With spring training drawing near, we’re all mainly excited for the baseball. It’s our dear friend, and it’s been too long since we last hung out.

But don’t forget about the business, folks. Spring training always brings us a few last-minute deals, and we’re here to take a whack at predicting some of the big ones that will go down this spring.

We don’t have many to get to. Only four. Two involve predicting new homes for a couple big-name free agents. Another involves predicting the spring’s biggest trade. Lastly, there’s no time for contract extensions like spring training, and there’s one in particular on our radar.

Let’s get going with…


Yovani Gallardo Signs with the Baltimore Orioles

Major league clubs have already dropped about $2.5 billion on free agents. If they were to pool all their money together, Forbes says they could afford to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

And there are three big-name free agents still waiting to get theirs: outfielder Dexter Fowler, shortstop Ian Desmond and starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo. How much longer, oh glorious free-agent gods, must they wait?

In the case of Fowler, probably not long. There seems to be more interest in him than there is in Gallardo and Desmond, making it easier to predict that their strolls through the open market will last into spring training.

But eventually, Gallardo should get picked up by the Baltimore Orioles.

Admittedly, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette would advise everyone not to hold their breath. Gallardo is still on the market largely because he’s tied to draft-pick compensation. And for the Orioles, signing him would mean giving up the No. 14 pick in next year’s draft. No small sacrifice, that.

As the man himself recently told his cousin, Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio:

However, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun is of the mind that Gallardo remains a possibility for the Orioles. And as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote, Gallardo’s price could drop to a point that would simply be too good for the Orioles to pass up, lost draft pick be damned.

There’s a good chance of that happening. All the other top arms on what was once a crowded starting pitching market have already signed, putting a dent in the demand for starters. And knowing how they scored Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz a couple springs ago, the Orioles are just the team to take advantage of Gallardo slashing his ticket price.

There’s also the kinda-sorta important note that the Orioles really need Gallardo. They’ve lost ground in the AL East, and a good way for them to make it up would be to repair a starting pitching staff that FanGraphs currently projects as the worst in the American League.

With a 3.46 ERA over the last two seasons, Gallardo could help fix that. And here’s thinking the Orioles could have him on a cheap three-year deal they could potentially make cheaper with an opt-out.


Ian Desmond Signs with the Arizona Diamondbacks

With Gallardo safe and sound in a new home, now we have to find shelter for Ian Desmond. Let’s do that by sending him to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If you’re thinking this is us going way off the board, well, you’re not wrong. Desmond has been linked to the Tampa Bay Rays, as reported by MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo, and many believe the Chicago White Sox would be a likely landing spot. Not so much the Diamondbacks, though. And after their trade for Jean Segura, they don’t have an obvious home at shortstop.

But if the Diamondbacks want to overcome the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the NL West, they need as much firepower as they can get. They also have two apparent advantages over suitors such as the Rays and White Sox.

The Diamondbacks don’t have to worry as much about losing a draft pick to sign Desmond. Where the Rays would lose the No. 13 pick and the White Sox would lose the No. 28 pick, the Diamondbacks would only lose the No. 39 pick. That thing is not like the previous two things.

The Diamondbacks would also seem to have more money to spend. Baseball-Reference.com puts their projected 2016 payroll at about $95 million, which is well short of the franchise’s all-time high of $112 million in 2014. That gives them plenty of room to dip into their new $1.5 billion TV deal.

Signing Desmond would be a good excuse to do so. After averaging roughly 20 home runs per year over the last four seasons, swapping out Nationals Park for the typically homer-friendly Chase Field could allow him to do even better. For the Diamondbacks, the result would be one of the National League’s most dangerous offenses.

Where to play Desmond is more of a hurdle, but not too big of one. The Diamondbacks could sign him as a third base upgrade over Jake Lamb, or as a second base upgrade over Chris Owings. Or, they could sign Desmond to play his natural shortstop, leaving Owings, Segura and Nick Ahmed to battle for playing time at second and third base.

