The Nationals, Phillies, Braves, Cardinals, Yankees, and Mets are upgrading. The Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Indians are deflating. The Red Sox are maintaining.
That’s the summary of the Hot Stove activity thus far. But we expect the best is yet to come as the Winter Meetings start Sunday at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. There’s plenty to come, such as the destinations of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the top free agents on the market.
We may not know where these two fine players will end up by the end of the meetings on Thursday, but we’ll likely see a number of trades and signings take place in Vegas. Agents and teams seem more eager to get things done quickly after the gridlock of last winter. Nobody seems to want that to happen again.
So, what could happen at the Winter Meetings?
Boston Red Sox — The Sox are trying to maintain as much of their historic team as possible. The signings of Steve Pearce and Nathan Eovaldi have helped that. They’d love to get Craig Kimbrel back, but he’d have to take a hometown discount. Otherwise, they’ll be shopping for relievers and trying to make a deal with Joe Kelly, as well.
New York Yankees — James Paxton was a nice pickup, but the Yankees have their eyes on one more starter, and they will also have to address a couple of late-inning relief openings. Zach Britton and David Robertson are both free agents and must be re-signed or replaced. Never, ever rule them out of Harper or Machado. Machado makes more sense given their need at shortstop, where Didi Gregorius will miss half the season after Tommy John surgery. They will also move Sonny Gray, which could land them a reliever or prospect they could move in another deal.
Tampa Bay Rays — Every once in a while you hear they’re after a high-priced pitcher, which isn’t their M.O. But they would like to add to their starter arsenal and still do their “opener” experiment but on a more limited basis. If they’re looking for a veteran, then old friend James Shields, who pitched for the Rays for seven years, or Charlie Morton might be a nice fit with their younger pitchers.
Toronto Blue Jays — The Jays need a bit of everything, and eventually they’ll have a tremendous young infield led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio. Players such as Andrew McCutchen or Adam Jones would fit nicely with the young guys. They are also competing for a starting pitcher, possibly Dallas Keuchel.
Baltimore Orioles — The Orioles could purge this team even more under new management. They need two or three really good drafts where they pick near the top. In the meantime, they could purge this team even more by trying to deal Alex Cobb.
Cleveland Indians — It’s a shame this team is being dismantled, but when you lose Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Josh Donaldson, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen, etc., it means you’re bailing out. They recently extended Carlos Carrasco, so it would stand to reason he’s off the trade market. That leaves Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer very much in play for deals. Kluber, a two-time Cy Young winner who won 20 games in 2018, could bring back a haul of young players, and there will be a significant market. But the Indians won’t settle, they’ll need to get major prospects back in any trade for Kluber.
Minnesota Twins — The Twins already made a significant signing in Jonathan Schoop, who had a terrible 2018 season but is a major talent. The Twins also will try to add a couple of back-end bullpen pieces, and they have the ability to do so given their payroll. Last season they were in on Yu Darvish, so they’re willing to spend a little money if they feel it will relaunch them into the mix in the Central, which it may with the Indians deflating.
Detroit Tigers — The Tigers are in Year 3 of their reload and they would likely want to shed more money in the form of righthander Michael Fulmer and right fielder Nicholas Castellanos, both of whom could entice teams in need of pitching and offense.
Kansas City Royals — The big question here is would the Royals deal All-Star catcher Salvador Perez? Any established team ready to win would love to have him. If the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto is too expensive, Perez would also be costly in terms of players the Royals would need to get back in any deal. Also, the Royals will look to add a center fielder. Billy Hamilton has been rumored as a possible add.
Chicago White Sox — After trading Chris Sale and their entire rotation for prospects, the White Sox are at the point where they need to show some progress in terms of contending. They are still taking calls on first baseman Jose Abreu, but there’s an organizational debate on whether they should move him before the big money starts or keep him.
