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Every MLB team’s best Winter Meetings rumor, graded

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The Yankees might end up with Noah Syndergaard? The Dodgers might end up with Corey Kluber? It’s not wild yet, but it’s getting there.

New York Mets v San Francisco Giants Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Do you like waiver claims? Then, boy, would you have liked the first day of the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings. Carlos Asuaje was claimed! Mike Gerber was claimed! Just a bunch of GMs hanging around Vegas, claiming each other’s stuff when they aren’t looking.

But there are still rumors floating around. Actual rumors. Our job today is to look at these rumors and grade them. More specifically, we need to find the best rumor for each team and grade it.

There aren’t any signings, and there weren’t any great trades. So how are the rumors looking? Are they at least good rumors, the kind that allow us to close our eyes and imagine the sheer chaos and dread?

Some of them, yeah. Here are the hottest rumors around Major League Baseball at the moment:

Arizona Diamondbacks

Yeah, that’s cute, Diamondbacks, but a team that trades Paul Goldschmidt after losing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock is rebuilding. We don’t make the rules, here. Sorry if that’s a drag, but you literally traded your best player for prospects after losing your best pitcher. Don’t play the semantic shuffle with us.

Now, if the Diamondbacks were saying things like, “Ideally, we’re looking for players ready for the majors or close to it because we’re not interested in a rebuild. We want a quick reload,” I could dig it. As is, though ...

Grade: D

Atlanta Braves

Ah, I love the idea that a win-now team is confident enough to trade one of its better young starters. Because Mike Foltynewicz is young and affordable, he should fetch a high price. Because the Braves are stacked with pitching prospects, they can afford to gamble and trade Foltynewicz at what could be his highest value.

The team that had Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, and Kris Medlen at the same time should definitely not worry about depth. What’s the worst that could happen?

Or is the argument that a team that had Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, and Kris Medlen at the same time should be way more inclined to trade a young arm because those things are inherently unpredictable?

I think the larger point is that pitchers are confusing and so are the Braves.

Grade: B+

Baltimore Orioles

See, this is the thing about an abominable team: Even the rumors suck. One of the managerial candidates is Manny Acta, and another one is ... that guy with the hat ... look, I fell asleep reading the list. It’s entirely possible that this manager is the one who shepherds the Orioles back from the abyss — look at how little excitement there was about the Braves and Brian Snitker, for example — but right now, it’s just not a sexy rumor.

The Orioles won’t be a part of a sexy rumor until July 16, 2020. Savor it when it comes. It will be about the Dodgers wanting to trade for the player who breaks out in 2019, but savor it when it comes.

Grade: F

Boston Red Sox

This is a peak We Just Won The World Series rumor. Just tinkerin’ over here. We have the best team, la la lalala. There will be no JD Martinez this year, and that’s fine. The last one helped them win the World Series, after all.

Grade: C

Chicago Cubs

Is there anything more boring than a We Just Won The World Series rumor? Yes. The Cubs aren’t in on Bryce Harper. They don’t have Patrick Corbin. They’re not trading for Sonny Gray. We don’t even have a stray Sonny Gray rumor. Every team has a stray Sonny Gray rumor.

This, of course, means that they’re going to trade Kyle Hendricks and Anthony Rizzo in a six-way deal for Kyler Murray and Aaron Judge. But for now ...

Grade: F

Chicago White Sox

From Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:

They are still taking calls on first baseman Jose Abreu, but there’s an organizational debate on whether they should move him before the big money starts or keep him.

It’s a boring rumor, but don’t forget that the White Sox still have one piece to pawn. I know they don’t want to trade Abreu after his worst season, but if teams are interested in your soon-to-be expensive, two-tool, 32-year-old first baseman, you have to consider it.

(And if you’re the Rockies, a team that’s struggled to find half-decent first basement since Justin Morneau left, you have to be curious about the giant dinger monster that the bad team is curiously reluctant to deal.)

