2021 is looking like it will be a year of familiarity in the MLB. One of the most intriguing trends in terms of signings and acquisitions is teams getting in touch with players who used to excel for their clubs and getting them back. This was a lower key trend until the past few days, where Jake Arrieta returned to Chicago and James Paxton returned to Seattle. And now I have to look at the whole offseason from this perspective. Why are people coming back, what are they expecting to get from this, and are the fans cool with it.
Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Initial Impact: 5 seasons of exemplary work, a Cy Young, a no-no, a World Series, and membership into a mega-rotation that made it happen.
Why Now?: Arrieta's three seasons in Philly have reduced him to a lower-tier, occasionally good starter, and perhaps returning to Chicago could refresh some of his memory.
Will the Fans be Receptive?: Oh yeah, they loved Arrieta in his heyday, and they weren't too betrayed when he left for Philly. They should be excited, even if Kyle Hendricks will still be the star of the show this year.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners
Initial Impact: After some early-season struggles, became a key strikeout artist during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, notched a no-no of his own in Canada, and became a sure-to-be successor to King Felix's throne.
Why Now?: In his seasons in the Bronx, Paxton has yet to evade his ability to get injured at the absolute worst times. His 2020 was nonexistent almost, and featured several subpar starts that led to his stock dropping drastically in 2021. The Ms calling was all he needed.
Will the Fans be Receptive?: A little. They loved him then, but they know as well as anyone how unreliable he can be as far as health is concerned.
Adam Eaton, Chicago White Sox
Initial Impact: Three seasons of high-contact, impressive-defense work that made him a fan favorite despite this being the heat of the Ventura era.
Why Now? Adam Eaton is still technically on the same page as he was in 2017 when he left, but he only really had one complete, Chicago-tier season in Washington. The rest were either injury-truncated, or very, very mediocrely 2020. So maybe he wants to see if his previous environment will call for better luck.
Will the Fans be Receptive?: Slightly, but this is an older Adam Eaton looking for playing time in an outfield consisting of Adam Engel, Leury Garcia, Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. So he may have to DH.
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
Initial Impact: Archer was the prime ace after David Price's departure, having a Cy-Young-caliber season in 2015 and two ASG nominations, and keeping the Rays in the race. The unnerving thing is his current woes started about a year and a half before he left for Pittsburgh, and his ERA rising was probably one of the factors that led to trading him to Pittsburgh for some prospects that'd win them the East in 2020.
Why Now? Archer's tenure in Pittsburgh has been mostly abhorrent. Last season, right when he was getting things together, he got injured and opted out. He needs to prove himself as a league-wide talent again, and a reunion with the Rays could help.
Will the Fans be Receptive?: Yeah, they're gonna love it for his first few starts just on a recognition factor, but unless he has some material left, he's in for a rude awakening.
Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves
Initial Impact: A rookie season in 2008, a 4-8 record with a 6+ ERA, and not much support before being shipped to Atlanta for Nate McLouth
Why Now?: Next to Rich Hill, Charlie Morton is one of the best 35 and up pitchers in baseball, and seeing as Hill just took his spot in the Rays rotation, Morton still wants to compete and continue his success alongside a rotation of kids.
Will the Fans be Receptive?: Yes, but for reasons that have nothing to do with Morton's previous Braves tenure. Look, Braves fans are gonna get a kick out of Charlie Morton in good form pitching for their club, I don't see why they wouldn't. I don't know if anybody has any 2008-era Braves Morton jerseys, but this season may call for some fans wearing some Nike ones.
Jason Castro, Houston Astros
Initial Impact: Castro was the Toby Hall of the post-AL-move Astros, being a solid everyday catcher for the first few years until they figured out how to compete. He was a decent starting catcher, but his decency would lead to him being in Minnesota by the time the Astros won it all.
Why Now?: Castro has bopped around a bit in the last year, split 2020 with Anaheim and San Diego, and is starting less and less games. Houston gave him a backup role, but he's still receptive.
Will the Fans be Receptive?: I think so. The real Astros fans will respect Castro for his early-2010s play and love to see him back in any capacity. The new-age Astros fans will complain that Maldonado isn't starting
Mike Minor, Kansas City Royals
Initial Impact: Mike Minor was nearly out of a career after bottoming out of Atlanta when he wound up as a relief option in KC in 2016. There he had an incredible season out of the pen, reestablished his star quality, and got the eye of Texas, who converted him back to a starter and made him a star again.
Why Now? The pixie dust has worn off, and after a disappointing 2020 split between Texas and Oakland, Minor needs to reclaim as much of his former mojo as possible, so perhaps a reunion with the team that jumpstarted the comeback will work
Will the Fans be Receptive?: Not especially. There'll be a few diehards from 2016 who'll be relieved to see Minor again, but most Royals fans will be worried that he doesn't have anything left if he's washed up on this shore.
Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics
Initial Impact: In two different tenures with the A's, Lowrie went from bench option and infield utility player to all-star second baseman and contact aficionado, nabbing his best full-season numbers of his career as an Athletic.
Why Now?: His Mets tenure should have been a way of telling people he could play for a true contender, but he only played 9 games in 2 seasons. The A's worked for him before, maybe they'll work again.
Will the Fans be Receptive?: Yes, they'll wanna see the old-fan favorite again, but considering how far the team has come even in 2 years, will they WANT to see Lowrie taking reps at 2nd over Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder?
So yeah, that's some interesting storylines regarding the movement to bring players back. I hope it works for all of these guys, and that former environments lead to future success.