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Winter Meetings 2016: When they take place and what to expect

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MLB’s Winter Meetings begin soon. Here’s what to know.

Alex Rodriguez PC Boras

Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings will take place from December 4-8 in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C. The Winter Meetings provide the opportunity for all of baseball’s front offices to gather and grease the wheels for future transactions. Some of them even take place at the meetings themselves, so it’s useful to know what’s going on. There are three transactional chunks to pay attention to because the Rockies could be involved in each of them.

Trades

This is the fun one. We’re well past the notion that the Rockies need to be rid of all players of value who won’t be a part of the next competitive Rockies’ team, and that’s because it looks like the next competitive Rockies’ team could arrive in just a few months. Still, it’s possible that the Rockies could be active in the trade market at the Winter Meetings.

One of Charlie Blackmon or Carlos González could still be traded, but a lot of that probably depends on whether or not the Rockies believe Raimel Tapia can begin the 2017 season in the majors. Blackmon would yield a better return because he’s been a better player over the past three seasons, is under team control for two more years, is cheaper, and can play centerfield. If the Rockies do trade either of them during the Winter Meetings, it will probably be for an elite reliever, or at least somebody we believe is an elite reliever. It could also be for a first baseman, which is the team’s other obvious need.

In the most notable move during last year’s Winter Meetings, the Diamondbacks traded Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and Dansby Swanson for Shelby Miller. It was not a good trade for the Diamondbacks.

Free agents

Teams also take the opportunity to sign free agents during the winter meetings. For the Rockies, this should mean either signing additional bullpen arms, grabbing an available first baseman, or both. Edwin Encarnación is the only big ticket first base free agent, and it would be surprising to see the Rockies offer up what it would require to sign him. Mark Trumbo is coming off of a big year, but he’d at least demand fewer years and less money than Encarnación. Much lesser players like Pedro Álvarez, Ike Davis, Adam Lind, Steve Pearce, and Mitch Moreland will also be available.

Among relievers, the most notable free agents are Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, and Kenley Jansen. Again, it would be surprising to see the Rockies go after one of these players. It would not, however, be surprising to see the Rockies pursue players like Marc Rzepczynski, JP Howell, Joe Smith, or Brett Cecil.

During last year’s Winter Meetings, the Cubs signed Ben Zobrist to a four-year $56 million contract. Notable reliever signings included the Orioles inking Darren O’Day for four years and $31 million and the Royals signing Joakim Soria for three years and $25 million. Those signings should indicate just how much it would cost in terms of years and money to grab a high-end reliever.

The Rockies also participated in the 2015 scrum for relievers. That’s when they signed Jason Motte and Chad Qualls to two-year contracts.

Rule 5 draft

The Rule 5 Draft is the final portion of the Winter Meetings. While it might not seem exciting because of the fringy nature of the players involved, it does require roster crunching, and that’s worth paying attention to.

For the uninitiated, players who were signed at age 19 or older and have played at least four professional seasons in the minor leagues are eligible to be drafted by another team; players who had their first professional season at 18 or younger and have played five years are similarly eligible. If a player is on the 40-man roster, however, he cannot be selected by another team.

Last season, the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster and protect them from the Rule 5 draft was November 20 at midnight eastern. The Rockies added Trevor Story, Antonio Senzatela, Raimel Tapia, and Carlos Estevez to the 40-man roster. Each player debuted in 2016. In order to create room for those players, the Rockies designated John Axford, Tommy Kahnle, Rex Brothers, and Wilin Rosario for assignment. The Rockies ended up trading Kahnle and Brothers.

This year, the Rockies don’t have as many players they need to protect. The only must add is Yency Almonte. High-minors players like Sam Moll and Mike Tauchman could be protected if the Rockies see an immediate role for them.

In each of the last two seasons, the Rockies selected a player from the Rule 5 Draft and immediately traded him somewhere else: Mark Canha to Oakland in 2014 and Luis Perdomo to San Diego in 2015. The Rockies didn’t lose any players in the draft last year; however, in 2014 they lost Taylor Featherston and Daniel Winkler to the Cubs and Braves, respectively.

The draft itself might not bring excitement, but the roster crunch in anticipation of it will, at least, be newsworthy.

It’s about a month away, and a lot can still happen in the meantime. The real offseason has arrived.