The winter meetings in Dallas, Texas for Major League Baseball kicked off with a bang on Monday with the announcement of Jose Reyes signing with the Miami Marlins (more on that later). This was just one of the many major chips expected to fall this week. Here are the three major themes to keep an eye on during the meetings in Dallas:
Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder signings: They are the marquee free-agents of this years class and no doubt the most expensive. But the team that lands either will take their offense and ball clubs to a whole new level. With Pujols, 31, it isn’t certain what he is looking for as far as contract demands. But he turned down the Cardinals offer the first time in February and you have to wonder if he was just trying to make sure they would be contenders for the duration of his career (which this contract would take him to the end of). The World Series the Cardinals won in 2011 wouldn’t have been possible without him and teams like the Marlins, Cubs, and Rangers must have taken notice as they are the top bidders, potentially, for his services.
Prince Fielder is just as important to the Brewers as Pujols is to the Cardinals. The overwhelming opinion throughout baseball is that he won’t be back in Milwaukee in 2012. Meaning the rumblings of the Mariners, Dodgers and Rangers could be more than just rumblings. He’s 27, coming off of a season in which he helped lead the Brewers to the division title, and most general managers would agree that his youth mixed with his team mentality are the right mix to propel a team on the cusp into annual playoff contention.
Trades, Signings, and More Trades: The Red Sox and Braves had monumental collapses. The Yankees and Phillies were unceremoniously bounced without a whimper in the first round. All four of them are in the dangerous position of knowing they’re better than that while not wanting to give up or spend too much. Let the talks begin! Now these aren’t the only four who are looking to make a move via trades (Jurrjens, Prado, and Lawrie have come up in trade discussion), or an impact signing (recently reported that Philadelphia is looking into Aramis Ramirez at third base) but they will be the most active. Especially in lieu of the Jose Reyes signing to the Miami Marlins. Look for New York to address their pitching concerns if not by C.J. Wilson then a pitcher like Jurrjens. Boston meanwhile is in the position of damage control as they look to re-sign Ortiz in hopes of solidifying that line-up and hammering out a possible deal for a pitcher (which is where Boston’s glaring deficiency is).
Collective Bargaining Agreement: While this may not seem as big an issue, with more teams focusing on building their teams through their farm systems the way draft compensation is divvied based on signings will be a factor in the way teams do business.
It will be an exciting week as the winter meetings should bring some off-season action down in Dallas.