With the Winter Meetings set to begin on Sunday, we asked experts Mark Feinsand and Jon Paul Morosi to address some of the key questions about Hot Stove that are on every fan’s mind right now.
1. Which team will be the most active at the Winter Meetings?
Fine sand: It seems like a safe bet to say the Yankees, who will presumably continue talking to the Padres about a trade for Juan Soto (more on that later) while searching for free agents, including Yoshinobu Yamamoto. But my answer here is the puppies, who didn’t bring manager Craig Counsell to sit back and watch Hot Stove’s season go by. With the loss of Marcus Stroman, Cody Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario, Chicago is looking for at least one starting pitcher, one outfielder and one third baseman this winter, so president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer should be a busy man in Nashville.
Morosi: The Giants. We know the story of their 2022-2023 offseason, in which they failed to land massive contracts for Aaron Judge (their pick) and Carlos Correa (their pick). After changing coaches following a losing season, the Giants are eager to send a message that they will not tolerate mediocrity. They haven’t made the postseason since Buster Posey retired. In a division that features the Dodgers and the defending National League champion D-backs, the Giants must bring in a new wave of difference-making talent.
2. Which major free agent is most likely to sign by the end of the Meetings?
Fine sand: Jordan Montgomery. Unlike Blake Snell, Montgomery isn’t necessarily waiting for Yamamoto to sign to establish a market for his own deal. We’ve already seen Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda sign new deals this offseason, so there’s no reason to think Montgomery won’t do the same. Many teams with money to spend need starting pitchers, so Montgomery should have several suitors. If he finds a deal he likes with the right team, I think he could come off the board this week.
Morosi: Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Interest in it has been solid. Teams are willing to build their offseason around the ace right-hander due to his attractive age and proven NPB track record. Franchise-defining contracts often conclude during the Winter Meetings, as we saw with Judge a year ago. This week is a natural turning point in the offseason, during which clubs must evaluate how realistic their best options are. Yamamoto’s market should reduce accordingly in the coming days.
Fine sand: I haven’t changed my opinion on that. the Dodgers are the favorites; He would still pit them against the rest of the field in the Ohtani draw. It appears the Mets and Red Sox have turned their attention elsewhere, although the Blue Jays are certainly getting a lot of attention as a potential sleeper team. We still have no idea if Ohtani is open to moving east (or north, for that matter), so it remains to be seen if he would consider Toronto. I still think this comes down to the Dodgers and Giants, and the Angels have a slight hope that they can bring him back to Anaheim.
Morosi: No. The Dodgers are the favorites to sign Shohei Ohtani, and will remain so until proven otherwise. There have been a lot of rumors surrounding the Blue Jays since we discussed them in last week’s edition, but I don’t think they have overshadowed the Dodgers as the top possibility.
4. Will Juan Soto be traded at the end of the Meetings? If not, will it happen at some point this offseason and what is his best guess about the team?
Fine sand: I think we’ll see some notable trades during the Meetings, with Soto potentially being the biggest. If the Padres are going to trade him (and all indications are they will) then doing so soon will allow general manager AJ Preller to get on with the rest of his winter business.
The Yankees remain the most logical landing spot for a few reasons: 1) They have the young, Major League-ready pitcher the Padres covet. 2) They can absorb Soto’s $30 million-plus salary by 2024. 3) They can afford to re-sign Soto (or extend him, if that’s something Soto and Scott Boras are open to) and keep him dressed in the striped uniform for years to come. The Yankees need their left-handed power bat as much as any team in baseball, and as long as the Padres don’t ask for the moon and the stars, I think these two teams will find a way to get a deal done.
Morosi: No. Juan Soto will be a Padre at the end of the week, but he will wear a different uniform on Opening Day. The Yankees are my pick to get Soto., because they have a solid prospect base, an obvious need for your skills and financial resources to provide hope of retaining you long-term. The Yankees’ left-handed hitters combined for just 55 home runs last year, the second fewest in the American League. That should change in 2024.
5. Mike Petriello recently looked at five top starting pitching trade candidates. Will any of those starters move in the Meetings? Which of the five is the most likely?
Feinsand: Tyler Glasnow. The Rays don’t tend to waste time when they have a goal, and in this case, it’s getting rid of Glasnow’s $25 million salary. I’ve heard from other executives that he will “definitely” be traded, and if that’s the case, I would expect president of baseball operations Erik Neander to act quickly. This does not seem to me like a situation that will last until 2024.
Morosi: Dylan cease. I was recently told that negotiations to cease trade have intensified and that an agreement could be reached while we are in Nashville. The Braves, Cease’s home team, are among the finalists to sign him. The Giants and Dodgers are also possible suitors, depending on the outcome of their pitching searches in free agency.
6. Give us a sleeper team that can make a big move in Gatherings.
Fine sand: I’m going to go with the marlins. Coming off an 84-win season in 2023, there is some momentum building in Miami, even with Sandy Alcantara set to miss next season due to elbow surgery. New president of baseball operations Peter Bendix has had a few weeks to evaluate his system and his roster, and based on his experience with the Rays, he would expect him to get creative on the business front. Miami needs an impact bat, something there isn’t much of on the free agent market, but perhaps Bendix can identify one on another club and get a deal done during the Meetings.
Morosi: The twins. They have multiple vacancies in the rotation after the departures of Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda, so they have no choice but to be active. And given the relative dearth of impact bats available in free agency, they could find a strong trade market for outfielder Max Kepler.