Major League Baseball Preview: Player Moves

David Fernandez
A freelance writer with more than 10 years experience, David is based in sunny Miami, FL. He holds a master's degree in English and Creative Writing, and teaches Journalism. As a freelance writer, David concentrates on sports, health, education and entertainment.

One of the most exciting times for any sports league is the offseason. Player movement drives interest and speculation among fans. Major League Baseball is no exception.

During the winter, many MLB teams reshaped their franchises through free agency and trades. Some teams solidified their rosters for a World Series run, while others flipped veterans for prospects.

Considering the 2020 MLB Season right around the corner, here’s a look at some of the major offseason player moves.

MLB 2020: Player Movement

Major League Baseball
Gerrit Cole signed a record-setting free agent deal with the Yankees. (Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The MLB Hot Stove warmed up quite a bit over the winter. Player movement dotted those cold months and saw some major names change uniforms. 

Free agency involved dozens of players signing for millions of dollars. Teams also agreed on major trades during the offseason. Many of these moves will impact pennant races throughout the summer. 

Free Agents

The New York Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a record-setting nine-year, $324 million contract. The 29-year-old led the AL in ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326) in 2019, and finished second in the AL Cy Young voting. 

With Luis Severino and James Paxton also in the rotation, the Yankees just fixed one of their big problems from last year. They did, however, lose reliever Dellin Betances to the cross-town rivals New York Mets, as well as Didi Gregorius to the Phillies.

New York looks primed for a World Series run, though. 

The Chicago White Sox signed starter Dallas Keuchel to a three-year, $55.5 million contract. Keuchel pitched for the Atlanta Braves in 2019, posting a 3.75 ERA over 112.2 innings. The 2015 AL Cy Young winner brings a wealth of experience to a young White Sox staff.

In addition to Keuchel, the White Sox added veteran lefty Gio Gonzalez. Chicago also signed power-hitting first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and two-time all-star catcher Yasmani Grandal

The White Sox should challenge for the AL Central crown. 

Former Giants ace Madison Bumgarner signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 30-year-old Bumgarner posted a 3.90 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 203 strikeouts over 207.2 innings pitched in 2019. 

The Diamondbacks also added power-hitting outfielder Kole Calhoun. An Arizona native, Calhoun grew up rooting for the D-backs. The team should keep things interesting in the NL West.

The Philadelphia Phillies signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal. Wheeler, 29, posted a 3.65 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 374 strikeouts in 377.2 innings over the past two seasons. This addition comes at the expense of one of Philadelphia’s division rivals, the New York Mets.

The Phillies also added Didi Gregorius from the Yankees to play shortstop. 

The Atlanta Braves signed closer Will Smith to a three-year, $39 million contract. The former San Francisco Giants closer posted a 6-0 record with a 2.76 ERA, earning 34 saves. He has 49 saves in his career. 

Atlanta also signed former Phillies starter Cole Hamels to a one-year, $18 million deal. At 36-years-old, Hamels had a solid first half of 2019, but struggled in the second-half.

The Braves landed former Cardinals and Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna on a one-year, $18 million deal. Atlanta also signed former Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez to a minor league deal. 

Atlanta is poised to make a run at the NL pennant. 

Anthony Rendon signed a 7-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Coming off a World Series title with the Washington Nationals, Rendon joins a lineup with perennial AL MVP candidate Mike Trout. He slashed .319/.412/.598 in 2019, hitting 44 doubles, 34 home runs and a league-leading 126 RBI. 

The Angels failed to address their biggest need, a front-line ace, but the addition of Rendon makes this lineup incredibly potent.

Trades

Major League Baseball
David Price, left, and Mookie Betts are the newest Dodgers.(Photo Credit: Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers came together in a blockbuster trade that shook Major League Baseball in February.

Boston dealt former AL MVP Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price to the Dodgers for outfielder Alex Verdugo, as well as prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. This deal was financially motivated for the Red Sox, who sought to get under the luxury tax threshold. 

The deal also involved the Minnesota Twins, who landed Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda. The Twins shipped prospects Brusdar Graterol and Luke Raley to Los Angeles.   

The Dodgers are aiming for a World Series title. They feel rightly cheated out of the 2017 and 2018 championships, so adding Betts and Price could vault them to that elusive title. 

The Texas Rangers, who are opening a new ballpark in 2020, traded for two-time AL Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber. The Cleveland Indians shipped off the 20-game winner to the Rangers for outfielder Delino DeShields and reliever Emmanuel Clase

The Rangers are hoping to pack their new park and make a run at the playoffs. 

The San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays swapped outfielders in a five-player trade that was finalized Friday evening. Tampa Bay shipped Tommy Pham and minor leaguer Jake Cronenworth to San Diego, with Hunter Renfroe, infield prospect Xavier Edwards and a player to be named later going to Tampa Bay. 

Renfroe adds pop to the Rays lineup, since he hit 33 home runs in 2019. 

There were several other trades this offseason, such as Starling Marte going from Pittsburgh to Arizona. Also, the Miami Marlins acquired Jonathan Villar from the Baltimore Orioles. 

The Marlins are looking to make a leap in 2020, and adding Villar will help in that effort. Villar has been a productive player the past few seasons. In 2019, he slashed .273/.339/.453 while playing in all 162 games for Baltimore.

All of these moves should affect the race for the World Series.

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