As we are reminded almost every year, it seems, winning the offseason often means nothing when the games begin.
Savvy planning often trumps big-splash deals, so you can’t jump to conclusions, yet it’s hard not to look at what the Red Sox did at the Winter Meetings, trading for Chris Sale, and think that trade won’t be the talk of next October.
However, I’m just as inclined to think that acquiring Wade Davis could be equally important for the Cubs trying to win back-to-back championships.
We’ll see. There is still plenty of off-season left before we even get to baseball. For now, though, here are my Top 10 Takeaways from Winter Meetings:
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
1. THEO EPSTEIN IS GOOD AT HIS JOB
Duh. I loved what the Cubs did with their bullpen moves. With the cost for the big closers exploding to record levels, Epstein found a more cost-efficient way to beef up his pen after deciding to let Aroldis Chapman walk.
Trading for Davis was perhaps the shrewdest move of the Winter Meetings, and in Jorge Soler it only cost him a player the Cubs really didn’t have much use for in the outfield next season. Davis had two DL stints due to a forearm flexor tendon injury, so it’s a bit of a gamble, but for one year and $10 million before he hits free agency it’s well worth it.
Same for signing Koji Uehara to a one-year, $4.5 million deal. Age and a pectoral injury last year bring some risk, but if he’s not overused, Uehara’s splitter could still make him very effective, and he’s proven he can close if necessary.
2. THE RED SOX ARE THE TEAM TO BEAT IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE
Did they give up too much for Sale? Not when they’re already loaded with young, major-league talent all around the diamond, and a pitcher like Sale might just be the piece they need to win a championship.
GM Dave Dombrowski absolutely did the right thing, even if Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech turn out to be stars. This was a move to win in October, especially since we’re long past the point of thinking David Price’s struggles in October are some fluke. And adding a reliever in the deal for the Brewers’ Tyler Thornburg might prove vital as well.
Brian Cashman is building through prospects rather than spending big on multiple free agents.
3. BRIAN CASHMAN IS LOVING LIFE AS A REBUILDER
Taking advantage of what amounts to a grace period for another year, the Yankee GM is relishing this opportunity to prove he can build a championship team the hard way, with prospects rather than high-priced free agents. Of course, paying $86 million for Chapman isn’t exactly doing it the hard way, but Cashman played the entire Chapman saga brilliantly — aside from the morality of taking on a player charged with domestic violence, which is certainly an issue.
Buying low from the Reds, selling high to the Cubs; then, by re-signing Chapman as a free agent, the Yankees essentially acquired Gleyber Torres, one of the top prospects in all of baseball, at no cost.
Meanwhile, Cashman also seemed to thoroughly enjoy heaping extra pressure on the Red Sox, calling them the Golden State Warriors of baseball after they traded for Sale. Never mind that the Sox haven’t won anything with this group of players; they do have plenty of talent, and, well, the Yankee GM didn’t mind raising expectations even higher.
4. THE METS ARE STILL BASKING IN THE GLOW OF THE CESPEDES SIGNING
Not that they should have forced a Jay Bruce trade during the Meetings. If a good offer isn’t out there, they need to be patient, wait for free-agent sluggers Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, and Mike Napoli to come off the market, and hope some team will still be looking for a 30-home run guy.
But they shouldn’t have to wait for Bruce’s $13 million to officially be off the payroll to be out there trying to sign a second-tier reliever or two. They’ve already missed out on Uehara and Joaquin Benoit, two guys who would have fit perfectly for what they need.
Both signed one-year deals, which are what you want with relievers: Uehara with the Cubs for $4.5 million, Benoit with the Phillies for $7.5 million. Both are old but still effective, with the experience to close while Jeurys Familia is out with a likely suspension.
Yes, it’s great the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes, but if they really want to win a championship, they can’t skimp on the bullpen.
5. THE ASTROS WILL TRADE FOR A TOP STARTER
They’re in a win-now mode after signing free agents Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick, as well as trading for Brian McCann, adding veteran pieces to their impressive young core of position players.
