Monday, September 25, 2023
HomeSportMLBPredicting MLB Free-Agent Signings and Trades During 2022 Winter Meetings

Predicting MLB Free-Agent Signings and Trades During 2022 Winter Meetings

Predicting MLB Free-Agent Signings and Trades During 2022 Winter Meetings

0 of 10

    It sure seems like Aaron Judge's decision is nigh.

    Elsa/Getty Images

    Major League Baseball’s winter meetings have arrived, and you know what that means.

    Plenty of literal meetings from Sunday to Wednesday? Well, yeah. But also a rush of free-agent signings and trades, so we put our prediction hats on and tried to guess which players will go where.

    With Jacob deGrom’s $185 million megadeal with the Texas Rangers having broken a general stalemate on the open market, we operated under the assumption that things will be hotter in free agency than on the trade market. Our list of 10 predictions is thus a lopsided split between eight signings and two trades.

    As for how we made our predictions, we stuck to the usual blueprint: a whole lotta rumor-mongering and dot-connecting concluding in shrug-fueled best guesses. We otherwise broke things down by the general logic of the proposed partnerships.

    We’ll check them off domino-style, with the idea being that any move that happens will invariably lead to another move elsewhere.

Aaron Judge Re-Signs with the Yankees

1 of 10

    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 28  -  New York Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge (99) hits his 61st home run, a two run shot, of the season to tie Roger Maris as the Toronto Blue Jays play the New York Yankees  at Rogers Centre in Toronto. September 28, 2022.        (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

    Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

    What’s the Buzz?

    According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the San Francisco Giants came away from their meeting with Judge in November feeling “elated.” A good sign for them, right?

    In concept, sure, but those vibes could explain the New York Yankees’ apparently hardened determination to retain Judge. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, they made the reigning American League MVP an offer in the neighborhood of eight years and $300 million and “could increase it.”

    Why It Works for the Yankees

    As much as Judge’s age, size and injury history make him a boom-or-bust type, the Yankees frankly can’t afford to lose his various abilities. Chief among those, of course, is power that supplied an AL-record 62 home runs this year.

    Even if Judge never again comes close to his 2022 performance, the Yankees would still get their money’s worth if he so much as lived up to his 2017-21 track record. He was good for a 154 OPS+ and 46 home runs per 162 games.

    Why It Works for Judge

    Put it this way: Judge re-signing with the Yankees is a far better idea than signing with the Giants.

    The Giants are only Judge’s “hometown” team if you consider Linden (the town, not the street) part of the Bay Area. And whereas the Yankees are a win-now team with a stadium that fits Judge like a glove, Oracle Park is gigantic and the Giants are a fringe contender at best.

Cody Bellinger Signs with the Giants

2 of 10

    Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger bats during the sixth inning in Game 1 of a baseball NL Division Series against the San Diego Padres Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

    AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

    What’s the Buzz?

    If the Giants miss out on one of the recent MVP-winning hitters on the free-agent market, they could always turn to the other one.

    That’s Cody Bellinger, who Heyman and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle have reported is of interest to the Giants. He became the market’s biggest low-risk, high-reward free agent as soon as the Los Angeles Dodgers non-tendered him.

    Why It Works for the Giants

    The Giants outfield ranked last in defensive runs saved in 2022. Bellinger, meanwhile, is a Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder.

    There’s otherwise the matter of Bellinger’s fallen offense, as he’s gone from a peak OPS+ of 167 during his MVP season in 2019 to just a 64 OPS+ across the last two seasons. Yet the Giants can view Bellinger’s bat as a not-quite-lost cause. He’s still only 27 years old, and he’s now two years removed from a dislocated shoulder and subsequent surgery.

    Why It Works for Bellinger

    Heyman mentioned that the Giants are but one of 11 teams in on Bellinger. With that many options, he doesn’t need to choose the one with the power-suppressing park.

    But given that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler previously crossed paths with Bellinger in Los Angeles, he does have familiar faces in San Francisco. And if any coaching staff can get him back on track, well, why not the biggest one?

Koudai Senga Signs with the Giants

3 of 10

    Japan's starter Kodai Senga pitches against Israel during the first inning of their second round game at the World Baseball Classic at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi)

    AP Photo/Toru Takahashi

    What’s the Buzz?

    Of course, turning around and making a dice-roll on Bellinger isn’t going to be enough if the Giants want to make up for missing out on Judge. They’ll need to go even bigger.

    A splash on 29-year-old Japanese ace Koudai Senga would make the grade. As to whether the Giants are interested, let’s just say they’re not as subtle as they should be. More recently, Jon Morosi of MLB Network characterized them as being “heavily involved” with Senga.

    Why It Works for the Giants

    If they’re going to fill the Carlos Rodón-sized hole in their rotation with somebody other than Carlos Rodón, the Giants could pick worse solutions than Senga.

    By way of his injury history and a fastball that has iffy qualities despite its triple-digit velocity, Senga does come with some downsides. His forkball, though, looks like a legit out pitch:

    Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

    Kodai Senga, “Ghost Fork” (and Grip). 👻🍴

    As for Senga’s injury concerns, it bears noting that Rodón had similar concerns before he came to the Giants and produced a career-high 178 innings in 2022.

