Impact MLB Deals Most Likely to Be Pulled off During 2016 Winter Meetings
The baseball world is about to descend on National Harbor in Maryland, as MLB's 2016 winter meetings are set to kick off on Monday. And things are sure to be rather interesting.
That's not to say that it hasn't been an interesting offseason thus far. But with names like Chris Archer, Aroldis Chapman, Edwin Encarnacion, Andrew McCutchen and Chris Sale all making the rounds on the rumor mill, it's easy to believe that the baseball world is about to be turned upside down.
While the winter meetings often serve as the place that future deals are born, it'd be shocking if there weren't a few notable transactions completed while the baseball universe takes over the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.
Will Encarnacion sign? Is McCutchen going to be traded? Who, among Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon, will be the first of the elite closers to come off the market?
What follows are five impact deals that we believe will be pulled off during baseball's annual gathering, some of them providing answers to the questions above.
Aroldis Chapman Signs with the New York Yankees
The notion that Aroldis Chapman would ultimately re-sign with the New York Yankees is nothing new. As Bleacher Report's Seth Gruen wrote on Friday, "this seemed likely even after they traded him to the [Chicago] Cubs. Both parties have been vocal about their interest in one another.
“The organization treated me first class,” Chapman told NYSportsDay.com's Ray Negron last month. “And the fans were like no other. Chicago fans are great but there is something about a Yankee fan that is hard to explain. I would love to be a Yankee again.”
While the Yankees bullpen isn't likely to be quite as dominant in Chapman's second stint with the club—Andrew Miller is in Cleveland now, after all—a trio of Chapman, Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard could still be one of baseball's better late-inning relief trios, shortening games for a suspect rotation.
Edwin Encarnacion Signs with the Houston Astros
It looks like a three-team race to land Edwin Encarnacion, the top free-agent bat left on the market, with FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman listing the Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays as the clubs that "remain in" on the slugger.
The Astros, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, are confident that they'll be able to sign either Encarnacion or Carlos Beltran. Of the two, it's Encarnacion who makes far more sense for Houston to spend lavishly on.
Not only would he plug a hole at first base, but plugging Encarnacion into the middle of a lineup that already features Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer and newcomers Brian McCann and Josh Reddick would bring the team's offense to another level.
"He likes it," Encarnacion's agent, Paul Kinzer, told Fox 26's Mark Berman of his client's thoughts on joining the Astros. "He thinks it's a great fit." Kinzer noted that nothing was imminent with any club but that he thinks the franchise "appreciate[s] Edwin as a player and a person."
Houston will show Encarnacion just how much they appreciate him when they sign him to a four-year deal that approaches $100 million at the winter meetings.
Andrew McCutchen Gets Traded to the Washington Nationals
As of Friday night, Pittsburgh and Washington were still working on "a lot of different angles" that would result in Andrew McCutchen patrolling center field for the Nationals, according to ESPN.com's Jim Bowden.
Those "angles" surely include some scenarios that would find more than McCutchen becoming a former Pirate. It's all speculation, but it's not crazy to think that current Pirates closer Tony Watson, due a sizable raise in his last year of arbitration, could be part of a deal.
Washington might prefer a year of Watson to shelling out big bucks to an elite free agent like Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon, who did a superlative job for the Nationals down the stretch last season.
Pittsburgh likely wouldn't mind shedding Watson's salary, especially if including him helps them obtain 19-year-old outfielder Victor Robles, who as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted, the Pirates had targeted in trade talks between the teams back in July.
No matter what form this deal ultimately takes, one thing is for sure: McCutchen will be shagging fly balls in between Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth on Opening Day.
J.D. Martinez Gets Traded to the San Francisco Giants
San Francisco's need for a corner outfielder—preferably one on a short-term deal, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets—has been known for some time. That only adds to the appeal of Detroit's J.D. Martinez, who is entering the final year of his contract and whom the Giants spoke to the Tigers about last month, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi.
Martinez's right-handed bat would not only bring some balance to San Francisco's lineup but plug a gaping hole in left field, which had been filled in the past by some combination of Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson.
With a number of other options available, both via free agency and trades (New York's Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson among the latter), the cost to acquire Martinez doesn't figure to be prohibitive for the Giants, who depleted some of their farm system with last year's trades for Matt Moore and Will Smith.
Chris Archer or Evan Longoria—or Both—Gets Traded
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the obvious landing spot for both Chris Archer and Evan Longoria, given the team's need for a third baseman, another front-of-the-rotation starter and the familiarity the team's president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, has with both players from his time in Tampa Bay.
Moving Archer, who is due roughly $20 million through 2018, figures to be easier than dealing Longoria, who has nearly $100 million coming his way through 2022. But the Dodgers have the finances and prospects to pull off such a blockbuster, though they're certainly not the only teams with interest in the pair of former All-Stars.
Unlike past winters, when chatter surrounding one (or both) players was nothing more than baseless speculation, Matt Silverman, Friedman's counterpart with the Rays, recently told reporters that the team wouldn't turn away from a big deal involving either one, per CBS Tampa's Justin Granit.
Clearly, the Rays recognize that the time has come to bring in a haul of young, controllable pieces with which it can rebuild itself into a contender. Trading Archer or Longoria at the winter meetings is a good place to start.