What Will I Miss at the Winter Meetings?

I have the good fortune of getting the heck out of the DC area for 2 weeks and going somewhere warm and sunny. I am getting married and going on my honeymoon, and I am not forced to return until Dec 19th. Not that I don’t love it here, I just prefer sitting on the beach guzzling sipping alcoholic beverages. Anyway, as I am out of pocket (I don’t know, everyone used to say that when I worked in defense consulting) for the entirety of the Winter Meetings (Dec 7 – 10), I wonder if I’ll miss anything. Here are a few predictions for what MAY happen, and my thoughts on the likelihood.

Trades

The Winter Meetings are the biggest gathering of baseball execs every year, so trades are usually in high gear. Guys go down there and spend hours in war rooms and . You can see it described here, which also mentions my former grad school classmate Shiraz Rehman, now a semi-big shot with the D-Backs. Trades happen before, during and after the meetings. But the most trades occur two times in the year – the week leading up to the deadline, and the Winter Meetings.

Cristian Guzman – I don’t doubt that the trade would happen if it were up to Rizzo. He simply was not a major league caliber hitter last year. He only hit .284/.306/.390 this past year, but those numbers are downright gaudy compared to what he did after May. From June 1 on, he hit .264/.291/.362, and the later you go, the worse it gets. His value drops down even more as he is moving away from SS. While he didn’t field as bad as you might think, his range isn’t great, and he may have problems making the throw after shoulder surgery. So he’ll be a 2B that can’t hit anymore going in to next season. Yeah, the Nats would like to trade him, but would anyone want him. Hey, who are the Royals planning on starting at SS next year? Likelihood: Low to Moderate

Josh Willingham – Willingham had something of a breakout last year, as he was one of the best hitters in the league in the first half of the season. A protracted slump in the second half brought his numbers down to earth, but his .260/.367/.496 gave him his highest OPS of his career (by a few points). The trade value is probably significantly diminished from what it would have looked like in July, and he may be once again an undervalued player. Unless someone else offers to much, I can’t see him being traded. Likelihood: Low

Adam Dunn – The consummate power hitter’s contract still doesn’t look so cheap, although it doesn’t look awful either. There will be a market for him, if they wanted to get rid of him. And some people believe that the Riggleman hire shows they aren’t quite ready to contend for the division, couple that with Dunn’s contract expiring at the end of the 2010 season and you see why they might not need him. But their options at first base are so limited that they felt the need to play him there in the first place. Meanwhile, his perceived trade value might be highest at the deadline. Of course at that point, they better get something good – he could be worth a few draft picks if they keep him and offer him arbitration. Likelihood: Very Low (for now)

Free Agent Signings

Signings don’t have to happen at the Winter Meetings, but owners aren’t the only ones down there. Guys get discussed, agents get talked to, and, of course, trades happen (or fall through). In the aftermath of trades or non-trades, people need to make sure their rosters are filled out. During and immediately after the meetings, teams have a good feeling of who they’ll need to sign, so the party really begins. I covered some of the SS stuff earlier this week, so rather than going over each guy, I’ll give you my quick assessment of them.

Adam Everett – All glove no bat, with possibly a diminishing glove. Likelihood: Very Low

Orlando Cabrera – Can hit, sometimes fields, probably expensive. Likelihood: Low (if they can’t unload Guzman) to Moderate (if they do)

Marco Scutaro – Can hit, probably less than Cabrera, sometimes fields. Seems like a poor man’s Cabrera, and like overpriced thanks to a “great” 2009. Likelihood: Low (even lower now, as rumors have Boston trying to sign him)

John Lackey – One of the biggest name free agents available, and the best pitcher on the market. Will the Nats go for him? Some say yeah, for sure. Your first reaction may be that the Nats would never give up the draft picks. But since they have a top 15 pick (#1 overall) they wouldn’t lose that one. Instead the Angels would get the first pick in the second round. Still a significant pick to lose, somewhere around #35-40 overall (after the Type A free agents sign) for a team struggling to grow it’s farm system. Meanwhile, it is pretty well known that Lackey enjoys glaring slash screaming slash throwing things at his fielders when they make a mistake. Ok, I made the last one up, but with a young team lacking fundamentals, this kind of interaction may not work out so well. Likelihood: Low to Moderate

Rich Harden – The high risk but potential high reward guy, of course, will see some offers from somewhere. But the Nats don’t have the luxury of paying a guy to pitch less than 20 games. I see him going to a high money team that will stick him in the #3 or 4 spot and just be happy when he pitches, rather than the Nats where he’d be the top guy when he’s healthy. Likelihood: Very Low

You may look at all these likelihoods and come to a startling realization – I’m not sure the Nats are gonna do much at all. Well you’d be right. I’m sure they’d love to have Lackey here, but I don’t know if they can get it done. I’m sure they’d love to get rid of Guzman, but who’d take him? If they do manage to get rid of Guzman, then my prognosis changes, and I do think they’ll sign a middle infielder. But if Lackey is in DC when I get back, I’d be pretty shocked.

And Hopefully

The guys at the Washington Times will still be there when I return. The news of the huge reduction in staff sucks for them, but I don’t know yet if they are gonna eliminate the sports section. Say what you want about that paper, the guys who cover the Nats know their stuff. So if Chatter with Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling is still going when I come back, I will be very happy. If not, thank you to those guys for all of your absolutely spectacular Nats coverage. And of course, I hope there’s still a forum for Thom Loverro’s baseball columns.

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