Loading scores...
Hot Stove Blog

Winter Meetings Storylines

by David Shovein
Updated On: December 10, 2018, 1:39 am ET

In a stark contrast to the past few seasons where nothing major happened in terms of player movement prior to the winter meetings, this offseason has already been a bonanza. That’s both in terms of free agent movement and trades.


Patrick Corbin, who was considered the top free agent starting pitcher on the market, signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Nationals. Nathan Eovaldi already re-upped with the Red Sox for four years and $68 million. Josh Donaldson landed a one-year pillow contract with the Braves for $23 million.


We have also seen Garrett Richards (Padres), Kurt Suzuki (Nationals), Jonathan Schoop (Twins), Trevor Rosenthal (Nationals), Matt Moore (Tigers), Brian McCann (Braves), Chris Owings (Royals) and Jesse Chavez (Rangers) find new homes for 2019, while C.C. Sabathia (Yankees), Brett Gardner (Yankees), Eduardo Escobar (Diamondbacks), Steve Pearce (Red Sox), David Freese (Dodgers), Adam Wainwright (Cardinals) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers) will remain with their previous teams.


The Mariners have lit the world on fire from a trade perspective, shipping Mike Zunino off to the Rays, Jean Segura to the Phillies, Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets and James Paxton to the Yankees.


The Cardinals have also made a major acquisition, acquiring superstar slugger Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks for a package of prospects that included Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly.

Top Free Agents Available


Most offseasons, there are plenty of intriguing names available on the free agent market, with interest expected to intensify during the winter meetings.


This year, it has been amplified exponentially. Prognosticators have been pointing to the 2018-2019 offseason for years due to the superstars that were expected to reach free agency this winter. This class has lived up to that expectation.


The top dog on the market is 26-year-old slugger Bryce Harper, who is set to shatter the previous record for the largest free agent contract ever handed out. That distinction belongs to Alex Rodriguez, who signed for $275 million following the 2007 season. He should also top the largest contract ever, besting the 13-year, $325 million extension that Giancarlo Stanton inked with the Marlins two years prior to hitting free agency. Harper is expected to land a contract exceeding 10 years and $300 million.


If it was any other year, or any other off-season, Manny Machado would be considered the top free agent available, but with Harper also in play he needs to be considered 1A for this free agent crop.


Like Harper, he’s also likely to shatter the previous free agent record held by Rodriguez. Unlike Harper, who’s expected to play right field wherever he winds up, Machado will play a premium defensive position, either at shortstop or third base depending on his landing spot.


Behind the top two options, there’s still plenty to like for teams looking to fill holes.


Now that Corbin has already signed at the top of the starting pitching market and Nathan Eovaldi re-signed with the Red Sox, look for Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton to attract the most interest next. Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi should also do well for himself through the posting process. If looking for starting pitching help at a lower cost, teams could try to shop in the Gio Gonzalez, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, Lance Lynn range.


As far as bullpen help goes, look no further than Craig Kimbrel, Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino, Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Joe Kelly, Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria. Some may land in ninth-inning roles, while others will work in a setup capacity for contending teams. Their fantasy value will be heavily tied to whether or not they wind up closing.


Behind those top two superstar hitters, and with Josh Donaldson already off the board as well, there’s still plenty to like as contending and rebuilding clubs alike attempt to fill holes on their rosters. The next best targets in terms of position players are Yasmani Grandal, A.J. Pollock, Michael Brantley, Andrew McCutchen, Wilson Ramos, Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz and Jed Lowrie. Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, D.J. LeMahieu, Mike Moustakas and Adam Jones are also looking for work.


Trade Possibilities


As far as the trade market goes, there have already been plenty of fireworks behind the firesale from Jerry Dipoto in Seattle and the Diamondbacks’ dealing away their franchise star in Goldschmidt.


There should still be movement on the trade front at the winter meetings though, and Dipoto could still be active. He still has veteran players to deal away as the Mariners are mired in a full rebuild, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Kyle Seager, Dee Gordon or Mike Leake dealt away, nor would it be shocking to see Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Carlos Santana or any of the other contracts he was forced to take on in other trades be flipped for prospects. Dipoto has also said that Mitch Haniger is untouchable, but he said the same about Edwin Diaz before he was traded to the Mets.


