MLB’s winter meetings begin Monday in Nashville, and it figures be an action-packed week of rumors, signings and trades.
We’ve got it all covered for you right here, from our experts’ predictions heading into the meetings to the latest updates and analysis as the moves go down.
Will No. 1 free agent Shohei Ohtani choose his next team at the meetings? Will we see a blockbuster trade involving Juan Soto or Pete Alonso? And will big spenders such as the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs open their wallets in Nashville? Check out our predictions now and refresh often for the latest as the week unfolds.
Dec. 4 buzz
Will Juan Soto be on the move during the winter meetings?
Because the San Diego Padres face a payroll crunch, they are expected to trade Juan Soto, who is in line to make something in the neighborhood of $33 million for the 2024 season. But Padres GM A.J. Preller doesn’t have to trade him this week — and some rival executives said Saturday that there might be a long wait before a Soto deal is concluded.
Rival executives say that the Padres’ current asking prices for Soto are very high, with San Diego looking for major-league ready pitching, plus others. With a generational talent like Soto, Preller could just wait to see if some team in the market — maybe a team that loses out in the Shohei Ohtani bidding — steps up. “I think this has all the makings of a late January or early February deal,” said one front office type whose team is not involved.
If so, this would not be the first time a superstar moved very late in the winter. Francisco Lindor, Johan Santana, Roger Clemens and Mookie Betts are among the elite talents who didn’t change teams until well after Christmas. Rival executives say that while there are many teams who would love to take Soto in a pure salary dump, there is likely very few teams willing to embrace the current circumstances: Surrendering young big leaguers or high-end prospects for an expensive rental who is expected to test free agency next fall. The Boston Red Sox dangled Mookie Betts under similar conditions prior to the 2019 season, and there were only two serious suitors — which is why, in the end, the Los Angeles Dodgers were rewarded for their patience and got him for Alex Verdugo and a couple of others, while taking on David Price and $48 million owed to the left-hander. When Lindor was traded, the Guardians didn’t have a lot of potential bidders. When Santana was dealt, Minnesota was forced to make a trade with the Mets, the one team willing to give him a contract extension.
The New York Yankees have serious interest in Soto, with some young pitching to offer, and some rival executives believe that the Giants are a team to watch because they, too, have depth in starting pitching. The Padres, currently intent on contending in 2024, have to fill three-fifths of their rotation. The Blue Jays, staring at a two-year window before Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reach free agency, have the need for a hitter — which is why they’ve been in on Ohtani — but lack pitching depth. If the Dodgers miss on Ohtani, they might have the pitching depth to make a deal for Soto, but there would be a question about whether San Diego would deal a future Hall of Famer to their most significant rival in the NL West. — Buster Olney
Giolito’s market begins to take shape
Lucas Giolito emerged as a star in his time with the Chicago White Sox, drawing votes for the Cy Young Award in three different seasons — and that goes a long way to explaining the initial interest expressed by the White Sox in possibly bringing him back as a free agent this winter. Ethan Katz, Giolito’s high school pitching coach, continues to work with the White Sox, and Chicago has upgraded its pitching department with the addition of respected analyst Brian Bannister, who formerly worked with the Red Sox and Giants.
But a reunion of Giolito and the White Sox is probably unlikely, given this winter’s circumstances. Although Giolito struggled after being traded to the Angels and then picked up on waivers by the Guardians, he should get strong offers in this market — some executives compared him to the likes of Jameson Taillon (who got $68 million over four years from the Cubs), and as the White Sox begin to rebuild, the price of a big contract and the timing might not be a fit.
Depending on how the market plays out, there might be a better fit with another of Katz’s former pupils — former Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, the right-hander who might need to take a short-term deal to re-establish his value and then hit the market again next fall. For the White Sox, the investment could be worthwhile because if Flaherty rebounds to what he was early in his career in St. Louis, he could be an interesting trade chip in the midst of the ’24 season or a candidate for an extension. — Buster Olney
Will Ohtani sign in Nashville — and where will he land?
Gonzalez: Ohtani signing during the winter meetings would definitely be MLB’s preference, and at this point, that would be my guess too. Many have long speculated that Ohtani’s free agency would play out relatively quickly, and I don’t expect him to wait until Yoshinobu Yamamoto comes off the board to pick his new team. By next week, he might have a pretty good grasp of what he wants, as (at times) the winter meetings have a tendency of spurring action. At this point, I’d pick the Toronto Blue Jays to sign him, but it’s tough to rule out the Dodgers or the Los Angeles Angels.
Olney: Some executives tracking the Ohtani negotiations believe he could pick his team sometime over the weekend, or very early in the winter meetings. During the season, a friend of Ohtani said he believed the two-way star knew long ago where he wanted to land, but because this negotiation is expected to generate the biggest contract in baseball history, his representation needs a little dog-and-pony show to goose the bidding just a little more. Executives will tell you frankly they know almost nothing about what he really wants, outside of this: Based on his initial choice of the Angels, he seems to want to play in warmer weather, which is why I still believe he’ll land with the Dodgers.
Rogers: By Thursday, Ohtani will have chosen the Dodgers. They check too many boxes — unless there’s simply an underlying reason that no one knows about that would prevent him from signing there. If the agent (and team) has any say in any of this, it should be in the timing of an announcement. And what better place to make it than where the baseball world has gathered? There are plenty of breadcrumbs telling us Ohtani doesn’t exactly love the spotlight, but for this signing, he’ll have to bask in it.
