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Viva Las Vegas: 2018 Winter Meetings Preview

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Over the weekend the baseball world will descended on Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the 2018 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done. Let’s talk about what’ll go down in the desert in the next week.

Free Agents

The two biggest names on the market — Manny Machado and Las Vegas’ own Bryce Harper — have yet to find new homes, and they’ll certainly be the most talked-about players at the Winter Meetings. But there were, by my count, 151 other free agents out there when the offseason began and so far only 14 of them have signed. Some of them, like Patrick Corbin and Josh Donaldson, were major signings. Most of them were minor signings, though, and guys like Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, A.J. Pollock, J.A. Happ, Andrew McCutchen, Charlie Morton, Marwin Gonzalez and many, many more are still looking for employment.

In early November we ran down the top free agents, from highest-ranked to lowest, to help you get a jump on who is available.

Teams buying, teams selling

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to fill their needs. The Phillies are allegedly hunting for big game. The Yankees need some pitching. The Braves have to find a right fielder and are also in the hunt for a starter or two. If the Nationals don’t retain Bryce Harper, they will likely be looking for an outfield bat. The Mets claim that landing Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz were not the end of their offseason moves and that they’re in win-now mode. The Dodgers may have been handed the NL West with the Diamondbacks’ rebuild, but they need some more talent if they are to be more than N.L. pennant-winners. The Cubs and Brewers have the Cardinals breathing down their neck thanks to their just landing a big fish in Paul Goldschmidt. The Rays believe they are contending but will need some offense, one suspects, if they are to truly do so. There are any number of teams — maybe too many — embarking on or continuing rebuilds, so any number of big name players are likely on the trading block. Even contenders like the Indians are said to be dangling big names, with Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer apparently available. There is a lot of potential wheeling and dealing to be done.

Managers on Parade

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors, so we can only talk about those once they happen. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. Or, well, 29, given that the Orioles don’t currently have a manager. They may want to get on that, by the way. Aside from them, there are five new men at the helm of their teams: David Bell with the Reds, Chris Woodward with the Rangers, Charlie Montoyo with the Blue Jays, Brad Ausmus with the Angels, and Rocco Baldelli with the Twins. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and I’ll let you know if they say anything fun. And, of course, I’ll be rolling out my annual Most Handsome Managers rankings, which have shockingly become a Winter Meetings institution.

Hall of Fame Vote

The Today’s Game Committee — formerly known as the Veterans Committee — will meet on Sunday to vote in, or not vote in, new inductees for the Hall of Fame. For the past week or so I’ve been profiling the candidates. Here are those profiles:

My guess is that if anyone gets in it’ll be Piniella, and I can squint and see Lee Smith getting in given how long he stayed on the BBWAA ballot, but you never know with this bunch. They’ve voted in absolutely no one on several occasions in recent years. Be sure to check in on Monday when we find out.

The Boring Business of Baseball 

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. As I discussed in this story about the changing nature of the Winter Meetings, 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 like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. There is no single rule change that everyone is talking about at the moment, but a pitch clock has been rumored to be in the offing for a few years now. Sometimes we’re completely surprised with that kind of stuff.

The Rule 5 Draft

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected, but by next summer you may very well know some of them who are either picked or who were made available this week. Max Muncy could’ve been had by anyone last year, went un-picked and all he did was hit 35 homers for the National League Champions. Given that even the combined minds of 29 front offices didn’t think he was worth a roster spot last year, you’ll be forgiven for not having any idea about the guys in this year’s Rule 5. But, if you want to at least attempt to be prepared for it, here’s a good place to start.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at Mandalay Bay — and maybe a few other places around Sin City — 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.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 3, Rays 0: This was a big game for the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka came up big, shutting out the Rays on two hits while striking out ten in a complete game performance. D.J. LeMahieu hit a two-run homer and Cameron Maybin had a solo shot. With the win the Yankees up their lead in the AL East to a game and a half.

Angels 10, Blue Jays 5: The Halos put up a seven spot in the second thanks to homers from solo homers from Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun, a three-run homer from Shohei Ohtani and a two-run double from Mike Trout. Trout would add a solo shot of his own in the sixth and got four hits on the day. Cavan Biggio went deep twice for the Jays but one man can’t do it alone. Well, he wasn’t totally alone as Randal Grichuk hit a two-run shot but two men can’t do it alone either, especially when their friends on the pitching staff took the day off.

Reds 3, Astros 2: Luis Castillo allowed two over six — he actually worked into the seventh, allowing only two hits, but walking six — and he was backed by RBI singles from Nick Senzel and Eugenio Suárez. This one featured a nearly one-hour rain delay that gave us this vision of rainbow and lightning:

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Braves 12, Mets 3: Brian McCann, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. all went deep as the Braves win in a laugher. McCann has been hotter than a two dollar pistol lately, having gone 8-for-16 with four homers and nine driven in in the past week. Albies went 3-for-4 and knocked in four. The Braves have won 10 of 11 and have scored 90 runs in that stretch. That kind of outburst makes it easy for starters like Mike Soroka, who won his eighth straight decision.

Rangers 7, Indians 2: Mike Clevinger came back from the injured list and the Rangers treated him quite rudely, scoring five runs in less than five innings. Danny Santana hit a two-run homer. Meanwhile, his counterpart Lance Lynn allowed one run over seven innings, striking out nine and not walking a batter.

Red Sox 2, Twins 0: Home runs come in buckets these days but we had a good old pitchers duel in Minneapolis last night, with Rick Porcello (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 8K) outdueling José Berrios (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 10 K). A J.D. Martinez RBI single in the first was all the scoring this one saw until the Sox added an insurance run on a Xander Bogaerts RBI double in the ninth. Boston runs its season-high win streak to six straight.

Cardinals 5, Marlins 0: Miles Mikolas and three relievers combine for an eight-hit shutout while Dexter Fowler hit a three-run homer and Matt Carpenter had a solo shot and scored on an error. Mikolas had lost five straight decisions before this one. Miami has been shut out 13 times this year.

Giants 3, Dodgers 2: Tyler Beede held he mighty Dodgers lineup to one run over six despite walking five guys, picking up his first big league win in his seventh big league start. An early Bandon Crawford two-run double and an unearned run in the sixth was all the scoring the Giants needed.

Athletics 3, Orioles 2: Mike Fiers allowed two, both unearned, in six innings of work. The A’s scored two unearned runs themselves, both on the same play. The only earned run in the game came via a first inning double from Matt Olson. The best defense on the day came from this couple in the stands who got two foul balls and didn’t even have to get out of their seats to get ’em:

No one scored after the third inning here. It’s like one of those days when you go into work and finish off some report or something before 9:30 and then spend the rest of the day screwing around on the Internet. Or, as I like to call it “every day at work for me in 2008.”

Padres 2, Brewers 0: All kinds of nice pitching performances last night, including this one from Joey Lucchesi, in which he tossed seven shutout innings, making a run on a wild pitch and a Manny Machado solo homer hold up. The Brewers were shut out on four hits.

Royals 6, Mariners 4: Jorge Soler hit a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning to bring the Royals back from a 4-3 deficit and Martin Maldonado hit a ninth inning solo shot for some insurance. Soler somehow has 19 dingers on the season. He’s got ’em pretty quietly, but then again I suppose everything that happens with the Royals happens pretty quietly these days.

Phillies vs. Nationals — POSTPONED:

I stood out in the rain
Holding my breath
Waiting for you
You never came
You broke my heart
You broke my heart
I know who’s to blame
You’re to blame

And I don’t care about you
If you don’t care about me
We can go our separate ways
If you want to
The ties of love are strong
But they can be undone
And we’ll go our separate ways
If you want to