25 Storylines to Follow at the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings
2013 MLB Winter Meetings Shaping Up to Be Utter Madness
With the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings due to start Monday, December 9, there is little doubting that silly season is going to be at an all-time high rather soon. That is if it hasn't already gone into full force already.
Just within the last two days Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Justin Morneau, Dexter Fowler, Joe Nathan and Ricky Nolasco have moved teams via trade or free agency before the true benchmark for the market was even set. That came courtesy of star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury signing with the New York Yankees for seven years and $153 million, and just as normal it appears that one of the big dominoes falling will set off a number of other moves.
So while some MLB executives may have just a week ago thought that the Winter Meetings in Buena Vista, Florida, would be a time for vacationing, a current view of the hot stove tells us just the opposite. Just as normal this time of the calendar will be the most active of any time throughout the year, and all 30 general managers are surely checking their phone furiously in an attempt to wheel and deal.
As a result of the phone lines ringing and the Winter Meetings promising to see a number of moves there are a huge number of viewpoints and stories to keep an eye on. This slideshow does just that with the compilation of 25 storylines that any serious baseball fan must follow at the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings. Each of these stories has the potential to change either a franchise, a division, or even the entire landscape of a league!
Enjoy, and feel free to give feedback.
25. Would Troy Tulowitzki Waive His No-Trade Clause for St. Louis?
In recent weeks there has been constant speculation that Troy Tulowitzki could be traded by the Colorado Rockies, and the St. Louis Cardinals are the suitors making the most noise. There is no doubting that the Cardinals have the young talent necessary to make a deal and could afford the nearly $20 million per year that the shortstop will command until 2020, but whether he would want to move is another story. Tulowitzki was drafted and developed by Colorado, and even loved it enough to sign a seven-year, $134 million deal that many thought would tie him to the Mile-High City for the entirety of his career, presumably including the player. Still it could be tough to turn down the National League champions if they come calling, especially with former teammate Matt Holliday on their payroll.
24. Can the Los Angeles Dodgers Really Not Spend Money?
Since Magic Johnson bought the Los Angeles Dodgers the team has seemingly been printing money -- or at least have spent like they are. Since the takeover the team has acquired high earners such as Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Zack Greinke, and Hanley Ramirez, and they spent a staggering $216.7 million n 2013, second only to the New York Yankees. All of this spending makes it seem weird that the organization has only signed Dan Haren and Alexander Guerrero to a contract since the offseason began and have even considered trading away high earner Matt Kemp. With "only" $179.8 million on the books for 2014 it would appear the Dodgers would have to have some sort of big spending on the way, or at the very least will acquire a star player by trade without decreasing their payroll.
23. Sandy Alderson Attempts to Bring the New York Mets Back to Relevance
Sandy Alderson will be entering his fourth season as general manager of the New York Mets in 2014, and after missing the playoffs every year thus far it appears he is feeling the need to spend in order to win. With only $32.3 million on the books for 2014 this could also be viewed as a necessity, and after already having conversations with Curtis Granderson and Bronson Arroyo it is clear they could be making big moves at the Winter Meetings. Look for Alderson to make the Mets the team to watch at the Winter Meetings, but whether his attempts work or not will come down to if anyone actually wants to play at Citi Field.
22. Will the New York Yankees Really Stay Under $189 Million?
After signing Jacoby Ellsbury the New York Yankees will have $138 million committed to their payroll in 2014, and that is for only ten players. With ownership previously stating a goal of keeping payroll under $189 million in 2014, this means they now have $51 million to spend on 15 players, which could be viewed as nearly impossible for a team as free spending as the Bronx Bombers. Considering they still have significant holes in their pitching staff and need a second baseman, the Winter Meetings will test the mettle of Hal Steinbrenner as to whether he really cares about saving money from the luxury tax or whether winning comes first.
21. What Does Dave Dombrowski Have Up His Sleeve?
Dave Dombrowski has been known as a shrewd mover for a long time, but in recent years this has taken a whole new meaning through his work with the Detroit Tigers. From signing Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder to trading the big slugger for Ian Kinsler, it appears there is always something brewing with big names and big numbers in Detroit. After recently stating that money will not be an issue at the Winter Meetings, it will be worth watching whether Dombrowski makes any more major moves in an attempt to get the Tigers back to the World Series.
20. Are the Miami Marlins Spending Big Again?
It seems that every few years the Miami Marlins spend a ton of money, and one must wonder if 2013 will again be a dip into the pocketbook for owner Jeffrey Loria. He has already signed coveted catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year deal, and reports have come out they are interested in acquiring more power hitters, including Mike Napoli. With the Winter Meetings practically being located in the Marlins' backyard it seems the team could be the surprise spender of the gathering.
