The MLB Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday 8 December, are a pre-Christmas treat for baseball fans.
It’s the annual event, being held in San Diego this year, where all MLB teams gather alongside agents and some players as they discuss potential trades and free agent signings alongside general housekeeping around rules and procedures.
There were no major deals announced during the event last year – the three-team trade between the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels involving Mark Trumbo, Adam Eaton, Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago was the main deal agreed – yet the week plays an important role in setting up deals to be completed in the week or two afterwards.
And, more than anything, hordes of reporters flock to the meetings and generate copious amount of rumours for us to devour.
Quite a few of the free agent hitters have already found new homes this offseason.
Deals completed so far include Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez signing for the Boston Red Sox, Russell Martin moving to the Toronto Blue Jays, Nelson Cruz joining the Seattle Mariners and Victor Martinez opting to stay with the Detroit Tiger.
In the past few days, two more names came off the free agent list with Nick Markakis agreeing a deal with the Atlanta Braves and Torii Hunter reuniting with the Minnesota Twins.
Consequently teams looking for position players – which is all of the teams – will be looking for potential trade partners and the free agent activity is going to focus more on the pitchers.
Jon Lester appears to be the most likely pitcher domino to fall first based on the growing rumours around alleged contracts being offered to him. Once Lester makes his decision, those that miss out may well move quickly to capture James Shields as a very capable substitute.
Max Scherzer will continue to play a waiting game unless a team throws a monumental contract offer onto the table this week, although his agent Scott Boras is sure to be a high-profile figure during the Winter Meetings.
AL East bearing its teeth
The New York Yankees broke their unusual silence this on Friday.
First they acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius as part of a three-team trade and then they signed relief pitcher Andrew Miller on a four-year contract worth $36m (just over £111k per week).
The moves are no surprise considering how competitive the AL East is likely to be in 2015.
The Boston Red Sox were woeful in 2014 and have wasted no time in improving their roster with Sandoval and Ramirez joining their lineup and plenty of rumours abounding about potential deals to come.
Meanwhile the Toronto Blue Jays have already added Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson to their lineup and, again, reports suggest they are far from finished when it comes to adding new players this offseason.
The Tampa Bay Rays are taking a more considered approach to a probably modest offseason trading period, although they made an important decision this week in appointing 36-year-old ex-catcher Kevin Cash to replace Joe Maddon as their new manager.
Which leaves us looking at the reigning division champions waiting for them to react. The Baltimore Orioles have lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis this week and, even with catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado returning from injuries, that means they have two notable holes to fill, at least, if they are to avoid being overtaken by their division rivals.
With the baseball games all dried up – including the MLB Japan All-Star series this year – and Christmas lists being compiled, early December is the main time of year that I spend considering additions to my baseball book library.
The Hardball Times annual is always on my list and I’ve been eagerly dipping into my 2015 copy over the last couple of days since it came through the post.
Even just from the opening three chapters reviewing the American League side of the 2014 season, I’ve learned more about the success the Cleveland Indians have had in recent years through player trades, how the Toronto Blue Jays really missed a trick in failing to improve their roster mid-season, and been reminded of some of the young players that made a mark in the American League such as the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier, the Angels’ Kole Calhoun and the Astros’ Collin McHugh.
Baseball historian John Thorn’s book ‘Baseball in the Garden of Eden’ has been waiting on my shelf to be read for a while so I’ll be looking to get to that one soon. ‘Baseball Explained’ by Phillip Mahony also looks like being a good contender as a key book for Brits new to the game based on my initial flick through.
I’ll put together some reviews once I’ve had a chance to enjoy reading them over the next few weeks. If you’ve got any other suggestions for books to catch up on, please pass them on.