But they can’t be considered championship contenders if they don’t find a way to acquire a top-notch starter, even if Dallas Keuchel bounces back from a down season. They insist they won’t trade highly-touted Alex Bregman, but their farm system is deep enough to put together a package for someone like the Rays’ Chris Archer.
6. THE NATIONALS COULD BE VULNERABLE IN THEIR STARTING ROTATION
This could turn out to be the real reason they’ll regret the controversial trade for Adam Eaton. Did GM Mike Rizzo, desperate to make a big move, panic after losing out on Sale? A lot of baseball people think he gave up way too much in dealing away three top pitching prospects, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning.
That remains to be seen. Eaton is a good, hustling player who makes the Nats better, especially since they can move Trea Turner to shortstop. But Giolito and Lopez, who both debuted as major leaguers last season, represented starting-rotation depth, no small factor considering Stephen Strasburg’s injury history, and concerns about Joe Ross’ shoulder.
Oh, and the Nats don’t have a closer at the moment, either, after losing Mark Melancon to the Giants. Suffice to say it wasn’t a great Winter Meetings for the host team.
7. RICK HAHN IS BASEBALL AMERICA’S NEW DARLING-GM
The White Sox GM is getting the same type of raves that Cashman received last summer for his sell-off deals, with baseball people heaping praise on Hahn for his return in the trades of Sale and Eaton.
Indeed, in Moncada and Giolito, the White Sox acquired what on many of the prospects list last year were the top-ranked position player and pitcher, and that’s no small feat in an era when GMs hold more tightly to prospects than ever. And it’s hard to find anyone among scouts and executives who don’t think Hahn made a killing in getting three top pitching prospects for Eaton.
On MLB Network, in fact, Ex-Rockies’ GM Dan O’Dowd went so far as to say that in his 30 years as a baseball analyst or executive, “I’ve never seen a club, in a 26-hour period of time, rebuild their organization with two decisions the way the White Sox have.”
Of course, prospects are only prospects until they do it in the big leagues, so we won’t know for a couple of years if Hahn had as good a week as everyone thinks.
8. EDWIN ENCARNACION IS GOING TO BE A … CLEVELAND INDIAN
I think this could really happen. Encarnacion’s market has dried up quickly, as teams see the game getting significantly younger the last few years and seem more and more reluctant to give mega-deals to players well into their 30s.
Other than the Rangers, who claim to have no money for such a move, it’s hard to find another team with a glaring need that would commit something approaching $100 million for Encarnacion. The Indians have the need and such a move would be a step up from Napoli, but payroll is a major issue in Cleveland, so Encarnacion probabaly has to be willing to take a shorter-term deal than he wanted. t
9. THE ROCKIES DID WHAT?
They didn’t really give $70 million to Ian Desmond to play first base, did they? And lose the 11th pick in next summer’s draft to boot? By and large baseball people panned the deal in part because the best way for the Rockies to get high-ceiling pitching is through the draft, since the Denver altitude makes it so difficult to attract free agents.
And why waste Desmond’s athleticism at first base? On the other hand, if the Rockies sign Trumbo to play first, which has been speculated, and trade one of their outfielders for pitching while opening a spot for Desmond, then maybe it wasn’t so dumb, after all.
10. THE DODGERS ARE TOO RICH AND SMART NOT TO HAVE A PLAN
You’d think, anyway; they have about a dozen analytics-savvy GMs, or so it seems. But coming out of the meetings the Dodgers have everyone wondering what they’re doing. Especially if they lose closer Kenley Jansen to the Marlins, which seems very possible, they’ll be a high-payroll team with some big holes to fill.
They don’t seem to be in any rush to re-sign Justin Turner. Maybe they’ll solve two problems by packaging prospects to the White Sox for Todd Frazier and David Robertson. For a franchise that desperately wants a championship, so far they haven’t done much.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News