Grade: B

Cincinnati Reds

BRIAN CASHMAN: It’s like that scene from The Office where Michael Scott puts his own name under Wayne Gretzky’s “You miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take” quote.

— Grant Brisbee

Grade: B+

Cleveland Indians

From Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The Tampa Bay Rays, coming off an unexpected 90-win season, are looking to upgrade their offense for the season ahead in the AL East.

They’re evaluating several players who could help them, including Yandy Diaz and Edwin Encarnacion of the Indians.

Those are two very different things! Edwin Encarnacion is an ultra-expensive 36-year-old who just put up his worst OPS+ in seven years, and it came with a noticeable decline in his contact and walk rates. Yandy Diaz is a young, inexpensive 27-year-old who probably should have had a job somewhere two years ago. The former makes no sense. The latter makes all of the sense.

Grant Brisbee is in the market for a 2011 Toyota Tundra with 115,000 miles or a new spice rack.

Well, I guess both of those are true, so I stand corrected. Perhaps it’s a package thing, where the Rays take on Encarnacion’s $25.7 million salary and raise their payroll to $26 million, and their reward is a nice, owner-friendly player with oodles of potential. I don’t know if this works, but it’s a heckuva rumor.

Grade: A

Colorado Rockies

Since Todd Helton retired in 2013, the Rockies have had exactly one season with a first baseman who finished with 2 WAR, and that was in 2014. They spent a lot of money to get a shortstop-turned-outfielder to play first, and that was a debacle.

They should probably get serious about upgrading at first base.

Grade: B+

Detroit Tigers

Like the White Sox and Abreu, it’s Sunday afternoon at 2:40 p.m., and the garage sale weekend is almost over. If you want a handful of Herb Alpert records, you can just take them. But there’s still something there, something in the corner. Something valuable ... yes, this just might be ...

Castellanos can hit. He should also be kept away from a National League team by a court order. So while the idea makes sense, I’m not sure the destination does. The Tigers should definitely get something while the numbers are up, though, and I would definitely expect him to move this winter.

Grade: B+

Houston Astros

From Buster Olney:

On paper, Eovaldi seemed like the perfect fit for the Houston Astros, who have a history of taking pitchers with really good arms and making them better. But the Astros never really engaged on the right-hander

From Evan Drellich:


This isn’t to pick on either writer, just a note that these conflicting notes are about a deal that’s already done. There’s no reason for skulduggery from the teams involved at this point. And if cables can get crossed in that situation, imagine how screwed up rumors can get when they’re being spread by teams looking to gain an advantage over their rivals.

What I’m trying to say is this is all useless and we’d be much better off not following any of this until March 1.

But then we’d miss out on the endorphins. Open wide and eat your endorphins.

(There aren’t a lot of good Astros rumors right now, just like with the Cubs and Red Sox. Winning the World Series makes you soft, kids.)

Grade: F

Kansas City Royals

There are approximately 48 different second basemen available, either through trades or free agency, so don’t blame the Royals here. There’s also no shame in keeping at least one fan favorite around. It’s a long season, and you still want to sell tickets.

Keep this good player. For the fans. They’re so cold and lonely.

It’s a pretty lousy rumor, though.

Grade: D (upgraded from F because it’s kind of unfair that a Billy Hamilton rumor would have improved their grade substantially)

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels are so lame, I had to reuse a tweet for the first time. They want a starting pitcher, and until they get one, I’m putting the ENTIRE blame for the slow Winter Meetings on them. Once they get someone/anyone, the floodgates will open. Until then, here’s a rumor about someone they almost got.

I was almost on Wheel of Fortune once. That knowledge is just as valuable to me as almost getting Eovaldi should be to the Angels.

Grade: F

Los Angeles Dodgers

Yes, yes, yes. This is a prime Kobe rumor, fed beer and massaged to encourage marbling. You have a pair of perennial contenders discussing wild permutations and possibilities, with names you’ve heard of.

