Bold MLB Winter Meetings Predictions for All 30 Teams

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2018

Bold MLB Winter Meetings Predictions for All 30 Teams

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    G Fiume/Getty Images

    The 2018 winter meetings are right around the corner, as the annual smorgasbord of MLB activity will take place Dec. 9-13 in Las Vegas.

    We've already had a number of significant trades (thanks, Jerry Dipoto) and a few notable free agent signings, and plenty more activity will be forthcoming when all 30 teams descent on Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

    Will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado find new homes? Will top-tier arms like Corey Kluber, Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke be on the move? Will the starting pitching market explode after Patrick Corbin signs?

    Ahead we've made one bold prediction for each team to fulfill at this year's winter meetings.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Lewis Thorpe
    Lewis ThorpePatrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade SP Robbie Ray to MIN for 1B/OF Brent Rooker, SP Lewis Thorpe, SP Blayne Enlow

    High-priced starter Zack Greinke and 2019-20 free agent Paul Goldschmidt have been popular names on the rumor mill this offseason with the Arizona Diamondbacks mulling a potential rebuild.

    If the D-backs are in fact open for business, left-hander Robbie Ray could wind up being the club's most appealing trade chip.

    The 27-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, going 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 218 strikeouts in 162 innings to finish seventh in National League Cy Young Award voting.

    While he was slowed by an oblique injury last season, he's still capable of being a top-tier starter, and with team control through the 2020 season, he's a valuable asset.

    This package of prospects from the Minnesota Twins would give the D-backs a potential replacement for Paul Goldschmidt in Brent Rooker, a pitcher ready to step into the MLB rotation who has No. 3 starter upside in Lewis Thorpe and a projectable pitching prospect who could wind up being the best of the trio if the pieces fall into place in Blayne Enlow.

Atlanta Braves

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    /Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade 3B Johan Camargo to TEX for RP Jose Leclerc

    While Arodys Vizcaino (16/18 SV, 2.11 ERA, 9.4 K/9) and A.J. Minter (15/17 SV, 3.23 ERA, 10.1 K/9) held their own in the closer's role last season, the Atlanta Braves could still be in the market for late-innings help.

    The signing of Josh Donaldson doesn't necessarily mean they'll be looking to trade Johan Camargo. After all, Donaldson is on board for just one year and Camargo is capable of lining up at multiple positions.

    However, they might at least be open to the idea, especially if they're confident Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley will be the long-term answers on the left side of the infield.

    A one-for-one swap with the Texas Rangers for Jose Leclerc could be a win-win for both sides.

    Leclerc, 24, was quietly one of baseball's most dominant relievers in 2018, posting a 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 13.3 K/9 with 12 saves and 15 holds in 59 appearances.

    He's controllable through the 2022 season, while Camargo is arbitration-eligible through 2023, so the Rangers might need to sweeten the pot a bit. The framework makes sense for both teams, though.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: A taker for SP Alex Cobb

    The Baltimore Orioles seemed to be bidding against themselves when they signed Alex Cobb to an ill-advised four-year, $57 million deal in March.

    One year later, they're in full rebuilding mode, and Cobb is still owed $43 million.

    It was a forgettable first season in Baltimore for Cobb, as he posted a 4.90 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 152.1 innings, so his trade value is not particularly high.

    However, he closed the season on a high note, pitching to a 2.40 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with a .220 opponents' batting average in 48.2 innings after Aug. 1.

    If the O's are willing to chip in some cash, he'll be an attractive buy-low option in a thin starting pitching market.

Boston Red Sox

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    Associated Press

    Bold Prediction: Extend SP Chris Sale

    Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald laid it out perfectly last month:

    "Before the Red Sox make any trades or free agent signings this offseason, one of the first things they can do, one of the most obvious and important things they can do, is to figure out what it will cost to extend Chris Sale.

