Winter Meetings: Buyers And Sellers Preview

Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr during batting practice prior to playing the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park - Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

With the Winter Meetings set to begin tomorrow, we take a look at some of the likely buyers and sellers this week.

Tomorrow the baseball world turns its focus to Nashville, Tennessee, for the annual deal-making free-for-all that is the Winter Meetings. The week-long hot stove extravaganza is the high point of the off-season, with all of baseball’s key decision-makers, general managers, super-agents and reporters crammed into one place, dedicated to the task of making deals. It the contract-negotiation equivalent of a medieval mêlée, complete with hoards of ravenous fans lusting for (new) blood.

Ok, it is less of a bloody battle and more of series of meetings, interviews and informal gatherings, but is still intense, with swirling rumors, headline grabbing deals and full-tilt team building a plenty. Last year, the Angels landed both C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols during the Winter Meetings. In 2010, the Red Sox inked Carl Crawford to a seven year/$142M and the Nationals broke the bank with their seven year/$126M deal with Jayson Werth. With top free agents like Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke and Nick Swisher still on the market and trade rumors surrounding both Cy Young Winners and stars like Justin Upton, this year’s gathering promises to have its share of jaw-dropping announcements.

Both buyers and sellers have a lot to gain at this year’s meetings and the potential for impactful trades and signings is huge. Looking at a few of the buyers and sellers gives fans plenty to dream on this week.

Buyers:

Texas Rangers: The Rangers have been connected to R.A. Dickey already and could also be in on discussions for James Shields or David Price. With Josh Hamilton on the free agent market, they are also in need of outfield help. After a shocking slide at the end of the season that cost them the AL West and led to their early exit in MLB’s first one-game playoff, they should be aggressive buyers this week. With the emergence of Jurickson Profar, they could move shortstop Elvis Andrus to address some of their needs and with one of the game’s top farm systems; they should have the pieces to swing just about any trade.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox 2012 season was an unmitigated disaster with injuries and in-fighting sabotaging the team at every turn. Ben Cherington freed the team of a small country worth of long term contracts in August by trading away Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto, but thus far he has been reluctant to make any big deals. In his short-time as GM, Cherington has already shown that he is willing to get creative and swing a major trade. With holes in the rotation, in the outfield and at first, the Red Sox are likely to make some noise this week.

Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles shocked baseball with their playoff run in 2012, but don’t expect GM Dan Duquette to stand pat. The Orioles need an impact bat, relief pitching and corner infield help. After energizing their fan base last season, they have money to spend and a chance to prove that 2012 wasn’t a fluke. Perhaps most importantly, they have made Baltimore a place that players are willing to consider. Don’t be surprised if Duquette goes big this week.

Philadelphia Phillies: Like the Red Sox, the Phillies entered 2012 with high expectations, but injuries hit them hard early on and by the trade deadline, they were in full sell mode, sending Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton to the Dodgers and Hunter Pence to the Giants. Their top priority is remaking their outfield. They have already made an offer to Angel Pagan and former Braves centerfielder Michael Bourn is high on their list as well. In the past, GM Ruben Amaro has been quick to move prospects for veteran talent as well, but his last few such deals have left the farm system short on high value talent.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Many people around baseball expect the Dodgers to begin acting like the West Coast’s version of the New York Yankees, aggressively outspending other teams in the free agent market. They got ahead start on teh big spending in August when they acquired Beckett, Gonzalez, and Crawford from Boston and they are showing no signs of slowing down. They are considered the front runners for Zack Greinke and they have also been connected to Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals are desperate to compete in 2013 and they seem to believe that an ace starter is all that stands between them and a shot at the playoffs. They don’t have the have the capital to enter the Greinke bidding, but they could easily surprise people and make a huge trade. Wil Myers is the type prospect teams are looking to build around and with Dayton Moore dangling him out there, KC could get what they are looking for. If they do, they could be looking to fill in another slot or two with a free agent starter two.

The Angels, Tigers, Giants and of course, the Yankees could also be aggressive this week, but these teams have fewer pressing needs and afford to be patient

Sellers:

New York Mets: Despite locking down David Wright for a long time, the Mets have not made any progress in their talks with R.A. Dickey. Some experts feel they can’t afford to keep him as well. If they do move the National League Cy Young Award winner, it could be the start of a minor sell-off. They could also move Ike Davis, Jon Niese or Lucas Duda and get some value in return.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins have already traded away Denard Span and the Winter Meetings could certainly see them try to get something in return for Justin Morneau before his walk year or attempt to shed Joe Mauer’s contract from their books. Josh Willingham is another player they could trade away as they enter full rebuilding mode. The Twins may be years away from competing again and they need young talent more than anything else right now.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians have some talented young players in Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis, but with the worst pitching in the American League last season, they also have a lot to overcome. Shin-Soo Choo is in his final arbitration season and has been drawing interest from a number of teams. Ubaldo Jimenez is still inexpensive and could be an intriguing option for team willing to take chance on him. Teams looking for more guaranteed production would be interested in Justin Masterson, who has thrown for than 200 innings in each of the past two seasons. Relievers Joe Smith and Chris Perez could very valuable trading chips in the thin reliever market. Cleveland could look to compete in 2013, but with such dramatic starting pitching needs, selling off a few of their veterans with an eye to future would make sense. If they shop these players aggressively, they could be the biggest winner on the seller side at the end of this week

These buyers and sellers are a good bet to make some headlines this week, but every year the Winter Meetings produce some unexpected deals and one week from today, the landscape of the game might look very different.

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