They arrived in Nashville on Sunday for the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings. By Thursday afternoon, the general managers were all gone. What happened in between? Quite a bit, actually. Here's a look at the key free agent signings and trades that transpired and were made official during the annual gathering along with my fantasy-themed thoughts. Note that I made a special effort to avoid extending this column into term paper length territory, so I will only focus on the players who are mixed league relevant.
Zack Greinke signs with Diamondbacks - Moving from Dodger Stadium to Chase Field cannot be considered a good thing for any pitcher, but an ace is an ace. It also helps that Greinke does a fine job of keeping the ball in the park (only 14 home runs allowed last season) and sports a 6-2 record and 3.34 ERA across ten career starts in Arizona.
Shelby Miller traded to Diamondbacks for Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson - I understand the Diamondbacks were in dire need of starting pitching help, but that's a lot to give up for Miller. He is only 25 and carries a career ERA of 3.22, though his career .277 BABIP suggests that he has been more than a little fortunate with respect to ERA. I wouldn't mind owning Miller next year, but not at a top-30 SP price. Inciarte should again make for a useful AVG/SB contributor as a fourth or fifth outfielder in mixed leagues. Blair and Swanson are both top prospects worthy of a roster spot in all deep long-term keeper or dynasty formats.
Jeff Samardzija signs with Giants - Well, it can't get any worse than last year, right? Samardzija's strikeout rate was disappointing, hits were a problem, home runs were a problem, pretty much everything was a problem. I'm expecting a bounce back campaign now that he has returned to the NL and, unlike last season, will be playing his home games in a pitcher-friendly park. There's little downside in adding Samardzija to the back end of your fantasy rotation.
Ben Zobrist signs with Cubs - At this stage in his career, Zobrist is probably a better real-life player than fantasy player, but he still offers considerable mixed league value as an across-the-board contributor, especially in OBP leagues (.355 career OBP). A return to double-digit steals is also a distinct possibility with the notoriously aggressive Joe Maddon at the helm.
John Lackey signs with Cubs - Although a repeat of arguably the best season of his career is unlikely, the reliable veteran should slot in nicely behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the Cubs rotation. He should similarly fit in nicely in the middle of mixed league rotations as well.
Starlin Castro traded to Yankees for Adam Warren - Hard to believe it but Castro will be only 26 on Opening Day. After a shaky first half last year, Castro rebounded in the second half to bat .295 with six homers and a .783 OPS. Starlin posted a .292-14-65 line in 134 games in 2014. Perhaps a fresh start in the Bronx will do him some good. For now, think of him as a decent option to fill your MI slot in mixed leagues, but there's upside potential here. Warren is a quality arm who can either start or pitch out of the bullpen. If he wins a rotation spot in spring training, he will immediately become a quality NL-only asset and might even be worth considering in deeper mixed leagues.
Neil Walker traded to Mets for Jon Niese - Walker loses some fantasy value now that he's moving to a less favorable home park and a likely inferior lineup. But he remains a fine high-end MI/low-end 2B in mixed leagues fully capable of duplicating last season's .269-16-71-69-4 line. However, his 23-home run 2014 campaign is looking like an outlier. Niese isn't exactly a mixed league rotation mainstay, but he's useful in the right matchups.
Adam Lind traded to Mariners - Staying healthy has been an issue for Lind at various points during his career. But, when 100%, he's been plenty productive, having launched at least 20 home runs in every season in which he has played at least 100 games. That said, my main concern with Lind is that he will now be hitting in a pitcher-friendly park for the first time in his career, so is it safe to bank on another 20 homers? I'm not so sure. I'll be looking elsewhere on draft day when the time comes to fill my starting CI slot.
Brett Lawrie traded to White Sox - Remember when Lawrie was the next star in the making? Things haven't turned out the way many had expected, but injuries are largely to blame. Lawrie finally turned in a fully healthy season in 2015, hitting 16 home runs while playing half of his games at the pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum. Now back in a hitter-friendly environment on the South Side, don't be surprised if the soon-to-be 26-year-old sets career high numbers across the board in 2016.
Wade Miley traded to Mariners - Miley is nothing more than a borderline mixed league option, but I'm at least mildly intrigued by the lefty as a rebound candidate. Fenway Park and the AL East simply wasn't the right place for him. Spacious Safeco Field could be a better place for him.
I'm sure that's what new Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto was thinking when he made this deal, and then again when he departed Nashville on Thursday afternoon.