The Winter Meetings return Sunday to the place they last left, just as the Hot Stove gets hopping.
San Diego will be the scene of the 2022 Winter Meetings, same as it was when this event was last held, pre-pandemic, in 2019. That year, the Meetings were especially active, with Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) and Gerrit Cole (Yankees) agreeing to record-setting pitching contracts on consecutive days, the Angels signing Anthony Rendon and the Phillies signing Zack Wheeler, among other moves.
This winter, with Jacob deGrom now off the board in a blockbuster deal with the Rangers, we could see a similar spree of activity at the Meetings. (Let’s hope so, anyway.) So here are some attempts to guess what deals and developments might go down.
(Just to get ahead of the back-tracking I am about to unleash upon you, yes, I am the same fool who wrote these earth-shaking predictions at the onset of the offseason. And, yes, I am going to pivot away from a few of them here, because, as I warned at the time, none of those were especially likely to happen, anyway! Plus, what fun is reading the same thing twice?)
Aaron Judge will make his decision
The American League single-season home run record-holder signing what looks to be, at minimum, a $300 million contract less than a year after boldly turning down a $230 million extension offer is just the sort of whopper the Winter Meetings are made for. It sure looks probable, because Judge’s destination is a spark that can set off so much other movement in this market, and it’s not as if there are a ton of teams involved here.
So … which team will it be? Though we love our mystery teams (and it would be fun to see one swoop in late), the market for Judge has basically developed as expected -- Yankees vs. Giants. It’s going to be difficult (though not impossible) for the Giants to field an obvious contender in 2023 while still paying Judge his market value. So he’ll stay with the Yankees and become their new captain (or perhaps the title should be “Chief Justice”).
The Mets will make their post-deGrom move
And it’s going to be Justin Verlander. They did the mega short-term deal for Max Scherzer a year ago, and they’re going to do the same with another likely future Hall of Famer.
Verlander and his wife Kate Upton sold their home in Beverly Hills and bought a home in Jupiter, Fla. You think they want to criss-cross the country again to sign with the Dodgers? Nah, that’s too much hassle. Verlander will stay on the Treasure Coast for Spring Training, and his three-year deal -- while huge -- won’t crush a Mets team that also has to find a way to add power to the lineup. Yet again, he will pitch for a team that wears orange. It’s fate.