The 2015 Major League Baseball winter meetings have yet to start, but it’s already obvious that this will be one of the craziest and least predictable offseasons in years. 

Zack Greinke provided the biggest jolt so far this winter, agreeing to a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. Greinke going to the desert has a ripple effect on the rest of MLB, particularly in the National League West where the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants were considered favorites for the right-hander, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale

While free agency is often the focus at the winter meetings, the trade winds are also likely to bear fruit. Trading is also a more practical way for teams that can’t spend nine figures on a single player to bolster their rosters for 2016 and beyond. 

Before the MLB world descends on Nashville for the start of this year’s winter meetings, here are the top trade rumors floating around that could provide the next great ripple effect. 


The Shelby Miller Market

Young, cost-controlled starting pitching is the greatest luxury in MLB, with Atlanta Braves right-hander Shelby Miller falling into that category with three years left before he can become a free agent. 

With the Braves taking on a full-scale rebuild, it’s only prudent that Miller’s name would at least be discussed in trade rumblings. 

Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post did report that the Colorado Rockies at one point called the Braves about Miller, but the two sides had not spoken “in a while.”

Miller has been one of the most sought-after items on the trade market, with Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reporting at the end of November that “20 or so teams” have shown some level of interest in the 25-year-old. 

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick recently noted the Braves were likely to keep Miller, despite receiving “a ton of hits” about him. 

The Rockies are a mess with no clear sense of direction. They finally bit the bullet last year by trading Troy Tulowitzki, evidently accepting a rebuild was necessary, but their return lacked impact. Jeff Hoffman was a top-10 pick in 2014, but he’s only pitched 104 innings in the minors after having Tommy John surgery.

Pitching in Colorado is different than anywhere else because of the thin air and what it can do to flatten pitches out. Developing power arms in the starting rotation, guys who can miss bats even when their command is slightly off, is essential for the Rockies to succeed. 

Miller would be an interesting test case for the Rockies because he does have power stuff, with FanGraphs measuring his fastball last year at a career-high 94 mph. He’s not, however, a prolific strikeout pitcher with 298 punchouts over 388.1 innings since 2014. 

The Braves have all the power in any negotiation because Miller has proved to be very good with a 3.22 career ERA, 1.24 WHIP and at least 31 starts in each of the last three years. Trading him now, as the franchise is essentially parting with anyone who will get expensive in the next two years, would fit their plan. 

Unfortunately for interested parties, there doesn’t seem to be any urgency on the Braves’ part to deal Miller. 


James Shields Available Again

One year after signing with the San Diego Padres, James Shields is being put on the market once again by the National League West club. 

Rosenthal reported the Padres “think” they are in a position to move Shields because his remaining contract ($65 million over three years) will look better with current free-agent prices continuing to rise. 

However, Rosenthal added other teams are “skeptical” about San Diego’s thinking and the 33-year-old doesn’t look as impressive as he once did:

Yet another matter complicating the process for any interested team, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, is the way San Diego is looking to make a deal around Shields:

The one valuable asset Shields still has is his ability to eat innings. He’s made at least 33 starts covering at least 202.1 innings every year since 2008. 

On the bad side of things, Shields had a 3.91 ERA, below-average ERA+ (93) and 33 home runs allowed last year pitching half of his games in spacious Petco Park. Paying that pitcher nearly $22 million per season is foolish. 

Shields, who is about to turn 34 on Dec. 20, isn’t likely to rediscover his stuff and velocity, so the odds of him opting out after next season and leaving millions of dollars on the table that he won’t recoup in another deal are slim. 

The Padres will likely be stuck paying Shields for a subpar performance in their rotation, unless they decide to take a different approach and kick in a lot of money in a potential trade. 


The Hanley Ramirez Dilemma

The Boston Red Sox have already answered their two biggest questions this offseason, signing David Price to lead their starting rotation and acquiring Craig Kimbrel from San Diego to close games. 

One lingering question is what will happen with Hanley Ramirez, who is under contract for three more years. 

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported last week that Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski was seeking to move the 31-year-old. 

“The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense,” Cafardo wrote. “There are huge hurdles to cross, however. One is money. With a little more than $68 million remaining on Ramirez’s deal, the Red Sox would need to eat at least half.”

It’s important to note Cafardo‘s report came out before Baltimore acquired Mark Trumbo from Seattle, so it’s unclear how much interest, if any, would remain on the Orioles’ side. 

Seattle doesn’t seem likely after the M’s signed Nori Aoki to take Trumbo‘s spot in the outfield mix. Ramirez also doesn’t fit in Mariners general manager Jerry DiPoto’s early offseason philosophy of improving his team’s defense. 

Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald added Dombrowski will struggle to find a suitor for Ramirez because he’s “a soon-to-turn-32-year-old without a position who has missed an average of 41 games over the last four seasons because of assorted injuries.”

Unlike the Padres’ plan with Shields, the Red Sox don’t seem like a franchise that would insist on a team interested in Ramirez taking on his entire remaining salary. 

However, given Ramirez’s limitations because of injuries and his disappointing .717 OPS last year, the Red Sox will be better off hanging onto him and hoping he’s able to rebuild his value in 2016. It’s not a likely outcome, but it’s one they can afford to take. 


Stats per unless otherwise noted.

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