For the first time since 2019, baseball's winter meetings are back!
It has been an action-packed week of rumors, signings and news in San Diego -- and we've got it all covered for you right here, from our MLB experts' predictions going into the meetings to the latest updates and analysis as the moves go down.
Aaron Judge has decided to stay with the New York Yankees instead of leaving the Bronx for the San Francisco Giants or another suitor. Which of the four-star shortstops in this year's free agent class found a home first? And where will Carlos Rodon land as the last ace remaining, after Jacob deGrom made waves by joining the Rangers and Justin Verlander followed by signing with the New York Mets? Check out our predictions and refresh often for the latest as the week unfolds.
Latest news, rumors, updates from San Diego
Thursday, Dec. 8
How the new Padres infield will line up
It had become clear that the Padres were engaged at the top of the free-agent shortstop market, and during this week's Winter Meetings from San Diego, many in the industry began to raise an obvious follow-up question: Will Fernando Tatis Jr. be traded?
The Padres attained their star shortstop on Wednesday night, agreeing with Xander Bogaerts on an 11-year, $280 million contract that left rival executives stunned. The Padres now have three everyday-caliber shortstops on their roster -- but a Tatis trade nonetheless seems unlikely ... this offseason, at least. Tatis, who missed the entire 2022 season because of an injured wrist and a positive steroid test, is at a low point in his value. And he can block any trade through 2028.
So it'll be fascinating to see how the Padres make it all work. Scott Boras previously said that his two high-end shortstop clients, Bogaerts and Carlos Correa, have not been asked to move during the free agency period. So that might mean that Tatis, who has previously been adamant about being an everyday shortstop, might move to right field, shifting Juan Soto to left. Ha-Seong Kim, who provided Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop last season, might move to second base. And Jake Cronenworth might see most of his time at first base.
The Padres, under A.J. Preller, clearly have not been taking a linear approach to their offseason. Instead, they adapted to the strength of the free-agent market in hopes of accessing more premier talent -- further evidenced by their aggressive pursuit of Aaron Judge -- and hoped that their in-house versatility would allow for it. Perhaps the position-player redundancies only last a year, given that Manny Machado can opt out of his contract after the 2023 season. Or two, given Soto's impending free agency. Or zero, given that it's still early December and trades might take place. A lot is still left to be decided.
What we do know is that the top half of the Padres' lineup -- perhaps Tatis, Soto, Machado, Bogaerts and Cronenworth, in that order - is one of the fiercest in the sport. And they desperately want to win. -- Alden Gonzalez
Wednesday, Dec. 7
What does the Bogaerts deal mean for the Red Sox?
Boston now finds itself with its back against the wall. Before Xander Bogaerts signed an 11-year, $280 million deal with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night, Boston Red Sox officials expressed significant confidence the team would be able to bring back the star shortstop. When asked earlier Wednesday if the team would sign Bogaerts, one Red Sox official said yes.
That didn't happen. And with the signing of Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida and reliever Kenley Jansen, Boston now has around $23 million left before hitting the luxury tax threshold. And while Jansen and Yoshida -- a top-tier hitter in the NPB -- represent two major upgrades in areas of need, Boston now needs to address a hole at shortstop and replace the offensive production of their most consistent hitter of the last decade. Bogaerts was an enormous fan favorite and after the trade of Mookie Betts, two of the best homegrown players in franchise history -- both of whom wanted to be a Red Sox for life -- are on other teams.
Boston stated a desire to add seven to nine players this off-season, and they've tallied four so far. The team will need to add another starting pitcher, but the major question remains whether the team will look at Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson as options to replace Bogaerts. The team believes Trevor Story can play shortstop, but they will need to replace elite offensive production at a premium defensive position somehow. -- Joon Lee
Intriguing additions from the Rule 5 draft
The Washington Nationals selected Thad Ward, a right-hander out of the Boston Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate, with the No. 1 overall pick in Wednesday's Rule 5 draft. But the most intriguing pick was the 11th, which saw the Philadelphia Phillies snagged Noah Song, a once-promising starting pitcher who has spent the last three years in active military service.
Song, 25, was originally a fourth-round draft pick by the Red Sox in 2019, when current Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was in charge. Song had graduated from the United States Naval Academy, where he mostly dominated, then went to aviation school after only seven professional starts. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Song was considered a first-round talent coming out of college, but he slipped to the fourth round in part due to the uncertainty of his baseball future.
The Phillies don't know if they'll have Song next season; they still have a lot of information to gather, specifically on the status of his waiver to defer his service, Fuld said. In the meantime, the Phillies placed Song on the military list so that he would not count toward their 40-man roster.
