The fun part of the Hot Stove Season is sifting through the various rumors that tend to float around during this time of year. Some of the rumors have some merit and are based on realistic possibilities but most of them seem to be completely frivolous nonsense. Thus, some folks have taken to calling this time of year the silly season. The truth is that very little tends to get done in the trade market prior to the Winter Meetings, which this year are scheduled to begin on December 7 in San Diego, California. It is there that we may begin to see a few trades made, but the more common happenstance is that the groundwork for trades is laid during the meetings with the real McCoy beginning in earnest in the days after the meetings end.
So, with the Winter Meetings right around the corner, I thought this might be a good time to sift through some of the more realistic sounding rumors to see if we can come up with a few things that might actually happen. A great place to begin is with the one team that has actually already made a major deal or two, the Boston Red Sox.
The Quest for Arms
The general consensus among most MLB analysts is that the Red Sox will be very active in their pursuit of pitching. I agree with this line of thinking, especially in light of their recent major signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, which solved two major problems that the team needed to address this winter. They needed to find a third baseman since it became clear that Wil Middlebrooks was not going to be the long-term answer at the hot corner after his dreadful 2014 season. The second need was for another impact bat in the lineup to pair up with David Ortiz. The signing of Hanley Ramirez gives the Sox another middle of the order hitter with power, who could also replace Big Papi as the designated hitter for the team whenever the latter finally hangs it up.
However, since Ramirez won’t be playing shortstop and Sandoval has third base locked up, it appears that left field will be the position where the new Red Sox signee will play. That creates a bit of a logjam in the Red Sox outfield, as they now have Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Craig, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and Daniel Nava along with Ramirez for, at most, five roster spots. If Ramirez plays left field and some combination of Castillo and Betts will cover centerfield, then that leaves two spots for Cepedes, Victorino, Craig, Bradley Jr. and Nava. Three of those five players and Middlebrooks are the trade chips the Red Sox will use to pursue starting pitching at the Winter Meetings.
The Sox are among the many teams negotiating with Jon Lester for what will likely be a five- or six-year contract at roughly $20-25M per year. They appear to be the front runners to get Lester but the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are all in play and you can never count the New York Yankees out on any high profile free agent. In addition to Lester, the Red Sox are thought to be in pursuit of Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies. There is no question that the Red Sox have the chips to get a deal done for Hamels. The only problem may be that the Phillies may be asking for a bit too much in return. There are a number of prospects in the Red Sox farm system that the Phillies covet, but with all the seasoned players they have to use as chips, they may not be willing to trade away those younger players for Hamels. Besides Hamels, the Red Sox are also thought to be interested in Jeff Samardzija, Jordan Zimmermann and Rick Porcello. A deal for any of those pitchers could happen any time after the Winter Meetings get underway.
On The Market
Brandon Moss could be on the move to the Cleveland Indians according to John Hickey of the Oakland Tribune. The A’s have Cleveland second base prospect Joe Wendle in their sights along with another middle infielder (either Jose Ramirez or Erik Gonzalez). Moss had a down year for Oakland in 2014, but he had offseason hip surgery to correct the problem behind the troubles with his swing mechanics. Moss could play in the outfield for Cleveland so that Nick Swisher can become a full-time DH. Moss is a candidate to rebound at the plate if his hip problems are now behind him. A move to Cleveland would put him in a much more hitter-friendly division and home park.
Matt Kemp’s name keeps popping up in trade rumors, most recently with the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers would likely want catcher Yasmani Grandal to be part of any deal for Kemp, and the Dodgers would almost certainly have to eat some of his considerable salary. The Rangers, Mariners and Orioles have also been among the teams connected to talks for Kemp. Fantasy-wise, Baltimore and Texas would obviously be better destinations for the right-handed hitting outfielder, who started to hit more like the Kemp of old in the waning months of 2014. Robinson Cano’s limited HR production highlighted the problems associated with power hitting in Seattle’s cavernous stadium.
Off The Market
The Yankees’ signing of left-handed reliever Andrew Miller sets up their bullpen to be a source of all kinds of strikeout goodness next season. Miller signed a four-year, $36M deal with the Yankees, an exceptionally large contract for a relief pitcher in terms of both dollars and length. Miller, who will turn 30 in May 2015, had a breakout season pitching out of the bullpen for the Red Sox and Orioles, where he was traded before the deadline last season. He set an AL record for strikeouts per nine innings with 14.87 K/9 IP in 2014, which was second only to Aroldis Chapman (17.76 K/9 IP) in MLB. Couple Miller with Dellin Betances 13.50 K/9 IP and suddenly the Yankees have a solid one-two punchout team at the back end of their bullpen.
What remains to be seen is whether the Yankees will re-sign David Robinson, who saved 39 games in 2014, more than filling the shoes vacated by the retirement of Mariano Rivera. GM Brian Cashman has been mum on the subject of Robertson, who was last thought to be on the radar of the Houston Astros of all teams. Of course, either Miller or Betances, or some combination of the two could be used in the closer role, but even if neither ends up closing games, their value in Fantasy will be primarily for their strikeouts and typically low ratio stats.