Gerrit Cole is the No. 1 choice of the Yankees and Angels and possibly the Dodgers, Phillies, Giants and White Sox as well. So what will happen when he signs with one of them? How will the other teams shift their thinking?
Lucky for those clubs, MLB.com is here to help. Let’s consider a reasonable Plan B for teams in the Cole/Rendon/Strasburg market:
The Yankees' case is especially fascinating, since the team's interest level in other free agents isn’t clear. General manager Brian Cashman checks in on virtually every available player, but that does not translate to an actual offer. Cashman may see Cole as the only player on this market who could put the Yankees over the top in their pursuit of another championship. There’s a case to be made for both Strasburg and, to a lesser extent, Bumgarner. An even more interesting idea would be sending third baseman Miguel Andújar to the Rangers in a trade that would include veteran lefty Minor, who had a 4.2 WAR, according to FanGraphs, for Texas in 2019.
First choice: Cole
Plan B: Strasburg, Bumgarner
This isn’t complicated. The Angels are completely invested in adding Cole to the front of their rotation, and they may still be the logical front-runner. But the competition is so intense that what once seemed a foregone conclusion is anything but. That’s why the Halos will be closely watching the Strasburg market and hoping that Cole signs first to give them a solid Plan B. Things would become much more uncertain if they’re unable to sign either, with Bumgarner a probable Plan B.
The Dodgers want to add elite talent, and they are willing to address different areas of their team. Cole is their first choice, but they would also make a run at Strasburg and/or Rendon. If Los Angeles doesn't land any of those three, it has the Minor League depth to tempt the Indians to trade Lindor and perhaps Kluber in a mega swap. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has spent cautiously and accumulated prospects for an offseason like the one his team is hoping to have.
First choice: Rendon
Plan B: Josh Donaldson, Andújar
Rendon has been the Rangers' No. 1 target since the first day of free agency, and the team appears to feel cautiously optimistic about landing him. As long as Donaldson remains unsigned, Texas has another reasonable option. Things would get more complicated if the Rangers are unable to land either. They’ve discussed making a run at Andújar, but that would require giving up Minor, their best starting pitcher. For now, though, the club's first two choices are clear cut.
First choice: Strasburg
Plan B: Rendon, Donaldson, Bumgarner
Despite all the speculation, lots of people in the industry still believe the Nationals will sign both Strasburg and Rendon. While the price will be steep, the price for not signing them would be losing a bit of the momentum from winning the World Series. Donaldson would be a reasonable Plan B for losing Rendon. There’s no such fallback for losing Strasburg, which makes him their No. 1 choice.