Houston Astros — The Astros want a first baseman with power, which is why they’ve inquired about Abreu and were also in on Paul Goldschmidt before he was traded to St. Louis. They are likely losing Morton and Keuchel in free agency, though there’s still a possibility one or both re-sign. Marwin Gonzalez is also a free agent and has been a key guy for them. He, too, could be re-signed. The Astros signed free agent Robinson Chirinos, but they may not be done on the catching front, as they’ve had major interest in Realmuto, and could always pursue Perez.
Oakland Athletics — One priority appears to be re-signing free agent Jed Lowrie. Beyond that, you never know what the A’s might do. They’ll entertain bringing back catcher Jonathan Lucroy. There’s been speculation about reacquiring Gray from the Yankees, but they don’t want to give up what the Yankees had to pay originally for him. They need starting pitching, so we’ll see at what level their ownership will allow. They also have to think about a long-term deal for Khris Davis, the premier power hitter in baseball, who will be a free agent after the 2019 season.
Seattle Mariners — General manager Jerry Dipoto has done a lot of tearing down of his 89-win team, and he’s probably not done. He’d probably like to move Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana, older players he had to acquire in deals. He’d also like to move second baseman Dee Gordon and veteran righthander Mike Leake.
Texas Rangers — The Rangers need pitching and it’ll be interesting to see where they get it. Gray could be a trade option. Free agents J.A. Happ, Leake, Drew Pomeranz, Mike Fiers, and Lance Lynn are all in play. They’re also exploring Japanese lefthander Yusei Kikuchi.
Los Angeles Angels — The Angels need to sign a significant starting pitcher such as Keuchel, Morton or Happ. Or trade for Kluber. They also need bullpen help, and there are plenty of relievers out there. But their biggest priority might be to work out a deal for Mike Trout, who can become a free agent at the end of the 2019 season.
Philadelphia Phillies — They obviously have the bucks to spend as a result of their lucrative television deal, and when their owner says they may even get “a little stupid” in their spending, you know they’re not going to sit still. After acquiring Jean Segura from the Mariners, who will play shortstop it appears, if they’re interested in Machado they’ll have to convince him to play third. Money talks. If the offer gets between $350 million and $400 million, that might be a very loud voice. The Phillies also need pitching, and with Patrick Corbin and Eovaldi off the market, that likely leaves them competing for Happ or possibly getting themselves in position for the Cleveland guys — Kluber or Bauer. Philadelphia doesn’t seem to be Zack Greinke’s kind of place, but he’s the type of pitcher they need. The Phillies may also be in the market for a closer, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them in the Kimbrel mix, though Miller and Britton might be more their cup of tea.
Washington Nationals — The Nationals may not be done yet after inking Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal, and adding catchers Kurt Suzuki and Gomes (in a trade with Cleveland). Will their remaining resources go toward a second baseman or an elite reliever? Not sure they’ll be all-in with someone such as Kimbrel, but more on the Britton, Miller, and Adam Ottavino level. And at second base, could it be Brian Dozier, DJ LeMahieu, or even a reunion with Daniel Murphy? Owner Ted Lerner said the Nationals can’t go beyond the 10-year, $300 million deal they have offered Harper.
New York Mets — With Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz on board after a deal with Seattle, the Mets couldn’t possibly be thinking of dealing Noah Syndergaard, could they? It wouldn’t make sense to build up with those acquisitions and then trade your second-best pitcher, would it? The Mets, under new president of baseball operations Brodie Van Wagenen, are going for it. The division is going to be tremendously competitive after the Phillies, Braves, and Nationals finish making moves.
Atlanta Braves — They’ve done a good amount already with the signings of Brian McCann and Donaldson. While GM Alex Anthopoulos claims most of their resources have been tapped, they need to address their pitching. They will get in on Happ, Keuchel, or Kluber. They need a veteran presence in the rotation. They also need a bullpen boost. Some have pointed to a Kimbrel reunion, but not sure the Braves want to spend that kind of money on a closer.
Miami Marlins — The only team in the division that won’t compete in 2019, but the Marlins possess one of the most-coveted players in Realmuto. The trouble is that the unrealistic asking price may have scared off top suitors such as the Nationals and Astros, both of whom made bids and then moved on to other catchers. There’s still plenty of interest from the Mets and others, but it will take the Marlins coming down from their demand of three top prospects.
