Sports

Judge to the …? Another ace signing? Our MLB winter meetings predictions and updates

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 found a home first? And where will Carlos Rodon land as the last ace remaining, after Jacob deGrom made waves by joining the Rangers and Justin Verlander followed by signing with the New York Mets. Check out our predictions and refresh often for the latest as the week unfolds.

Key links: Hot stove survey | Predictions | Impact of new rules | Tracker

Trades we want to see | Top free agents | Passan’s preview | FA grades

Winter meetings grades: Verlander | Turner


Latest news, rumors, updates from San Diego

Tuesday, Dec. 6

Interest in McCutchen is heating up

Andrew McCutchen has drawn interest from the Dodgers, Rays and Reds, as well as the Brewers, as he prepares for his 15th big league season. McCutchen, 36, is just a handful of hits away from 2,000 in his career, and he needs just 13 homers to reach 300. While playing 134 games for the Brewers last season, McCutchen had 25 doubles and 17 homers; he has been working on making some swing changes this offseason. — Buster Olney


Monday, Dec. 5

Will the Red Sox do something big?

The Boston Red Sox plan to be aggressive. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said the team plans on adding between seven to nine players this offseason (including the additions of relievers Joely Rodriguez and Chris Martin). Boston hopes to add a starting pitcher along with multiple position players and relievers. Bloom said the Red Sox remain engaged on Xander Bogaerts, but the team’s top priority remains signing Rafael Devers to an extension. Executives for some other teams say Bogaerts’ market could take a while to develop with Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson also on the open market. — Joon Lee


Could we see more Ohtani on the mound in ’23?

The Los Angeles Angels shifted to a six-man rotation in recent years to accommodate Shohei Ohtani, who was accustomed to starting once a week in his native Japan. But they have recently given thought to the possibility of whittling their staff down to five.

Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, said during the GM meetings last month that Ohtani would be open to the possibility given his growing comfort in the major leagues. The fact that his innings would tick up as a result, heading into free agency, is undoubtedly an added benefit.

“We’ve had conversations, and that’s something we’ll continue to do,” Angels GM Perry Minasian said Monday. “It’s still early. We haven’t seen Santa yet. And so we’ll see how the rest of the offseason shakes out, we’ll see what we have in a six-man rotation, five-man rotation. We’ll debate everything, go through it. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — with what he’s accomplished over the last two years, if you’re going to change that, there has to be a really good reason.”

One good reason: It would require less starting pitching depth, an area the Angels have struggled with mightily in recent years. They currently field what looks like a solid five-man staff with Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Reid Detmers and Tyler Anderson, who was signed to a three-year, $39 million contract in the middle of November. But they don’t have a clear-cut sixth starter, and they don’t necessarily have the organizational depth to sustain many injuries.

With their payroll already on a record pace — and salaries for starting pitchers skyrocketing — trimming their rotation to five might allow the Angels to more aggressively plug clear holes at shortstop and in the back end of their bullpen. — Alden Gonzalez


Don’t expect the Dodgers to spend big

The Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to be an ideal landing spot for Justin Verlander, but the Mets snagged him with a two-year, $86 million contract. They had conversations with Trea Turner’s representatives, but they didn’t come close to matching the Phillies’ 11-year, $300 million contract. Both instances illustrated what the industry had been anticipating — that the Dodgers, while always lurking, don’t figure to spend much this offseason.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has frequently expressed the desire to give some of his young players an opportunity in the big leagues, but the team also seems hesitant to blow past the luxury tax threshold for a third consecutive year and absorb those penalties.

Turner’s departure left a hole at shortstop, but Friedman has said Gavin Lux can fill it by sliding over from second base. The Dodgers could use another starting pitcher, but any rotation additions might come on the margins. Center field is a hole, but Friedman brought up using Trayce Thompson or Chris Taylor there if Cody Bellinger doesn’t return. The versatility on their position-player roster, at least, gives the Dodgers flexibility on the types of players they can add.

“We feel really good about the group we have in place,” Friedman said. “Now we have some work to do to supplement around it, add more talent around it, and we’ve talked about a lot of different iterations that takes us down different paths and adds players in different ways, whether through the trade market or through the free agent market.” — Gonzalez


Brewers’ top prospect to make an impact next year?

While discussing the process of putting together next season’s roster, Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell talked about the importance of introducing players from the minor leagues into the mix, saying that among others, infield prospect Brice Turang could get time at the second base slot opened up by the recent trade of Kolten Wong to Seattle.

Counsell also mentioned another more surprising possibility for next year’s team: Jackson Chourio, who emerged last season as one of the game’s most dynamic prospects. While Counsell wasn’t exactly penciling Chourio into his 2023 lineup just yet, he said, “He did so much, why would you say no to it?” The “it” in that statement meaning the notion of Chourio ascending to Milwaukee at some point in the season to come. In other words, the Brewers aren’t putting any limits on their top prospect.

Chourio, who won’t turn 19 until shortly before the start of next season, has just two professional seasons under his belt, topping out with a six-game appearance at Triple-A Biloxi at the end of the 2022 campaign. Overall, Chourio hit .288/.342/.538 with 20 homers, 75 RBIs and 16 stolen bases across three levels. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel had Chourio as his No. 8 prospect in his midseason rankings. — Bradford Doolittle


Phillies give Turner $300 million deal

Shortstop Trea Turner and the Philadelphia Phillies are in agreement on an 11-year, $300 million contract, a source tells ESPN.


Mets get Verlander — how will ace’s other suitors respond?

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0:54

Jeff Passan breaks down Justin Verlander agreeing to a two-year deal with the Mets.

Justin Verlander has chosen a new home, joining the Mets on a two-year, $86 million contract, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Monday. The Mets — desperate to fill holes in their rotation with Jacob deGrom joining the Rangers and Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker still free agents — now boast six Cy Young awards on their staff between Verlander and Max Scherzer — two future Hall of Famers who have maintained their peaks into their late 30s.

And now a lot of teams will need to pivot.

Verlander’s market was particularly robust given that he would only require a short-term contract and was not tied to a qualifying offer. But a lot of teams still need starting pitching. The Astros, Verlander’s former team, might not, given their depth. But the Blue Jays and the Dodgers, previously linked to Verlander, certainly do. The Rangers and the Angels, who signed Tyler Anderson early in the offseason, could still stand to add. And a host of others — the Braves, Orioles, Cardinals and Phillies among them — need to bolster their rotations.

Carlos Rodon is by far the best starting pitcher remaining and will generate a lot of interest this week. But the trade market will also pick up. One team to watch is the Marlins, who are interested in using their organizational starting pitching depth in an effort to bolster their offense. Their preference would be to add a center fielder. Pablo Lopez in particular has been shopped around. — Gonzalez


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

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1:33

Jeff Passan and Alden Gonzalez break down Clayton Kershaw’s decision to re-sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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.

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