"There's some uncertainty surrounding the pick, for sure," Fuld said. "But we feel like the upside of the player is enough to take a chance." -- Alden Gonzalez | More on the Rule 5 »
How Willson Contreras' deal with the Cardinals came together
A high-stakes game of catcher poker that ended Wednesday began on Monday, when St. Louis was nearing a trade for Oakland A's catcher Sean Murphy. The return needed to land Oakland's All-Star got too high for the Cardinals, so they pivoted their attention to free agent Contreras. Cardinals president John Mozeliak's interest in Contreras remained throughout the week, but St. Louis pivoted back to Murphy discussions for a quick moment when the asking price seemed to be coming down.
Contreras wasn't going to wait.
After getting an initial offer from St. Louis -- closer to $70 million -- Contreras' camp countered with a figure approaching $100 million. With talks now revolving around a five-year deal, the Houston Astros had fallen out of the running as they weren't willing to go that long with the 30-year-old veteran.
Meanwhile, St. Louis had done its due diligence as manager Oliver Marmol and others flew to Florida to meet with the longtime Cubs catcher. They had to be sure, especially considering the fact that the Cubs had let him go without even making an offer -- and are still in need of his replacement.
Ultimately, the Cardinals met Contreras in the middle, settling on $87.5 million and handing him the keys to their pitching staff as the replacement to franchise icon Yadier Molina. -- Jesse Rogers
Will the Angels make a big move this winter?
The Angels have been at the very least hesitant to -- and rival executives will tell you categorically against -- exceeding the luxury tax threshold in prior years. But there's a sense that might change this offseason, with longtime owner Arte Moreno potentially selling the team before Opening Day. The Angels' payroll is already approaching $200 million, which would qualify as a franchise record, but their general manager, Perry Minasian, indicated it could go much higher.
Asked if the team can exceed the $233 million luxury tax threshold, Minasian said, "I think there's a possibility of that. There's no mandate that we can't."
It would have to be for the right fit. And there are two names that stick out as ideal fits: Dansby Swanson, the star shortstop with ties to Minasian from their days in Atlanta, and Kodai Senga, the Japanese starting pitcher who is attractive at least in part because he would not require a posting fee.
-- Alden Gonzalez
The moves continue in San Diego
Even after the news of Aaron Judge's $360 million deal, the winter meeting moves are far from over. Here are the latest signings to know:
Aaron Judge is staying with the Yankees ... for $360 million
Aaron Judge answered baseball's biggest offseason question Wednesday morning, agreeing to a nine-year, $360 million contract to remain with the New York Yankees, sources confirmed to ESPN.
Did the Yankees overpay? Grading Judge's $360 million deal to stay in New York
Tuesday, Dec. 6
Phils bolster starting rotation with Walker
Giants add to outfield by inking Haniger
Outfielder Mitch Haniger and the San Francisco Giants agreed on a three-year, $43.5 million contract Tuesday, sources told ESPN, filling a hole in the Giants' outfield as they continue to their free-agent pursuit of American League MVP Aaron Judge.
Bellinger chooses Cubs
Rangers add another starting pitcher
Days after making the first really big splash of this offseason by bringing in Jacob deGrom, Texas is adding another starter to its rotation by signing Andrew Heaney, according to sources. Heaney is getting a two-year deal with an opt-out in the middle. The contract is worth $25 million through those two years but can increase to $37 million with incentives. -- Alden Gonzalez
Cleveland gets needed power bat in Bell
First baseman Josh Bell and the Cleveland Guardians have agreed on a two-year contract, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN's Jeff Passan. The deal will total $33 million over two years and include an opt-out clause after the 2023 season.
How much for Bogaerts?!
Some agents have estimated that shortstop Xander Bogaerts will get a deal in the range of $180-200 million when he signs, given the enormous spike in the market. -- Buster Olney
Boras says teams have only approached him about Bogaerts playing shortstop, and he won't take any final offer back to the Red Sox:
"We're not the matching kind. We let teams know they have to assert. We don't hold back from reaching an agreement with any team. We don't give market preference to anyone." -- Jesse Rogers
Star Japanese outfielder posted as MLB free agent
Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida has officially been posted, sources tell ESPN. He'll have 30 days to sign a deal with an MLB team. There is significant interest in the 29-year-old, who this year hit .335/.447/.551 with 80 walks and 41 strikeouts for the Orix Buffaloes. -- Jeff Passan
The Padres are ready to go big. Really, really big.
The San Diego Padres appear ready and willing to make a big, big, big strike in the free agent market, a move that would send ripples throughout the industry -- and make it even clearer that Padres owner Peter Seidler is wholly devoted to the pursuit of a championship.
