As the weather gets colder, baseball’s off-season has been warming up the last few days. From the Shohei Ohtani siging to the Giancarlo Stanton trade, deals figure to get hotter over the next four days in Orlando as the winter meetings descend upon the land of Mickey and Minnie. Here are some things and teams to look out for during the upcoming week:
The Angels’ next moves
Now that the Angels have won the services of Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, what do they do next? While Ohtani doesn’t make the Angels World Series favorites or even a major threat to the reigning World Series champion Astros in the AL West, he does make them markedly better. It’s improvement that they must show their fan base as a move to improve the team now. While their farm system is pretty bare, their pockets are still a little flush thanks to Ohtani’s very team friendly deal, aided by MLB’s international signing rules (the contract will only cost the Angels roughly $5 million over 3 years).
Two positions they must improve are at 2nd and 3rd base. Trading for someone along the likes of Ian Kinsler and using the saved Ohtani money on say Mike Moustaskas would go a long way toward turning the Angels into a wild card contender very quickly. At the very least, Ohtani and Trout alone should keep the Angels a very entertaining team to watch next season.
The Evil Empire Strikes Back?
13’ 1” and 527 lbs. That is the combined height and weight of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the New York Yankees new dynamic duo after the Yankees fleeced the Miami Marlins and their new owner Derek Jeter. While this was a move that wasn’t necessary for the Yankees, it was a move they had to make after missing out on Shohei Ohtani. Stanton included the Bronx Bombers amongst the four teams he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause for (the others being the Dodgers, Astros and Cubs). Adding Stanton to an offense that trailed only the Astros in runs scored last season is downright scary.
While some observers have already anointed the Yankees as a burgeoning dynasty (which is ludicrous considering they haven’t won anything yet) I offer a reason for caution: the starting pitching. Behind promising youngster Luis Severino, you have Masahiro Tanaka coming off a 13–12 season sporting a 4.74 era, injury prone Sonny Gray, and that’s the list. Before anyone in New York “starts spreading the news,” the Yankees must find another starting pitcher or two. With deep pockets (I don’t buy Hal Steinbrenner stating he wants to stay under the luxury threshold at all) and a deep farm system, the Yankees have every means to make a move and I believe they will, just who will it be?
The “not as big name” guys
Now that Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton have found new homes, the attention now shifts to the next tier of free agents — JD Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas — and their possible destinations. With Scott Boras as his agent and several teams in need of a power bat, I see no real reason JD Martinez can do anything but smile right now. I see the Cardinals and Giants continuing to whiff this offseason and Martinez signing with Boston. After finishing at the bottom of the AL in HR’s for only the second time since 1934 and seeing the hated Yankees add Giancarlo Stanton, the Red Sox will have to go hard after him and get him signed.
Eric Hosmer is an interesting case. He’s always been a favorite of mine. Tthe guy is just a winner; however, his lack of truly dominating in a category while simply excelling in each makes Hosmer an afterthought amongst teams. This truly boggles my mind. As much as I hate to admit this (Cubs’ homer and North Side resident), I see him as a perfect fit for the St. Louis Cardinals. They have a need for infield defense and Hosmer is a four-time Gold Glove winner. He would slot in perfectly as the type of gritty player the Cardinals covet and would give them a first baseman who could slash .300/22/85 while providing Gold Glove defense. This allows Matt Carpenter to turn into a super utility guy because of his ability to play all over the field. It’s a no-brainer signing if I were running the Cardinals.
Mike Moustakas had a career year last season and he will cash in big somewhere and that somewhere should be with Mickey Mouse, Mike Trout and newly acquired Shohei Ohtani. The Angels have a glaring hole at third base (Luis Valbuena) and can use the money saved on Ohtani to sign Moustakas long term and help bolster a lineup that would include Justin Upton, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and an aging Albert Pujols. Get it done Mickey and Minnie, get it done. Do not cout out either Boston or San Fransico for Moustakas’ services as well.
