The 2023 MLB Winter Meetings are set to begin on Sunday from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center in Nashville, TN. The annual baseball meetings, which feature multiple professional trade shows, has turned into a massive trade show for free agents, agents, and GM’s alike looking to make a splash during the MLB’s Hot Stove season. In short, the center of the baseball world will be focused on Nashville, TN until the middle of next week. There’s a lot going on, so let’s narrow it down to 10 things to watch for in Nashville.
Here are 10 things to watch at the 2023 MLB Winter Meetings:
The Shohei Ohtani Show
All eyes will be on superstar free agent Shohei Ohtani as the 2023 MLB Winter Meetings begin. The future Hall of Famer is by far the biggest name to hit the free agent market, perhaps of all-time. No offense to “MV3” Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, or Trea Turner, but it’s not every day that Babe Ruth gets shopped around.
Almost every team in Major League Baseball has been tied to the free agent superstar, however, there seem to be a few favorites that are emerging. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been considered the favorites to land Ohtani, but that’s not stopping NL West rival the San Francisco Giants from making their pitch. The Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, and Toronto Blue Jays have emerged as other suitors for baseball’s biggest star, while the defending World Champion Texas Ranger, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets seem to be out of the race.
Ohtani is going to command a game changing contract with some experts expecting upwards of $500MM in total value. Does Ohtani’s agent Nez Baleo get a deal done for his superstar client before the Winter Meetings conclude or does the Ohtani sweepstakes extend into the New Year?
Let the Yoshinobu Yamamoto Sweepstakes Begin
Ohtani isn’t the only Japanese superstar that could make a big splash this weekend, and no I’m not talking about Godzilla who’s roared back into theaters in Godzilla: Minus One. All eyes will be on the news and rumors around Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who was posted by the Orix Buffaloes on November 20.
The expectations are low for Yamamoto to sign during the Winter Meetings –the five-time NPB All-Star has been talking to prospective suitors from Japan via zoom– however it is likely a group of finalists will begin to emerge. The New York Mets and New York Yankees have been viewed by many as the favorites to land Yamamoto, with the Yanks reportedly giving his camp an ultimatum. The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers can’t be ruled out just yet either.
Yamamoto will have until January 4, 2024, to sign with a Major League team or he will have to return to Orix.
Does Juan Soto Get Traded?
Look, Juan Soto is getting traded the only question is: does it happen at the MLB Winter Meetings? The New York Yankees and San Diego Padres are reportedly deep in negotiations regarding a trade involving Soto and have “exchanged names”, according to SportsNet New York’s Andy Martino. The Bronx Bombers are the front-runner for Soto, however other clubs can’t be ruled out. The Philadelphia Phillies could be in the mix according to The Athletic’s Matt Gelb and ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Speaking of Trades…
In addition to a potential Soto trade, the MLB trade rumors will be coming fast and furious over the next few days. A handful of big-name players have already been bandied about in trade circles including Chicago White Sox RHP Dylan Cease, Cleveland Guardians All-Star closer Emmanuel Clase, and Milwaukee Brewers’ ace Corbin Burnes. It’s hard to imagine a blockbuster trade or two not occurring during the Winter Meetings, especially with everyone in the same place at the same time.
Major Signings Ahead?
The MLB Winter Meetings are notorious for major free agent signings happening quickly once negotiations start. A few notable big time free agent signings to occur at the Winter Meetings include Nolan Ryan’s 1-year/$2MM contract with Texas in 1988, Barry Bond’s 6-year/$43MM contract with San Francisco in 1992, Albert Pujols’ 10-year/$250MM contract with the Angels in 2010, and Trea Turner’s 11-year/$300MM contract with the Phillies from just a year ago. This year all eyes will be on top level free agents including Ohtani, INF Cody Bellinger, RHP Josh Hader, LHP Blake Snell, and the “other” Japanese pitcher, Shota Imanaga.
Keep an Eye on Scott Boras
The MLB Winter Meetings are tailor made for super-agent to the stars Scott Boras. Boras routinely holds court with the media during the week and is often the center of attention when it comes to negotiations. The 71-year-old agent represents key free agents Bellinger and Rhys Hoskins, both of whom are likely to obtain significant contracts. Boras acts almost as the de facto head of all agents, the direction he takes negotiations is generally followed by others. Case in point, Broas’ clients Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon signed for a combined $800 million during the 2019 Winter Meetings. At the same time, Boras slow played the signing of his biggest client, Bryce Harper, who ultimately signed with Philadelphia in March.
The New York Mets
The 2023-24 MLB Hot Stove season is certainly an interesting one for the New York Mets. A year after spending big, but ultimately faltering and selling off during the season, will the Mets go all in? As noted above, the Mets are connected to Ohtani, Yamamoto, and even Soto. Is it just a “connection” or will the Mets once again go “all in” and make a splash during the Winter Meetings?
Who Wins the MLB Draft Lottery?
The MLB Draft Lottery enters its second year and, in an effort to bring eyeballs to the draft, the top picks will be unveiled live on MLB Network during the 2023 MLB Winter Meetings. Here are the latest MLB Draft Lottery odds for all eligible teams according to Major League Baseball:
- 18.3 pct — Athletics (.309)
- 18.3 — Royals (.346)
- 18.3 — Rockies (.364)
- 14.7 — White Sox (.377)
- 8.3 — Cardinals (.438)
- 6.1 — Angels (.451)
- 4.3 — Mets (.463)
- 3.0 — Pirates (.469)
- 2.0 — Guardians (.469)
- 1.6 — Tigers (.481)
- 1.2 — Red Sox (.481)
- 1.0 — Giants (.488)
- 0.9 — Reds (.506)
- 0.7 — Padres (.506)
- 0.6 — Yankees (.506)
- 0.4 — Cubs (.512)
- 0.2 — Mariners (.543)
The Rule 5 Draft
The 2023 MLB Winter Meetings will conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Wednesday evening at 5 PM/EST. The Rule 5 Draft allows a ballclub with open slots on their 40-man roster to select non-40-man roster players from other clubs. Not all teams will make a selection and the Rule 5 Draft rules can be cumbersome but the gist of it is as follows:
- A team may select any unprotected player.
- That player’s original team is owed $100,000 by the drafting team.
- The drafted player is added to the drafting teams 26-man roster.
- The drafted player may be removed from the 26-man roster but must be placed on outright waivers.
- If that player clears waivers, he must be offered back to his previous team for $50,000.
- The drafted player can be placed in the minors if his original team does not choose to accept the offer back.
Notable Rule 5 Draft picks include Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and All-Stars Johan Santana and Shane Victorino.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is on the record stating expansion will be “on the table” once the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays ballpark situations have been resolved. Well, Oakland is moving to Las Vegas and Tampa Bay has announced plans for a new ballpark in St. Pete. Nashville, site of the 2023 MLB Winter Meetings, has long been considered one the leading candidates for an expansion team. Could an announcement come while baseball is in the Music City for their biggest event of the offseason? Conspiracy theorists say yes. It would certainly make sense to announce it now rather than later. Other potential expansion cities include Charlotte, Portland, and Montreal.