We're now toe- to ankle-deep into the year 2021. Despite the relatively late date on MLB's offseason calendar, however, most prominent free agents and trade targets remain on the market or perched tantalizingly atop the trade block. As such, Monday occasions another round of MLB rumors and buzz, and we're here to round it up for you. Let us now do just that.
The Cubs are paring payroll, as they've already non-tendered Kyle Schwarber, who has since signed with the Nationals, and traded away Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish to the Padres. Rumors have swirled about Brant and catcher Willson Contreras for some time. At various points, the Nationals and Mets have been linked to Bryant, and now you can add the Blue Jays to the list.
Bryant, 29, is coming off a disappointing 2020 season in which he put up an OPS+ of 70 in 34 games for the Cubs. Those numbers, however, are dismissed easily enough given the small sample size involved and given that the season was played amid a global pandemic. Overall, Bryant owns a career OPS+ of 134 across parts of six major-league seasons with three All-Star appearances and the NL MVP award in 2016. Over that span, Bryant has averaged 31 home runs per 162 games played with significant time spent at third base and the outfield corners. Bryant has proved to be somewhat injury-prone in recent seasons, and that remains a concern moving forward. Bryant is third-year arbitration eligible for 2021, which means he's in for a substantial raise over his non-prorated 2020 salary of $18.6 million. He's slated for free agency after the upcoming season.
Braves eyeing outfield help
As Morosi notes, Austin Riley is expected to continue manning the hot corner, where he was the primary last season. Right now, the Braves are likely poised to go with Ronald Acuña Jr. in right, Cristian Pache in center, and Ender Inciarte in left. While Inciarte could be a defensive asset at a corner spot, he doesn't have the bat to carry the position.
The backdrop to all of this is that Marcell Ozuna, who was one of the NL's best hitters last season, is a free agent. In 2020, Ozuna was the Braves' primary DH, but it's not yet known whether there will again be a universal DH in 2021. That helps explain the slow market for Ozuna. Even if there's no DH, a reunion with Ozuna would make the most sense for the Braves, but they be unwilling to pay the going rates. Although Morosi doesn't get into specific targets for the Braves, free agents like Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, and Brett Gardner are on the market. Adam Duvall was quite productive in the role for the Braves last year, but they non-tendered him earlier in the offseason. However, a reunion may still be possible. It's not certain Atlanta would be in the market for pricier solutions like Michael Brantley.
Nats, Reds have talked Eugenio Suarez trade
The Nationals are seeking an upgrade at third base, and the Reds may have one available:
Nats talked to Reds about 3B Eugenio Suarez but Washington has made top RHP prospects Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli unavailable, making a deal pretty unlikely. Reds aren’t anxious to trade their top position player, though none of their players are off limits. @MLBNetwork— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 11, 2021
Heyman, of MLB Network, quickly qualifies by saying a trade of Suarez is unlikely given Washington's reluctance to trade their top prospects. That said, perhaps there's a foundation for further discussions.
Suarez, 29, over the last three seasons has racked up 98 home runs in 359 games, which establishes him as one of the top power hitters in MLB right now. Yes, his overall numbers were down a bit in 2020, but that's a small sample of games played amid a global pandemic. Suarez is signed through 2024 with a club option for the 2025 season at bargain rates, so it's obvious why an aspiring contender like the Nationals would be interested in him. Less certain is why the Reds would be open to trading him, assuming they are.