    "Sale could be the key to the entire offseason. He's certainly the key to their future, and without knowing the likelihood that he'll still be wearing a Boston uniform in 2020, it's difficult to look at the available starting pitchers this winter and assess the best route for a Red Sox team trying to go all-in in 2019 and 2020."

    Perhaps an extension similar to the three-year, $93 million deal Clayton Kershaw signed earlier this offseason would be attractive to both sides.

    It would bring Sale two additional years of financial security, and it might be more appealing to the Red Sox than a longer extension if they have concerns about the health of his left shoulder.

Chicago Cubs

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Bold Prediction: Acquire UT Jurickson Profar from TEX

    Even though Addison Russell was tendered a contract last week, there's still no guarantee he suits up for the Chicago Cubs in 2019. That was more of a housekeeping, procedural move than anything else.

    Assuming he has played his last game with the Cubs, finding a backup shortstop will be a priority this offseason, and filling out the bench with the versatile Jurickson Profar would be an excellent move.

    After wearing the "bust" label for years following his standing as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, Profar finally turned his potential into production last season, posting a 105 OPS+ with 35 doubles, 20 home runs and 77 RBI while serving in a super-utility role.

    Equally important as the Cubs try to revamp their offense is the fact he posted a solid 9.1 percent walk rate to go with an excellent 14.8 percent strikeout rate.

    He'd come cheaper than Whit Merrifield in terms of acquisition cost and is projected to earn just $3.4 million in arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors, so fitting him into the payroll shouldn't be an issue.

Chicago White Sox

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign CF A.J. Pollock to five-year, $80 million deal

    Despite having had trouble staying on the field the past few seasons, A.J. Pollock is seeking a deal worth about $80 million this offseason, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

    The Chicago White Sox appear to be in the best position to make that happen.

    In non-tendering Avisail Garcia ($8.0 million arbitration projection, per MLB Trade Rumors) and Matt Davidson ($2.4 million), the team added even more payroll flexibility to an already favorable situation.

    It also created a need in the outfield, though center field was an area of need even before the decision to cut ties with Garcia.

    Last season, White Sox center fielders hit a combined .237/.274/.342 for a .616 OPS that ranked 28th at the position.

    Pollock carries risk given his injury history, but his upside is also substantial, and the rebuilding White Sox are the perfect team to roll the dice.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign SP Dallas Keuchel to five-year, $90 million deal

    Workhorse lefty Dallas Keuchel figures to be one of the first dominos to fall on the starting pitching market, and the Cincinnati Reds have been "all over" him, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred.

    "Apparently, Cincinnati believes that he is fit for a small ballpark such as Great America," Heyman wrote.

    With a 58.8 percent career ground-ball rate and 0.9 home runs per nine innings (which ranks 10th among active pitchers), he's capable of taming Great American Ball Park.

    And after just one Reds pitcher topped 150 innings last season (Luis Castillo, 169.2 IP), his ability to throw 200 innings would be more than welcome atop the young staff.

    With Homer Bailey likely to depart after the 2019 season and a need for starting pitching, they should be willing to splurge on a pitcher who looks like the perfect fit.

Cleveland Indians

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    Alex Verdugo
    Alex VerdugoRob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade SP Trevor Bauer to LAD for OF Alex Verdugo, SP Tony Gonsolin and C Connor Wong

    Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco have been popular names on the rumor mill since it was first reported the Cleveland Indians were willing to listen to trade offers for all their veteran talent.

    However, as the trade market has started to take shape, Trevor Bauer has become the most likely Indians starter to be dealt, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

    Bauer, 27, led the American League in FIP (2.44) last season while going 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 221 strikeouts in 175.1 innings. He finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting and might have won if not for a right ankle injury that cost him more than a month.

    Trading Bauer might make the most sense for the budget-conscious Indians given his financial uncertainty with two years of arbitration upcoming:

    This return would give the Indians an everyday corner outfielder, a quality pitching prospect who is close to MLB-ready and a potential long-term answer at catcher.

