Trades & Free Agency
Teams With the Clearest Paths to Signing J.T. RealmutoBy Radar Rob | December 17th, 2020 | Discussion
Now that James McCann has signed a four-year deal with the New York Mets, Realmuto is now a lock to sign at least a five year deal somewhere with a total contract value north of $100 million. The Mets were one of the favorites landing spots for Realmuto across the baseball industry. Now that the Mets are off the table, let's evaluate other suitors that fit JT's desires and the team's own possible thought process behind fitting and signing Realmuto. JT has made it clear in his days with the Marlins that he wants to win, and there are still suitors aside from the Mets that are well positioned to do so in the next 3-5 years. Without further ado, let's begin.
At the beginning of the offseason, I was about 95% sure JT wouldn't be leaving Philadelphia, mainly because of Bryce's vocalized and publicized desires coupled with the massive hole the Phillies have at catcher within the organization. Don't get me wrong, I like Rafael Marchan and Logan O'Hoppe, but are they going to be able to replace Realmuto and handle the bulk of the catching load in the next couple of seasons? I don't believe so. Realmuto's path back to Philly became a lot less clear when news circulated that the Phillies lost a tremendous amount of money and would not be able to retain him. Even if the Phillies re-sign Realmuto to a contract with an AAV near $20 million, the team still has several holes and uncertainties: a Didi Gregorius replacement, a Kingery rebound, a washed-up McCutchen, a weak bottom-half of the rotation, and an extremely inexperienced and shallow bullpen beyond Hector Neris. So, it makes sense to me that if money is tight in Philly, it'd behoove them to allocate the available money around to fill the holes to create a competitive and deeper team (my preference) as opposed to a top-heavy group of Harper, Realmuto, Hoskins, Bohm, Nola, and Wheeler. But now, Phillies executives say they can afford Realmuto while denying reports that Wheeler needed to be traded to make room on the payroll. I believe owner John Middleton said he wouldn't trade Wheeler for Babe Ruth, which hyperbole, sure, but utterly ridiculous. So all in all, we don't know for sure where the Phillies stand financially, but regardless, investing heavily in Realmuto may leave the team with large holes on the roster, thus affecting the ability to compete at the top of the NL East.
Oh look who it is! Yup, I've identified the Marlins as one of the cleanest fits in all the MLB for Realmuto. This team is up-and-coming, and I honestly believe the future in Miami. However, the internal catching situation is not as bright. Jorge Alfaro, a piece in the return for Realmuto when Miami traded him to Philly, has been okay in his career thus far. The on-base skills are subpar, he has some power, and a cannon for an arm. Alfaro struggled in 2020 after a long stint on the COVID injured list. Beyond Alfaro, the organization just has collection of guys like Brian Navarreto, Nick Fortes, Will Banfield, and Chad Wallach, all of whom project to be nothing greater than backup catchers at this point in time based off of scouting reports and overall minor league performance. The biggest point of interest for a potential Realmuto-Marlins reunion is the Marlins payroll situation. They currently sit around $57M, but Corey Dickerson's $9.5M and Starling Marte's $12.5M will come off the books next season, so there will be money to play with in the 2021-22 offseason in South Beach. As far as the offensive hitting core that will surround Realmuto, I'm not super high on these athlete-first, high K-rate prospects the Marlins have acquired in trades. I'm talking about Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, Jazz Chisholm, Monte Harrison, and Griffin Conine. I am more optimistic about Peyton Burdick, JJ Bleday, Kameron Misner, Jose Devers, and Jesus Sanchez at this point. The most attractive part of the Marlins organization right now is the pitching talent. The top three guys right now in Alcantara, Lopez, and Sanchez is a formidable group, and there will be good competition for those last two spots between Rogers, Garrett, Castano, Neidert, Meyer, Cabrera, and Yamamoto. The question here is if JT is willing to go back to Miami. He wanted out pretty bad, but it seems the club is in a much better position now than when he left.
