The Cardinals, Indians, White Sox and Astros all made moves on the first day of the offseason. Let’s take a look and judge these moves.
Setting the Tone for the Offseason: Club Options
Cardinals, Kolten Wong
The first significant move that was made was the Cardinals declining the 12.5M option of Gold Glove 2B Kolten Wong. The 2B has provided the team with great defense and a slightly below-average bat for the past six seasons.
In 2019, he had a 3.7 fWAR and in 2020, he was on pace for 3.4 in a full 162 game season. Generally speaking, one WAR is worth about $8M, meaning he is worth well more than $12.5M.
To me, this move doesn’t really make much sense, but the Cardinals may have set the precedent for a low market, where the lower tier options will miss out on the opportunities they normally get.
The Cardinals are notorious for making questionable moves, like letting Marcell Ozuna walk, giving Dexter Fowler $82.5M, or trading Randy Arozarena and Luke Voit.
Some potential suitors for Wong are the Cardinals (on a retooled contract) and the Nationals.
Indians, Brad Hand
The Cleveland Indians finished in 2nd place in the AL Central with a 35-25 record, the fourth-best in the American League. On the second day of the offseason, they declined closer Brad Hand’s $10M option after a blown save in Game 2 of the ALWC vs New York.
This seems like a move that could start the blow-up of the Indians this offseason, due to ownership’s unwillingness to spend. This could open the door for some bigger moves, like declining the option of First baseman Carlos Santana’s, or trading superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor.
The Indians have a knack for pitching development, but their offense was horrible in 2020. They finished as the #4 seed in the American League, but the White Sox and Twins should continue to be great.
It might be time for the Indians to rebuild, which could have massive implications for the rest of the offseason. They may also just be making a few moves to cut payroll, just as other teams are.
Astros, Roberto Osuna
Osuna threw just 4.1 innings in 2020 and was placed on outright waivers on the first day of the offseason. The former All-Star closer was expected to receive around $10M in arbitration in 2021.
His injury and his domestic violence suspension have caused him to miss a lot of time over the last three seasons, and he was a pretty obvious non-tender candidate, especially given the circumstances this offseason.
Osuna (25) and Hand (30) will receive offers this winter from teams that need a back-end bullpen arm to shut down games.
White Sox, Tony LaRussa, AJ Hinch
The White Sox fired Rick Renteria after his mismanagement of Game 3 of the AL Wild Card round against the Oakland Athletics. They decided to bring back former manager Tony LaRussa after firing him in 1986. LaRussa went on to win the 1989 World Series in Oakland and the 2006 and 2011 World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
LaRussa is an interesting pick here, as he is 76 and hasn’t managed in MLB since 2011. Some other options were AJ Hinch and Alex Cora, who were both involved in the 2017 Astros cheating scandals, but have otherwise proven themselves as great managers.
The former Astros manager was thought to be the favorite, but the White Sox signed the Hall of Famer instead, leaving Hinch for the Detroit Tigers.
LaRussa seems like a bad fit for the up and coming White Sox, who enjoy having fun on the field, while the old school manager has voiced his opinions on breaking the unwritten rules of the game. He will have to adjust to the analytics and excitement of modern baseball, or else this may look bad for both sides.