Winter Meetings Recap

The 2019 Winter Meetings will be remembered for three massive major league contracts that were handed out. Locally, however, there was little to report.

On Monday the Washington Nationals re-signed Stephen Strasburg to the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history. His rule lasted about 24 hours.

Tuesday the New York Yankees blew Strasburg’s deal out of the water, signing Gerrit Cole to a massive deal that is now the biggest pitcher contract in history.

That left the Los Angeles Angels in the dust. They wanted one of the two big free agent pitchers. Instead, they spent their money on a huge contract for third baseman Anthony Rendon that gives the Angels an even more formidable starting lineup. Their pitching remains suspect.

The three biggest free agents on the market signed right in a row, one per day, during the meetings in San Diego.

As promised by general manager Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners were quiet, making no moves except for a selection in the Rule 5 Draft. I guess we should have believed him.

Seattle selected hard-throwing right-hander Yohan Ramirez in the major league Rule 5 Draft, adding him to the 40-man roster. This is the deal where Ramirez must remain in the major leagues all season long, or be returned to his previous organization (the Houston Astros).

Ramirez has three stats that tell you pretty much everything you need to know: 106 innings pitched, 158 strikeouts, and 74 walks. He amassed those totals while pitching at Advanced Class-A Fayetteville and Double-A Corpus Christi last season.

The Mariners will work with him in spring training, see if they can get his control improved, and will have until opening day to make a decision about keeping him in the majors during the regular season.

The team selected three players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. These players do not have to appear at particular levels of the farm system in 2020 – without getting too detailed because it is quite confusing, the minor league portion of this draft is best described as an opportunity to purchase select qualified veteran minor leaguers from another organization.

Only one of the three players has a good chance to appear with the Rainiers in 2020: catcher Brian O’Keefe, who reached Double-A in the St. Louis Cardinals organization last year. He’s probably targeted for Double-A Arkansas (along with top prospect Cal Raleigh), but he is an older player at age 26 and could end up in Triple-A at some point this coming season.

The Mariners also selected Advanced Class-A outfielder Jhonny Santos from the Miami organization, and a first baseman named Dariel Gomez who played short-season ball in the Cardinals organization last season. Neither figure into Tacoma’s plans for 2020 at this point.

In one of his media sessions at the Winter Meetings, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred indicated that a couple of long-discussed rule changes are going to be put into effect this season.

Manfred expects the major league roster size to increase to 26. He expects a three-batter minimum rule for relief pitchers to be put in place. He also stated that the minimum stay on the Injured List will increase from ten days to 15 days for pitchers only.

The last rule should decrease the number of transactions we have in Triple-A, which is a good thing for all. Roster continuity benefits the fans at all levels of the game.

Longtime major leaguer and former Rainiers star Adam Jones made a surprising deal as the Winter Meetings occurred in his hometown: he signed to play in Japan, with Orix, for the next two years.

Jones, 34, played in 197 games for Tacoma in 2006 and 2007. He’s been in the majors ever since: 11 years with Baltimore, and last season with Arizona. Jones has four Gold Glove awards, was MLB’s “Man of the Year” in 2015, and is a five-time All-Star.

The move to Japan shows the adventurous side of Jones: he’s a sharp guy with worldly interests, and the idea of playing in a foreign country certainly appealed to him. He definitely would have gotten a major league job this season, had he been willing to wait out the market.

We learned that milestone statistics don’t matter to Jones. One more major league season would have allowed him to reach 2,000 hits (he’s 61 short), 1,000 RBI (needs 55), and a shot at 300 homers (needs 18).

Already a good Instagram follow, the @simplyaj10 account should be quite interesting in 2020.

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