    Why It Works for Senga

    The market for Senga seems pretty crowded, so it’s not exactly Giants or bust as he seeks to find the right fit in North America.

    Yet the flip side of Oracle Park’s being a scary place for hitters is that it’s an attractive place for pitchers. It might also help the Giants’ cause that, however briefly and unsuccessfully, their manager once played in Japan.

Carlos Rodón Signs with the Mets

4 of 10

    San Francisco Giants' Carlos Rodón pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

    AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez

    What’s the Buzz?

    If the Giants make good on their apparent obsession with Senga, that would effectively close the door on Rodón returning to San Francisco.

    Fortunately for him, his market includes plenty of suitors, among whom the New York Mets stand out. They’ve already met with the hard-throwing lefty, and SNY’s Andy Martino reported they’re determined to land one of the market’s top remaining aces after losing deGrom.

    Why It Works for the Mets

    The Mets did win 101 games this year even though they got only 11 starts out of deGrom. Yet that was with much help from Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker, who are also free agents.

    From some perspectives, Rodón is the best solution the Mets can hope for. He’s trafficked in deGrom-like dominance (deGrominance?) over the last two seasons, pitching to a 2.67 ERA and striking out 12.2 batters per nine innings. His durability questions, meanwhile, arguably aren’t as extreme as those of deGrom.

    Why It Works for Rodón

    Steve Cohen is the richest owner in Major League Baseball, so the Mets were already an ideal negotiating partner for Rodón and his representatives. Now that they’re desperate for an ace after deGrom’s departure, perhaps even more so.

    In addition to a good place to get paid, Queens is also a good place to win these days. So if that’s where Rodón lands, he is likely to experience the best of both worlds.

Mitch Haniger Signs with the Red Sox

5 of 10

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 05: Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his home run against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at T-Mobile Park on October 05, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    What’s the Buzz?

    Now that the Rangers are committed to deGrom for $37 million per year through 2027, it’s perhaps fair to nix them from a list of “serious suitors” for Mitch Haniger that Morosi reported consists of only one other team:

    Jon Morosi @jonmorosi

    Sources: #RedSox and #Rangers among the most serious suitors for free-agent OF Mitch Haniger. @MLB @MLBNetwork

    Boston fans have every right to be skeptical after so many quiet winters under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, but the ball is indeed already rolling in a better direction following the team’s two-year deal with reliever Chris Martin on Friday.

    Why It Works for the Red Sox

    Haniger would slot into a right field spot that produced all of 0.6 rWAR in 2022. He would also substantially lessen a need for right-handed power created by Xander Bogaerts’ and J.D. Martinez’s free agencies.

    Moreover, Haniger is precisely the kind of right-handed slugger who would thrive in tandem with the Green Monster at Fenway Park. As evidenced by his .891 slugging percentage to left field, he is traditionally a pull-power hitter.

    Why It Works for Haniger

    It would be a low-grade shame if Haniger and the Seattle Mariners indeed parted ways, but that’s the way the wind has been blowing ever since the M’s dealt for fellow slugging outfielder Teoscar Hernández.

    Boston is nonetheless a good landing spot for Haniger, and not just because he and Fenway Park suit each other. With good young talent already on the big league roster and more on the way, the 31-year-old could fill a veteran leadership role much like the one he played in Seattle.

Willson Contreras Signs with the Astros

6 of 10

    CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 20:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates while rounding the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on August 20, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    What’s the Buzz?

    Shifting back to the Lone Star State, word is the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros have their eyes on another impact bat after signing 2020 AL MVP José Abreu.

    This is according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who reported Tuesday that the Astros are in discussions with Willson Contreras and that they plan to meet with the free-agent catcher during the winter meetings.

    Why It Works for the Astros

    Contreras is essentially a square peg for a square-shaped hole. If the .565 OPS that Houston got from its backstops in 2022 is a pit of despair, then his .808 career OPS is a ray of hope.

    Contreras’ defense is typically not well reviewed, which puts it in stark contrast to that of Martín Maldonado. The Astros, though, could plan on a timeshare behind the plate in 2023 before shifting Contreras back to full-time catching duties in 2024. By then, there may be an automated strike zone to erase some of the questions pertaining to his defense.

    Is This a Good Idea for Contreras?

    If Contreras values winning and putting up numbers, then yes.

    We’ll just assume that the Astros’ winning bona fides don’t need to be clarified at this point. As to the numbers, suffice it to say that the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park are just as enticing as the Green Monster for pull-power players such as Contreras.

Sean Murphy Gets Traded to the Cardinals

7 of 10

    WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31: Sean Murphy #12 of the Oakland Athletics bats against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 31, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

    G Fiume/Getty Images

    What’s the Buzz?

    Once Contreras comes off the board, teams in need of a star-caliber catcher will have no choice but to turn to the trade market, where the Oakland Athletics haven’t bothered to obscure Sean Murphy’s trade candidacy.

    The Cleveland Guardians are in hot pursuit, according to Morosi, but they have competition in the shape of the St. Louis Cardinals. They’re presently in on Contreras, per Heyman, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported they’ve also checked on Murphy.

    Is This a Good Idea for the Cardinals?

    The Cardinals were in good hands while Yadier Molina was behind the plate, but he’s since called it a career. As they immediately identified a new catcher as a priority, it seems as if the Cardinals aren’t about to lower their standards for their primary backstop.

    He may not be a household name, but Murphy is up there among the best two-way catchers in MLB. He’s been a safely above-average hitter in three of his four seasons with the A’s, and his defense won him a Gold Glove in 2021.

    Is This a Good Idea for the Athletics?

    The Guardians have a better farm system to pull from than the Cardinals, but the latter is a better trading partner when it comes to established major league talent.

    The Cardinals have more of that than they have room for, so they could conceivably offer Oakland a package headlined by Brendan Donovan, Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar, Juan Yepez or Nolan Gorman.

Justin Verlander Signs with the Dodgers

8 of 10

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

    AP Photo/Eric Gay

    What’s the Buzz?

    If the Astros sign Contreras on top of Abreu, the prospect that they will re-up with Justin Verlander will be even more questionable than it already is. According to Heyman, Houston simply doesn’t want to do a three-year deal with the three-time AL Cy Young Award winner.

    In line to benefit from this situation are the Dodgers, who met with Verlander this past week:

    Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

    Word is Dodgers are meeting with Justin Verlander today. Would fit their preference for big talents on short-term deals (with of course very high AAV). Both NY teams interested and of course incumbent Astros.

    Why It Works for the Dodgers

    It’s only so necessary to defend the idea of a team fresh off a 111-win season adding someone who put up a 1.75 ERA in said season, but Verlander comes with obvious age- and durability-related risks. He’s 39 years old and two years removed from Tommy John surgery.

    But even beyond their need for a top-of-the-rotation starter, the Dodgers fit Verlander because they’ve made a habit of not asking too much of their starters. For example, they had only six games in 2022 in which their starter threw more than 100 pitches.

    Why It Works for Verlander

    It’s hard to escape the notion that Verlander is only talking with the Dodgers to put pressure on the Astros. But whether it’s his Plan A or his Plan B, Los Angeles is a good destination for him.

    The Dodgers are nothing if not a good source of funds for star players, and they’ve been an annual World Series contender for a decade. You know, just in case Verlander isn’t satisfied with the two rings he already has.

Bryan Reynolds Gets Traded to the Dodgers

9 of 10

    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after hitting a home run in the seventh inning during the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

    Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    What’s the Buzz?

    The Dodgers can sign as many aces as they want—not really, but hyperbole is just the best—but they’re eventually going to have to turn their attention to their offense.

    Rather than re-signing Trea Turner, this could involve shifting Gavin Lux to shortstop and looking to upgrade elsewhere. So, just sayin’: All-Star center fielder Bryan Reynolds requested a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.

    Why It Works for the Dodgers

    The Dodgers didn’t need a center fielder as of a few weeks ago, but they do now after non-tendering 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger.

    Reynolds is no Bellinger on defense, particularly not after a year in which his metrics were uniformly below average. But there are few better hitters among center fielders, as he’s excelled to the tune of a 136 OPS+ and 51 homers across the last two years.

    Why It Works for the Pirates

    As noted by Heyman, the Pirates still aren’t expected to deal Reynolds. But, hey, you’d be sending that message too if one of your players requested a trade and you were thus in danger of further diminishing your negotiating power by publicly capitulating.

    If L.A. makes a run at Reynolds—which, to be clear, is an idea of our own making at present—it will have the goods to further loosen Pittsburgh’s grip on Reynolds. There are blue chips aplenty in the Dodgers’ excellent farm system, including potential cornerstone types such as catcher Diego Cartaya and right-hander Bobby Miller.

Trea Turner Signs with the Phillies

10 of 10

    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 11: Trea Turner #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the first inning in game one of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on October 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    What’s the Buzz?

    There’s already creeping doubt about whether the Dodgers will bring back Turner. If they add Verlander and/or Reynolds to their payroll, the door would presumably be closed.

    If so, well, bully for the Philadelphia Phillies. They’ve been a hypothetical fit for the speedy slugger from day one, and now it seems they genuinely want him:

    Jon Morosi @jonmorosi

    The #Phillies have emerged as favorites to sign Trea Turner. My latest report here. @MLBNetwork

    Why It Works for the Phillies

    There’s plenty to say about how much the Phillies need to upgrade at shortstop—because they do—but the other driving force behind their interest in Turner may well be a desire to get a better leadoff man.

    Kyle Schwarber hit 38 of his 46 home runs out of the leadoff spot in 2022, but he did so while getting on base at a .317 clip. He profiles better in the middle of the order, where the Phillies will need to account for Bryce Harper’s absence while he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

    Why It Works for Turner

    Turner, a Florida native, has been open about his preference to return to the East Coast. Philadelphia hypothetically satisfies that preference, and getting to play for the reigning NL champions would be a nice perk.

    Another nice perk? Getting to reunite with Harper, his former Washington Nationals teammate who has even called Turner his favorite player.

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Featured NEWS