MLB winter meetings: J.A. Happ, Astros, Rays and Reds among winners and losers from Day 3

Day 3 of the 2018 Baseball Winter Meetings is in the books. While it wasn't stuffed with action, we did get enough to allow us to make some snap judgements. Here's our rundown of all the rumors and transactions from the day, and now let's get to declaring winners and losers for Wednesday ... 

Winner: J.A. Happ

Happ after a 2015 trade to the Pirates found a new level, and he's been a consistently above-average starting pitcher ever since. Yes, the veteran lefty turned 36 not long ago, but he's still got playable velocity and he still has command of four pitches. Word had it that Happ was angling for a three-year contract, but his suitors seemed reluctant to commit to a non-ace through his age-39 season. Well, Happ's playing of the market got him close to what he wanted, as the Yankees are reportedly closing in on a two-year deal with him that includes a vesting option for a third. While the financial terms aren't known, any reasonable dollar figure makes this a win for Happ, who will enter the 2019 season with a bit more than $55 million in career salary. 

Assuming this gets finalized, Happ will be returning to the Bronx. The Yankees acquired him in late July, and he thrived across 11 starts on their watch. Happ doesn't need to carry the load, as he joins a rotation that already includes Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia. He'll also be pitching for a team that figures to have legit designs on the World Series for the entirety of Happ's contract. Not a bad way to go out. 

Winner: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays on Wednesday fortified the rotation by reportedly agreeing to terms with free agent right-hander Charlie Morton on a two-year deal worth $30 million. Morton is 35, and he has something of an injury history. Still, peep what he did last season for Houston ... 

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Charlie Morton TB • SP • 50
2018
ERA3.13
WHIP1.16
IP167.0
BB64
K201

In addition to striking out 28.9 percent of opposing batters, Morton also registered an ERA+ of 129. No doubt, he was "coached up" with the Astros, but he's not going to forget all of those lessons he learned. One of those lessons was to swap out some sinkers for four-seamers while continuing to lean on his curve. As well, Morton last season averaged a career-best 96.7 mph with his fastball. 

There's risk, yes, as Morton has a history of shoulder ailments and is a veteran of Tommy John surgery. But those rates and just two years for a guy who keeps runs off the board and still throws hard is a definite win for Tampa. Now they've got Blake Snell, Morton, and Tyler Glasnow at the front of the rotation with Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos doing the heavy lifting on those two planned "opener" days. Again, the going rates for Morton were surprisingly cheap. 

Loser: Houston Astros

Now that Morton's off the board, consider the state of the Houston rotation. Morton and very presumably Dallas Keuchel are going to be pitching elsewhere next season, and Lance McCullers Jr. is out for all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Astros still have Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole at the front end, and Collin McHugh can step into the breach. At the back end, they have in-house options like Josh James, Framber Valdez, Forrest Whitley, and perhaps Brad Peacock. However, a team squarely in win-now mode could probably use at least one more known quantity in that mix. Meantime, the available options are getting thin. Wednesday alone saw three starting pitchers exit the free agent market. 

Winner: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds pulled off a trade for Tanner Roark on Wednesday, and otherwise they continued laying the foundation for some needle-moving additions this winter. Check out our rumors roundup for the day, and you'll find the Reds being mentioned in connection with Marcus Stroman, Sonny Gray, and J.T. Realmuto. (Bringing back Matt Harvey is also a possibility). On Tuesday and into Wednesday, they were reportedly engaged in talks with the Dodgers about a swap of contracts that could yield them some useful pieces. 

Right now, the SportsLine Projection Model tabs the Reds (as presently constructed) for 64 wins and a last-place finish in the NL Central. In that sense, they're not a team that should be adding near-term pieces. I get all that. In the larger context of baseball right now, though, it's refreshing to see a mid-market team coming off yet another losing season make a good-faith effort to get better. The Reds have an impressive core of young to young-ish position players, and Joey Votto is still good. While it's unlikely that anything they do this offseason will make them contenders in the tough NL Central, it's admirable that they seem to be committed to trying. Maybe you can argue this isn't in their long-term interests, but a team who isn't an obvious contender angling to, you know, win games is to be praised right now. 

Loser: Anyone who wanted something big on Wednesday

While we had some tantalizing rumors on Wednesday, we did not get any blockbuster trades or signings. That's pretty much in keeping with the 2018 Winter Meetings to date (recall that the Paul Goldschmidt trade went down well before teams caucused in Vegas). So those wanting Wednesday fireworks must content themselves with mid-grade pitching deals. 

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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