MLB Winter Meetings 2018: 10 bold predictions for baseball's big week in Las Vegas
What signings, trades and Scott Boras quotes will we see in the desert?
The annual winter meetings are set to take place in Las Vegas with all the teams arriving Sunday and most likely departing either late Wednesday night or after the Rule 5 draft on Thursday. Some years, we see tons of activity at the winter meetings and some we don't. At the very least, it gets all the major baseball executives in the same place, so we have the possibility of some major happenings.
Here are some predictions. Some bold, some not-so-much.
Bryce Harper won't sign
If Harper did come to an agreement, it would be so perfect to make the announcement in a press conference in Las Vegas, where he was born and raised.
I'm just not seeing it happen. We know the track record of Scott Boras' biggest clients when he's determined to hit a certain mark. Prince Fielder didn't sign until Jan. 24. Shin-Soo Choo got a seven-year, $130 million deal but it didn't come until Dec. 21. Max Scherzer's gigantic contract from the Nationals didn't happen until Jan. 19.
With Boras possibly having come off the half-billion dream, he certainly still wants to get Harper the first $400 million contract in baseball history and the bare minimum is topping Giancarlo Stanton's record of $325 million. Unless someone tops $400 million in Vegas, Harper is going to remain a free agent. I'd bet heavily on his signing coming after Jan. 15.
Speaking of betting ...
The gambling references on social media will be over the top
It's Vegas, so it comes with the territory.
Drinking references, too
I'd be willing to wager -- there I go again! -- after every single move of significance there's a wave of "how hammered did [enter team executive] get last night!?!" all over social media.
Again, it's Vegas and we have to keep reminding everyone of that.
Machado does sign ... with the Phillies
The Phillies have already lost out on Patrick Corbin and I'll say they lose out on a few others on the first few days in Vegas. Remember, they are in their spending this offseason and with Boras continuing to dangle Harper in hopes that the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs start upping the bidding as close to a half million as possible, the Phillies turn to Machado and go nuts to the tune of something like 10 years and $350 million. They can easily afford that .
Mets stay aggressive
New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has been aggressive so far in trying to improve the team and move back into contention for 2019. Any good Breaking Bad fan knows that half measures aren't acceptable and it doesn't sound like Van Wagenen is ready to take one. A full measure in getting the Mets back to where they want to be includes adding a starting catcher (we'll get to one big possibility) and a lot more pitching depth at a bare minimum. Van Wagenen himself has mentioned free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock as a fit, too.
I like the Mets to add two pitchers, whether it's a starter to replace Jason Vargas in the rotation and a reliever or two back-end reliever types to bridge the gap reliably from the rotation to Edwin Diaz. Some relief options that would work: Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Joe Kelly and Adam Ottavino.
Sure, those guys would cost a lot, but the Mets only have $125.2 million committed to the 2019 payroll as things stand. That's almost $100 million shy of the luxury tax threshold. It's high time for the Mets to start acting like they play in the largest market in baseball and quit penny-pinching. Now is the perfect time to start with the way this offseason has gone so far.
Realmuto finally traded
And perhaps the Mets also deal for Marlins star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Sometimes we see teams line up trades with signings. The Cubs trading Starlin Castro just before signing Ben Zobrist at the 2015 winter meetings comes to mind. Perhaps the Mets line up a Pollock deal before trading a package centered around Brandon Nimmo for Realmuto. Such a package would require more from the Mets' end, but they could get it done.
If not the Mets, it needs to be someone other than the Marlins beginning next season with Realmuto.
He's coming off the best season of his career, is right in the middle of his prime and is under team control through 2020. In looking at the landscape of the NL East, there's very, very little realistic chance the Marlins contend before he signs elsewhere in free agency.
Surely the Marlins realize all this and Realmuto is dealt in Vegas.
Kimbrel returns to Atlanta
The top reliever in free agency is Craig Kimbrel. He's reportedly looking for a six-year deal, but my hunch is he can't grab more than five. Regardless, the Braves are facing three teams hard charging for the division title they just surprisingly won. They have a lot of good pieces in the bullpen, but seem ready for an alpha closer down there. Kimbrel was drafted (twice) and developed by the Braves. He's a born-and-raised southerner (from Huntsville, Ala.) and spent the first five years of his career there. Catcher Brian McCann has already returned to the Braves, and I'll say Kimbrel does the same.
Boras holds court and your Twitter feed will be full of his quotes
This way I'm guaranteed to get at least one right. It's a winter meetings tradition. Expect to see Boras roll out the "Harper's Bazaar" line again.
Indians deal Bauer, keep Kluber
I feel very confident one is gone and one is staying, so it's a matter of guessing right on my end.
What matters more, obviously, is the Indians' end.. Carlos Carrasco signed an extension, so it's one of the Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer duo that gets traded -- they probably just don't know yet which one is going.
The Indians have to weigh what offers they get against the following backdrop:
Kluber is nearly five years older than Bauer. He has been the much better pitcher over the course of his career. He's owed $17 million in 2019 and then the Indians could be off the hook, should they so choose. Kluber also has a $17.5 million club option for 2020 and an $18 million club option for 2021. Those options could make him more attractive in trade talks or a reason to hold him, if the Indians think he's going to continue his high rate of production through age 35.
Bauer had a career 4.36 ERA and 4.15 FIP before 2018. Last season, though, he had a career year. He was 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 2.44 FIP and 221 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings. Bauer has two arbitration seasons left before hitting free agency. MLB Trade Rumors projects he'll make $11.6 million next season. Bauer's made it pretty well known he's not going to re-sign with the Indians once he hits free agency, so will the two years of what is expected to be a lot of surplus value land the Indians a big return from a win-now contender or would they rather stick with the younger guy who just took a huge step forward?
It's a really tough call here and the deals they are offered ultimately will make the call for them. One of them goes next week, though. I'll guess Bauer.
- Yankees re-sign J.A. Happ.
- Astros emerge as a name to watch for Bryce Harper.
- Sonny Gray is traded back to the A's.
- The Mariners are actually quiet.
- I get a good number of these wrong, but that's what makes it fun.
Bring it, Vegas.
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