MLB Winter Meetings: Five main takeaways from Day 3 in Nashville

By Michael Dixon

The penultimate day of the MLB Winter Meetings is in the can. While it didn’t have quite the fervor of the first two days, Day 3 had plenty of activity and also gave us an indication of some names that might be traded in the remainder of the off-season.

Let’s take a look at the five most important happenings from Day 3 of the MLB Winter Meetings, and see what they mean.

Pitching market

Johnny Cueto is the best remaining starter on the market. His agent Bryce Dixon gave an interview with Zach Links from MLB Trade Rumors talking about how Cueto would work well in St. Louis.

Johnny would love to pitch to him (Brayan Pena) and a catcher like [Yadier] Molina, so I think it would be a good fit.  Whether the Cardinals step up with the necessary resources, that remains to be seen.

At one point of the day, it seemed as though Cueto’s former teammate, Mike Leake, might be going to the Nationals. Chelsea James of the Washington Post even reported that the Nats had offered Leake a contract.

By the end of the day, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports said that Leake to the Nationals is not likely to happen.

Leake’s failed deal with the Nationals adds another suitor to the Wei-Yin Chen sweepstakes. Earlier in the day, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had reported that the Giants and Cardinals were interested in Chen, but added that “The Royals are also a possibility and the Nationals may also look to Chen if they do not get Mike Leake.”

Takeaway: Chen’s been a solid pitcher, but he’s certainly not thought of at Cueto or even Leake’s level, right? Maybe he can be a good value pitcher for one of those teams.

Really, any of these pitchers fit well with the Giants, Nationals, Royals, Cardinals, or several other teams, but we may not see them signed for a while.

The hitting market is still relatively untapped, as it doesn’t seem as though any team or player wants to set the market. These teams are also all in the market for a hitter and Heyman reported that slugger Chris Davis is seeking an eight-year, $200 million deal. It doesn’t seem likely that any team needing offense will price itself out of a hitter by breaking the budget on a pitcher.

The winter meetings are closing, but this market is still a long way from being closed.

Trades, Trades, Trades

After losing Adam Warren on Tuesday, the Yankees bullpen lost another good arm. Jennifer Hammond of Fox sports Detroit first reported that Justin Wilson is headed to the Tigers, later tweeting the Yankees return haul.

The relief pitchers didn’t stop moving there, though. Mark Berman of Fox 26 KRIV first reported that one of the game’s best young relief pitchers is going to the Astros.

Later, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported that the Phillies will also be getting Thomas Eshelman.

In the evening, the White Sox and A’s completed a deal that strengthens the Chicago infield.

Takeaway: The Tigers bullpen needs some help, so the acquisition of Miller makes complete sense. What I’m having a hard time understanding is exactly what the Yankees are doing here.

  • When Luis Cessa was in AAA in 2015, he had a 6.97 ERA and 1.694 WHIP. He’ll be 24 in April, so there’s still some time to work with him, but he’s a project.
  • Green will be 25 in May and has never pitched above AA. In 27 AA starts, he has a 3.93 ERA and 1.433 WHIP.

Make no mistake, Wilson’s not a Cy Young Award winner or anything, but like Warren, he was a big part of a good bullpen in 2015. Lastly, Bob Nightengale from USA Today reported that Andrew Miller may be on the move.

The Giles trade has potential to turn into a blockbuster, although we may not know if for a while.

  • While Luke Gregerson was a capable closer in 2015, he’s doesn’t have potential to be a dominant, shutdown closer. Giles does. The 25-year-old right-hander has a career ERA of 1.56 with 151 strikeouts in 115.2 innings. Also, if they keep Gregerson, he’d been one of the game’s best set-up men for his entire career before taking over Houston’s closer duties. Shaky bullpen play kept the Astros from the ALCS last October, and I’m not sure that would have happened if Giles was on board.
  • With all due respect to Oberholtzer, Velasquez, and Eshelman, Philadelphia’s biggest return on this trade is Fisher. The 22-year-old has never played above AA ball but hit 22 home runs in 2015, slashed at .275/.364/.483 and stole 31 bases in 2015. If that translates to Major League success, then the loss of Giles is worth it for the Phillies, who are still in rebuilding mode and haven’t finished above .500 since 2011. If Fisher is more of a project, then replacing Giles’s contributions will be a tall order for Oberholtzer, Velasquez, and Eshelman to match Giles’s production.

Similarly, we may not get to see the full Athletics’ haul for a few years. Jeffery Wendelken has a rough go of things in the Fall League, but pitching primarily as a reliever during the regular season, had a 1.119 WHIP with 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings in a year that ended with him in Triple A. Erwin has only one year of professional baseball under his belt, but it was a good one. In 40.1 innings, Erwin posted a 1.34 ERA with a WHIP under 1. He still has to work his way through the minors, but he’s off to a good start.

The White Sox needed to land some infield help, which Lawrie provides. He’s not a superstar by any means, but Lawrie is a solid contributor. His defensive versatility will also help the Sox if they get the opportunity to land another infielder.

On that subject…

Todd Frazier’s Available 

C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that the reigning Home Run Derby champion may be changing homes this off-season.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted that the Indians were in talks to bring Frazier to Northeast Ohio, though Mark Sheldon of mlb.com later reported that a trade is unlikely.

Takeaway: Frazier will be 30 in February, so it’s not likely that his going to change that much in the coming seasons, whether he plays in Cincinnati, Cleveland, or anywhere else. So, what kind of player is Todd Frazier?

