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.

Wild Finishes Send World Series Back to Boston

As I wrote in my last blog post, there was a chance coming into St. Louis that either the Cardinals or the Red Sox could win the World Series, should they be able to sweep the other team. But thanks to a couple of wild finished, the series heads back to Boston — the Red Sox lead 3-2 — where a champion will be crowned at Fenway Park for the first time since 1975, when the Reds beat out the Red Sox in seven games. (If the Sox win it will be their first World Series clinch at home since 1918.)

But a lot took place to get to this point.

Going into game three, on Saturday, the Red Sox had Jake Peavy on the mound taking on the Cardinals’ Joe Kelly. Both Peavy and Kelly had been decent this season/postseason, and both were looking to give their team the edge in this talent-laden World Series.

Peavy had a bit of trouble early, allowing a couple runs to the Cardinals in the bottom of the first inning, but he quickly regained himself, not allowing a run the remainder of his four inning outing. Kelly was just a bit better, however, as he gave up only one run over 5.1 innings, when he was replaced by Randy Choate, who promptly gave up the game tying run to the Red Sox.Untitled

The bottom of the seventh saw the Cardinals retaking the lead, on a two-run double by Matt Holliday. But just as to be expected in an exciting World Series game, the Red Sox tied things up in the very next inning. Making the score 4-4, heading into the ninth.

Things would then get interesting.

The Sox failed to score in the top half, as Trevor Rosenthal was dominant once again, giving the Cardinals a chance to walk-off with a big win. Which they did, but not in the most conventional way. A Yadier Molina single was followed up with an Allen Craig pinch-hit double, placing runners at second and third with just one away. Jon Jay would then ground to Dustin Pedroia, who quickly threw home for the out, but a wide throw by Jarrod Saltalamacchia led to the most talked about World Series play in years.

Will Middlebrooks found himself with nowhere to go after diving for the errant throw, leaving third base umpire, Jim Joyce, to signal obstruction, after Allen Craig tripped over Middlebrooks, which would subsequently win the Cardinals the ballgame. Not a way you’d like to see a game of that magnitude end, but you had to figure it would give the Red Sox added motivation in the next game.

Game four didn’t have a controversial finish, but it did end in just as unusual of fashion.

A surprise to many, Clay Buchholz, who had been reported at thirty percent healthy, had a great game for the Red Sox, only allowing a World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Foursingle run through his four innings on the mound. Lance Lynn, who isn’t really acknowledged that often, had a great game as well, also giving up a single run through his 5.1 innings pitched.

Although, after Lynn allowed a couple of base runners in the fifth, he was replaced by Seth Maness — a mistake in my mind, as Maness has been getting hit all postseason — who allowed a homer to Jonny Gomes, making the score 4-1, Red Sox.

The Cardinals would score a run in the seventh, and go onto make a push to tie the game in the ninth, but a mistake by rookie Kolten Wong ended the game with everyone stunned. Getting picked off at first by Koji Uehara, Wong became the first player in postseason history to get picked off to end the ballgame.

The series once again became tied, heading into a final game in St. Louis.

A rematch of game one, game six saw Adam Wainwright going up against Jon Lester in a pivotal game. Both Lester and Wainwright pitched well — Wainwright struck out six batters through the first two innings — as they both allowed a mere one run through the first sixUntitled innings.

The one run off of Wainwright came from an RBI-double by David Ortiz, who is now hitting .733 in the series — the only Red Sox player in history with back-to-back 3-hit nights in the Fall Classic. Lester’s lone run came off a solo-shot homer to Matt Holliday — one of Lester’s only four hits allowed.

The Red Sox would get the better of Wainwright in the seventh, scoring two runs to make the score 3-2, Sox. And that’s how the game would end, as Koji Uehara was stellar once again, closing out the game for the Red Sox.

The Cardinals and Red Sox now head back to Boston. It will be interesting to see how each team plays, knowing game six could be it. The way this World Series has been going, however, — especially with Michael Wacha pitching game six for the Cardinals — I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it go seven games. But, in the end, if I had to pick a favorite at this point in the series, I’d have to give the Red Sox the edge.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.