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Transaction Analysis: Grading the Offseason Moves

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

Per usual, through free agency and trades, numerous players landed on new teams this offseason. Tracking this movement and understanding the implications is beneficial to fantasy owners, especially in AL/NL-only formats, who can use the information to their advantage on draft day.

Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels -
The Pujols signing was the blockbuster event of the offseason as the Angels swooped in to sign him at the last minute when it looked as if he was headed to Miami. The 10-year, $254 million deal is a monster of a contract but definitely doable after the Angels signed a $3 billion dollar deal with Fox for the television rights to their games. Despite a broken wrist, Pujols demonstrated an incredible healing ability last year and finished with 37 home runs, 99 RBI and a .299 average. While a lot of those numbers were low compared to previous seasons, there's a lot of reason for optimism this season. While Angel Stadium played like a pitchers' park last season similar to Busch Stadium, Pujols' new home park plays much better for right-handed batters in the home run department. Pujols' contract might look bad several years down the road considering he's 32-years-old, but he's still in the prime of his career and should at least keep in line with his previous years' stats. Don't be surprised if playing for Mike Scioscia, who loves to run, that Pujols approaches his career-high in stolen bases, 16.

Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers -
Fielder was similar to the Pujols signing in that it appeared that the Nationals or Rangers were going to sign him only to see the Tigers surprise everyone and bring him aboard. Fielder's nine-year, $214 million contract might look a little better than the Pujols' deal considering he will only turn 28 this season. The addition of Fielder to a lineup that already features another elite hitter with limited fielding ability, Miguel Cabrera, raises some questions as to where Fielder will play. Was the money enough to convince Fielder to occupy the DH spot in the lineup? Will the Tigers move Cabrera across the diamond so Fielder can play first and will that work? Would a move to DH present any issues at the plate by not playing in the field regularly? There will be a lot of opinions about these issues and only time will tell what the Tigers will do and the subsequent results. One bad mark on the move is that Comerica Park plays considerably worse for left-handed batters in home runs than Miller Park. As a result, there's a chance we could see a down season that would be in line with the up-down-up-down pattern he's established the last five years.

Jose Reyes, SS, Marlins -
Reyes looked like an MVP through the first three months and 80 games of last year, batting .354/.398/.529 with 30 steals. Things fell apart after he left a game against the Yankees with a strained left hamstring on July 2 and played just 46 games the rest of the way. Reyes showed some encouraging signs last season as his walk rate improved from a low 5.1 percent in 2010 to 7.3 percent, while his contact rate also improved. He's now missed at least 29 games the three previous seasons, a red flag to potential owners. Still, the Marlins ended up signing the reigning N.L. batting champion to a six-year, $106 million deal to be the centerpiece of their new ballpark. Reyes will lead off for the Marlins, and his arrival is expected to move Hanley Ramirez to third base, though initial reports indicate this does not sit well with Hanley. Getting out of Citi Field could bring his home run total back to double digits depending on how the new stadium plays, and besides being a 50-plus stolen base threat he has plenty of bats in Ramirez, Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton behind him to drive him in.

C.J. Wilson, SP, Angels -
Wilson still landed a five-year, $77.5 million contract with the Angels in December despite a subpar postseason. He built upon 2010's successful migration from the bullpen to becoming a solid starter, showing marked improvements in K/9IP and K:BB rates, and should continue to that success with the move out of Arlington. His composite line on the road the last two seasons (210.2 IP, 158 hits, 187:91 K:BB, 2.56 ERA) suggests that his ratios will improve with half of his starts coming at Angel Stadium. Another player who likely benefited from the team's television deal with Fox, Wilson will have just as good of a lineup as he had in Texas with the team's blend of speed and power.

Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers -
Texas won his rights by bidding a record $51.7 million in the posting system with NPB. While he'll be in a hitters' park, he may quickly become an elite fantasy option. It's believed that the contract is worth $60 million and includes an additional $10 million that Darvish could make in incentives. Darvish is considered Japan's top pitcher and perhaps the best player to come from Japan since Ichiro Suzuki. He's had an ERA below 2.00 for five consecutive seasons, but had his best season in 2011. Darvish set personal bests in wins (18), ERA (1.44), shutouts (6), innings pitched (232), strikeouts (276) and walks (36). However, in MLB, he'll have to adjust physically to pitching more frequently, with more demanding travel and using a slightly larger ball. While playing half his games in Arlington isn't a pitcher's dream, he'll also be supported by one of the best offenses in baseball. Overall, Darvish has the polished talent to be a frontline MLB starter and will look to fill the void left by C.J. Wilson in the rotation.

