Impact MLB Deals That Will Still Go Down Before the New Year

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2016

Impact MLB Deals That Will Still Go Down Before the New Year

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    The annual winter meetings provided the MLB world with plenty of excitement, but there's still work to be done this offseason.

    A number of notable free agents are still searching for new homes: Justin Turner, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Matt Wieters, Ivan Nova and Jason Hammel, among others.

    Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox are open for business after trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, the Tampa Bay Rays have a number of intriguing arms in a thin pitching market and the Kansas City Royals could continue dealing after moving closer Wade Davis.

    So which domino will fall next in the MLB offseason?

    Ahead, we've taken a crack at predicting a handful of notable deals that could go down before the calendar turns over to 2017 in a few weeks.

Oakland Athletics Acquire CF Jarrod Dyson

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    Speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson was a popular name during the recent winter meetings, and while a deal didn't come to pass before teams departed the annual event, there's still a good chance he's moved.

    The 32-year-old is entering his final year of team control with a projected arbitration salary of $2.5 million, and with the center field market moving quickly, he's an intriguing, low-cost option for teams still looking to upgrade.

    One such team is the Oakland Athletics, who have Brett Eibner and Jake Smolinski as the best in-house options to man the position.

    A potential match with Oakland is more than just speculation, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that Oakland was "very interested" in Dyson during the winter meetings.

    Over the past five seasons, Dyson has hit .264/.327/.355 with 156 stolen bases while averaging 284 plate appearances per year.

    His .728 OPS this past season was a career high, as he tallied 14 doubles and eight triples while swiping 30 bases in 37 attempts for a 3.1 WAR.

    Aside from having a hole to fill in center field, the A's are also lacking a conventional leadoff hitter in the lineup, and it would be interesting to see what kind of impact Dyson could make over a full slate of at-bats.

    It shouldn't take more than a couple of mid-level prospects to pry him loose from a Kansas City team looking to shed payroll and add young talent this winter.

Baltimore Orioles Sign C Welington Castillo

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    With longtime backstop Matt Wieters departing in free agency and top prospect Chance Sisco still at least a year away from reaching the majors, the Baltimore Orioles are looking for a stopgap veteran to take over as the primary catcher.

    Whom might they target in a market with a number of capable veterans available?

    "The Orioles remain the favorites to sign [Welington] Castillo, who originally sought a three-year deal. They’re fine with giving him two if that’s what it takes to get him to Baltimore," wrote Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.

    Castillo put together another strong offensive season in 2016, posting a .745 OPS with 24 doubles, 14 home runs and 68 RBI for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    He was a surprise non-tender, though, due in large part to his defensive shortcomings and a projected arbitration salary of $5.9 million.

    The 29-year-old threw out 38 percent of base stealers but allowed a National League-high 10 passed balls while grading out as a below-average pitch-framer, according to StatCorner.

    For what it's worth, Wieters was worse at pitch-framing, and his 11 errors led all catchers, so signing Castillo doesn't necessarily represent a defensive downgrade for the O's.

    Something like a two-year, $10 million deal wouldn't represent a huge financial commitment for the Orioles, and Castillo has the power to make some noise in Camden Yards.

New York Mets Re-Sign RP Jerry Blevins

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    It's been a fruitful offseason for quality left-handed relievers.

    Just ask Brett Cecil, the proud owner of a shiny, new four-year, $30.5 million contract courtesy of the St. Louis Cardinals.

    That bodes well for Jerry Blevins, who was quietly among the most effective lefties in the league last season.

    The 33-year-old made a career-high 73 appearances while logging a 2.79 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings with two saves and 16 holds.

    He re-signed with the New York Mets last offseason on a one-year, $4 million deal, and another reunion could be in the works.

    As Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported, the Mets are looking to add multiple relievers, including two lefties. He also specifically identified Blevins as a target, though it's fair to assume he won't come nearly as cheap this time around.

    Cecil is three years younger with a lengthier history of pitching high-leverage innings, so Blevins likely won't approach a contract that size.

    However, a new deal in the ballpark of the three-year, $18 million contract that Tony Sipp signed with the Houston Astros last offseason seems reasonable.

    With Josh Smoker, Josh Edgin and Sean Gilmartin ranking as the best in-house lefty options, it's an investment worth making for the Mets.

