The annual Baseball Winter Meetings happen early this month in the D.C. Area. Given the status of the free-agent market, one would expect there to be more trades than signings because it is now costing teams approximately $8M per win above replacement. While we wait to see what happens there, let's look at what has already happened this offseason.
Mariners get Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Zac Curtis
Segura took to Chase Field like a kid in a candy store, setting career highs nearly across the board. That is obviously going to take a bit of a hit as he heads to Safeco and an unbalanced divisional schedule that also includes Oakland and Los Angeles. Segura should still score enough runs setting the table for the likes of Robinson Cano
, Nelson Cruz
and Kyle Seager
but that .368 OBP from last season is the outlier in four full seasons in the big leagues. His 2013 line is more repeatable than his 2016.
Haniger fills a need for Seattle because the outfield depth chart between Triple-A and the majors is a bit thin. RosterResource.com has an opening day outfield of Seth Smith
, Leonys Martin
and Ben Gamel
with thinner replacements behind them. Tyler O'Neill
is the best corner outfield prospect in the system, but Haniger can play the corners as well as center. Haniger could take some time away from Martin against lefties and his offensive profile has improved as he started looking into
the same mechanics Bob Tewksbary has used to help Josh Donaldson
, Ryan Healy and A.J. Pollock
. The power potential is intriguing while the Mariners figure out how to work him into the lineup in 2017.
will stay in the minors to work on his command. He has struck out 169 batters in 111 minor-league innings but showed little to no command in his cup of coffee with Arizona last season and has only pitched 33 innings above High-A ball in his career. This one needs to slow-bake a bit more.
Diamondbacks get Taijuan Walker, Ketel Marte
Arizona got younger in this deal, getting the 24-year old Walker and 23-year old Marte, each of whom come with both risk and upside. Walker failed to capitalize on the progress he showed in 2015 and struggled to keep the ball in the yard, which is definitely a concern for him moving to Arizona, assuming he remains a starting pitcher. There is a strong case to be made to move Walker to the bullpen since he is really a one-pitch guy as a starter. If you look at the Pitch Values
from Fangraphs for Walker, only his fastballs have positive values. The cutter, the splitter and the curve have each been below average pitches as Walker has looked to add new pitches to his arsenal each season. Arizona could decide to put Walker into the pen to accentuate his best pitch by allowing him to throw with more velocity and thus help his other pitches look a little better. If Arizona leaves him in the rotation, there are better risks to take than a flyball pitcher with bad secondary pitches in a hitters' park.
Marte has amassed 713 plate appearances at the big-league level before age 23, which is something considering how bad he was offensively in 2016. He got to the majors just shy of 2,000 plate appearances in the minors where he slashed and dashed at the baseball across all levels of the Seattle farm system. The slash-and-dash style should play well in Chase Field, assuming he can hit enough. He switch hits, but is better from the left side than the right and will need to show more discipline hitting out of the eighth spot in the lineup, assuming he bumps Brandon Drury
off second base. Marte had the strong walk rate in 2015, but it disappeared last season when Seattle had him hit both high and low in the lineup.
Astros Sign Josh Reddick, trade for Brian McCann, sign Charlie Morton
The Reddick signing fills the hole, and then some, left by the departure of Colby Rasmus
. Say what you will about Rasmus, but at least he was left-handed in a lineup loaded with righty bats. A bunch of righties taking aim at the Crawford Boxes is not necessarily a bad thing, but the Houston lineup needed some balance, so the acquisitions of Reddick and McCann help that. In a perfect world, Houston gives Reddick every at-bat possible against righties and has him on the bench against lefties. His numbers have gotten progressively worse against lefties, and while he hit 12 homers and batted .237 against them in 2012, he's been atrocious against them since. Jake Marisnick
, or even the reverse-splits Nori Aoki, could be an ideal platoon partner for Reddick. If Houston does strictly platoon him, he has the contact abilities to be a .300 hitter as he hit .322 against righties last year, but the .155 against lefties pulled his overall average down.
McCann hits lots of flyballs and pulls the hell out of them, which was great for Yankee Stadium that was the second-most friendly
park for lefty batters in 2016. Minute Maid is more park neutral overall, but for homers, was right there with Coors Field for lefties last season. McCann did a decent chunk of his damage at home, but was no slouch on the road, either. He should slot in the fifth spot in the lineup after the four best hitters in the Houston lineup as he and Reddick sandwich Evan Gattis
, allowing for plenty of RBI opportunities for McCann. He is not quite the pitch framer that Jason Castro
is, but McCann is not too much of a drop, as he finished in the top third of catchers in Strikes Looking Above Average.
The addition of Charlie Morton
is a wild card. He is penciled in as the fifth starter, but he has only once eclipsed the 160-inning threshold expected of that role, and that was in 2011. We know he can get groundballs, but when he missed up, batters rarely miss the pitch. Last year, he was hurt 17 innings into the season running out a sacrifice bunt (Yay, pitchers hitting). He got bombed in his season debut against the Reds, but had back-to-back excellent outings against the Padres and Nationals in which he struck out seven and six, respectively. He had even struck out the side against the Brewers before that fateful sac bunt play. The thing is, Morton was throwing with more velocity to that point than he ever had in his career. If that holds up, Morton is an intriguing AL-Only late play because it will help him against lefties as they have been a problem for him throughout most of his career. Better velocity will allow his other stuff to look better.
Rangers sign Andrew Cashner
Cashner, earlier in his career, was an extreme groundball pitcher who did a good job of keeping the ball in the yard. That seems like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away for those who owned Cashner these last two seasons. In that time, the opposition has reached base 35 percent of the time and slugged .455, and he has had a 4.72 ERA. The good news is that he has permitted 19 homers in each of the last two seasons; the bad news is he worked 50 fewer innings in 2016 than in 2015. Like Walker, I think Cashner's best path to success is to gas it out of the bullpen because the fastball at a higher velocity and his slider can still play up. That said, it has been two years since ANY of his pitches have had a positive run value and yet he has still somehow come in above the league average for starting pitcher strikeout rate.
