The hot stove has started to heat up with big free agents like Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi finding homes, and the Diamondbacks dealing All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals. Things could pick up even more next week, as teams converge for the annual Winter Meetings, to take place December 9-13 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here is what you need to know about next week’s Winter Meetings.
What are the Winter Meetings?
The Winter Meetings are baseball’s annual industry convention. General managers get together to discuss potential trade deals, but also to talk shop. Agents hype up their clients in ridiculous Don King-like fashion. Other executives, scouts, coaches, and even owners may make appearances. You will also see many minor league teams get together to talk about marketing and business strategies, trade show vendors, seminars, and reporters, so many reporters, sometimes with not much to do. There are also dozens of job-hunters, scurrying around, looking to hand their resume to anyone that will give them a glance. Baseball is a tough business.
There is also this guy.
What do you expect the Royals to do?
Royals General Manager Dayton Moore has typically not made a big splash at the meetings, instead using the time to lay the framework for deals later in the off-season. And this will likely be a very slow off-season for Royals fans, with much of the starting lineup already set and the team looking to keep payroll low with a 2019 payroll already around $85 million. Moore already found his backup infielder when he signed Chris Owings this week.
Still, the team could look to add some depth and have been rumored to be very interested in outfielder Billy Hamilton. Expect the Royals to be interested in under-30-year old free agents willing to sign one-year deals, particularly players recently non-tendered. The Royals have a lot of holes in their bullpen, and Dayton Moore has expressed interest in adding relievers. He wants to wait out the market and sign “guys on the rebound.”
Will the Royals trade Whit Merrifield?
It doesn’t seem likely at this point. Moore has said that to win going forward, “we need Whit Merrifield on the team.” The Royals have Merrifield under club control through 2022, and expect to be ready to make a move to contend by 2021.
Still, trading Whit after a career-best season in which he was a 5.2 WAR player and has several controllable years could be maximizing his trade value, helping to accelerate the rebuild. Expect the Royals to at least listen to offers for Whit, but not make a trade unless they are overwhelmed by a return. The free agent market for second basemen is strong, which could hurt the chances of a team offering top prospects for Whit. However, if a team gets spurned by guys like Jed Lowrie and D.J LeMahieu, they may turn to the Royals for a cheap, long-term option.
As for other trades, most other Royals players are either young enough to be part of the future or have large contracts that make them difficult go move. There could be some interest in Danny Duffy but it seems unlikely the Royals would move him and there is no chance they move Salvador Perez.
What will other teams be doing at the Winter Meetings?
The two big blockbuster free agents - Manny Machado and Bryce Harper - are still unsigned, and teams will make their big pitch to land those superstars that will include truckloads of money. The Mariners appear to be in firesale mode and will look to move every asset they can, so look for General Manager Jerry Dipoto to be racing around the lobby of the Mandalay Bay in a Monster Energy-fueled mania, trading all of his relievers for a package of Slim Jims. The Braves and Phillies are pushing their chips in to make a big splash to contend next year. Teams like the Reds, Mets, Rays, and White Sox are making interesting moves to get better. The Marlins are hitting themselves on the head with a hammer.
Will the Royals make a selection in the Rule 5 draft?
The Royals found a gem in Brad Keller last year, so it seems likely they would turn to that well once again. The Royals non-tendered four players to clear room on the roster last week, allowing them to make a selection with the #2 overall pick. Look for them to select an arm or two, with a number of pitchers available that could step into their bullpen. It seems unlikely they would take a hitter, but there are a few utility infielders and speedsters that could help. The Rule 5 draft will take place on the morning of the last day of the Winter Meetings.