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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State of the Baseball World After the Trade Deadline

The days and weeks leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline is always a hectic time around Major League Baseball. Virtually, no player is safe from the trade market if the right offer is presented, and there is guaranteed to always be some exciting moves. In the end, it’s the trades made now that can make or break any team’s season two months down the road.

Over the last week, or so, before Monday’s trade deadline, a number of big-time transactions (18 trades, involving 49 players, on Monday alone) took place. Although some where bigger than others, and will therefore have greater impacts, they all will have some impact on the landscape of Major League Baseball. Since it would be nearly impossible to discuss every single move, here’s a recap of some of the larger ones in my mind:

Arguably the biggest trade made of the entire week was the one that saw Aroldis Chapman heading to the Cubs for a Chapmanquad of prospects, in Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. While giving up four future stars for a closer isn’t necessarily always a good move, it definitely is in this case. With Chapman possessing a fastball that can be cranked up to 105, Chapman is one of the most dominant at what he does and definitely makes the Cubs the World Series favorites again after they had fallen off a bit as of late.

Another move that made a team favorites once again was the one that saw Melvin Upton Jr. getting sent off to the Blue Jays for Hansel Rodriguez. Upton has truly been having a breakout season after a few down years, and he will be able to help make the Jays even better. Although he pales in comparison to Toronto’s power group of Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarancion, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Upton Jr. is still a big pickup for the Jays.

The only true blockbuster trade of the past week involved a total of seven players. Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea (later returned due to injury concerns) and CashnerTayron Guerrero were sent to the Marlins for Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo (the prospect returned for Rea) and Josh Naylor. While Cashner hasn’t been having the greatest of seasons, he has shown signs in the past of being dominant at times. On the flip side, Cosart hasn’t really ever lived up to the hype and will be looking to breakout with San Diego.

Speaking of hype — while the Nationals have lived up to the preseason billings to this point in the season, their closer, Jonathan Papelbon, has not. For that reason, the Nats went out and secured what they view as the answer to the problem, getting Mark Melancon from the Pirates for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. I like the move a lot, as Melancon can truly be a big impact player towards the end of any given game and should give them added security to lock up close games.

One of the oddest trades of the lot occurred when Matt Kemp was sent to the Braves for Hector Olivera. While Kemp is going to be a Brave for the foreseeable future due to his large contract, Olivera, on the other hand, was immediately released upon his arrival to San Diego. Overall, Olivera has been more trouble than he’s worth, not playing the way he had been expected and getting involved in a lot of off-the-field issues. For that reason, the move works out great for the Padres, as they finally were able to free up Kemp’s contract, despite losing him to the Braves, who are looking to rebuild.

Another team who made it apparent they were in the rebuilding stage are the New York Yankees. After sending off Chapman earlier in the week, the Yankees parted ways with another piece of the Yankees’ “three-headed monster” in the form of Andrew Miller, leaving just Dellin Betances in what was once seen as the best bullpen in baseball. Even so, the Yankees were able to acquire Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to reload their subpar farm system.

But the Yankees weren’t yet done with their team reshaping. On the day of the deadline, the Yankees sent Carlos BeltranBeltran to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson. While the Yankees felt confident heading into this season that they could make the postseason, things haven’t gone their way, and the Yankees are obviously planning for next year and beyond by adding a ton of great prospects to their farm system.

However, the Giants are seemingly planning for now, going out and picking up Matt Moore from the Rays for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. This move gives the Giants yet another key piece to their rotation to attempt another run at the World Series. Whether or not they get there is yet to be seen, but Moore will assuredly give them good outings that improves their chances greatly.

But while the Giants are on top in the National League West, the Dodgers made a move to attempt to chase them down. On Monday, the Dodgers acquired Rich Hill and Josh Reddick from the Athletics for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes ad Jharel Cotton. Although those three are some big time pieces to give up, the Dodgers received back a nice piece in Josh Reddick and a pitcher who (once healthy again) should help them make up a few innings with Kershaw on the DL.

BruceOne of the moves that I liked the most is the pickup of Jay Bruce by the Mets for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. Anticipated to be slotted behind Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets’ lineup, the addition of Bruce makes the Mets a very formidable bunch. If the Mets didn’t have a any sort of chance before at chasing down the first place Nationals, they certainly have a decent shot now.

