The Baseball Winter Meetings are wild times for general managers. Both Chicago GMs made huge splashes while the Baltimore Orioles and the San Francisco Giants management let key players go and couldn’t sign any big fish to replace them.
Big free agent signings and blockbuster trades often occur during the annual weeklong conferences, and this year was no different. Stars like Matt Kemp, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzjia Jimmy Rollins, Melky Cabrera, each switched teams during the week.
Some questions about the 2015 season have been answered, but new ones popped up. Here are the definitive winners and losers from the Winter Meetings.
Chicago Cubs & Chicago White Sox
Both Chicago teams made bold moves during the Winter Meetings, vastly improving their teams. The Cubs announced they had signed top free agent pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year $155 million contract.
Lester, coming off his best season, pitching to a 16-11 record and 2.46 ERA with Boston and later Oakland, fits in nicely with the strong rotation of fellow veterans Jason Hamel and Jake Arrieta. The Cubs are full of good young hitters, and should mature under the tutelage of new manager Joe Maddon and from Lester’s postseason success. Lester has two World Series rings from his eight years with Boston.
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The White Sox surprised many when they landed Oakland Athletic’s pitcher and former Chicago Cub Jeff Samardjiza in a trade for prospects. On top of that stunning trade the South Siders signed former New York Yankees closer David Robertson to a four-year $46 million contract.
In his first season as closer, replacing the retiring great Mariano Rivera, Robertson tallied 39 saves, finished 55 games, and pitched to a 3.08 ERA. In addition, the Chi Sox added former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera to fill out a lineup already boasting strong bats like 2014 AL rookie of the year, Jose Abreu, outfielder Adam Eaton, and newly acquired veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche.
The White Sox appear poised to make noise in the American League Central thanks to the shrewd moves of GM Rick Hahn.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers shocked the baseball world by trading away outfielder Matt Kemp to a team in their own division, the San Diego Padres. Kemp has been a shell of his MVP caliber player the last three years. Kemp’s knees and shoulders have caused him to miss a lot of time and made him subject to trade talk at the end of the season.
The Dodgers and new President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman will foot somewhere between $25 million and $32 million of the $102 million that is left on Kemp’s eight-year $160 million contract.
The Phillies sent star veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers as well to play alongside newly acquired second baseman Howie Kendrick. Kendrick was traded by the LA Angels to the Dodgers in exchange for lefty pitching prospect Andrew Haney, who was acquired from the Miami Marlins for second baseman Dee Gordon.
The Kemp deal has yet to be made official as the Padres are looking over Kemp’s extensive medical history. If Kemp fails his physical then the trade for Rollins might be void as well. It has been rumored one of the players the Dodgers receive from the Padres for Kemp will be flipped to Philly in exchange for Rollins.
After advancing to the ALCS for the first time in over 15 years, the Orioles were swept by the Kansas City Royals. Since then the O’s have lost three of their biggest contributors to the 2014 season.
Slugger designated hitter Nelson Cruz signed a four year $57 million contract to hit cleanup and protect second baseman Robinson Cano in the Seattle Mariners’ lineup; outfielder Nick Markakis signed a four year $44 million deal with the Atlanta Braves (though Markakis did just undergo surgery on his neck), and standout lefty reliever Andrew Miller was signed by division rival New York Yankees to a four year $36 million contract.
So far the Orioles have not made any moves to replace them, though they are getting star third baseman Manny Machado back after missing the final two months due to a partially torn ligament in his knee.
Although they filled a position of need when they traded for Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, the Marlins gave up a lot to land him.
The Marlins traded away Andrew Haney the 18th best prospect in all of baseball and the best lefty-pitching prospect. After years of back and forth between the majors and the minors, Gordon put together his best season, playing in a career high of 148 games and stealing 64 bases, the highest in all of baseball.
But a .300 on-base percentage in the second half of the year is big cause for alarm for the Marlins.
San Francisco Giants
It is shocking to see the World Series champions wind up on the loser’s portion of the list. But after losing star third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the Boston Red Sox, the Giants whiffed on his potential replacement. Yankees third baseman Chase Headley decided to take less money to stay with the Bronx Bombers signing a four-year $52 million contract.
The Giants will need two starters to replace starters Jake Peavey and Ryan Volgelsong both of whom are free agents, and unlikely to return to San Francisco. So far GM Brian Sabean has yet to address the need. As of now the Giants and their current roster of players are not likely to repeat as World Series champs.