Colorado Rockies

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    Jeff Curry/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Re-sign RP Adam Ottavino

    The Colorado Rockies can't let past failures dictate future moves.

    Last offseason, they spent big to fortify the back of the bullpen, re-signing Jake McGee (3/$27M) and bringing aboard Bryan Shaw (3/$27M) and Wade Davis (3/$52M).

    However, Shaw (61 G, 5.93 ERA) and McGee (61 G, 6.49 ERA) were hit hard, while Davis (69 G, 43/49 SV, 4.13 ERA) was far from the shutdown closer the Rockies envisioned.

    All the more reason not to let their best reliever get away.

    After several seasons of injuries and ineffectiveness, Adam Ottavino turned in a monster 2018, posting a 2.43 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings with 34 holds and six saves in 75 appearances.

    Jon Heyman of Fancred talked to an expert who predicted a three-year, $30 million deal, and the Rockies would be wise to move quickly before the market expands.

Detroit Tigers

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    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign SS Billy Hamilton to one-year deal

    That's right, shortstop Billy Hamilton.

    What do the Detroit Tigers have to lose?

    The departure of Jose Iglesias has left the rebuilding club with a hole to fill, and names like Freddy Galvis, Jordy Mercer, Alcides Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria are uninspiring.

    After the surprise non-tender of Hamilton by the Reds, the light-hitting speedster could look to bolster his free-agent stock by adding some defensive versatility.

    While he's a standout defensive center fielder, he might fit better in a utility role going forward, and proving he can play shortstop on a one-year deal with the Tigers could make him a sought-after commodity.

    Hamilton played mostly shortstop during his time in the minors, and with some reps, his quick-twitch athleticism could still play.

Houston Astros

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign SP Charlie Morton to one-year, $16 million deal

    With Dallas Keuchel likely to sign elsewhere and Lance McCullers Jr. out for the season after Tommy John surgery, the Houston Astros would benefit from signing at least one starter this offseason.

    Simply re-upping with Charlie Morton might be the answer.

    Rookies Josh James and Framber Valdez impressed in late auditions, and top prospect Forrest Whitley will be knocking on the door at some point in 2019, but for a team that has World Series aspirations, trusting more than one rotation spot to an unproven arm is a risky proposition.

    According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Astros have already made an initial one-year offer to Morton that includes an option for a second year.

    It stands to reason the offer was for less than the $17.9 million qualifying offer figure since the Astros opted against extending one to Morton, but his performance the last two seasons warrants something close.

    There will likely be more years and more guaranteed money waiting elsewhere, but at this stage of his career, comfort and a chance to win may be the deciding factors.

Kansas City Royals

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: A taker for SP Danny Duffy

    Danny Duffy was a revelation during the 2016 season, going 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 188 strikeouts in 179.2 innings, despite starting the season in a relief role.

    That breakout performance earned him a five-year, $65 million extension during the subsequent offseason, but a lot has changed since that deal was signed.

    The Royals are now rebuilding, and Duffy has failed to duplicate that performance:

    • 2017: 24 GS, 9-10, 3.81 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 41 BB, 130 K, 146.1 IP
    • 2018: 28 GS, 8-12, 4.88 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 70 BB, 141 K, 155.0 IP

    His walk rate spiked from 2.5 in 2017 to 4.1 per nine innings last season, and with three years and $46 million left on his contract, the Royals would be happy to unload him.

    Contenders might shy away after his inconsistent 2018, but for a pitching-needy team on the rise like the Reds, Los Angeles Angels or San Diego Padres, he'd be an interesting buy-low candidate.

    It likely wouldn't take much to acquire him beyond a willingness to absorb the bulk of his remaining salary. Otherwise, the Royals could chip in a significant chunk of money for a chance at a better return.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Clay Buchholz
    Clay BuchholzDenis Poroy/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign multiple second-tier SPs

    It's no secret the Angels need starting pitching help.

