Skip to content

Winter meetings takeaways: Kelenic deal, Glasnow's market, waiting on Ohtani

Getty Images

Major League Baseball's winter meetings are underway in Nashville. We'll break down the biggest moves and rumors each day and reflect on what it all means.

Abbie Parr / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Braves roll dice on Kelenic, Mariners plotting something? 🤔

The Seattle Mariners have to be preparing for something big, right? The club opened the offseason by trading away Eugenio Suárez (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Jarred Kelenic (Atlanta Braves) in separate deals, allowing the franchise to cut considerable salary. The Mariners currently have $115 million committed to payroll next season, down $25 million from 2023. General manager Jerry Dipoto already said payroll is expected to go up in 2024, so there's room to work, and Dipoto is always looking for his next deal.

Suárez, who is owed $11 million in 2024 with a $15-million club option for 2025, is coming off a down year in which he posted 22 homers and a .714 OPS while striking out a career-high 214 times. Kelenic, the No. 4 prospect in MLB in 2021, was packaged with Marco Gonzales (owed $12.25 million in 2024 with a $15-million team option in 2025) and Evan White (owed $15 million over the next two seasons before a trio of team options) to Atlanta in a deal Sunday. The Braves are reportedly already looking to flip Gonzales, and White hasn't played in the majors in two years. Atlanta essentially bought Kelenic from the Mariners by taking on those contracts.

Seattle's lineup takes a hit with the departures, but Dipoto said the payroll savings will be allocated elsewhere. There's a lot of work to be done and there's serious pressure on the club to make some impact moves after missing the playoffs last season, and Dipoto's 54% comment.

Looking at the profiles of the players moved out of Seattle, it seems like the team is preparing to shift to a different offensive philosophy. Suárez and Teoscar Hernández, who departed via free agency and was not extended a qualifying offer, struck out a combined 425 times last season. Kelenic struck out in 31.7% of his at-bats last season - the 11th-worst mark in MLB (minimum 400 PAs). The Mariners' offense underachieved last season, finishing 20th in runs, and strikeouts were a huge part of the reason. The team had the second-most strikeouts in the majors.

There hasn't been any firm reports linking the Mariners to Shohei Ohtani, but Juan Soto would be an excellent fit in the middle of the order - of course he'd fit almost everywhere. Seattle has the pitching that the San Diego Padres are looking for, but it would be a risk for the Mariners to part with pieces for a one-year rental, as this roster does not look like one built to compete for a World Series in 2024. Other areas where the Mariners could pivot involve free agents Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger. Washington native Blake Snell reportedly has interest in signing with Seattle, too, which could lead to another pitcher being moved out.

It's understandable why the Braves are willing to roll the dice on Kelenic. He's a former top prospect and posted a .982 OPS in the first 26 games of 2023 before things started to fall off. Kelenic, who is entering his age-24 season and is still pre-arb, hits the ball hard, runs well, and has a great arm. Atlanta can deploy him in a platoon role in left field, while protecting him by hitting him lower in the lineup. He doesn't have to carry the load with the Braves, and he won't have the pressure that he felt in Seattle after being the central piece of the Edwin Díaz-Robinson Canó trade.

After a disappointing playoff performance, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been ultra aggressive this winter. Atlanta's already signed relievers Reynaldo López, Joe Jiménez, and Pierce Johnson for $70 million, and acquired Aaron Bummer. With so many star players locked up long-term to team-friendly contracts, Anthopoulos has been able to be aggressive in rebuilding his bullpen, while also having the financial weight to take on bad salaries to buy a high-ceiling player like Kelenic.

Ohtani's deal will take time ⏳

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

The baseball world awaits a decision from Shohei Ohtani, but it's going to take some time to hammer out what's expected to be the richest contract in North American sports history.

While an Ohtani deal could happen at any moment, Jon Heyman reported his impression is that a signing will not come during the winter meetings, and that teams in on Ohtani expect to meet with him later in the week.

Any organization that hands out a deal that is expected to exceed $500 million will need to get creative with building the contract. Teams will need language that protects them should Ohtani no longer be a two-way player during the life of his deal. His contract is expected to be very convoluted, containing options and incentives. Ohtani is going to need to be happy with the language, too. He will need to make sure he is maximizing his earning potential, while also ensuring that he remains on the program that affords him the most personal and team success. The Los Angeles Angels did not have much team success with Ohtani, but they did create a plan that allowed him to excel as a two-way player, and they deserve credit for that.

Ohtani's free agency has been very private, and that's by design. His camp does not want any leaks. It's believed the Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorite, with the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays also having interest. But being the favorite doesn't mean anything until a deal is signed. No one outside of Ohtani knows how this is going to end. It was reported Monday that the Atlanta Braves are maintaining interest, too. There's arguably no team better set up to win long-term like the Braves, and Anthopoulos has shown in the past that he's able to pull off a surprise deal. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins was cryptic with his location Monday as he had to conduct his media availability over Zoom due to a "scheduling conflict."

Or who knows, maybe Ohtani runs it back with the Angels.

It feels like the offseason won't truly get underway until Ohtani makes his decision.

Glasnow's market heating up 🔥

Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images Sport / Getty

There are few pitchers available on the trade market as tantalizing as Tyler Glasnow. The right-hander is a legitimate ace and is understandably generating a lot of interest. Jon Heyman reported there are four-to-five "serious suitors," with some of those teams already extending offers.

Much like Juan Soto, Glasnow is set to hit free agency after next season, and his $25-million salary is a lot to absorb for teams while also parting with a package of players in any trade. Even with all of Tampa Bay's pitching injuries, it's almost a guarantee the franchise will move on from Glasnow this winter in order to reallocate payroll elsewhere, as he's set to earn more than the team's second- and third-highest-paid players combined.

Glasnow, 30, bounced back well from Tommy John surgery last season, and his 3.53 ERA was a little inflated due to some bad luck. His 2.91 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, and 162 strikeouts over 120 innings showed just how dominant he can be. The risk for any team taking on Glasnow is durability. His 21 starts and 120 innings in 2023 were a career high, but he missed two months with an oblique strain. He's only thrown more than 100 innings twice in his eight seasons. Any team that adds Glasnow will have to consider a long-term extension, though it's tough to pin down his value given his injury history.

Mookie's move to 2B opens OF options for L.A.

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Mookie Betts will be at second base full time in 2024. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Monday that "it's pretty safe to say" Betts will be the team's everyday second baseman after playing a career-high 70 games at the position last season.

Betts came up as a second baseman in the minors with the Boston Red Sox but was displaced because of Dustin Pedroia. He's a six-time Gold Glove winner in right field, but his ability to move to the infield was a major reason why the Dodgers' roster was able to be so flexible in 2023. While he isn't the same defender at second base as he is in the corner outfield, he's still a solid option. He ranked seventh among MLB second basemen with six defensive runs saved last season, per FanGraphs. Roberts also believes a move to the infield will keep Betts healthier.

Los Angeles already agreed to a one-year deal to bring back Jason Heyward, and he projects to pair with James Outman and Chris Taylor depending on the pitching matchup. Betts' move to the infield opens the door for the team to add a corner outfielder, as the infield free-agent market is slim on options, especially at second base. It's unlikely the team reunites with Cody Bellinger, but right-handed free-agent power bats like Adam Duvall, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernández, or Jorge Soler could all be options. Of course, the Dodgers aren't likely to add a position player of substance until they find out where Shohei Ohtani is signing.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox