Although unexpected deals go down every year at the Winter Meetings – and other unexpected deals emerge to be pursued in the weeks thereafter – you typically have a very good sense, by the Sunday night before the meetings, of the threads you’ll be following this week. Not just in a general sense, either. You typically know a few things that are definitely going to play out, even if you don’t yet know the particulars.
Well, it’s Sunday night, and I don’t have the foggiest clue what will actually come down this week. Will Bryce Harper’s and Manny Machado’s markets actually start developing? Will the Indians finalize a deal to send away a starting pitcher? Will some relievers start signing? Which ones will start things off? Are the Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees gonna continue to cry poverty? Are the Phillies finally gonna do some of that stupid spending?
Again, some things are going to happen this week. You can count on that, not only because so many decision-makers will be gathered together for the meetings in Las Vegas, but because the proximity to the holidays and the flip of the calendar has always served as a kind of pressure point for decisions for a number of teams and free agents. Get into a position to make a decision the week of the Winter Meetings, and then, boom, finalize that decision that week. It’ll happen for a variety of moves that are already at the goal line, and we just don’t know about them yet.
I’d say something about “hopefully there are some surprises,” but almost by definition, whatever happens this week is going to be surprising, since it just hasn’t been an offseason lending itself to easy predictions. It is equally plausible that by Thursday, Bryce Harper is finalizing a deal with the White Sox … or we’ve learned that the Cubs actually are in, and the negotiation process is probably going to take another couple months. (To be sure, I don’t think either of those particular chronologies are necessarily likely.)
I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’d love for this week to be the unveiling of the Cubs’ actual offseason plan, but I fear that it’ll serve only as confirmation that “being creative” has always been a clumsy code for “cost neutral.” Of course, even if that proves to be the case – i.e., that the Cubs can’t add significant payroll from here – there’s nothing to say the front office won’t be trying to get … ah crap, I’m gonna say it … get creative this week.