Despite my being a veteran of countless winter meetings, baseball's annual gathering still manages to surprise me. Whether it's a blockbuster trade or an out-of-the-blue free-agent signing, the winter meetings always provide a handful of happenings.
However, experience does offer me a little insight into what could happen. Last year, we saw the Los Angeles Angels reel in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and the Miami Marlins signed Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell. And, well, we know how that turned out. So here are my five bold predictions for the winter meetings:
With the Mets extending third baseman David Wright for eight years for about $138 million, I expect them to then turn around and trade right-hander R.A. Dickey to the Kansas City Royals or the Los Angeles Dodgers or Angels for two good prospects. Wright is the face of their franchise, their version of Chipper Jones or Derek Jeter, and it was essential they get him locked up. With the Tampa Bay Rays’ extension of Evan Longoria this past month and the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman sewn up, as well, this was a relatively simple negotiation for general manager Sandy Alderson. In regards to Dickey, it’s more about selling high on an overachieving pitcher and being realistic on when the Mets will be ready to contend. Although the public thinks it could be sooner, realistically, the Mets won’t be contending until at least 2015.
2. The Cleveland Indians will make more trades than any other team
The Indians are waiting for the top free agents to sign. Once that happens, teams that lose out will be calling them to make deals. The Indians have the highest-quality tradable players currently on the market. Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo is one of the most underrated right fielders in baseball. He’s a complete player and is about to enter his free-agent walk year. He is represented by Scott Boras, which means it’s unlikely he’ll sign a contract extension before testing the open market. Therefore, once Josh Hamilton, Cody Ross and Nick Swisher have inked deals, the clubs that missed out will attempt to trade for Choo.
Several teams are pursuing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. If anyone of those teams puts together the right package of young starting pitching, it might be able to pry him loose. Closer Chris Perez is well respected throughout the game as a straight shooter who speaks his mind without filter, which is fine unless you’re always bashing the ownership, the front office and the fans. His trade value is at an all-time high, and now is the best time to get the best return. With starting pitching always at a premium, the Tribe also will listen to offers for Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. The bottom line is the Indians will be an interesting team to watch in Nashville.
3. The Miami Marlins will sign a free agent and give him a full-no trade clause
The Marlins’ trades of Buehrle, Reyes and Bell this offseason have left agents with such a bad taste in their mouths that many of them are saying they won’t even talk to the Marlins on behalf of their clients. Interestingly, a year ago, the Marlins all but had Albert Pujols signed, but their refusal to include a no-trade clause allowed him to make the right choice and sign with the Angels. If he had signed with the Marlins, he probably would be with the Toronto Blue Jays today. The Marlins are under scrutiny from the commissioner’s office and the players' association to spend rather than pocketing what look to be significant revenue-sharing gains the next few years. The Marlins need to step up and surprise baseball by adding a significant free agent and will have no choice this time but to change their policy and give a full no-trade clause so players they sign won’t have to worry about being dealt in a year.
4. The Royals will finally trade for an elite starter, and fans will rebel
Royals general manager Dayton Moore is in a Catch-22 situation. Royals fans have been begging for the team to trade for a top-of-the-rotation starter instead of their continued plan of back-of-the-rotation innings eaters such as Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana and Luke Hochevar. But it will cost Moore one of the young, talented position players he has. Moore definitely feels the pressure and is doing everything possible to make such a trade this coming week in Nashville. Even though I think the best move would be to sign a free agent such as Kyle Lohse or Anibal Sanchez and keep his position players intact, I predict that the Royals are going to trade Wil Myers, Alex Gordon or Eric Hosmer to get their top-of-rotation young starter. If and when they do this, Royals fans will show their disapproval. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
5. The Texas Rangers will re-sign Josh Hamilton to a four-year contract
Some believe Hamilton and Rangers definitely will part ways, but I'm making the bold prediction that he'll stay. Despite all the reports that the Rangers won't go more than three years on a deal for Hamilton, I fully expect them to give him a fourth year with a club option for a fifth at an average annual value of approximately $23 million. There has been interest in Hamilton from several teams, including the Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and Baltimore Orioles.
His family lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and plans to stay there regardless. Having been to two World Series in the past three years, Hamilton and the Rangers have unfinished business of bringing a world championship to Rangers fans, and both parties know the best way to accomplish that is for them to try again together rather than apart.