beyond.
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Here are 10 bold predictions for the 2020 MLB Winter Meetings.
Mets land George Springer: As dots begin to connect the Mets to catcher James McCann, another shoe feels destined to drop. Why are the Mets pursuing a lower-cost catcher to the big-ticket J.T. Realmuto? Likely to use that money on a different (and better) option: October hero George Springer. The move would be the right one for the Mets, and take a good lineup into a different stratosphere. Springer reminds me of Bernie Williams, and could have that kind of impact on the Mets.
Yankees lose DJ LeMahieu to Blue Jays: The worst nightmare for some Yankees fans could come true: One of the best and perhaps purest hitter in the sport bolting to a division rival. The Yankees should fear Toronto in both the short and long term. This is a franchise with payroll flexibility and a slew of young, controllable players. LeMahieu (virtually zero swings and misses compared to the rest of the league) gives an improving offense a different dimension. Think of what Daniel Murphy meant to the Nationals when he first landed there.
Cue the Francisco Lindor rumors: The Yankees teeter between going for the big name (Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton) and playing it safe (Manny Machado, Bryce Harper) with money and prospect capital. But Lindor is different, and too good to pass up. If LeMahieu does depart, even more pressure will be on the Yankees to beat out teams like the Mets, Reds and Giants for Lindor’s services in 2021.
Trevor Bauer takes the Angels money: Desperation has to be setting in for the Angels. Mike Trout’s entire career has been wasted. Anthony Rendon raked in 2020, and it didn’t matter. All of Joe Maddon’s great managerial qualities couldn’t make up for poor defense, square pegs in round holes and a pitching staff that just can’t get outs. Bauer is, well, different. But the Angels’ money and Maddon’s patience will be enough to convince him to commit to Los Angeles.
Dodgers add another big-time bat: Let’s not pretend the Dodgers will sit on their heels and bring the same band back together for 2021. Nolan Arenado is the hot rumor, and one that would fit this team’s operation. But if a deal doesn’t come together with a division rival, buying super low on Kris Bryant would make a ton of sense.
Mystery team enters the J.T. Realmuto market: If not the Mets, then who? The Phillies don’t seem eager to spend, even if the price comes back to them. Toronto makes some sense. Washington could certainly allocate back to its offense, helping to form an outstanding trio alongside Juan Soto and Trea Turner. Get ready for a mystery team to emerge, too. My guesses: Detroit, St. Louis and Texas.
The DH conundrum slows the market: Giants general manager Farhan Zaidi recently hinted at the idea of the sport returning to separate DH rules for the 2021 season. Yes, going away from the universal DH for 2021 (only to have it possibly return with a new CBA in 2022) seems insane. But this is Rob Manfred’s sport. If that comes to fruition, the markets for big bats like Marcell Ozuna, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Schwarber will be very limited.
White Sox make smart, under-the-radar additions: Chicago has a big time nucleus, and looks poised to be a World Series contender in 2021 and beyond. How about adding veterans like James Paxton, Michael Brantley and Schwarber to the mix?
Farhan Zaidi zigs while others zag: Most of the sport isn’t poised to spend after a pandemic. The Mets, Blue Jays and White Sox seem like outliers, but all three can contend in 2021. The Giants could enter the fray, but while zigging. San Francisco isn’t quite ready to win yet, and will have a ton of money coming off the books after next season. But if a star can’t find a home, don’t be surprised if the Giants jump the market and make a splash now.
Phillies dump money: You can see this coming a mile away. The Phillies have gone from talking about spending stupid money to having money dictate every decision in a very short amount of time. Jean Segura feels like the next to go in what will be a transparent salary dump. Will owner John Middelton reinvest the money into fixing a leaky bullpen or re-signing Didi Gregorius? The entire city of Philadelphia will be watching.
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Joe Giglio may be reached at [email protected].