Chicago Cubs — We’re not sure where the Cubs fall in terms of wanting to stay under the luxury-tax threshold. They need to improve their offense, but may not be able to go for Machado or Harper. They will look for bullpen pieces after losing Jesse Chavez and Justin Wilson in free agency, and Brandon Morrow (elbow) won’t be ready to start the season. They have had their sights on veteran reliever Joakim Soria. This is still a team to watch. There has been Kris Bryant speculation all offseason, but I’d be surprised if he got traded.
St. Louis Cardinals — They traded for their big bat in Goldschmidt, so now let’s see if Kimbrel becomes their next big acquisition. It was thought that Harper would be on their wish list, but he may now be off with the Goldschmidt trade. That would put Matt Carpenter at third base permanently.
Milwaukee Brewers — They could re-sign free agent Wade Miley, and if they did they’d be done with pitching help. They could also be a Gray candidate. With Mike Moustakas gone, Travis Shaw will likely return to third base, and the Brewers would seek a second baseman with Schoop signing with the Twins. The Brewers could pursue someone such as Logan Forsythe.
Pittsburgh Pirates — Their focus will be at shortstop. They could re-sign Jordy Mercer or pursue someone of the Jose Iglesias ilk in free agency. They let Josh Harrison go, so they may be looking for another infielder and cheap bullpen help. The Pirates are willing to deal catcher Francisco Cervelli in the right package.
Cincinnati Reds — It seems like a huge year for the Reds’ management team, which needs to show the fans some progress. They have made noise that they’re after a couple of big-ticket items, including Keuchel, to anchor a young staff, and A.J. Pollock to replace Hamilton in center. We’ll see. Given that it’s a tough division, free agents may be hesitant to go there and have the team struggle.
Los Angeles Dodgers — The two-time World Series runners-up have entertained Harper but will likely not pursue Machado with Corey Seager returning after Tommy John surgery. Harper would be an intriguing bat from the left side in an already stacked lineup. It would likely allow them to deal one of their other lefthanded hitters. The Dodgers have done a great job of getting to the World Series, but there has to be pressure to do something to get over the hump. Their fan base is likely watching this offseason closely.
San Francisco Giants — So much has been said about the possibility of Madison Bumgarner being moved. It would be rather shocking, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Several teams, including the Yankees, Phillies, Braves, Angels, and A’s could fit. The Giants also need to revamp their offense with an entire new outfield. They’ll dip into the Pollock, Brantley, and Nick Markakis waters for sure, and also try to acquire some power. They made a big attempt at Giancarlo Stanton last year and came up short. Power guys such as Nelson Cruz and Mike Moustakas make some sense, though Cruz is more of a DH.
Colorado Rockies — They would love to upgrade their catching and offense at the same time, so free agents Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal could be in play. They would love to get Realmuto, but who wouldn’t? They will likely lose Ottavino to free agency and would have to replace him with someone like Allen or Kelly. They also need one more legitimate starting pitcher, and they could very well pursue a deal for Cobb.
Arizona Diamondbacks — They gave it their best shot for a couple of years, but now payroll is becoming an issue, and they’re being forced to move on from key players such as Goldschmidt and Pollock. The Diamondbacks will look for lower-cost replacements. Who knows if McCutchen’s cost will come down or whether Hamilton could fit? They may re-sign Clay Buchholz.
San Diego Padres — GM A.J. Preller has slowly but surely built the major league team to where he may start adding substantive pieces. Wil Myers doesn’t fit the lineup, so he’s trade bait for a starting pitcher. After acquiring Eric Hosmer last season, Preller wants to keep adding major league talent to become competitive by 2020. Wouldn’t be a shock to see the Padres go after a front-line free agent starter, and they have interest in Kikuchi.
From the Bill Chuck files — “The Diamondbacks spent 110 days in first in the NL West in 2018 (the Dodgers spent 36), but Arizona realizes that the only day that matters in first place is the last day of the season, and has already waved the 2019 white flag.” . . . Happy birthday, Ed Romero (61).