Major League Baseball’s offseason always throws sparks, but with contracts in limbo due to COVID-19, nothing was certain this past year.
The 2020-2021 free agency offseason period for MLB was eventful regardless, so here are all of the moves you might have missed that will bring extreme change to the 2021 season.
Padres go for the gusto, chase Dodgers
The San Diego Padres broke out during the 2020 season, with stars Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. becoming household names on the diamond. Their newfound talent was not enough to push them past the Los Angeles Dodgers, however, as they lost against their NL West rivals in the postseason.
Many teams would be satisfied with such a breakout season. Padres General Manager A.J. Preller was not.
San Diego exploded onto the free-agent market this offseason, signing star pitchers Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to new contracts and even landing a significant international free agent in the form of Korean star fielder Ha-Seong Kim. The team also traded for veteran pitcher Joe Musgrove to bolster the rotation.
San Diego was short-handed with pitching this year; their two standout pitchers were injured during the postseason. Their bats could carry some of the weight, enough so that they won a postseason series against St. Louis, but the pitching lagged too far behind in their loss to the Dodgers. So what does the Padres front office do?
They sign two of the biggest pitching free agents in the entire league. Problem solved? Perhaps, but the Padres and their fans will eagerly await the 2021 season to find out.
Blue Jays break into the AL East arms race
While most would argue that the Padres and their pitcher signings are the biggest news of the offseason, fans would be remiss to leave the Blue Jays out of the conversation.
With the Yankees and Rays dominating the AL East division for the past few seasons, the Blue Jays have slowly been rebuilding their team to make a run at the postseason. This build finally reached its peak in the 2020-2021 offseason.
To start, Toronto signed superstar outfielder George Springer to a six-year contract. This filled one of their biggest needs and turned some heads around the baseball world.
Then they signed lights-out closer Kirby Yates. After him came shortstop Marcus Semien, who finished third in 2019 MVP voting. As if that wasn’t enough, now they’ve signed starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood and are looking for more. Paired with the outbreak of talent from players like rookie Bo Bichette and breakout hitter Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto has fleshed out its roster in an attempt to become competitive again.
While many think they still need to sign some starting pitching to fully make the jump, it looks like the Blue Jays are ready to make noise in their division again.
NL East will be a bloodbath
Many analysts predicted that if the right signings were made in the offseason, the NL East division would be one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball. Who knows if these were the changes they expected, but it looks like the teams in the division are going to be neck-and-neck with each other once again.
The New York Mets signed generational shortstop Francisco Lindor to a new multi-year contract.
The Philadelphia Phillies finally extended J.T. Realmuto, giving him the largest annual average contract for a catcher in the history of Major League Baseball, according to CBS Sports.
The Braves signed talented veteran pitchers Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to one-year deals to help shore up their young pitching core.
The Nationals acquired fan-favorite sluggers Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber to boost their offense.
Even if the Marlins are the outlier because they have not made any moves this offseason, the other four teams in the NL East have all made great offseason moves to keep up with each other in what should be one of the most competitive groups in all of baseball for 2021.
With all of these players finding their new homes across the league, there are even more that have still not signed. Two of 2020’s biggest superstar names —Trevor Bauer and Marcell Ozuna — are free agents. Neither has signed with a team.
As the 2021 season approaches, fans will watch closely to see what other events will alter the landscape of another exciting year of baseball.
Micah Johnston ‘22 is a journalism and media studies double major who has written for The Cluster since his freshman year at Mercer. He has written on and reported for Georgia Public Broadcasting, The Macon Telegraph and The Macon Newsroom on a variety of topics. He received the Center for Collaborative Journalism’s Junior Honors Award for the 2020-2021 academic year. Micah’s other interests include obsessively following Braves and Mariners baseball, constantly listening to all kinds of music and probably eating junk food.