But while the Mets are looking to chase down the Nationals, the Rangers are looking to extend their lead in the American League Central. After Jonathan Lucroy was reportedly traded away to the Indians for a few prospects, that deal turned out to fall through, as Lucroy vetoed the trade. In the end, however, Lucroy found himself heading to the Rangers, in addition to Jeremy Jeffress, in exchange for Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. Although I really liked those two prospects, Lucroy and Jeffress should help the Rangers in their push towards the postseason, especially with Beltran being added as well.

Finally, the Blue Jays made another splash just before the deadline arrived, getting Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez from the Pirates for Drew Hutchinson. With the Jays’ rotation needing a bit of a boost, I feel that Liriano will give them just that. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he will have, but Liriano could be a major difference maker for Toronto in the weeks to come.

While not all of these trades will wind up paying off, it will certainly be interesting to follow them all as the season progresses. Sometimes it’s the simplest of moves that can cause a team to take off. You never can tell from one year to the next what will be the key to taking teams to the ultimate high of a World Series title.

2013 GIBBY Awards

The 2013 Greatness In Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) award winners were announced Tuesday afternoon. The GIBBY awards — which began in 2002, but were referred to as the ‘This Year In Baseball Awards’ until 2010 — are awarded annually for 23 different categories, including Rookie of the Year, Play of the Year, MVP of the Year, etc.

These awards are given to the players voted on by the fans at MLB.com, media, and front-office personnel, as the best for each category. I, as always, have my own opinions, and have included them below, along with the winners:

MVP OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Chris Davis

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

I originally picked Chris Davis for this award, however, I have no problem with Miguel Cabrera getting it instead. He was very deserving, batting .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI’s this season, coming up just short of a second straight Triple Crown award.

HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Miguel Cabrera

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

Though I didn’t necessarily deem him as the Most Valuable (the category above), I easily picked Miguel Cabrera as the best hitter of the 2013 season. Anytime you hit in the mid 300’s, launch over 40 home runs and drive in way over 100 runs, you have my vote.

STARTING PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Clayton Kershaw

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw had a career season; one of the best in MLB history for a pitcher. Kershaw is very deserving of this award, and there really wasn’t any competition, as no one could compete with his 1.83 ERA.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Wil Myers

Winner: Jose Fernandez

With three players having incredible rookie seasons — Wil Myers, Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig — it was difficult to pick just one. Therefore, while my original pick was Wil Myers, I feel Jose Fernandez is just as worthy. Fernandez’s 2.19 ERA over 28 starts is truly remarkable for a rookie.

CLOSER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Craig Kimbrel

Winner: Craig Kimbrel

While Mariano Rivera was the most followed closer of the 2013 season, after announcing his retirement this year back in March, Craig Kimbrel continued to be the most dominant. Though there were a few other closers who had great seasons, Kimbrel stood above the rest, recording 50 saves with a 1.21 ERA.

SETUP MAN OF THE YEAR

My original pick: David Robertson

Winner: Mark Melancon

This was another difficult category to pick, but I feel the right player received the award. I didn’t originally pick him, however, Mark Melancon was truly remarkable this season as the setup man for the Pirates, with an ERA of 1.39. He should continue to help out the team moving forward.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Brandon Phillips

Winner: Yadier Molina

Though I don’t really agree with Yadier Molina winning this award, I do have to acknowledge his great defensive skills behind the plate, blocking pitches better than nearly any other catcher in the game. While I still think Brandon Phillips, or a few other players, should’ve received this award, Molina is still worthy of the honor.

BREAKOUT HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Matt Carpenter

Winner: Chris Davis

I really felt Matt Carpenter had a shot at this award, as he was a big part of the Cardinals’ success this season. But I suppose hitting 2o more home runs and 53 more RBI’s than 2012 stands out for Chris Davis deserving this award.

BREAKOUT PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Koji Uehara

Winner: Matt Harvey

My original pick, Koji Uehara, had a great finish to the season, and a great postseason. I thought that would be enough, however, Matt Harvey ended up taking home the award. Harvey truly had a breakout year, lowering his ERA by nearly 50 points the year before, and I’m happy he received this award.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera

Winner: Francisco Liriano

I don’t think Francisco Liriano should’ve won this award, and I’m shocked that he did. Liriano had a come back year, no doubt, but Mariano Rivera had a better one, in my opinion. With the combination of coming of an injury in 2012, pitching another great season, and retiring after the year, I would’ve thought Rivera would’ve won easily.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: John Farrell

Winner: John Farrell

John Farrell took a Red Sox team that finished in last place the season before and led them to winning the World Series. This was an easy category to predict, and Farrell deserves it, no question about it.

