Expect the wheeling, dealing to keep on coming into New Year
By John Schlegel
This year's Winter Meetings in San Diego were so eventful and so intriguing, it seems, that they couldn't fit everything into one week, what with many of the deals made bayside in Southern California coming to fruition the following week.
The drum beat of moves has just kept coming with the holidays approaching, and it's not about to stop.
Even if the last couple of weeks have been anything but boring, we haven't seen everything this offseason has to offer yet, not even close. The top free agent on the market is still very much up for grabs with Max Scherzer's destination unknown, and the atmosphere is ripe for more trades with so many prospects already having changed hands and potential targets like Cole Hamels still out there. And, well, the A's have yet to trade two of the seven All-Stars they had in the fold just this past July, so there's that.
San Diego's place in the sun this offseason has been indisputable, starting with a Winter Meetings in that city that was right up with the best of them to a bold restructuring of the Padres' roster by rookie general manager A.J. Preller and Co. But now that the acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton have completely reshaped the team's roster, it might be time for some other teams to step up to the plate along with the Padres and the rest of the biggest movers and shakers of this offseason thus far. There's still time for free agents to sign and trades to be crafted, so expect the action to continue into the New Year.
A few of the top questions still in play as the holidays approach:
Just what is the deal with Scherzer? It's anybody's guess right now, and that's just how agent Scott Boras tends to play it. There's no rush for Scherzer to find what figures to be the most lucrative multi-year contract a free-agent pitcher has ever signed, but all that's been revealed so far are the teams that haven't shown interest in negotiating with him -- the incumbent Tigers, his hometown Cardinals, the usual suspects the Yankees. Where this one's going is really anybody's guess at this point.
Will James Shields sign first?
It's certainly possible. Not much more is known about the future of Shields, the other top free-agent pitcher remaining on the market after Jon Lester broke up the trio by signing with the Cubs. The Giants have been said to be in the lead in bringing home the workhorse who was the ace of the Royals rotation the last two years, but nothing has emerged yet and the Giants appear to be addressing their rotation otherwise at the moment. There has been plenty of reported interest in the pitcher who has eight straight 200-inning seasons under his belt, possibly including the Red Sox, Dodgers and Rangers.
What about those Giants?
Seriously, maybe the Giants' contingent putting the full-court press on Lester and those making efforts to sign others should have brought that World Series trophy with them as an accessory. Hello? World Series champions three out of five years, remember us? With Pablo Sandoval leaving and Lester leading a line of players, including Ervin Santana, Yasmany Tomas and Chase Headley, giving the Giants the brush-off, the team with the bling still has some work to do. The rotation is the top priority, and the reported deal to bring Jake Peavy back should help -- but will it take them out of the running for Shields? Or Hamels? Third base, vacated by Sandoval, was addressed via a trade with the Marlins for Casey McGehee, but outfield remains an area of need as well. So far, re-signing two incumbents in Peavy and reliever Sergio Romo and getting McGehee is what they've accomplished. Not bad, but is that enough?
How will the Philadelphia Story end?
Already, icon Jimmy Rollins is out the door, but the Phillies could be doing even more toward turning the page on their most recent run of success. Hamels' name has been the loudest on the rumor mill, with the Dodgers and Giants among the teams reportedly interested in bringing the left-hander into their rotation for a package of prospects. The team still has high-priced veterans in first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley, closer Jonathan Papelbon and catcher Carlos Ruiz, and while moving any number of them would certainly do something to turn the page, they all have issues that could make finding a partner difficult. Trading Rollins showed the Phillies were serious about moving on, but to do so they'll have to do more than just that.
Will Tulo go?
With the stock of position players on the free-agent market hit hard already, one of the most intriguing trade possibilities of a position player is that Troy Tulowitzki might be moved by the Rockies, with the Mets long reported to be the suitor. Sources indicated to MLB.com on Thursday that the teams are not in active talks about Tulo, but the fit of needs seems to be there if they can get together on terms. Considered unlikely by many, a potential Tulo trade still figures to be an ongoing storyline going forward.
What will the A's do next? Sean Doolittle and Scott Kazmir are the only two of the seven 2014 All-Stars remaining on the A's roster -- pretty much an endangered species the last couple of weeks. But the A's have made it clear that they intend to put the millions in payroll flexibility for 2015 they've gained along with prospects in their most recent trades to good use, which is to say there could be some more positive gains in this latest bit of retooling by Billy Beane and Co. at O.co. Getting back to where they were even a year ago, however, isn't necessarily the goal. "Now it's time to also think about the next few years, not just about the next day," Beane said at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings.
Those and many other questions remain floating in the winter breeze after two weeks of wild activity in and by San Diego, with a whole lot of business left to attend to before everything comes together again for Spring Training in February.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.