2015 Winter Meetings Preview


The baseball world will descend on Nashville this weekend for the 2015 Winter Meetings. And, unlike the case in the past couple of years in which many signings and trades went down before the meetings, there is a LOT of hot stove business to attend to.

Exactly one of the top ten or so free agents have signed thus far: David Price. Still on the board and up for grabs: Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Chris Davis, Alex Gordon, Justin Upton, Johnny Cueto, Yoenis Cespedes, Ben Zobrist and Jeff Samardzija.

And there’s a whole second tier as well, all of whom could be big difference makers. That group includes Mike Leake, John Lackey, Ian Desmond, Howie Kendrick, Scott KazmirWei-Yin Chen, Daniel Murphy and many others. Oh, and then there’s the business of posting for Kenta Maeda, the plethora of relief pitchers, led by Darren O'Day, who tend to sign in bunches and, of course, trade possibilities we haven’t even considered.

It’s impossible to predict who will sign when — I still remember the Disney hotel bar clearing out at, like, 11pm, when Carl Crawford signed with the Sox during the 2010 Meetings — but it’s not unreasonable to assume that the starting pitching market will assume some serious clarity by this time next week. Price has, more or less, set the market, with Zack Greinke rumored to be close to deciding between the Dodgers and the Giants. After that, all of the starters should begin to fall in line.

The outfield situation is a bit more crowded and confused. One would assume that everyone is waiting for Heyward to sign, but Heyward’s youth and, well, strangeness, as a free agent may make him a special case. Strangeness in that so much of his value is defense and, unlike some of the others, it’s fair to think he has another offensive gear as well. That could make him harder to value to some front offices and harder for some owners to give the OK on what will likely have to be a big, big offer to land him. With him being a more complicated case it’s possible we’ll see the lesser/cheaper options come off the board first. Alex Gordon may not anchor your outfield for most of the next decade, but you likely won’t have to commit to him for that long either.

Outside of the transactions, we have the usual Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes. Some tweak to the circumstances of the game be they financial or otherwise. It’s a good time for the league to break the kind of news it wants to break in a controlled fashion. Finally, there is the matter of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote. Which, unlike in past years, will not result in an inductee press conference absent a seance.

So, absent a dozen signings or trades today, the stage is set for a busier-than-usual Winter Meetings. We’ll be on the scene in Nashville bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.

Orioles sign OF Aaron Hicks, put Cedric Mullins on 10-day IL with groin strain

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles signed outfielder Aaron Hicks less than 24 hours after Cedric Mullins went down with a strained right groin.

Mullins went on the 10-day injured list, but the Orioles are hoping Hicks can help defensively in the spacious outfield at Camden Yards. Hicks was released last week by the New York Yankees with more than 2 1/2 seasons left on his contract.

“We had noticed that he was a free agent even before the injury,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “When the injury occurred and it became pretty clear this was going to be an IL, it seemed like a good fit even more so at that time.”

The Orioles are responsible for paying Hicks just $483,871, a prorated share of the $720,000 minimum salary. The Yankees owe him the rest of his $10.5 million salary this year, plus $9.5 million in each of the next two seasons and a $1 million buyout of a 2026 team option.

The 33-year-old Hicks hit just .188 in 28 games for the Yankees this year.

“We have stuff that we look at from a scouting and evaluation perspective,” Elias said. “It’s very different from just looking at the back of a baseball card, and we hope that we get a bounceback from anyone we bring here.”

Hicks batted .216 last season.

“Hopefully that’s a good thing for him,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of the Baltimore deal. “A lot of time here and a lot of good things happened for him here. I know the last couple of years have been a struggle. But hopefully it’s a good opportunity for him and certainly wish him well. Not too well being in our division and a team we’re chasing, but hopefully it’s a really good fit for him.”

Mullins left a loss to Cleveland after he pulled up while running out an infield grounder. Outfielder Colton Cowser – the fifth pick in the draft two years ago – is hitting .331 at Triple-A Norfolk, but he went on the IL in the past couple weeks.

“Certainly he was building a case towards promotion consideration prior to his injury and prior to Cedric’s injury,” Elias said. “We’ll just see where we’re at.”

Hicks was active for the game but not in the starting lineup. Austin Hays, normally Baltimore’s left field, was in Mullins’ usual spot in center.

When the wall in left at Camden Yards was pushed significantly back before last season, it made left field a bigger challenge defensively.

“In this park … you really need two center fielders,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Aaron’s got a lot of center-field experience. Played left field here before also. Brings the defensive aspect and then the switch-hitting.”