This offseason has been boring, to say the least. Going into January, most of the major free agents remain unsigned, and there are still a myriad of trade candidates finding their names in the rumor mills. Nevertheless, the Winter Meetings have passed, the relief market has seen action, and a few of the major trade candidates and free agents have found new homes.
Here are my evaluations of the best (and worst) of the past two months.
Angels sign international free agents Kevin Maitan and Shohei Ohtani to minor league deals
Going into the offseason, the Angels had one of the worst farm systems in the league, however two months in, the industry is singing a different tune. The Braves lost Kevin Maitan, among others, after the John Coppolella scandal. $2.2 million later, Kevin Maitan will now start on the path to Anaheim.
If that wasn’t enough, Billy Eppler took on the Jim Johnson contract and proceeded to persuade the biggest name of this winter, Shohei Ohtani, to sign in Southern California. Adding two top-100 prospects while only giving up Justin Kelly earns Billy Eppler an A+.
New York Yankees acquire Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins in exchange for Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers
At first glance, the Marlins got taken in this deal, however when you take into account the fact that Giancarlo nixed trades to the two highest bidders, and would only accept deals to the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees. Unfortunately for Jeter and company, the Yankees were the only one of the four with any interest leaving the Marlins with less leverage than Verne Troyer in an arm wrestling match with Mike Tyson.
The fact that the Marlins were able to get out from under nearly the entire contract while getting two lottery tickets, and a savings bond player in Castro, who seems likely to be traded again within the next six months is impressive enough to warrant an initial B rating for the Marlins with the potential for more following a Castro trade. The Yankees, however, get a cool A-, as the opportunistic Brian Cashman managed to come out on top once again.
Miami Marlins acquire Zac Gallen, Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra and Daniel Castano from the Cardinals for Marcell Ozuna
The Cardinals were unable to land Giancarlo Stanton due to the reigning NL-MVP’s no-trade clause, however that didn’t stop them from acquiring a Marlins’ outfield. Ozuna is coming off of a monster 2017 season which saw him post a 5.8 WAR with 37 home runs, a gold glove and a silver slugger. The question, however, is can he maintain that level of production. Over the first four seasons of his career, he averaged a 2.0 WAR with a .265/.314/.427 with 20 home runs per season which, while solid, isn’t worth that prospect package.
The Marlins cashed in on a high upside, but highly volatile piece. While I’m not as high on Alcantara as most, I am considerably higher on Gallen than the rest of the industry and see him as a reliable fourth starter long term. The Marlins get a B+ on this deal based off of the fact that Gallen and Sierra have rather high floors. I don’t love this deal for the Cardinals, however, Ozuna has enough potential to get them a C+.
Seattle Mariners acquire Dee Gordon and international bonus money from the Marlins in exchange for Nick Neidert, Robert Dugger and Chris Torres
The Marlins took advantage of a general manager desperate to attract an international superstar. Not only did the Marlins get a top 100 prospect in Neidert, they got out of the entire contract. The Marlins get an A- for this deal, however the Mariners get a D for this one.
First of all, the shortstop and second base positions are filled in Seattle pushing Gordon to center field. Second, Neidert was one of a very small amount of highly rated prospects in the M’s system. Third, they are stuck with the entirety of Gordon’s large contract. Finally, that international bonus money did not net them the fish that they were looking for.
Seattle Mariners acquire Ryon Healy from the Oakland Athletics for Emilio Pagan and Alexander Campos
This is a pretty straight forward need-based swap. Healy, who was blocked in Oakland, will head over to the power hungry Mariners, while Pagan will go from the deep Marlins bullpen to Oakland, where he will be given the opportunity to be given a regular relief role. Campos is a nice lottery ticket as well. Both teams get Bs for this deal.
Chicago Cubs sign Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal
Tyler Chatwood performed considerably better than his bottom line numbers showed, as he pitched most of his games in the pitchers’ prison Coors’ Field. Nevertheless, this seems to be a bit of an overpay, as most outlets had Chatwood pegged at a deal around $20 million.
While Chatwood seems like a safe bet to outperform his 2017 numbers, the NL Central contains two of the top five most hitter friendly parks in the league, while Wrigley is in the top ten. Furthermore, coming off of a 4.7 BB/9 season with a similar career rate of 4.2 BB/9 rate, the Cubs better hope that he can improve his control, however as the deal stands now, it looks like a C+.