    Last season, they ranked 19th in starters' ERA (4.34), 19th in starters' WHIP (1.31) and 25th in quality starts (53).

    If the 2019 season started today, their starting rotation might look something like this, according to Roster Resource:

    • Andrew Heaney (180.0 IP, 4.15 ERA, 3.99 FIP)
    • Jaime Barria (129.1 IP, 3.41 ERA, 4.58 FIP)
    • Tyler Skaggs (125.1 IP, 4.02 ERA, 3.63 FIP)
    • Felix Pena (92.2 IP, 4.18 ERA, 4.04 FIP)
    • Nick Tropeano (76.0 IP, 4.74 ERA, 5.52 FIP)

    That group doesn't exactly scream playoff-bound Mike Trout.

    With such an uncertain future regarding Trout's long-term place with the team, breaking the bank on someone like Patrick Corbin might not be in the team's best interest.

    Instead, look for L.A. to sign a couple of arms from the second tier of available starters.

    That group includes Anibal Sanchez, Jeremy Hellickson, Clay Buchholz, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Derek Holland, Tyson Ross, Edwin Jackson and Wade Miley.

    It's not the most exciting list of names, but signing two or three of those guys to reasonable short-term deals would be the Angels' best move.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade OF Alex Verdugo, SP Tony Gonsolin and C Connor Wong to CLE for SP Trevor Bauer

    We've already touched on the Indians' potential motivation for trading Trevor Bauer over Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco and what a return package might look like.

    So where does Bauer fit in with the Dodgers?

    With Clayton Kershaw staying put and Hyun-Jin Ryu also back in the fold after accepting his qualifying offer, the starting rotation doesn't look like an area of need.

    However, after the Dodgers came up short in the World Series in back-to-back seasons, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if they did something bold.

    They've already been linked to Kluber, according to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, so there's reason to think they'd be in on someone like Bauer as well.

    A top three of Kershaw, Bauer and Walker Buehler would look awfully good, and the likes of Ryu, Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Ross Stripling would be more than capable of eating up the other 65 or so starts.

    But will the Dodgers be willing to part with Verdugo? It's hard to imagine a deal getting done if they don't include either him or Gavin Lux—a prospect they reportedly clung tightly to during Manny Machado negotiations.

    We shall see.

Miami Marlins

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    Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: C J.T. Realmuto stays put

    J.T. Realmuto is arguably the best catcher in baseball, and by all accounts, he's readily available on the trade market if a team is willing to meet the Miami Marlins' asking price.

    The trouble is, that asking price has been described as "beyond staggering," according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com.

    With Realmuto controlled through the 2020 season, the Marlins don't need to trade him this offseason.

    However, after he turned in a career year in 2018, his value might never be higher than it is right now, and holding on to him could prove to be a mistake.

    Rumors will swirl, but we'll say the Marlins stick to their asking price and Realmuto stays put—at least for the time being.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign RP Andrew Miller to two-year, $20 million deal

    Connecting the dots between the Milwaukee Brewers and some of the market's top starting pitchers is not hard.

    They made it to the National League Championship Series with a rotation that was fronted by Jhoulys Chacin, Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez, so it stands to reason upgrading the starting staff even slightly could go a long way.

    Then again, this team is built a little differently.

    The bullpen is far more important than the starting staff, and there's no reason to abandon that philosophy after the success the Brew Crew enjoyed last season.

    Second base could also be viewed as an area of need after Jonathan Schoop was non-tendered and with Travis Shaw presumably moving back to third base now that Mike Moustakas is a free agent.

    However, with top prospect Keston Hiura knocking on the door, there's no reason to block him.

    So why not make the team's biggest strength even stronger?

    Since they non-tendered lefty relievers Xavier Cedeno and Dan Jennings, the Brewers could use another southpaw in the bullpen, and signing Miller to a two-year deal would be a low-risk move that could pay off big.