The Cards currently have a Yadier Molina-sized hole at catcher, and negotiations with haven't amounted to what seemed like an inevitable Yadier reunion. But I think it's possible the squad looks for a longer-term upgrade. I've read things here and there that the Cardinals are very payroll-conscious heading into the 2021 season. I think the contracts of Matt Carpenter ($18.5M), Dexter Fowler ($16.5M), Andrew Miller ($12M), and Carlos Martinez ($11.5) are a huge net negative in terms of performance output based off the 2020 season, and projections going forward mostly due to aging. After the 2021 season though, all that money is coming off the books, making room for a big signing or two. If Ivan Herrera turns out to be the real deal, it seems like a cleaner fit for Yadier to finish out his career in St. Louis, gradually yielding more time to Andrew Knizner, another guy I like, but ultimately acting as a stopgap to Ivan Herrera, who would've started at A-Advanced Palm Beach if the season wasn't cancelled. The Cardinals need to pad the offense around Goldschmidt, who was really the Cardinals only above average bat in the lineup in 2020. The Cards are also a favorite of mine to land Arenado in a trade, or sign him if he exercises his opt-out clause next offseason. In sum, the Cardinals is an organization that competes for playoffs spots seemingly every single year, and I gotta believe that this is the type of organization Realmuto is looking for.
The first reaction to this is that Rays never sign anyone to big contracts, this will never happen! Maybe so, but the Rays are in a position to win now and into the near future more so than any team in the big leagues based on young, controllable, relatively cheap talent alone. Guys like Wander Franco, Vidal Brujan, Brendan McKay, Joe Ryan haven't even got going yet, and add this to the already extremely talented core of [Brandon] Lowe, Adames, Arozarena, Meadows, Snell, Glasnow, Anderson. The Rays will be cooking. The payroll currently sits around $67M, and the Opening Day payroll has never eclipsed $77M, so this is the point where you say a Realmuto signing is impossible. Well, I think it's very possible that with the shortage of center fielders in the market (really only Springer & JBJ) Kiermaier's services become more desirable. He is making ~$11.67M in 2021 and $1M more than that in 2022, so to the Rays' standards this is a very expensive contract for someone that is going to be on the wrong side of 30, where speed declines, along with defense, which both happen to be Kiermaier's strongest assets. I don't think they'll have to attach prospects for a team to take on the remainder of the contract, but rather gain prospects in a hypothetical trade. Tsutsugo's one-year, $7M deal may require a prospect to be able to dump onto another team. But between these two, who are totally capable of being replaced internally, the Rays can create nearly $19M in payroll space, which is enough to be able to squeeze a Realmuto contract in there. Despite the Rays being one of the organizationally deepest teams in baseball, the catching line is subpar in my eyes, where Ronaldo Hernandez is the only guy with starter upside. But even he had a down year offensively in 2019 at A+ Charlotte, so I take it with a grain of salt that he is the heir to the starting catching position in Tampa Bay.
Financially, this is a situation similar to the Rays in that payroll space is the driving factor behind a potential Realmuto signing. The payroll currently sits at around $65M and they are still definitely going to trade Francisco Lindor and his $20M+ which would bring them down to $45M (if the return is prospects and/or pre-arb eligible players). I also am an advocate for a Carlos Carrasco trade. I think the Indians can score big here without hurting the pitching staff too bad because there is a steep drop-off after Trevor Bauer in the starting pitching market, which has proven to be more expensive than I thought. And considering Carrasco is only making $12M each of the next two seasons (and $14M if 2023 option vests), I believe a Carrasco return can help fill the holes in the offense. Internally, I like Scott Moss, Eli Morgan, and Logan Allen as potential replacements for Carrasco. The offense is not looking good, especially after a Lindor trade. That leaves only Jose Ramirez as the only high-end consistent bat in the lineup. But, if Cleveland trades Lindor and Carrasco, the payroll would be around $33M, which leaves PLENTY of room for JT Realmuto, a couple of stopgaps in the infield for Nolan Jones & Tyler Freeman, and possibly a new outfield since I believe that Cleveland's current options are really just a collection of fourth outfielders. The Indians currently have Roberto Perez and Austin Hedges as the primary catcher and backup catcher, respectively. I generally like a tandem with a bat-first catcher, then a glove-first catcher, but in this situation, the Indians have two glove-first catchers, so one would have to be traded. Pipeline-wise, only Bo Naylor stands out to me right now as a potential starting catcher, but even so, he is still a couple of years away at least, and that's if he hits at the upper levels of the minors. Realmuto would be in command of a young, talented pitching staff in Bieber, Plesac, McKenzie, and Civale.