19. What Will Happen Next In the Alex Rodriguez and MLB Feud?
In recent weeks things have gotten extremely testy between Alex Rodriguez and the heads of MLB as proceedings have gone on about a long-term suspension regarding connections to the Biogenesis Clinic. Recently Rodriguez has promised to show why he is innocent and is on a mission to prove so. As all baseball fans know the former All-Star loves to be in the spotlight, and the offseason will provide no opportunity bigger than the 2013 Winter Meetings. Expect Rodriguez to make some sort of appearance or release some sort of documents that go some way toward proving he is innocent or simply smear MLB officials.
18. The "Other Asian Pitcher" Suk-Min Yoon Attempts to Find a Home
While the bulk of people looking towards Asia this winter are hoping their team signs Masahiro Tanaka, there is another pitcher who could be available much sooner. This would be Suk-Min Yoon, who previously pitched for the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization but will avoid the posting process because he is a free agent. After winning the Korean ERA title in 2008 and 2011 there will clearly be a market for the pitcher's services, and with many projecting Yoon as a solid No. 2 or 3 starter it is likely that he could be one of the best signings of the offseason.
17. Does Anyone Think Ervin Santana Is Worth $100 Million?
Ervin Santana is reportedly holding out for a $100 million contract this offseason, and it certainly wouldn't be a surprise to see him get it. The 30 year old was dominant for the Kansas City Royals in 2013, picking up a 9-10 record, 3.24 ERA, 2.9 WAR, and 211 innings pitched. Blessed with an explosive fastball and slider combination and having thrown 200 or more innings in four of the last six seasons it is clear he has the potential to be a top of a rotation for a prolonged period, and pitching comes at a premium. Whether or not this means anyone thinks Santana is worth $100 million is yet to be determined, but if he is to get it one would think it would be at the Winter Meetings.
16. Will Any Big Names Actually Go Play In Seattle?
The Seattle Mariners have been attempting all offseason to get a big name bat to come play at the vast Safeco Field, with Robinson Cano currently leading their wish list. Whether or not he or anyone else would actually want to go play in Seattle or is just using the team as bait is yet to be determined, but the answer will go a long way to determining how the Winter Meetings play out.
15. The Matt Kemp Sweepstakes
In recent weeks it has become a matter of when -- not if -- the Los Angeles Dodgers will trade star outfield Matt Kemp, with the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. With a healthy Kemp having the opportunity to provide 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a single season it would seem teams will be lining up out the door, and and the Dodgers seem to be listening. Expect somebody to offer a huge package of young talents to get the outfielder during the Winter Meetings, although who that team is seems to be a mystery at this point.
14. Do the Boston Red Sox Open Their Checkbooks or Play it Safe?
Last offseason the Boston Red Sox played things safe, signing Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to one year deals. Of course this worked out to the tune of Boston becoming the World Series champions, but it also turned these key cogs into free agents this offseason. As a result the Red Sox will again be heavy players on the free agent market and the big question for the team will be whether to go big this time.
13. Can Matt Garza Find A Home?
Over the last six seasons Matt Garza has been remarkably consistent, maintaining an ERA between 3.32 and 3.95 and throwing 184.2 innings or more four times. As a result many expected the 30 year old to command upwards of $100 million, but things have been rather quiet to date. This does not necessarily mean things have been quiet in negotiations, but nobody seems to want Garza too badly. Once dominoes start falling at the Winter Meetings this should begin to change, and he should find a home before the gathering is over.
12. Does Jeff Samardzija Get a New Home or a New Contract?
Since becoming a starting pitcher prior to the 2012 season Jeff Samardzija has been remarkably effective and consistent for the Chicago Cubs, throwing 174.2 and 213.2 innings and compiling ERA of 3.81 and 4.34 while in the rotation. This success has led to mass conversation over what the Cubs will do with the pitcher as they are still a bit away from contending for a playoff spot but want to hold onto their assets. Samardzija will not be a free agent until after the 2015 season, but with a number of teams bidding for his services already it would appear they will never get more value from trading him than now. Whether general manager Theo Epstein decides to get that value or keep the player on the books with a new deal will likely be decided during the Winter Meetings.
11. Will the Los Angeles Angels Move for a Pitcher?
Despite the well documented struggles of Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols in 2013 the Los Angeles Angels still managed to score the seventh most runs in MLB and will likely only improve in 2014. Still they were held back from making the playoffs by a 4.23 staff ERA and need to get more pitching before the beginning of the next season in order to return for the playoffs. Rumors have been swirling they attempt to do this by trading Howie Kendrick or Mark Trumbo, both of whom are great hitters but are not invaluable to the Angels. Trading one of these players for a starting pitcher seems likely at the Winter Meetings, although it is also possible owner Arte Moreno will decide to just sign an impact starter.
10. Scott Boras Looks To Show He is Still the Premier Agent?
In recent months new agent and longtime rapper Jay-Z has led an attack on super-agent Scott Boras, which was led by him taking Robinson Cano from his books. With Cano currently a free agent this has set up a duel of sorts between the two as Boras is undoubtedly looking to show the world he still can get things done and is not fading away. With top client Jacoby Ellsbury already getting a huge deal this message has started to get through, but with other clients such as Shin-Soo Choo still out there the super-agent can send a strong message at the Winter Meetings. While doing so would not seem to affect the on-field product, it will certainly keep the status quo in terms of who is the premier agent in baseball and who small market teams want to avoid.
