Baseball’s Winter Meetings always provides fascinating theater, and this year was no different. There’s quite a lot of information to digest with the meetings wrapped up — and also some interesting reading for those who are curious about how it all goes down. Writing for ESPN.com, Eno Sarris provides a fascinating look at some underappreciated elements of baseball decisionmaking, ranging from the mandates of owners to the frequent lack of understanding that the general public has as to what alternatives organizations realistically have when they decide upon their moves. The increasing complexities of baseball dealing are also covered by ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield, who discusses the impact of the largely ubiquitous utilization of advanced analysis in the game. With virtually all of the thirty MLB organizations employing fleets of sophisticated staffers, he argues, it’s harder to extract value from trades — which may help to explain the risks taken in some of the Winter Meetings’ biggest deals.
With the Winter Meetings in the books, here are some notes on the work that was completed and that remains to be done:
- On Wednesday, the White Sox shipped ace lefty Chris Sale to the Red Sox in exchange for a heralded foursome of prospects. That swap, and its build-up, dominated the headlines at the Winter Meetings. Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski discussed the process that led to the move in an excellent interview with Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. He not only provided an interesting account of the information gathering and processing that goes on at the Winter Meetings, as teams jockey for position and look to arrange fits on trades and signings, but went into the details on the pursuit of Sale. The sides built off of their prior “preliminary conversations,” and honed in on an agreement late Tuesday night as the sides began to line up on the complementary pieces that would go to Chicago along with the two headlining prospects (Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech). Momentum seemingly began to build as early as Friday, before the meetings kicked off, as Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com explains. It was at that point that White Sox GM Rick Hahn notified Dombrowski that he’d be willing to consider a different sort of return — presumably, top minor leaguers rather than young MLB assets — than had been discussed over the summer. The Nationals and Astros also dangled significant pieces; Hahn notes that “there were similar-type players being offered from other clubs,” leading to “a level of excitement in that room as we debated which was the best path for us.”
- In the aftermath of the Sale trade, as well as the ensuing swap that sent Adam Eaton to D.C., the White Sox are prepared to part with other notable veterans if they can generate sufficient interest, as Hayes further reports. That could potentially include first baseman Jose Abreu — a former teammate of Moncada’s in Cuba — though it’s fair to wonder whether his market will develop with so much power still available in free agency. It’s also reasonable to expect that the South Siders are willing to listen on Jose Quintana, though there’s no real pressure to move his lengthy and affordable contract. It does stand to reason, though, that shorter-term assets (including Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, and David Robertson) will be shopped more heavily.
- Before pulling the trigger on Eaton, the Nationals at least checked in with the Rockies on center fielder Charlie Blackmon, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). While that obviously won’t be a match at this point, and the Cardinals no longer appear to be a possible suitor after signing Dexter Fowler, it remains to be seen whether Colorado will look hard at a deal involving one of its best players. The team made a notable free-agent splash by adding Ian Desmond, with reports suggesting that he’ll spend time at first base, but it still seems to make sense for the organization to consider addressing other needs — most notably, in the pitching staff — by exploring deals for Blackmon or one of its other left-handed-hitting outfielders. (Last we heard, a trade remains a real possibility; while the team is said to be holding some extension talks with Carlos Gonzalez, those reportedly haven’t progressed, so he too remains a plausible candidate.)
- For the Rays, there are still a lot of interesting opportunities remaining even after the team took an interesting gamble on injured catcher Wilson Ramos, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The team’s still-loaded rotation remains an area to watch. “It’s hard to anticipate timing, it’s hard to really know where all this is going to end up,” said senior VP Chaim Bloom, “but we obviously have a number of talented pitchers in our rotation, and I think we had a lot of conversation on pretty much all of them.” Whatever a trade of a starter might yield remains unknown, but Topkin says that Tampa Bay is looking to add some pop at some point. That could involve waiting to see what “leftovers” remain with plenty of sluggers still available; Topkin even mentions, at least hypothetically, the possibility of a move on a player such as Jose Bautista. Ultimately, said Bloom, there’s a better sense internally as to where things could be headed. “There’s still a lot of dominoes to fall, potentially, with us and certainly around the industry, but the conversation this week was really helpful,” he said. “We got, I think, a much better idea of what may be available to us.”
- The Mets are still working to tweak their roster after Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker decided to return, as Marc Carig of Newsday reports. It seems that the focus remains on finding a taker for outfielder Jay Bruce to clean up the team’s rotation and shed some salary, but Carig suggests that progress has been slower than hoped on that front and GM Sandy Alderson notes that many free-agent outfielders remain unaccounted for. The Mets “laid some groundwork” at the meetings, says Alderson, though it seems that the organization will take its time in making further moves. Carig further reports on possible trade assets that could conceivably be used to find relief pitching. That includes outfielder Brandon Nimmo as well as catchers Kevin Plawecki and Tomas Nido, all of whom were discussed to some extent in recent days.
- The Winter Meetings weren’t quite as busy for the Phillies, but as Ryan Lawrence of the Philly Voice notes, there’s still plenty time for some moves. GM Matt Klentak noted both that the flurry of moves creates “a ripple effect” and also that there’s plenty of information gathering which can “help you make decisions down the road.” In Philadelphia’s case, there’s “not a lot cooking” at the moment, per Klentak, but with “a lot of dialogue on a lot of different fronts” there’s always the potential for something to come together. Klentak notes that he expects at least one or two of the team’s 40-man spots to turn over between now and the start of Spring Training.
- Meanwhile, the Giants may largely be done with their winter work, Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets. That being said, San Francisco is interested in adding some pop to its bench mix. The club has inquired on free-agent slugger Mark Reynolds and other “similar players,” per the report.
- The Cubs took care of their bullpen during the Winter Meetings, but are still eyeing free-agent starter Tyson Ross, according to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. At this point, it’s not even clear precisely when Ross will sign, but it’s interesting to note that the defending World Series champs seem to have more than a passing interest in the veteran righty, who is working back from thoracic outlet surgery. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke generally of the idea of signing injured starters, noting that there’s demand for “really talented pitchers” even if they have recently been hurt. “We’ll stay engaged on some of those guys,” he said, “but they’ll have to be just the right talent.”