Five Fearless (and Perhaps Foolish) Forecasts for the Winter Meetings

Posted: December 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Baseball’s winter meetings are underway and it is likely to be yet another hectic, transaction filled week. After last week saw numerous trades and free agent singings, including premier offseason target Robinson Cano; there promises to be more wild days ahead. SkoodSports provides five moves that make sense as this wacky week continues:

1. Phillies trade Jonathan Papelbon to the Texas Rangers for LHP Robbie Ross and a minor leaguer.

Philadelphia has made it known that they are shopping Papelbon this offseason. Likely due in large part to the fact that they owe the right-hander $26 million over the next two years (with a $13 million vesting option for 2016). Papelbon’s velocity and movement showed significant decline during the second half of the season. But, one could argue that is merely a sign of short term overuse and not a definitive symbol that he is damaged good.

The Phillies would likely have to eat some of that contract. But, Texas could be a team definitively interested in the 33-year old’s services. After all, the Rangers lost Joe Nathan to Detroit last month and one would find it difficult to discover an adequate replacement on their current roster. Sure, Texas could go after a cheaper alternative. But, cheaper likely means inferior and there’s no denying Papelbon’s resumè.

Texas would not have to relinquish a pitcher currently in their rotation or one of their top prospects. Instead, they send LHP Robbie Ross to Philadelphia. The 24-year old has pitched the last two seasons in Texas’ bullpen, going 10-2, 2.62 along the way. The southpaw has, however, pitched his entire minor league career as a starter. Ross is under team control through 2018, so he fits the mold that Ruben Amaro spoke of when this offseason began.

2. Domonic Brown is NOT traded.

Earlier this afternoon, it became public knowledge that the Phillies were “actively shopping” Domonic Brown. The team’s leader in home runs and RBI in 2013, Brown put together a monumental month of May before cooling off for the remainder of the season. The 26-year old is still young, and should continue to be one of the National League’s best power threats moving forward.

If Philadelphia was so inclined, they could find plenty of suitors for Brown, including the Boston Red Sox, who are in need of an outfield bat with Jacoby Ellsbury moving down I-95. Plenty of other teams would also be interested and the Phillies could certainly land a young, cost-controlled starting pitcher if they dealt their best offensive talent.

Of course, the Phillies still have to field a competitive team in 2014 and trading Brown, regardless of the return, would hinder their chances of doing that. Without Brown’s bat in the lineup, the team is left relying on the oft-injured duo of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, with no other threats in the middle-of-the-order.

The Phillies should, and I believe will, hold onto Brown at least until the trading deadline.

3. David Price is NOT traded; Instead dealt to Mariners in January

The Seattle Mariners’ front office is in dire straits. Most experts considered the Robinson Cano contract to be a future boondoggle orchestrated by a front office unlikely to remain at their posts after 2014. Coincidentally, David Price is also unlikely to remain at his current address after 2014. The Tampa Bay left hander is a free agent following the upcoming season and is expected by most to be traded in the coming months. Tampa could certainly hang onto him until the deadline. But, that seems unlikely with the high arbitration figure that Price is likely to receive.

Instead, look for the Rays to wait it out until at least January. GM Andrew Friedman is notorious for getting the most out of trades (look at last year’s James Shields deal and the Matt Garza trade before that). Friedman will play multiple teams against each other in order to maximize Price’s value.

In the end, I see the Mariners landing another big fish by dealing super prospect RHP Taijuan Walker, 2B Dustin Ackley, and another prospect or two to Tampa Bay for Price. The Mariners will then have a rotation and lineup capable of contending in 2014.

4. Mark Trumbo is dealt by the Angels for pitching help.

I’m not sure yet where Mark Trumbo will end up. But, I do have a strong feeling that the big slugger will be traded. Los Angeles has spent the last three years beefing up their offense to a point where the talent disparity between their lineup and rotation is as vast Rob Ford’s waistline. The 27-year old Trumbo has hit 95 home runs over the last three years and reached 100 RBI for the first time in 2013. But, he’s a defensive hazard and is under team control through 2017, which could make him plenty valuable in this market.

Teams that should be interested (and pitchers that might fit the bill) include Arizona (Wade Miley), Baltimore (Wei-Yin Chen), Chicago (Jeff Samardzija), Cincinnati (Johnny Cueto), and Milwaukee (Yovani Gallardo).

5. Shin-Soo Choo signs with Detroit Tigers for 5 years, $110 million

The Tigers landed Joe Nathan to fill their hole at closer and Ian Kinsler to take Omar Infante’s spot at second base. But, they also lost Prince Fielder and Doug Fister this offseason. Those are two key contributors to a team that has advanced to three consecutive American League Championship Series. The Tigers can absorb the loss of Fister by promoting prospects or finding a bargain basement veteran to fill the fifth spot in the rotation behind Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, and Porcello. But, replacing Fielder’s (and Jhonny Peralta’s) production is a taller task at this point.

Choo is the best available offensive free agent available. His on-base talent is rivaled by few and he remains a rock star in his native South Korea. Detroit has had a black  hole in left field for years. Meanwhile, the move of Cabrera back to first created a domino effect as top prospect Nick Castellanos also shifted from left to third. With Choo, the Tigers could field a lineup like this on a daily basis:

LF Shin-Soo Choo
2B Ian Kinsler
DH Victor Martinez
1B Miguel Cabrera
RF Torii Hunter
3B Nick Castellanos
C Alex Avila
CF Austin Jackson
SS Jose Iglesias

Not too shabby, eh? Detroit still needs to figure out if it can resign Scherzer, who becomes a free agent next year. But, their financial flexibility following the departures of Fielder and Fister should be enough to stretch the coffers and bring in another impact bat to defend their AL Central crown.

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