The annual winter meetings have come to an end and a few dominoes have started to fall, clearing up the offseason landscape a tad. The last few days were rife with rumors, but most of the completed deals were relatively minor compared to names available.
Here's a look at the winners and losers from Las Vegas as we enter the next stage of baseball's merciless offseason.
Last year, the reliever market was the only one with any traction through the early part of the offseason. Entering the winter meetings, Jesse Chavez was the most notable relief pitcher to land a new contract. With Jeurys Familia and Joe Kelly each getting three years - and solid annual salaries to boot - it bodes well for those remaining unsigned.
Even if Craig Kimbrel doesn't wind up getting the six-year, $100-million deal he's apparently seeking, he may not be that far off. It's even more promising for the likes of Adam Ottavino, Andrew Miller, and Brad Brach as 30-something middle relievers looking for that last big payday.
So much for Bryce Harper signing a contract in his home town. Not much has changed for the outfielder, or fellow superstar free agent Manny Machado, after the brief sojourn in the desert. A few teams seem out of the race for Harper (Cardinals, Yankees), but agent Scott Boras says the market for his client is still robust.
Likewise, Machado has plenty of interest surrounding him (duh) but nothing concrete. The Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies have been linked to both, but nothing appears close. That lack of clarity shows that either player is willing to wait until they get what they want, and who could blame them? It may come down to the first team who is willing to offer a decade-long contract worth more than $300 million.
And even if the Yankees are out on Harper, Machado still could fit into their scheme. As nice as a reunion with lefty J.A. Happ is - especially since it locks up the starting rotation - it's not nearly the splash Yankees fans were anticipating.
The 32-year-old former MVP has entered what appears to be a steady decline in his production. Once a perennial .300 hitter, McCutchen has slashed .263/.356/.446 with 72 home runs and 86 doubles over the last three seasons. That he parlayed that production into a three-year, $50-million contract with a $15-million option is a huge boon for him.
Granted, the Phillies did announce to the world they were ready to spend money stupidly on the open market, so maybe it's not that big of a surprise, and it may even be a smart deal. It doesn't rule them out of the Harper pursuit, but serves as a minor slice of insurance in case they miss out. While he doesn't make up for Harper spurning the Phillies, snagging McCutchen now is preferable to coming up empty-handed after clearing a path for Rhys Hoskins to play at first base by trading away Carlos Santana.
It also helps that McCutchen is one of baseball's biggest fan favorites, and not even Philly faithful will be able to hate on him...probably.
What are the Rangers doing? In a vacuum, the contract they gave right-hander Lance Lynn (three years, $30 million) isn't egregious. If a team like the New York Yankees or Washington Nationals (see: contender) gave him that exact deal, it wouldn't be a head-scratcher. He'd have been the presumed final piece in a rotation and could also flip to long relief in a pinch.
The Rangers are not going to contend in 2019. They probably won't be ready in 2020 or 2021 unless things break really well for them. As such, committing three years and that amount of scratch for a guy to eat innings during a rebuild seems foolish, and akin to the Baltimore Orioles signing Alex Cobb to a four-year, $57-million contract a year ago.
The Charlie Morton contract serves as an announcement that the AL East is not simply a two-horse race. It's not without risk, as Morton has long dealt with injuries and was apparently considering retirement this year before electing to hold off.
It's hard to argue with his results since the Houston Astros took a flier on him before 2017. Over the last two seasons, he's 29-10 with a 3.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 10.4 K/9 in 313 2/3 innings.
This foray into relatively big-ticket waters represents a shift, or at least an acknowledgement that what they've been building is close to being a contender much sooner than anyone reasonably expected. They went 41-25 in the second half and nearly made a run at the postseason, after trading ace Chris Archer midseason and jettisoning Corey Dickerson and Evan Longoria in the offseason.
For now, the trio of Morton, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow followed by liberal use of the "opener" strategy seems like it could be a recipe for success. And this contract could pave the way for more deals like their acquisition of muscly Yandy Diaz.
First of all, the Mets shored up the back-end of the bullpen by bringing back Familia for the next three years. It's a safe move despite the price tag since he's a known quantity after spending most of the last seven seasons in Queens.
The Mets also dodged a bullet, for now, by holding onto right-hander Noah Syndergaard despite his name popping up in trade talks for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Syndergaard hits free agency a year after Realmuto, and his upside is clearly as a front line starting pitcher.
Still, after emerging as the most aggressive suitors for Realmuto it's a disappointment for them to come up short and allow other teams to enter the sweepstakes. Moving young shortstop Amed Rosario may have been a tough pill to swallow, but Realmuto would be more of a sure bet to help the team compete now.
The biggest deal of the meetings plopped down in bits and pieces on the final day. At first, it seemed like Cleveland was trading Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle for Carlos Santana straight up. Then, Tampa Bay's involvement became apparent. Encarnacion was headed to the Rays until he wasn't, but still might be later, and eventually the deal was made.
This is what happens when news moves slowly and something massive breaks. The whole show gets thrown into a tailspin as we all lunge for scraps of information. For much of Thursday, the three-team transaction was basically a jigsaw puzzle with key pieces missing.
That excitement, however, is what makes these meetings worth following for baseball fans. It can be its own type of spectator sport and often feels like anything can happen, and usually does.