Major League Baseball's winter meetings kicked off on Monday in Las Vegas and - by my count - 14 notable moves took place in the four-day span, including four major-league trades and nearly $225 million spent in free agency.
Let's rank the top 10 moves based on star power, financial implications, and, most importantly, how they may impact the 2019 season.
10. Ivan Nova traded to South Side
The White Sox desperately need pitching help, and Nova is a sneakily savvy addition that only cost a teenage prospect who might turn into something four years from now.
Meanwhile, despite being on an expiring contract, the 31-year-old Nova will undoubtedly help a rotation that's still figuring itself out. Twenty-four-year-old Reynaldo Lopez seems legit, but fellow youngster Lucas Giolito largely failed to live up to astronomical hype last year. They're still not close to contention, but Nova has some experience as an Opening Day starter, and could be a fine replacement for James Shields.
9. Blue Jays release Tulowitzki
Kind of a non-move to be honest, the Blue Jays parting ways with five-time All-Star Troy Tulowitzki gets in on a technicality.
Heading into 2019, it always seemed like the possibility of Tulo playing another game for Toronto was waning, but nobody saw an outright release coming with $38 million remaining on his contract. Tulowitzki is now unemployed for the first time in his major-league career, and may be forced to play second base in order to get a job. At this point, would a team rather take a flier on a two-time Silver Slugger, or sign DJ LeMahieu to a multi-million dollar deal? You're thinking about it, aren't you?
8. Cincy acquires Roark
It's still puzzling that the Nationals seemed so eager to deal away Roark, but count the Reds victorious for identifying that they could snap him up for cents on the dollar - with due respect to 25-year-old relief prospect Tanner Rainey - who went the other way.
Roark won't be cheap, as the right-hander is slated to make nearly $10 million next year via arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors. He's been pretty pedestrian over his last two seasons, posting a 4.50 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 361 2/3 innings. What he is good at, though, is eating innings. That's worth something to the Reds, who have had only one pitcher qualify for the ERA title over the last two seasons. Luis Castillo notched 169 2/3 innings last year as the sole qualified starter over a span where the Reds used 19 different starters.
7. Rangers sign Lynn
Do the Rangers know something that everyone else doesn't? Because that's how it felt when they agreed to a three-year, $30-million deal with Lance Lynn. Does Lynn increase Texas' chances of making the postseason next year? Not really. Is it an easy contract to move in the event things go south for the Rangers and they want to add a prospect at the deadline? Not especially.
You have to give credit to the Rangers for at least trying to field a roster, though. Free agents aren't reserved for contenders only. In fact, all 30 teams should probably be trying to sign Bryce Harper - financial burden be damned, he's a 26-year-old superstar. But giving a fair-market, three-year deal to Lynn, who has struggled since his return from Tommy John surgery, doesn't seem like the best allocation of funds.
6. Dodgers ink Kelly
Whenever the Dodgers sign a reliever capable of carrying a high volume of innings, it commands league-wide attention. Los Angeles essentially operates with a 16- or 17-man pitching staff at times because of their depth, careful management of the disabled list, and ability to invest in many assets.
The 30-year-old Joe Kelly is coming off of a pretty great season that ended with an incredibly dominant stretch through the postseason, playing an integral part in Boston's championship run with a sterling 0.79 ERA over 11 1/3 innings in nine playoff appearances. The one thing the Dodgers probably needed to address was the bullpen, and adding Kelly on a three-year, $25-million contract is a good start. Don't be surprised if this is only the beginning of a busy offseason for L.A., though.
5. Mets bring back Familia
With Brodie Van Wagenen still in the early days of his tenure at the helm of the Mets, the former agent has certainly made a name for himself. After adding Jeurys Familia on a three-year, $30-million deal, there's a case for appointing the Mets as the best team in the NL East.
It might seem premature, and New York will have to play the full season to see if any of this works out, but on paper, the Mets are at the very least trending in the right direction. Interestingly, over the past four seasons, Familia ranks 11th in WAR among relievers, ahead of Wade Davis, Cody Allen, and Brad Hand to name a few, according to FanGraphs. With Craig Kimbrel chasing $100 million or more, less than a third of that on Familia is good business.
4. Yanks re-sign Happ
The winter headlines out of New York, at least with respect to free agents, have largely been about the Yankees' trepidation to commit long deals to top assets. The club was willing to go to five years for Patrick Corbin, but not six. They were open to offering Nathan Eovaldi a three-year deal, but not four.
The Yankees never really needed either of those arms anyway and self restraint has proven to be a strength. By agreeing to a two-year, $34-million deal with left-hander J.A. Happ, they put the finishing touches on a rotation that already features Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and recent trade acquisition James Paxton. Now, the club can focus on what to do at shortstop, with Didi Gregorius shelved for much of the upcoming campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
3. Morton gets paid by Rays
The Rays are notorious for never signing free agents; the surplus value is just not there. However, when you can get a pitcher as good as Charlie Morton for as cheap as two years, $30 million, not even famously cheap Tampa Bay can help themselves.
Tampa is coming off of a 90-win season and plays in the gauntlet AL East which is in the midst of a rivalry renaissance between the Red Sox and Yankees. However, instead of rolling over and admitting they are a longshot, the Rays are doing the unthinkable: spending. At 35, Morton is not young, but since joining the Houston Astros two seasons ago, he owns an impeccable 3.36 ERA and 3.53 FIP over 313 2/3 innings. He's not a horse, but he's a virtual lock to give you 150 very strong innings, which is kind of what Tampa asks of everyone in their rotation.
2. McCutchen returns to Pennsylvania (but the other team)
With the winter meetings in Harper's hometown of Las Vegas, one would be forgiven for thinking the superstar outfielder would hold a presser in his new uniform, with the Phillies seemingly his most likely suitors.
Freeing up a spot in the outfield by shipping Carlos Santana away and penciling Rhys Hoskins to take over at first base, the Phils now have money to spend on outfield vacancies. Instead of Harper, though, the consolation prize was 2013 NL MVP and five-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen. The power likely isn't there anymore - he authored a .421 OBP down the stretch in 2018 as the Yankees' leadoff hitter - but Cutch is unquestionably the biggest name to land a deal at the winter meetings. And, at $50 million over three years, it's a great deal for both sides.
1. Mariners, Indians, Rays broker blockbuster
Leave it to Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto to get a blockbuster done in the 11th hour of the winter meetings, this time pulling it off from an actual hospital bed.
This deal is confusing, so let's break it down with what each team received:
|Edwin Encarnacion (from CLE)||Carlos Santana (from SEA)||Yandy Diaz (from CLE)|
|$5M (from TB)||Jake Bauers (from TB)||Cole Sulser (from CLE)|
|$6M (from SEA)|
Cleveland gets back the first baseman they let walk in free agency last winter, plus Bauers, who made his debut last season after being a highly-touted prospect. That seems to be the big takeaway.
Meanwhile, the Rays spent money (again) and some prospect capital to get Diaz - a 27-year-old who just started figuring it out at the big-league level last year over 39 games.
And, finally, Seattle got Encarnacion, a 35-year-old DH who is due $20 million in 2019 and has a $25-million team option for 2020 with a $5-million buyout. The Mariners are already shopping him, though, because, of course they are.