While the offseason has been relatively quiet, we expect that to change rapidly with the upcoming MLB Winter Meetings.
The biggest name of the hot stove season is reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. We do expect him to get traded during the Winter Meetings. We don’t expect him to be the only past NL MVP in the news, though. In fact, we think another former NL MVP will be traded, while one more will be a hot discussion topic.
The Kansas City Royals won the American League Pennant in 2014 and won the World Series in 2015. When everything in Orlando is wrapped up, expect no less than three players from those teams to be elsewhere.
One of the more fascinating players to come into MLB in quite some time is Japanese import Shohei Ohtani. Where will the two-way star end up?
The MLB Winter Meetings will answer a lot of questions that have been permeating since the end of the season. This is what we predict will happen in Orlando.
Bryce Harper trade rumors will be floated
While the 2017-18 offseason is interesting, the 2018-19 will be off the charts. The free agent class next offseason is absolutely loaded, and it’s led by Harper. We’re not expecting Harper to get moved at the Winter Meetings, but we are expecting that his name will be a big talking point.
Teams will want to make it known that they’re interested in Harper for next year. Teams will also want to make it known that they’re interested in him in the (admittedly unlikely) event that Harper’s Washington Nationals are sellers at the trade deadline. Additionally, it’s not as though it would make no sense for Washington to deal Harper. If the Nats get a sense that he won’t be back, they might as well get something for him.
Again, we don’t think a trade will happen. But we do expect to hear Harper’s name brought up in Orlando. Consider it a sneak preview.
Detroit Tigers will be unrecognizable
The Tigers got their rebuilding going in 2017 when they traded players like Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton. But we can’t help but notice that Detroit still has a fair amount of veteran players on its roster.
Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, Victor Martinez, and Miguel Cabrera should all be on the move. The latter two are complicated by the fact that they both would have approve any deal. But do they really want to finish their careers on a bad team? Remember, the Tigers had all of these guys in 2017 (plus Verlander, Martinez, and Upton for a good part of it) and still finished with baseball’s worst record.
It gets trickier when looking at younger players like Michael Fulmer and Nick Castellanos. Both are young enough that they could be a part of the rebuilding project. But that also means that both should attract a strong haul on the trade market. These guys could stay. But even if they do, expect Detroit to be a much different looking team coming out of Orlando than it was going in.
Shohei Ohtani goes to the Padres
There’s something to the idea of Ohtani making the most sense in the American League. But it’s important to remember that he can play in the outfield. So, even in the DH-free National League, he’d have a place to play on days where he’s not pitching.
It’s recently been reported that the San Diego Padres are one of Ohtani’s final choices, joining the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, and Los Angeles Angels. The fact that Ohtani can both pitch and hit isn’t the only thing that makes him a unique free agent. He’s also not drawn in by the big markets. In fact, it’s a detriment. That makes San Diego a good fit.
The Padres also have a place for him. He could easily play in the San Diego outfield in days where he’s not pitching. Petco Park is a good place to pitch and the market isn’t an overwhelming one. Also, the Padres do have some solid young players (Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot) in place. It’s not likely to show in 2018, but this team is headed in the right direction. Adding Ohtani would be a nice piece to the puzzle.
Red Sox sign Eric Hosmer
There’s really no need to overthink this. The Boston Red Sox have a rather glaring need at first base. Hosmer could fill that need for the better part of a decade.
Boston also needs power. Hosmer isn’t the kind of hitter who will come in and knock 40 home runs. But he has hit 25 in each of his last two seasons while playing most of his games at Kansas City’s spacious Kauffman Stadium.. Additionally, players tend to find their power peak in their late-20’s/early-30’s. At 28, Hosmer is in the midst of that very phase of his life.
The fit is perfect. By the time the Winter Meetings are all said and done, we expect both Boston and Hosmer to put the pieces together.
Avisail Garcia goes to the Cardinals
As we can tell by their interest in Giancarlo Stanton, the St. Louis Cardinals are looking to upgrade their outfield. Stanton’s interest in St. Louis seems to be tepid, at best. So, the Cardinals should be looking elsewhere.
The Chicago White Sox have done a fantastic job at rebuilding their team. But they can still use some position player depth. As luck would have it, the Cardinals have a deep farm system.