I really like the Alejandro Kirk-Danny Jansen tandem. I'm also keeping my eye on Riley Adams. I think Toronto would be better suited allocating their money towards elite pitching (starters & relievers) and an elite infield or outfield bat.
They will have a ton of money come off the books next year between Greinke and Verlander. I think they'll turn to cheaper options after using the money to sign outfielders and to extend Carlos Correa.
The Nats have too many holes (1B, 3B, RF, DH, SP4/5, and a few RP) to spend big on a catcher.
Not ready to win yet, I'm not high on Jake Rogers, so they'll sign a catcher when it's time to start making playoff pushes.
Also not ready to win yet, and they have Sam Huff.
Comparing MLBTR and PBR Free Agent PredictionsBy Radar Rob | November 2nd, 2020 | Discussion
The hot stove is officially turned on and there are LOTS of cookies in the oven this winter. This is the time where we all turn in our predictions for where free agents are going to sign, but if the 2020 trends of unpredictability continue, it renders this task a fool's errand in a way. Nonetheless, this part of the winter is fun for all baseball writers and fans. Here, I will be comparing PBR's predictions with MLB Trade Rumors' predictions for the top 20 ranked free agents by MLBTR! Before you read, I swear on my life that I made my predictions before MLBTR released theirs, I can promise you that.
MLBTR - Dodgers, 4 years, $128MM | PBR - Mets, 1 year, $30MM
I choose to believe that Bauer will stick to his word of signing one-year deals instead of being locked in somewhere. I think the Bauer brand would do well in NYC, and is most definitely good for NYC media outlets. Bauer is from L.A., so may want to return there, but I don't see why the Dodgers would dish out that money when they have a six-man rotation already.
MLBTR - Mets, 5 years, $125MM | PBR - Phillies, 5 years, $110MM
I think it'd be foolish for the Mets to allocate that much of their payroll to Realmuto when they need possibly 3 starting pitchers, and to sign extension for Conforto and Syndergaard. But perhaps, new owner Steve Cohen could make that splash as a statement, and fill in other holes, blowing past the luxury tax. I think he goes back to Philly where he seemed to fit so well with Harper and Hoskins.
MLBTR - White Sox, 5 years, $125MM | PBR - Astros, 4 years, $84MM
It's hard to see Springer leaving that Astros core. There was some word circulating that he wanted out of Houston, and I think the White Sox would be an amazing fit, in fact I wrote about it more in this article. I just see him going back to Houston to play right field (with Tucker in LF). Yea no fun, I know.
MLBTR - Nationals, 4 years, $72MM | PBR - Braves, 4 years, $72MM
Well, we are both on the mark for the contract size, this equates to an AAV of $18MM per year, where we also both think that the majority of that time will be spent as a DH. Hard to see the Nats making this splash, having Soto in right field and Ozuna in left field for a year will probably piss off the pitchers. After Ozuna's year, I'd say the Braves re-up Ozuna, he just fit so well hitting behind Freeman.
MLBTR - Blue Jays, 4 years, $68MM | PBR - Yankees, 4 years, $68MM
Again, on the money with the $17MM AAV, and yes I know, I'm boring. I can't see LeMahieu leaving the Yankees after what he's done there, can't see it. If he were to leave however, I don't love the Blue Jays as a fit, where I think he'd fit best at third base in Toronto. If I had to pick a team other than the Yankees, it'd be the Cardinals, especially if they don't end up trading for an Arenado.
MLBTR - Angels, 4 years, $68MM | PBR - Yankees, 4 years, $76MM
Will the Yankees dish out that kind of money to LeMahieu AND Stroman? Who knows, but I will say this, Stroman is a Yankees fan through and through, is from Long Island, and will be a great fit with Severino and Cole. He will replace Paxton and/or Tanaka, however you look at it. The Angels would equally be a solid destination as they NEED an ace-type guy there. The Angels need to stop playing around and get Mike Trout a World Series ring.