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Billy Beane

Winner: Ben Cherington

I’m a big fan of Billy Beane and the great work he does every year, but Ben Cherington, being the general manager of the Red Sox, had a few more accolades for the award than Beane. As with John Farrell, the Red Sox winning the World Series put Cherington over the top in this category.

POSTSEASON MVP

My original pick: David Ortiz

Winner: David Ortiz

David Ortiz stood alone for this category as no other player came close to posting the stats he did. All throughout the postseason, Ortiz came up big, posting a batting average of .353 throughout October, and he truly earned this award.

PLAY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Ben Revere’s diving catch in Cincinnati

Winner: Manny Machado’s offbalance throw in New York

The play with the biggest “wow” factor for me all season long was the catch Ben Revere made up in Cincinnati. Running back on the ball and diving at the last second to make an unbelievable catch that ended in doubling off the runner at first, Revere’s catch was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. But Manny Machado’s throw from foul territory to first base to nail the runner, after bobbling the ball, was remarkable as well.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera pitching in his final All-Star Game

Winner: David Ortiz’s speech in first Red So game after bombing

I guess I’m such a big fan of Mariano Rivera that I felt he should’ve won every award he was nominated for. But instead, the award winner was David Ortiz, for his speech he made before the first game played at Fenway Park after the Boston marathon bombings.

STORYLINE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera’s final season

Winner: Pirates making the postseason

Again, as I stated in the last category, I thought Mariano Rivera should’ve won this award as well. But the Pirates were voted the storyline of the year, finishing above .500, and making the postseason, for the first time since 1992.

HITTING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Alfonso Soriano’s 2-homer game with 7 RBI’s

Winner: Mike Trout’s cycle

Alfonso Soriano’s two home run game in which he notched seven RBI’s was impressive, and was the one I voted for, but I really didn’t have a favorite from this category. Mike Trout’s cycle at the age of 21 won the award, and I cant really argue with that.

PITCHING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter

Winner: Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter

This was a fairly simple choice, as while there were several no-hitters, Tim Lincecum’s stood out the most, with his 13 strikeouts. While Lincecum has had some ups and down over the past couple seasons, I feel he’ll have a bounce back season in 2014.

ODDITY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Ball goes through padding for ground-rule double

Winner: ‘Hidden Ball Trick’ by Evan Longoria & Todd Helton

My original pick was a ground rule double in St. Louis that bounced between two pieces of padding in the outfield wall — I mean, what are the odds of that? But, instead, Evan Longoria and Todd Helton received the award for the “hidden ball trick” performed flawlessly by both during the season.

WALK-OFF OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Giancarlo Stanton scores on wild pitch to clinch no-hitter

Winner: Giancarlo Stanton scores on wild pitch to clinch no-hitter

Giancarlo Stanton scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to secure Henderson Alvarez a no-hitter, who hadn’t allowed a hit but didn’t have any run support, was hands down the best walk-off of the year. That’s something you may never see again.

CUT4 TOPIC OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Carly Rae Jepsen’s bad first pitch

Winner: Munenori Kawasaki’s Speech

Carly Rae Jepsen throwing one of the worst first pitches in baseball history down at Tropicana Field was the one I originally selected, but Munenori Kawasaki’s speech up in Toronto was the winner. I’m actually glad Kawasaki won, despite not picking him, as he is one of the funniest guys in baseball, and I still get a laugh by watching footage of his speech.

POSTSEASON MOMENT

My original pick: Allen Craig scores on obstruction

Winner: Allen Craig scores on obstruction

This was one of the most unusual endings to a postseason game in baseball history. Allen Craig scored, tripping over third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, on an obstruction call to end game three of the 2013 World Series, and it was truly an incredible, and memorable, moment.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

My original pick: Mariano Rivera

Winner: Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera is on his way to the Hall of Fame, after having one of the best careers for a pitcher in MLB history. The greatest closer in MLB history, with 652 career saves, Rivera won this award fairly easily, with the respect he has earned over the years and the stats he’s been able to put together for the Yankees.