The 2019 MLB season is over and with it comes the start of the 2020 offseason. There is no rest for MLB teams as the coming weeks and months will play a defining role in shaping rosters and ultimately the entire 2020 season.
There will be plenty of All-Star level talent available for teams this offseason in free agency and on the trade market. In fact, the crop of available players will include some recent MVP winners and Cy Young Award nominees just entering their prime.
It’s excellent news for MLB’s iconic teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. Meanwhile, other prominent clubs like the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox could provide plenty of shakeups in the months to come.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the 2020 MLB offseason.
Gerrit Cole signs an eight-year, $275M deal with Los Angeles Angels
Cole is the best pitcher to hit free agency since Max Scherzer hit the market before the 2015 season. He’s coming off a season that saw him post a MLB single-season record 39.9% strikeout rate, a 34% K-BB rate and a 13.82 K/9. The 29-year-old’s track record is outstanding with 200-plus innings thrown in each of his last three seasons, no history of injuries and one of MLB’s best fastballs.
He’s everything the Angels desperately need and the fit is simply perfect. Cole grew up an Angels fan in Los Angeles and is also reportedly a huge fan of Shohei Ohtani. He deserves a record-setting contract and an eight-year deal worth more than $34.5 million per season can make that happen as Cole returns home.
Minnesota Twins land All-Star pitcher Mike Minor
A brilliant 2019 season in Minnesota came undone by its pitching collapsing in the second half and the ALDS. The front office recognizes it must be aggressive this offseason to address this glaring need and it might need to start with a trade.
Minor isn’t the biggest name available, though, he’s an affordable starter who pairs nicely with José Berríos. The 31-year-old southpaw is under contract for $9.5 million next season and is coming off an excellent year with a 3.59 ERA and 200/68 K/BB ratio in 208.1 innings. Minnesota discussed a deal in July and could resume those talks this winter to acquire the All-Star pitcher. It could be the first of several moves to address this club’s most-glaring weakness ahead of 2020.
New York Yankees sign Zack Wheeler
General manager Brian Cashman will make an effort to pursue the big fishes in free agency. As detailed by FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards, though, the Yankees’ recent track record doesn’t lead us to believe they’ll spend heavily this offseason.
New York’s ownership and front office is focused on maximizing profits and also winning games. That’s where Wheeler, rather than Cole or Stephen Strasburg, comes into play. The 29-year-old’s 3.96 ERA isn’t great, but he possesses an excellent repertoire and the right coaching staff can unlock far more from him. A deal won’t be a bargain, but it comes down to the potential return on investment for New York and that’s what makes Wheeler a perfect fit.
Mookie Betts is traded to the Atlanta Braves
At a time when ownership plans to increase ticket prices and slash payroll significantly before the 2020 season, things could be changing in Boston. After slugger J.D. Martinez exercised his opt-in on his $23.75 million deal for next season, Betts’ future in Boston became even more cloudy.
Betts is expected to make nearly $28 million in arbitration and given the Red Sox aren’t even discussing an extension with him, a return after this season seems unlikely. Trading him now makes the most sense. Atlanta can package Drew Waters, a top-25 prospect in MLB, with center fielder Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Patrick Weigel to pursue Betts’ MVP ability. Atlanta boasts two MVP-caliber bats in the outfield and Boston lands a substantial haul for a player it will lose for a comp pick next offseason.
San Diego Padres sign front-line starter with Madison Bumgarner
The Padres will make a considerable effort to convince Strasburg to return to his roots and come home to San Diego. In the likely event he stays in Washington D.C., the Padres must turn their efforts to another ace they know very well.
Bumgarner faced the Padres 36 times, including 35 starts, during his career with the Giants. He’s extremely familiar with the NL West and, if the Braves can’t meet his asking price, the Padres become the perfect fit. He’ll pair perfectly with Chris Paddack and eventually form an outstanding trio when MacKenzie Gore is called up. This is the move that makes the Padres a contender and ownership should be for it.
Yasmani Grandal cashes in with Cincinnati Reds
Grandal took a gamble last offseason by betting on himself and signing a one-year deal. The 30-year-old’s risk is set to pay off after an All-Star campaign that saw him demonstrate why he’s one of the best catchers in baseball.
He finds himself amid a bidding war for his talent, particularly between two NL Central foes. The Milwaukee Brewers know the positive impact Grandal makes on a pitching staff and for a lineup. This comes down to the biggest offer and Cincinnati’s willingness to spend paired with its desire to add an All-Star catcher to support its strong rotation, which leads to a potential four-year, $64 million deal.
Chicago Cubs make a splash with Whit Merrifield
Merrifield is one of the most underrated players in MLB. He’s an excellent leadoff hitter that is capable of posting a .350-plus OBP with 25-plus stolen bases and can play second base or right field. He’s everything Chicago’s lineup needs.
Convincing Kansas City to move Merrifield and his extremely team-friendly four-year, $16.25 million deal will take a lot. Chicago will need to package No. 1 prospect Nico Hoerner and No. 5 prospect Albert Alzolay. While it’s a high ask, Merrifield’s contract and talent make him a perfect fit for the Cubs.
Tampa Bay Rays buy low on Edwin Diaz
Tampa Bay enters the offseason with a glaring need at closer and limited options available in free agency. An organization that loves to bring in reclamation projects and turn them into impact players, the team’s interest in Diaz is no surprise.
He’s a far better closer than the one that posted a 5.59 ERA, 2.33 HR/9 and blew seven saves in ’19. Diaz still flashes elite stuff, demonstrated in his 39% strikeout rate last year. He just needs a pitching coach to help him rediscover his slider and improve his command. Tampa Bay boasts one of the best coaching staffs in baseball. If New York relents on his availability and moves him, the Rays could turn Diaz back into his All-Star form.
Anthony Rendon signs with Texas Rangers
After turning down Washington’s seven-year, $210 million offer during the season, Rendon is poised to make even more money now that he’s a free agent. It will all come down to what team’s logo is on the contract when he signs it.
The Rangers, Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers will all pursue Rendon. He’s outstanding defensively at third base, comes with an outstanding postseason track record and phenomenal numbers with the bat. Ultimately, the Rangers shell out a seven-year deal worth $220-plus million to bring Rendon home.
Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Francisco Lindor
The Dodgers need to make a dramatic move this offseason. After losing in the World Series twice in ’17 and ’18, then getting knocked out in the NLDS, change is coming to Los Angeles.
Pitching could certainly be an area to address, but Lindor remains a primary target. Los Angeles’ farm system is among the best in MLB and a package with catcher Keibert Ruiz, infielder Jeter Downs and pitcher Mitchell White can appeal to Cleveland’s interests. If the Dodgers land Lindor, it opens the door to trade Corey Seager for an All-Star pitcher or more prospects.