Baseball Winter Meetings: Winners, Losers & Everything Else


So … those baseball Winter Meetings sure escalated quickly, eh? Let’s take sort of a “spread gun from Contra” approach and try to tackle as much as possible with a fun, fresh winner/loser format. Ready? Giddy up.


Winners — Jon Lester’s agents: The Cubs gave the lefty a $30-million signing bonus. Yes, it’s all part of the same six-year/$155 deal but whatever. His agents since made him the second-highest paid pitcher in the game with a contract worth an average of $25.8 million per season. Once again, I should have probably pursed a career as a sports agent as opposed to a sports “writer.” D’oh.

Losers, temporarily — the Red Sox: Boston lost out on Lester, but the Sox recovered nicely acquiring Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson to fill out and provide depth in the rotation. Peter Gammons tweeted an interesting thought yesterday: as of now the only “No. 1 starter” in the American League East is Tampa’s Alex Cobb, so perhaps the Red Sox will be okay with a couple starters who provide innings rather than that one dominant go-to guy atop the rotation.

Winners, for transaction writers — the Dodgers: Granted daily newspapers are increasingly a thing of the past, but the Dodgers’ deluge of moves would make for some impressive agate-type copy in the “Done Deals” column the last couple mornings. Alas. As I wrote on Thursday, we’re going to need a few months — if not more, to get a proper read on what the Dodgers are doing.

Winners, actual without reservation — the White Sox: Rick Hahn, take a bow. Yes, the Cubs’ assumed revival — they also added Jason Hammel and Miguel Montero in addition to the big Lester move — will trump the White Sox headlines , but in Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Zach Duke the South Siders added four useful pieces. More than that, it means Chris Sale and Jose Abreu won’t necessarily have to be quite as statistically good as they were in 2014 (hint: they were both really good on a team that only won 73 games) for the White Sox to contend. Rebuilding a fetid bullpen would have been enough for the Sox, but adding a viable No. 2 starter and power bat push them near the top of the winter winners list.

As we all know by now, winning December and winning once April arrives are two entirely different things, but it’s hard not to like the White Sox haul even if the roster still has some holes, including catcher.

Winners? — the Marlins:  The Marlins trading for Dee Gordon and maybe Dan Haren (if he doesn’t retire) is, if nothing else, a signal of intent by Miami. Yes, Gordon is a good base-stealer, leading the National League with 64 in 2014, but getting on-base (.314 lifetime) with Giancarlo Stanton behind him in the lineup is more important than speed. Adding Mat Latos was a low-risk move for a season, buying Miami some time for Jose Fernandez to come back from Tommy John surgery. Miami’s more-important move will be acquiring a bat — likely at first base — to provide Stanton with some protection, the team didn’t spend $325 million on him to walk to first base a la a modern day Barry Bonds.

Loser — Matt Kemp’s defensive metrics: The Padres landing Matt Kemp for $15 million a year the next five years is a good idea on paper. Unfortunately he’s going to have to play outfield — somewhere — in spacious Petco Park. Someone should slip a first baseman’s glove into Kemp’s bag before he leaves for Spring Training. San Diego probably lives with Kemp’s declining defensive range if he hits like he did in the second half of 2014.

Let’s take an intermission with some music to help cheer up any Red Sox fans still feeling jilted over the Lester signing:

Losers, so far — the Yankees: Right now the Yankees rotation is: ….? Okay, it’s actually CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Adam Warren and Ivan Nova — who’ll be out until at least June.  Meanwhile, Sabathia is coming off an injury-filled season, which limited him to eight starts in 2014. Tanaka torn up his elbow but opted against surgery keeping him in line to pitch in 2015 while Pineda has made just 13 starts in the majors since coming to the Bronx from the Mariners after the 2011 season. Does this mean, by default, the Yankees sign Max Scherzer to a huge, $200+ million deal?

Winner, in earnest — the Astros: Houston wants to build through the farm system and develop talent, which is smart and cost-effective. One of the hardest places to do that is in the bullpen, where the Astros have been continually horrible despite improvements elsewhere, so why not spend on Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek? Spending over $30 million combined on three years for Gregerson and two for Neshek isn’t all that lavish thanks to baseball’s ever-increasing revenues and at least it’s a signal of intent the team wants to try to win actual games in 2015.

Losers — the Orioles: Baltimore’s best window to win a World Series came in October … unfortunately Buck Showalter’s team ran into the Kansas City playoff buzzsaw in the ALCS. Barely two months later Baltimore lost both Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller and watched both Toronto and Boston improve in the division. True, the Orioles in 2014 adopted an NFL-style “next man up” philosophy, but expecting a repeat of last season without making any marked improvements could be a tall order. On the plus side for Baltimore, the AL East looks as wide-open as its ever been, so there’s that.

Winner, Jimmy Rollins: Good bye Philadelphia, hello Los Angeles. The veteran shortstop moves from a rebuilding team in the Phillies to the Dodgers. Call that an upgrade, much like Rollins’ defense at short will improve the Dodgers now that Hanley Ramirez is in Boston.

Losers (sorry) — the Mets: The Mets might be a playoff contender in 2015 thanks to its young, improving pitching staff. Might be. They still lack a shortstop and might need some bullpen help. Unsurprisingly, teams at the Winter Meetings didn’t trip over themselves trying to trade for Dillon Gee.

Winners and losers, the Tigers: Detroit’s offense improved with the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes for Rick Porcello, but its starting rotation took a step back trading for Alfredo Simon to fill the newly created hole. Oh right, there’s still the matter of the hole (probably) created by the next guy on this tedious list …

Quiet winners — the Pirates: Signing Francisco Liriano for $39 million over three years is a smart, savvy move and adding Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees earlier in the off-season could pay dividends for the Buccos. These aren’t the type of moves that get trending on Twitter, but pay off during the season.

Quiet losers, for the time being — the Reds: Although baseball continues to inch closer to Bud Selig’s dream of all 30 teams finishing 81-81, we’re not there yet. A byproduct of the Cubs assumed emergence is somebody will take a hit in the NL Central. It appears to be the Reds, who began to tear their team down in earnest by shipping out Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon in separate deals. Although veteran starters, those aren’t huge losses and were both free agents after 2015. The big thing to watch is if the team can get a haul if they put Aroldis Chapman on the market. Cincy also needs to decide about going all the way with rebuilding or not. Doing it halfway is probably the worst option for a team in its position.

Winners — National Baseball writers who enjoy deep-dish pizza: Here’s a bold prediction: every Sunday night baseball game on ESPN this year is going to be either Cubs/Cards or Red Sox/Yankees. In other words, we’re going to hear and read a lot about the Cubbies in 2015 and — by law — you can’t do anything nationally about the city of Chicago without citing Mike Ditka and or deep dish pizza, right?

[Has this been Yardwork?]

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