Heath Bell, RP, Marlins -
Bell signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Marlins and will look to continue his ninth-inning dominance as the team's new closer. He's notched 40-plus saves in each of the last three seasons and has done so while maintaining a solid 75.7 percent strand rate. He did, however, see a strong decrease in strikeout totals last season, his groundball rate dropped and his K/BB ratio has fallen steadily the last three seasons leading to speculation of a tired arm. However, he also held similar stats home and away the last three seasons, indicating a move out of Petco doesn't necessarily point to a spike in his numbers. With the help of the dimensions of the Marlins' new park, a young lineup with a lot of upside, Bell should remain a top-10 closer given his job security and that he should receive plenty of save opportunities.

Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees -
Pineda turned in a rousing rookie season last year, highlighted by a trip to the All-Star Game. After staying relatively quiet in the offseason, the Yankees made a big splash by trading one of the game's best hitting prospects, Jesus Montero, to the Mariners for Pineda. Moving out of Safeco Field and into the launching pad that is Yankee Stadium likely won't help his peripheral stats, but an improved offensive lineup should help his win total. Last year's 9.22 K/9IP ranked second in the American League, and he led rookie pitchers in strikeouts as he overpowered batters with a fastball that averaged 94.6 mph, fourth highest in baseball. Only 23, he should be a mainstay in the Yankees rotation and open the season as the No. 2 or No. 3 starter.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers -
Ramirez signed a three-year deal with the Brewers this offseason, agreeing to a three-year, $36 million deal. The Brewers will look to him to replace Prince Fielder's bat in the lineup, which is more than literally large shoes to fill. After a slow April and May, Ramirez was one of the better hitters in baseball for the season's final four months, posting a .315/.368/.566 line in 371 at-bats. This indicates that just because he's on the wrong side of 34 doesn't mean he still can't produce in the Brewers lineup, though he had a much better split at Wrigley (a hitters' park) than on the road. The one knock on Ramirez is durability - he's played more than 135 games just twice in the last five years, but he's healthy entering spring training and coming off a 149-game season. Ramirez's fantasy value will also be impacted by the potential suspension to Ryan Braun, who will likely hit in front of Ramirez.

Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Phillies -
Free agency rewarded Papelbon with a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies to become their closer after it was originally thought they would re-sign Ryan Madson. It's another ideal situation for Papelbon, pitching to save games for starters like Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. In 2011, Papelbon reduced his walks, struck out a career-high 87 and saved 31 games - the sixth straight season with more than 30 saves. Charlie Manuel has been loyal to a veteran closer in the past - think Brad Lidge - so Papelbon will have one of the longer leashes in baseball. Just keep in mind that he always won't get the ball in the ninth if one of the aces has a complete game going.

Ryan Madson, RP, Reds -
Madson opened last year with the Phillies front office publicly questioning whether he was capable of closing games in the majors, but by season's end Madson was viewed as one of the more dominant closers in the game. The Phillies somewhat surprisingly signed Jonathan Papelbon, so Madson signed with a team in need of a closer, the Reds. While the Reds play in a home field that's known as a hitters' park, Madson should find success once again. You can still expect outstanding peripherals and a nice save total despite him playing half his games in Cincinnati.

Trevor Cahill, SP, Diamondbaks -
Cahill was dealt to the Diamondbacks in December for a few prospects and unfortunately leaves the pitcher-friendly confines of his stadium in Oakland. His ground ball rate continues to improve but a correction in his BABIP largely led to him taking a step back last season after a breakout 2010. While he'll enjoy pitching in the National League and can expect the increased strikeout rates associated with it, his career numbers away from Oakland (263.2 innings, 260 hits, 162:102 K:BB, 32 homers allowed, 4.71 ERA) should provide some caution. On the bright side, he should have a more potent offense to back him up, which should improve his 12 wins from a season ago.

Mat Latos, SP, Reds -
Acquired by the Reds in December to add toward the top of their rotation, Latos leaves the best pitchers' park in the game to play in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. While the move isn't ideal for any starting pitcher, his strong peripherals should help him retain most of his value despite an expected uptick in his home-run rate. What intrigued the Reds was his steady improvement after a rough start; he righted the ship by midseason. He went on to post a 2.87 ERA with a 3.83 K/BB ratio after the All-Star break, all while holding the opposition to a .205 BAA. Look for his win total to be bolstered by a Reds lineup that includes Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips.

