How will top trade bait alter market? Execs weigh in

November 13th, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- This offseason’s trade market is loaded with as much premium talent as the free-agent pool, with names such as , and garnering early headlines for their potential availability.

It remains to be seen whether any of the three -- or all of them -- is moved before next season, but the possibility could have an impact on the way the rest of the offseason plays out.

Two years ago, the Marlins were shopping reigning National League MVP , with several teams in the mix to acquire the slugger. The rest of the market was lethargic at the same time, and while there was talk within the industry that the Stanton saga was putting a freeze on activity around the league as some contending teams such as the Yankees, Giants and Cardinals were waiting for a Stanton resolution, some believe that talk was simply an excuse.

Could the Betts, Lindor and Bryant situations have the same effect in the coming weeks and months?

“I think it’s going to be pretty limited in terms of the number of fits that you get for that level player,” one AL executive said. “Those teams are going to get a boatload if they’re going to move them. There are 30 teams that have interest in them, but to pay what they’re going to cost, how many realistic fits are there going to be? There might be a couple and that might slow them down to some regard, but I don’t see it as something that will hold the whole market up.”

One chief distinction between the 2017-18 offseason and the current one is the caliber of the free-agent class. The top free agents that winter were , , and , all of whom signed contracts worth between $75 million and $144 million.

The two top free agents this offseason are and , who are expected to land deals well north of $200 million. Behind them are , , and , all of whom should ink contracts worth as much as the $75 million Arrieta received two years ago. Strasburg should sign for double that amount.

“This free-agent group has some star power,” a second AL exec said. “[Betts, Lindor and Bryant] are premier players. There are premier players accessible through a variety of fronts, and if you want to get one, you have to go get one. You have to move. There are enough of them out there. I wouldn’t expect them to hold things up.”

The volume of top talent available on both the trade and free-agent fronts will give clubs myriad options to consider. One AL general manager believes the plethora of talent will present enough opportunities for teams to pivot from one player to another if they feel a drag in negotiations either in a trade or free-agent scenario.

“Clearly the more talent that’s available in the marketplace -- whether it’s trades or free agency -- it affects things,” the GM said. “It’s really hard to predict; ultimately, I think everybody is out there trying to make deals. You want to secure something that you’re going to feel really good about, whether it’s negotiating a free-agent contract or there’s a trade you feel you can live with. Keep it simple. If there are four different things out there, whether they’re trades or free agents, whatever has the potential to really materialize, then it’s decision time.

Managing responsibilities

Carlos Beltrán played as recently as two years ago, then spent the past season working as an advisor in the Yankees’ front office. So as the Mets work through their offseason plans and evaluate potential additions on either the trade or free-agent market, GM Brodie Van Wagenen plans to include new skipper Beltrán in the team’s decision-making process.

“We’ll lean on him heavily,” Van Wagenen said. “We prioritize information-gathering in our decision-making. We do a lot of diligence on the players that we’re considering and Carlos has history with a lot of them. Carlos has a lot of connections throughout the game and we’ll utilize all those relationships to help us gather more intel.”

Although several managers have assumed their role without any previous coaching or managerial experience, Beltrán has played in the Majors more recently than any other skipper in the league (the Cubs’ David Ross, who retired one year prior to Beltrán, is the closest). That gives Beltrán -- who played with and against many of the players the Mets will be considering -- a unique perspective that few people in his position currently have.

“Carlos has a pulse on the players,” Van Wagenen said. “I think that’s going to give him instant credibility and an advantage when he walks in the clubhouse.”