9. Where Is the Market for Curtis Granderson?
Despite a injury plagued 2013 season, center fielder Curtis Granderson decided to try the free agent market instead of accepting a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the New York Yankees. But since free agency has kicked off there has been little movement for the three-time All-Star as the New York Mets have been the only organization really making a move for his services and the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury to play center field. Of course it only takes one team to sign a player, but a guy that hit 84 home runs in 2011 and 2012 likely wants to start a bidding war, which invariably takes more than one team. Expect Granderson to get multiple teams involved in bidding at the Winter Meetings and come out with long-term deal he wants.
8. Do Teams Care About Mike Napoli's Hip Condition?
Last offseason Mike Napoli had a three-year, $39 million deal dropped down to a one-year, $5 million deal because the Boston Red Sox had fears about a degenerative hip condition he has. But after playing in 139 games and putting up a statline of .259/.360/.482 with a 4.1 WAR in 2013 it will be interesting to see if any team shows this same trepidation this offseason. Multiple teams are reportedly vying for his services currently, and when teams start bidding things tend to get crazy. Whether that means teams ignore Napoli having the same hip condition that derailed Bo Jackson's career is yet to be determined, but it certainly seems likely at this point.
7. Could A Bidding War Begin For Ubaldo Jimenez?
Despite being a rather unheralded free agent it is possible that Ubaldo Jimenez is the most talented pitcher on the free agent market. The 29 year old is a classic power pitcher, and after going 13-9 with 3.30 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 2013 it is certain that he will be going for gold this offseason. It is very rare for a season like this to go unnoticed for a young and healthy pitcher, and with the pitcher being both there would be little surprise at a bidding war beginning for his services. This war could end in a deal that goes over $100 million and makes Jimenez a very rich man.
6. Clayton Kershaw Vies For the Biggest Contract Ever
Although Clayton Kershaw is not a free agent, there have been numerous reports that he is closing in on a contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After winning the last three NL Cy Young Awards it is clear he is in for a huge payday, and he is undoubtedly the best pitcher in all of baseball today. At only 25 years of age it is clear he has a number of huge years left ahead of him, and one number being thrown out for an extension is 10 years and $300 million. That would be the biggest deal in the history of MLB, and it would certainly feel justified given Kershaw's talent, youth and recent performance.
5. The Battle for Shin-Soo Choo
Shin-Soo Choo is not widely regarded as an all-world player, but his statistical output is certainly impressive. In 2013 Choo compiled a stat line of .285/.423/.462 with 21 home runs, 54 RBI,34 doubles and a 4.2 WAR in 154 games. This was greatly timed considering he is now a free agent and has agent Scott Boras vying for a deal worth roughly seven years and $142 million. The Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers are currently leading the bidding process, and it appears both are ready to dig in their heels and fight for Choo's services at the Winter Meetings.
4. How Much Value Will Teams Place On Top Prospects?
In recent seasons the value of top prospects has risen dramatically as more and more small market teams keep homegrown players and as a result less impact players reach free agency. With this trend in mind it will be interesting to see just how many prospects teams are willing to give up for top trade targets as some teams may be inclined to keep their youthful players over a guy who can help now. On the flip side, we could also see some big names go for only a couple top prospects which will further emphasize the fact that prospects are more valuable than ever.
3. The David Price Trade Situation
The top trade target for teams this offseason is lefty ace David Price, who has stated he expects to be traded by the Tampa Bay Rays. The lefty won the AL Cy Young Award as recently as 2012, and at only 28 years of age he will presumably have a number of All-Star caliber years ahead of him. A number of teams have noticed this and already made bids for Price, and it would be little surprise to see the pitcher bring back a huge haul for the Rays at the Winter Meetings.
2. Will A Posting System Be Figured Out?
One of the top players on the market during the 2013 offseason is Masahiro Tanaka with many MLB teams expected to bid for the Japanese pitcher's services. But currently Tanaka -- and some other foreign based players -- is not available because MLB and the NPB -- Japan's top baseball league -- have not figured out a system regarding the compensation from players transferring overseas. Negotiations have been progressing in recent weeks, though, and it would be little surprise to see the posting system agreement to be in the middle of the Winter Meetings.
1. Where Will Robinson Cano Land?
Robinson Cano is one of the best players in all of baseball, and he is the best player available on the 2013 free agent market. The second baseman has missed a total of 14 games in the last seven years for the New York Yankees, and he has won five Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, one World Series, and made five All-Star Games during his career. At 31 years old he also has many successful years ahead and is looking for a record breaking contract. Undoubtedly a number of teams will get involved in the bidding before all is said and done, and with the Yankees possibly out of the running the field is currently wide open. It seems certain that the Winter Meetings will provide a conclusion to where Cano will go in 2014, and as a result the top story of the offseason will be decided.