Wednesday is typically the last full day of action at baseball’s Winter Meetings. Some team executives will stick around for the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning and it wouldn’t be unprecedented for a big deal to trickle out, but for the most part our player news page begins to grow much quieter toward the end of the night on Day Three.
This was a slower-moving Winter Meetings than we’re accustomed to. There are a number of reasons for that -- the still-developing J.D. Martinez market holding things up for position players, the uncertain Yu Darvish sweepstakes causing a stall among available starting pitchers, and the prevalence of digital technology that renders a week full of in-person meet-and-greets somewhat superfluous for MLB teams. But let’s wrap up the moves and rumors that did come trickling out of the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando on Wednesday …
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Cardinals Get Their Big Bat
The biggest transaction of the entire Winter Meetings went down on Wednesday afternoon. We like to credit the beat writers and national reporters who put in long days throughout the week, so here’s a nod to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, who had this full breakdown first …
Cardinals get …
Marlins get …
RHP Sandy Alcantara
RHP Zac Gallen
LHP Daniel Castano
St. Louis was considered a frontrunner at one point for Giancarlo Stanton, but the 2017 National League MVP used his no-trade clause to decline a move to the Cardinals (and to the Giants) last week before officially landing with the Yankees on Saturday. Ozuna doesn’t carry the cachet of Stanton and isn’t nearly as proven, but the 27-year-old ranked among the top hitters in the sport this past season with his breakout .312 batting average, .924 OPS, 37 home runs, and 124 RBI in 613 at-bats covering 159 games. He’s a massive upgrade to a Cardinals lineup that got a .246/.338/.425 batting line from the No. 3 spot and a .270/.350/.444 batting line from the No. 4 spot in 2017. Ozuna will be under the Cardinals’ control through 2019, with his salaries to be determined via the arbitration process.
Ozuna might be in for some offensive regression in 2018 -- his wOBA out-performed his expected wOBA by a considerable margin in 2017, and an inflated BABIP suggests he was the benefit of quite a bit of good luck -- but Busch Stadium plays a little friendlier to hitters than Marlins Park and there are a number of high-OBP guys at the top of the Cardinals’ lineup. RBI opportunities will be there for him with great frequency and another 30-plus-homer season seems very achievable considering the natural strides he’s made as a hitter. Overall, his fantasy outlook is extremely promising in St. Louis.
To clear a spot for Ozuna, the Cardinals moved right fielder Stephen Piscotty to the Athletics for two prospects. Piscotty put up a promising .815 OPS with 29 home runs and 124 RBI over his first 216 major league games between 2015-2016 before injuries and family issues (his mother was diagnosed with ALS in May) threw him off track this past season. He’s a Bay Area native and Stanford graduate, and now he gets to head home to be closer to his family.
As for the Marlins’ return in the Ozuna trade: Alcantara throws high-octane heat but is still raw and has to improve his control. Sierra is speedy and toolsy but needs to make many more strides as a hitter before he can be trusted in an everyday MLB role. Gallen has risen fast since being selected in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of the University of North Carolina but didn’t miss many bats this past summer in the Cardinals’ minor league system. Castano, a 19th-round pick in 2016, is more of a throw-in. This is a quantity-not-quality package for the rebuilding Fish and we wouldn’t expect any of the names here to make a meaningful impact in 2018.
Kinsler Heads To The Halos
Angels get …
2B Ian Kinsler
Tigers get …
RHP Wilkel Hernandez
There’s not much to talk about in regard to the Tigers’ return package. Montgomery ranked No. 20 and Wilkel Hernandez ranked No. 24 in the Angels’ minor league system, per MLB.com Pipeline, and that minor league system was already regarded as one of the worst in the sport. Detroit never had a prayer of getting top prospects for a veteran second baseman who turns 36 years old in June and is due an $11 million salary for the 2018 season.
But there’s actually quite a bit to like here for the Halos. Kinsler is still a really good defender at second base, even in the twilight of his career, and the Angels’ up-the-middle defensive group now ranks as one of the best -- if not the very best -- in the major leagues. Kinsler at second base, Andrelton Simmons at shortstop, Mike Trout in center field, and Martin Maldonado at catcher. The only one of those players who hasn’t won a Gold Glove is Trout, the future GOAT.
