As the calendar flips to December, here’s three things we’re keeping an eye on around baseball:
1. Catcher market heating up?
It’s not a particularly deep catching market in free agency this year, with Willson Contreras and Christian Vazquez headlining, but the trade market offers some strong options for catcher-hungry teams. Yesterday, it was reported that the Astros are planning to meet with Contreras at the Winter Meetings, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, and Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Guardians are showing continued interest in Oakland catcher Sean Murphy, who appears highly likely to be dealt. His three years of remaining club control and strong offensive and defensive prowess makes him a sought-after target, and a robust market has developed. Morosi suggested a deal could be done during the Winter Meetings, and teams that miss out on Murphy could quickly pivot to one of the top free agents, while the Blue Jays are expected to deal one of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno this winter.
2. Will Aaron Judge’s free agency come to an end at the Winter Meetings?
It’s beginning to look like it might. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Yankees have tabled an offer to Judge worth around $300MM over eight years. It’s not known how Judge’s camp has reacted to that, or what any other offers look like, but the report was notable for one other thing. Passan suggested that Judge’s free agency is primed to wrap up within the Winter Meetings, so in a week’s time we could know if Judge will be in pinstripes in 2023, heading to the Bay Area, or to some other team. In many ways, it makes sense that Judge would be the first major free agent to sign. Both the Yankees and Giants will likely be aggressive in other areas if they miss out on Judge. Agents for other top free agents are certainly aware of this and so it makes sense that Judge is holding up the top end of the market.
3. When will the first shortstop come off the board?
It almost certainly depends on what happens with Judge. If, say, the Yankees watch Judge sign in San Francisco, they could quickly pivot and jump into the market for Trea Turner or Carlos Correa. So if you’re Turner’s agent, it makes sense to wait until Judge is gone and see if the deep-pocketed Yankees or Giants are willing to jump in and drive your client’s price up further. Passan reports that the market for the shortstops is already heating up. The Twins are making a strong push to re-sign Correa, Turner has a wide range of suitors, so too are Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson. The offseason has been slow to this point as teams have spent the past month laying groundwork, but it certainly seems like the next week could be busy and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of the four big name shortstops settle on a home for 2023 and beyond.