John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Winter Meetings will never be what they once were, when GMs exchanged trade proposals on cocktail napkins at the bar and even occasionally agreed to a late-night deal without a spreadsheet in sight.
That said, however, baseball's annual gathering of executives and media this week in San Diego at least came to life again for the first time in a few years, delivering the action everyone wanted to see in the form of mega-million dollar free-agent signings.
A blockbuster trade would have been nice as well, but let's be real: any Winter Meetings where Scott Boras is finishing off deals rather than holding the baseball world hostage is a major victory for the sport.
As for the other winners and losers from this week…
Duh. Sure, the nine-year, $324 million contract for Gerrit Cole is rather flabbergasting, but simply put, it was the right guy at the right time for the Yankees, considering: they haven't won a championship in 10 years; their one big need on an otherwise loaded roster is a No. 1 starter; and there's not another starter like Cole -- in his prime, anyway -- coming on the free-agent market in the next couple of years.
The back end of the contract may not look pretty, but for a franchise that likes to say it is all about winning championships, that's the price of doing business for a difference-maker like Cole. For this price, of course, they probably need to win at least a couple over the next several years to make it worthwhile.
In some ways, depending just how much money owner Arte Moreno is willing to spend in trying to win, the Angels may have been better off losing out on Cole and signing Anthony Rendon instead. The third baseman didn't come cheap, at seven years, $245 million, but if the Angels still have some wiggle room to sign a couple of starters, maybe Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu, it might be the better path for a team with several needs.
Whatever else they do, though, they prevailed over their SoCal neighbors, the Dodgers, in signing Rendon, and getting someone who can protect Mike Trout in the lineup is a good first step toward finally contending. And Cole is out of their division now, making the Astros a little more vulnerable at the top.
They overspent on Zack Wheeler going into San Diego, but signing Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal might turn out to be one of the best bargain deals of the winter.
If Gregorius' dropoff in offensive production and defensive wizardry last season proves to be the result of his Tommy John surgery, as could well the case, he'll give the Phillies an All-Star caliber shortstop in a year when they're clearly making a big push to make last winter's Bryce Harper signing pay dividends.
Not a bad little week for baseball's most famous and notorious agent. The contracts for Stephen Strasburg, Cole, and Rendon, the three star players who signed on consecutive days at the Winter Meetings, added up to a total of $814 million.
He's still got Ryu, Dallas Keuchel, and Nicholas Castellanos, and he had already done a $64 million deal for Mike Moustakas, but Boras makes millions every winter. More to the point, he made a lot of friends in baseball this time around by moving quickly to star players signed for a change.
They lost Rendon, true, but bringing back Strasburg puts them in the win column, at least for me. They'll miss their clutch-hitting third baseman, but keeping their Big Three of Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin intact gives them a real shot at another round of October baseball.
There's so much speculation that this is the time for them to make a big move, after seven straight division titles have failed to lead to their first world championship since 1988. In addition, their payroll is under the luxury-tax threshold, positioned to take on a big salary, yet they lost out to the Yankees on Cole and their SoCal neighbors in Anaheim on Rendon.
The narrative changes, of course, if they make a trade to get Francisco Lindor from the Indians, as has been rumored. But so far, no good for LA.
They were expected to make a splash to help generate excitement as they open a new ballpark in 2020, and Rendon seemed like the obvious guy, as a Texas native who could have filled a position of need. But reportedly they wouldn't go to the seventh year he received from the Angels, and so they're still looking for some star power.
Sorry, but Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello don't qualify as reasons for Mets' fans to celebrate. Those two pitchers do provide some needed depth for the starting rotation, but both come with major questions, and the real issue is that Brodie Van Wagenen is now saying he doesn't need to address the bullpen because he doesn't have to worry about using Seth Lugo and/or Robert Gsellman as starters.
The problem there is that he's banking on big bounce-back seasons from Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia, while leaving no margin for error if that doesn't happen.
And context matters here: the NL East is going to be ultra-competitive next season, as the Braves and Phillies have been aggressive in making moves to improve their teams, while the Mets haven't done enough.
Not that they had any real hope of re-signing Cole, but it's still a huge blow to see him walk out the door, especially after losing Game 7 of the World Series.
Now, suddenly, age has to be a concern for their top two starters, as Justin Verlander turns 37 in February and Zack Greinke will be going into his age-36 season. Meanwhile, their top pitching prospect, Forrest Whitley, took a step back last year, raising doubts about whether he'll live up to the hype.
They weren't in the mix for any of the big names, and that's the point. The Sox hired Chaim Bloom as their new GM to replace Dave Dombrowski and immediately gave him the task of lowering what was baseball's highest payroll last season, which might include trading some of their high-priced pitching -- and taking a step back in 2020 while the arch-rival Yankees are all-in now to win a championship.