Five things we want to see happen during MLB’s Virtual Winter Meetings
The annual Winter Meetings have started. Sorry, the Virtual Winter Meetings — VWM from here on out — have started, and they run through Thursday, when the annual Rule 5 Draft wraps up the event. The Virtual Rule 5 Draft, more accurately.
It’s been a weird year for baseball, obviously, and it’ll be a weird offseason. It’ll be a long offseason, too, as teams and players play a bit of chicken as they try to sort out exactly what the market will look like in these unprecedented times. The tortoise will almost certainly win this race, but mostly because there might not be any rabbits running this time.
So it’s hard to know what to expect from the VWM. Here are five things we’re hoping to see, though.
1. Figure out the DH debacle
It’s borderline insane that we are more than a month into the offseason and we still don’t know whether the NL will be playing with a DH for the 2021 season. Think about that. It’s like NFL teams not knowing whether they’re going to be able to use a left tackle, or Premier League teams wondering whether they’ll have a wing-back available. How is this not resolved? It’s not a decision MLB commissioner Rob Manfred can make alone; it has to be agreed upon by MLB and the MLBPA. And, yes, there are other unresolved issues, too, but none so pressing as teams needing to figure out what their roster might look like in the most important planning stage of the entire calendar year. Figure it out.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that “MLB instructed clubs in a memo last week to proceed under the assumption the DH will not be used in the NL this year” but that’s pretty pointless, without any sense of certainty. I don’t think it’s a big speculative jump to assume either side is holding this decision back as some sort of bargaining chip for the next CBA negotiation — that’s gonna be ugly, when it expires after the 2021 season — but at some point, players have to know what jobs are available and GMs have to know what roster spots they have to fill this offseason.
And that time is now.
2. Figure out the roster size situation
Are MLB teams going to have 26 players on their roster this year? Maybe 28? That’s another important detail, especially with the Rule 5 draft coming up at the end of this week. And will there be limits to how many pitchers can be kept on a roster? If so, is that number 13? Or 14? Again, it’s not much to ask for certainty, no matter what the actual ruling is. Same thing with the DH, in that this is something MLB and the MLBPA have to agree on.
Feels like the VWM are a good time to make that happen.
3. See at least one ‘elite’ free agent sign
It’s going to be a long offseason, folks. When we get to late January, you will be inundated with articles sporting some variation of this headline: “The 11 best free agents still available.” And there will be very well-known players talked about in those articles. So, y’know, prepare yourself for that. Here’s hoping the VWM produce at least one headline that talks about something major that did happen, instead of things that haven’t happened.
Maybe it’s Trevor Bauer to the Angels? Landing the ace the staff has long lacked would be a splashy first big move for new GM Perry Minasian. Especially if it’s a short-term, high-dollar deal like Bauer has always said he prefers. On the other hand, I’m not sure any player in recent memory has enjoyed his first dabble in free agency more than Bauer, and it’s not like the market for an elite starting pitcher is going to shrivel up anytime soon. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him stay on the market for a while.
Maybe it’s George Springer to the Mets? Even in a slow market, the intensity of the interest in Springer feels high, if rumors are to be believed. There are multiple potential contenders who would love to add a center fielder with power who can bat leadoff and has a history of October production, and for those teams Springer is the top prize this offseason. For the Mets to make this happen this week, it would address a big need in the roster while also showing fans that new owner Steve Cohen is putting his checkbook where his promises are.
Maybe it’s Marcel Ozuna to the Giants? Ozuna’s free-agency experience last offseason was a bit of a disaster, and he’s already changed agents this offseason (again), so it make sense to think he wants to get something done quickly. The Giants have long lacked power — they haven’t had anyone hit more than 22 homers since 2013 — and Ozuna is a good bet to eclipse that number in a full season. Plus, even though he’s talked about as a DH, he still can play in the outfield.
4. See at least one surprise signing
These are the fun “wait, what?” moments of the Winter Meetings, and that would be no different for the VWM. It could be a signing nobody had anticipated, or one that had been rumored but seemed too unrealistic to be true.
Maybe it’s D.J. LeMahieu to the Blue Jays? This makes sense from the Blue Jays’ perspective. They’re a team on the rise that could use a veteran bat in the middle of the lineup, surrounded by young stars learning to thrive at the big league level. But, yeah, it would be more than just a little stunning if this actually happened, if LeMahieu spurned the Yankees and chose to sign with the AL East rival Blue Jays. Because here’s the thing: The Yankees want him back and would almost certainly match any offer made by Toronto.
5. See at least one big name traded
OK, this one is the least likely to happen. The types of deals we’re talking about typically take time to develop, and nothing’s developed quickly so far this offseason. Still, a Hot Stove fan can dream, right?
Maybe it’s Francisco Lindor being traded to the Mets? Basically, we’re saying we’ll be disappointed — as will Mets fans everywhere — if the ballclub logs off from the VWM without making at least one legitimate impact move. Lindor makes so much sense for the Mets, especially if they eventually sign him to a long-term contract extension — he has one year of club control remaining — much like the Dodgers did with Mookie Betts after they acquired him from the Red Sox last offseason.
Maybe it’s Blake Snell to the Braves? No team learned the truth of the “you can’t have too many starting pitchers” adage last season than the Braves, who still managed to come within one win of the World Series despite having basically two reliable starters in the postseason. The Braves have been reluctant to trade from their deep stable of prospects, but Snell is different because he offers cost-certainty most other options won’t. Snell has three years remaining on his deal for $39 million, a very team-friendly number even in uncertain times.