Gio Gonzalez, SP, Nationals -
The Nationals had to think a lot of Gonzalez since he was traded for four of the organization's top prospects. Gio should enter the season as Washington's No. 2 or No. 3 starter, depending on whether Washington wants to sandwich him in between Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann or have him follow the dynamic duo. Gonzalez improved his strikeout rate in 2011 but continues to issue too many free passes (91 in 202.0 innings). Gonzalez's move out of pitcher-friendly Oakland should be neutralized by his move to the National League. He'll need to continue to get close to a strikeout per inning and continue getting the ground ball if he's going to have success with his new team.

Carlos Quentin, OF, Padres -
When the White Sox traded Quentin to the Padres in January, the downgrade in home parks put a big hit on his fantasy value. Quentin hit 61 of his 107 White Sox home runs at U.S. Cellular Field, but interestingly enough, 17 of his 24 in 2011 came on the road. He should hit in the heart of the order with the Padres, and the raw power still makes him a 30-homer threat if he's able to stay healthy. Of course, by now fantasy owners realize that's a big “if.” Keep in mind that he'll still put up good counting stats, which makes him a nice No. 4 or No. 5 outfielder, especially if other owners undervalue him due to Petco Park.

Andrew Bailey, RP, Red Sox -
Bailey was traded to Boston in December, where he's expected to take over the ninth-inning role for the departed Jonathan Papelbon as part of the Red Sox's rebuilt bullpen. One red flag of moving to the AL East is whether Bailey can be successful outside of Oakland with given his 45.7 percent fly ball rate last season. Overall, the peripherals should remain solid, though his durability may start to come into question following another season interrupted by injury following his 2010 when injuries limited him to 47 appearances.

Michael Cuddyer, OF, Rockies -
Cuddyer improved most of his numbers last season and was the one constant in an injury-depleted Minnesota lineup, but the Twins decided not to re-sign him. He went on to sign with Colorado where he'll likely be in the everyday lineup in right field. Cuddyer should benefit from the move from spacious Target Field to an extreme hitters' park in Colorado, but he did hit an equal number of home runs at home and the road the last two seasons. He also picks his spots on the bases, with five or more stolen bases the last four seasons, though he's unlikely to repeat last year's 11 steals. Make sure to check the eligibility rules in your league; Cuddyer will qualify at second base in many formats and at first base in almost all leagues.

Josh Willingham, OF, Twins -
Willingham missed some time midseason with a strained Achilles but still managed a career-high 29 homers and 98 RBI. His road numbers (.233/.315/.435) trailed his home numbers by a good bit, but his 18 homers in the second half no doubt earned him a few extra bucks in free agency. He signed a three-year deal with Minnesota; still not a great home park but no worse than Oakland, so expect more of the same if he can stay healthy. He'll likely replace Michael Cuddyer as the starter in right field and should hit near the cleanup spot in the Twins batting order. Provided he can stay healthy, he should be a decent source of power even playing in Target Field.

Jed Lowrie, SS, Astros -
Lowrie will get a chance to prove he's an everyday player after he was traded to Houston, where he'll likely start at shortstop. He's had stretches of great hitting, like he had last April, but also has trouble staying healthy finishing with just 341 plate appearances. After the Red Sox apparently soured on him, a change of scenery could be just the situation Lowrie needs. His power numbers should improve based on an increase in at-bats and look for Lowrie to also run more under manager Brad Mills. Mills should have him to hit toward the top of the batting order as well, helping his run total.

Frank Francisco, RP, Mets -
Francisco inked a free-agent deal with the Mets and figures to start the season with the inside track on the closer spot. Francisco got a late start when his seemingly annual chest/pectoral/shoulder soreness cropped up again in spring training before he entered the mix at closer in May. Francisco racked up 17 saves by season's end despite some shaky outings and his 3.55 ERA and 1.322 WHIP were certainly below average for most closers. While favorable hitter adjustments were made to Citi Field in the offseason, a move there should help Francisco's home-run rate. He'll likely have a shorter leash with teammate Jon Rauch following him from Toronto, but nevertheless he'll likely start the season with ninth-inning duties.

Jason Kubel, OF, Diamondbacks -
After signing a two-year deal with Arizona in December, Kubel should be a regular in left field for the D-Backs. Kubel was one of the few things going right for the Twins in the first half of last season as he hit .310 with a .820 OPS before going on the DL with a sprained left foot in early June. His foot is expected to be fine for the start of the season, though injuries have plagued Kubel throughout his career, and playing every day in the field will increase the chances of another injury. A move out of Target Field to Chase Field should improve his power numbers, but don't expect him to run more despite playing for Kirk Gibson.

