5 MLB Deals That Will Be Struck Before the Winter Meetings

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistNovember 26, 2013

5 MLB Deals That Will Be Struck Before the Winter Meetings

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    MLB teams are not messing around this offseason.

    Before the rest of us can cut Thanksgiving short to save some dough for a flat-screen TV, many baseball squads have already purchased expensive gifts for their fans. General managers have not yet gathered for the annual winter meetings, but they're already busy hammering home deals before the holidays.

    In another slew of signings that will inspire parents to push their children to play baseball, Carlos Ruiz, Tim Hudson, Dan Haren, Chris Young, Jhonny Peralta and Brian McCann, among others, are already off the market.

    That's not even including the blockbuster trade that saw the Detroit Tigers send Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler.

    There's already plenty of change to note, yet the offseason has only just begun. When baseball executives assemble in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 9, they'll chalk up even more agreements—but not until first riding Space Mountain, of course.

    Considering the league's impatience so far, it's safe to assume teams won't pause their business until December. More moves will come, but which ones?

    Let's employ our critical-thinking skills to decipher which deals will go down next. Just keep in mind that these are educated guesses based on recent rumor-mill rumblings. Don't rush to pre-order a new jersey.

    Note: All advanced stats are courtesy of FanGraphs.com. Payroll information obtained from Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Carlos Beltran to New York Yankees

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    Did you expect the New York Yankees to start shopping in the clearance aisle?

    Despite their frequently discussed goals to eschew the luxury tax, the Yankees made free agency's first major splash by inking Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract. Even after allotting $17 million of their 2014 payroll to the catcher, they remain $74 million under the $189 million threshold.

    The Bronx Bombers will obviously want to shell out a large slice of that remaining money to star second baseman Robinson Cano, but the two parties are currently stuck at an impasse, as neither side will budge from their widely differing contract estimates.

    Due to negotiations between MLB and Japanese officials to update the posting process, pitcher Masahiro Tanaka—a key target for the Yankees—will not be available until mid-December at the earliest, per The Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough.

    While the Yankees work through those obstacles, they will shift their attention to Carlos Beltran.

    According to the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand, Beltran is the Yankees' top target at the moment. While the outfielder has other suitors, he has reciprocated his desire to wear pinstripes. The only thing blocking a deal is the Yankees' wariness of giving the 36-year-old outfielder three years rather than two.

    Since his line-drive swing fits perfectly at Yankee Stadium and the club just handed gradually declining catcher Brian McCann five years, the Yankees are likely to budge for the .283/.359/.498 career slugger.

Phil Hughes to Miami Marlins

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    One Yankee who certainly won't return to the Bronx is Phil Hughes, who will search for a fresh start after the short porch at Yankee Stadium ate him alive. It doesn't get any further from the New York spotlight than the Miami Marlins.

    As demonstrated by Chris Young and Dan Haren, gambling on a bounce-back candidate is in this season, and the Marlins are looking to stay trendy. According to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, the Marlins are pursuing Hughes in hopes that he lowered his value with a poor 2013 campaign:

    The Marlins often like to pursue players who had one bad year after a good one, hoping to get them at a reasonable price. So it’s not surprising they called about Yankees free agent right-hander Phil Hughes, who went 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 2013 after going 16-13 in 2012.

    We must fight through the gut-wrenching dagger of a writer illuminating his point by using wins rather than the good stats to accept that Hughes wasn't all that great last season. Yankee Stadium can't take all the blames for Hughes' struggles, but it certainly helped bloat his ERA. His .324 BABIP and 4.50 FIP, meanwhile, offer encouraging signs of greener pastures in a new locale.

    Not that Hughes was ever an ace, but his new employer would gladly take his 4.23 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 3.59 K/BB ratio and 2.3 WAR from 2012. A brave soul that overlooks his disastrous 2013 campaign could steal a mid-level starter at a lower-tier rate.

    The Marlins don't have much going on for them after a 62-100 season, so other teams' castaways are the best they can hope for this offseason. Escaping the demanding New York culture for a subdued Florida baseball market makes sense for Hughes, especially since he gets to pitch in a larger ballpark for a National League team.