These two are natural trade partners. St. Louis isn’t likely to get its hands on the reigning NL MVP, but we expect them to get to land another All-Star outfielder.
Yu Darvish will end up in a surprise location
The New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs both have needs in the rotation. The same could be said about Darvish’s two former teams — the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers. But ultimately, we see those teams looking elsewhere.
The American League Wild Card Game showed us that the Minnesota Twins need a true top starter. The Milwaukee Brewers, meanwhile, were good in 2017, but they didn’t get enough production from the starting rotation to make the playoffs. Look for those small market teams to get in the mix.
Normally, the Twins and Brewers would get outbid. But Darvish’s poor World Series will open the door just enough for one of them to get in. Of the two, Minnesota is a little closer to being a true championship contender. So, we’d give the Twins the slight edge.
Jay Bruce heads to Colorado
The Colorado Rockies were one of baseball’s best surprises in 2017. But in order to continue playing at a playoff level, the outfield will need to be improved upon. That’s where Bruce enters the equation.
Bruce is coming off a season in which he belted a career high 36 home runs. It’s awfully fun to think about what a guy with that kind of power can do while playing at Coors Field. He’d just fit beautifully on a team with promising young pitching talent, as well as superstars like Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado in the lineup.
Bruce will have his share of suitors. But none make the sense of Colorado. By the time the festivities in Orlando are wrapped up, we expect both parties to see that.
Pirates trade Andrew McCutchen to Cleveland
McCutchen was the guy who helped lead the Pittsburgh Pirates out of the wilderness. From 1993-2012, Pittsburgh failed to have even one winning season. With McCutchen playing at an MVP level, the Pirates then made the playoffs from 2013-2015. As such, trading him would not be easy. We understand that.
That said, McCutchen is entering the last year of his contract. Unless Pittsburgh really feels it can win this year (anything is possible, but it’s a longshot), a trade just makes sense. The Cleveland Indians, on the other hand, are anything but a longshot to win in 2018. Cleveland also has a hole in its outfield, especially with the likely departure of Bruce.
Sending McCutchen away would be tough to swallow. But with a trade to the Indians, the Pirates will be doing right by their franchise cornerstone.
Yankees bolster the rotation, sign Jake Arrieta
While C.C. Sabathia was not the pitcher he once was, his free agency does leave a void in the New York rotation. Arrieta, who can eat innings and has big game experience, will fill that void nicely.
The Yankees saw how close they were to the champs in 2017. New York took the Houston Astros to seven games in the ALCS, even leading 3-2 at one point. But in the end, New York had to stretch its bullpen out a little too much, creating just enough of a crack for the Astros to jump though.
Arrieta would give the Yankees another pitcher who can go deep into games. That would allow the bullpen to rest more in his starts. In turn, the relievers would be better during the starts of the other pitchers.
Greg Holland and Wade Davis reunite in Chicago
The NLCS showed us that the Cubs have a void in the bullpen. To some extent, it was a matter of the relievers not meeting expectations. But the Chicago relievers just didn’t stack up to Los Angeles’.
So, what’s a team to do? First things first, bring Wade Davis back. Davis had a great year in Chicago and the Cubs would be well served to bring him back. After that, Chicago should sign Greg Holland, who won the NL Comeback Player of the Year with the Rockies. That would reunite two key parts of a bullpen that was instrumental in bringing the Kansas City Royals back to prominence.
Improving the bullpen is a must for the Cubs in the offseason. It’s not something they want to wait on. Look for them to act in a big way in Orlando, bringing two former teammates back together.
Diamondbacks beat out big market teams, re-sign J.D. Martinez
While a team re-signing a player wouldn’t normally qualify as a bold prediction, this fits the description. Martinez was in Arizona for a limited time in 2017, had a monster year, and has teams with traditionally far deeper pockets reportedly interested.
But while the Red Sox need a power upgrade, it’s important to remember that their outfield is very good and young. Signing Martinez would likely mean the departure of Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, or Andrew Benintendi. We expect them to look for a first base upgrade (as the aforementioned Hosmer would be) and probably into both the starting rotation and bullpen.
