Each week our writers go round the table to give their thoughts on the biggest stories or questions in baseball.
Biggest Winners and Losers of the Winter Meetings
Isaac Marks- Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers
Winner: Chicago Cubs
I went with the Cubs with Arizona as a close second. Cubs get the edge because they didn’t have to gut their farm system to get to where they are. Chicago added three top-10 free agents in starter John Lackey, outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist and created a permanent spot for young shortstop Addison Russell by trading Starlin Castro to the Yankees for a solid bullpen piece in Adam Warren. The Cubs have a three-headed monster at the top of their rotation in Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Lackey that rivals the Diamondbacks new rotation. The lineup has almost no holes; 21-year-old Russell is the weakest link, but that’s not saying much. He supplanted Castro halfway through the season and was holding his own by the end of the season. The Cubs need to figure out who is going to play center field between Heyward, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber (ha) and what to do with Javier Baez, but those are some good questions to have.
Loser: Los Angeles Dodgers
This isn’t entirely their fault after the Aroldis Chapman trade fell through, but the Dodgers did almost nothing. The Dodgers were linked to Chapman, Zobrist, Heyward, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Yovani Gallardo and Scott Kazmir over the last week; they came away with Hisashi Iwakuma and Chase Utley. Gallardo and Cueto are still on the market and could very well be signed in the next few weeks, but that’s not why they lost. The Dodgers are now looking up at Arizona in the division after losing Greinke in a bidding war. Greinke was a huge part of the Dodgers’ success last year amidst the slew of injuries and Iwakuma will be hard-pressed to step into the void left by his departure. Also, how the hell did the Dodgers get outbid by the Diamondbacks?
Patrick Brewer- Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds
Winner: Philadelphia Phillies
While the obvious pick is to say the contending teams that did the most at the Meetings are the winners, I wish to take this in a different direction. While teams like the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, and Arizona Diamondbacks got that much closer to a potential World Series run, some teams that are nowhere close to playoff contention got much better as well. While the Atlanta Braves made a big splash with the trade of Shelby Miller, the Philadelphia Phillies may have made an even better trade. As it is known by now, the Phillies traded star closer Ken Giles, for a haul of five prospects, including pitchers Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman, Brett Oberholtzer, and Harold Arauz. The Phillies got quite a haul, including two pitchers who have the potential to be a part of their starting staff sooner rather than later. Turning one great player into five potential long-term contributors is a great deal for the Phillies and makes them a definite winner at the Winter Meetings.
Loser: Cincinnati Reds
The biggest loser at the Winter Meetings was the Cincinnati Reds. Not only did they not swing any trades for their remaining valuable assets, but they also watched as their most prized trade asset became virtually valueless. After more or less completing a trade with the Dodgers for Aroldis Chapman, news broke of the alleged domestic incident involving Chapman from the end of October. The news completely torpedoed any further trade discussions and ended the Dodgers pursuit of Chapman. Beyond that, it appears that Chapman has lost all further trade value, at least until the investigation is over. Either way, Chapman’s value is going to be a lot less than it was last year, or even last week. The Reds appear to have waited too long to cash in on Chapman’s value and are now paying the price for their mistake.
Matt Mirro- Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks
Winner: Chicago Cubs
I’d have to call the Chicago Cubs the biggest winner. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have possibly put the finishing touches on the best roster in baseball. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist are set to solidify a real impact lineup and their acquisitions leave no weak points in the order. Adam Warren is a solid swing man who I am sure Joe Madden will make good use of throughout the season. My only worry comes from the defense as Kyle Schwarber is really a designated hitter playing left field, Kris Bryant is a little too bulky for third and Zobrist might have lost a step with age. But overall the team looks like a force to be reckoned with. Possible World Series favorites.
Loser: Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Zack Grienke before the Winter Meetings. For that reason I do not include him when considering this. I do, however, consider how much the team overpaid for Shelby Miller. The Atlanta Braves flat our fleeced Arizona. Don’t get me wrong, Shelby Miller is a solid pitcher, possibly a number two. But the price they paid is too much for most number one starters. I wouldn’t have given up that much for Jose Fernandez let alone Miller. Arizona completely depleted their farm system in one trade so they could try to go for it. That’s not a good way to prepare for the future. Zack Grienke was paired with Clayton Kershaw and a star-studded lineup back in Los Angeles and the team couldn’t make it all the way. Shelby Miller is no Kershaw and paying a Kershaw’s ransom for him was a less than smart move.
