Takeaways from the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings

Aside from the mid-season trade deadline that sees numerous players changing squads with the hopes that they might be the final piece needed to push any given team into the postseason, the Winter Meetings are the busiest time of year for trades and signings to take place around Major League Baseball. mlb

In the past, some of baseball’s biggest deals have taken place during the Winter Meetings (it was the 2007 meetings when the Tigers picked up Miguel Cabrera). But while the 2016 Winter Meetings that took place in National Harbor, Maryland, didn’t have nearly as much action as some of the previous ones, there were still some huge transactions that will vastly affect teams when the 2017 season begins.

Following the signings of big-time free agents Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Beltran over the past couple of weeks, the Winter Meetings began on Sunday evening, with many rumors swirling around as to what would take place over the course of the five day event. But over time, as always, fact was quickly distinguished from rumor.

Things kicked off with the signing of Matt Holliday by the New York Yankees on a one-year, 13 million dollar deal. While the acquisition doesn’t immediately jump off the page as all that great, it’s still an impactful one. The seven-time All-Star can play a variety of positions, and can still hit with the best of them, knocking 20 homers in 2016.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia PhilliesOn the opposite side of the spectrum is Mark Melancon, who is one of the best at limiting homers, giving up just three total over the course of 71.1 innings last season. For his efforts, Melancon was grabbed by the Giants for the next four years at a price tag of 62 million. After saving 88 games over the last two years, Melancon certainly earned it, and San Francisco appears to have found their closer.

It also appears that Melancon will come in handy for the Giants, as their long-time rivals, the Dodgers, were successful in resigning Rich Hill on a three-year, 48 million dollar deal. After being virtually on his way out of the sport at one point, Hill posted a 2.12 ERA last season, and would likely be the Dodgers’ ace if not for Clayton Kershaw. Still, he sits as one of the best pitchers in the game.

Offensively, it became apparent that the Blue Jays were looking into other options other than Edwin Encarnacion following their signing of Kendrys Morales a few weeks ago, but it became even more so with the addition of Steve Pearce for 12.5 over the next two years. Pearce doesn’t have nearly the power of some players, but his bat is still one that can impact any given game, despite not being a huge move.

However, just as it seemed that the Winter Meeting were going to be a bit slow, with just a few above average deals, the Red Sox decided to take things up a notch. Following a trade for reliever Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers in exchange for Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon and Josh Pennington, Boston made the biggest splash of the offseason to this point.

Reaching deep into their farm system, the Red Sox sent away highly coveted prospects saleYoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, along with Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz, in return for Chris Sale. If Sale can keep up his dominance that’s made him one of the best pitchers in baseball, the Red Sox could win the division with ease in 2017. But as has been seen in the past, baseball is extremely unpredictable.

Nearly as uncertain is a player’s health from any given season to the next, and Wilson Ramos is a prime example of that. After beginning 2016 on a tear, Ramos suffered a season-ending injury this past season, but hopes to be ready to go sometime around the middle of 2017. Whenever he arrives with the Rays, who signed him to a two-year, 12.5 million (18.5 with incentives) dollar deal, he’s sure to make his presence known.

Wade Davis is also sure to make a big difference for the Cubs, as if they needed any more help. After winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years this season, Chicago picked up lockdown reliever Wade Davis from the Royals in a trade that sent Jorge Soler to the Royals. With Aroldis Chapman winding up with a team away from Chicago as the Winter Meetings progressed, Davis could come up big in 2017.

But while teams such as the Red Sox and Cubs were focused on rebuilding their major league lineup, there were those like the White Sox who made huge improvements to their farm system. After receiving quite the hall from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale deal, the Sox proceeded to pick up Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning from the Nationals, losing just Adam Eaton in the swap.

Many see this as a vastly one-sided deal, with the Nationals getting the short end of the stick. But after losing out on Chris Sale and Mark Melancon, the Nationals were undoubtedly looking to add an impact piece and were all in to get Adam Eaton. They may regret it in the short term, but in the long term things may work out in their favor.

desmondOne player who didn’t have things work out quite the way he had been hoping was Ian Desmond, who agreed to a five-year, 70 million dollar contract to play in Denver. After struggling mightily in 2015, following a turndown of a 7-year, 102 million dollar offer from the Nationals in 2014, Demsond really broke out again in 2016 with the Rangers.

The Rockies could use some offense (among other things), and Desmond adds a big piece to their improving lineup, despite not getting the contract he could have received just a few seasons ago.

The final big transaction made on the final day of the Winter Meetings saw Aroldis Chapman going back to the Yankees for five years and 86 million dollars. Coming off his help with the Cubs in their World Series title quest in this season, Chapman has long been known as a devastating pitcher, with his 102+ mile per hour fastball. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees fare in 2017 in what has become a competitive division, but with Chapman locking down the ninth, anything is truly possible.

But while some teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox left the Winter Meetings with their teams very different from when things began, with others doing hardly anything at all to improve their club, it’s important to keep in mind that there are still over 16 weeks left until the 2017 season begins.