Los Angeles Angels sign Zack Cozart to a three-year, $38 million, while acquiring Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers for Troy Montgomery and Wilkel Hernandez
The Cozart deal has the potential to be the best big move of the offseason. Cozart looked like sure-fire bet to land a qualifying offer, however was able to escape into the market without the saddle of draft pick compensation tied to him. Cozart will make $12.667 million a year for the next three seasons in a market where market value is considered $8 million per WAR point.
While Cozart had something of a breakout year in 2017 offensively, he always showed solid power and an outstanding glove while averaging around 2.0 WAR every season excluding 2017. Billy Eppler gets an A- on this one.
The Angels, like the Yankees, were the beneficiaries of the no trade clause, as Kinsler had his heart set on Anaheim. The Tigers were able to get their hands on a pair of solid B-level prospects, however, for a second basemen in his mid-30s who logged 14 stolen bases and 22 home runs, they were bitten by the no-trade clause.
Montgomery seems like a solid fourth outfielder, and while Hernandez has a high ceiling as a reliever, he is a lottery ticket. Based on the circumstances, Al Avila and co get a B-, however, the Angels found themselves yet another bargain, and get a solid B+.
San Diego Padres acquired Freddy Galvis from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Enyel De Los Santos
Matt Klentak got quite the haul for an all-glove shortstop on a one-year contract. De Los Santos looks like a back-end starter who could be ready by the end of 2018. While Galvis brought with him some valuable veteran leadership, De Los Santos has posted consistent ERA numbers under four with solid control throughout his career. Philly gets a solid B out of the deal.
As for Galvis, he seems likely to start at shortstop for the Padres as they await the arrival of Fernando Tatis Jr. As a stopgap, the Padres could have done a lot worse, however the cost is certainly very high, limiting the Friars to a C grade.
Philadelphia Phillies sign Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal
Below is my hot take on Carlos Santana as a comment on MLBTradeRumors.com
While I don’t love the fit, Carlos Santana is as durable of an option as you could find on either the free agent or trade market. While Carlos Santana has a career .249 batting average, he has consistent 20-30 home run power and has the best plate discipline in the league, with 726 career walks compared to just 812 strikeouts over 4782 plate appearances. For those keeping score, that is a 16.9 percent strikeout percentage compared to a 15.2 percent walk rate.
Those numbers are comparable to Mike Trout‘s. Santana will bring a veteran presence to the young and promising Phillies line-up. Unfortunately, Nick Williams or Aaron Altherr seem likely to find themselves traded or in a platoon role, as Rhys Hoskins will be moving the left field. While the Phillies lose points based on the lack of fit, they get a stellar B rating on the deal, as Santana seems likely to be worth every penny.
Texas Rangers add to the pitching staff
The Rangers made the first major free agent signings back in early November bringing in Doug Fister on an inexpensive one year contract that will pay him $3.5 million in 2018 with a team option for 2019 and Mike Minor on a three-year deal worth $28 million to pitch in the rotation.
Minor spent the season in the Royals’ bullpen pitching 77.2 innings of 2.55 ERA ball. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the rotation following his multiple Tommy John surgeries. It is certainly a pricey risk, so using him a starter warrants a C+ at this point, however if Minor is able to stay healthy and eat innings effectively, this could turn into a bargain signing, however, that’s a big if.
The Fister signing, however, looks to be one of the biggest bargains of the offseason. While Fister’s bottom line results weren’t that great, his peripherals were fantastic and he saw an increase in his velocity for the first time in years.
At $4 million, there is very little risk and this deal looks like an A-. Even if the season doesn’t work out for the Rangers, Fister could warrant a very solid return at the deadline, being an inexpensive starting pitcher.
Colorado Rockies bolster the bullpen
The Rockies paid a high price for three veteran relievers one year after signing Mike Dunn to a large contract that has not worked out well to this point. The most notable signing was Wade Davis, who received a three year contract worth $52 million and a mutual option. Davis struggled with injuries last season, and is on the wrong side of 30.
The other two signings were Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee. The former signed a three year contract worth $27 million while the latter got $21 million over the same time period. I’m a fan of the McGee signing. He’s familiar with the environment of Coors Field, after posting strong numbers in 2017. I would give the Rockies a solid B on this contract, however I’m considerably less enthralled with the other two. I don’t love the Shaw contract. He has been a durable middle reliever to low set-up man for a long time with the Indians, however I worry about how he will adjust to Colorado. $27 million for an unfamiliar reliever with upside earns a C+ rating, with the potential for more.
