Winter Meetings Recap: Day 2

Winter Meetings Recap: Day 2

This article is part of our Winter Meetings Recap series.

Baseball front offices and a throng of media have descended upon the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville this week for Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings. History tells us that free-agent signings are sure to happen, trades will be consummated and the rumors will be running rampant during the Hot Stove's marquee offseason event.

I will be offering up recaps and commentary on the festivities each day in this space, opining on what went down, what might go down and what the fantasy fallout will be.

Rival Dealings

Trades between the Yankees and Red Sox are very rare, but the heated rivals swung one Tuesday night.

Outfielder Alex Verdugo was shipped to New York, with Boston receiving reliever Greg Weissert and pitching prospects Richard Fitts and Nicholas Judice. It's the eighth trade since 1969 between the two franchises.

In Verdugo, the Yankees are adding a different element to their lineup. Verdugo has always been a high-contact hitter, having struck out at just a 15.4 percent rate in 2023 and 15.1 percent rate in his career. Among the Yankees players to tally at least 400 plate appearances in 2023, only Gleyber Torres had a strikeout rate under 22.2 percent, and Torres' 14.6 percent rate was by far the lowest of his career. Anthony Volpe, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton all struck out at least 27.8 percent of the time.

Verdugo's average slipped to .264, but his xBA came in at .278, the same as it was in 2022. He's

Baseball front offices and a throng of media have descended upon the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville this week for Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings. History tells us that free-agent signings are sure to happen, trades will be consummated and the rumors will be running rampant during the Hot Stove's marquee offseason event.

I will be offering up recaps and commentary on the festivities each day in this space, opining on what went down, what might go down and what the fantasy fallout will be.

Rival Dealings

Trades between the Yankees and Red Sox are very rare, but the heated rivals swung one Tuesday night.

Outfielder Alex Verdugo was shipped to New York, with Boston receiving reliever Greg Weissert and pitching prospects Richard Fitts and Nicholas Judice. It's the eighth trade since 1969 between the two franchises.

In Verdugo, the Yankees are adding a different element to their lineup. Verdugo has always been a high-contact hitter, having struck out at just a 15.4 percent rate in 2023 and 15.1 percent rate in his career. Among the Yankees players to tally at least 400 plate appearances in 2023, only Gleyber Torres had a strikeout rate under 22.2 percent, and Torres' 14.6 percent rate was by far the lowest of his career. Anthony Volpe, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton all struck out at least 27.8 percent of the time.

Verdugo's average slipped to .264, but his xBA came in at .278, the same as it was in 2022. He's batted .283 since becoming a regular in 2019, which is the 28th-best mark among 302 qualifiers over that span. The 27-year-old is one of the safer batting-average bets in baseball and there's no reason to believe that won't be the case again in 2024.

What's going to be most interesting about Verdugo now donning pinstripes is how his power could potentially play up. Yankee Stadium, as you all are surely aware, is famous for its short porch in right field. It's particularly inviting for left-handed batters, which Verdugo is. Only Great American Ball Park has been a better venue for left-handed power over the last three seasons.

Verdugo has never been much of a power hitter, with the 13 home runs he slugged in 2023 tying his career high. His career 38.8 percent hard-hit rate and 89.1 mph average exit velocity are both just a hair above league average, and he's always hit a lot of grounders with a career 48.1 percent rate. Verdugo also doesn't pull the ball that much. His 38.2 percent pull rate in 2023 was his highest in three years, and it ranked just 92nd among 133 qualifiers.

For what it's worth — and I'm not sure it's much — Verdugo is a career .252/.299/.437 hitter at Yankee Stadium. His five home runs there are his highest total of any stadium outside of Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium, his previous two home venues, but his 127 plate appearances there are also his third-most at any park. I will be bumping up my power expectation for Verdugo in 2024, but not that much. I'm just not sure he's the type of hitter geared to greatly take advantage of Yankee Stadium.