Bronson Arroyo to Minnesota Twins

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    An ace Bronson Arroyo is not, but his durable arm is an item in demand. His consistency will attract investors interested in a short-term deal, but the Minnesota Twins are a top bet to give him even more.

    The Twins have a penchant for chasing contact pitchers who throw strikes, but cannot generate strikeouts. They remained loyal to Nick Blackburn for years, and last winter handed Kevin Correia $10 million over two years despite his microscopic 4.68 K/9 rate in 2012.

    Signing Arroyo is perfect for them, and the veteran could parlay their eagerness into a long-term contract.

    Arroyo boasts an unappetizing 4.31 career ERA and 5.52 K/9 ratio, but he’s one of baseball’s surest bets to take the ball every fifth game. He has logged at least 200 innings in all but one season since 2004, and that one outlier saw him fall short by a single inning.

    In need of more arms, the Twins are hot on Arroyo’s tail, and Mike Berardino of TwinCities.com reported they appeal willing to offer the veteran three years.

    Plenty of teams are sniffing around Arroyo, but few will be anxious to lock down the 36-year-old hurler—who will turn 37 before Opening Day—for three seasons after recording a combined 1.7 WAR over his past three campaigns.

    Nevertheless, don't be shocked when the Twins offer him a three-year, $30 million contract to leave the Cincinnati Reds.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Minnesota Twins

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    The Twins only have six players accounting for $46 million on their books, so why not keep shopping?

    In order to protect their top asset, the Twins previously announced their plans to strip Joe Mauer of his catching mask and instead insert him at first base. They no longer want their star player dealing with the rigors of catching, but somebody has to.

    Luckily for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, picked the perfect season to register career numbers for the World Series champion Red Sox. His .273/.338/.466 slash line set personal bests across the board, and he played solid defense behind the plate for Boston.

    His inflated .372 BABIP and 29.6 strikeout percentage paints a misleading portrait of a plate average that will drop, but I won't tell if you don't. Now that Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz are off the market, Saltalamacchia is the top catcher crouching.

    That should intensify talks among teams trying to lock him down. Perhaps the team that forgives low strikeout tallies in pitchers will pursue a hitter who can't stop whiffing. Berardino wrote that the Twins are also "still in play" for Saltalamacchia.

    After slugging .380 as a team last season, the Twins can use some offensive reinforcements. Signing Salty would also help justify moving Mauer away from catching.

Brian Wilson to Detroit Tigers

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    It's only a matter of time before a big-name relief pitcher chooses his destination. The Detroit Tigers are clamoring to start the party by snatching a resurgent Brian Wilson.

    According to The Detroit News' Lynn Henning, the Tigers are closing in on the bearded one:

    The Tigers are moving toward a possible deal with free-agent bullpen closer Brian Wilson, The Detroit News has learned.

    A source told The Detroit News that negotiations with the ex-Dodgers and Giants reliever were serious. The source requested anonymity because a deal had not been reached.

    After missing 16 months following Tommy John surgery, Wilson triumphantly returned late last season, allowing one earned run through 13.1 regular-season innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He continued to exhibit his return to form with six more scoreless frames during the postseason.

    Joaquin Benoit, who registered a 2.01 ERA and 1.03 as Detroit's closer last season, will likely fetch a lucrative free-agent contract, leading the Tigers to look elsewhere. Although Benoit was excellent in the ninth inning of games, Detroit might prefer Wilson's prolonged track record as a closer. While Benoit is one of many relievers who have proven that past closing experience is not necessary to handle the job, old habits are hard to squash.

    Expect Wilson, who has collected 171 career saves, to get an opportunity to expand that total wherever he lands. The 31-year-old sports a career 3.10 ERA and 9.52 K/9 ratio as one of the game's most electric (albeit erratic) late-game hurlers when healthy.

    While financial figures have not been disclosed, Detroit is unlikely to steal Wilson at a bargain due to his past accolades as a closer and the name recognition he gained from his grizzled beard and eccentric persona.