MLBTR - Rangers, 5 years, $40MM | PBR - No Prediction, 3 years, $12MM
Okay, I knew Kim was good, but I didn't think that he's 7th ranked, 5 years $40MM good. I mean, I didn't even end up with a team for him. Now that I see this, I will predict the Pirates dip back into the Korean infielder market and end up signing him. I think Oneil Cruz will end up in right field, and Nick Gonzales at second base, so the long-term window at shortstop is relatively open. The same can be said with the Rangers. I'm not dazzled by Anderson Tejeda or Chris Seise, so Kim can definitely take over SS if he transitions over to North American ball well.
MLBTR - Reds, 3 years, $39MM | PBR - Phillies, 3 years, $42MM
The Girardi-Didi marriage will not be broken up this winter. Segura is better at second base, and Kingery has showed that he doesn't deserve to start, but rather is better suited as a super-utility player right now. The Reds were my prediction last season for Didi, but I think they might go the trade route by acquiring Lindor, Story, or possibly Correa.
MLBTR - Giants, 1 year, $18.9MM (QO)| PBR - Giants, 3 years, $37.5MM
I will defer to MLBTR's prediction here. Agreed that the Giants are the best fit, but I'd think Gausman might want the security now. But with Belt, Crawford, Posey, and Cueto (if options declined), all with one year left, this could be one last run with the past decade's core before waiting on the next generation of Hunter Bishop, Marco Luciano, Luis Toribio, etc. to make their impact. So a one year deal might be best if Gausman doesn't want to lock himself into a contract with an uncompetitive team.
MLBTR - Yankees, 3 years, $39MM | PBR - Angels, 3 years, $45MM
Finally, a PBR prediction that doesn't have a return signee. Tanaka will team up with Shohei Ohtani and mentor his pitching, while also serving as the veteran ace of that staff alongside Bundy, Canning, and Heaney. I'd say the Yankees look elsewhere for their middle-of-rotation need.
MLBTR - Blue Jays, 3 years, $39MM | PBR - Mets, 1 year, $8MM
I think after last year's struggles, Odorizzi will sign a pillow contract somewhere, and I believe with the Mets. Honestly, I think so mostly because the Italian last name plays in NY. The Blue Jays are also a solid fit. They need pitching behind Ryu, as I'm not completely sold that Pearson is going to dominate right away in 2021.
MLBTR - Phillies, 3 years, $30MM | PBR - Blue Jays, 3 years, $36MM
Both are solid destinations for the Aussie closer. The Phillies cannot repeat last year's bullpen disaster, however, I predicted that they'll sign Gregorius and Realmuto, so that doesn't free up much money to be spent on a top tier closer. They'll have to get creative with trades and money if they want to sign an elite closer while also needing more bullpen pieces and a starter. For the Blue Jays, Hendriks will replace what they never got in Ken Giles.
MLBTR - Braves, 2 years, $28MM | PBR - Braves, 2 years, $25MM
Nearly identical predictions. If the DH is not back in the NL for 2021, this could be trouble for my predictions because this would mean that Ozuna would have to play right field for a year with Brantley in left, and Acuna Jr. in center with Pache playing a 4th outfielder role. Brantley, despite his age and injury history, has a glove that still grades quite well out in left field. Brantley would fit beautifully in that Braves lineup. This has a little bit of a David Justice feel to it, may I add.
MLBTR - Dodgers, 2 years, $24MM | PBR - Dodgers, 2 years, $24MM
Again, right on the money. Not much else to say here other than the Dodgers won't be swayed by the COVID-19 incident after the World Series. Turner can still play 3rd well, and is a nice right-handed bat to balance that lineup.
MLBTR - Angels, 1 year, $14MM | PBR - Reds, 1 year, $10MM
We both agree that Semien is in line to sign a pillow contract to sign if he can return to near-MVP form and cash in on that. So it appears I've contradicted myself here by saying earlier that the Reds would go the trade route instead of signing Didi, but here I have the Reds as a candidate for Semien. I'll yield to MLBTR's prediction on this one, I like it much better for the Angels, and for Semien.
MLBTR - Phillies, 2 years, $20MM | PBR - Mets, 3 years, $27MM
In most predictions I've seen thus far, McCann will go where Realmuto doesn't. The AAV is about the same in both predictions. Let's just see if McCann can keep up his offensive output from the 2019 and 2020, and doesn't revert back to the pre-2019 McCann.