The Wade Davis signing was very poor in my eyes. Colorado is a small market team with an already expensive bullpen. Davis is a huge risk as a 32-year old fireballer who has dealt with injuries and a 39% career fly ball rate moving to Coors. Bridich gets a D on this signing.
St. Louis Cardinals sign Miles Mikolas to a two-year contract
I’ve been a fan of Miles Mikolas since his days with the Padres and the Rangers. The fact that he found success overseas was not very surprising to me seeing as how he has always shown excellent velocity and solid control. He brings stability to the young Cardinals’ rotation and for the amount of money invested by the Cardinals, it seems like a worthwhile risk. The Cardinals get a solid B on this deal.
Milwaukee Brewers bring in two starters
David Stearns brought in a pair of veteran starters on the cheap towards the end of December in Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo. For a combined $17.5 million, it is hard to criticize either move. Chacin has been a pretty solid back end starter for the better part of the last decade, however last season he did what he did in Petco Park, and will move to the second most hitter friendly park in Milwaukee.
While Chacin seems likely to eat some innings at a league average clip, I don’t see much else. I would give this move a B-. I can’t give Gallardo a legitimate rating seeing as how there is absolutely no risk and no guaranteed money. This deal can not bite the Brewers in the butt.
Philadelphia Phillies add two veteran relievers
Matt Klentak put some money into the bullpen paying $16.25m over two years to the Phillies’ lone all-star in Pat Neshek and two years of $18m for Tommy Hunter. Pat Neshek seems like a very worthwhile investment for the Phillies who have very little in financial commitment over the next few seasons. Neshek was absolutely amazing for the Phils in 2017 earning an all-star appearance and a three prospect return last summer.
Neshek is a good fit, and warrants a B+ rating. As for the Tommy Hunter signing, while it doesn’t seem likely to hurt the Phillies in any way, it seems a tad bit superfluous, seeing as how the Phillies already have Neris, Morgan, Luis Garcia, Pat Neshek, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano and Vince Velazquez (who should be in the bullpen, but that’s another story). Based on the Phillies situation and the payroll space, I give it a passing C+ rating.
New York Mets sign Anthony Swarzak
Don’t get me wrong, if 25 of the 30 teams made this move, it would at least be considered a passable. Unfortunately, the Mets are not one of those 25 teams. With less than $20m to spend, and holes at first base, the rotation and the middle infield, $7 million spent on a reliever who had a career 4.52 ERA before 2017 is not a good investment.
What makes this signing look worse for the Mets is the fact that between Familia, Blevins and Ramos they spent nearly $20 million in 2017. This deal looks exceptionally poor and unnecessary for the Mets. Alderson and co get a D- rating from me.
Chicago White Sox sign Welington Castillo
I didn’t understand the deal at the time of the signing, however, the fact that the Sox had Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith and were able to get one of the best catchers on the market for $15 million over a two year period made me realize how much sense it actually made.
Castillo will serve as a veteran on one of the youngest teams in the league, and could serve as a very strong trade chip at some point over the next two seasons. The Welington Castillo signing earns Rick Hahn yet another A-.
There are 100 different angles that you could look at this deal from, however, every single has the same end point: the Giants are trying to fix bullet holes with band-aids. Evan Longoria is a very good player, however he is expensive and on the wrong side of 30.
Not only did the Giants take on a significant amount of his salary, they traded away one of their best young players in Arroyo as well as two other decent pieces. I give the Giants a D- seeing as how their farm system was already one of the weakest in the league. The Rays had to say goodbye to a franchise icon, however the salary relief and package give Silverman and co an A- for me.
Cleveland Indians sign Yonder Alonso
The Indians had to swallow the pill of losing Carlos Santana to Philly and rebounded quickly to sign Alonso for just $16 million. Yonder Alonso has long shown fantastic plate discipline over the course of his career, and while his second half slump brings a bit of concern, he’s coming at less than a third of the cost and will bring a very formidable replacement. Antonetti and co deserve a B+ rating as they will also get a nice new draft pick for allowing Santana to walk.
Arizona Diamondbacks acquire Brad Boxberger from the Tampa Bay Rays for Curtis Taylor
The Rays have been adamant about clearing payroll this offseason, and while they seemed to have come on top in the Longoria deal, selling low on Boxberger despite a very strong season doesn’t seem like the smartest move from where I’m sitting.
Curtis Taylor isn’t a bad prospect, however he seems like a reliever long term. The Rays only get a C out of this deal. Arizona, on the other hand, made out like bandits. Boxberger has set-up potential, and they only gave up a mid-level prospect. Arizona gets a solid B+ on the deal.