Which 2020 non-playoff team has the most potential to be a top team by the end of free agency?
I think the Mets have the potential to be a top team by the end of free agency. In 2020, the Mets had the second highest wRC+ in all of baseball (122) trailing just the World Series champion Dodgers. Although Jacob deGrom was elite as usual, the rest of the Mets starting pitching staff really struggled. Since the Mets have a ton of depth and money to spend, I can see them easily improving the starting staff behind deGrom whether it be by trading already proven offensive assets or signing at least one of Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman, James Paxton, or Masahiro Tanaka. In addition to the depth and money that they have, the Mets will also have Noah Syndergaard returning from Tommy John surgery. With an improved starting pitching staff, top tier lineup, and a hopefully consistent bullpen backed by Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo; the Mets could have the opportunity to contend within the NL East and the National League in 2021.
Which 2020 playoff team has the potential to lose the most coming out of free agency?
I think the Astros have the potential to lose the most amongst 2020 playoff teams coming out of free agency. The Astros are at risk of losing the best available free agent in George Springer along with fellow outfielders Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick. Since the start of the 2019 season, Springer and Brantley ranks second and third respectively of all Astros position players in Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). If the Astros do lose Springer, Brantley, and Reddick and they are not able to bring in any new outfielders; they will need to rely on Myles Straw, Aledmys Diaz, Chas Mccormick, and even Yordan Alvarez to play alongside 2020 regular Kyle Tucker in the outfield. In addition to potentially losing three starting outfielders, I don’t think many free agents will be all that interested in joining the Astros due to the sign stealing scandal. Although the Astros will potentially lose the most amongst 2020 playoff teams coming out of free agency, I still believe they will be a 2021 playoff team and World Series contender.
Where do you think George Springer will sign?
I think George Springer will sign with one of the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, or St. Louis Cardinals. Below, I’ll explain why Springer would be a great fit on any of these teams.
Astros: Springer has emerged as a star with the Astros and they have an obvious need in center field (or right field depending on the situation) with Springer not penciled in on the depth chart. Springer makes the Astros go from AL West/American League contender to World Series contender and if he wants to run it back, I’m sure the Astros would love to have him back.
Red Sox: It has been reported that Springer would like to play near family which Boston allows him to do (he even grew up a Red Sox fan). Although the Red Sox did trade superstar outfielder Mookie Betts to the Dodgers less than a year ago, Springer would be a very good star replacement at a cheaper price compared to Betts. Assuming the Red Sox lineup can stay fully healthy, they would have an elite lineup consisting of George Springer, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez (player option*), Alex Verdugo, and Andrew Benintendi. If the Red Sox pitching staff can hold up to go along with this potential elite lineup, the Red Sox could be a potential 2021 postseason sleeper team.
Mets: Similarly to how Boston is near Springer’s family, Queens is close as well. Although the Mets already have one of MLB’s best center fielders in Brandon Nimmo, he is not very good defensively in center. If the Mets do land Springer it would provide them an elite right handed bat, an upgrade defensively in center field, and allow Nimmo to move to left field where he has been better defensively compared to center field throughout his career. In addition, the Mets could look to acquire a starting pitcher in exchange for established bats such as J.D. Davis or Dom Smith (assuming the DH doesn’t stay in the NL).
Blue Jays: After making the postseason for the first time since their mini rebuild, now would be a good time for the Blue Jays to add a star to their lineup of rising stars. By adding Springer, the Blue Jays would continue to establish a new winning culture amongst their young roster and would help increase their odds of returning back to the postseason for the second straight year (especially if it is an expanded format).
Cardinals: While the Cardinals have been able to make the playoffs the past two seasons, their offense has ranked only 19th (2020) and 15th (2019) in all of MLB in terms of wRC+. Adding Springer to the top of their lineup would be a pivotal move if the Cardinals want to contend in what appears to be a highly competitive 2021 (and beyond) NL Central.
Where do you think Trevor Bauer will sign?
I think Trevor Bauer will sign with with one of the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, or San Diego Padres. Below, I’ll explain why Bauer would be a great fit on any of these teams.
Reds: As seen in 2020, the Reds had arguably the best 1-2-3 starting pitching groups in all of baseball. If the Reds hope to compete in 2021 and beyond, resigning Bauer should be on the top of their checklist because it will be extremely difficult to beat Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sony Gray in the postseason if the Reds offense can scratch across some runs.
