The baseball world descends on Nashville over the next few days (December 3-6) for the most exciting part of the offseason. Teams will complete free-agent deals, blockbuster trades may go down, and 2024’s outlook will look different after this year’s winter meetings.
Predictions for the 2023-24 MLB Winter Meetings
Oakland A’s will win the 2023 Draft Lottery
In 2022, the Oakland Athletics lost 102 games in manager Mark Kotsay’s first season. They entered Major League Baseball’s (MLB) inaugural draft lottery in a three-way tie with the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates to win the number one pick.
The A’s were the only woeful team to fall out of the top three, falling to the sixth overall pick below those two teams and the 2023 World Series Champion Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, and Minnesota Twins. With that pick, the team selected infielder Jacob Wilson out of Grand Canyon University, a polished player who should stick at shortstop and quickly ascend through the minors.
While Wilson has a high floor and a strong likelihood of making it to the Major Leagues, the A’s farm system would have benefited from the addition of Paul Skenes or Dylan Crews. The Pirates and Nationals drafted these two LSU baseball superstars first and second. The A’s received another chance to get the first overall pick following their miserable 2023 campaign. They finished with a 50-112 record, their second straight season of over 100 losses after not having had one since 1979. Like last year, the team has the same odds to get the first pick, this time competing against the Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies in the 2023 Draft Lottery on Tuesday, December 5.
Given that the MLB owners unanimously approved the team’s impending relocation to Las Vegas at the owners’ meetings last week, it makes sense for the lottery balls to fall the team’s way this time to give them a top talent to build around in the new location. If awarded the number one pick, it would be the team’s second ever, with the other occurrence being when they selected outfielder Rick Monday first overall in 1965. The A’s have not had a top-three pick since they chose left-handed pitcher Mark Mulder second overall in 1998. While they still have a season of college baseball to play this spring, some early 2024 names to know include Wake Forest first baseman Nick Kurtz, Oregon State second baseman Travis Bazzana, and Florida two-way player Jac Caglianone.
Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes Ends
Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani has been the talk of the 2023 free-agent market as the best player available. Although he can’t pitch until 2025 following elbow surgery, the two-time American League MVP won’t be limited when it comes to hitting, and his incredible power will immediately transform the lineup of whichever team he agrees to join. His free-agency negotiation is nearing completion as the number of teams still involved has decreased.
The Rangers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets recently backed out, but the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, and Toronto Blue Jays remain in contention. The Dodgers have long been the favorite to sign Ohtani to the richest free-agent contract in league history, keeping the former Angel in LA and adding to a lineup that already includes superstars Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.
However, Ohtani also makes sense for a Giants club that did not sign Aaron Judge or Carlos Correa last offseason and is still searching for someone to replace retired catcher Buster Posey as the face of the franchise. If the Giants sign Ohtani, it would likely be the team’s biggest free-agency acquisition since they signed Barry Bonds in 1992. Ohtani may make his decision by the end of the week, triggering several signings in the free-agent market as teams who missed out on him readjust their offseason strategies and pivot to negotiations for other players such as Blake Snell and Matt Chapman.
At Least One Blockbuster Trade Happens
Trade rumors are already swirling between the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees regarding a deal to send Juan Soto to the Bronx Bombers. The two teams have yet to reach a consensus regarding the players going to the Padres because the team understandably wants a significant return in exchange for one of the best players in the league.
In addition, the small-market Cleveland Guardians, Tampa Bay Rays, and Milwaukee Brewers have put ace pitchers Shane Bieber, Tyler Glasnow, and Corbin Burners on the offseason trade block. These three pitchers are entering their last year before free agency and will receive a raise in arbitration. Yet, they are unlikely to come cheap due to their proven success and exorbitant talent. Nevertheless, at least one of these players will be the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal during the meetings or sometime before the start of the 2024 season.
As always, it should be an exciting few days at the winter meetings. Some teams will make more waves than others since every team enters the offseason with different goals and expectations. MLB Network is airing 28 hours of live coverage if fans want to turn on their televisions to find out what transactions their favorite team made.
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