As The Athletic first reported, the Phillies' 11-year, $300 million offer that landed Trea Turner was actually the second-highest offer on the table, behind the Padres'. But not only did San Diego outbid the Phillies, according to industry sources, their offer would've made Turner the highest-paid shortstop in baseball -- beyond the $341 million that Francisco Lindor got from the Mets, and that the Padres previously gave to Fernando Tatis Jr.
With deep family ties to the Philadelphia area and the East Coast, Turner chose the Phillies -- despite a hard personal and financial push from the Padres, who sent a contingent of club officials to meet in person with Turner and his wife, Kristen. Turner could've played shortstop for the Padres in 2023, batting in front of Juan Soto, Manny Machado and (eventually) Tatis Jr.
But with Turner now off the board, the Padres are pivoting hard in the market, with four elite position players on the board -- slugger Aaron Judge and shortstops Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts. As one longtime evaluator said Tuesday morning: If the Padres were willing to spend $350 million or $360 million on Turner, why wouldn't they take a shot at Judge, or Correa, or Bogaerts?
And in fact, the Padres are known to have been in touch with Bogaerts, who contended for a batting title with the Red Sox in 2022 and just opted out of his contract. In the spring, Boston offered Bogaerts a one-year, $30 million extension, on top of the three years and $60 million he is already owed -- and it appears Bogaerts' market this winter will yield him a contract that takes him way, way beyond what the Red Sox proposed. The Padres could sign the 30-year-old Bogaerts to be their shortstop in the near future, and with Tatis, Jr. on the roster, Bogaerts could shift to another spot in later years.
San Diego has typically carried a payroll ranked among the bottom half of the teams. But in February of 2019, Seidler invested $300 million in Manny Machado, and since then, Seidler has continued to provide resources to the front office to make the sort of deals that the Padres wouldn't have considered in their first half-century of existence. Last summer, the Padres pulled off a massive deal in trading for Juan Soto, as well as a swap for All-Star closer Josh Hader, and San Diego eliminated the rival Dodgers -- reaching the NL Championship Series for the first time since 1998. The Padres drew nearly 3 million fans to Petco Park in 2022, with players raving about the atmosphere of the place.
It may be that San Diego fans will soon have another new All-Star to cheer on, whether it's Bogaerts or someone else. The Padres are very serious about trying to do all they can to win a World Series for the first time in franchise history. -- Buster Olney
HBCU Swingman Classic coming to MLB All-Star week
MLB, the Major League Baseball Players Association and Ken Griffey Jr. will launch the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic as part of next year's MLB All-Star festivities in Seattle, the league announced Tuesday.
Interest in McCutchen is heating up
Andrew McCutchen has drawn interest from the Dodgers, Rays and Reds, as well as the Brewers, as he prepares for his 15th big league season. McCutchen, 36, is just a handful of hits away from 2,000 in his career, and he needs just 13 homers to reach 300. While playing 134 games for the Brewers last season, McCutchen had 25 doubles and 17 homers; he has been working on making some swing changes this offseason. -- Buster Olney
Monday, Dec. 5
Will the Red Sox do something big?
The Boston Red Sox plan to be aggressive. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said the team plans on adding between seven to nine players this offseason (including the additions of relievers Joely Rodriguez and Chris Martin). Boston hopes to add a starting pitcher along with multiple position players and relievers. Bloom said the Red Sox remain engaged on Xander Bogaerts, but the team's top priority remains signing Rafael Devers to an extension. Executives for some other teams say Bogaerts' market could take a while to develop with Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson also on the open market. -- Joon Lee
Could we see more Ohtani on the mound in '23?
The Los Angeles Angels shifted to a six-man rotation in recent years to accommodate Shohei Ohtani, who was accustomed to starting once a week in his native Japan. But they have recently given thought to the possibility of whittling their staff down to five.
Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, said during the GM meetings last month that Ohtani would be open to the possibility given his growing comfort in the major leagues. The fact that his innings would tick up as a result, heading into free agency, is undoubtedly an added benefit.
"We've had conversations, and that's something we'll continue to do," Angels GM Perry Minasian said Monday. "It's still early. We haven't seen Santa yet. And so we'll see how the rest of the offseason shakes out, we'll see what we have in a six-man rotation, five-man rotation. We'll debate everything, go through it. I've said this before and I'll say it again -- with what he's accomplished over the last two years, if you're going to change that, there has to be a really good reason."
