Reassessing MLB's Offseason Landscape Post-GM/Owners' Meetings
Without a lot of significant player movement, you might assume the general manager and owners' meetings that took place in Orlando this week were a bust. How wrong you would be.
As I said in my piece detailing what happens at these meetings, even if no movement actually happens, teams are talking to each other, and you can put the framework of a deal to be completed at a later date in place.
There was one notable move this week, as the Philadelphia Phillies signed Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million contract. It's a good deal for Byrd, who was a surprise performer for the Mets and Pirates in 2012.
That's hardly the most important development to come from these meetings. To put a final bow on the GM/Owners' meetings, which concluded on Thursday, here are the biggest stories and what they mean as we approach the Winter Meetings in December.
The Champs Could Be Dealing, Again
Even though they didn't jump on the biggest free agents last year, the Boston Red Sox laid the foundation for the 2013 championship team by signing Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Koji Uehara in the offseason.
This year, while they aren't likely to do anything drastic, the Red Sox could deal from a position of depth.
Speaking to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, Boston general manager Ben Cherington said there's been interest in the team's starting pitching.
Ben Cherington said there's interest from other teams on Boston's starting pitchers. The Red Sox have six starters for five spots—Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) November 13, 2013
The Red Sox currently have Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront as rotation candidates for 2014. The top two names aren't going to be dealt, but Peavy, Dempster or Doubront make sense as trade candidates.
Lackey is the wild card in the equation because he's coming off a great bounce-back year when everyone thought his career as a viable starter was over two years ago. If the Red Sox get a strong offer for him, I could see a scenario where he's traded.
Another not-so-surprising revelation, courtesy of ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes, has Stephen Drew all but certain to find a new home.
A baseball source said Tuesday that shortstop Stephen Drew will not return to the Red Sox because there are a number of teams willing to make multiyear offers for his services beyond anything Boston would do.
Boston can slot uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts into the Opening Day lineup at shortstop, with Will Middlebrooks getting one more shot to become the everyday third baseman.
Drew figures to get a nice contract this offseason as a rare shortstop who is a plus defender with the ability to hit. Considering he's represented by Scott Boras, I wouldn't be shocked to see a deal in the three-year, $40 million range.
What Are the Mets Doing?
The Mets have done a great job of shedding salary in recent years, taking the payroll from $142 million in 2011 to just under $94 million last season. They aren't putting a great product on the field, but help is on the way.
David Wright, when healthy, is still one of the 10 best players in the National League. Travis d'Arnaud got a taste of the big leagues last year. Zack Wheeler had moments of brilliance in his 17 starts.
The loss of Matt Harvey to Tommy John surgery is going to leave a black hole in the rotation next year, though with more money freed up the Mets might be able to make up for some of his production.
One object of their affection could be Jhonny Peralta, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
The Mets clandestinely met with free-agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta, according to league sources.
No Mets person would admit there was a meeting with Peralta, but sources on other teams said he did meet with them.
Heyman also noted that Peralta likely helped himself by attending the GM meetings, which isn't common practice for players.
Buster Olney of ESPN noted that people in Peralta's camp are looking for a huge contract.
Jhonny Peralta's reps said to be looking for big-time money, far more than 3/45m.—Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 14, 2013
If there's a team out there willing to meet that price, it shouldn't be the Mets. Peralta has never been a consistent player, with an OPS over .800 in 2011 and 2013 but hovering around .700 in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Shin-Soo Choo has also been rumored to be on the Mets' radar, though general manager Sandy Alderson tells Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal the team won't invest $100 million in one player.
Given how awful their outfield and shortstop situations are, I would be shocked if the Mets didn't make a play for at least one notable free agent. It's probably going to be a second-tier player, who won't cost as much in years or dollars.
Yankees Making a Lot of White Noise
It has been assumed the Yankees would be big players this offseason because of what the franchise endured in 2013. An old, frail pitching staff was overshadowed by an anemic offense that lost Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter for most of the year.
While the team still awaits word on Rodriguez's suspension appeal, decisions have to be made in the interim.