The shaking up of teams this offseason could possibly be far from over.

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The Injury Bug: Numerous Players To Miss Time

Another day, another injury. It seems that’s been the common theme as of late, with Michael Bourn, Yu Darvish, Aroldis Chapman and Jurickson Profar being the most recent players to fall victim to what’s become somewhat of an injury epidemic around Major League Baseball.

While every year brings injuries throughout both the offseason and the regular season, this year seems to be above average in that department, Kris Medlenand the season hasn’t even begun yet. Including names such as Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, Matt Kemp, and Jarrod Parker, among many others, the list of players set to miss Opening Day — the entire season for some players — due to injury continues to grow larger. Although some players aren’t that big of a loss overall, some will have a drastic impact on their team’s success.

None more so than the loss of Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the Braves. Both are set to miss the entire season due to the second Tommy John surgeries of their careers, and losing these key pieces to the Braves’ starting rotation will likely have a profound impact on how they perform as a whole. I had the Braves winning the National League East division in 2014, as they did last season, however, the subtraction of these players from the roster could cause them to fall down in the rankings a bit.

But the Braves aren’t the only team that could fall down a bit due to an injured player.

Patrick Corbin being out for what could be the entire season will have an effect on the Diamondback’s performance this season. Corbin really broke out last year, and was set to lead their starting rotation throughout the coming season. But without him, while the D-backs should still be a good team, they won’t be able to give the Dodgers a run for the division title like they previously would’ve possibly been able to do.

However, the team that will likely see the second biggest drop, behind the Braves, from their predicted finish will be the Athletics, who will beUntitled without A.J. Griffin for a good bit of time, but more importantly won’t have Jarrod Parker for the entire season. He, like many pitchers I’ve discussed, is undergoing Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until 2015. With Parker out, the A’s will have a difficult time overtaking the Rangers in the American League West division as they’ve done the past two seasons.

Not all of these injuries have occurred recently, though. A few players that won’t be ready for Opening Day had their injuries happen much earlier than this offseason or Spring Training.

Manny Machado, Jose Iglesias, Matt Kemp, and Matt Harvey are all missing a good deal of time due to nagging injuries from 2013, with Matt Harvey (and possibly Jose Iglesias as well) out for the full length of the season. When healthy, all have extreme impacts on their respective teams, so, obviously, not having them being their productive selves is a big loss.

But despite all of the injuries that seem to grow in number everyday, these are the types of things teams just have to play through. You have to compete with what you have. And therefore, it’s sure to be an interesting and exciting 2014 season, with there now being just six days until Opening Day.

My Thoughts On the Remaining MLB Free Agents

The 2013 Major League Baseball season ended nearly a month ago, but the team changing deals that take place every offseason are just now beginning. The biggest trade that has taken place so far is undoubtedly Prince Fielder going to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, however, the Cardinals getting rid of David Freese in a trade for Peter Bourjos is up there on the list as well.

UntitledAs far as free agent signings go — none of the previously named players were free agents — Brian McCann signing to play with the Yankees was a big time deal, with Jhonny Peralta’s agreement to play with the Cardinals (4 years, 53 million dollar) being the deal that has caused the most controversy, due to past his PED use. But I won’t get into that.

Not too many of the 184 free agent players have signed yet — just 27 are off the market, having signed with a team or retired — but there’s still plenty of time left for a lot of exciting deals to go down. (The trades that could be made are nearly impossible to predict, but every free agent has to find a home somewhere — either with their same team or a new one — so that’s what I’ll be talking about.)

Notable current free agents include Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, among others, but I’m only going to be discussing the top ranked (in my mind) player available at each position, and which team I feel they’d fit the best with.

Keep in mind, these are the teams I feel would be the best fit for each player, not necessarily a team that’s interested in them, or subsequently will sign them.

2013 MLB TOP FREE AGENTS

Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Team I feel should sign him: Rangers

The Rangers were in the conversation for Brian McCann to take over their catcher role, but after the Yankees locked him up, I think Saltalamacchia would be the next best thing — a good fit for both the Rangers and Saltalamacchia. Having played for the Rangers from 2007 to 2010, Saltalamacchia would be returning to familiar territory. Though he never had much success in Arlington — never playing in more than 84 games in a season — Saltalamacchia proved this past season with the Sox that he can post good numbers, batting .273 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s. I think the Rangers would be a great team for Saltalamacchia, but he’ll likely remain in Boston.

Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

Kendrys Morales had a great season for the Mariners in 2013, batting .277 with 23 home runs and 80 RBI’s. Being a switch hitter — a very consistent one at that — I feel the Tigers would be a good fit for Morales. The Tigers have a right-handed-heavy lineup, and a good hitter who can hit from the left side — there are talks they could also be interested in Shin-Soo Choo — when needed would be an important addition. Also, Morales could go a long way in replacing Prince Fielder’s bat in the lineup, though admittedly it wouldn’t replace his 30+ home run power. Nonetheless, Morales is a player the Tigers need to target, in my opinion.

