With Thanksgiving and Black Friday now behind us, and the Winter Meetings just over a week away, it is time for the Hot Stove League to really catch fire. So far it has been pretty warm, with the Red Sox signing The Panda and Hanley, the Marlins inking Giancarlo Stanton, the A’s dealing 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie and others, plus a few other minor trades being made. But you can’t help but feel the main event is still yet to come. It will be and it starts in San Diego.
In this column I am going to tell you what deals and free agent signings SHOULD be made by their respective clubs. But know a few things going in:
1) Some of these are very real possibilities as I have talked to sources who have confirmed them
2) NONE of these will be the kind of deal that is out of the realm of possibility (so you won’t see the Yankees should trade A-Rod to the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw).
3) Finally, these are deals that will make all teams involved either contenders right away, further entrench them in the post-season, or get them on their way to rebuilding (Sorry Rickie Weeks fans, no team signing him makes them a contender).
With those ground rules being set, and rosters looking as they do … Here are 10 moves that should, and very well could happen at the Winter Meetings and beyond.
1: This may be the most obvious move in ALL of baseball., the Yankees will sign Max Scherzer to top their rotation. This will give the Yankees a rotation Scherzer, Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia and any number of options to fill in at number 5. While it is not the Bronx Bombers biggest need (hello, Shortstop), you truly can never have enough pitching and adding Scherzer to the Yankees will make them relevant again come the post-season. The Yankees will then resign Chase Headly for too much money because they are also desperate for a 3rd baseman and he is the best of what’s left on the market. Besides, do you really think Steinbrenners Jr. will sit back and allow the Red Sox to steal ALL the off-season headlines?
2: The Red Sox will package Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Deven Marrero and Jackie Bradley Jr and send them to the Nationals for Jordan Zimmerman. Then in the same day, or within 24 hours, they will send Yeonis Cespedes to the Reds for Mat Latos. That will give the Red Sox a rotation of Zimmerman, Latos, Joe Kelly, Clay Bucholtz and one of their kids (Webster, De La Rosa et al) to go with one of the best line-ups in the game. They will also be able to keep Xander Boegarts, which is the biggest hold-up in completing a deal for Cole Hamels.
3. The Angels, not to be outdone by all of this, will swoop in and overpay for James Shields. He will give the Halo’s the innings eater they need, and will fit in quite nicely with Weaver, Richards, Shoemaker and Wilson. We already know how potent that Halo’s offense can be.
4. The Miami Marlins will trade one of their young pitchers, probably Nate Evoldi, to the Diamondbacks for Mark Trumbo. This will give the Marlins the power hitting 1st baseman they crave and the protections for Giancarlo Stanton, while allowing the D-Backs to not only add a good young pitcher to their rotation, but stop them from having to field two very bad outfielders (Trumbo and the newly acquired Tomas) in the same outfield.
5. The Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox will strike a deal that sends Ace Jeff Samardzija to the South Side and the Sox will send Dyan Viceido AND Alexi Ramirez to the A’s. This will allow Oakland to have a good SS with a good contract, and another solid power hitting OF. While the Sox will have a good 3rd pitcher to pair with Ace Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. It is one of those rare deals that will help BOTH sides.
6. The Dodgers will deal Andre Ethier to the Rangers (and pick up most of his contract along the way) for next to nothing, probably a minor leaguer that is not on anybody’s Top 15, and then will also deal Carl Crawford to Toronto (again picking up most of his contract) for a slightly better minor leaguer. Then LA will turn to Philadelphia where they will acquire Ace Cole Hamels and SS Jimmy Rollins (thus relieving the Phillies of a high priced contract, and making it easier to get Hamels. In return, the Phillies will get Grant Holmes, Zach Lee (two of the better pitching prospects in the Dodgers system), Cuban infielder Alx Guerrero and Middle Infielder Darnell Sweeney, who projects as a speedy MI type. The Phillies will try to get Corey Seager, Julio Urias and/or Joc Pederson, but NONE of those 3 wil be made available, so in order to get rid of Rollins and his contract, the Phillies will make this move. This will give LA a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Hyun jin-Ryu and Dan Haren, while allowing Rollins to play SS until Seager is ready to go.
7. The Braves will deal Justin Upton to the Seattle Mariners for Taijuan Walker, 3rd Base Prospect DJ Peterson (who is now blocked by the 7 year deal Kyle Seager just signed) and SS Chris Taylor. This will allow the Braves basically a mulligan on Upton and allow them to focus on what has made the Braves so good for so long., pitching. Walker has ACE stuff, and if he can stay healthy, he will lead that Braves rotation for years to come, and team him up with Shelby Miller and Atlanta is on its way to another Glavine, Smoltz Maddux trio. On the Mariners side of things, they would have just added Andre Ethier to help out from the left side, and now they get Justin Upton who will help protect Robinson Cano and will give the M’s a line-up to go with one of the better pitching staffs in the game.
8. The Giants who lost Kung-Fu Panda will now take that money and add Nelson Cruz to put some pop into their line-up and move Gregor Blanco to the role he is best suited for, as a 4th outfielder. They will also take some of that Panda money and sign Francisco Liriano to add a little depth to a rotation that will have lost both Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong. Then they will take a mid-level prospect and send him over to Boston for Will Middlebrooks, giving San Francisco the 3rd baseman they now need.
9. It is now the Cubs turn to strike, and strike they will. Their first move will be the obvious signing of Jon Lester, as they are willing to give him the 6th year he craves. They will also take stud rookie Javier Baez, 3rd baseman Mike Olt and a couple of lower level prospects and deal them to Washington for Doug Fister. The Nats,who will have already dealt Jordan Zimmerman to Boston, can use Baez as their shortstop (Ian Desmond is a free agent after this year), put Olt at first (because Adam Laroache is now in Chicago and Ryan Zimmerman is ALWAYS hurt) and will still have a rotation that has Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Ross Detweiler, along with a deep minor league system of pitchers, including Henry Owens who they got from the Red Sox. Meanwhile the Cubs, who have a TON of young position players (Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler) will add Jon Lester and Doug Fister to a rotation that already has Jake Arrieta who looks like he discovered his stuff last season and wil be ready to compete.
10. The final two players who will be on the move are from different leagues and are in different situations, but will both be in new places. Melky Cabrera will be leaving Toronto and heading to Baltimore, where he can play for a contender on natural grass (a BIG issue for him) and replace Nelson Cruz and/or Nick Markakis in the O’s line-up. That will leave a void in left field for the Blue Jays, which will be filled by Jay Bruce of the Reds. It will cost a pretty penny from Toronto, stud pitcher Aaron Sanchez (and a couple of other lesser prospects), but it will be worth it in the long run for the team with the longest playoff drought in all of baseball. Think of a line-up that features Jose Reyes, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Bruce. WOW!!!!
Of course, there will be plenty of other moves going down in San Diego, as well as the rest of the winter. But these are 10 (or so) moves that could all very easily happen at the Winter Meetings. Each one, will help a team either contend or rebuild and after speaking to my sources, don’t be surprised if they ALL happen. Let’s check back in January and see where we sit.