The Winter Meetings are an opportunity for GMs and other important industry individuals to come together and exchange ideas. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for them to improve their teams for the following season. Now that the 2018 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas are over, here are the teams that improved themselves the most in their pursuit to contend in 2019.
The Mets re-signed their former closer, Jeurys Familia, to a 3-year $30 million deal. This time he’s coming back to Flushing to perform the role of setup man in front of the game’s best closer in Edwin Diaz. This makes for a formidable 8th and 9th inning punch for the Mets, whose bullpen really failed them last season. They were bottom six in bullpen ERA, strikeouts, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and WHIP last year. Adding Familia has made the Mets’ bullpen a strength. The back end is now better than it was when they made the World Series in 2015. They are still in need of a lefty to balance out the matchups, however, the Familia signing has significantly improved their chances in 2019.
Similar to the Mets, the Dodgers added their setup man in Joe Kelly for 3 years and $25 million. Last year he struggled for a majority of the year, but turned it on down the stretch, particularly in the playoffs. In the postseason, he only allowed one earned run in 11.1 innings for the Red Sox, setting up for Craig Kimbrel. The Dodgers bullpen faltered many times last season, struggling to find ways to avoid late-inning meltdowns. Kelly will provide shutdown innings in front of Kenley Jansen in 2019. This move also gives the Dodgers another option to close games should Jansen struggle or get hurt.
The Yankees found a way to maneuver around J.A. Happ’s request for a third year by signing him to a 2 year, $34 million contract. His contract comes with a vesting option for 2021 if he reaches 165 innings and/or 27 starts in 2020. This move locked down the Yankees starting rotation for 2019: Severino, Paxton, Tanaka, Happ, and Sabathia. There have been rumors the Yankees could pull off a trade for Syndergaard, but at this moment their starters are set. Happ was arguably the second or third best starting pitcher on the market. This is a solid add for the Yankees who have addressed their most significant weaknesses this offseason. The next move for them is to add a late-inning bullpen piece or two.
Andrew McCutchen signed with the Phillies for 3 years and $50 million. Many people believe Philadelphia overpaid for a declining McCutchen, but it can’t be disputed that he makes their team better. For that, they are a winner of the Winter Meetings. Now they have even more incentive to sign Harper and complete a well-above-average outfield with McCutchen and Odubel Herrera. McCutchen is a candidate for a bounce-back year playing in the Philadelphia band-box that is Citizens Bank Park. They will be expected to contend and McCutchen will help tremendously.
The Rays were a surprise team last year that won 90 games in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox. This week they made a couple moves to bolster their squad. First, they signed Charlie Morton a veteran starter that posted quality innings for the Astros the past couple of years. Last year for the Astros he went 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA in the American League. He and Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell will make a solid combo at the front of the Rays’ rotation. The Rays also completed negotiations to acquire young corner infielder Yandy Diaz and pitching prospect Cole Sulser from the Indians. Diaz has two years of Major League experience where he’s hit .283 in 88 games for the Tribe. In 2018, Sulser combined to go 8-4 with a 3.86 ERA between the Akron Rubber Ducks and the Columbus Clippers.
After hours of speculation and hundreds of rumors, the Meetings are over and yet, the offseason is just beginning. Harper is still out there. Machado is still out there. Will Realmuto be on the move before Spring Training? Who knows? Time is ticking and Spring is right around the corner, just 67 days away.
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