First Base: Mike Napoli

Team I feel should sign him: Red Sox

A lot of teams would be interested in Mike Napoli, but I feel the Red Sox should resign him, as he is a great fit where he is. Playing first base, there are really no other fantastic first basemen on the market, and they’re not about to put David Ortiz there full time. Napoli’s 23 home runs and 92 RBI’s this past season is something that’s hard to replace. He was a big reason the Red Sox were so successful this season, helping to lead them to a World Series title. Napoli shouldn’t be going anywhere.

Second Base: Robinson Cano

Team I feel should sign him: Anyone but the Yankees

Because Robinson Cano is such a good player — a great fit for multiple teams — it’s hard to pick just one team that he should sign with. The top ranked free agent of the offseason, I feel Cano doesn’t need to be in pinstripes next season for both his sake and the sake of the Yankees. Not signing Cano to a deal worth, more than likely, nearly 200 million dollars, would allow them to use that extra cash to sign some lower-priced free agents and develop an all-around better team. With or without Cano, there’s no guarantee the Yankees will make the playoffs, but I feel they’re better off in the long run without him.

Third Base: Juan Uribe

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

Tying into one of the reasons I feel the Yankees shouldn’t resign Cano, Juan Uribe is a player who would come at a relatively affordable price to the Yankees and would be a good fit at third base, where they are very weak. With no guarantees that A-Rod will ever return, signing Uribe would give them a better defensive player at third than what they currently have, and it would add a decent offensive player to their lineup. Uribe’s .278 batting average with 12 homers and 50 RBI’s last season wouldn’t be a team-changing move for the Yankees, but it would certainly improve their situation.

Shortstop: Stephen Drew

Team I feel should sign him: Astros

The only thing that is for sure with Stephen Drew is that he has a near 100 percent chance of not being with the Red Sox next season; other than that, not a lot is certain. Drew was an impact player for the Sox this past season, playing a good defense at shortstop and coming up big in big spots, especially in the postseason, but with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base, there just isn’t room for Drew. The Yankees could use him down the road at short, but assuming Derek Jeter is healthy, there won’t be a spot for Drew next season, other than Jeter’s backup. For Drew’s sake, I feel he’d be a good fit with the Astros, who could use an everyday shortstop — one of their many weak spots.

Left Field: Quintin Berry

Team I feel should sign him: Diamondback’s

There really aren’t a lot of great left field free agents available, but of them, Quintin Berry is the best. The Diamondback’s have a left fielder, in Adam Eaton, but I feel the acquisition of Berry would be worth it, as they could move some players around to make room for him. Berry hasn’t had a great deal of opportunity to show off any consistency at the big league level, but his speed — he’s never been caught stealing in 24 major league stolen base attempts — alone is enough for the D-back’s to take a shot on Berry, in my mind.

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury & Shin-Soo Choo

Team I feel should sign them: Mariners (Ellsbury) and Reds (Choo)

I couldn’t pick just one player as the best available free agent at this position, as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo have a high value in their own unique ways. Ellsbury hasn’t been able to stay very healthy so far during his career, but an unhealthy Ellsbury is more valuable than a lot of other players in baseball — he’s that great of an impact when healthy. Though Seattle has a difficult time attracting players, due to their location and recent subpar performances, I feel they are going to become a great team in the next year or two. Ellsbury needs to join before things take off. As far as Choo goes, he is very efficient at getting on base, with a .421 OBP this past season. The Reds need to keep him, in my opinion, as their leadoff man, if they want to be as successful next season as they were in 2013.

Right Field: Carlos Beltran

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

If the Yankees decide not to keep Cano, as I believe they should do, they will likely make a run at Carlos Beltran, who they are reportedly interested in. A left handed hitter, Beltran would thrive at Yankee stadium and would be a big impact for the Yankees in 2014 and beyond. At 36 years old, Beltran isn’t a player you would want to lock up for any extended period of time, however, any time with Beltran on your team is worth it. Batting .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI’s last season, Beltran could have a great season should the Yankees sign him.

Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez

Team I feel should sign him: Twins

A lot of teams need pitching, including the Blue Jays, Rockies, etc., but the Twins are a team I feel could use a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez the most. The Twins are an interesting team, as they don’t have a lot going for them now, but their farm system is one of the best in baseball and they will be a really good team down the road, similar with the Mariners. Should Jimenez sign with them, I could see him developing into the great pitcher he’s capable of being. He’s shown signs of it in the past, and next year could be a break out year for him. Jimenez could really help out the Twins in a big way.

Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

While Joe Nathan and Fernando Rodney would be good fits for the Tigers, I feel Brian Wilson would be the best. Wilson has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball — something the Tigers could use. Having undergone two Tommy John surgeries, many teams shy away from Wilson. But after the performance he had towards the end of last season, I feel Wilson could be the piece the Tigers need to clinch them a World Series title after coming up short recently.

So, there are my thoughts on which players are the best remaining free agents at each postion, and which team should sign them. Odds are that things won’t go exactly, if at all, how I feel they should, but this is just the way I see it working out best.

Besides Robinson Cano, who do you feel is the best remaining free agent? Cast your vote:

As always, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.