Minnesota Twins

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade 1B/OF Brent Rooker, SP Lewis Thorpe, SP Blayne Enlow to ARI for SP Robbie Ray

    We've already touched on the Diamondbacks' end of this trade.

    It'd be a big prospect return for a pitcher coming off an injury-marred season, but it wouldn't put a dent in Minnesota's loaded system.

    If the Twins can acquire a pitcher with Ray's upside without parting with Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Brusdar Graterol, Trevor Larnach or Wander Javier, they should jump at the chance.

    Ray's controlled through the 2020 season and would be a sensible target for a team that is still walking the line between rebuilding and contending. He'd also fit nicely between Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson at the top of the rotation.

    The question is whether the D-backs will seriously entertain offers for Ray during the winter meetings—or if their sole focus will be on moving Zack Greinke.

New York Mets

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    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Extend SP Jacob deGrom

    Will the Robinson Cano blockbuster be enough to convince Jacob deGrom the New York Mets are heading in the right direction?

    If the answer is yes, an extension could be forthcoming.

    The fact that his former agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, is now the general manager makes for an interesting situation, though it sounds like Van Wagenen plans on recusing himself from negotiations with deGrom to avoid a conflict of interest, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post.

    Regardless, if deGrom is amenable, the Mets will jump at the chance to get a deal done with the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.

    That would also send a message to other potential free-agent targets that the team is serious about winning now and in the immediate future.

New York Yankees

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign SP J.A. Happ to two-year, $30 million deal

    If the New York Yankees miss on Patrick Corbin—we have him signing with the Phillies, as you'll see in a moment—there's a good chance a reunion with J.A. Happ will be their fallback plan.

    Happ, 36, was brilliant in 11 starts with the Yankees after coming over in a July 26 trade. He went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 63 strikeouts in 63.2 innings to once again send his stock soaring heading into free agency.

    The last time he hit the free-agent market, on the heels of an excellent post-trade run with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Happ signed a three-year, $36 million deal.

    One fewer year and a slightly higher annual value seems reasonable as he enters his age-36 season.

    Really, the bold prediction here is that the Yankees whiff on Corbin, as many have him signing in the Bronx as a foregone conclusion. Happ as a fallback plan makes perfect sense, and if things do play out that way, it'd almost be expected.

Oakland Athletics

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Acquire SP Sonny Gray from NYY

    Sonny Gray is all but certain to be traded before the start of the 2019 season, and it would be a mild surprise if he's not dealt at the winter meetings.

    It's no surprise a number of teams have checked in on the potential high-reward reclamation project, including his former team, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred.

    The Oakland Athletics selected Gray with the No. 18 pick in the 2011 draft, and he quickly developed into the ace of the staff, finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting during a standout 2015 season.

    However, injuries took a toll in 2016, and he was traded to the Yankees at the deadline for a package of three high-end prospects.

    The 29-year-old's time in New York did not go well, though, as he struggled to a 4.51 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 34 starts and seven relief appearances over the past year-and-a-half.

    There's a reason for optimism from opposing teams, though, as his home (59.1 IP, 6.98 ERA, 6.8 K/9) and road (71.0 IP, 3.17 ERA, 9.9 K/9) splits last season were extreme.

    With Sean Manaea recovering from shoulder surgery, Mike Fiers non-tendered and the veteran trio of Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson departing in free agency, the A's have some work to do to rebuild their starting staff. Taking a chance on Gray would be a good place to start.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Ralph Freso/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign SP Patrick Corbin to five-year, $110 million deal

    The Philadelphia Phillies have been a popular speculative landing spot for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and both players are still candidates to sign with the team this offseason.

    However, we'll go a different route with this prediction and say Philadelphia signs another top-flight free-agent target in Patrick Corbin.