Angels: Even though the Angels have two top five players in the league in Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, the Angels don’t project to be any better than they have been the last few seasons. A big problem with the Angels is that their starting pitching hasn’t been very good. Since 2017, the Angels starting pitching staff has ranked 24th (2017), 20th (2018), 29th (2019), and 19th (2020) in the league in terms of FIP. If the Angels were to land Bauer, I’m sure their starting pitching staff as well as the team record will improve.
White Sox: After making the postseason for the first time this past season since 2008, the White Sox can now be deemed a future postseason contender for the first time in quite awhile. With an exciting relatively young core built around Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Luis Robert; I’m sure the White Sox fit the description of a team that is ready to win by Bauer’s standards. Especially since the White Sox do have money available to spend, I think this would be a great fit for Bauer.
Mets: As mentioned in my response to the first question, the Mets rotation behind Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard isn’t very good. If the Mets are able to land Bauer they will have arguably the best 1-2-3 starting pitching groups in baseball consisting of deGrom, Bauer, and Syndergaard which will hopefully help guide them to the 2021 postseason.
Padres: After a season in which the Padres were 37-23 and made the division round of the postseason, they are looking very much like a 2021 and beyond World Series contender especially considering top starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger were not healthy throughout the postseason. Speaking of Mike Clevinger, this is one of Trevor Bauer’s best friends and I’m sure he’d like to reunite with him to make another World Series run. For the Padres organization, a team headlined by Fernando Tatis Jr, Manny Machado, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Dinelson Lamet would surely bring in a ton of revenue.
Why do you think the White Sox should sign Tommy La Stella?
Although the White Sox are already loaded with infielders, having depth is essential and they need a designated hitter. My thought process is that the White Sox can have La Stella play second base whenever either Danny Mendick or Nick Madrigal needs a game off, third base whenever Yoan Moncada needs a game off, and first base whenever Jose Abreu needs a game off. When La Stella isn’t playing the field, he would serve as the DH but when he is in the field, whoever he is replacing in the field can fill the DH void. I think this would be a smart move for the White Sox because La Stella is an immediate boost to either the top or middle of the White Sox lineup and he shouldn’t be too expensive. Over the course of his career, La Stella has been primarily a second baseman where he has not been a plus defender while seeing some time at third base where he also isn’t a plus defender and he has played a little bit of first base where he has been a plus defender (we must keep in mind that it is a small sample size though). Since La Stella isn’t known for his defense, I think it would be a good idea for the White Sox to consider him for their DH role and as someone who provides them necessary depth to succeed.
Should the Rays sign James McCann?
If his price is reasonable, I think it would be a great idea for the Rays to sign James McCann. Amongst qualified catchers since the start of the 2019 season, McCann ranks fifth in 5th in fWAR (3.8) which is a 2.2 improvement from every single Rays catcher’s fWAR combined since 2019. The only obstacle the Rays would have to overcome here is money. This offseason projects to be a difficult offseason for most teams and considering the Rays are arguably MLB’s smallest market team, it appears they could be headed into a long offseason. The silver lining (in a way) is that the Rays have moved on from 2020 primary catchers Mike Zunino and Michael Perez signifying their need for a catcher. If the price is right, McCann and the Rays are a perfect match. If the Rays aren’t able to land McCann I’d expect them to sign at least one of Jason Castro, Tyler Flowers, Austin Romine, Kurt Suzuki, or Alex Avila.
Is Marcell Ozuna to the Nationals realistic?
I think Marcell Ozuna to the Nationals is realistic especially if the DH remains in the National League. Just one year removed from winning the World Series, the Nationals are a potential 2021 sleeper team if they can add some bats surrounding Juan Soto and Trea Turner while hoping their starting pitching staff can bounce back and stay healthy. Assuming the DH doesn’t remain in the National League, Ozuna can slide into either corner outfield position (depending on if the Nationals want to move Soto from left to right field) and into the middle of the Nationals batting order. Adding Ozuna is realistic because a corner outfielder or DH is what the Nationals are in desperate need of and I think they’ll try to compete again in 2021.
Who do you think will sign the biggest contract?
Although I don’t think he is the best free agent available, I think J.T. Realmuto will sign the biggest contract. I think Realmuto will sign the biggest contract because he is two years younger than George Springer and he plays the most valuable defensive position at an elite level. I think Realmuto will sign a 6 year contract worth $120 million ($20 million AAV) as the biggest contract but George Springer will get the highest AAV by signing a 5 year contract worth $110 million ($22 million AAV).