MLBTR - Yankees, 1 year, $12MM | PBR - Athletics, 2 years, $20MM
If Simmons and Chapman are both healthy in 2021, this could be possibly the best defensive left side of the infield ever assembled in history. Can the Athletics afford Simmons, while also needing to fill the back end of the bullpen? I'm not convinced. The Yankees is a good fit too, moving Torres back to second base, but it's just hard to see LeMahieu parting ways with the Yankees this offseason.
MLBTR - Cardinals, 2 years, $18MM | PBR - Angels, 2 years, $10MM
I think Joc will end up with the Angels anyway after this season's non-trade involving Ross Stripling, Luis Rengifo, and Andy Pages. Joc can occupy right field while Jo Adell hits only against lefties, or goes back to Salt Lake to fix his issues. If Adell makes the club, Pederson would also be useful getting Justin Upton some rest. I don't see the fit with the Cardinals with O'Neill, Carlson, Bader, and Fowler all on board.
MLBTR - Red Sox, 2 years, $18MM | PBR - Twins, 2 years, $16MM
Quintana will fit nicely as the only left-hander in the Twins Opening Day rotation slotting in behind Maeda and Berrios. The similar name to Johan Santana can be nostalgic for Twins fans as well. The Red Sox work too. They absolutely NEED pitching, but they also need bullpen arms, a second baseman, and a center fielder. I'm not too sure it that all works out with the luxury tax and payroll limits quite yet.
MLBTR - Twins, 1 year, $16MM | PBR - Twins, 2 years, $27MM
It almost feels as if Nelson Cruz is a ticking time bomb in terms of the production falling off a cliff because of his age. But rather, Cruz ages like fine wine so I do think he will get two more years, and at the very least, a one year deal with a vesting option.
You can find the rest of my Free Agent Predictions on the MLB & MiLB Radar on the 'FA' sheet.
Breaking Down the Best Fits for George SpringerBy Radar Rob | October 20th, 2020 | Discussion
George Springer is easily a top 5 player within the 2020-21 Free Agent Pool. He is a quick-twitch table-setter who would profile best in right field as he enters his age 31 season in 2021. He boasts a career 134 wRC+ and a clutch 141 wRC+ in the postseason. He plays a sound center field, but if I'm the team signing his paycheck for the next 3+ seasons, and considering his injury history, I'd want to move him to a corner position. Springer would be a great fit on a bunch of teams not listed below, but these five teams work best for Springer and their own financially-driven priorities. So without further ado, let's dive in.
Estimated Contract Size
Prediction: 4 years + Vesting/Club Option - $100 - $110 million guaranteed
Top 5 Best Fits (Using MLB Radar)
Houston Astros: For me, this is the most likely landing spot for George Springer. It appears the Astros will have two gaping holes in the outfield for 2021: center field and the corner outfield position not occupied by Kyle Tucker, so in a Springer resigning, Tucker would play left while Springer holds down right field. The immediate assumption is that the Astros won't be able to afford Springer given their commitments to Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Zack Greinke, and Justin Verlander, but the latter two of the group will see their expensive contracts expire after the 2021 season. I have the Astros payroll currently estimated at $165,736,428, so I believe they can squeeze a front-loaded Springer contract there, while also signing or trading for a center fielder. And I say front-loaded because the Astros will have Bregman at a $13M salary in 2021 and 2022 before it shoots up to $30.5M in 2023 and 2024. I would say if the Astros didn't have that plethora of young arms (Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier, Andre Scrubb, Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor) perform the way they did in 2020, then I would say the Astros should allocate their existing funds towards pitching, but with those players' being in pre-arbitration eligible in 2021, the Astros can allocate funds towards re-signing a franchise player and fan favorite in Springer.