One good reason: It would require less starting pitching depth, an area the Angels have struggled with mightily in recent years. They currently field what looks like a solid five-man staff with Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Reid Detmers and Tyler Anderson, who was signed to a three-year, $39 million contract in the middle of November. But they don't have a clear-cut sixth starter, and they don't necessarily have the organizational depth to sustain many injuries.
With their payroll already on a record pace -- and salaries for starting pitchers skyrocketing -- trimming their rotation to five might allow the Angels to more aggressively plug clear holes at shortstop and in the back end of their bullpen. -- Alden Gonzalez
Don't expect the Dodgers to spend big
The Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to be an ideal landing spot for Justin Verlander, but the Mets snagged him with a two-year, $86 million contract. They had conversations with Trea Turner's representatives, but they didn't come close to matching the Phillies' 11-year, $300 million contract. Both instances illustrated what the industry had been anticipating -- that the Dodgers, while always lurking, don't figure to spend much this offseason.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has frequently expressed the desire to give some of his young players an opportunity in the big leagues, but the team also seems hesitant to blow past the luxury tax threshold for a third consecutive year and absorb those penalties.
Turner's departure left a hole at shortstop, but Friedman has said Gavin Lux can fill it by sliding over from second base. The Dodgers could use another starting pitcher, but any rotation additions might come on the margins. Center field is a hole, but Friedman brought up using Trayce Thompson or Chris Taylor there if Cody Bellinger doesn't return. The versatility on their position-player roster, at least, gives the Dodgers flexibility on the types of players they can add.
"We feel really good about the group we have in place," Friedman said. "Now we have some work to do to supplement around it, add more talent around it, and we've talked about a lot of different iterations that takes us down different paths and adds players in different ways, whether through the trade market or through the free agent market." -- Gonzalez
Brewers' top prospect to make an impact next year?
While discussing the process of putting together next season's roster, Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell talked about the importance of introducing players from the minor leagues into the mix, saying that among others, infield prospect Brice Turang could get time at the second base slot opened up by the recent trade of Kolten Wong to Seattle.
Counsell also mentioned another more surprising possibility for next year's team: Jackson Chourio, who emerged last season as one of the game's most dynamic prospects. While Counsell wasn't exactly penciling Chourio into his 2023 lineup just yet, he said, "He did so much, why would you say no to it?" The "it" in that statement meaning the notion of Chourio ascending to Milwaukee at some point in the season to come. In other words, the Brewers aren't putting any limits on their top prospect.
Chourio, who won't turn 19 until shortly before the start of next season, has just two professional seasons under his belt, topping out with a six-game appearance at Triple-A Biloxi at the end of the 2022 campaign. Overall, Chourio hit .288/.342/.538 with 20 homers, 75 RBIs and 16 stolen bases across three levels. ESPN's Kiley McDaniel had Chourio as his No. 8 prospect in his midseason rankings. -- Bradford Doolittle
Phillies give Turner $300 million deal
Mets get Verlander -- how will ace's other suitors respond?
Justin Verlander has chosen a new home, joining the Mets on a two-year, $86 million contract, sources confirmed to ESPN's Jeff Passan on Monday. The Mets -- desperate to fill holes in their rotation with Jacob deGrom joining the Rangers and Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker still free agents -- now boast six Cy Young awards on their staff between Verlander and Max Scherzer -- two future Hall of Famers who have maintained their peaks into their late 30s.
And now a lot of teams will need to pivot.
Verlander's market was particularly robust given that he would only require a short-term contract and was not tied to a qualifying offer. But a lot of teams still need starting pitching. The Astros, Verlander's former team, might not, given their depth. But the Blue Jays and the Dodgers, previously linked to Verlander, certainly do. The Rangers and the Angels, who signed Tyler Anderson early in the offseason, could still stand to add. And a host of others -- the Braves, Orioles, Cardinals and Phillies among them -- need to bolster their rotations.
Carlos Rodon is by far the best starting pitcher remaining and will generate a lot of interest this week. But the trade market will also pick up. One team to watch is the Marlins, who are interested in using their organizational starting pitching depth in an effort to bolster their offense. Their preference would be to add a center fielder. Pablo Lopez in particular has been shopped around. -- Gonzalez
Latest on the four top free agent shortstops
The shortstop market isn't close to being figured out. With four players being sought after by up to 10 teams, it might take a while. But the deeper into the offseason we go, according to one executive, the less likely it becomes any of them will re-sign with their old teams. (The exception is Carlos Correa, who could sign back with the Twins as kind of an old team/new team re-signing). There's no great indication who might sign first. -- Jesse Rogers
Why Verlander could be the next big name to sign
There's an expectation Verlander will sign soon now that deGrom is off the board. A majority of executives remain firm in their belief he'll leave the Astros. -- Rogers
How early starting pitcher signings have set the bar
The market ($11 million to $13 million per year) for the second tier of free agent pitchers has been set. The conversations now are revolving around total packages. Mike Clevinger got one year. Zach Eflin got three. Agents like the Eflin package, which totaled $40 million. -- Rogers
Winter meetings predictions
Who will be the biggest name to sign in San Diego?
