Winners and Losers of the MLB Winter Meetings

Let's examine who shined—and who didn't—as the dust settles from a rambunctious Winter Meetings in San Diego.
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SAN DIEGO — The most exciting Winter Meetings in recent memory are over, with Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg signing contracts worth a combined $814 million. 

Their bank accounts are the obvious winners of the week, but putting their riches aside, let's break down the winners and losers of the Winter Meetings.

Winners

New York Yankees

No team had as much success at the Winter Meetings as the Yankees. They got Gerrit Cole, their “white whale,” but in this version of Moby Dick, Captain Ahab won’t go down with the ship. It doesn’t look like Brian Cashman’s vessel is going down any time soon. Years of financial restraint made this move possible, with the Yankees’ focus on developing young talent paying off. Now, they have their true ace, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, for the next nine years. Better yet, the Yankees' addition is subtracted from the team's October nemesis, the Houston Astros.

What's more, in the final hours of the meetings, the Yankees re-signed Brett Gardner, the only remaining member of their 2009 World Series winning team. There wasn’t much, if any, doubt that he would return to the Bronx. Centerfielder Aaron Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery in October and will miss at least the first few months of the season. Meanwhile, Gardner is coming off his best offensive season (117 OPS+) in his age 35 season, and he still plays solid defense.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels whiffed on Cole, who grew up less than five miles from Angels Stadium, but they rebounded as well as possible, landing Anthony Rendon less than 24 hours later on a seven-year, $245 million contract. Now, they have another elite offensive player in a lineup that already featured the best player on the planet and two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani. Rendon also gets to play alongside shortstop Andrelton Simmons, forming one of baseball’s best defensive left sides of the infield, which could make it much more likely that Los Angeles signs a groundball pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu or Dallas Keuchel—maybe even both—to fix its shoddy rotation. Plus, Rendon’s contract has no opt-outs and is back-loaded, which gives the Angels a bit more financial flexibility until Albert Pujols’ massive contract expires after the 2021 season.

Also, let’s not forget the Angels traded away Zack Cozart and the $12.66 million remaining on his contract and their 2019 first-round pick Will Wilson to the Giants for a player to be named later.

Washington Nationals

The Nats are winners because they brought back Stephen Strasburg, their World Series MVP, and will likely have him for his entire career. That’s invaluable for a franchise that let Bryce Harper walk last year and failed to re-sign Rendon this offseason. But, more importantly, Strasburg is a great pitcher who has already made the successful transition from flamethrower to pitcher, with elite secondary stuff to complement his fastball.

But, Washington lost Rendon, and has a huge hole to fill at third base. For now, the Nationals can pivot and try to sign Josh Donaldson, a great third baseman who could command as much as $25 million per year for three or four seasons. That’s well worth his production, but the Braves, his former team and Washington’s NL East rival, appear to be Donaldson’s preference if all offers are equal

Even if the Nats don’t land Donaldson to replace Rendon, these Winter Meetings should be considered a success.

New York Mets

The few moves the Mets made this week actually make sense, which should be considered a win for such a dysfunctional organization. Signing the 28-year-old Michael Wacha to a one-year deal worth $3 million guaranteed and a possible $7 million in incentives could be a huge pickup. Wacha has great stuff and has pitched well in the postseason (2013 NLCS MVP), but injuries forced the Cardinals to move on. St. Louis manager Mike Shildt called Wacha “a manager’s dream” on Tuesday, the day before the Mets signed him, and said “somebody is going to get a steal with this guy. This guy is a good pitcher.” And we can laugh at “Cy Young winner” Rick Porcello for being an average big-league pitcher in his 11-year career, but signing a durable veteran to a one-year deal isn’t a bad call.

Agent Scott Boras

We may look back on this week as Scott Boras’s Inglourious Basterds—his explosive resurgence at the Winter Meetings. Like Quentin Tarantino before his Academy Award-winning film, Boras was coming off a few disappointing years. He’d always do enough to stay in the spotlight, like when he got Bryce Harper a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies last spring, but his Winter Meetings performances were filled with talk but little tangible progress by the end.

Still, the polarizing agent never left the stage. We knew this offseason was coming, when he would represent the top three free agents on the market. Like it was for Basterds, the promotional campaign for these Winter Meetings was loud, because nothing either auteur does is ever subtle. Then they arrived in three cinematic acts: Strasburg, Cole, Rendon. (Coincidentally, Basterds grossed $321.5 million worldwide at the box office, less than $3 million shy of Cole’s record-setting contract with the Yankees.)

The only thing left for Boras to do was break the fourth wall in the final minute of the Meetings and announce to the world, “I think this just might be my masterpiece.”

Major League Baseball

Plenty of us baseball writers and fans feared these Winter Meetings would be another dud, like they were over the last few years. Thanks to Boras and owners willing to spend money, MLB had its most lively and entertaining Winter Meetings in a long time.

Losers

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers began the Winter Meetings with the expectation they’d spend significantly to land either Cole or Rendon. Instead, they failed to outbid the Yankees and Angels. On the surface, because they're leaving San Diego (mostly) empty handed, the Dodgers can't be winners. But they're clearly best positioned among the losers.

L.A. doesn't need Rendon or Cole to win an eighth straight NL West title. It could use an improved bullpen though, and the team started addressing that by signing righthanded reliever Blake Treinen who, despite a rough season with the A’s last year, is not far removed from his all-time great 2018 campaign. The Dodgers are also among the “most aggressive” suitors for righthander Dellin Betances, per the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. When healthy, Betances is one of the most electric and consistent relievers in the game. The bullpen was the Dodgers’ one weakness last year and they upgraded it this week, even if they didn’t make a big splash.

Houston Astros

Let’s recap the Astros’ Winter Meetings:

• They didn’t sign anyone. 

• They didn’t make a trade. 

• One of their two Cy Young candidates left and signed with the Yankees, the team they played (and beat) in two of the last three American League Championship Series. 

• Rendon, the man who hit two big home runs and had a .930 OPS against them in the World Series, signed with the Angels and will now play against them 19 times per year over the next seven seasons in a lineup that also features Mike Trout.

• Oh, and on Wednesday, news broke that MLB’s investigation into the Astros’ alleged sign stealing system is expanding to include the 2018 season, too. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reported that “at least one person said he was asked to turn over his phone to investigators,” and that “the scope of the investigation suggests the focus has widened from an on-field, uniformed issue to one more akin to what the NCAA calls ‘institutional control.’ ”

Texas Rangers

Texas is opening a new stadium next season, and the plan was to have one or two flashy new acquisitions in the lineup on Opening Day. That, however, seems a lot less likely after Rendon signed with the Angels and Donaldson’s price reportedly “exceeded the Rangers’ comfort level.” And like the Astros, the Rangers will have to face Rendon 19 times each season for the next seven years. Talk about a consolation prize.