The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings are meant to be an action packed couple of days with rumors, trades and big free agent signings. The 2018 meetings were a dud in that regard.
Free Agent Action Minimal
Outfielder Andrew McCutchen was given the biggest deal of the meetings from the Philadelphia Phillies. He signed for three-years, $50 million with an option for a fourth year.
Starting pitching was the market that took the biggest hit at the meetings with Charlie Morton going to the Rays, Lance Lynn landing with the Rangers, Tyson Ross signing with the Tigers and J.A. Happ returning to the Yankees.
If you thought the free agent market was quiet, the trade avenue was barely a whisper. The highlight in that regard was on Wednesday when the Nationals and Reds swapped Tanner’s. Right-handed starter Tanner Roark was shipped to the Reds for right-handed reliever Tanner Rainey.
Where Did That Come From?
Two of the more surprising things to happen at the meetings was the Blue Jays releasing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and designated hitter Harold Baines (along with reliever Lee Smith) being elected by the Today’s Game Era Committee to the Hall of Fame.
On Tuesday, the Blue Jays made the release of the five-time All-Star official. Despite the release, the Blue Jays still have to pay Tulo the $38 million guaranteed left on his deal.
Baines being elected was met with widespread criticism across baseball. The left-handed hitter played in 22 big leagues season, but finished with only posting 38.7 bWAR in his career (for reference, non-Hall of Famer Keith Hernandez finished at 60.4 bWAR).
Lots of Smoke
All was quiet on the rumor front until late Monday night when the news broke that the Mets, Yankees and Marlins has at least discussed a three-way deal that would send catcher J.T. Realmuto to Flushing and right-handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard to the Bronx.
It didn’t take long for that scenario to be seen as nothing more than a long-shot, though it did tell you that new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen isn’t going to let the limited recent trade history between the Yankees and Mets stop him from looking at every possible avenue of making his team better.
Despite what feels like weeks worth of rumors surrounding Realmuto, it seems like he will end the meeting still in a Marlins uniform. The most recent reports have the Rays and Reds as teams in addition to the Mets still hoping to swing a deal for arguably the games best catcher.
The Dodgers are said to be actively looking to shed an outfield, whether it’s Matt Kemp or Yasiel Puig. Though, any thought of the Mets possibly showing interest in Puig – in need of outfielders – was quickly shot down.
Late Night Surprise
Very late on Wednesday night, the news broke that the Mets were bringing back reliever Jeurys Familia. The Mets now have a back-end of the bullpen that features three quality arms in Familia, Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo.
Question becomes, what else in the pen? They still need a lefty and have shown strong interest in Andrew Miller.
Indians manager Terry Francona was asked on Wednesday if he thought Miller would bounce back from a disappointing 2018, “He will be fine, I hope he goes to the National League. That’s how confident I am he’ll bounce back.”
Still Need A Catcher
Van Wagenen has driven home the point that the Mets are looking to upgrade the catcher position after a few years of disappointment. While Realmuto pushed the headlines, the Mets also spoke with the representatives for free agent catchers Wilson Ramos and Martin Maldonado at the meetings.
The Mets also reportedly touched based with the Red Sox as they look to deal from their surplus catching. Boston has defensive specialists Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez possibly on the block, as well as the versatile Blake Swihart.
Scanning Outfield Market
With McCutchen off the table, an already beleaguered outfield free agent market looks even worse. That’s bad news for the Mets, a team with only four outfielders on the 40-man roster and only three of them healthy.
The Mets did talk to veteran Adam Jones at the meetings. Jones has stayed healthy and is a great clubhouse guy, but the production simply hasn’t been there recently. Over the past few seasons, he’s been below average offensively (101 wRC+, 103 wRC+ for league average at corner OF) and has struggled mightily on defense regardless of the spot.
A.J. Pollock is a guy the Mets have kept tabs on, though he’s the clear top dog of the center field market and that could price him out of the Mets range.
Amed Rosario is the piece that continues to come up in rumors regarding any likely deal with the Marlins for Realmuto. The former No. 1 prospect in baseball had a strong finish to the 2018 season, and is still just 23-years old.
Given the possibility of trading Rosario, the Mets have reportedly shown interest in a trio of defensive minded replacements. Freddy Galvis, Alcides Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria are seen as options to be the short-term fix until Mets top prospect Andres Gimenez is ready.
Nimmo Batting Leadoff, Cano in Third Slot
When Mickey Callaway talked to the media on Tuesday, he said that he believed that Brandon Nimmo would leadoff in most cases for the Mets. He also said that the newly acquired Robinson Cano was going to hit third.
The rest of the lineup is seen as up for grabs, though Callaway said slugging prospect Peter Alonso will get a chance to make the Opening Day roster and potentially hit at the top of the lineup. His right-handed bat would help split up the lefty swinging Nimmo, Cano, Michael Conforto and potentially Jeff McNeil.
Speaking of McNeil, Callaway said he foresees him coming off the bench playing a variety of positions with veteran Todd Frazier being the starter at third base.
Rule 5 Draft Closes Meetings
The Rule 5 Draft – one of my favorite parts of the meetings because I’m weird – takes place on Thursday morning at 12 p.m. ET. This is seen as the conclusion of the meetings, but unfortunately I will be on a plane back to Maine when they take place.
In my absence, my esteemed colleague Jacob Resnick will have you covered with the picks and his thoughts. Jacob helped me with this preview of the draft, in which I discuss the Mets should look at taking.
The Mets are entering the draft with 36 players on their 40-man roster, meaning they could draft four players in the major league phase if they chose to do so. They’ve been fairly inactive in recent years, but I think there’s a good chance they take a player this year. I do expect them to take at least one player in the minor league portion.
They have the 11th pick in the draft, but two teams ahead of them currently have full 40-man rosters and will not be able to make a selection.
I want to take this time to thank all of the support MMO has received from our readers. That support, and the support of Joe D, gave me the opportunity to get credentials from MLB. I also would like to thank Keith Law for sitting down with me to talk baseball. That interview will be up on the site right after I get some sleep!
Lastly, I want to thank the members of the Mets beat, they helped me feel like I wasn’t an outsider.