MLB winter meetings: Yasiel Puig staying put and J.A. Happ's third year among biggest surprises

The 2018 MLB winter meetings have come and gone, and there was little action as teams seem to be taking much more time considering all of their options. We had a few transactions and lots of rumors but overall the meetings were mostly quiet. 

At least we still have a number of big names (including the two biggest names -- Bryce Harper and Manny Machado) still on the board as we head into the remainder of the offseason. If you want to catch up on what's already happened with the rest of this winter's top free agents, check out our Free Agent Tracker.

With the meetings behind us, let's go over some of the biggest surprises from the week. 

Puig stayed put

The rumors about the Los Angeles Dodgers trying to deal Yaisel Puig grew even louder during this year's meetings, but by the end of the week Puig was still a Dodger. These rumors have been circulating for a while now so it was surprising to see nothing come to fruition in Las Vegas. The Dodgers reportedly offered Puig to the Nationals in an August waiver trade, but the Nats kept Harper after the two teams couldn't work out a deal. Puig, 28, has spent six seasons with the Dodgers and ever since he broke into the league back in 2013 when he finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, he's gone through a really strange career arc. He went from being a superstar to battling injuries and inconsistencies to getting demoted to Triple-A to having one of the biggest home runs of the 2018 postseason.

It's a bit odd that L.A. couldn't strike a deal last week since the team really needs to clean up its crowded outfield of Joc Pederson, Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo. Plus, they've been trying to move Puig and/or Matt Kemp's salaries for a while now. Kemp is owed $21.75 million, with $2.5 million of that being paid by the San Diego Padres, while Puig is projected to earn $11.3 million in his final year of arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors.

Yanks gave Happ a third year

The Yankees raised some eyebrows when they reportedly agreed to a two-year, $34 million contract with the option for a third year with the 36-year-old left-handed starter J.A. Happ. (The Yankees have yet to make an announcement.) The deal is believed to be a two-year contract with language that would tack on a third year depending on his innings pitched. Here's more of the details:

While Happ was solid between the Blue Jays and Yankees last year, throwing 177 2/3 innings, striking out 193 and finishing with a 3.65 ERA, it's still pretty rare for a team to sign a multiyear deal for any player 35 or older. And what makes this one of the biggest surprises of the winter meetings this year is that the Yanks got knocked out of the Patrick Corbin running because they weren't wiling to give him six-years into his age-35 season. Happ's reliability has proven itself over the course of his 12-year career, but it's still a bit unexpected. New York has made it clear that the franchise is focused on upgrading its starting rotation for next season, so with the Happ signing, he'll slide in along along Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and the newly acquired James Paxton.

Phillies paying up for Cutch

So, it turns out that Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton really wasn't hyperbolizing when he confirmed that the team was ready to spend this offseason "and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it." First came the trade for shortstop Jean Segura a few weeks back, and their big move at the winter meetings was signing outfielder Andrew McCutchen to a three-year deal worth $50 million. I guess if we go off Middleton's quote then this signing really isn't a surprise... but still. 

At 32, McCutchen's decline phase has set in, but he can still hit. He takes solid, competitive at-bats, and his average of 4.2 pitches per plate appearance in 2018 represented the fifth consecutive year in which he has averaged at least four pitches per plate appearance. But, McCutchen struggles against breaking pitches and last season he was the 10th worst hitter in baseball against breaking balls (.189) among those with 150 results. 

Although the Phillies could have just really liked Cutch's durability; he has averaged 155 games played since 2010. And while McCutchen's defense is on the decline, it's still average, making him an upgrade over Rhys Hoskins (who will shift to first base) in left field.

It's worth pondering whether or not the Phillies overpaid for Cutch and what it means for their pursuit of Bryce Harper. Middleton, GM Matt Klentak and company still have plenty to do this winter.


And the biggest non-player related surprises...

Jerry Dipoto made a trade from a hospital bed

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto pulled off one of the biggest trades from this year's winter meetings while lying in his hospital bed because of a blood clot. On Thursday, 50-year-old GM dealt Carlos Santana to Cleveland in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion as part of a three-team trade with the Rays.

He has since been released, and hopefully he'll spend some time resting. But it's doubtful he'll let this slow down the Mariners' rebuild.

Brian Cashman fully embraced the "evil empire"

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman delivered one of the more memorable quotes of this winter meetings while addressing New York's interest (or lack thereof) in free agent Bryce Harper.

"If something doesn't make sense today, it doesn't mean it won't make sense tomorrow," Cashman told reporters. "All I can keep telling you is, you know where my current focuses are, but at the same time we're a fully operational Death Star." 

Well, if the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry wasn't reignited by Aaron Judge's musical trolling during the American League Championship Series then this Cashman quote just might do it. Looks like we're just about done with the likable Yankees narrative from 2017. Also, Cashman might want to choose his next Star Wars reference more carefully...

Scott Boras didn't say anything that was totally absurd (at least by Scott Boras standards)

Leave it to agent Scott Boras to create a stir in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino lobby as he gathered the largest crowd of reporters of the week.

But surprisingly, Boras didn't roll out any quotes as wacky as his "Harper's Bazaar" line. Still, he made sure to cover a lot of ground.

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