I still don’t have any idea why the Indians are interested in trading Kluber, but I guess they’re looking to sustain this run of three straight World Series titles. The rumor is a banger, though.

Grade: A+

Miami Marlins

I don’t enjoy giving the Marlins a hard time, but it’s hard not to, considering they ditched an all-time outfield without having a top-100 prospect to show for it. This, though, is a rumor I can get behind. The Yankees get a sure thing, a two-way catcher who just might be the best in baseball. The Marlins get a buy-low potential superstar with some scrapes but nothing that the body shop can’t buff out?

It’s a great balance of present and future, with risks and rewards for both. Great rumor.

Grade: A

Milwaukee Brewers

From Robert Murray of the Athletic:

Sources tell The Athletic that the Brewers have expressed interest in free-agent second baseman Daniel Murphy, as well as retaining free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas.

Still think they could use a starting pitcher or two, and this is a market that features several of them, but a solid second baseman is a pretty good start, especially one on a shorter-term deal who wouldn’t block Keston Hiura.

It’s boring, but pragmatic. This is a rumor with fiber.

Grade: B

Minnesota Twins

The Twins are the hardest team to peg in baseball, two years removed from a postseason berth and just a couple months removed from a dull, pointless season. So this rumor makes sense. Reliever! Back-end starter! Win-now catcher! It’s all over the place.

At least it looks like they’re trying, though. At least it looks like they’re trying. That means something in 2018.

Grade: C

New York Mets

Their best rumor was this at one point ...

... and that’s a B-rumor, at best. Ramos fits the Mets, for sure, but that’s just not a sexy rumor. Even the tweet is just a single sentence, completely self-aware about its general okayness.


PRrrrrroowwwwwww goes the power chord as you windmill the guitar until the E string breaks and sparks shoot out behind you.

The best part about a rumor like this is that you can’t hate it! I have no idea what permutation gets Realmuto on the Mets with Syndergaard going the other way. Maybe Gleyber Torres comes to the Mets? Does that sound stupid? Too much? Too little?

Look, I have no idea how any of this works, and it’s beautiful. What a rumor.

Grade: A+++++

New York Yankees

They can claim some of the pluses from that previous grade, but this is still a rumor that says, “The Yankees aren’t looking to be the Yankees that you remember.” The 2003 Yankees would have signed Harper by now. The 2018 Yankees are cosplaying as the modest Cardinals, and it’s annoying.

Grade: D

Oakland A’s

From Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:

According to an industry source, Oakland has expressed interest in free agent D.J. LeMahieu

Perhaps the best fit of any rumor here. LeMahieu plays defense, and while Coors Field overrated his offense, he can still hit a little bit. The glut of second basemen means that his market should be owner-friendly, which is great if you’re rooting for the owners.

This definitely has a chance.

Grade: A

Philadelphia Phillies

“Ongoing dialogue” is an underrated Winter Meetings phrase. That dialogue could be about employment. It could also be about whether the SNES or Genesis was better. It’s wide open if you use your imagination.

But Mr. Stark’s overall point — that the Phillies are a great fit for Happ — is sound. Every win-now team should be giddy about someone like Happ, who gives them a strong chance next year without requiring a messy fourth or fifth year at the end of his contract.

Grade: A-

Pittsburgh Pirates

Didn’t the Pirates just give up a tremendous amount of talent for Chris Archer? Aren’t they all in? Or are they kinda sorta in but also listening to trade offers if it allows them to kick the can down the road a couple of years? And if that’s the case, why did they do that thing for Archer again?

If they’re going to trade that much for Archer, shouldn’t they surround him with free agents that break the Russell Martin threshold and become the highest paid Pirates mercenaries ever? Is it possible to talk about the Pirates without constantly reverting to upspeak?

Grade: ¨∑ œ ˆ ˆ∑ ´®? ! look i have no idea

San Diego Padres

I get it. It’s because Syndergaard is creating thunder and spraying the earth with lightning. That’s why he’s a part of all the best trade rumors of the last year.

