Major League Baseball may only have regular season games from April until October, but baseball is a year-round sport. The MLB offseason is the most entertaining of the four major sports, as rumors and moves are popping up all over the place. For baseball, things start to heat up during December when the MLB Winter Meetings take place. It is the official start up of the hot stove.
This year’s Winter Meetings will be taking place in Washington D.C. in roughly a week, as they officially start up on December 4th (Sunday), but do not truly get rolling until the following day. It is on December 5th (Monday) that things start to get good, as we will likely have a trade or two, plus a free agent signing. On top of that, you will be hearing new rumors every couple of minutes. The meetings will end on December 8th (Thursday).
In other words, it is a good time to be a baseball fan! Things are about to get fascinating, as there will be moves made that even the most creative MLB fan has thought of yet. Here at INSC we will be taking a closer look at these Winter Meetings in this week leading to the event itself, kicking things off with five teams to keep an eye on. So without any further adieu, here they are!
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox has been surprisingly quiet so far this winter. Coming off a season that saw them win the AL East, but gets swept by the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, the Red Sox were expected to be active this offseason. With Dave Dombrowski running the show, a big deal is never out of the question. Dombrowski is a man known for big moves (Miguel Cabrera trade is just one of many). With a roster that could use some tinkering, Dombrowski is a highly likely candidate to be active over the course of the Winter Meetings.
The club could be looking at some bullpen upgrades for starters. Craig Kimbrel is locked into the closer’s role, but the rest of the pen is open for competition. Catcher is a very weak spot at the moment, as Sandy Leon is currently penciled in to start. With the retirement of David Ortiz, the DH slot is certainly vacant, and the team has been connected to slugger Edwin Encarnacion already. On top of that the team still has the question of what to do with Pablo Sandoval, and will he be their third baseman? Oh, and the starting rotation is certainly in a position to be improved upon.
So it is pretty clear the team has plenty of positions of need, and the man running the show is familiar with wheeling and dealing. The Red Sox could very possibly be the most active team at the Winter Meetings.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals find themselves in a very difficult position this winter. They are coming off an 81-81 season, which was a huge disappointment given they had won the World Series the season prior. Now the team faces some very hard decisions about their future. The majority of the team’s core will be entering contract years, with Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Wade Davis, Alcides Escobar all playing on one-year deals essentially in 2017. The club will surely not be able to retain all of them after the season, which begs the question, could any of them be dealt?
Wade Davis is certainly the most likely to be moved, as the team can easily replace him with Kelvin Herrera in the closers role. The team is still looking to compete in 2017, so a total dismantling is simply not going to happen. They have already lost Kendrys Morales, who signed a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this winter. Will the team bring in players in an attempt to make one final push? Or will they deal one or two players in a bid to bring in some young, controllable talent? The moves they make during the Winter Meetings will certainly give fans an idea of what to expect moving forward. And that is why they are a team to keep an eye on.
The new-look Arizona Diamondbacks front office has already made a statement this winter. They dealt starting shortstop Jean Segura to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for young pitcher Taijuan Walker in the most interesting move of the winter. New general manager Mike Hazen will be looking to distance this club from the one put together by Dave Stewart a season ago. Could the new guys try to deal Zack Greinke or Shelby Miller during the meetings? I would venture to guess you will hear those rumors over the course of the week.
The team is also in a position where they could use an upgrade at closer. The relief market is loaded with talent this winter, so could we see them make a splash there? Given the results Zack Greinke produced in his first season in a D’Backs uniform, do not expect to see them go big for Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen. But taking a stab on someone like Greg Holland is certainly possible. Or maybe they go for an out of nowhere trade like they did with Walker. Brad Brach would be an intriguing option, although it is not known if the Orioles would consider moving him. Maybe a deal built around Shelby Miller and Brach could shake things up.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have already made one bold move this offseason. They dealt Brian McCann to the Houston Astros thanks to the emergence of Gary Sanchez last season, adding a few more pitching prospects to the team’s now appealing farm system. But the Yankees may not be done dealing. Brian Cashman could look to move Brett Gardner for some pitching. Gardner was on the block last winter, and the team’s rotation is still a sore spot.
But the biggest reason to keep an eye on the Yankees is not that of trade, but rather the big name free agent they are rumored to be the favorites to land: Aroldis Chapman. Chapman spent the first half of 2016 in pinstripes and was part of their super bullpen. The team could be looking to go back down that road, and bringing Chapman back on board would be a major statement. The ball is in your court, Mr. Cashman.
The Miami Marlins were surprisingly in contention for a Wild Card slot late into last season. They ended up finishing the season 79-82, missing the Wild Card by seven and a half games when all was said and done. The team is surely in a position to improve, and they could look to wheel and deal over the course of the Winter Meetings. Marcell Ozuna is one of the bigger names on the trade market, and the team could parlay him into some starting pitching. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is another player the team could look to dangle in talks, as his defense will certainly catch the eye of some needy shortstop team.
The most interesting rumor surrounding the Marlins involves their potential pursuit of closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen is one of the biggest names on the free-agent market, and the team does have A.J. Ramos as their closer. So the connection with Kenley is a bit puzzling, but if they landed him it would signal a serious push towards a super pen. The team wants to improve their pitching, and that could come in the form of starters or relievers.
Now if you break things down, each team will have a reason to keep an eye on. But since we needed to limit this to five teams, we kept it to some of the clubs that could be making some of the bigger moves over the course of the 2016 Winter Meetings.
So who will you be watching the closest during the Winter Meetings? What type of moves will your favorite team make? Tell us in the comments!