Bleacher Report's Predictions for the 2015 MLB Winter Meetings, 1 Week Out
Next Monday, the best and brightest minds of Major League Baseball will be yukking it up in Nashville, Tennessee, causing both the rumor mill and the transaction wire to go haywire.
Yes, the winter meetings are nearly upon us. You had best prepare yourself for the madness.
Clearly, the way to do that is to listen to warnings about what's coming. That's what we're going to get into by using this final week before the winter meetings to make some predictions.
We're not going to go in any kind of order, but I can offer this teaser without getting too spoiler-y: The first four predictions are educated guesses, whereas the last four are more of the BOLD PREDICTION variety.
Step into the box whenever you're ready.
Aroldis Chapman Will Finally Be Traded
There hasn't been a ton of action this winter, but what movement there has been has happened mainly on the trade market. Andrelton Simmons and Craig Kimbrel have already moved in blockbuster trades, and many more big-name players are considered to be available.
Out of all those, nobody is a better bet to be traded at the winter meetings than Aroldis Chapman.
As C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last month, Chapman is one of several players the Cincinnati Reds are willing to listen on. But because he's due for free agency after 2016, it's no wonder that they seem especially interested in moving him. According to another report from Rosecrans, Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty wants to deal Chapman before the winter meetings.
Maybe that'll happen. But with the meetings so close, we feel compelled to ask: Why rush?
Jocketty could accept the best offer for Chapman before heading to Nashville, but that would be a missed opportunity. With a coveted flamethrowing closer on his hands and all of MLB's high-ranking execs within arm's reach, Jocketty will be in an ideal position to stage a bidding war at the winter meetings. They're his best chance of finding a package for Chapman that rivals the huge return the San Diego Padres got for Kimbrel.
That's just what the rebuilding Reds need.
But though you can bet on a blockbuster involving Chapman at the winter meetings, don't count on many other blockbuster trades. Because the way things are shaping up...
Quiet Trade Market, Loud Free-Agent Market
Though the trade market has indeed been the center of attention this offseason, things have begun to heat up on the free-agent front. In the last couple of days, we've seen J.A. Happ sign for a surprising amount of money with the Blue Jays (three years, $36 million) and Jordan Zimmermann, now of the Detroit Tigers, ink the winter's first $100 million contract.
But, meh. This is just an appetizer. The main course is coming next week.
When we looked ahead to the winter meetings last year, one of our predictions was there would be more action on the trade market than on the free-agent market. The logic was that most of the big-name players on the free-agent market were already spoken for, which left teams to turn to trades for answers.
This line of reasoning ended up being on point. So, why not try to make it two years in a row?
This offseason market is in a similar position, after all. Though many players have been moved in trades, Happ and Zimmermann are among a small collection of free agents who have signed. That wouldn't mean much if this year's class of free agents was lacking in talent, but that's far from being the case.
One agent told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that this is the "deepest (free-agent) market in memory." From David Price to Zack Greinke to Johnny Cueto to Jason Heyward to Justin Upton to Chris Davis to a whole host of solid regulars, there are plenty of names to back up that claim.
All these players have been able to do is feel out the market, but that should change when executives, agents and assorted other deal-makers are in one place next week. Rest assured, many a deal will be struck.
As for who could be going where, well...
Zack Greinke Will Pick a Side in Dodgers-Giants Rivalry
Because Zimmermann's signing set the market for ace-level starting pitching, the spotlight is now on Greinke, Price and Cueto. Two seem like good bets to sign at the winter meetings, including Greinke.
As for where he's going to sign, it sounds like a two-horse race between NL West rivals: Greinke will either stick with the Los Angeles Dodgers or jump ship to the San Francisco Giants.
This is the sense one gets from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. He reported Monday that Greinke's market is "heating up" on the eve of the winter meetings and that the Dodgers and Giants are "both looking for some clarity."
To that end, Crasnick tweets they should be aware that Greinke wants $30 million annually after posting an MLB-best 1.66 ERA in 2015. The Dodgers and Giants are two of very few clubs that can afford such a contract. And because teams such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees don't seem especially interested, it's no wonder that only the Dodgers and Giants have been seriously linked to Greinke.
If it comes down to a classic bidding war, Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today rightfully reasoned that the Dodgers will have the inside track for Greinke. They have all the money in the world to offer the ace, who definitely likes money.
But that doesn't mean the Giants don't stand a chance. Dodgers boss Andrew Friedman may be too risk-averse to commit big bucks to a 32-year-old pitcher. That may be less of a deal-breaker for the Giants, who believe Greinke will age well, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Whatever the case, don't be surprised when Greinke's free agency is resolved sometime next week. For that matter, don't be surprised when a fellow ace also finds a new home...
Red Sox Will Get It over With, Sign David Price
To Mr. Price and the Red Sox, we say this: Dudes, just get it over with already.
The ace left-hander has been linked to quite a few teams but few as heavily as the Boston Red Sox. And nowadays, it seems like Price signing with the Red Sox is all anyone can talk about.
As Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons noted on his website, fellow pundits Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated) have both predicted that Price will sign with the Red Sox. Gammons has heard the same from a half dozen general managers, and Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe has written that Price is indeed "the guy they want."
None of this is surprising. Red Sox boss Dave Dombrowski said in October that he was in the market for a "horse," per Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. That's a fine idea, given that Boston has lacked such a pitcher ever since it traded Jon Lester in mid-2014. More recently, Dombrowski also said he anticipates finding one on the open market.
"These are only guesses at this time," Dombrowski told Ian Browne of MLB.com after the Kimbrel trade. "But going into the wintertime and with conversations we've had with clubs over the last month, my thought process is most likely any acquisition we'd make in the starting pitching would first happen as far as the free-agent field is concerned."