Casey Boguslaw- Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals
Winner: Houston Astros
My biggest winner is pretty clear but since I’ve already given my reasons why the Cubs won the Winter Meetings, I will add a wildcard. I believe the Houston Astros had a very good week in Nashville and I am not alarmed by them giving up on their past number one overall pick, Mark Appel. My full thoughts are up on ctbpod.com for why I believe the acquisition of Ken Giles was just the right move for an Astros team that should be going for it all this year. I also believe the re-signing of Tony Sipp was a strong move for a bullpen that will hopefully not be the reason for an exit in October 2016. These additions along with division rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim losing out on their Heyward bid have me giving the Astros a strong bid for second place in the Winter Meetings, but not even close to first.
Loser: St. Louis Cardinals
My biggest loser of the Winter Meetings is inarguable, in my opinion. The St. Louis Cardinals gave up a whole lot more than their two biggest free agents. By biggest, I mean by baseball-reference’s WAR calculations, Jason Heyward and John Lackey were the Cardinals two most productive players. Fangraphs doesn’t give as much love to Lackey but he was still their third most productive player (Matt Carpenter slid above Lackey on Fangraphs). And the loss of these players isn’t the worst part – they went to the team’s chief rival, the Chicago Cubs. BRef had Heyward and Lackey worth 12.2 wins and Fangraphs has them at 9.6 but either way the numbers tell you the Cubs more than made up for their three game deficit from last season. The Cardinals were rumored to be a part of the Ben Zobrist hunt as well, and where did he go – oh yes, the Cubs.
Zach Bernard- Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners
Winner: Atlanta Braves
This is the same team that, a little more than four months ago, decided to trade Chris Johnson to the Cleveland Indians for the bloated contracts of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Truly, the Atlanta Braves appeared to be a team with no certain future or direction.
And then, they were on the other end of one of the Winter Meetings’ most notable trades by sending last year’s hard-luck ace Shelby Miller to Arizona for essentially their farm. Sure, losing Miller hurts, assuming he can replicate his wonderful 2015 campaign (and there’s no guarantee he can). The return of Ender Inciarte, 2013 first-round righty Aaron Blair (13-5, 2.92 ERA and 1.166 WHIP in 25 starts between AA and AAA) and 2015 number-one pick Dansby Swanson is practically a king’s ransom in the modern era, and the Braves got away with highway robbery. Suddenly, their rebuild effort makes so much more sense, and even if Miller resumes his dominance into 2016, he didn’t have a place in the Braves rotation, anyway. In the blink of an eye Atlanta transformed itself into a team to watch as it rebuilds, and it’ll be exciting as they transition to Cobb County in 2017.
Loser: Seattle Mariners
When a team changes hands at the general manager position, there’s an expectation that change will happen and things will be different from the last guy. Under Jack Zduriencik, the team spent years building illusions of grandeur that excited baseball fans for months… and then the season would start.
Jerry Dipoto has done nothing to indicate things will be different under his rule. Robinson Cano isn’t happy, and the Mariners failed to make any significant splashes when they could (and should) have. The AL West is one of baseball’s most competitive divisions; the Astros and Rangers will compete in 2016, the Angels are always in the conversation, and you just never know what Billy Beane’s crew in Oakland is going to do. Seattle needs a boost, and they did nothing of the sort.
They did make one deal, trading for Wade Miley (11-11, 4.46 ERA in 193 innings) to fill the void Hisashi Iwakuma left behind in his departure. Miley is a good innings-eater that makes for a fine number four starter, maybe even a three. The fact that he gave up promising young pitchers Roenis Elias and Carson Smith might also suggest Dipoto was on the wrong end of this particular deal. Wade Miley isn’t a bad pitcher, but when you’re a new GM in a city with high expectations in a wildly competitive division, Wade Miley cannot be your big splash. And with the outfield market kicked into motion, maybe it won’t be.