Chicago White Sox: Springer signing with the White Sox could create one of the most lethal lineups in the MLB for 2021 and beyond. Springer would slide into right field next to Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, while Adam Engel gets pushed to a fourth outfielder role off the bench. The greatest challenge here is the cost, especially as the White Sox' talented young players likely to see salary bumps via long-term contract raises and arbitration. Currently, I have the White Sox payroll at $131,545,000, BUT that is including the salaries/salary estimates for Edwin Encarnacion, Nomar Mazara, Carlos Rodon, and Gio Gonzalez. With those players either being non-tendered a contract or having their club options declined, the payroll lowers to $102,145,000. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the White Sox have an opening-day payroll high-water mark at $127,789,000, which was accrued in 2011. A Springer contract would likely put them over that mark, in addition to the likely smaller-scale signings/acquisitions to round out the roster. The White Sox have no other glaring needs besides DH and maybe another bullpen piece. I see a DH signing essentially a one-year deal to serve as a stopgap for Andrew Vaughan. Springer could be the piece to get this team to be world series contenders immediately.
Cleveland Indians: Yeah, yeah I already know you are thinking that the Indians can't afford Springer, hence the reason why I wrote an article suggesting the Indians NEED to trade Francisco Lindor because they will not be able to sign him long-term. But hear me out, the Indians could make this work IF they decline Carlos Santana's option for 2021, trade Lindor for pre-arb/arb eligible pieces and/or prospects, and trade Carlos Carrasco. If they do that, they lower their 2021 payroll to $48,030,000, but they will need to re-sign or replace Santana, sign a second basemen, acquire/sign a replacement shortstop and fill-in a rotation spot. With some creativity, all those holes can be replaced with cheaper, but still productive options that will allow the Indians to continue competing for AL Central titles. Springer will provide the Indians with much needed offense, especially as a member of that outfield.
Atlanta Braves: In this signing, Springer would occupy left field creating an athletic outfield of Springer-Pache-Acuna Jr for 2021. Adam Duvall would either occupy the DH spot, or be non-tendered as Matt Swartz predicts his arbitration salary to be $7,100,000 for 2021, which seems a little high for me considering Duvall's profile and recent output. I have the current Braves 2021 payroll at $106,524,375, so a Springer signing would essentially be replacing Marcell Ozuna since I don't believe the Braves can afford them both, especially with the Braves youth core seeing their salaries increase year-to-year. I think the key issue here is the fact that Springer would essentially block top prospect Drew Waters. I will say that I am officially scared off by Waters' high strikeout rate. In 573 plate appearance in 2019, Waters struck out 164 times while only walking 39 times. I can't list many consistently successful major leaguers that had that drastic a walk-strikeout rate in the minors off the top of my head, and if you can, I'm all ears. So, I believe the Braves should trade Waters while his value is still really high, as he is currently listed as the #22 prospect in all of baseball, and replace his presence with 4+ years of George Springer.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals had a subpar offensive season in 2020. Aside from Paul Goldschmidt, no one really stood out, or even above league average wRC+ for that matter. The Cards' production in the outfield was headed by Harrison Bader with a 114 wRC+, who I view ideally as a glove-first fourth outfielder on a playoff contending team. Besides Bader, Dexter Fowler and his replacement-level production will enter the last year of an overall disappointing 5-year $82.5M contract. Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson need to step up their production to at least above-league-average. Payroll-wise, I have the Cardinals at $141,396,666 for 2021, but afterwards, the Cards will have Andrew Miller, Matt Carpenter, Dustin Fowler, and possibly Carlos Martinez come off the books, a group that costs a total of $58,500,000 in 2021. So, a Springer contract can work financially, also giving the Cardinals some more financial flexibility to fill other holes on the team, which appears to be at catcher, where I assume they'll resign Yadier Molina, and at second base, where I believe they will sign Kolten Wong to a few more years. The pitching looks pretty good at the moment so they won't need to allocate a ton of money in that direction. St. Louis is one of the best baseball cities in America and I'm a curious if they will fully accept Springer given his involvement in the cheating scandal.
Time to Trade Francisco LindorBy Radar Rob | October 16th, 2020 | Discussion
This is the offseason that the Cleveland Indians need to trade Francisco Lindor. Between the revenue losses sustained from coronavirus, the prospect of being a small-market team, and the need to create a deeper, more productive lineup, the Indians will be best suited by trading Lindor this offseason. Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projects Lindor to make $21,500,000 in 2021, which is very similar to the situation the Red Sox found themselves in last offseason with Mookie Betts. Clearly, the Mookie Betts trade is the best model for a potential Lindor trade, where the Red Sox acquired Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong in exchange for one year Betts.