There have been rumblings since the end of the season that the Indians’ starting pitchers could be available for trade, and though Carlos Carrasco just signed a contract extension, the Tribe could still deal away Corey Kluber and/or Trevor Bauer.


The Tigers are expected to be entertaining offers for Nicholas Castellanos. The Mets are at least listening to offers for Noah Syndergaard, though they’ll need to be blown away in order to actually trade the right-hander.


The White Sox aren’t actively shopping Jose Abreu, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see him plucked away for the right offer.


The Dodgers have consistently been mentioned as a suitor for Bryce Harper, but they’ll need to deal away from their excess of outfielders if they are to make such a move. That would mean that Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp or Joc Pederson could be had for the right price.


The Reds could look to deal Scooter Gennett if they decide that they aren’t willing to sign him to a long-term contract extension. The Brewers still have too many outfielders and should try to jettison at least one of Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana and Eric Thames.


The Marlins continue to shop top backstop J.T. Realmuto, but reportedly have been rebuffed by several teams due to their high asking price. The Mets recently indicated that they had no intention of including the Michael Conforto/Brandon Nimmo combination in a deal for Realmuto and aren’t interested in dealing Amed Rosario either. The Padres also have “genuine interest” in acquiring Realmuto according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.


The Yankees also seem incredibly likely to deal Sonny Gray sooner rather than later. The Padres, Brewers, Athletics, Reds, Braves, Rangers and Twins have all expressed interest in acquiring the right-hander.


Also, while nothing is likely to happen this week, the Giants are at least willing to listen to offers on star southpaw Madison Bumgarner. The Phillies, Brewers, Yankees and Braves have already expressed interest.


Welcome to the Hall


On Sunday, The Today’s Game Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — formerly known as the Veterans Committee -- selected two players to be enshrined in Cooperstown: Lee Smith and Harold Baines.


Smith, one of the greatest closers of all-time, amassed 478 saves during his 18 years in the big leagues. He was a seven-time All-Star, and finished in the top-five in Cy Young voting three different times. He was a unanimous selection, getting votes from all 16 members of the committee.


Baines, on the other hand, just squeaked in, garnering the minimum 75% (12 of 16) votes required. Many will argue that Baines was merely a compiler of stats during his 22-year big league career -- the majority of which was spent as a full-time designated hitter.

A career .289/.356/.465 hitter with 384 homers and 1628 RBI, Baines made six All-Star teams during his career. He was never a dominant force though. Not once did he lead the league in any hitting category, and he never finished higher than ninth in MVP voting. In fact, he only received MVP votes four times during his 22-year career. To be fair to Baines though, without the work stoppages in 1981, 1994 and 1995, Baines likely would have reached the 3,000 hit milestone (finished with 2866), which would have all but assured his inclusion in the Hall of Fame.


Longtime former Mariners’ manager Lou Pinella just missed his opportunity for enshrinement, receiving 11 votes, one shy of the requisite amount. Everyone else on the ballot (Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel and George Steinbrenner) received fewer than five votes.

Quick Hits: Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported that the Blue Jays have interest in free agent starters Mike Fiers and Kendall Graveman… The Rangers remain in contact with free agent southpaw Martin Perez and seem to have interest in bringing him back at a lower cost… The Dodgers announced Sunday that they have hired Jeff Kingston as their vice president and assistant general manager. Kingston had functioned in the same capacity for the Mariners, stepping down from that position to take the gig in Los Angeles… Former Marlins’ skipper Mike Redmond interviewed for the Orioles’ managerial vacancy… Jon Heyman of Fancred noted that the Red Sox have interest in free agent relievers David Robertson and Adam Ottavino, among others… USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that several teams have inquired on Kyle Schwarber but have been told by the Cubs that he is not available…. Miguel Montero told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he's "pretty much retired."... Free agent Trevor Cahill has "multiyear opportunities," according to Jon Heyman of Fancred…. Mike Napoli announced his retirement as a player on Saturday… Brian Stull of the St. Louis Baseball Weekly reported that Yadier Molina will undergo knee surgery next week… The Padres officially announced the signing of Garrett Richards to a two-year, $15 million contract. In doing so, to free up a spot on the 40-man roster, they were forced to designate Carlos Asuaje for assignment… Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics are "focused on bringing back Jonathan Lucroy on a one-year deal."

David Shovein
Dave Shovein is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveShovein.