Moves to watch in AL East as 2020 ends

December 9th, 2020

The MLB Winter Meetings would have been in full swing were it not for COVID-19, but the trade and free-agent markets are heating up anyway, and all five teams from the American League East are looking to make a splash before 2020 comes to an end.

It could be the one move that helps them improve in 2021. With that in mind, we asked the AL East beat writers to come up with one move to watch before the end of the year.

Blue Jays: The pursuit of George Springer
The Blue Jays can go in several directions for their big splash, but Springer offers the club the rare opportunity to land a star center fielder, something they've coveted for years. Toronto can pivot off of Springer if it can't land the three-time All Star, but this has to be atop the club's list of priorities given the fit and its payroll flexibility. The top of the market hasn't moved much yet, but the Blue Jays have the ability to drive this market if they choose to. You'll hear their name attached to nearly every other free agent available, but Springer makes too much sense. Beyond his raw power numbers -- with 40-homer potential -- Springer's ability to reach base at a .360 clip or better would take the top of Toronto's lineup from good to great. -- Keegan Matheson

Orioles: Sign a shortstop
The rebuilding Orioles aren’t going to play at the top of the free-agent market, but they need a shortstop after dealing José Iglesias to the Angels for pitching prospects at the non-tender deadline. None of the O’s best shortstop prospects (Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg or Adam Hall, to name a few) are big league ready yet, and internal options are limited to utility types like Richie Martin and Pat Valaika. Last winter, the Orioles bought low on Iglesias and were rewarded when the veteran enjoyed a career year offensively, before they turned him into a trade chip. Expect Baltimore to try something similar this time around. But with who? Andrelton Simmons, the man Iglesias’ replaced in Los Angeles? The thin shortstop market might get too competitive for that, despite Simmons’ poor 2020 season. Freddy Galvis is another option, as well as old friend Jonathan Villar. -- Joe Trezza

Rays: Who will be behind the plate?
The biggest hole on Tampa Bay's roster is at the catcher position. Mike Zunino, Michael Perez and Kevan Smith -- the three catchers from the 2020 season -- are all gone, leaving top catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández as the only catcher on the 40-man roster. And while Hernández could very well be the catcher of the future, he hasn’t played above Class A Advanced, making him a highly unlikely option for the Opening Day roster. The Rays will continue to sort out the free-agent and trade markets over the next couple of weeks, but the club will need to acquire three catchers this offseason, with one of them ideally being an impact player. -- Juan Toribio

Red Sox: Is Corey Kluber the man?
To anyone who watched the Red Sox last season, it’s apparent they need to bolster the starting rotation. It will be interesting to see how chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom pursues this glaring need. Will he think big and make a run at Trevor Bauer, who is the best starting pitcher on the market? Given the fact that the Red Sox would need to provide the Reds with Draft compensation in a Bauer signing, Bloom might be more inclined to go to the second tier of starting pitchers. One intriguing candidate is former AL Cy Young Award winner Kluber, who has only pitched in eight games over the past two seasons due to injuries. Kluber’s upside is well known and he maintains his offseason home in a Boston suburb. The Red Sox could likely get him on a short-term deal, which would allow Kluber to prove his worth and test free agency again once he has more leverage. -- Ian Browne

Yankees: The move to sign DJ LeMahieu
LeMahieu remains the top priority, following back-to-back seasons in which the infielder was the club’s most valuable player. The reigning batting champion has said several times that his preference would be to remain in New York. LeMahieu is reportedly seeking a five-year deal in the $100 million range, which may explain why his market has been slow to develop through the early portion of the offseason. Industry insiders continue to believe that LeMahieu is most likely to return to the Yankees, where he slots as the club’s leadoff hitter and a stabilizing presence in the middle infield. Until the club receives clarity on their pursuit of LeMahieu, they seem unlikely to move on to their other needs, including replenishing the starting rotation behind ace Gerrit Cole. -- Bryan Hoch