The fantasy impact on the Red Sox' side of the deal is virtually nil for 2024. Weissert is a decent middle reliever with a good mustache, but he won't have any fantasy value. Fitts could potentially push to debut at some point in 2024 but has not seen any action at the Triple-A level yet. Judice was drafted this year and has yet to make his pro debut.

Another wrinkle with the Yankees' acquisition of Verdugo is what it means for their much-ballyhooed pursuit of Juan Soto. According to Jack Curry of YES Network, the Yanks "continue to push" to add the star outfielder. Andy Martino of SNY.tv says the team would be comfortable in using Aaron Judge often in center field if they're able to land Soto. Stay tuned.

Fedde Finds Way to Chicago

The White Sox' new general manager, Chris Getz, admitted last month that he's not crazy about his roster. He made another move Tuesday that he hopes inches his club in the right direction.

Erick Fedde and the White Sox have agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. The deal is pending a physical.

Yes, this is the same Erick Fedde who was a nondescript starter for six seasons with the Nationals from 2017-22, posting a 5.41 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and 352:191 K:BB over 454.1 innings. Fedde, though, spent the 2023 campaign pitching for the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, and boy, was he good overseas.

In 30 starts for the Dinos, Fedde collected a 2.00 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 209:35 K:BB across 180.1 innings. He led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts, becoming the fourth KBO pitcher in history and first-ever foreign pitcher to win the pitching Triple Crown. Fedde captured the Choi Dong-won Award, which is the KBO equivalent of the Cy Young.

So what changed for Fedde, allowing him to break out overseas as a 30-year-old? Perhaps I should let new White Sox senior advisor to pitching Brian Bannister tell you.
 

It's not often we see someone in an organization commenting about a player they've not yet officially signed, but it's fascinating to see Bannister basically laying out why the White Sox feel Fedde could be a good investment.

Frankly, I'm not sure how to feel about Fedde's fantasy outlook at this juncture. Even if Bannister is right and Fedde makes a successful transition back to the major leagues, he will be on a bad White Sox team with a terrible defense behind him. I'm definitely in wait-and-see mode here but am open to the idea of bumping Fedde up my rankings if he impresses in spring training.

Quick Hits: Bob Klapisch of the Newark Star-Ledger was informed by an AL executive that the Yankees are "telling people they're ahead of the pack" to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed Tuesday that the Dodgers met with Shohei Ohtani last week. The Blue Jays have also reportedly already met with the superstar … Angels GM Perry Minasian declared Tuesday that Mike Trout will not be traded this offseason … The Cubs are showing interest in Matt Chapman. As one of the teams in pursuit of Shohei Ohtani, they are likely to wait until after Ohtani makes a decision before going all-out for Chapman … Lucas Giolito has piqued the interest of the Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Royals … The Red Sox are upping the aggressiveness of their pursuit of Seth Lugo. Lugo has drawn widespread interest, with Atlanta, Arizona, Cincinnati and Detroit among the clubs jumping into the fray … The Cubs and Reds are among the clubs in the mix to trade for Tyler Glasnow. Christopher Morel's name has come up in the Cubs' talks with the Rays … The Pirates acquired Marco Gonzales and cash from Atlanta in exchange for a player to be named later … The Rangers signed Kirby Yates to a one-year, $4.5 million contract Tuesday … The Astros signed Victor Caratini to a two-year contract Tuesday … Luis Garcia inked a one-year, $4.25 million deal with the Angels on Tuesday … As many as 12 teams, including the Yankees, are showing interest in Isiah Kiner-FalefaEnrique Hernandez is drawing interest from multiple contending clubs … Jordan Hicks is garnering heavy interest, with the Astros, Orioles, Rangers and Red Sox among those in the mix … The Cubs are in touch with Rhys Hoskins as they try to beef up first base.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Boyer
Ryan has been writing about fantasy baseball since 2005 for Fanball, Rotoworld, Baseball Prospectus and RotoWire.
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