Granted, it's possible Price will make like Max Scherzer last winter and drag out his free agency as part of an effort to get every last dollar. But the Red Sox are clearly desperate, and Price would be wise to capitalize on that desperation before they get fed up and pursue other options. They should have $200 million or so to give him, and he should take it.
This takes care of our educated guesses. Moving on to bolder predictions...
Yoenis Cespedes Will Set the Outfield Market
OK, enough about the starting pitching market. It's impressive, but it doesn't have a monopoly on the winter's star free agents. In Heyward, Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon, there are some good ones on the outfield market as well.
And we're calling it now: The guy who's going to set the market for the rest is Cespedes.
This is us going out on a limb. There aren't any rumors that suggest he is nearing a deal with anyone. Heck, he hasn't been the subject of that many rumors, period.
But come the winter meetings, he should be. Let us count the reasons why.
For one, Cespedes is not tied to draft-pick compensation because of his midseason trade from Detroit to New York. All it takes to sign him is money, something that virtually every team has plenty of nowadays.
For two, Cespedes can be signed as either an everyday left fielder or an everyday center fielder. He certainly works better as the former, but he's good enough as the latter to justify a big expense.
For three, Cespedes has loads of athleticism that comes with one specific asset that's valuable in today's game: his right-handed power. There's not a whole lot of that to be found anymore, and he just showed in blasting 35 home runs in 2015 that he has a lot of it.
These three things give Cespedes a pretty wide range of appeal. That should lead to plenty of calls to his representatives during the winter meetings, resulting in a market-setting deal.
However, he may not be the hottest free agent at Nashville. Instead, it sounds like that honor will go to...
There Will Be a Massive Bidding War over Ben Zobrist
Cespedes may have the cash-only price tag, versatile outfield glove and thunderous right-handed power to appeal to a wide range of teams, but he can't claim to be a human Swiss army knife.
There's only one man who can: Ben Zobrist. And during the winter meetings, that's going to cause a great many teams to come running.
As it is, it already sounds like clubs are stretching their legs and warming up. According to Rosenthal, Zobrist's market is likely to become "more defined" in the next few days, with the big question being if anyone will be willing to guarantee the 34-year-old veteran four years.
That will ultimately be decided by Zobrist's leverage, and he should have lots of that. Rosenthal mentions the Giants, Mets, Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals as potential suitors. The St. Louis Cardinals have also been whispered, per ESPN.com's Buster Olney, and it may not be a given that the Kansas City Royals are done with him. That's one-fifth of the league, and that may only be scratching the surface.
The one knock on Zobrist is his age, but even that only does so much to diminish his appeal. He's not tied to draft-pick compensation, and he's a switch-hitter with good on-base skills, some power and speed, and a glove that can fit at virtually every position on the diamond. If the question is where he fits, the best answer is something like, "Everywhere, you fool!"
So, you can expect to be overrun by Zobrist rumors during the winter meetings. Those will be the runoff of a massive bidding war, one that should result in a dandy of a deal for baseball's most versatile player.
Mind you, the winter meetings aren't all about who gets rich. Those who fail to get rich can also stand out, so let's talk about...
Jason Heyward Will Remain Unsigned
Even if Cespedes is the one who sets the market, there's no question that Heyward is going to end up being the richest of the free-agent market's star outfielders.
As for who's going to make him rich and when...uh, well...
On the basis that he's a 26-year-old right fielder with a game-changing glove, a pretty strong bat and underrated legs, Heyward should be the subject of all sorts of rumors. Instead, his market has been quiet.
The Cardinals should arguably re-sign Heyward, but they probably can't afford the roughly $200 million it would take to do so. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports has reported that the Los Angeles Angels haven't ruled out a run at Heyward, but that's barely a rumor. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score writes the Cubs have done their homework on Gordon, but one assumes all teams have.
And that's pretty much it. For whatever reason, the rumor mill hasn't had much to say about Heyward.
Maybe this means a mystery team is lurking, in which case Heyward signing a contract could actually be imminent. That's how mystery teams roll.
But one senses that Heyward's market more closely resembles that of Scherzer's last winter. It was obvious he was going to make the big bucks, but that limited his options, and said options seemed content to sit back and play the waiting game. Just as Scherzer obliged them, so could Heyward.
He may not be alone, though. Another guy who looks unlikely to be signed during the winter meetings is...
Chris Davis Will Also Remain Unsigned
Teams may want right-handed power in particular, but they'll take any kind of power they can get. That should be good news for Chris Davis, who led MLB in homers for the second time in three years in 2015.
However, his market has been about as quiet as Heyward's.
Like with Heyward, there's no question that Davis, 29, is going to make the big bucks. He figures to get at least $150 million and may end up close to $200 million. Such is the going rate for one of the very few 50-homer threats in today's MLB.
But also like Heyward, which team is going to pay him is a good question.
The Baltimore Orioles are said to be interested in re-signing him, but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes they may need him to take a hometown discount. According to Morosi, the Cardinals have also been linked to Davis, but he would likely require the largest contract in their history. The Houston Astros need a first baseman, but Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle doubts they'll be major players for Davis.
Again, it's possible a mystery team is ready to pounce on Davis. But it's even easier to buy the silence of his market than it is to buy that of Heyward. Davis has a ton of power, but he's also nearly on the wrong side of 30 and is lacking in concrete skills to go with his power.
But Davis should fear not. He's represented by Scott Boras, otherwise known as "Mr. January." He's shown time and again that he's willing to drag out his clients' free agency, and it usually results in him getting what he wants. If Davis' market continues to be slow in Nashville, Boras could commit to his January tactic right then and there.
At any rate, those are our winter meetings predictions. We'll see you next week, when all these predictions will inevitably go up in flames.