Trade, free-agent outlook after GM Meetings
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The General Managers Meetings are behind us, marking the end of the first major event of the 2021-22 offseason.
Executives from all 30 teams gathered for three days at the Omni La Costa for a variety of industry meetings, though they found time to sit down with one another and player agents to begin their due diligence for a winter’s worth of roster moves.
Here are three takeaways from this week’s meetings, which traditionally have marked the beginning of Hot Stove season:
For love or money?
Carlos Correa is the consensus choice as this winter’s top free agent. If you believe the buzz at this year’s GM Meetings, the shortstop should have plenty of options.
The biggest question is whether any of them will check every box Correa is looking for.
“He’s going to get his money, there’s no question about that,” one AL executive said. “But where will it come from? And will he really want to play for the team willing to give him the most?”
The team that will be most aggressive in its pursuit of Correa, many believe, is the Tigers. They made great strides in 2021 and will try to take the next step toward contention in 2022.
Correa played for manager A.J. Hinch in Houston, giving Detroit one of the best recruiting tools in the Correa sweepstakes. But some wonder whether Correa wants to play for a Tigers club that might not truly be ready to contend for another year or two.
“We’re talking about a guy who has done nothing but win his whole career,” an NL executive said. “He wasn’t there when the Astros were bad. Will he want to sign with a team that might not be ready to win when he gets there?”
The Yankees are in the market for a shortstop, but the belief within the industry is that they prefer Corey Seager, whose left-handed bat would be a better fit than Correa in their lineup. That’s not to say the Yankees won’t consider Correa, having met with his agent this week.
Other big-market teams such as the Dodgers, Mets and White Sox don’t figure to be in the mix for Correa. The Angels are more focused on adding pitching than another big bat.
The Astros have offered Correa a five-year deal worth $160 million, but he’s seeking a contract more in line with the 10-year, $341 million deal Francisco Lindor signed with the Mets last season. Correa probably will find a team willing to meet his price, but it remains to be seen which team that is -- and whether it’s one Correa wants to join.
Trade winds blowing
While free agents such as Correa, Seager, Max Scherzer and Kris Bryant received plenty of attention this week, the GM Meetings traditionally have been a time to lay the groundwork for offseason trades.
According to multiple sources, two teams expected to be active on the trade front are the Athletics and Reds, who could be in full-on sell mode in the coming weeks and months.
“It feels like those two teams could unload everybody this winter,” one NL executive said. “If you don’t want to spend on free agency and have the prospects to move, there are a lot of good players up for grabs.”
For Oakland, that starts with Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Frankie Montas, all of whom are entering their second of three arbitration-eligible seasons. Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt also could be on the move, as they’re slated to become free agents at the end of the 2022 season.
Cincinnati has some players who will be nearly impossible to move, such as Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suárez. But starting pitchers Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle (both entering the second of their three arbitration years) and Sonny Gray ($10 million in 2022, $12 million club option for 2023) could be attractive trade chips.
Early signs good for Javy
Correa and Seager are considered by most to be the top two shortstops available this offseason, but Javier Báez was a hot name at the meetings.
The Mets sat down with Báez’s camp on Wednesday to discuss the idea of bringing the infielder back to New York, but sources said the market for Báez is far deeper than many expected.
“He might not get as much money as Correa and Seager, but there are plenty of teams that would love to add him to their lineup,” an AL executive said. “He’s been on the big stage, he won a World Series, he can play either second base or shortstop and, yeah, he strikes out a lot, but there’s no questioning his talent.”
Should Báez return to the Mets, he would slot back in at second base next to Lindor, as he did after New York acquired him at the Trade Deadline. Other suitors are likely looking at Báez as a shortstop only, though Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto said he plans to keep J.P. Crawford at shortstop even if he pursues one of the free-agent shortstops, whom he would only sign if they were willing to move to second or third base.