Sergio Santos, RP, Blue Jays -
Despite signing him to a long-term contract, the White Sox traded Santos to the Blue Jays in December, where he will get every opportunity to serve as the closer following a revolving door of blown saves from Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch in 2011. A move to the A.L. East won't be a picnic, but that will be countered by moving out of U.S. Cellular Field, which is a hitters' park power-wise. The converted shortstop struggled a bit in September (three home runs and a 9.35 ERA in 8.2 innings) but converted 30 of his 36 save chances on the season, and he struck out 13.07 K/9IP. He handled the pressure of the closer role well, posting a .204 BAA and 42:15 K:BB in high-pressure situations, and he yielded a mere 0.815 WHIP on the road.

Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals -
After signing a two-year deal with the Cardinals in December, Beltran will be a part of the plan in St. Louis to recoup the production lost with Albert Pujols' move to Orange County. While Beltran turns 35 in April and his durability remains a concern, he proved last season he can still hit, finishing with a .300 average, 22 homers and 84 RBI. Duplicating those numbers is in the cards provided he stays healthy; calling Busch Stadium home won't be much different than the home parks he had with the Mets and Giants last season. Given his injury history, he won't run like he once did but that should help keep him off the DL. He'll likely be manning right field on Opening Day and should find a spot in the middle of the Cardinals batting order.

Mark Buehrle, SP, Marlins -
Buehrle signed a four-year deal with the Marlins in December where he will be reunited with former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. The move to the National League could provide a slight uptick in his strikeout rate, but his success may ultimately hinge on the quality of the defense behind him in Miami. While the proof will be in the pudding, Miami's new stadium is expected by some to play as a pitchers' park, which will add to Buehrle's value. A model of consistency, Buehrle put together another 200-plus inning, 30-plus start, 10-plus win season for the 11th consecutive season. A young lineup with a lot of upside should help him get his 12th straight season with those numbers.

Luke Scott, OF, Rays -
Scott will find regular at bats at DH after signing with Tampa Bay and has always hit home runs when healthy. Coming back from surgery in late August to repair a SLAP tear and posterior tear in his shoulder, Scott was given a clean bill of health by the Rays and should be ready to start the regular season. Given his versatility, he will likely also see time in the outfield and first base occasionally as well. A move to Tropicana Field might hinder his power a bit but he should get plenty of RBI opportunity hitting in the middle of the Rays batting order.

Yonder Alonso, 1B, Padres -
Blocked in Cincinnati by some guy named Joey Votto, the Reds dealt Alonso away to the Padres as part of a package for ace Mat Latos. The Padres then in turn dealt Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs, opening an everyday spot for Alonso in their lineup. Playing half of his games in Petco will suppress his power numbers, but overall this is a huge boost to his value given that he'll be a regular in the lineup. With all rookies the proverbial ups and downs should be expected; just keep in mind he is one of the better hitting prospects in the game.

Edinson Volquez, SP, Padres -
Volquez will get a fresh start with the Padres after being included in the Mat Latos deal in December. Petco Park won't cure his control issues, but it should help to cure some of his gopheritis. Volquez will have to learn to solve first inning issues if he's going to be a legit starter. Last season, batters facing him on his first 15 pitches in a given start hit a collective .393/.493/.687 with seven homers and 10 walks. The Padres don't have the lineup the Reds do, but the move to Petco will at least improve his overall peripheral numbers.

Jesus Montero, C, Mariners -
Dealt in January to the Mariners from the Yankees, Montero will be given every chance to prove himself behind the plate this season. Seattle's GM Jack Zduriencik has already stated Montero will be given the opportunity to catch in spring, though a move to first or DH could be where he ends up more games than not. The knock on Montero is his defensive ability behind the plate; he showed he was ready with the bat last season with the Yankees hitting .328 with four home runs in 62 at-bats. Spacious Safeco Field isn't the launching pad Yankee Stadium is, however, and it cripples right-handed hitters. With three games logged as a catcher and 14 as a DH last season, check your league's eligibility rules to see at what position Montero qualifies.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs -
Rizzo's fantasy owners caught a break this winter as he was dealt to the Cubs, a far better hitting environment in which to operate. Rizzo likely will begin the season at Triple-A, as the Cubs give veteran minor league Bryan Lahair a shot. But a strong showing from Rizzo there could see him up in the majors at any point this season, especially if LaHair struggles.

Marco Scutaro, 2B, Rockies -
Scutaro should start at second base for the Rockies this season after being traded from the Red Sox in a move to free up payroll. Known more for his glove than his bat, the move to Coors will only help Scutaro's fantasy value. He's been a decent OBP player recording a .333 mark or higher each of the last four seasons, which should land him near the top of the Rockies batting order.