The Giants also make sense. But as we’ll soon get to, we expect them to be landing another outfielder. That leaves teams like the Dodgers. While that’s certainly a scary lineup, it just wouldn’t make sense for Los Angeles to spend big money at a position that’s not a real need. At the end of the day, an Arizona reunion makes the most sense.
Best get better when Astros acquire Zach Britton
While we’ll remember the 2017 postseason for its heavy use of the bullpens, the Houston Astros went the other way. Astros relievers were just not dependable in the postseason. To be fair, the offense and starting rotation were good enough to get the job done anyway. But just to be safe, bolstering the bullpen would be a smart move.
The list of relievers that have been better than Britton over the last four years is not a long one. Britton’s current team, the Baltimore Orioles, has many holes. One strength is in the bullpen. There, Baltimore has the depth to deal Britton and still be more than formidable.
Houston has the kind of young players and prospects that the Orioles should be coveting. This deal would make both teams better. Look for these two to connect.
Alex Cobb reunites with former manager in Chicago
Joe Maddon managed Cobb with the Tampa Bay Rays from 2011-2014. In 2018, we think that the two will be back together, only this time at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs have a need. They certainly could bring back Arrieta and we’re not discounting that possibility. But the smartest thing Chicago could do would be to spend a little less on Arrieta’s spot in the rotation and make the aforementioned bullpen improvements. That’s where Cobb fits in.
Cobb has flown under the radar in Tampa. But he has a solid 3.50 career ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He’d slot in incredibly well somewhere towards the top of the Cubs’ rotation. Look for the pitcher to be reunited with his former manager during the week in Orlando.
Marlins trade outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna
The Miami Marlins want to trade Giancarlo Stanton. That much is clear. We’ll get to Stanton’s destination shortly. But something that Miami can do to really push him into leaving is to trade some of the talent around him. Given that the Marlins new owners are in cost-cutting mode, it makes sense. It’s a similar tactic to what Miami reportedly told Stanton it’d do if he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause.
The thing is, we think these guys are gone one way or the other. Stanton has a big contract that needs to be gotten rid of, but he’s not the only one. Additionally, while a Stanton trade would be done primarily to clear salary, this trade would help the Marlins get talent. Remember, even with Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna, Miami hasn’t had a winning team since 2009. Upgrading the talent is a must.
As such, by the end of the MLB Winter Meetings, we expect that the Marlins’ outfield will look entirely different.
Dodgers bring Gerrit Cole back to Southern California
While trading McCutchen would be more about the Pirates trying to get good value, trading Cole would be more of a foundation-changing move. Cole won’t be a free agent until 2020. That kind of long-term stability would put Pittsburgh in a position where it could ask for more. Los Angeles happens to have one of baseball’s best farm systems.
The Dodgers need another arm in the rotation. Darvish is likely going to be gone, and while he did struggle in the World Series his departure leaves a good-sized hole in the starting rotation. Cole can fill that. These two are good trade partners.
Cole has a career 3.50 ERA and 8.4 K/9 rate. He fills in perfectly as a No. 2 starter behind Kershaw. Even better, he’s only 27. So, in the event that Kershaw slips, Cole has time to develop into an ace. Cole is from the Los Angeles area and went to school at UCLA. It only makes sense for the Dodgers to bring him home.
Giancarlo Stanton goes to the Giants
On one hand, it feels like this trade would have happened already if it was going to. It’s been reported that the Marlins have deals in place with both the San Francisco Giants and Cardinals. So, why hasn’t it happened?
The best guess is the Dodgers. It makes sense. But the Dodgers reportedly don’t want to add that money. Frankly, even if that wasn’t an issue, Los Angeles has more pressing needs. So, it seems like it’s going to come down to one of three options. One, Stanton stays in Miami. Two, he goes to San Francisco. Three, he goes to St. Louis.
There’s no reason to disbelieve the reports that he’d prefer the Giants to the Cardinals. Remaining with the Marlins is an interesting option. But again, this team — which has had eight straight losing seasons — is now entering a rebuilding phase. How bad will Miami be once that starts?
San Francisco has a lot of work to do. But it’s had recent success and has been willing to spend money to compete. It’s not a perfect option for Stanton. But of all the realistic options, it’s the one that seems to fit him the best. He’ll eventually come to that conclusion and will do so before the MLB Winter Meetings end.