After the 2017 World Series, the MLB offseason officially began. The offseason is a time for teams to hit the reset button and reconsider the direction of the future of their franchise. For many teams it is a new beginning, as Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa puts it “everyone is tied for first.”
In early November, nine players received a one-year qualifying offer of 17.4 million dollars before they hit free agency. In the end, none accepted it, meaning that their former team will gain a compensatory draft pick after the first round of the 2018 draft.
The beginning of this year’s offseason will forever be known as the “Cold Stove,” as there were very few trades and free-agent signings. The market was held up by NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and multi-positional Japanese-phenomen Shohei Ohtani. The Stanton trade was made much more complicated by his no-trade clause, which prevented any action. The Giants and Cardinals met with Stanton and the Marlins’ front office, after which the Marlins accepted a deal to trade Stanton to either team. After several weeks, the Giants requested Stanton’s decision, where he declined a trade to both teams. Within two days, Stanton was traded to the Yankees in exchange for Starlin Castro and two other prospects. After Shohei Ohtani was posted, he signed with the Angels, where he joins Mike Trout in the outfield.
The MLB offseason finally became “hot” after the trade for Dee Gordon in mid-December. Dee Gordon and international spending money were traded to the Mariners in return for prospects. Soon after, free agents Mike Fiers signed with the Tigers and Chris Iannetta signed with the Rockies.
Between December 10th and 14th, the long-awaited Winter Meetings occurred in Orlando, which is known for a firestorm of moves between general managers. This offseason’s Winter Meetings did not disappoint, as several trades and free agent signings went down.
The Cubs were the first team to make moves. They improved their pitching by signing Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly. Morrow was a terrific pitcher for the Dodgers during the regular season and the postseason. He agreed to a two-year deal for 21 million dollars. Drew Smyly was signed for two years at 10 million dollars. This is a much riskier move because he underwent Tommy John surgery in June and will not pitch for most or the entirety of the 2018 season.
After taking on the massive Stanton contract, the Yankees needed to cut tremendous amounts of salary. Their first step was trading Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the Padres in return for a back-up outfielder. This will likely allow them to sign another big-name in the massive 2019 free-agent class.
During the Winter Meetings, the Angels made it clear that they want to win sooner rather than later. After landing Shohei Ohtani, they were able to trade for Ian Kinsler. By giving up two prospects to the Tigers, the Angels acquired a reliable veteran second baseman. Although Kinsler is past his prime, he should still be able to recover from last year’s down year.
The most active team during the Winter Meetings was the St. Louis Cardinals, who were determined to find a high-impact bat. After failing to land Stanton, the Cardinals were able to come up with their high-impact bat in two-time All Star Marcell Ozuna, who had 37 home runs and over 130 RBIs last year for the Marlins. In return, the Marlins received four prospects. The Cardinals also signed free agent Luke Gregerson for relief help, who put up good numbers during the Astros championship season. The second Cardinals trade was sending outfielder Stephen Piscotty to the A’s in exchange for prospects.
Since the Winter Meetings laid the foundations for trades and negotiations, many deals have not yet been completed. Immediately after the Winter Meetings, several other deals were completed.
The Phillies acquired Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, and Carlos Santana; and traded away Freddy Galvis. Pat Neshek is a veteran and Tommy Hunter was great last season with a 2.61 ERA for the Rays. They both will significantly improve the Phillies’ bullpen. Carlos Santana signed for a three-year 60 million dollar deal. Santana is an all-around good player who can get about 20 home runs and eighty RBIs over the course of a season. Santana seems to be a good fit, but the Phillies slightly overpaid, as he doesn’t appear to be worth the yearly 20 million dollar price tag. Freddy Galvis will provide great defense for the Padres, making him an ideal rental.
Other major free agent signings since the Winter Meetings include Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee to the Rockies, Hector Rondon to the Astros, Steve Cishek to the Cubs, Fernando Rodney to the Twins, and Zack Cozart to the Angels. Zack Cozart is just another example of the Angels’ desire to win, as he was a great player on the Reds and he will fill their need at shortstop. After the Giants failed to land Stanton, they traded Denard Span away for Evan Longoria of the Rays. The trade should allow the Giants to have more power at third-base.
Perhaps the most interesting trade occurred between the Dodgers and Braves. The Dodgers were finally able to dump the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Charlie Culberson in return for Matt Kemp. Clearly, the Braves came out on top of this trade as Kazmir and McCarthy have significant upside. Unsurprisingly, immediately after the trade, Gonzalez was designated for assignment by the Braves, and he possibly will be picked up by the Padres.
In a slow offseason, there are a number of free agents still available, and several unfinished trades. Now is a perfect time to predict the remaining moves this offseason.
The first trade that is most likely to occur is Alex Colome to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals need significant bullpen depth and he can fit in a closer or set-up man. The second potential trade is Manny Machado to the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have serious interest in Machado, and correspondingly they have highly ranked prospects that they acquired from trades for Adam Eaton and Chris Sale last offseason.
Ultimately, the offseason will come to an end once each free agent finds their respective team. JD Martinez is the highest ranked position player of this year’s free agent class. He is most likely to sign with the Red Sox for an extremely high price. The Red Sox will not start him in the outfield, but instead start him as their everyday designated hitter. The Diamondbacks do not have the money to re-sign him. The Red Sox feel significant pressure in order to compete with the Yankees, and as a result will overpay for Martinez.
The Cardinals will sign both Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, as it greatly fills their needs. Arrieta is at the age where he is more willing to take a short one or two-year contract. The Cardinals have had bullpen and closer issues for several years, so they will lock down Wade Davis as a permanent closer for years to come.
In addition to trading for Freddy Galvis, look for the Padres will sign Eric Hosmer. By making these two moves, the Padres are clearly finished rebuilding. Greg Holland will re-sign with the Rockies because he is the team’s main focus, as they are not interested in bringing back Jonathan Lucroy as catcher. Yu Darvish will sign with the Cubs, because he is a younger alternative to Jake Arrieta and they have enough money to spend on him. The Dodgers are unlikely to re-sign Darvish at his high price, because they are looking to free up salary for either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado in 2019. Lance Lynn will sign a five-year deal with the Yankees because they are in need of another starter. Lynn provides a reliable and cheaper alternative to most pitchers on the free agent market. Alex Cobb will sign with the Dodgers to replace Yu Darvish and Scott Kazmir. The Dodgers have plenty of money to spend on a starting pitcher now that they no longer have the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, and Brandon McCarthy. Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas will re-sign with the Royals, since they both are a perfect fit and the Royals can afford to keep both of them.
By the end of the offseason, the Cardinals, Yankees, and Angels will come out winners; as their teams will be significantly improved and ready for a long-run into the 2018 postseason. Although this free-agent class is better than in 2017, the monster free-agent class in 2019 — featuring Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and Clayton Kershaw — is yet to come.
*Photo credir: © 2017 Sports Illustrated