Cleveland Indians Sign 1B Edwin Encarnacion

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    It's fair to say the offseason has not gone as hoped for slugger Edwin Encarnacion.

    Expecting a nine-figure payday as one of the league's premier power hitters, Encarnacion turned down a four-year, $80 million offer from the Toronto Blue Jays at the start of the offseason, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

    However, that nine-figure offer has yet to materialize.

    In fact, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, his market "cratered" during the winter meetings with no one even willing to go as high as $60 million over three years.

    Bad news for Encarnacion. Good news for a team like the Cleveland Indians.

    A relatively small-market team that has never eclipsed a $100 million payroll, the Indians generally don't make a play for top-tier free agents.

    Case in point: The four-year, $56 million deal given to Nick Swisher prior to the 2013 season still stands as the largest free-agent contract in team history.

    That would generally mean a player like Encarnacion would be nowhere near the club's radar, but that "cratering" has put it squarely in the hunt to sign him.

    The Tribe had some "traction" in contract talks with Encarnacion during the winter meetings, according to Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, and the interest is still there as they look to replace Mike Napoli.

    With the entire starting rotation returning intact and Michael Brantley expected to finally be healthy, this seems like the time for the Indians to go all-in.

Los Angeles Dodgers Acquire RP Alex Colome, 2B Logan Forsythe

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    Something big is brewing in Los Angeles Dodgers camp. It just has to be, right?

    Significant holes remain at second base, third base and in the bullpen with Chase Utley, Justin Turner and Joe Blanton all hitting free agency.

    A reunion with any or all of those players remains a possibility. A significant debt situation is still hanging over the team, though, and it may not be quite as quick to spend big this winter as a result.

    That makes the trade market an intriguing alternative to fill some of those needs.

    Even with closer Kenley Jansen back in the fold, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN, the Rays' Alex Colome stands out as an attractive, low-cost target to further upgrade the relief corps.

    The 27-year-old won't get his first taste of arbitration until next offseason, and he's coming off a breakout campaign.

    An injury to Brad Boxberger thrust Colome into the closer's role for the first time in his career, and he wound up converting 37 of 40 save chances with a 1.91 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 11.3 K/9 while earning a spot on the All-Star team.

    Padding a potential trade even further, the Dodgers also showed interest in Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe earlier this offseason, per Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

    Forsythe, 29, will earn $7 million this coming season with a $9 million option for 2018, and after posting a .778 OPS with 24 doubles and 20 home runs last season, his right-handed bat would be a welcome addition to a lefty-heavy lineup.

    A return package built around outfield prospect Alex Verdugo might be enough to get the conversation started, though it would likely take at least one other top-tier prospect for the Rays to part with Colome and his four remaining years of team control.

    It would be a big move for both teams, and this is all speculative, but it seems to make sense for both sides.

Houston Astros Acquire SP Jose Quintana

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    The Astros have been as aggressive as anyone this offseason, adding Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, Nori Aoki and Charlie Morton to an already talented roster.

    A clear need for a front-line starter remains, though.

    With Chris Sale going to the Boston Red Sox, the White Sox are now fielding offers for fellow left-hander Jose Quintana, and the Astros are among the teams that have shown interest.

    "The Astros are among the teams that have discussed Quintana with the White Sox but to this point have found the asking price too high for their liking, industry sources said on Wednesday," wrote Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle.

    Baseball reporter Peter Gammons expanded on that, reporting that the White Sox asked for right-handers Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes and outfielder Kyle Tucker.

    Musgrove was 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 62 innings in his first taste of MLB action last season, while Martes and Tucker rank as the team's top two prospects, according to MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

    The Astros expectedly balked at that asking price, but the two sides are talking, and with Houston looking to bridge the gap to the Texas Rangers in the American League West and keep pace with the rest of the AL, it's a deal that could be viewed as a necessity.

    While Quintana is not quite on the same level as Sale, he's an awfully good pitcher in his own right with four remaining years of team control at a reasonable $36.85 million.

    The 27-year-old was 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings to finish 10th in AL Cy Young voting. That marked the fourth consecutive season he's amassed 200 innings with an ERA under 3.60.

    If the Astros could substitute Martes with David Paulino or Tucker with Derek Fisher, they may be more receptive to pulling the trigger on a deal. Meanwhile, the White Sox would still be picking up another huge prospect return.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Projected salaries courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors. Contract information via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.