A hot rumor that started Wednesday had the Yankees linked as a potential trade partner for St. Louis third baseman David Freese, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post shot that down.
There was a report that the Yankees were pursuing 2011 World Series hero David Freese of the Cardinals. But an involved person said that was not going to happen.
Sherman did note that the Yankees could address third base, depending on what happens with A-Rod, by possibly going after Eric Chavez or a versatile player like Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew.
Drew is interesting because he's a natural shortstop, but the Yankees have been steadfast in their refusal to move Jeter off the position. Given Jeter's age and injuries, he will likely have to DH more often in 2014, not to mention how limited his range at shortstop has been for the last decade.
Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reported the Yankees aren't expecting any potential deal they do make to happen quickly. He does cite a New York Daily News report stating the team wanted to move fast on Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
Those types of players, top-tier free agents, aren't likely to do anything before the Winter Meetings where a bigger market can develop.
Upgrades will happen, though the extent to which they do likely depends on whether they re-sign Robinson Cano and for how much, so expect the process to take some time.
Blue Jays Looking to Make Another Offseason Splash?
If at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again. Aaliyah never sang truer words, and the Toronto Blue Jays figure to take the advice to heart.
Despite "winning" the offseason last year in the trades with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, the Blue Jays never got off the ground in 2013. They finished last in the American League East with a 74-88 record but still have a lot of talent to bounce back next year.
The problem is after the trades last year, the Blue Jays had no immediate help in the system to come up if/when injuries occurred. That remains an issue heading into next year, which is why it makes sense for general manager Alex Anthopoulos to explore the market once again.
According to Shi Davidi of SportsNet Canada, the Blue Jays aren't going to make any moves quickly.
As Anthopoulos explains it, “at least from a trade standpoint, I think it’s going to be slower to develop and that may impact the free agent market as well. If I’m just going off the two or three days here, I think you’ll see much more activity at the winter meetings.”
Davidi does note the Blue Jays "are expected to make a push for Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija" in the coming weeks.
Considering Samardzija is two years away from free agency and has 394 strikeouts in 388.1 innings since 2012, the Cubs can ask for a hefty ransom that the Blue Jays might not be able or willing to match.
The team does have $109 million in financial commitments to players next season, not including arbitration-eligible players. A cost-controlled player, like Samardzija, is the kind of player the Jays could realistically go after.
You will notice I didn't mention anything about Jose Bautista. Davidi included a quote from Anthopoulos stating those rumors about a deal with Philadelphia for Domonic Brown and others was "totally false, fabricated, ridiculous."
That was my first thought upon hearing it, and I'm happy to hear the GM say that.
Mariners Ready to Steal the Offseason
At some point, drastic action has to be taken to shake a franchise's fan base out of apathy. The Mariners haven't given the people of Seattle anything to be excited about for years, but that could change this offseason.
It's no secret that an inability to score runs the last five seasons has doomed the Mariners. They have tried everything from drafting high-ceiling bats (Dustin Ackley) to trading for sure-fire middle-of-the-order hitters (Jesus Montero) with little or nothing to show for it.
Even temporary solutions, like Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, weren't enough to push the franchise higher than 22nd in runs scored this year.
Reports have the Mariners linked to essentially every available free-agent hitter this winter, as well as a few notable trade candidates.
Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reported the Mariners have interest in Colorado outfielder Dexter Fowler and Los Angeles outfielder Matt Kemp.
Sources: Mariners have expressed interest in trading for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who is available. @FOXSports1—Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 13, 2013
On top of that there were reports from Jerry Crasnick of ESPN that the Mariners would like to add Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz.
#Mariners are ambitious: Heard they'd like to find a way to add both Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran. Hey, they're trying.—Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 12, 2013
It's going to take more than one piece to get the Mariners competitive in the American League West. They have a playoff-caliber pitching staff right now, with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker at the top.
If they were able to add two or three big bats in the middle of the order, they could at least flirt with .500 for the first time since winning 85 games in 2009.
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