    The 29-year-old visited Citizens Bank Park last Tuesday, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, who noted "the Phillies want Corbin because he is arguably the best free-agent pitcher available and they want to balance out their rotation, which has had only three starts from a left-hander since the end of the 2016 season."

    A rotation of Corbin, Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez or Zach Eflin would be among the best in the NL.

    Signing Corbin also wouldn't stand in the way of landing Machado or Harper. The Phillies are flush with cash and serious about making a run at the NL East title.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade C Francisco Cervelli and SP Ivan Nova

    Francisco Cervelli is the most expensive contract on the books for the Pittsburgh Pirates next season, as he's owed $11.5 million.

    Ivan Nova checks in at No. 3 on that list with a $9.2 million salary.

    Don't be surprised if both players are dealt as a result.

    Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported the Pirates are willing to move Cervelli, who posted a 123 OPS+ with a career-high 12 home runs and 2.6 WAR in 2018. He's entering the final season of a three-year, $31 million deal.

    As for Nova, he too is in the final year of his contract, and he holds some appeal after eating up 161 innings last season while pitching to a 4.19 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

    The Pirates have always found creative ways to work within the confines of their financial constraints, and these winter meetings could display more of the same.

San Diego Padres

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    Hamish Blair/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign SP Yusei Kikuchi to five-year, $60 million deal (plus posting fee)

    The Padres are focused on upgrading their starting rotation as they look to take a step forward in the rebuilding process, and they have a specific kind of pitcher in mind.

    "The type of pitcher they are targeting is one accomplished enough to place atop their rotation in 2019 and young enough to still be a contributing member of the starting staff in a few years when the Padres expect their top pitching prospects to mature into top-tier major league starters," Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote.

    Japanese standout Yusei Kikuchi could fit that description.

    The 27-year-old has the stuff to be a No. 2 starter at the MLB level, according to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com.

    Several teams, including the Padres, have already shown some level of interest, per Jon Heyman of Fancred.

    It's not out of the question that he will sign during the winter meetings, and the Padres might be willing to outbid the field for a chance to add a starter in his prime with significant upside.

San Francisco Giants

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: SP Madison Bumgarner stays put

    Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported Nov. 26 the San Francisco Giants are "willing to engage" about a possible Madison Bumgarner trade.

    File this one under "I'll believe it when I see it."

    The Giants have been a team without direction for the past two seasons, with seemingly everyone beyond their own front office realizing they needed to rebuild.

    There's a new hand on the wheel now, as Farhan Zaidi is the new president of baseball operations, but until they make a move toward rebuilding, it's hard to expect anything but the status quo.

    Bumgarner is a year away from free agency, and the Giants are coming off an 89-loss season with no reason to expect a drastic reversal of fortune.

    Trading him makes perfect sense.

    And yet, this is the same Giants team that traded for Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen last offseason. So who knows?

Seattle Mariners

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade 3B Kyle Seager to STL for OF Dexter Fowler

    There would likely need to be some secondary pieces involved and perhaps some cash as well, but a swap of Kyle Seager for Dexter Fowler could be the framework for the next Seattle Mariners' offloading move.

    Here's a look at what's left of their salaries:

    • Seager: three years, $57.5 million (plus 2022 buyout)
    • Fowler: three years, $49.5 million

    Fowler needs a change of scenery in the worst way after a trying two years in St. Louis.

    While his bottom line was rough last season (334 PA, .180/.278/.298, 59 OPS+), he was still a productive player as recently as 2017 (491 PA, .264/.363/.488, 122 OPS+), so a bounce-back is a real possibility.

    The Mariners would save some money in the deal, which seems to be a motivating factor as they dive into a full-scale rebuild.

    And despite his struggles last year, Fowler remains a strong clubhouse presence, which may prove beneficial to a team wading through a lot of roster turnover.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade OF Dexter Fowler to SEA for 3B Kyle Seager

    We've already touched on the Mariners' side of this deal, so what would the St. Louis Cardinals get?

