The MLB Rumors at Winter Meetings Most Likely to Come True

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 11, 2019

The MLB Rumors at Winter Meetings Most Likely to Come True

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    Every year in December, rumors that emerge during Major League Baseball's winter meetings seem to number in the millions. It's impossible to keep track of them all.

    So, let's focus on which ones might actually lead to something.

    We've picked out seven rumors from the first two days of this year's winter meetings that have the potential to come to fruition. We think so not because we have special insider information but because they simply make too much sense.

    We'll start with four trade possibilities and end with three free-agent possibilities.

The New York Yankees Will Trade J.A. Happ

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    Now that the New York Yankees have solidified their rotation by adding Gerrit Cole on a nine-year, $324 million contract, they can cut any parts they don't need.

    According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees are "actively looking" to trade left-hander J.A. Happ, who flopped with a 4.91 ERA in the first season of a two-year, $34 million deal in 2019.

    At the heart of this matter is the Yankees' luxury-tax status for 2020. They're projected to be over the luxury tax's $248 million third rail, in which case they'd suffer a heavy financial penalty and a move down in the 2020 draft order.

    Even if they have to eat some of Happ's $17 million salary, moving him is nonetheless a potential avenue for the Yankees to avoid such a harsh fate. And though the 37-year-old struggled in 2019, it's not unthinkable that he'll return to the level from which he averaged a 3.48 ERA over 690 innings between 2015 and 2018. 

    Per Andy Martino of SNY (see here and here), the Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers and "plenty" other National League clubs are in on Happ. Clearly, the Yankees shouldn't find him to be immovable.

The San Diego Padres Will Unload Wil Myers

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    The San Diego Padres, meanwhile, seem desperate to jettison an albatross of their own: Wil Myers.

    They "would likely" be willing to eat half of the $60 million Myers is owed through 2022, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per Jayson Stark of The Athletic, they could also attach prospects to Myers in an effort to increase his appeal.

    Measures as drastic as these speak to how poorly Myers, 29, played in 2019. He posted a .739 OPS and struck out 168 times in only 490 plate appearances. He also accounted for minus-nine defensive runs saved in the outfield.

    But before the Padres bumped him to the outfield after signing Eric Hosmer, Myers proved in 2016 and 2017 that he can handle first base. He also notched a .794 OPS with 58 home runs and 48 stolen bases in those two seasons. Both his walk (10.4 percent) and hard-hit (47.2 percent) rates suggest that some of that offensive prowess remained even in 2019.

    Provided the Padres go through with eating money or including prospects in a deal, data points such as these could be the basis for legitimate interest in Myers on the trade market. 

The New York Mets, Specifically, Will Trade for Starling Marte

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    If they want, the New York Mets can move forward with Brandon Nimmo and the newly acquired Jake Marisnick locked into a platoon partnership in center field.

    But that might not be their first choice. According to Martino and Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Mets are angling for a trade for Pittsburgh Pirates star Starling Marte.

    Way back in October, Adam Berry of wrote that the Pirates weren't expected to shop Marte over the winter. But then they underwent a top-to-bottom change in leadership. According to Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic, the organization's position now is that nobody is untouchable.

    Marte, 31, has been solid in putting up an .816 OPS with 6.6 WAR over the last two seasons. He'll also make just $11.5 million in 2020, with a $12.5 million option for 2021. 

    Meanwhile, there isn't a center fielder like him available on the free-agent market. The best option is probably Kevin Pillar, a below-average hitter whose defensive ratings have crumbled over the last two years.

    Marte made a ton of sense for the Mets before they added Marisnick, and he still does even now. It'll be a surprise if their talks with the Pirates don't lead to something.

The Cleveland Indians Will Wait on Trading Francisco Lindor

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    Though the Cleveland Indians hold arguably the winter's most desirable trade chip, they're apparently in no hurry to redeem it.

    According to Heyman, the Indians "prefer not to deal" superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor. In fact, they could "wait a year" before trading him.

    These preferences presumably aren't rooted in a lack of interest in Lindor. He's a four-time All-Star who leads all shortstops in WAR since 2015. He's also under team control through 2021.

    The Indians, however, have no reason to be in rebuilding mode. Even in failing to capture a fourth straight American League Central title in 2019, they still won 93 games. Further, their payroll has deflated a bit since the end of last season.

    Which is to say the Indians should want to keep Lindor, 26, and that they can afford to pay his $16.7 million projected salary for 2020. And while he may not have a future in Cleveland beyond 2021, the Indians can indeed wait a year to reckon with that.

The Washington Nationals Will Sign Josh Donaldson

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    While the market for Anthony Rendon seems wide-open, a clear favorite may be emerging for fellow star third baseman Josh Donaldson.

    After adding a whopping $245 million to their books by re-signing Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals are "ready to pivot" away from re-signing Rendon in favor of Donaldson, according to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post.

    Whereas Rendon, 29, is in line for a seven- or eight-year deal, Mark Bowman of reported there's a "growing expectation" that the 34-year-old Donaldson will only need a four-year guarantee. The Nationals may like the sound of that right now.

    They may also figure the drop-off from Rendon to Donaldson won't be too severe. After an injury-wrecked 2018, Donaldson proved in 2019 that he's not only healthy but also still a superstar-caliber performer. He played in 155 games and posted a .900 OPS with 37 home runs and only 0.2 fewer WAR than Rendon.

    Donaldson also has obvious suitors in the Atlanta Braves, for whom he starred in 2019, and other teams like the Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers. He may be beyond Atlanta's price range, however, and the latter three teams are seemingly more in the market for Rendon.

The Minnesota Twins Will Land a Top Left-Handed Starter

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    Even after reestablishing Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda in their starting rotation, the Minnesota Twins are still on the hunt for impact arms.

    Per Heyman, said hunt is focused on the free-agent market's three best lefties: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel.

    It's not clear if any of the three has the Twins pegged as a preferred destination. What is clear, however, is that the Twins have the money to sign any one of them. Their 2020 payroll stands at just $101.6 million, which is nearly $30 million shy of where they opened just two seasons ago.

    In addition to good money, the Twins can also offer Ryu, Keuchel or Bumgarner a chance to join a winner. The record-setting offense that paced their 101-win effort in 2019 is still largely intact. So with the right arms in the right places, a repeat will indeed be in order for 2020.

    Unless the Twins feel a sudden and overwhelming urge to pinch pennies, there's no reason they shouldn't scoop up one of the southpaws on their radar.

Madison Bumgarner Will Score a $100 Million Contract

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    Whether it's the Twins or someone else, whoever signs Madison Bumgarner should be ready to pay up. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, he's seeking a "five-year deal for $100 million-plus."

    In other words, the 30-year-old wants to beat expectations. At the start of the winter, sites such as MLB Trade Rumors and FanGraphs projected him to end up with a four-year deal in the $64-72 million range.

    There's nothing wrong with a free agent setting his sights high, and Bumgarner's current ask is reflective of where the pitching market is at right now. Even setting aside the Strasburg and Cole deals, the Phillies just signed Zack Wheeler for $118 million over five years. Bumgarner is only slightly older and far more accomplished than him.

    To be sure, it's difficult to argue that Bumgarner has as much raw upside as Wheeler. But Bumgarner's reliability is certainly a point in his favor. If not for fluke injuries in 2017 and 2018, his record since 2011 would consist of nothing but seasons of 200-plus innings' worth of above-average pitching. 

    In this market, such a pitcher should be worth a nine-figure deal.


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. Payroll data courtesy of Roster Resource. Salary arbitration projections courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.