Yes, Lindor did not have a typical Lindor-like offensive season in 2020 only posting a 100 wRC+, which is exactly league average. However, there is something to be said about Lindor's defense, presence, and swagger that can't be ignored when pondering the return.
The Indians are pitching heavy heading into 2021 with a top-tier rotation of Bieber, Carrasco, Plesac, McKenzie, and Civale and a stacked bullpen boasting Hand (if club option is exercised), Karinchak, Clase, Maton, and Wittgren. So, we know that the Indians will be one of the best run preventers in the league next year and the question becomes whether or not they can score enough to rack up the wins needed to compete at the top of the AL Central. The greatest point of attention was the struggling outfield bats. Mercado will likely need to more refining in Columbus in 2021 and NOT ONE outfielder between Naylor, DeShields, Naquin, Zimmer, and Luplow had a wRC+ over 83. Yes, 83. They also now have two glove-first catchers in Perez and Hedges, and a hole at second base (likely to be filled by re-signing Cesar Hernandez). Santana is getting up there in age and the overall production is going to fall. So what do we have left? A Franimal at DH and another beast in Ramirez that is likely to stick at third according to executive Chris Antonetti. Nolan Jones is not too far away, but will most likely be moved to first or and outfield corner (first seems like the best fit in my opinion).
Using the MLB Radar, the cleanest trade partners at this moment are the Dodgers, Reds, and Angels. Let's begin.
Dodgers Acquire: Francisco Lindor
First, Indians acquire a catcher with hitting upside and the Dodgers #2 Prospect according to MLB.com and Fangraphs. This will create a more well-rounded catching tandem for the Indians and will allow them to trade one of Perez or Hedges. Second, the Indians get the Dodgers #1 prospect according to MLB.com and Fangraphs. Parting with Gray might sting some Dodgers fans, but he will most likely be blocked when he is ready by late 2021/early 2022. The Indians could flip Gray for another promising bat, or they could finish up his development, and trade the more costly Carrasco for a bat, allowing the Indians to free up more payroll space. Lastly, Reks is a bat that I've had my eye on for a while now. He is a 10th rounder out of Kentucky who has a career minor league OPS of 0.852, while popping 28 homeruns in 2019. He doesn't have a clear defensive home, but has played mostly left field and a little first base in the minors.
Reds Acquire: Francisco Lindor
Like the Dodgers trade proposal, the Indians acquire another highly touted catching prospect in Stephenson will more offensive upside than any other catcher in the Indians organization. India is the intriguing inclusion here. He is blocked all around the Reds infield, unless he is able to play a sufficient shortstop, where I think he fits better at third or second. The time for the Reds is now or never in my eyes. The farm system is subpar. Votto is aging out and his expensive contract will soon become a burden on the Reds as his production decreases, essentially handcuffing the Reds in their payroll flexibility. India can slide in at second base in 2022 if he is ready. Sceroler is a 5th rounder out of Southeastern Louisiana with some decent numbers in the minors that can benefit from the Indians pitching development staff. The Reds offense underperformed in 2020, but Lindor's presence in the lineup could give the boosts needed for guys like Votto, Suarez, Moustakas, and Castellanos.
Angels Acquire: Francisco Lindor
I look at this trade sometimes and think it's too much, and other times, I look at it and it is not as intriguing as the previous two trade proposals. Perhaps that is because of Jo Adell's rookie struggles at the plate (and in the field), but the guy is a top-tier prospect and there is still plenty of optimism for Adell. Thaiss and Rengifo profile more as role players, but they both have some pedigree and track record of solid output in the minors, so I think they are fine pieces to include. Angel fans dream of a Trout-Adell ran outfield, but I think the Angels can look to Brandon Marsh as that guy instead of Adell. Pujols' contract is up after 2021 and Upton's after 2022, so there is a lot of money coming off the books that could be used for an outfielder to pair with Marsh and Trout, and sign or acquire much-needed frontline starting pitching. A lineup hitting Lindor in front of Trout and Rendon is fun to think about and the Angels need to stop wasting one of the best talents of this generation and give our guy Trout a real playoff contending team.