The winners of the winter meetings in 2015 were the Arizona Diamondbacks, who signed the best starting pitcher (Zack Greinke) and traded for another All-Star arm (Shelby Miller).
The Snakes then went 69-93 and finished a mere 22 games out of first place in the American League West. But, hey, they won the winter meetings.
But the team crowned the champions last week at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center has no intentions of contending in 2017. Their stiffest competition in National Harbor, Md. — and one of their trading partners — expects to win and win big.
And the Boston Red Sox have something else going for them: The team a year ago that was said to have had the biggest winter meetings next to Arizona was the Chicago Cubs, and look at them now.
Still, Red Sox fans probably shouldn’t plan a party on Boylston Street just yet.
Winter meetings winners
1. Chicago White Sox: In dealing away All-Star starter Chris Sale to the Red Sox and outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals, the White Sox acquired the foundation for their rebuild.
They acquired four of the top 40 prospects in baseball, including No. 1 overall prospect Yoan Moncada from Boston. They added two highly regarded starting pitchers, one of whom (native Texan Michael Kopech) supposedly had a fastball clocked at 105 mph.
Chicago might not be done dealing, either. Teams covet durable left-hander Jose Quintana, closer David Robertson, third baseman Todd Frazier and first baseman Jose Abreu.
2. Boston Red Sox: In acquiring Sale, Boston added him to a starting rotation that includes fellow lefty David Price and righty Rick Porcello. All Porcello did in 2016 was win the AL Cy Young Award.
The cost was huge, but the Red Sox have a deep farm system and some of the game’s best young major-leaguers. They also traded for bullpen help, acquiring Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee, and signed former Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland.
The Red Sox, who won the AL East in 2016 but were swept in the division series, have the look of the 2017 favorites.
3. Closers: The record for biggest contract given to a closer was shattered twice at the meetings. The first to do so was Mark Melancon, a right-hander who parlayed three straight solid seasons into a four-year, $62 million deal with the San Francisco Giants.
His record lasted three days before Aroldis Chapman cashed in, signing a five-year, $86 million deal with the New York Yankees. In so doing, he set the market for Kenley Jansen. The former Los Angeles Dodgers closer is being wooed by the Dodgers and Miami Marlins and should receive a comparable deal.
4. Round Rock Express: A non-MLB nod goes to the Rangers’ Triple A affiliate, which won the John Henry Moss Community Service Award and was selected as the Bob Freitas Triple A Organization of the Year.
Their general manager, Chris Almendarez, was named the Pacific Coast League Executive of the Year. His wife, Jana, was at the heart of the Express’ community efforts as they raised $600,000 for various cancer-related organizations as she battled Stage IV glioblastoma.
Winter meetings losers
1. Washington Nationals: The Eaton trade isn’t frowned upon by club brass as much as it is by the media. Washington parted with three of its top six prospects, including top-ranked right-hander Lucas Giolito.
The Nationals, though, had cooled on the starting pitcher, who some felt was rushed to the majors. He’s also a flyball pitcher with a flat fastball and was hit hard during his first tastes of the majors.
Washington also missed out on Sale and lost Melancon to free agency while being unable to acquire a closer of their own. On top of that, they learned that their best player, Bryce Harper, will want a 10-year, $400 million contract to stick around after the 2018 season.
Not a great week for the meetings’ host team.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates: A longtime beat writer said that he can never remember a meetings where the Pirates didn’t do something. He was talking about acquiring a player, though, not possibly alienating their best player.
The Pirates were shopping center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the former National League MVP whose remaining contract is friendly even by Pirates standards. There were no takers as clubs, including the Rangers, were turned off by the Pirates’ high demands.
3. Edwin Encarnacion: The first baseman, one of the game’s top prospects the past five seasons, is the biggest bat on the market but saw his stock drop in hoping for a huge deal.
The off-season isn’t done, so it’s possible that his market is restored, but as of now he’s down to only one suitor. That suitor, the Cleveland Indians, isn’t exactly know for handing out massive contracts.
Encarnacion already turned down a four-year, $80 million deal from the Toronto Blue Jays, who watched him hit all those home runs the past five years. Maybe they come back with an offer, but that $80 million ship has likely sailed.