By Paul Casella
Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings have a reputation for producing some of the most exciting offseason news -- and for good reason.
Over the past five years alone, the Winter Meetings have been home to some of the league's biggest blockbuster trades, free-agent signings and the always-entertaining "mystery team" rumors.
This year has already had its share of big moves, with free agents Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Russell Martin and Yasmany Tomas all finding homes. Along with all of these arguably top-10 free agents signing contracts, the Braves and Cardinals pulled off a blockbuster trade that sent Jason Heyward to the Cardinals in exchange for Shelby Miller.
That said, the three top overall free agents, all pitchers, are still on the market, while trade talks have also been heating up in recent days. With all that in mind, let's take a trip back through the last five Winter Meetings to get an idea of what type of action could play out next week in San Diego.
One of the biggest names on the market this year was part of one of the biggest moves in Winter Meetings history five years ago. Max Scherzer, for whom the market has remained relatively quiet so far this offseason, was sent to the Tigers in a three-team blockbuster that stole the show at the '09 Winter Meetings.
The Tigers acquired Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson, while the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson and the D-backs added Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy in the deal.
As for free-agent signings, two of the top three available starting pitchers came off the board at the meetings as the Yankees inked Andy Pettitte to a one-year, $11.75 million deal and the Brewers signed Randy Wolf to a three-year, $29.75 million deal. John Lackey, the top starter in that year's free-agent class, remained unsigned through the Winter Meetings, but reached a deal with the Red Sox just one week later.
As for the top free-agent position players that offseason, neither Matt Holliday nor Jason Bay found a new home at the Winter Meetings. Instead, both remained free agents until January 2010 when Holliday ultimately signed with the Cardinals and Bay landed with the Mets.
Nothing, however, was going to steal the spotlight from that massive three-team trade. Scherzer went on to win the 2013 AL Cy Young Award with the Tigers, while Granderson had two 40-homer, 100-RBI All-Star seasons with the Yankees before leaving to sign across town with the Mets. Jackson, meanwhile, made just 21 starts for the D-backs the following year before being traded midseason to the White Sox and has since also played for the Cardinals, Nationals and Cubs, upping his total to eight teams over 12 seasons. Kennedy won a National League-best 21 games in his second season with the D-backs in '11, but was traded to the Padres in '13.
By the time the Winter Meetings rolled around in 2010, there had already been a flurry of offseason action -- and that trend only continued as team executives convened in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
In the week leading up, the Red Sox pulled off a blockbuster trade for Adrian Gonzalez, the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a massive seven-year, $126 million deal and the Brewers traded for starter Shaun Marcum. Prior to that, the White Sox had signed free-agent slugger Adam Dunn, the Tigers had landed Victor Martinez, the Dodgers re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and David DeJesus had been traded to the A's.
The Winter Meetings, however, had a big storyline of their own, as the Red Sox -- much like this current offseason -- made a second big splash by signing top free-agent position player Carl Crawford to pair with the acquisition of Gonzalez. Crawford, of course, went on to have a disastrous stint in Boston before being traded along with Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, among others, less than two years later.
The rest of the top free agents in that year's class -- Cliff Lee, Carl Pavano, Rafael Soriano, Adrian Beltre, Adam LaRoche and Edwin Encarnacion -- all remained unsigned through the Winter Meetings. Lee and Encarnacion signed the following week with the Phillies and Blue Jays, respectively, while Soriano (Yankees), Beltre (Rangers), Pavano (Twins) and LaRoche (Nationals) all waited until January before finding a new home.
The most jaw-dropping day -- and week -- in Winter Meetings history just may have come out of the 2011 meetings. Not only did the Angels swoop in and sign Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million deal, but they made it official on the same day that they also signed top free-agent starter C.J. Wilson. Making the moves all the more shocking is the fact that the Angels weren't considered the favorites to land either player entering that week.
Though the Angels certainly stole the show in Dallas, the Marlins made a pair of splashes of their own earlier in the week. Miami signed Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106 million deal and lefty Mark Buehrle for four years and $58 million. Reyes and Buehrle, of course, were traded the following offseason -- along with Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck -- to the Blue Jays in a firesale.
The frenzied week ended with the news that Yu Darvish had been posted by his Japanese club, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. He ultimately signed with the Rangers a month later.
Aside from Pujols, Reyes and Wilson, the top remaining free agent on the board after the Winter Meetings was Prince Fielder, who went on to sign with the Tigers in late January.
This year was more about the moves that didn't happen than the ones that did. In a relatively quiet week in Nashville, Tenn., none of the top available free agents at the time -- Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Anibal Sanchez or Michael Bourn -- found new homes.
As for the trade market, it too was highlighted by a potential move that didn't quite come to fruition. Then-Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton was by far the most popular name in trade rumors entering the 2012 Winter Meetings (as he is again this year). He ultimately was traded more than a month later to the Braves.
Within two weeks of the Winter Meetings concluding, however, Greinke signed with the Dodgers, Hamilton signed with the Angels and Sanchez reached a deal with the Tigers. Bourn didn't find a new home until mid-February when he signed with the Indians.
Following their every-other-offseason trend, the Red Sox made two of the bigger moves at the Meetings, signing both Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, who proved to be two key pieces of their 2013 World Series run.
Last year's meetings were relatively quiet as well. But that was more the result of a number of top free agents finding new homes in the weeks beforehand. Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann were all off the board before team executives convened in Orlando, Fla.
As for the pitching market, the Winter Meetings produced very little progress on that front. Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana entered -- and exited -- as the three best available starting pitchers. There are again three top starters still on the market, though this year's trio of Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields highlights the entire free-agent class, unlike last year when position players dominated the market.
Part of the delay last year was also because of the uncertainty at the time of whether or not Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka would be posted by his club and become available later in the offseason.
The biggest move that did happen at the 2013 Winter Meetings was again a three-team trade that involved the D-backs. This time around, the D-backs acquired slugger Mark Trumbo, while the White Sox landed outfielder Adam Eaton and the Angels reeled in pitchers Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago.
Paul Casella is a Sports on Earth contributor and a reporter for MLB.com.