LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Angels, Cardinals, Yankees and Cubs were the most aggressive teams at baseball’s Winter Meetings.
We can assume Giancarlo Stanton’s arrival in New York means the Yankees will be out of the running for Bryce Harper when he becomes eligible for free agency after the 2018 season.
The Nationals re-signed reliever Brandon Kintzler, so if the Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley are healthy, the bullpen will be set. The Nationals have to put together their bench and look for pitching depth. The Nationals say they are looking for back-of-the-rotation pitchers, so don’t expect them to sign Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta.
While it is painful for Orioles to think about a rebuild, there’s consolation in knowing that they aren’t alone: The Rays, Royals and Pirates are in similar situations. Teams like the Astros, Twins and Cubs have all come out of rebuilding with contending teams.
Here’s a look at the changing landscape after the Winter Meetings:
* The Angels, who signed Japanese pitcher-hitter Shonei Ohtani before the meetings began, acquired Ian Kinsler from Detroit, hoping to solve their offensive problems at second base. Their .592 OPS for second basemen was last in the American League. Last season, when they started with former National Danny Espinosa at second. Kinsler joins a lineup that includes Justin Upton, a former teammate in Detroit, as well as Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Ohtani. Kinsler also gives the Angels strong defense up the middle with shortstop Andrelton Simmons, catcher Martin Maldonado and Trout. ... As they leave the meetings, the Angels are looking for a third baseman.
* The Cardinals acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the rebuilding Marlins as they try to keep pace with the Cubs in the National League Central. Ozuna will play left field for the Cardinals. He’s coming off his best season, when he hit 37 home runs with 124 RBIs and .924 OPS for the Marlins.
* After leading the AL in home runs, the Yankees added outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, the National League MVP who hit 59 home runs for the Marlins. He’ll join Aaron Judge, who hit 52 home runs, in the Yankees lineup, meaning for the second time in history, two players coming off 50-home run seasons will be in the same lineup. The other was in 1962, when the Yankees’ Roger Maris (61 home runs) and Mickey Mantle (54) were coming off a history-making 1961. Stanton and Judge both play right field, but Stanton says he doesn’t have to play right. It’s likely Judge and Stanton will switch off between right field and DH and either could play left field if Brett Gardner is the DH.
* The Cubs are restocking their bullpen. They signed Brandon Morrow, who pitched for the Dodgers in 2017, along with Steve Cishek and lefty Dario Alvarez. Morrow is expected to be the closer if they can’t sign free agent Wade Davis. The Cubs also added Tyler Chatwood to their rotation and are one of the contenders for free agent Alex Cobb. The Cubs could also make a trade for Rays pitcher Chris Archer.
* Free agent relievers, not used as closers, continue to make the big bucks. The Cardinals signed Luke Gregerson to a two-year contract worth $11 million with a club option for 2020. The Rangers signed lefty Mike Minor to a three-year, $28 million contract and will make him a starter, and the Cubs signed former Dodgers reliever Morrow to $21 million for two years.
* Will the Indians trade Jason Kipnis? He’s a player without a position. He’s been an All-Star second baseman, but in 2016, he had three stints on the disabled list. With the injuries, the Indians moved José Ramírez from third to second and used Giovanny Urshela and Yandy Diaz at third base. Manager Terry Francona liked that setup. In the AL Division Series against the Yankees, Kipnis played center field for the injured Bradley Zimmer, but Zimmer will return to that position next season.
* The Orioles’ Manny Machado may not be the only third baseman on the move. The Rays would like to trade Evan Longoria, 33, and his $86 million contract that runs through 2022. The Rays could also trade closer Alex Colomé and starter Chris Archer.
* Even though there’s a good market for free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, the Royals leave the meetings with the idea that they still have a chance to sign him. But the Royals are also thinking about a total rebuild with catcher Salvador Perez and lefty starter Danny Duffy possibly on the block.
* Here’s yet another team in a rebuild predicament: Outfielder Andrew McCutchen, 31, will be in the final year of his contract in 2018, so the Pirates have to decide if they should trade McCutchen or figure out a way to contend. The Pirates are also having teams call about pitcher Gerrit Cole.
* Starting pitching is expensive, whether teams go the free agent route or trade prospects for pitchers. So the Twins and Cubs use low-risk ways to add to their pitching staff. The Twins signed Michael Pineda, formerly of the Mariners and Yankees, to a two-year contract worth $10 million, while the Cubs did the same with Drew Smyly. Smyly had Tommy John surgery in June, Pineda in July. The teams don’t expect them to help their rotations until 2019.
* After spending $192 million last season on closer Kenley Jansen, starter Rich Hill and third baseman Justin Turner, the Dodgers have been quiet this winter. Andrew Friedman says the team’s biggest concern is the bullpen. The good news for the Dodgers is that there are a lot of relief pitchers on the market.