Bradford Doolittle: Jeff Passan recently wrote that there is a good possibility Aaron Judge's free agency will end before the winter meetings conclude. Judge is the biggest name on the free agent market. So you don't have to be Aristotle to see the logic in declaring that Judge will be the biggest name to sign.
Buster Olney: Judge's situation is a lot like that of deGrom -- he's going to get a whopper contract, as the top free agent on the board, but there aren't a lot of suitors. It seems likely he has already heard the best offer he's going to hear from the Giants, and from the Yankees. Agents who are not involved in the negotiations are predicting he'll do something in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Joon Lee: Judge. There's going to be a massive domino effect after he signs and likely sets the market for the biggest contract. The Yankees will have so much of their offseason plans shaped around the outcome of what happens with the slugger and how they approach spending money this offseason, especially with a fan base that is as impatient for a championship as they've ever been.
David Schoenfield: Judge makes sense. Because he actually has fewer teams in pursuit of his signature than some other marquee players, all he has to do is make a decision. His market is independent of everybody else, so while it can benefit players at other positions -- like the four shortstops -- to wait for the dominoes to start falling, there is no advantage for Judge to wait. And if it's between just the Yankees and Giants, that decision can come in San Diego.
Jesse Rogers: Justin Verlander. He doesn't seem like a "wait until February" guy. His market isn't necessarily tied to Judge. Pitchers are beginning to sign, and Verlander should sooner rather than later. He's also unique compared to those other pitchers in that he's older, which means he's probably not a guy looking for opt-outs and things of that nature.
What is the one rumor that will dominate the week?
Olney: Verlander's situation, which might mirror what happened with Trevor Bauer's free agency a couple of years ago, with a showdown between the Dodgers and the Mets. He's a future Hall of Famer and coming off a Cy Young Award, and will have an immediate impact -- and both of these teams need him.
The Mets just lost another future Hall Famer in deGrom and have massive holes in their rotation, and could really use a plug-and-play star -- and Verlander's contract structure (high salary, short-term deal) fits the Dodgers' preferences. With Bauer, the Mets thought they had the right-hander signed before the Dodgers swooped in at the end to pluck Bauer away; both sides will be well aware of that history as they go through the process.
There is a lot of conversation in front offices about how Max Scherzer and Verlander might not be the greatest of friends, and whether that factor might impact the Mets' pursuit of Verlander, but remember -- in Buck Showalter's days with the Diamondbacks, he managed Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, Hall of Fame caliber pitchers who weren't close but naturally pushed each other.
Doolittle: Of all the shortstop-related scuttlebutt, the Twins' pursuit of Carlos Correa seems like the most advanced story thread. That suggests Correa could be the first domino to fall in the derby to land him, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts or Dansby Swanson. Maybe it won't mean Minnesota ends up holding a big news conference to announce that Correa will return to the Twin Cities -- or maybe it will. But I could definitely see Correa discussions looming over the meetings, not just because he's a star player in his own right, but because his signing could set off a chain reaction through the rest of the market.
Schoenfield: I'll go with all the rumors surrounding the Mets. With three starters and their top two setup relievers from 2022 all in free agency, they have some big moves to make -- which could possibly include a splash, like signing Verlander to replace deGrom atop their rotation. But they'll need at least one more starting pitcher after that, maybe two, some relievers ... oh, and a center fielder to replace Brandon Nimmo if he signs elsewhere. The Mets say they want to hold on to their prospects, and while Francisco Alvarez is untouchable, they might have to consider some trades as well.
Lee: I'm so curious what's going to happen with the Xander Bogaerts situation in Boston. The Red Sox's front office -- both privately and publicly -- has dramatically changed its tone in its willingness to give him a big contract. While there are certainly business reasons to not sign Bogaerts -- especially given the questions surrounding how long he will remain a shortstop -- the fan base has been growing angrier at the organization regarding the attitude around signing star players, which started with the Mookie Betts trade. If Bogaerts leaves, Boston will need to be aggressive in free agency to upgrade the team because patience in wearing thin among Red Sox Nation.
Rogers: No matter where you turn, the topic will undoubtedly find its way to Judge. Will he or won't he leave New York? It's not exactly the same storyline as Babe Ruth leaving the Red Sox for the Yankees -- but it's damn close.