The 2017 edition of Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings didn’t feature as many major moves as we’re typically used to seeing, but this event never fails generate an incredible amount of rumors. With those rumors, we’re able to get a sense of which route certain front offices anticipate their team to go down the following season.
For some teams, their direction is incredibly obvious — everyone knows the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels are buyers, while the Miami Marlins are sellers. We’re not here to talk about the obvious, though.
Which not-so-obvious squads appear to be buyers and sellers as their respective rosters begin to take shape in advance of the 2018 regular season?
What a difference a year makes, right?
The Brewers looked like a team in the midst of a rebuild heading into 2017, but they’re now in a unique position to spend this winter in order to try and augment what was nearly a playoff squad.
Coming to terms with starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo over the weekend isn’t the big splash for the rotation many were hoping for (*cough* Jake Arrieta *cough*), but it’s not for lack of trying. General manager David Stearns recently said his front office has made a number of offers to free agents, and they’re waiting to get responses. So, things could get interesting fast for the Brew Crew.
San Francisco Giants
It’ll be hard to immediately return to contention following a disappointing 98-loss campaign, but the Giants have made it known that their preference is to reload for 2018 instead of starting any kind of rebuild. If it was up to them, that reloading would’ve started with the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, but he didn’t waive his no-trade clause to facilitate such a deal.
Instead, they’re forced to look for other ways to bolster an offense that ranked last in wRC+ (83), home runs (128), and ISO (.132). They’ve been connected to players like Manny Machado, Evan Longoria, Maikel Franco, Avisail Gacria, and Billy Hamilton (which wouldn’t bolster the offense, but it’d certainly help their outfield defense), but nothing has come to fruition yet.
The desire to buy is there, so something should be happening sooner or later.
The Twins are a lot like the Brewers. Many felt 2017 would be more of a rebuilding year for them, but they actually reached the AL Wild Card game. With a solid overall offense and defense, one clear area that needs improvement is the pitching staff — their team fWAR of 9.9 was better than just eight other clubs last year.
Signing Fernando Rodney seems to be their solution for the back end of the bullpen, but an impact arm or two in the starting rotation would be nice. And since they’re also in a unique position to spend due to a lack of long-term financial commitments, legitimately going after hurlers at the top end of the market, like Arrieta and Yu Darvish, isn’t out of the question. Even if it is out of their normal character.
Following two consecutive trips to the postseason off the strength of AL West titles, the Rangers disappointed in 2017 with a 78-84 record. Remember what we said about the Twins’ pitching staff? Well, Texas was one of those eight teams that was worse, evidenced by a team fWAR of 8.3.
They were one of the many teams to swing and miss on Shohei Ohtani, but they’ve been accumulating other starting pitchers, bringing in Doug Fister and Mike Minor via free agency prior to trading for Matt Moore. The volume is great, but it’s still not a lot of certainty when we combine those three with a declining Cole Hamels and Martin Perez.
One thing we can be sure of, though, is that these acquisitions mean no rebuild is on the horizon, and they’re likely on the hunt for a bigger splash in the pitching market moving forward.
The Phillies just had an expensive week — between deals with Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, and Carlos Santana, the front office just added $92 million of future commitments to the payroll. It’s very likely that Philly still won’t compete for a playoff spot in 2018, either.
Since they’ve been rebuilding for a while, there’s plenty of financial flexibility to spend in the right instances. However, what these moves will do — along with any others — is they’ll help them get be more competitive on the field, while also potentially looking more desirable to some of the top-tier free agents they have their eyes on next winter.
The Pirates’ roster currently looks very similar to the end of the regular season. It’s only a matter of time before some huge changes are made, though.
This is the second winter in a row where we’ve seen Andrew McCutchen‘s name get plenty of play in the trade rumor mill, but some recent comments from general manager Neal Huntington certainly paint a certain picture. Infield Josh Harrison and starting pitcher Gerrit Cole have also gotten mentioned a lot lately, so it appears that Pittsburgh’s core group of players from the last few years will be no more soon enough.
Their bounce-back campaign in 2017 likely shifted the front office’s long-term view of the club, so they need to find ways to stay competitive and manage the payroll properly. They don’t have a ton of room to spend this winter, meaning some creativity is necessary if they want to make significant changes.
That’s why guys like Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin have been brought up in trade discussions. From what we know, Arizona isn’t in a position to just go out and make a trade for Machado, especially with the possibility it’d just be for one year of control. If that’s going to happen, payroll space will likely need to be cleared first to facilitate such a deal.
The Dbacks could easily be both a buyer and a seller, but the nature of the deals they’re looking into feels more like selling given the circumstances.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays always have tough payroll decisions to make, but this winter is different. Early on, they seemingly had the option to either strategically sell off pieces or strategically add on in hopes of making a playoff run. But with the Yankees nabbing Stanton (and seemingly still on the hunt for more upgrades) and the inevitable impact signing the Boston Red Sox will make, the decision has probably been made for them.
Chris Archer is once again a popular name, as is Alex Colome, Jake Odorizzi and Longoria. Given the state of their division, it’d be very surprising if the Rays didn’t start selling off certain players.
The Stanton news has seemingly pushed the Orioles over the edge, too.
With an atrocious starting rotation that has nothing but question marks behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, it made all the sense in the world for Baltimore to start selling since there was no inclination they’d be paying a premium for starting pitching. We all know about Machado being available and the likelihood that he actually gets dealt, but it’s not just him.
Kansas City Royals
There still isn’t much clarity with regard to their big free agents yet, so it might still be possible the Royals could sign one of their homegrown players to a new contract. Unfortunately, we’ll have to see that to believe it, as all signs currently point toward some kind of rebuild, no matter what Danny Duffy wants.
Outside of the southpaw, Kansas City has a number of players that’d be attractive to others once the decision to sell becomes official. Those guys include relievers Joakim Soria and Kelvin Herrera, along with second baseman Whit Merrifield.
Everything is ready for the rebuild to start, but it wouldn’t be shocking for general manager Dayton Moore to wait until he knows for sure that there’s no chance Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and/or Lorenzo Cain will re-sign with the organization.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at FanDuel Insider, numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s a lover of all baseball, especially the Mets.