Earlier this week during the virtual 2020 MLB Winter Meetings, the Chicago White Sox acquired right-handed pitcher Lance Lynn as part of a three-player trade with the Texas Rangers. Lynn had been considered one of the top starters on the trade block. His removal does not mean that the trade market has dried up, however. Rather, it appears that this is a good winter to trade for a veteran starting pitcher.
To illustrate as much, below we've highlighted seven pitchers below who could be on the move ahead of Opening Day 2021. These pitchers have either been identified as being on the block, or are logical candidates to be placed on the block before the winter ends.
Do note that the pitchers are listed in alphabetical order.
Carlos Carrasco made a full return in 2020 after missing time in 2019 following a cancer diagnosis. He started 12 times and posted a 2.91 ERA (157 ERA+) and a 3.04 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Cleveland would probably prefer to keep Carrasco, who is one of the most well-liked players in the league, yet there are other factors at play. He's guaranteed $27 million over the next two seasons, with a club option for 2023 that could push that figure to $38 million -- a reasonable chunk of change given his track record, albeit one Cleveland's ownership might prefer not be on the books heading forward. If Carrasco does remain on Cleveland's roster, he'll earn his 10-5 rights early next season, which would complicate future trade talks. This, then, might be Cleveland's last real chance at trading Carrasco and getting the best possible return.
The expectation around the league is that the Cubs will hire Diamondbacks executive Jared Porter as their next general manager. When and if Porter takes over, he'll likely commence a reset that could see the Cubs move on from most of their core pieces over the next 12 to 18 months. That process may include parting ways with right-handers Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks. Darvish, who finished second in Cy Young Award voting, is guaranteed $60 million over the next three seasons; Hendricks, meanwhile, is set to make at least $43.5 million through the 2023 season, with a vesting option for 2024 that could see him rake in closer to $60 million. Both are intelligent, above-average starters who go about their business in different ways, and who are likely to draw interest if and when they're made available.
The Reds have already traded away one veteran pitcher this week, in closer Raisel Iglesias, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see them find a deal for Sonny Gray. Cincinnati is intent on reducing payroll despite reaching the postseason for the first time since 2013. Gray has two guaranteed seasons and $20 million remaining on his pact, a trifling amount compared to what he would get on the open market. While he has his blemishes -- namely, his command -- that bit of surplus value should make him an appealing target for a team seeking a mid-rotation arm.
The Pirates don't have a ton of marketable pieces, but Joe Musgrove qualifies as one. He won't hit free agency until after the 2022 season, meaning an acquiring team would have him under control for another two years. Given his track record -- he has a 99 ERA+ and a 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last three seasons -- he's a fine bet to be a No. 4 starter, and perhaps a smidge more if he can sustain some of the gains he made in 2020.
Blake Snell is no stranger to getting a quick hook. The next instance of that might come this winter, as the Rays investigate trade scenarios for their ace. To be clear, Tampa Bay could justify keeping Snell around for a while longer-- he has three years and $39 million remaining on his contract -- yet ownership's self-imposed budget limitations mean that the front office will have to weigh his on-the-field production with their potential to extract the greatest possible trade return. Even if Snell remains in town for another season, we'll be right back here discussing him as a trade candidate next winter.
The Phillies have denied that they're open to trading Zack Wheeler a season into his five-year pact. We're including him anyway because they're almost assuredly willing to listen to offers for him, even if they aren't actively shopping him around, and sometimes that's enough for a trade to happen. Wheeler is coming off a season in which he posted a 156 ERA+ and a 3.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The remaining four years of his contract will pay him $96.5 million.