Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings
Major League Baseball's winter meetings are typically when there are trades and free-agent signings galore.
Despite the seemingly all-too-appropriate Las Vegas setting, that didn't happen this time around. Agents for dozens of players and executives from all 30 MLB teams conspired together for an oddly calm couple of days.
Nonetheless, a retrospective is still in order. We have a look at the biggest winners and losers (four of each) from the 2018 winter meetings. These reactions are obviously of the knee-jerk variety, but they'll have to do until the passing of time provides greater clarity on what transpired.
On with the show.
Winner: Andrew McCutchen
Of the deals that went down during the winter meetings, none was as big as Andrew McCutchen signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies signed McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million contract Tuesday, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Their primary mission for the offseason is to add as many quality bats as they can. As his .820 OPS and 48 home runs since 2017 go to show, the 2013 National League MVP still offers one of those even in his post-prime state.
Yet, it's McCutchen himself who's the big winner here.
His contract is the richest for a hitter to this point in the winter. It's also more than the 32-year-old was projected to get. MLB Trade Rumors and FanGraphs, for example, expected McCutchen to land in the $42 million to $45 million range.
Beyond the money, McCutchen has to like the fit. He's joined a team with World Series aspirations. And after spending most of his first 10 seasons hitting at PNC Park and AT&T Park, McCutchen must be thrilled about the prospect of hitting at Citizens Bank Park on a regular basis.
Winner: Lance Lynn
Also in the file marked "Whoa, That's More Than Expected" is Lance Lynn's deal with the Texas Rangers.
As MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported late Wednesday, Lynn is joining the Rangers on a three-year contract worth $30 million. That's better than his $24 million projection at FanGraphs, and nearly twice his $16 million projection at MLB Trade Rumors.
What seemingly adds to the curiosity is that Lynn didn't exactly have a good time in 2018. He lingered on the free-agent market into March, and he went on to put up a 4.77 ERA in 31 outings for the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees.
The bad stuff mostly happened early on, however. After struggling with a 7.47 ERA over his first eight starts, Lynn settled down to the tune of a 3.92 ERA over his final 119.1 innings.
In so doing, the 31-year-old morphed into what he had been for many years with the St. Louis Cardinals: an unspectacular, yet dependable innings-eater. So long as he keeps it up, he should be worth $30 million.
Winner: Tampa Bay Rays
It's not often that the Tampa Bay Rays deserve praise for making a splash in free agency, yet here we are.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Rays signed veteran right-hander Charlie Morton to a two-year, $30 million contract Wednesday. The deal also includes an option for a third year that could be worth as little as $1 million or as much as $15 million, depending on Morton's health.
Simply from an on-field perspective, Morton is a big addition for the Rays.
The 35-year-old is fresh off an All-Star season in which he finished with a 3.13 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 167 innings. Along with Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, he should help carry a Rays staff that was already good enough to finish second in the American League in ERA in 2018.
It's also refreshing to see the Rays spending what, by their standards, amounts to big bucks. Before Morton, they had never spent more than $21 million on a free agent. Clearly, they're serious about building on their surprise 90-win season.
Winner: Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins didn't trade J.T. Realmuto during the winter meetings, but it's clear that they have their pick of suitors for the star catcher.
Though much of the Realmuto-related rumors that emerged this week had to do with the New York Mets—more on them shortly—they're far from the only horse in the race. Jon Heyman of Fancred reported Monday that seven teams were in. On Thursday, the Rays (per Heyman) and Reds (per Craig Mish of SiriusXM) joined the list.
On the one hand, this speaks to how many teams are in the market for a catcher. On another, it speaks to how much more desirable Realmuto is to what's on the open market. The 27-year-old was the best catcher in MLB this season, and he's under club control through 2020.
The Marlins should be able to flip Realmuto for a big haul of young talent. If they do, they'll have partially made up for trading Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon for peanuts last winter.
Loser: New York Mets
Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets' new general manager, raised many eyebrows when he acquired Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz in a blockbuster with the Seattle Mariners. He attempted to raise eyebrows even higher with a trade for Realmuto during the winter meetings.
Only to come up empty, possibly for good.
The most notable reports linking the Mets and Realmuto concerned a possible three-team deal (per Mike Puma of the New York Post) that would have sent flame-throwing ace Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees.
That three-team concept seemed to have trouble getting off the drawing board, however. Come Wednesday morning, Heyman reported that the Mets were losing confidence in their pursuit of Realmuto.
Said pursuit may not be over, but the Mets and the Marlins don't line up terribly well as trading partners. The Mets simply can't spare the kind of MLB-ready talent the Marlins can command for Realmuto.
It may be on to other options for the Mets, such as Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos or Martin Maldonado. Any of them would be better than what they have behind the dish. But alas, none is as good as Realmuto.
Loser: Houston Astros
The Houston Astros still have many of the players who've helped them win 204 games and a World Series title over the last two years. But so far, filling what needs they do have is proving to be a slight challenge.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, McCutchen was on Houston's radar as a fit for an outfield that could use an able body. So much for that, as he can't well sign with them now that he's on the Phillies.
The Astros also need starting pitchers behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. They had interest in Alvin, Texas, native Nathan Eovaldi, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, but he re-signed with the Boston Red Sox before the meetings. Then on Wednesday, Morton spurned the Astros' one-year offer (per Bob Nightengale of USA Today) to join the Rays.
On the bright side, the Astros still have a winning culture and plenty of money to offer free agents. Nonetheless, their list of options is now three names shorter.
Losers: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado
This winter's free-agent market revolves around 26-year-old superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Neither got a megadeal or good news during the winter meetings.
The Phillies remain interested in both players, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. But they need them less now that they have McCutchen in their outfield and Jean Segura at shortstop. In the words of GM Matt Klentak, "We're not going to sit around and be held hostage by one or two players."
The Yankees, meanwhile, all but took Harper off their radar. GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including George A. King III of the Post) that he just doesn't see room for Harper in the team's outfield.
This may be music to the ears of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rather than give in on a long-term contract for the 2015 NL MVP, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that they could have an opportunity to wait until he's amenable to a shorter (e.g., four years) deal.
Meanwhile, Cashman granted that the team remains in on Machado. But the Yankees' interest may only go so far. According to Heyman, they don't want to go as high as $300 million to sign the four-time All-Star.
Don't weep for Harper or Machado. They're going to get paid. But both could be sitting prettier.
Loser: Tanner Roark
The most significant trade of the winter meetings was the Wednesday deal that sent Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals to the Cincinnati Reds.
The trade looks just fine for the Reds. They entered the winter needing to do something about a starting rotation that's struggled with a 5.28 ERA since 2017. Roark is something. He's an occasionally great (2014 and 2016) and generally reliable pitcher.
Roark himself, however, could have asked for better fates than spending 2019 in Cincinnati.
Next season will be the 32-year-old's walk year, so it would be best for him if he had every advantage for building his free-agent value. Instead, he'll have to contend with:
- The extremely hitter-friendly environment of Great American Ball Park
- Cincinnati's less-than-efficient defense
- Tucker Barnhart's poor framing
The Reds have lost over 90 games in each of the last four seasons, so there's a chance Roark will escape Cincinnati via a midseason trade to a contender. Even so, he could have a high ERA attached to his name by then.