Sunday, December 4, 2016

Winter Meetings are Here

Now that the new CBA has brought continued labor peace to baseball, the annual Winter Meetings, will go on as scheduled. The meetings run today, December 4 through the 8th.

Our focus of course is what will Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox do.  I still maintain other than signing or trading for a set up reliever, not much.  But there is an opportunity for that prediction to be very wrong.  Here are the needs for the Sox to address:

1. 8th inning reliever
2. DH to help replace David Ortiz' middle of the order bat.
3. Back of rotation/depth starting pitcher
4. Ace starting pitcher???

If something falls into Dave D's lap another possible deal could be for a third baseman good enough to replace the Pablo Sandoval-Travis Shaw-Brock Holt trio but that is less likely.

The Red Sox are expected to fill the bullpen first if possible.  Free agents Greg Holland and Luke Hochevar are mentioned as candidates.  A trade is maybe more likely, especially if the Sox lose out on Holland.

The DH candidate the Red Sox reportedly wanted the most was Carlos Beltran.  But the 40 year old vet signed with the Astros on the eve of the meetings.  Beltran signed a one year $16M deal.  If the Red Sox chose not to top that offer for a hitter they "wanted badly", then you can believe they will not throw big bucks at the top DH in the free agent market, Edwin Encarnarcion.  Dave Dombrowski said they would like a lefty bat to replace Papi's, but the market is now flooded with right handed power hitters along in age: Jose Bautista, Chris Carter, Mike Napoli, Matt Holliday, Mark Trumbo head the list.  If DD really wants a left handed bat Pedro Alvarez is on the market as well.  Many teams who want one of these FA hitters may wait and wait trying to get one of them at a reduced rate, maybe even waiting until late January.

The pitching free agent market is barren. Any starting pitcher for the back of the rotation or near the front will come from the trade market.

Speaking of the trade mart, many observers expect very heated trade activity because of the free agent market which, other than those veteran DH types, does not offer much.

Here are some teams the Red Sox could deal with:

1. Tigers. Detroit GM Al Avila has publicly stated the Tigers are looking to cut salary by trading more than one of their stars. These names rumored to be available to varying degrees include: JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Jordan Zimmerman, Francisco Rodriguez, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander ,   and yes Miguel Cabrera.  But the Tigers are not in a full salary dump mode, they still intend to contend. Some have speculated the Sox dealing for Verlander and Miggy would fill two needs.  But with Verlander having 3 years left at $28M per year, and Cabrera having around $220M left on his contract the Sox likely don't have the budget for them.  A more likely Tiger target for Boston would be Victor Martinez, who somewhat mimics what Carlos Beltran could give them.

2. Royals.  Royals closer Wade Davis makes $10M which could make him available.  There would be other suitors for sure, so the cost could be two very good prospects. The Royals, like the Tigers, while looking to deal a salary or two still hope to compete in 2017. There have been reports the Royals could have interest in Clay Buchholz.  Could Buch plus a Mauricio Dubon type prospect net Davis?

3. A's.  Last winter's red hot Sonny Gray rumors have nearly evaporated after a poor, somewhat injury hampered '16 for Gray.  But if the price is down from last winter, both Dombrowski and Billy Beane are known for not being shy about trading.  Left reliever Sean Doolittle could also catch Boston's eye.

4. Mets.  If Dombrowski is determined to get a lefty bat to DH, and wants someone who can play in the field sometimes the Mets have two: outfielders Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson.  The Mets would love to find a taker for Bruce as he played poorly for them after being acquired at last summer's trade deadline from Cincy.  But overall in 2016 Bruce hit 33 home runs despite a .250 BA. Most teams inquiring about the pair prefer Granderson, but either could add some punch at the Sox DH spot.

5. White Sox. I saved the best for last.  If my prediction of a slow Red Sox Winter Meetings unravels it may be with the other Sox as a trade partner.  Chris Sale.  That is the name you will hear more than any other this week.  Sale will not turn 28 until next March 30, he has a career ERA of 3.00, and struck out 1244 hitters in 1110 career innings.  And maybe best of all, Sale is signed through 2019 for a total of $38M. He is available as the White Sox are hoping to rebuild and are very rightfully so are asking for the moon.  Because it needs to be a team with a fertile farm system, the list of contenders seem to be in no particular order: Braves, Nats, Rangers, Astros,  Dodgers, Red Sox and maybe the Yankees.  The main question is do the White Sox deal Sale to the highest bidder or do they hold on to him if none of the offers suit them.

For Boston to acquire Chris Sale the package likely has to include at least four (MAYBE three) of the following: Andrew Benintendi, Yoan Moncada, Jackie Bradley Jr., Eduardo Rodriguez, Blake Swihart, Michael Kopech, Rafael Devers.  Most often the rumors start with JBJ and one of the two super prospects (Benintendi or Moncada), Rodriguez, and Swihart. But in reality if the Sox include JBJ they will keep Benintendi to play center. Nor would they include both of AB and Moncada.

The other factor that could determine Boston's interest at all or the package they are willing to offer, is can they acquire someone besides Sale in the trade?  There are at least three available White Sox players who can help fill Bosox needs. First is closer David Robertson, who was at one time was the 8th inning guy for the Yankees.  He could plug the 8th inning hole Dombrowski has admitted he is looking to fill. Another is 1B-DH Jose Abreu, who has big time power.  And the Red Sox were very interested in Abreu when he came from Cuba, only to be slightly outbid by Chicago.  If the Red Sox decide to pursue another third baseman, Todd Frazier, another home run hitter is available.

I actually think the most likely current Chicago player to be in Ft. Myers with Boston for spring training is Robertson.  But here is one interesting trade proposal I read recently ( note this is not a rumor just a trade package thrown out there by a reporter): Moncada, Eduardo Rodriguez, Swihart, and Michael Kopech for Sale and Abreu. I would be hesitant to deal Moncada for anyone and  if they could rework the back of package to include someone other than Kopech, this one intrigues me.

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As the meetings commence any hot Red Sox rumors will be added to this post.  It is the most wonderful time of the year!

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