The winter meetings begin on Sunday in Nashville, the annual gathering of nearly the entire sport together in one place.
Communication is so much easier now than in past years, so the winter meetings in some ways has lost its luster as the main conduit for deals. But it’s still somewhat exciting to see the sport consolidated in one spot. You never know what might happen, like someone tripping and falling into a fountain.
Perhaps we were spoiled in the very first winter meetings with Andrew Friedman at the helm of the Dodgers front office. Over a few days in San Diego in December 2014, they set things in motion to trade Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and others for Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick, Austin Barnes, Kiké Hernández, and Jimmy Rollins in a handful of deals.
Despite that initial whirlwind, the winter meetings are rarely that eventful, in terms of actual transactions, though the groundwork might be laid for future deals this coming week in Nashville.
Last year, the Dodgers signed Jason Heyward to a minor league contract during the winter meetings. They technically also signed Clayton Kershaw to a one-year deal during the winter meetings, but that was just finalizing an agreement that happened three and a half weeks prior.
But within two weeks after the winter meetings, the Dodgers also reached agreements with Noah Syndergaard and J.D. Martinez to one-year deals, and traded for pitcher J.P. Feyereisen. These weren’t earth-shattering deals, but within the context of what was a relatively-quiet offseason, that was a pretty big chunk of the team’s activity last winter.
This year, the Dodgers have much more to do. They’ll be in the mix for Shohei Ohtani, the biggest prize of them all. They need at least two starting pitchers, whether by free agency or trade, or perhaps a mix of both.
Here’s a rough look at the schedule for this year’s winter meetings in Nashville:
Sunday, December 3
Hall of Fame announcements will be made at 4:30 p.m. PT on MLB Network. This is what used to be called the veteran’s committee, but is now the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee for Managers, Executives and Umpires. Cito Gaston, Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland, Ed Montague, Hank Peters, Lou Piniella, Joe West and Bill White are the eight candidates up for induction among a 16-member committee, with 12 votes required for enshrinement in Cooperstown.
The inductees will be introduced during a press conference in Nashville at 12 p.m. PT on Monday.
Tuesday, December 5
The 2024 MLB Draft lottery (2:30 p.m. PT, MLB Network) will decide the order of the top six picks of the draft, with the remaining 12 non-playoff teams who aren’t picking in the top six ordered by inverse order of 2023 record for picks seven through 18.
The Dodgers aren’t in the lottery, and their first-round pick is No. 25 overall.
Should the Dodgers sign one of the seven qualifying-offer free agents — like Ohtani or Blake Snell, for instance — their first-round pick wouldn’t be affected, but they would forfeit their second- and fifth-highest draft picks in 2024.
Every MLB manager has designated scrum times for a press conference during the winter meetings. Dave Roberts is scheduled to speak at 12 p.m. PT on Tuesday.
Wednesday, December 6
The Rule 5 Draft (11 a.m. PT, streamed on MLB.com) is the annual practice of minor leaguers getting a chance to stick on a 40-man roster of another team. Drafting teams in the Rule 5 Draft have to pay $100,000 to the old team, and have to keep players on the active roster all year to keep them. Before being able to be sent to the minors in the first year, drafted players must be offered back to the old team for $50,000.
Last year, the Dodgers lost three players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft — pitchers Gus Varland (Brewers) and Jose Hernandez (Pirates), plus first baseman/outfielder Ryan Noda (A’s). Hernandez and Noda remained on the active roster all year for their new teams, while Varland was sent back to the Dodgers in May and pitched for them in the majors in August.
On November 14 the Dodgers added pitchers Nick Frasso and Landon Knack, and catcher Hunter Feduccia to the 40-man roster, which means they are not eligible to be picked in the Rule 5 Draft. Among Dodgers minor leaguers who are eligible to be drafted are outfielders Jose Ramos (.240/.333/.409, 19 HR, 97 wRC+ in Double-A last year, turns 23 in January) and Ryan Ward (.234/.324/.424, 78 wRC+ in Triple-A, turns 26 in February).
Baseball America included Ward as a possible selection in its Rule 5 Draft preview, with Geoff Pontes and J.J. Cooper noting, “Ward does have plus raw power with a 90th percentile exit velocity of 105.1 mph. His bat-to-ball skills are below-average and he’s a fairly aggressive swinger. It’s a reach to see him selected but a team hurting for lefthanded power might take a shot.”