Also consider that Angels second basemen combined for a .206 batting average and .601 OPS (60 OPS+) in 2017. Kinsler is a shell of his former self offensively, but he managed a good-by-relativity .725 OPS (90 OPS+) with 22 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 139 games this past season with Detroit. We wouldn’t expect consistent fantasy-relevant production from him in 2018, but in real-life baseball terms this looks like a significant upgrade for Anaheim.
Relief Market Keeps Rolling
There hasn’t been much in the way of tangible movement among free agent position players or free agent starting pitchers up to this point in the offseason -- as previously noted at the top of this column -- but the hot stove for free agent relievers remains scorching hot.
A quick roundup of the deals that were consummated on Wednesday …
Rockies re-signed left-hander Jake McGee to a three-year contract with a fourth-year option for 2021. The deal is pending a physical but is expected to carry around $27 million guaranteed.
Mariners signed right-hander Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract believed to be worth $17 million.
Mets inked right-hander Anthony Swarzak to a two-year contract with a $14 million guarantee.
Astros signed right-hander Joe Smith to a two-year deal. No word yet on the financials.
Nationals re-upped with Brandon Kintzler on a two-year pact, money undisclosed.
All of these relievers will likely work in setup roles in 2018. McGee behind Bryan Shaw and potentially Greg Holland, who is said to be close to returning to Colorado. Nicasio behind young stud Edwin Diaz in Seattle. Swarzak behind Jeurys Familia in Queens. Smith behind Ken Giles in Houston. Kintzler behind Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in the nation's capital.
Two previously-reported relief contracts were also made official on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings, upon completion of the pre-signing physical process. Pat Neshek is locked into a new two-year, $16.25 million deal with the Phillies and the Cardinals have finalized their two-year, $11 million agreement with Luke Gregerson. These too are setup-minded moves.
Winter Meetings Quick Hits: According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the White Sox "emerged Wednesday as the most aggressive suitor" for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado … Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Nationals aren't sure they can afford to sign Jake Arrieta … Bryce Harper's agent Scott Boras told the media Wednesday at the Winter Meetings that he had "preliminary discussions" about an extension for his client last month with the Nationals … According to Bruce Levine of CBS Sports Chicago, the Cubs have spoken to the Indians about potentially acquiring Danny Salazar … Todd Frazier is drawing free agent interest from as many as 10 teams, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Giants, and Mets … Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have spoken to the Diamondbacks about starter Patrick Corbin and infielder Brandon Drury … Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Phillies have shown interest in acquiring Zack Greinke … Carlos Gonzalez is drawing free agent interest from the Blue Jays, Astros, Athletics, Orioles, and Phillies, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports … Nationals GM Mike Rizzo confirmed Wednesday that he recently met with agent Scott Boras to discuss a possible extension for Anthony Rendon … Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Padres are engaged in trade talks with Yangervis Solarte as well as Chase Headley … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Giants are "staying in contact" with free agent outfielder Jay Bruce … Twins signed rehabbing right-hander Michael Pineda to a two-year, $10 million contract … Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Blue Jays are showing interest in free agent outfielder Carlos Gomez … Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Royals have expressed interest in free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds … Tyler Glasnow could open the 2018 season in the Pirates' bullpen … Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the asking price of Raisel Iglesias has caused teams to "give up" on acquiring him this offseason … Nationals GM Mike Rizzo reiterated Wednesday at the Winter Meetings that Daniel Murphy (knee) is expected to be ready for Opening Day … Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports that free agent catcher Alex Avila has come up in the Nationals' discussions … Eduardo Nunez is drawing free agent interest from the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and "possibly Yankees," per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports … According to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, free agent reliever JJ Hoover has multiple offers on the table … Mariners acquired reliever Shawn Armstrong from the Indians for international slot money … According to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle, the Astros have discussed re-signing Francisco Liriano … Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports that the Twins are in on free agent reliever Steve Cishek … Diamondbacks signed outfielder Cesar Puello to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Mariners acquired left-hander Anthony Misiewicz from the Rays for international slot money … Cardinals signed catcher Francisco Pena to a minor league contract … Marlins released rehabbing right-hander Edinson Volquez … Neil Wagner has signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Seibu Lions in Japan … Felix Doubront has agreed to terms on a deal with the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization.