2018 Winter Meetings Wrapup

Craig Calcaterra
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IN AN AEROPLANE OVER THE MOUNTAINS — I’m on my way back to the wonderful Midwest, my 10th Winter Meetings in the rearview mirror. Do planes have rearview mirrors? No? Eh, just go with it. I’m tired.

As has increasingly become the case in the past few years, the Winter Meetings were something less-than-eventful, transactions-wise. The biggest deal was probably the three-team trade I wrote about a little bit ago, and it’s not even official yet. As for the official deals, here is everything that was done since Monday:

DECEMBER 10TH

  • Baltimore Orioles – Claimed RHP Rio Ruiz off waivers from the Atlanta Braves.
  • Boston Red Sox – Signed free agent RHP Nathan Eovaldi.
  • Cincinnati Reds – Claimed LHP Robby Scott off waivers from the Boston Red Sox.
  • Detroit Tigers – Signed free agent RHP Tyson Ross.
  • San Diego Padres – Signed free agent RHP Garrett Richards.
  • San Francisco Giants – Claimed OF Michael Gerber off waivers from the Detroit Tigers.
  • Seattle Mariners – Claimed INF Kaleb Cowart off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels.
  • St. Louis Cardinals – Claimed RHP Ryan Meisinger off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • Texas Rangers – Claimed INF Carlos Asuaje off waivers from the San Diego Padres.

DECEMBER 11TH

DECEMBER 12TH

  • Cincinnati Reds – Acquired RHP Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals for RHP Tanner Rainey.
  • Philadelphia Phillies – Signed free agent OF Andrew McCutchen.

That may seem like a lot, but compared to the way the Winter Meetings were even five or six years ago, it’s pretty slow. Bill talked about that a little bit yesterday.

The Rule 5 Draft went down this morning. Here are the picks:

As is usually the case, we’re more likely to hear about a Rule 5 available player who was not picked and who makes an impact in 2019, a-la Max Muncy in 2018, than any of these guys. To the extent you’d like to get an expert’s breakdown on all of this, though, I highly recommend checking out J.J. Cooper’s takes on it all at Baseball America.

Beyond the transactions, the big news of the Winter Meetings, as always, involved the Veterans Committee’s Hall of Fame election. You know by now that Harold Baines and Lee Smith made the cut. Here’s our initial take on that. The next day I tried to explain how Baines actually made it (short answer: cronyism). The day after that I ripped Tony La Russa a new one for, well, being Tony La Russa, which is always fun. Oh, and it’s not just players: the great Jayson Stark received the Spink Award, which was well-deserved.

Another winner: Brad Ausmus, who is once again Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager. My apologies to Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays for ranking 30th even though there were only 29 managers at the time I made the rankings. That’s kind of sad, but if you read the post it makes sense.

And that, it would seem is that. With scores and scores of free agents left, all manner of open spots on teams’ depth charts and, one hopes, some teams who actually want to improve themselves this winter, there’s still a lot of work to be done this offseason. Continue to come back to HardballTalk to keep abreast of all the news that’s fit to print and a great deal of nonsense too. All of it has its place and we like having you around for it.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.