SAN DIEGO -- A year ago, the baseball world gathered in Las Vegas for the Winter Meetings, waiting with bated breath to find out where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper would sign.
Two-plus months later, we finally found out.
On Monday, the 2019 edition of the Winter Meetings at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego got off to a rousing start, as Stephen Strasburg agreed to a seven-year, $245 million deal to return to the Nationals, taking one of the most coveted free agents off the board.
The Yankees have made no secret of their desire to add the ace to their rotation. General manager Brian Cashman led a contingent to Southern California last week to meet with Cole, who is expected to set contractual records for both total guaranteed money and average annual value for a pitcher.
Those numbers were reached on Monday by Strasburg, which set a new floor for a potential Cole deal. Cole is two years younger than his Scott Boras client, so the idea of him landing a nine- or 10-year deal is quite realistic. It’s also very possible that fellow Cole’s deal will now exceed $300 million, a number previously reached by only Machado, Harper, Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton, none of whom are pitchers.
The Dodgers and Angels remain in the mix for the SoCal native. Cole told the Yankees during their meeting that despite the perception that he’s intent on signing with a West Coast team, he’s open to the idea of playing in New York.
History suggests that when the Yankees set their sights on a player, they do whatever it takes to get him. That was the case 11 years ago when Cashman recruited CC Sabathia, another California native who was thought to want to head West. Masahiro Tanaka, Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi … the list goes on and on. The Yankees know what it will take to land Cole, and that’s precisely what nearly everybody in the industry expects will happen.
Several teams have already expressed interest in Rendon, the top position player in this year’s market. The Dodgers, Phillies, Rangers and Nationals are all expected to make serious bids for the third baseman.
Washington has said publicly that it will not be able to afford both Rendon and Strasburg, now that Strasburg has decided to stay in D.C., it would appear that Rendon will be the one to find a new home.
The Dodgers have Justin Turner at third base, but Turner has expressed a willingness to change positions to accommodate Rendon. Turner’s contract expires at the end of next season, so adding Rendon would not be a long-term issue in that regard, anyway.
Los Angeles is clearly open to the idea of spending $250 million on a free agent such as Cole or Rendon, so if Cole winds up with the Yankees, the door would immediately open for Rendon to sign with the Dodgers.
The wild card could be the Rangers, who are open to spending on free agents as they prepare to move into Globe Life Field next season. Rendon, a Texas native, has already met with the Rangers, leaving Texas in the mix for his services. Still, if the Dodgers -- who have a mere $16.125 million committed in payroll in 2022 -- decide Rendon is their man, Los Angeles should be able to outbid anybody.
The 2015 American League MVP Award winner is fresh off a superb season with the Braves, his one-year, $23 million bet on himself seemingly paying off in a big way.
Chances are that Donaldson will wait for Rendon to sign, leaving the teams that missed out to get into a bidding war for him, though if a team puts out the right offer for Donaldson before Rendon signs, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Donaldson would accept it. Unlike Strasburg, Rendon, and Cole, Donaldson is represented by Dan Lozano, as opposed to Boras, and Boras will use his representation of those three players to work the market in their favor, which worked out nicely for Strasburg.
The Phillies, Nationals, Rangers and Braves are among the teams most interested in Donaldson, who should be able to score a four-year deal given the competitive nature of the third-base market.