- Multiple big deals have gone down at the MLB Winter Meetings this week, but who are the biggest names still left on the hot stove, and where might they end up?
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—Winter Meetings is coming to a close, but even after a busy week of trades and signings, there still remain some notable players who have yet to get into the fray or have found the market unreceptive. With just one night left before MLB teams decamp and head back home, here are a few names to keep an eye on.
The talk of the Winter Meetings when the week opened, McCutchen’s name has barely surfaced since Monday, when reports came out that the Nationals and Pirates had been discussing a deal for Pittsburgh’s centerfielder. The Pirates reportedly asked Washington for top prospects Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles, only to be rebuffed. Hopes of rekindling talks with the Nationals are now gone, too, with the team’s trade for White Sox centerfielder Adam Eaton—a deal that saw Giolito get shipped to Chicago as part of a three-prospect package.
With the Nationals off the board, it’s unclear who’s left in the running for McCutchen. Reports on Monday had linked the Rangers and Pirates in talks for the 2013 National League MVP, but Texas’ interest was said to be minimal, and the team more or less took itself off the board by signing centerfielder Carlos Gomez to a one-year deal on Tuesday night. Since then, there’s been virtually no chatter with regards to McCutchen.
Where might McCutchen end up? It’s hard to say at this point. Pittsburgh’s ask of two top-10 prospects in exchange for McCutchen—who is 30, has just two years of team control remaining and suffered through a career-worst season at the plate and in the field in 2016—likely scared off prospective buyers. Whether that price has gone down since then isn’t clear, but it’s one that most teams can’t match anyway—or at least won’t for a player who will be a free agent in just two seasons.
One team that could make a lot of sense for McCutchen: the Cardinals. St. Louis has been linked to virtually every available outfielder in free agency and on the trade market. The team was reportedly discussing Ian Desmond before he signed with the Rockies and talked about Eaton with the White Sox before he was sent to Washington. It’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh dealing its franchise player to an intra-division rival, but the list of suitors for McCutchen seems rather short right now.
The best bat left available in free agency, Encarnacion’s market has been dead silent all week thanks in large part to a trio of signings on Sunday and early Monday: Carlos Beltran with the Astros; Matt Holliday with the Yankees; and Steve Pearce for the Blue Jays. All three teams had been linked with Encarnacion, but those three additions more or less fill up the available designated hitter and first base slots for each. What’s more, the market’s other big spender, the Red Sox, has reportedly determined that Encarnacion’s price is too high, opting instead for a cheap one-year deal for Mitch Moreland.
Not helping matters is the continued glut of corner infielders and outfielders available on the market, including Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista and Chris Carter. On top of that, the Rockies—who have long had a hole at first base—decided to fill that position in a rather unexpected way by inking Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal—although according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the team is “not necessarily out” on Trumbo. That leaves only a handful of clubs with the space for Encarnacion, and it’s unsure if any of them are willing to sacrifice the money and the first-round pick it would cost to acquire him.
Who might be out there for Encarnacion? The Indians and Rangers have been rumored to be interested in him throughout the week, and the Blue Jays have apparently not ruled out a reunion with their slugger despite the presence of Pearce, Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak at first base and DH. The Rockies would have made the most sense of the teams out there, but Desmond takes them out of it. The Mariners, meanwhile, have told Trumbo’s camp that they will no longer be pursuing him, as the team will move on with a first base platoon of Danny Valencia and Dan Vogelbach.
Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen
The two top closers on the market remain without homes going into the final stretch of the Winter Meetings, and both lost a deep-pocketed suitor when the Cubs picked up Wade Davis from the Cubs in exchange for Jorge Soler. The Marlins have reportedly been pursuing Jansen all week, with Miami manager Don Mattingly (who was Jansen’s skipper in Los Angeles from 2011 to ’15) telling reporters that he has been in touch with his former closer this winter. But nothing seems imminent on either front, though it’s clear that the market depends on their next move. As one source put it to ESPN’s Jayson Stark: “Everyone is waiting on Chapman.”
UPDATE: They will wait no longer. According to multiple reports and first broken by Rosenthal, Chapman has re-signed with the Yankees on a five-year, $86 million deal.
On Monday, Chapman told ESPN’s Marly Rivera that he was seeking a six-year contract, and while he didn't get that sixth year, he did score the largest free-agent contract for a reliever ever handed out. Jansen, meanwhile, is reportedly looking for five years at $80 million. In a market that’s gone crazy for relievers, it’s hard to argue against either pitcher asking for the moon. But how many clubs can realistically match those kinds of asks? The Cubs are already out, and the Giants—who desperately needed a closer at the start of the off-season—went for the third option on the market, Mark Melancon, on a four-year, $62 million deal.
For Chapman, the solution ended up being his former team in New York. For Jansen, the same will likely be true with the Dodgers, with the Marlins lurking. But beyond that, no one else seems to be in the market for a closer at that price.