The Mets would want Tatis because they’re looking to win in 2019 and also save various Wilpons money over the next few years. The Padres would want Syndergaard because they’re angling to be this year’s version of the Braves, where they arrive just a touch earlier than expected, and they want a unicorn of a starting pitcher in place if that happens.

Great rumor. A completely ludicrous paring of teams, but that’s why it’s so great.

Grade A

San Francisco Giants

Brandon Belt would hit 30 homers with a .400 OBP in Yankee Stadium. I love watching him, and he’s clearly the Giants’ best hitter, but sometimes birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright.

The fact that several teams are interested gives you a hint that their computers are spitting out reams of paper that detail just how much AT&T Park screws him. It’s almost — almost — enough to make me want the Rockies to pursue him.

Grade: B

Seattle Mariners

Hrmm, my editors are telling me that’s not a real tweet and is something that I made up. One second.


You know, there really aren’t any good rumors here. Jerry Dipoto doesn’t need your stinking rumors. He prefers to hide in the bushes with a trade and spring out, “GRRRRAAHHHHHFRRRH” and scare the hell out of you. It’s his thing.

Grade: INC

St. Louis Cardinals

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had, like, six dozen rumors packed into one post. As a rumor connoisseur, allow me to take a quick break and share my appreciation for a column like this.

I’ve been doing a lot of research with old issues of The Sporting News, and it’s made me appreciate the format of a pre-Twitter world. There aren’t single names or trade possibilities barfed out for retweets to improve brand awareness. There were densely packed articles that walked you through all of the scuttlebutt and tried to make sense of it. Nick Cafardo’s weekly column is another one that deserves praise in a Twitter world.

Anyway, just read the column if you have any interest in what the Cardinals are doing. It’s a lot better than 140 characters of “HEARD THIS.”

Grade: A

Tampa Bay Rays

From Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:

Among several options the Rays have explored to sign or trade for a starting pitcher, they’ve expressed interest and had initial conversations with free-agent RHP Charlie Morton.

Hell yes, this is a fine rumor. But I’m not sure if I should be this proud of the Rays spending just a little bit. They’re a solid collection of on-field and front-office talent that should absolutely believe in themselves. They can afford a free agent or two, right?


Grade: B+

Texas Rangers

From Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

They have already received calls from most MLB teams on right-hander Jose Leclerc, who finished 2018 as the closer and was one of the game’s top relievers. The Rangers have a glut of left-handed-hitting corner outfielders, and Daniels has indicated a willingness to move one of them.

Jose Leclerc didn’t allow a run after July 25th. He’s incredibly awesome.

Also, the Rangers should absolutely trade him for a billion prospects. This is a bird in the hand who is worth six birds in future bushes, but you can also trade him for nine birds in future bushes. In this metaphor, the birds are prospects, unless the bushes are. Either way, every bad team that stumbles upon a magic young relief ace should cash that chip in IMMEDIATELY.

Grade: B-

Toronto Blue Jays

This is rumor non-speak.

We have good players, but we’ll need to get even better players back if we trade them.

Though I do appreciate the in-or-out quandary the Blue Jays are in. It’s the same one they’ve been stuck in for about two decades, give or take a Bautista bat flip, but I wouldn’t know what to do with them either.

Grade: D

Washington Nationals

From Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post:

As Boras sees it, (Mark) Lerner violated that provision when he said in a radio interview on 106.7 the Fan that the Nationals did “the best we could do” by offering Harper $300 million over 10 years in September.

The Nationals are out? The Nationals are out! I dismissed the idea that they would pay so much for Patrick Corbin that they would give up on Bryce Harper, but I guess I shouldn’t have. There’s apparently a younger Lerner in charge, and we should never underestimate the ability of a next-generation rich dude to outthink himself.

They should probably re-sign Harper, y’all.

Grade: F