Seth Smith, OF, A's -
After a trade to Oakland, Smith won't get to enjoy the benefit of Coors Field, where he had a career .925 OPS, compared to .750 on the road. Smith's offensive production will almost certainly be limited to what he can do against right-handed pitching as lefties continue to give him fits (.217/.272/.304 in 2011). He should be the everyday starter in left field, but given the near certainty of a platoon paired with the high likelihood of a park-driven regression, he'll likely only have value in deep or AL-only leagues.

Kevin Slowey, SP, Indians -
Slowey has had an adventurous last two months. He was traded from the Twins to the Rockies in December, signed a contract with the Rockies shortly thereafter, and was then traded to the Indians in January. He'll compete for a spot in the Indians rotation. If he wins the job at least he will pitch in a better ballpark for his flyball tendencies - 49.3 percent fly-ball rate the last two years.

Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds -
Ludwick signed with the Reds in January, likely to work in tandem with Chris Heisey in left field taking the starts against left-handed pitching as part of a platoon. Last season, the outfielder struggled to a .674 OPS with the Padres and a .671 mark with the Bucs, more than 100 points lower than his .787 career OPS in nine seasons. He should rebound in the power department given his new home park but whether he gets enough at-bats to be fantasy relevant remains to be seen.

Chris Capuano, SP, Dodgers -
Capuano signed a two-year deal with the Dodgers and should find a spot toward the back of their rotation for the upcoming season. Pitching in a good pitchers' park, Dodger Stadium, should help his overall numbers, though any thoughts of a breakout season should be tempered. On a positive note, Capuano came all the way back from his second Tommy John surgery to post the best strikeout rate of his career while starting his most games since 2006.

Collin Cowgill, OF, A's -
It had to be bittersweet for Cowgill's owners to see him traded to Oakland in the Trevor Cahill deal. On one hand, he likely will get regular playing time for the A's, which he wouldn't have gotten in Arizona. On the other, he'll be playing half of his games in Oakland's Coliseum, which favors pitchers. Still, there are interesting tools here, and Cowgill could be a nice cheap source of stolen bases given his ability to draw walks and thieve extra bags (30-for-33) when given the green light on the base paths.

Josh Reddick, OF, A's -
Traded to Oakland in December, Reddick now has a much clearer path to everyday at-bats with his new club and should enter spring training with the inside track to a starting job. With the Red Sox a season ago he was a nice surprise, finishing with a .280/.327/.457 line. Spring training will decide which corner spot in the outfield he'll patrol (likely right) and how high he'll hit in the batting order.

Casey Blake, 3B, Rockies -
The Rockies signed Blake to a one-year deal in December, so he'll likely enter the season as the starter at third base before potentially giving up the job to top prospect Nolan Arenado at some point. Blake is recovering from neck surgery, but if he can report to camp healthy, he should be in line for the Rockies' starting third base job. Blake only played 63 games in 2011, but in 2009 and 2010 Blake hit 18 and 17 home runs, respectively, with Chavez Ravine as his home park. Playing every day in Coors could see those old power numbers return if he can stay healthy.

Jason Marquis, SP, Twins -
The move from Washington to Minnesota could be exactly what Marquis needed to get on the fantasy radar of owners in deep leagues. Marquis signed a one-year deal with the Twins and should slide in toward the back of their rotation for this season. The broken fibula that ended his 2011 season shouldn't be a concern, and his 55-percent ground ball rate should play well in Target Field. Just remember he isn't a strikeout machine and at this point in his career he'll need his home park to be considered even a league-average starter.

Joel Pineiro, SP, Phillies -
Pineiro signed a minor league deal with the Phillies this winter after struggling with a 5.13 ERA while striking out just 62 batters over 145.2 innings in 2011. His ground ball tendencies should play well in Philadelphia, but an injury will likely have to happen to get him into the rotation.

Melky Cabrera, OF, Giants -
The Royals were probably smart to "sell high" on Cabrera, shipping him to San Francisco. Cabrera turned in a career year in 2011, finishing with a .302 average with 18 home runs and 20 steals. Leaving Kansas City should lower the stolen-base total and, fueled by a career-high .332 BABIP, a dip in average should be expected as well. On the bright side, Cabrera will have an every day role and should hit near the top of the batting order. He should put together decent counting stats and is worth grabbing at the end of drafts.

Angel Pagan, OF, Giants -
Pagan was another new addition to the Giants' outfield and should be the starting center fielder on Opening Day. Pagan was limited by injuries last season in New York, appearing in only 123 games. While he moves out of cavernous Citi Field, his new home park of AT&T should play similarly. Look for Pagan to post modest power numbers but be a solid source of steals hitting atop the San Francisco lineup.