So unless you had some type of pool going on the order in which set-up relievers would be signed, I’m guessing you didn’t find the Winter Meetings particularly compelling.
Since nothing else really happened.
We know a pitch clock is almost certainly coming to help the pace of play on the field next season, so maybe MLB should consider a “Do-Something” clock at the Winter Meetings.
Put each of the 30 teams on the clock once over the three days of the Meetings, and give them an hour to make a significant trade or signing of some sort. Man, that would liven things up.
I’m not serious, of course, just making a point about the state of the game, now that front offices everywhere have all embraced analytics and begun to assess talent and assign value in advanced but all-too-similar fashion.
As such today’s young and highly-educated GMs tend to think alike, especially in their reluctance to trade minor-league prospects. And they sure aren’t sitting at the bar at night, scribbling names on a cocktail napkin with a fellow GM to make a blockbuster deal, as in the old days.
They are also more averse to the risk of long-term contracts for free agents, determined to limit the term of deals, especially for players in their 30s.
All of these trends have come to fruition this winter, it seems, and the result is that not a single top free agent-agent starting pitcher or position player had signed until Friday, when the Phillies locked up Carlos Santana and the Angels got Zack Cozart.
The only starting pitcher off the board, meanwhile, is the relatively unheralded Tyler Chatwood, and that’s because the Cubs believe he has untapped value, based at least partly on the high spin-rate of his curveball, which was largely negated by the altitude in Colorado.
In other words, it might be weeks, even months before any team can be crowned as having won the winter.
The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes and the Marlins’ fire sale have given the Angels and Yankees a huge lead in that department, but never has there been an offseason when the Winter Meetings have come and gone, and still so much unfinished business remained.
As such I can’t really declare Winners and Losers, but here are my Top 10 Takeaways from this slow-moving off-season, Winter Meetings included:
1. BRIAN CASHMAN IS THE NEW BILLY BEANE
No movie in the works yet but Cashman, after all these years on the job, is suddenly the rock-star of the GM world, celebrated for making all the right moves in recent years: building a loaded farm system; making smart trades for Didi Gregorius and others; and now seizing the moment to deal for Giancarlo Stanton at a bargain cost, as well unloading Chase Headley’s salary to make room for more starting pitching – perhaps the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole in a trade even after re-signing CC Sabathia on Saturday to a one-year deal.
Suffice it to say Cashman has silenced his Yankee-fan critics, who were growing louder by the day for awhile there, and earned his new, five-year, $25-plus million contract.
2. DEREK JETER NEEDS A PR MAN
Who ever thought The Captain, so beloved and admired as a Hall of Fame player, would be off to a Carl Pavano-like start in his new role as Marlins’ owner? That is, nobody in Miami likes the way he’s gone about his business, firing popular team advisors, scouts, and broadcasters, gutting the team of its stars, and even getting caught on TV at the Dolphins game when he should have been answering for the Stanton trade at the Winter Meetings.
Maybe Jeter had no choice in lowering payroll but he really needs someone giving him PR advice. Even Don Mattingly said his former Yankee teammate probably would do some things differently if he had the chance, unaware that Jeter had insisted otherwise on a conference call with the media.
3. FINALLY, MIKE TROUT WILL BE A NATIONAL TV STAR
This is another way of saying it’s good to see the Angels taking steps to put a watchable team around Trout, the best player in the sport, as the national networks will make now sure we see more of him in prime time.
Ohtani will be a great curiosity, and he needs to live up to the hype on the mound, never mind at the plate, for the pitching-challenged Angels to become contenders. But either way GM Billy Eppler, Cashman’s former assistant, has improved this team significantly with additions of Ian Kinsler and Cozart, while also locking up Justin Upton.
4. KEEP AN EYE ON THE PHILLIES.
Santana didn’t come cheap at $20 million per, but the Phillies did well in limiting the deal to three years. Some baseball people think he’s a much better buy than the more expensive Eric Hosmer, and the short-term deal ensures that they’ll be in play for Bryce Harper a year from now.
In any case, the Phillies have a ton of money to spend, and Santana is the first big move that indicates this franchise is pushing its rebuild toward the next phase. They might sign a top pitcher as well, and in another year they’ll be contenders again.
5. METS MAKING A MISTAKE NOT ADDING STARTING PITCHING
As I wrote last week, the Mets should be acting like a win-now team, and with little in the way of top prospects — something Sandy Alderson owned up to publicly last week — their only way to do that is to spend big in free agency to fill their multiple holes with high-quality players.
Indications are they’re going to instead spend conservatively, and it appears that means neglecting starting pitching. As a result, they’ll be counting on Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Matt Harvey to all stay healthy and be effective, which seems highly unlikely. Signing free agent Lance Lynn would provide a huge boost.
6. SHOWING PATIENCE MUST BE KILLING DAVE DOMBROWSKI
The Red Sox GM is considered to be among the most aggressive in the sport, and so it seemed logical that he would react quickly to the Yankees’ trading for Stanton with counter-strike signings of either J.D. Martinez or Hosmer. Or both, as some reports out of Boston had it earlier in the week.
Obviously Dombrowski is hoping that patience brings the price down, as agent is asking for some $200 million for each. However, Santana’s deal for $20 million per with the Phillies gives Boras more leverage regarding Hosmer. Who blinks in this staredown?
7. CARDINALS HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN THE WINTER
Rejected by Stanton, the Cards didn’t have to dig too deep into their strong farm system to get Marcell Ozuna, leaving them the prospects to perhaps pry Manny Machado away from the Orioles.
If they pull that deal off and sign Wade Davis as their closer, they might just be the team to beat in the NL Central, Cubs or no Cubs.
8. THE GIANTS HAVE FALLEN AND CAN’T GET UP
Those three championships in five seasons suddenly feel like a long time ago. The Giants won 64 games last season, they’re burdened with a high payroll, and west-coast guy Stanton wasn’t interested in playing in beautiful AT&T Park.
Unlike the Cardinals, they haven’t recovered from the Stanton rejection. They desperately need power: surely they’re still going to do something big — like Martinez?
9. LIKE WHAT THE CUBS HAVE DONE, BUT…
Theo Epstein still has a big trade in him this winter, right? He took a good gamble on Brandon Morrow, getting him on a two-year deal, apparently to replace Davis, and signed Chatwood, the ex-Rockie whose 1.69 road ERA last season, the best in the majors, makes him very intriguing.
But the Cubs are losing Jake Arrieta, and even though they dealt for Jose Quintana last July, it feels like they need another top starter to win it all again. Do the Ian Happ-for-Danny Salazar rumors have any substance?
10. IF THE ORIOLES TRADE MACHADO, ZACH BRITTON SHOULD GO TOO
The O’s waited a year too long on Machado, who they now seem serious about trading. A year ago, when he was two seasons away from free agency, he would have brought a much bigger haul.
In any case, if they trade him now, they’re in rebuild mode, and their closer, Britton would bring top prospects even as a one-year rental.
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