MLB winter meetings 2018: What you need to know about the Yankees, Red Sox and the rest of AL East
The AL East could very well be the most active division at the winter meetings
The 2018 winter meetings will take place at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas from Monday, Dec. 10, to Thursday, Dec. 13. Officially, the winter meetings are about off-the-field business, especially on the minor-league side. Unofficially, the winter meetings are all about trades and free-agent signings and hot-stove rumors. Put all 30 general managers in one place -- plus agents! -- and deals inevitably get done.
Without fail, the winter meetings are the busiest days of the offseason, and they are expected to be especially chaotic this year with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sitting in free agency. It's not often a 26-year-old megastar is available as a free agent. This year two 26-year-old megastars are available as free agents. It's quite fun. Harper and Machado figure to dominate the headlines, but don't worry, there will be plenty more going on aside from those two.
So, with the 2018 Winter Meetings right around the corner, this is as good a time as any take a lay of the land. Over the next several days we'll take stock of all 30 MLB teams and their needs and top storylines heading into the Winter Meetings. We begin with the AL East, home of the defending World Series champions and also the sixth 115-loss team in history.
Needs: The Orioles lost 115 games in 2018 and, when you're that bad, you need everything. Pitching, hitting, the works. The O's overhauled their front office these last few weeks -- new GM Mike Elias is in the process of putting new scouting and player development personnel in place, as well as building a state-of-the-art analytical department -- and they still need to hire a manager. They're in a weird place right now. The roster needs so much help but the priority is building a strong organizational foundation, starting with the front office and support staff. Player moves are secondary.
Approach: Seller, for sure, though there's not a whole lot to sell right now. The O's were picked apart pretty well at the trade deadline. Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, and Mychal Givens all stand out as possible trade candidates. One thing to keep in mind: The Orioles could be a prime landing spot for reclamation project free agents because they can offer playing time. Infield, outfield, pitchers, whatever. Elias & Co. could target some low cost one-year guys and hope to strike gold.
Boston Red Sox
Needs: The defending World Series champions have a clear need for bullpen help right now. They could use another starting pitcher behind Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez, but the bullpen is a greater concern. Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly are both free agents and you'd rather have guys like Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes pitching the seventh and eighth inning, not the eighth and ninth, you know? The bullpen, a fifth starter, and maybe some second base insurance for Dustin Pedroia are on the shopping list with the bullpen the top priority.
Approach: Including projected arbitration salaries, the Red Sox have about $195 million on the books for luxury tax purposes next season. I don't think Boston will sweat going over the luxury tax threshold again -- the threshold rises to $206 million in 2019 -- so they have some money to spend on the bullpen. They're clearly buying, obviously, and signing free-agent relievers seems more likely than a trade(s). Expect the Red Sox to throw some money around during the winter meetings. They have money to spend and are highly motivated to repeat.
New York Yankees
Needs: Even after re-signing CC Sabathia and trading for James Paxton, the Yankees need another starting pitcher, and they are reportedly in hot pursuit of Patrick Corbin. The Yankees also need an infielder to replace Didi Gregorius, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery -- Gleyber Torres' flexibility allows the team to pursue shortstop and second base options -- as well as some bullpen help with both David Robertson and Zach Britton becoming free agents. It's been a pretty busy offseason for the Yankees so far and they still have a lot of work to do, and it wouldn't surprise me if they do something even before the meetings.
Approach: It could be a combination of trades and free-agent signings. We've already seen the Yankees spend money (Sabathia, Brett Gardner) and trade prospects (Paxton) this winter. My hunch is the Yankees will be more active in free agency going forward. There are lots of pitchers out there on the open market and, after trading top prospect Justus Sheffield to get Paxton, the Yankees may not want to deplete the farm system further. Given their still long list of needs, the Yankees figure to be one of the most active teams in Vegas.
Tampa Bay Rays
Needs: Although they only have two starting pitchers (Tyler Glasnow and Cy Young winner Blake Snell), it doesn't appear starting pitching is a priority for the Rays. The opener strategy worked wonders this past season and they have the personnel to do it again next year. Moreso than pitching, expect Tampa to be connected to some big middle of the order bats. There have been rumblings of interest in Nelson Cruz, for example. The Rays already addressed their most glaring need with the Mike Zunino trade. Now they're looking for depth and to improve the margins of the roster.
Approach: Value buys, as always. The Rays have some money to spend but they're not going to run a large payroll, and it's unlikely they'll gut their strong farm system to make a blockbuster trade. By and large, their roster is set. There's always room for tweaks and improvement, no doubt, but there is no glaring need here. The Rays are in position to monitor the market and pounce on anything unexpected that comes along that makes sense.
Toronto Blue Jays
Needs: The Blue Jays are in a weird spot. They have name players lined up for most positions but it also feels like they could use an upgrade at literally every spot on the field. Youngsters like catcher Danny Jansen, shortstop Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and outfielder Billy McKinney are going to get a chance to play in 2019, ruling out a big addition at those spots. More than anything, the Blue Jays need pitching, starters and relievers. The younger and the more team control, the better.
Approach: It could really go either way. The Blue Jays could opt to sell some pieces -- Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez would undoubtedly draw trade interest, for example, while others like Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki figure to be salary dumps -- and also buy. Top prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are undoubtedly off limits, but, if the opportunity to trade for a young building block piece presents itself, don't be surprised if Toronto gets involved. They could do a little of everything at the winter meetings. Buying, selling, trading, signing, etc.
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