2021 Fantasy Baseball: The most impactful MLB offseason moves

Mo Castillo
·6-min read
Nolan Arenado, Trevor Bauer, Francisco Lindor.
Nolan Arenado, Trevor Bauer, and Francisco Lindor — all stars on new teams. (Photos by: Matthew Stockman/Dylan BuellGetty Images/AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Trevor Bauer signs with Los Angeles Dodgers

Remember that scene in Avengers: Infinity War (I'd say, "Spoiler alert!" but c'mon, it's been nearly three years) when Thanos finally obtained the final Infinity Stone from Vision's lifeless body?

I thought of that scene when the news broke that Trevor Bauer had signed with the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

The team is poised to repeat, but how will Bauer perform from a fantasy perspective? He's coming off a Cy Young-winning season, albeit a shortened one. His only truly elite season from a results standpoint before that was 2018.

The Dodgers provide as much insulation to a starting pitcher's fantasy value as any team in baseball, so his spot as a top-five ranked fantasy starter is secure — even if it comes with some serious regression risk.

Nolan Arenado traded to St. Louis Cardinals

There's a common chicken-egg argument surrounding Colorado Rockies players: Just how good are they, and how much of their production is boosted by Coors Field?

Well, we might get our clearest answer yet to that dilemma this year, as superstar Nolan Arenado will join a new team for the first time in his illustrious eight-year career.

[Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

To put things into perspective, Coors Field was second in 2020 park-factor run-scoring. St. Louis' Busch Stadium was 19th on that list. So, not exactly a one-for-one swap in terms of stadiums (kind of like DJ LeMahieu did when he joined the Yanks?).

All that said, the uber-talented and consistent Arenado will be joining a franchise used to winning, so maybe he plays inspired. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, this change comes with serious risk, hence his fourth-place position in our analysts' third-base draft rankings (when he normally would be first or second).

Francisco Lindor traded to New York Mets

A splashy swap for sure, but this trade is great for fantasy. The Mets led the league in batting average and were third in hits and total bases, and now they've added a true superstar in Lindor who excels in all three categories. He should do damage in a low-key potent lineup.

Or, at the very least, Lindor will help shore up a horrendous Mets defense that will do wonders for Jacob deGrom's bottom line (help this man, please!).

Yu Darvish traded to San Diego Padres

If Bauer signing with the Dodgers is akin to Thanos completing the Infinity Gauntlet, then the Padres trading for ace Yu Darvish is the Avengers trying to stop him.

Darvish came in second in NL Cy Young voting to the aforementioned Bauer, and it's no surprise why. Darvish has been one of the most electrifying starters in baseball (with his fair share of struggles — kind of like Bauer, actually) and now he'll join one of the top pitcher-friendly parks and a team that fashions itself one of the few real World Series contenders in baseball. Darvish is our consensus fifth-ranked starting pitcher for fantasy drafts.

George Springer signs with Toronto Blue Jays

It's unclear where the Blue Jays will call home to start the 2021 season, but a team that features the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. added THE premier free-agent hitter in George Springer.

Springer is one season removed from 39 home runs, and now he'll help anchor a great lineup that we'll talk even more about below. This should be fun.

Blake Snell traded to San Diego Padres

Another ace to the Avengers — I mean, the Padres. Durability is the biggest concern for Snell, but dominance is definitely in the range of outcomes for him when he's on and healthy.

We always want our fantasy starters to be on winning teams, and few teams have higher 2021 expectations than the Padres. Snell is worth the risk.

Liam Hendriks signs with Chicago White Sox

The White Sox added arguably the best reliever in baseball in Hendriks. He'll join a rapidly ascending team with a strong offense and one of the best relief corps in MLB. If you take Hendriks as the first closer in drafts, I doubt anyone will argue with you. The White Sox are on the come up.

And speaking of the White Sox ...

Lance Lynn traded to Chicago White Sox

Lynn had a bit of an unexpected resurgence in two seasons with the Texans Rangers after a couple of tough years with the Twins and Yankees. He received top-six Cy Young votes both in 2019 and 2020, so the White Sox are undoubtedly banking on a continuation.

That said, he'll turn 34 after the first month of the season, and his 2020 FIP (4.19) was a little scary. Check on his velocity in Spring Training — if he can keep his fastball in the 93-94 mph range, he should be fine as a top-20 starting pitcher draft pick.

Marcus Semien signs with Toronto Blue Jays

Adding Semien — who had a career year in 2019 with 33 home runs — provides Toronto with a lot of infield flexibility, and it gives Semien's fantasy value a boost thanks to leaving a tough park in Oakland and the potent Blue Jays lineup around him.

Charlie Morton signs with Atlanta Braves

Yes, Morton is 37, but from 2017-2019 he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He stumbled en route to a 4.74 ERA last season, however, but a .355 BABIP probably didn't help him much. He'll join a contending Atlanta team but, like Lance Lynn, be sure to watch Morton's velocity in Spring Training closely; it was on a downward spiral early in 2020 before picking up again.

Honorary mention: Jameson Taillon traded to New York Yankees

Taillon just missed this list due to the question marks surrounding his health and potential, but it seems like Gerrit Cole vouched for the young pitcher en route to him donning pinstripes this season.

The Yankees rotation is literally Cole and a bunch of "What ifs?" so if the 29-year-old Taillon can A) Stay healthy B) Live up to his rookie pedigree and C) Return close to his 2018 showing, then the Yankees (and fantasy managers who use a low-risk draft pick on Taillon) will look like geniuses.