For the first time since 2019, baseball’s winter meetings are back!
All signs point to an action-packed week of rumors, signings and trades in San Diego — and we’ve got it all covered for you right here, from our MLB experts’ predictions going into the meetings to the latest updates and analysis as the moves go down.
When will Aaron Judge decide between staying with the New York Yankees and going to the San Francisco Giants or another suitor? Which of the four star shortstops in this year’s free agent class will find a home first? And will Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodon sign to lead your team’s rotation before the meetings end after Jacob deGrom made waves by joining the Rangers on Friday night? Check out our predictions now and refresh often for the latest as the week unfolds.
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Winter meetings predictions
Who will be the biggest name to sign in San Diego?
Bradford Doolittle: Jeff Passan recently wrote that there is a good possibility Aaron Judge’s free agency will end before the winter meetings conclude. Judge is the biggest name on the free agent market. So you don’t have to be Aristotle to see the logic in declaring that Judge will be the biggest name to sign.
Buster Olney: Judge’s situation is a lot like that of deGrom — he’s going to get a whopper contract, as the top free agent on the board, but there aren’t a lot of suitors. It seems likely he has already heard the best offer he’s going to hear from the Giants, and from the Yankees. Agents who are not involved in the negotiations are predicting he’ll do something in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Joon Lee: Judge. There’s going to be a massive domino effect after he signs and likely sets the market for the biggest contract. The Yankees will have so much of their offseason plans shaped around the outcome of what happens with the slugger and how they approach spending money this offseason, especially with a fan base that is as impatient for a championship as they’ve ever been.
David Schoenfield: Judge makes sense. Because he actually has fewer teams in pursuit of his signature than some other marquee players, all he has to do is make a decision. His market is independent of everybody else, so while it can benefit players at other positions — like the four shortstops — to wait for the dominoes to start falling, there is no advantage for Judge to wait. And if it’s between just the Yankees and Giants, that decision can come in San Diego.
Jesse Rogers: Justin Verlander. He doesn’t seem like a “wait until February” guy. His market isn’t necessarily tied to Judge. Pitchers are beginning to sign, and Verlander should sooner rather than later. He’s also unique compared to those other pitchers in that he’s older, which means he’s probably not a guy looking for opt-outs and things of that nature.
What is the one rumor that will dominate the week?
Olney: Verlander’s situation, which might mirror what happened with Trevor Bauer’s free agency a couple of years ago, with a showdown between the Dodgers and the Mets. He’s a future Hall of Famer and coming off a Cy Young Award, and will have an immediate impact — and both of these teams need him.
The Mets just lost another future Hall Famer in deGrom and have massive holes in their rotation, and could really use a plug-and-play star — and Verlander’s contract structure (high salary, short-term deal) fits the Dodgers’ preferences. With Bauer, the Mets thought they had the right-hander signed before the Dodgers swooped in at the end to pluck Bauer away; both sides will be well aware of that history as they go through the process.
There is a lot of conversation in front offices about how Max Scherzer and Verlander might not be the greatest of friends, and whether that factor might impact the Mets’ pursuit of Verlander, but remember — in Buck Showalter’s days with the Diamondbacks, he managed Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, Hall of Fame caliber pitchers who weren’t close but naturally pushed each other.
Doolittle: Of all the shortstop-related scuttlebutt, the Twins’ pursuit of Carlos Correa seems like the most advanced story thread. That suggests Correa could be the first domino to fall in the derby to land him, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts or Dansby Swanson. Maybe it won’t mean Minnesota ends up holding a big news conference to announce that Correa will return to the Twin Cities — or maybe it will. But I could definitely see Correa discussions looming over the meetings, not just because he’s a star player in his own right, but because his signing could set off a chain reaction through the rest of the market.
Schoenfield: I’ll go with all the rumors surrounding the Mets. With three starters and their top two setup relievers from 2022 all in free agency, they have some big moves to make — which could possibly include a splash, like signing Verlander to replace deGrom atop their rotation. But they’ll need at least one more starting pitcher after that, maybe two, some relievers … oh, and a center fielder to replace Brandon Nimmo if he signs elsewhere. The Mets say they want to hold on to their prospects, and while Francisco Alvarez is untouchable, they might have to consider some trades as well.
Lee: I’m so curious what’s going to happen with the Xander Bogaerts situation in Boston. The Red Sox’s front office — both privately and publicly — has dramatically changed its tone in its willingness to give him a big contract. While there are certainly business reasons to not sign Bogaerts — especially given the questions surrounding how long he will remain a shortstop — the fan base has been growing angrier at the organization regarding the attitude around signing star players, which started with the Mookie Betts trade. If Bogaerts leaves, Boston will need to be aggressive in free agency to upgrade the team because patience in wearing thin among Red Sox Nation.
Rogers: No matter where you turn, the topic will undoubtedly find its way to Judge. Will he or won’t he leave New York? It’s not exactly the same storyline as Babe Ruth leaving the Red Sox for the Yankees — but it’s damn close.
Latest news, rumors, updates from San Diego
Monday, Dec. 5
Latest on the four top free agent shortstops
The shortstop market isn’t close to being figured out. With four players being sought after by up to 10 teams, it might take a while. But the deeper into the offseason we go, according to one executive, the less likely it becomes any of them will re-sign with their old teams. (The exception is Carlos Correa, who could sign back with the Twins as kind of an old team/new team re-signing). There’s no great indication who might sign first. — Jesse Rogers
Why Verlander could be the next big name to sign
There’s an expectation Verlander will sign soon now that deGrom is off the board. A majority of executives remain firm in their belief he’ll leave the Astros. — Rogers
How early starting pitcher signings have set the bar
The market ($11 million to $13 million per year) for the second tier of free agent pitchers has been set. The conversations now are revolving around total packages. Mike Clevinger got one year. Zach Eflin got three. Agents like the Eflin package, which totaled $40 million. — Rogers