Eventful offseason sets the tone for baseball in 2021

A baseball player is pictured. Courtesy Jose Francisco Morales / Unsplash

Baseball fans are beginning to emerge from hibernation. With pitchers and catchers reporting to camp for all 30 MLB teams last week, spring training is officially underway. For some fans, the new season comes with added excitement, given the busy offseason that’s played out since the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in late October. 

The Miami Marlins made headlines — and history — early when they hired Kim Ng as their general manager. Ng, the first woman and first East Asian American to hold that position for any Major League team, received a flurry of congratulatory messages from baseball executives and even some of her idols, like Michelle Obama and retired tennis superstar Billie Jean King. Ng comes with a great deal of experience, having served as the senior vice president of baseball operations for MLB since 2011. Prior to assuming that position, she was the assistant general manager for the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The New York Mets front office also made waves in the fall. Fred Wilpon, who has owned at least part of the team since 1986, along with his son Jeff and brother-in-law Saul Katz, ceded control when Steve Cohen bought 95% of the team’s shares for an estimated $2.42 billion. Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan, is the wealthiest owner in baseball. 

Cohen was arguably quick to flash that superlative. After former All-Star and Gold Glove award winner Marcus Stroman accepted an $18.9 million qualifying offer from the Mets in mid-November, Cohen’s front office signed Trevor May to a two-year deal. May, formerly a Minnesota Twin, is a strikeout-heavy reliever who adds depth to the Mets bullpen. 

The Mets also made an upgrade behind the plate, signing James McCann, a former Chicago White Sock, to a four-year, $40.6 million deal. McCann broke out with his bat and made an All-Star appearance in 2019 after several mediocre seasons with the Detroit Tigers. 

Perhaps the biggest news of the offseason for Mets fans came in early January, when the team announced it had acquired shortstop and four-time All-Star Francisco Lindor, along with right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco, from Cleveland. Lindor is an offensive juggernaut who boasts some of the league’s best defensive skills, making him the elite player Mets fans have been craving for years. 

Notably, the Mets missed out on reigning NL Cy Young award winner Trevor Bauer, who was a free agent this winter. Bauer announced his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a theatrical video he posted to his YouTube channel in early February. He earned a three-year, $102 million deal with two opt-outs. Bauer will round out a rotation that already has two former Cy Young award winners in Clayton Kershaw and David Price. 

The reigning World Series champions didn’t stop at Bauer, though. Just four days prior to the start of Spring Training, the Dodgers re-signed Justin Turner to a two-year, $34 million deal with a club option for 2023. Turner, who will be celebrating his eighth consecutive year in Los Angeles, has hit above .300 in four of the past seven seasons, though at age 36, he is moving away from his prime. Turner has also become notable for his violation of MLB’s COVID-19 protocols at the end of the 2020 season. He tested positive for the virus and was subsequently pulled from Game 6 of the World Series in the eighth inning, only to celebrate maskless with his teammates after they won soon after.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who won the American League in 2020, also made moves this offseason. They traded Blake Snell, the former Cy Young award winner, to the San Diego Padres for four relatively well-regarded prospects. They also signed righty Chris Archer, their former ace who spent his last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Along with Snell, the Padres acquired Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs for Zach Davies, a right-handed pitcher, and four prospects. Darvish, a four-time All-Star who won eight games for the Cubs in the shortened 2020 season, will add star power to an already solid rotation in San Diego. 

Another big move in the National League came when the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed arguably the best catcher in baseball in J.T. Realmuto. He’s a defensive stalwart who’s put up consistent numbers at the plate, and at age 29, has several years of productivity left in him. 

Also in the National League, the Colorado Rockies traded Nolan Arenado, their longtime third-baseman who happens to have eight Gold Gloves and five All-Star appearances on his resume, to the St. Louis Cardinals. Although Arenado struggled with a shoulder injury last year, he brings a wealth of experience and adds depth — at the very least — to the Cardinals’ lineup. 

In the American League, probably the biggest move came when the Toronto Blue Jays signed George Springer, the former Houston Astro, to a six-year, $150 million deal. Springer adds pop to the lineup — he slugged 39 home runs in 2019 — and he has a track record of winning, despite being caught up in the Astros’ cheating scandal that has since marred their 2017 World Series victory. Springer’s former teammate, Michael Brantley, decided to stay in Houston. A career .297 hitter, he signed for two years and $32 million. 

Finally, it wouldn’t be an offseason without notable action from the New York Yankees. This winter, they signed a couple of elite players in Corey Kluber and DJ LeMahieu. Kluber, who signed for one year and $11 million, has battled injuries the past two seasons, and at age 34, his glory years likely have passed. Nonetheless, Kluber has two Cy Young Awards under his belt and adds notoriety, at least, to a depleted Yankee rotation. LeMahieu, who signed a six-year, $90 million deal, has been solid over the past two seasons with the Yankees, batting over .300 in both of them. 

To round out the offseason with a bang, budding superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. signed one of the largest deals in MLB history — a 14-year, $340 million contract extension with the Padres.

It’s safe to say that baseball fans were kept entertained this winter. Here’s to a safe and exciting season, and perhaps one that lasts longer than 60 games.