MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Big bat moves to kick start Winter Meetings

Tribe gets Moss from A's; Cubs add Hammel back to rotation

Big bat moves to kick start Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO - Oakland's Billy Beane, never shy about making a move or reshaping a roster, was front and center on Monday morning as the Major League Winter Meetings kicked off with the first of what could be a feast of tasty deals in the hours and days ahead.

The A's sent slugger Brandon Moss to the Indians for Joe Wendle, a 24-year-old second-base prospect. Following Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes out of the Bay Area, Moss, 31, brings to Cleveland a power bat - 25 homers in 2014, 76 the past three seasons - and the ability to play first base and both corner-outfield spots as well as serve as a designated hitter.

The Cubs, meanwhile, were close to completing a two-year, $20 million deal with free-agent starter Jason Hammel, according to a source. Hammel excelled on the North Side (8-5, 2.98 ERA in 17 starts) before moving to the A's along with Jeff Samardzija on July 5 in a deal that brought four players to Chicago. Hammel struggled in Oakland, going 2-6 with a 4.26 ERA in 13 appearances.

And Samardzija could be on his way back to Chicago, too -- to the South Side. The White Sox reportedly are engaged in "serious talks" with the A's to give Chris Sale a dominant right-handed partner in the rotation. Oakland could be eyeing another highly regarded infield prospect, shortstop Tim Anderson. The A's sent Addison Russell, their premier shortstop prospect, to the Cubs in the deal for Samardzija and Hammel.   

Dick Allen and Tony Oliva fell one vote short each of being elected to the Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee. Nine former players and one former executive were considered by a 16-person committee featuring eight Hall of Famers, four veteran baseball executives and four historians/media members. Allen and Oliva each received 11 votes. Jim Kaat got 10 votes, Maury Wills nine and Minnie Minoso eight. Receiving three or fewer votes were Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Billy Pierce and Luis Tiant.

Moss slipped to a .234/.334/.438 line in 2014 while dealing with hip issues but still managed to play 147 games and launch a pair of homers, driving in five runs, in the A's 9-8 loss to the Royals in the American League Wild Card Game.

Wendle was the Indians' No. 9-rated prospect by MLB.com. Before suffering a broken hamate bone in 2014, he had a .253/.311/.414 line at Double-A Akron. At High Class A Carolina in 2013, the left-handed hitter showed developing power with a .513 slugging percentage and .885 OPS.

Jon Lester, who started the Wild Card game for the A's against the Royals after arriving from Boston in exchange for Cespedes, remains the hot topic with the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants and Dodgers seemingly in competition for the lefty's services.

Lester's decision on an offer that could reach seven years and in excess of $130 million will make one club happy and presumably set off a chain reaction leading to the signings of fellow free agents Max Scherzer and James Shields. But the uncertain future of the three aces shouldn't get in the way of clubs reaching out in trades for offensive upgrades, the common thread running through these meetings.

With free agency and mega contract extensions having dominated the early weeks of the winter, it's time to hunker down for some serious trade talk. Every club from Miami to Seattle, from Boston to San Diego is in search of that missing piece or two that can make a difference.

Lester's decision, when it comes, will make one team happy and presumably set off a chain reaction leading to the signings of fellow free agents Scherzer and Shields. But the uncertain future of the three aces shouldn't get in the way of clubs reaching out for offensive upgrades, the common thread running through these meetings.

The Marlins and Mariners could use a big bopper along the lines of Mark Trumbo, the D-backs slugger who could available with Arizona having signed Cuban Yasmany Tomas, or Justin Upton, the Braves' productive weapon. Cespedes is an intriguing athlete capable of bringing to Boston a quality starter. The Red Sox also have Allen Craig, a proven hitter, to offer, and the Phillies' Marlon Byrd could fortify somebody's lineup.

As for the host Padres, they'd love to make a splash and supply manager Bud Black with the bona fide slugger of his -- and the fans' -- dreams. They have been linked to the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, along with Cespedes and the Reds' Jay Bruce.

Kemp, finally healthy, returned to prime-time form in the second half, and the Padres have the goods -- pitching and catching -- that could get a deal done. The Orioles, in the wake of the exits of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, are in need of a big bat such as Kemp's or Upton's to retain their edge in the American League East.

The Dodgers don't want to deal Kemp, having already lost free agent Hanley Ramirez's right-handed thunder to the Red Sox, but he's more marketable than Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier. The Dodgers need a shortstop, and Texas has a very good one in Elvis Andrus with a contract (eight years, $120 million) perhaps only the Dodgers wouldn't find prohibitive.

No division in the sport will be more intriguing to study in the days ahead than the one housing the three-time World Series champion Giants, who ran second to the Dodgers in the National League West before their magical October run. Brian Sabean, the architect of the clubs Bruce Bochy managed to championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014, is the lone returning GM in the division.

Taking and making calls in an effort to topple the reigning champs are new GMs Farhan Zaidi of the Dodgers, Dave Stewart of the D-backs, A.J. Preller of the Padres and Jeff Bridich of the Rockies.

The Giants are in the Lester hunt, reportedly along with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs and the usual mystery team or two. San Francisco also has a hole to fill with Pablo Sandoval's signing with the Red Sox and reportedly has been eyeing free-agent third baseman Chase Headley.

Pablo, Hanley join Red Sox

The Yankees finished the season with Headley and could bring him back to pair with their new shortstop Didi Gregorius, acquired from the D-backs in a three-player swap.

No GM has been busier than the Blue Jays' Alex Anthopoulos, who snatched Donaldson from the A's after signing free-agent catcher Russell Martin, upgrading Toronto significantly. The Jays also landed outfielder Michael Saunders in a deal with the Mariners.

Anthopoulos on Donaldson trade

The Reds, with starters Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon a year away from free agency, could be a match with a club such as the Braves -- dangling Upton and Evan Gattis for a top-shelf starter -- or the D-backs, with Trumbo to open eyes with his enormous power.

Another fascinating club to watch is the Mariners, who could be poised to emerge as the Royals of 2015 with Cruz's booming bat supporting Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the heart of potentially the best Seattle lineup since Ichiro Suzuki's early years in the Pacific Northwest.

The Mariners have been connected with free agent Melky Cabrera, but imagine how Trumbo would look in manager Lloyd McClendon's lineup.

If the Angels, reigning AL West champs with an MLB-best 98 wins, feel the heat from Seattle, they could make a typically bold move. Moving C.J. Wilson, as rumored, could lead to a move on Shields by GM Jerry Dipoto, who has been known to think big.

The Cardinals, reeling from the death of super prospect Oscar Taveras, landed superb right fielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden, sending to Atlanta Shelby Miller, a potential ace, and Tyrell Jenkins. A center fielder with few equals defensively, but no steady job, Peter Bourjos could have appeal in a number of locales.

This is a Winter Meetings that could be right up Trader Jack's alley -- and we haven't even mentioned such major stars as the Phillies' Cole Hamels and the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, each of whom could be in play as game-changers.

Lyle Spencer is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.