Closing out new deals
Every year there are closers hitting free agency and this year is no different. Greg Holland and Wade Davis are both coming off fantastic years and should be in line for something along the lines of four years and $60 million deals each. On a side note, how great was that Kansas City bullpen a few years back with Holland, Davis, and Kelvin Herrera. WOW, right? . Anyways, the Cardinals, Cubs, and Rockies are all in need of a closer and all three will vie for the services of either Davis or Holland. With the Cardinals adding Luke Gregorson and the Cubs adding Brandon Morrow earlier today, the need is a little less for them but both are seen more as set up men with closer potential.
What will the Tampa Bay Rays do? Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, and Alex Colome all have the potential to turn this upcoming week into something extra crazy by being dealt to a new home. All three are valuable in most part due to their very team friendly contracts. Colome and Archer have both been connected to one team lately and that is the Chicago Cubs. Archer has been coveted by the Cubs for some time now and would seemingly be the perfect fit if both sides can come to some sort of agreement. The Cubs have plenty of position player depth to deal from, but the Rays are asking for multiple young players as well as prospects in exchange. And have every reason to given Archer’s ace ability and very team-friendly six-year $25 million contract with teams options in 2020 and 2021 at only $8.25 milion a year.
If I were the Cubs, I do not trade Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, and a pitching prospect such as Oscar De La Cruz for Archer. Just go after a starter in free agency, such as Alex Cobb, who would be reuniting with pitching coach Jim Hickey and has shown a definite interest in joining the Cubs. Colome is a closer that if I am the Cardinals, Cubs, or Rockies, I stay far away from. Although Colome saved 47 games last season and was an All Star the season before, his peripherals took a nose dive last season with a regression in the walks, strikeout, and earned run departments.
Lastly, can the Rays stomach the idea of actually trading their franchise cornerstone player in Longoria? I don’t believe it will happen, as it would take a monster return, but you better believe the St. Louis Cardinals will be first in line to make an offer. The Cardinals, as well as the Giants and Red Sox, have a need of the same thing and that’s a power bat. While the Cardinals aren’t in as dire a need as the Red Sox and Giants (who hit a paltry 128 as a team last season), all three need an upgrade. Longoria would abolutely help all three teams with that.
Are the Brew Crew true?
Are the Brewers ready to be contenders? Last season, Milwaukee surprised a lot of people around baseball when they hung around the top of the NL Central division until the last month of the season. Anchored by some solid pitching and an improved offense, they showed they were ready to contend a season or so early. Now might be a good time to take that next step and sign a front of the rotation starting pitcher such as Jake Arrieta. He won’t come cheap, roughly six years and $130 million to start. Though, his signing could slide Zach Davies and Chase Anderson down to the number two and number three starters, respectively. This would strengthen the starting rotation greatly and give the Milwaukee faithful (are there any?) something to root for over the next several seasons.
Seattle making it rain on international free agents
The Mariners, Cardinals, and Giants all whiffed on their initial targets this offseason, Mariners with Ohtani and the Cardinals and Giants with Stanton. Seattle, having added additional international pool money for their Ohtani pursuit, now have that money to spend on a few international free agents such as Cuban outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez and any of the remaining Braves international signees from this year that are back on the market as part of Atlanta’s punishment for violating international rules. Martinez will also be targeted by Boston and San Fransisco, so Seattle will have competition. Also, don’t count the Mariners out on pursuing a starting pitcher either, as they also have a need with an aging Felix Hernandez and an inconsistent rotation behind him.
Are the Cubs going to break up the band?
With a surplus of positional wealth and a need for pitching, will the Cubs dip into that pool to fulfill their needs? Lackey and Arrieta left two holes in the starting staff. The Cubs filled one by signing for Rockies starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood last week to a three-year $38 milion deal. With another starting pitcher needed, the Cubs have now turned their attention to a pair of Rays. While Chris Archer has been coveted for quite some time, I just don’t see a deal coming into fruition with the Cubs. As previously mention, Chicago would have to give up multiple major leaguers as well a couple prospects to land him. Expect Alex Cobb to be the Cubs final piece in the rotation with a free agency deal worth around $45 million over four years.
Wade Davis free agency has left the Cubs needing a closer. When all is said and done, I think the Cubs are better off re-signing him rather than trading for a closer or giving Greg Holland essentially the same deal as Davis. The young Cubs positional player wealth is just too valuable for anything less than a blockbuster trade. I just don’t see anything resembling that kind of deal lining up this off season.
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
San Francisco Giants