Previewing the Winter Meetings

Baseball’s Winter Meetings kick off this week in the annual “Now is About the Time We Start Doing Things” portion of most GMs’ job. As the week goes on, we should start to get a sense of where the bigger free agents might end up and we might see a trade or two as well.

Here are five things to watch at this year’s meetings:

1) Centerfield

Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan, Shane Victorino. Four centerfielders last season who are looking for new teams and somewhere between 2 and 4 of them will get jobs as centerfielders. Bourn and Pagan certainly, with Hamilton and Victorino potentially moving to a corner.

The market here is interesting because the players are all looking for very different contracts and are very different style players, but they are actually probably all worth about the same on the field. Hamilton provides power, Bourn provides speed on offense and defense, Pagan plays good defense and gets on base, and Victorino does everything kind of well.

It will be very interesting to see who takes the plunge on Hamilton, how much Bourn gets, who sees Pagan as the safe bet, and who thinks Victorino will bounce back. This part of the market is deep in a strange way.

2) Zach Greinke

Greinke is easily the top free agent on the market in my book and he should become a very rich man in the next couple weeks if he doesn’t fall down a flight of stairs while simultaneously tearing his UCL.

Earlier this offseason I wrote that the Dodgers and the Angels were the most likely suitors for Greinke, but there is some talk that the Angels might not be as in control of this as we thought a month ago.

The Dodgers can give Greinke the team credit card and he could really shine in the big park, light hitting NL West. Yet the Angels need him desperately and currently have a pitching staff that more closely resembles the Cubs than the Phillies. Last year, a lot of mystery teams jumped in on big rf mystery teams tly have a pitching staff that more closely resembles the Cubs than the Phillies. Yet the Angefree agents, so keep an eye out for that again.

We’re watching Greinke because of his value, but also because everyone will wait for him to sign to go forward with starting pitching plans. His market will set the market for other pitcher and teams that needed Greinke will turn up the heat on other options.

3) Relievers

I won’t say much here other than that Brandon League and Jonathan Broxton got three year deals in excess of $20 million to pitch 60 innings a season. The relief market is off the rails and we’ll see where it goes from here. How much does Soriano want if this is what his inferior competition is making?

Fans and teams dramatically overvalue individual relievers and I’ll be watching how this plays out in Nashville this week.

4) Good Players that Don’t Fit

There are a few players on the free agent market who might be in odd situations because their current club doesn’t really have a place for them anymore. Adam LaRoche might have just been pushed out in Washington with Span coming over. The Tigers can’t afford Anibal Sanchez. The Yankees don’t want Nick Swisher. There’s no room at the inn in LA for Victorino.

It will be interesting to watch how this market plays out given that a lot of very useful players won’t be able to turn around and resign with their previous clubs. They might be undervalued, but they could still get overpaid. It’s really hard to tell how all of the new money will change the game and how a weak top of the market plays with a deep middle of the market.

5) TRADES?

Everyone seems to love trades and trade scenarios. Justin Upton? Giancarlo Stanton? Wil Myers? R.A. Dickey? Could these guys be traded?!

The Winter Meetings will give teams a chance to really gauge both the free agent and trade markets as they look to improve their clubs for 2013. If another big trade is going to happen this offseason, it’ll come in the next few days.

There’s a lot to watch next week as the offseason gets into full swing, so check with STT every day for complete coverage.

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