    The 2018 season was a disappointing one for Kyle Seager, but not long ago he was one of the game's best third basemen. He's slugged at least 20 home runs in each of the past seven seasons, and his precipitous decline in OPS+ from 2017 to last year (109 to 86) can at least be partially attributed to bad luck.

    His .251 BABIP was the 11th-lowest mark among qualified hitters, and his hard-contact rate actually improved (35.7 to 37.0 percent) amid his dip in production.

    Buying low now could pay dividends for a team that's looking for offensive punch.

    Trading Fowler would also open up everyday playing time for Tyler O'Neill in the outfield alongside Marcell Ozuna and Harrison Bader.

    O'Neill, 23, hit .311/.385/.693 with 26 home runs in 64 games at Triple-A Memphis before posting a 115 OPS+ with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 142 plate appearances with the big league club. He has nothing left to prove in the minors and wields the power bat to be an impact player.

    It seems like a deal worth exploring for both sides.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Sign Nelson Cruz to two-year, $32 million deal

    It's no secret the Tampa Bay Rays need a proven run producer in the middle of their lineup after they ranked near the bottom of the AL in home runs (150, 14th) and in the middle of the pack in runs (716, ninth) last season.

    The decision to cut ties with C.J. Cron left an opening at designated hitter, and Nelson Cruz looks like a perfect fit.

    Signing him is going to mean a bigger salary commitment than they're used to, but after a surprise 90-win season, now is the time to spend a bit.

    While $16 million per year would be a significant chunk of their payroll, a two-year deal would carry limited risk, and to this point, Cruz has shown no signs of slowing down.

    The 38-year-old has averaged a 145 OPS+ with 41 home runs and 104 RBI over the past five seasons. He also has a career .881 OPS with nine home runs and 24 RBI in 33 games at Tropicana Field.

Texas Rangers

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Trade RP Jose Leclerc to ATL for 3B Johan Camargo

    We've already touched on the Braves' side of this trade.

    For the rebuilding Rangers, Camargo would provide a long-term solution at the hot corner to replace the retired Adrian Beltre.

    Camargo, 24, took a huge step forward offensively in 2018 with a .272/.349/.457 line that included 27 doubles, 19 home runs and 76 RBI.

    The biggest surprise was his power numbers, as he never hit more than four home runs in any minor league season. It stands to reason that a move to hitter-friendly Arlington would further boost his over-the-fence production.

    In the big picture, a top-tier bullpen arm like Leclerc is a luxury for a team that is not expected to contend in 2019 or the near future.

    Flipping him now and maximizing his value would be the right move.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: A taker for C Russell Martin

    Used properly, and for the right price, Russell Martin can be an excellent addition to a contending ballclub.

    At this point in his career, he's best served as a part-time catcher on the lighter end of a platoon, where he can stay fresh while serving as a second manager of sorts in the dugout.

    He's not worth anything close to his $20 million salary, and the Blue Jays know that, as they're "willing to pay down a significant amount of that," according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

    Even with a sub-.200 batting average last year, he still posted a strong .338 on-base percentage with 10 home runs in 352 plate appearances en route to 1.3 WAR.

    If the Blue Jays are realistic and realize they're only going to save a few million dollars, they should have no problem finding a taker.

Washington Nationals

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Bold Prediction: Re-sign RF Bryce Harper to 10-year, $325 million deal

    The Washington Nationals offered Bryce Harper a 10-year, $300 million extension near the end of the 2018 season, according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.

    Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported the bidding will start at 10 years and $350 million.

    Could it be as simple as the two sides meeting in the middle?

    On paper, the Nationals still have a team capable of contending for a title, and the continued development of Juan Soto and impending rises of Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom could conceivably improve the core without any outside moves.

    It's bold to think this won't draw out beyond the winter meetings, but we'll say a deal gets done in Las Vegas to keep Harper in the nation's capital for the next decade.

       

    All stats and contract information courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.