The 2020 MLB offseason has only just gotten started, and already the landscape of the league has shifted. Anthony Rendon has joined Mike Trout as a Los Angeles Angel, the Yankees returned to their ways of old by outbidding everyone for ace Gerrit Cole, and the Nationals retained one of their postseason heroes by signing Stephen Strasburg.
A whole lot of money and rumors has been thrown around, and really, it's only getting started. There are still some potential blockbuster trades to be made and more maneuvering to be done by a handful of clubs. Looking at the big picture, though, one common thread emerges: the stars from the 2011 MLB draft have come to fruition, and that class is dominating this offseason.
Cole was the No. 1 overall pick in that draft, selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He will enter the spring as a very wealthy man in pinstripes after signing a nine-year, $324 million deal with New York. Rendon? He was the No. 6 pick by Washington, and inked a seven-year, $245 million deal shortly after Cole. That's nearly $600 million to two of the top-ten picks in the draft.
When you expand it to outside the players who hit the open market this winter, the class still dominates the discussion. Mookie Betts is a perennial MVP candidate and a fifth-round pick in 2011 who will be the subject of trade rumors until a trade is made or he's seen suiting up in a Red Sox uniform in March. A contender could launch themselves into the championship favorite stratosphere by landing a player of his caliber. His fellow outfielder in Boston, Jackie Bradley Jr., was the 40th pick in the supplemental first round of that draft, and he also may be on the move as one of baseball's elite defensive center fielders.
Similarly, but to a lesser extent, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is a big impact player on the market, and he was selected 8th back in 2011. He hit .284 with 32 homers and outstanding fielding for Cleveland in 2019, and most recent rumors link him to the Dodgers. His All-Star presence would be a boon for any team that would land him.
Baseball drafts are different from their counterparts in the other three major American sports. NFL and NBA draft picks are, for the most part, expected to contribute immediately. NHL draft picks are given a bit more leeway, but even then, those who go in the top 10 usually are pegged as instant-impact players. But no No. 1 pick in any MLB draft will be expected to help his club from the outset. Because of the nature of the game and baseball's established farm system, it takes years for even the most exciting of prospects to make their way up to the big leagues and show off the star power that got everyone so excited in the first place.
In the case of the 2011 draft class, it took about eight years. But they've all arrived, and the immediate future of baseball rides on their shoulders.