Doolittle: This is just a guess, but Ohtani will sign with the Dodgers on Tuesday following a spate of rumors that have him signing with various teams, though at first it’s unclear whether it’s in the States or back in Japan. Then it turns out that he never spoke to any of those teams and he has been dreaming of Dodger Blue all along. A dream and $600 million is all it took.
Schoenfield: Well, no doubt a lot of agents, players and front offices would love for Ohtani to sign in Nashville. Once he’s off the board, the teams that went after him and failed will then turn their attention to their next options, which could lead to some escalating offers for the likes of Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and Cody Bellinger. So for the sake of moving this winter along, let’s hope it happens and there’s a big news conference — even if we know Ohtani isn’t one for the spotlight. And who will host that news conference? I’ll stick with the Dodgers.
Ohtani aside, who will be the biggest name to sign (or get traded) in Nashville?
Gonzalez: Juan Soto. The expectation from rival executives heading into the offseason was that the San Diego Padres would eventually trade him, and some have gotten the sense lately that it could happen relatively soon. If it doesn’t happen over the weekend, it could next week. At the very least, Soto trade talk will continue to dominate the conversation.
Olney: Soto. He’s a future Hall of Famer and expensive, and despite what the Padres and agent Scott Boras have presented publicly, there is an industry-wide expectation that financial pressures will compel San Diego to deal him. Interestingly, rival executives report that the Padres are looking for inexpensive major league or major league-ready players in return, to bolster San Diego’s effort to contend in 2024. With the passing of owner Peter Seidler, who was a great advocate for A.J. Preller, the Padres’ GM may be in a prove-it type season next year with his new bosses and the need to win.
Rogers: Knowing that Preller works a bit mysteriously, I’ll take the field over Soto. OK, that’s a bit broad. I’ll go with Dylan Cease and/or Tyler Glasnow. Both are as good as gone. Once the Atlanta Braves add that one more prospect to upgrade their existing offer, Cease — a Georgia native — will go home to pitch.
Doolittle: Most everybody else seems to be going with Soto, and that makes a lot of sense to me. But just to be contrarian, I’ll say Josh Hader and that he’ll sign with the Texas Rangers. Then we can start planning for that Hader/Travis Jankowski mullet contest, assuming the Rangers don’t let the outfielder get away. It’ll be the biggest draw of the year at Globe Life Field.
Schoenfield: I’ll go with Soto as well. The Padres have so many moving parts this offseason — they have to replace Snell, Hader, Nick Martinez (who signed with the Cincinnati Reds this week) and Seth Lugo, four pitchers who combined for 67 starts, 30 wins and 34 saves — that making a decision on Soto is necessary just to help them figure out the rest of their moves.
What is the one rumor that will dominate the week?
Gonzalez: It’s all going to be about high-impact starting pitching, from Yamamoto to reigning AL Cy Young winner Snell to some of the big arms being dangled on the trade front (Cease, Glasnow, Corbin Burnes). Some of the richest teams still need starting pitching, and there is still plenty to choose from.
Olney: It might sound weird, but the Yamamoto negotiations have been underplayed to date. He is in as good a negotiating position as any free agent pitcher since Gerrit Cole, with the richest of the big-market teams all pursuing him aggressively. The Yankees, Dodgers and New York Mets, plus other clubs, are among them, and there seems to be a willingness among these teams to assume extra risk because of his talent and age. One team official involved in the Yamamoto discussions believes the pitcher’s negotiations won’t be resolved until after the winter meetings, but let’s face it — the direction of some of the biggest spenders won’t be fully determined until he picks a team, which is why the specter of Yamamoto will hover over Nashville even if he doesn’t sign.
Rogers: Ohtani, Ohtani, Ohtani. Until he signs, he’s the topic. Fan bases are waiting, marketing and sales departments are waiting, baseball ops departments are waiting. How can he not be the topic, both where will he go and for how much? Unless he signs on Day 1 of the winter meetings, it’s going to build all week. After that, the amount of trade rumors will be larger than normal, considering how many good players are likely to move. Free agency (outside of Ohtani) will have its moment, but not necessarily at the meetings. Trade talk will percolate while we wait on Shohei.
Doolittle: I can imagine all manner of Soto rumors. The thing is, as good as he is, it’s hard to truly construct a fair value trade that works for the Padres, assuming their aim is to convert him into multiple players who can deepen their MLB roster. We’re still talking about getting him for one season, and the teams that might want him to put themselves over the top will prefer to deal prospects instead of major leaguers. If the Padres don’t want prospects, then where do they turn? This scenario changes if San Diego is mainly motivated by a desire to clear payroll. This doesn’t seem like Preller’s way, especially since he kind of needs to win, and soon. Everyone wants to drop Soto onto the Yankees, but it seems way more complicated than that to me. Yes, moving Soto for prospects clears space for free agent adds, but that can get dicey if you’re talking about matching value for value for a team that wants to contend, especially given a light free agent class. I do think Soto will be traded, but it’s a really complicated proposition.
Schoenfield: All the front-line starting pitching available in trades. Then there are the potential ripple effects. If Burnes is traded, do the Milwaukee Brewers then make closer Devin Williams available? If the White Sox trade Cease, does that lead to a complete teardown … maybe even including Luis Robert, who, given his years of team control (four) and reasonable salary, has more trade value than Soto?