Todd Frazier

He’s not a terribly high OBP guy, but the power numbers are solid. Teams that need a little pop, but that have good on base guys at the 1-3 spots in their order should absolutely be checking in with the Reds to see what they want. If you have that on your team, your lineup will be aided by a 30 home run guy batting fourth, even if the OBP is a little low. Otherwise, Frazier’s relatively high strikeout rate and low OBP make him a better suited to be a No. 5 hitter.

If you want specific teams that should be trying to find a spot for Frazier, you’ve come to the right place.

Houston Astros: Houston’s 2015 season was not a fluke. They have a talented lineup and a pitching staff that can make a deep playoff run. Frazier would be an instant upgrade over either Luis Valbuena or Marwin Gonzalez at third base.

Chicago White Sox: Even with the acquisition of Brett Lawrie, Frazier is a guy that the White Sox should be after. Lawrie is a versatile infielder but has played second base in the past and would upgrade the current situation. The addition of Frazier would make the White Sox one of the best offenses in baseball.

San Diego Padres: Other than having Jose Abreu on the payroll and the rumored interest in Brett Lawrie, everything that was said about the White Sox applies here, too. After making so many drastic moves last year and not even having a .500 season, the Padres may be a little gun shy, but that’s not the division to be tentative in. The Dodgers and Giants already run the show there and the Arizona Diamondbacks are certainly making headlines. Frazier would definitely make the Padres better.

Arizona Diamondbacks: You might be asking a simple question here. What exactly do the Diamondbacks have to trade at this point? Well, um, I’m kind of stumped on that one. But they should be prying to Reds to at least see what the asking price is.

Cleveland Indians: They’re right to be asking. The Tribe’s roster has very few holes, but one of them is third base. If they can land Frazier, the Indians become a contender in 2016, even in a tough American League Central.

Two other teams that can be added are the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. Frazier would probably have to become a first baseman in either situation and trading within the division is always challenging, but Frazier fits well with either team.

New middle infield for Mets

The Mets have a replacement for 2015 NLCS MVP, Daniel Murphy. The news was broken first by both Joel Sherman of the New York Post and ESPN’s Buster Olney and later confirmed by the Mets themselves.

Later in the evening, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo and Jon Heyman from CBS Sports broke news that Asdrubal Cabrera will be Walker’s new double play partner.

Takeaway: On the offensive end, Walker and Cabrera are an upgrade over the trio of Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, and Wilmer Flores. In 2015, that trio combined for 33 home runs and a .269/.317/.408 slash line. In nearly 300 fewer at-bats, Walker and Cabrera hit 31 homers and slashed at .267/.322/.428.

Defensively, there’s some good and bad here.

Starting with the good news, Walker had the ninth best range factor of any qualified second baseman in 2015, coming in at 4.81. Murphy didn’t qualify in 2015, but his 2014 mark was 4.39, so that’s an upgrade.

The downgrade is at shortstop, especially from Tejada. Neither Tejada or Flores played enough at short to qualify in 2015, but Tejada’s 4.66 factor in 2014 was the best of any qualified player. In 2015, Cabrera’s mark was 3.42, significantly worse than any qualified player.

On balance, this is a good move, though. The Mets needed to replace Murphy and they did so with a better player. Cabrera is an offensive upgrade over the Tejada/Flores duo and currently, both are still Mets. Either could come in as a late inning replacement. Plus, with David Wright’s injury history, their infield depth is still a prime asset.

The next question is, can they replace Yoenis Cespedes? If they even come close, the Mets will be a force to be reckoned with again in 2016.

Colorado outfielders on the move?

According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Rockies are willing to have a new-look outfield in 2016.

Carlos Gonzalez is a two-time All-Star and three time Gold Glove Award winner. Staying healthy has been an issue, as CarGo has only topped 140 games in a season twice and 150 once. Fortunately, the one time was 2015, when he belted 40 home runs, with a .271/.325/.540 slash line. From June 1 on, Gonzalez hit 36 bombs, with a .292 average, .336 on base percentage, and .624 slugging percentage. He turned 30 in October.

Charlie Blackmon was never an everyday player before 2014 but he’s been a dependable player over the last two years, making the National League All-Star team in 2014.

charlie blackmon

He turns 30 in July.

Corey Dickerson played in only 65 games in 2015, but hit 10 homers and slashed at .304/.333/.536. In 2014, he played 131 games, belting 24 homers with a .312/.364/.567 slash line. He turns 27 in May.

Takeaway: Dan Szymborski from ESPN has an interesting take on the Rockies.

In all seriousness, shopping Gonzalez is understandable to a degree. He’s got a bad history of injuries, is owed $37 million over the next two seasons, and given his past successes, should have plenty of active suitors. The Rockies have also never really won with Gonzalez, so moving on from him is sensible if they get a good haul in return.

Blackmon, and especially Dickerson, are a different story. The Rockies have Blackmon under control through 2019 while they have Dickerson through 2020. These are the kinds of players that can complement Nolan Arenado in that lineup very well.

Other teams — especially those that play in pitcher’s parks — need to have a slight concern that Rockies hitters won’t have the same success away from Coors Field, and that certainly applies to all three of these guys, but these three are all worth the risk.

From the Rockies’ end, Gonzalez is a star, while Blackmon and Dickerson are at worst good cornerstones. It’s one thing to take calls about them, but Morosi’s report implies that it’s a little more than that. It’s hard to understand what they’re thinking here but at the same time, not so hard to understand why this team hasn’t won more than 74 games in the last five years.

If you’re interested in winning, these are the kinds of players that you keep to help turn that around, not shop around.