Cardinals sign Brett Cecil
Four guaranteed years and a full no-trade clause for St. Louis. What were the Cardinals thinking??!! Well, Cecil has been one of the 10 best relievers the last four seasons in terms of strikeout rate:
The fact is, Cecil has been one of the best lefty relievers in the game few people talk about. He has also been victimized by the Reliever ERA virus where a bad start takes forever to overcome. He had a second consecutive horrendous April as he posted a 5.79 ERA allowing 17 baserunners and six earned runs in 9.1 innings that month. He went on to have a 3.29 ERA the rest of the season with a 1.10 WHIP and held batters to a .238 average while striking out 32.4 percent of the batters faced. All that said, a patch to saves is tough for Cecil because Seung hwan Oh and Kevin Siegrist
can both do it as well. Cecil has value in NL-Only leagues, but he is losing the value he had in Toronto where he was a decent closer speculation.
Braves sign Sean Rodriguez
For a while, the hardest thing Rodriguez hit was this cooler:
Then, 2016 happened. He played 140 games but only had 342 plate appearances, though he made the most of them with a .270/.349/.510 batting line, banging out 18 homers albeit while striking out a career-high 29.8 percent of the time. How did a career .230 hitter suddenly become a. 270 hitter? The .344 BABIP was a career high, but it wasn't that much higher with some previous numbers in his career. Pittsburgh gets a lot of credit for what it does with pitchers, but it's also helped Rodriguez do better against righties.
Rodriguez owned a .210/.262/.349 batting line against righties from 2008 to 2014 with a 25.7 percent strikeout rate, hitting 28 homers in 1,042 plate appearances. He has hit righties at a .260/.307/.450 clip with Pittsburgh with a 27.8 percent strikeout rate but has 16 homers in just 362 plate appearances – 14 of which came last year. The former lefty killer is now killing righties, if you think he can once again hit one of every four flyballs against right-handers for home runs.
Regression is coming, but there are also opportunities for playing time at second base with Jace Peterson
or in right field to give Nick Markakis
some days off. He is a position flexible play for NL-Only players, but set your baseline at .250 with 12 homers.
Jays sign Kendrys Morales
With both Jose Bautista
and Edwin Encarnacion
likely not to return, the Jays had to soften that blow by acquiring another power bat. Morales moves from one of the tougher park environments for home runs to one that favors his skills. Rogers Centre had a 116/116/102 park effects rating for doubles, triples and homers, respectively, while Kauffman Stadium was 120/128/78. Morales isn't tripling much, but the homers are fun to imagine. Consider that Morales began June with a .193/.262/.330 batting line and had six homers and 21 RBI and then went onto hit .296/.357/.531 with 24 homers and 72 RBI. The Toronto offseason is far from complete, but for now, it is likely Morales is slotted into the cleanup spot behind Devon Travis
, Troy Tulowitzki
and Josh Donaldson
with Russell Martin
behind him. There should still be plenty of RBI opportunities for the DH, and we saw what he could do with those in 2015.
Braves sign Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey
Atlanta is clearly trying to get some AARP subsidies to help offset what little it is contributing to its new stadium in the metro Atlanta area. 2017 will be Colon's 20th season pitching in the majors (he missed all 2010), and yet he still plugs along with excellent command and hilarious at-bats. He is wins and WHIP in the bank, but the strikeout rate and ERA is below league average for starters.
Dickey, meanwhile, is just a chase for wins. The strikeout rate has been below league average now for four consecutive seasons, and his WHIP and ERA have tapered off in recent years with the WHIP blowing up last year thanks to a lot of hard contact that did not show up in his BABIP (.279) nor his 8.7 percent walk rate. That was his highest walk rate as a full-time knuckleballer, but it is weird to see a 1.37 WHIP for someone with a decent walk rate and a low opponents' batting average/BABIP. In fact, Dickey has the highest WHIP in recent memory
of any pitcher with his 2016 levels of performance in those areas. We don't know what the park factors of the new place will be, but perhaps the move to the NL will give him a little bump back in the right direction for his wins and ratios. It certainly did for the guy behind Dickey on that previous hyperlink.
Phillies trade for Howie Kendrick
The Phillies got Kendrick by giving the Dodgers back the guy they received in return for sending Chase Utley
to the Dodgers in Darnell Sweeney
. Kendrick should hit in the top of the lineup in between Cesar Hernandez
and Odubel Herrera
and play every day if he can remain healthy. Playing daily will allow him to do more running and perhaps get back to hitting for a better average than his career-low .255 last year. This change of location does help his fantasy value, even if just a little.
Twins sign Jason Castro
Typically content to stay out of the free-agent market, the Twins signed Castro for three years and $24.25M, and it is not tough to see why. They want to join the pitch-framing game where they have been woefully behind in recent years. ESPN's Mark Simon pointed out that Castro ranked fifth out of 76 catchers in the raw number of called strikes above average and 14th when rating him per pitch. Graphically, you can see where Castro excels at stealing strikes to pitches away to righty hitters:
This should be beneficial to Twins pitchers, and we all know they need all of the help they can get. Offensively, Castro has a wide range of outcomes. He hit .276 in 2013 but hasn't hit above .225 in the last three years. His strikeout rate has worsened each of the last four seasons and he moves from a park that had a 108/100 rating for homers for lefties to one with an 88/100 last season. All in all, this move likely helps the Twins pitchers more than it does Castro in terms of fantasy value.