At the rate he’s going, the Diamondbacks might be able to get Desmond on a three- or four-year deal with an early opt-out. If they do, an NL West title wouldn’t sound too crazy.


Milwaukee Brewers Trade Jonathan Lucroy to the Washington Nationals

After going off the board with that last one, let us now return to the board to concoct a trade that would send Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Washington Nationals.

As Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, Brewers general manager David Stearns said this week there’s nothing brewing on Lucroy. But something could start brewing during the spring, when clubs lacking in impact talent behind the dish are more likely to get antsy.

The Nationals could be one of those. Rosenthal and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe have reported they’ve kicked the tires on Lucroy as a possible upgrade over Wilson Ramos. They’re also one of the few teams in the league that can probably afford Lucroy’s price tag.

That’s if Lucroy were to allow a deal to be done, of course. His incredibly team-friendly contract only guarantees him about $4 million more, but it comes with a limited no-trade clause. The Nationals are on his list, according to Rosenthal, so he would have to approve a trade to Washington.

But that’s not necessarily a roadblock. As Rosenthal notes, the Nationals could sway Lucroy by offering him more money:

The Nationals have done this sort of thing before, as they worked something out with Jonathan Papelbon when they traded for him last summer. It’s not hard to imagine them doing the same with Lucroy.

After all, he would be quite a nice upgrade for them behind the dish. Ramos is fine defensively, but not so much offensively. Lucroy owns a .770 career OPS, and yours truly believes his bat didn’t decline as much in 2015 as his final numbers let on. 

To get Lucroy, the Nationals certainly wouldn’t give up either of their top two prospects, Lucas Giolito and Trea Turner. But Victor Robles or Erick Fedde could be in play. Michael A. Taylor is another possibility. He’s only a fourth outfielder on the Nationals and could be appealing to a Brewers club that could very much use a high-upside center fielder.

If the Nats were to get Lucroy, they’d have another weapon for their quest to dethrone the New York Mets in the NL East. And after the Metropolitans re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, such a weapon is arguably necessary.


Baltimore Orioles Extend Manny Machado

Spring training isn’t all about last-minute signings and trades. As Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey and Justin Verlander can vouch, it’s a great time to sign extensions worth roughly all of the dollars.

Who’s the best bet for a big-money extension this spring? We’re looking at you, Manny Machado.

Machado has all the trappings of a perfect extension candidate. He’s young but just now entering his prime years. He’s close to free agency but not too close to free agency, with his first foray into the open market set for after 2018. He plays for a club that’s not poor but still needs to worry about controlling costs. And perhaps most important of all, Machado is not a Scott Boras client.

The star third baseman told Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports in October he would love to stay in Baltimore long term, and Duquette has indicated the interest is mutual.

“We’ve already looked at that and we can look at that again,” Duquette said, per Encina. “Manny’s a great player, we’d love to have him long term.”

Coming off an .861 OPS, 35 home runs and a Gold Glove in what was only his age-22 season in 2015, now is a good time for Machado to seek a huge payday. And lest they risk losing him to the pull of free agency by waiting, now is also a good time for the Orioles to oblige him.

To do that, they could take a page out of the Los Angeles Angels’ book.

When the Angels signed Trout to his six-year, $144.5 million extension in 2014, they bought out three arbitration years at reasonable prices and three free-agent years for fair market value at over $34 million per year.

The Orioles could do basically the same thing with a five-year deal for Machado. With the two sides having already settled at $5 million for 2016, the deal could cover his final two arbitration years and three free-agent years. A good amount would be something like $130 million and would allow Machado to hit the open market after his age-28 season.

If that sounds like too much money for the Orioles, bear in mind that Machado’s really expensive years wouldn’t kick in until 2019. Presently, the Orioles only have about $30 million in guaranteed money on the books for that season, according to Spotrac. The deal we made for them and Gallardo wouldn’t change that.


That’s our whack at predicting this spring’s big extension. But between us, you might also want to keep an eye on Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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