Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2015 MLB Winter Meetings

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterDecember 10, 2015

Switch-hitting free agent Ben Zobrist, center, shakes hands with Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, right, at Major League Baseball's winter meetings where it was announced that Zobrist has signed with the Cubs Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. At left is Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

There was a report Thursday morning from Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area that free-agent outfielder Jason Heyward could sign by the end of the day, "or very soon."

So I guess we could wait to see where Heyward goes before we do winter meetings winners and losers. Or we could wait until Chris Davis signs. Or until Johnny Cueto signs. Or until the Cincinnati Reds make a trade that actually goes through.

If we wait for all the winter business to be done, though, we might be waiting until Gerrit Cole throws the first pitch of the 2016 MLB season April 3 at PNC Park.

No need to wait. The 2015 winter meetings are history, and that means it's time for winter meetings winners and losers. The winter winners and losers will include Heyward, Davis, Cueto and more.

So here goes:

The Winners

Chicago Cubs

It helps to be going against the grain, and while seemingly everyone else in baseball is trying to get younger, the Cubs were willing to get a little older. Older and better, because new starter John Lackey (37 years old) and new second baseman Ben Zobrist (34) fit perfectly with the kids Theo Epstein and Co. have already assembled into a real World Series contender.

Epstein said last month, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs would need to be creative to add more than one significant piece, but he's already added two (plus usable pitcher Adam Warren), and he still has potential trade pieces (Jorge Soler, Javier Baez) and maybe some money to chase more talent (Heyward?).

Arizona Diamondbacks

Shelby Miller is good enough to get two teams on the winners list: the one that got him and the one that dealt him away.
Shelby Miller is good enough to get two teams on the winners list: the one that got him and the one that dealt him away.John Bazemore/Associated Press

Others will have the Diamondbacks on the losers list, because of the prospects they gave up to get Shelby Miller. They're winners here, for now, because they've taken a team that finished below .500 last year and turned it into a true contender in the National League West.

As general manager Dave Stewart told reporters in Nashville, Tennessee, "For me, it's the cost to win." For me, I like teams that try to win when they have a chance. And with a lineup built around Paul Goldschmidt and a rotation that begins with Zack Greinke (who signed just prior to the meetings), Patrick Corbin and Miller, the Diamondbacks now have a chance.

Atlanta Braves

That said, the Braves are also winners, for now, because the Miller trade helps them with their plan to win—to win in 2018 or 2019, that is. They've assembled a ton of young talent with all the moves over the last two years (trading Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Andrelton Simmons and Miller, among others), and eventually the prospect hawks will rip them for trading some of that talent in a win-now deal.

They're not ready to win now, so they've got another year or two where they can do no wrong. They won't be fun to watch in 2016, but former Braves executive Dayton Moore (now the general manager of the world champion Kansas City Royals) can tell you rebuilding plans sometimes work out just fine.

Houston Astros

Neil Walker could fit the Mets even better than Ben Zobrist would have.
Neil Walker could fit the Mets even better than Ben Zobrist would have.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The Astros were smart/lucky enough not to end up with Aroldis Chapman and instead ended up with Ken Giles, whose age (25), stuff and years of control (five) fit their profile. And as Brian T. Smith wrote in the Houston Chronicle, the relatively low-cost deal for Giles leaves the Astros with the chance to do more to improve their already impressive team.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers got their front-line starter (Jordan Zimmermann), closer (Francisco Rodriguez) and outfielder (Cameron Maybin) before the meetings began, but they still needed the depth in the rotation (Mike Pelfrey) and bullpen (Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson) they got this week.

Two questions remain: Are Rodriguez, Wilson and Lowe enough to finally give the Tigers a bullpen worthy of a contender, and is owner Mike Ilitch willing to spend even more to get one of the big-name free-agent outfielders?

New York Mets

It's tough to be a winner when you lose out on your self-declared top target (Ben Zobrist), but the Mets' pivot to Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera may end up fitting them better than a four-year, $60 million Zobrist deal would have.

Walker brings some of what they hoped to get in Zobrist (and what they lose with Daniel Murphy now likely leaving), and while Cabrera isn't the great defensive shortstop they could still use, the infield depth means this is a better roster than the one that had a .500 record near midseason—if not as good as the one that went to the World Series.

Seattle Mariners

We kept waiting on a really big move, and maybe the Mariners still have that in them. But with the trades for Wade Miley and Adam Lind, Jerry Dipoto continued the roster remake he began after taking over as general manager at the end of the season. The Mariners already have stars, in Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. They didn't have enough players around them to win. Do they now? We'll see.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins won by keeping their ace, Jose Fernandez.
The Marlins won by keeping their ace, Jose Fernandez.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

They didn't do anything, did they? Exactly.

The Marlins didn't trade ace pitcher Jose Fernandez, and they didn't deal talented outfielder Marcell Ozuna. What they did was reinforce the idea that Fernandez can only be had for an overwhelming price (they asked the Diamondbacks for the three players who went to the Braves for Miller, plus Corbin and infield prospect Brandon Drury, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald).

The Fernandez rumors won't stop, and some will consider the Marlins a little duplicitous for claiming he's not available while also listening to offers. But the way they handled the situation was downright responsible. How rare is it to be able to say the Marlins did that?

The Losers

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers haven't necessarily lost the winter, but they sure did lose the meetings. They arrived in Nashville fresh off being outbid by the rival Diamondbacks for their co-ace, Greinke, and they made things worse by getting caught up in the Chapman mess (agreeing to a trade that fell apart because of his alleged involvement in a domestic dispute).

While it's still unclear who knew what about Chapman when, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reported this week that the Red Sox backed out of Chapman talks when they uncovered news last month. The Dodgers didn't back out until Monday.

The result was a week spent responding to that double dose of bad news, with only a Hisashi Iwakuma signing to celebrate. Oh, and then there was the story my buddy Scott Miller posted on Bleacher Report Thursday morning—the one that included a former Dodger calling Yasiel Puig the "worst person I've ever seen in this game."

Cincinnati Reds

Aroldis Chapman is a winter meetings loser, and he put two teams on the list with him.
Aroldis Chapman is a winter meetings loser, and he put two teams on the list with him.John Minchillo/Associated Press

The Reds lost their best trade chip when the Chapman case came to light, and now it's unclear when or if they'll be able to turn him into needed prospects. But it wasn't just Chapman. For a team that smartly made all its players available, the Reds made surprisingly few appearances in the rumor mill.

That doesn't mean they won't deal Chapman, Todd Frazier or Jay Bruce, but by the end of the meetings, all remained on the roster.

San Francisco Giants

For the second straight winter, the Giants went after an impact starter and fell short (Jon Lester last year, Greinke this year). And while Greinke didn't stay with the rival Dodgers, the Giants now face two strong NL West opponents with Arizona getting much better.

New York Yankees

Starlin Castro may turn out to be a nice addition, but the Yankees still make themselves sound like a limited-budget team, talking more about value and years of control than about talent and winning now.

They did need to get younger and more athletic, but by dealing away Warren (for Castro) and Wilson (for two minor league pitchers, Luis Cessa and Chad Green, as reported by Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press), they took away from their bullpen, which was a 2015 strength. They wanted to trade Andrew Miller or Brett Gardner for a young pitcher, with no success so far.

Tampa Bay Rays

They made every pitcher but Chris Archer available and had to be disappointed with the general lack of interest.

Aroldis Chapman

No one lost more value this week.

Johnny Cueto

David Price, Greinke and Zimmermann got their money. Cueto, who turned down $120 million from the Diamondbacks, seemed to be the forgotten starter this week.

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.


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