IT BEGINNNNSSSSSSSSS. The first real Winter Meetings in three years, which means I have no idea what exactly to expect. Not in terms of activity – there has already been a swell in movement and rumors, which pair well with Jeff Passan’s report last week that folks around the game are expecting a wild Winter Meetings. I mean in terms of what my days will look like covering the meetings. In the olden days – before the lockout, before the pandemic, and before the frequently-frozen first half of the offseason – I could barely step away to get food without news and rumors blasting out. It was almost four full days like that, and frankly, I loved it.
Here’s hoping that’s what it’s like again. Executives, agents, and even some players started arriving in San Diego for the meetings yesterday, in advance of things officially kicking off today. This year is a little odd, in that the meetings run Sunday through Wednesday, rather than the usual Monday through Thursday. So will today be like a NORMAL first day of the meetings, or will it be a little muted because it’s a Sunday?
Some of what’s circulating as we start the day …
Aaron Judge is the biggest fish in free agency, and he might also be the guy who needs to sign for a lot of other stuff to shake loose. That means, to have a truly explosive Winter Meetings, we might all be hoping that Judge signs, say, today or tomorrow? The good news is that it seems like the field has more or less narrowed to the Yankees and Giants (with the Dodgers probably way on the outside at this point), so it’s really could just be a matter of deciding at this point.
Ken Rosenthal reports via sources that it is likely the winning bid on Judge will be for nine years, which tracks with what we’ve seen on other deals this offseason: it’s all on the highest-possible-end of anyone’s projections. Rosenthal doesn’t report it, but the way he writes his piece certainly implies it: the Giants are likely at nine years, while the Yankees are at eight. So it could be that, if the Yankees go to nine, Judge returns. If they don’t, he takes the Giants offer. Thus, the winning bid will be nine years either way.
With Jacob deGrom having signed, and with a team like the Mets almost certainly wanting to make sure they get at least one of Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodon, I could see both of those guys signing at the Meetings. Rodon, a Scott Boras client, has a big market:
deGrom’s deal includes a SUPER COMPLICATED 6th year conditional option, that basically can become a cheap-ish team option if he gets really hurt over the next several years, can become a medium team option if he gets hurt but is still really good, or can become a pricey player option if he is generally healthy and good. The AP reported the complex details.
Although the deGrom deal is obviously rife with risks – $185 million guaranteed over five years to a 34-year-old guy who has thrown about one full seasons’ worth of innings in the last three years combined – the upside is as good as anyone could hope. Dan Szymborski ran the ZiPS projections on the deal, and although injuries are more or less impossible for a projection system to peg, the system DOES project deGrom to have the best ERA in baseball in *EACH* of the five years of his deal, even as he approaches 40 years old. That’s how good he is. So even if he’s modestly healthy, this can still be a big win for the Rangers.
That said, the Rangers are still a low-80s win team on paper, so for this signing – like the Seager and Semien ones last year – to make any sense at all, they are still going to need to do a lot of lifting the rest of this offseason.
Not everyone is on board with the Cubs adding Dansby Swanson this offseason, as they are rumored to have interest in doing. My official position (as of this moment) is that I would like it if it were paired with multiple other impactful additions, but it’s hard to see where the big bat would come from if it’s not one of the other three shortstops. That said, I did appreciate these notes from Kyle on Twitter about Swanson’s bat:
That second one is particularly interesting, because I didn’t realize how much of an alley-to-alley guy Swanson is. Historically, because of the unique alleys at Wrigley in left center and right center, right-handed batters who hit a disproportionate volume of their balls to the alleys have tended to do very well at their home ballpark. It was a big part of the reason we wanted Nick Castellanos back in 2019, so I can see why Kyle broke out that visual comparison.
One other offensive thing I should say on Swanson before I forget: no one is buying his step forward in 2022 (.277/.329/.447/116 wRC+) because of the inflated BABIP (.348), but I have noticed that his wOBA (.337) exactly matches his expected wOBA at Statcast. In other words, it might be the case that Swanson got a little lucky on the volume of his batted balls that fell in for hits, but got UNlucky on the level of damages his hits did, given the quality of contact. That’s what Statcast says anyway. Thus it netted out, and his results matched the expected results overall.
A little fun bit to leave you with: Maddie Lee wrote about a handful of notable Cubs moves at the Winter Meetings over the years, and she threw it ALL THE WAY back in 1903 for one of the moves! At the “National League meeting” that year, the Cubs sent Jack Taylor and Larry McLean to the St. Louis Cardinals for Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. Quite a good Winter Meetings move, I’d say!