Holy crap, these MLB Winter Meetings have been insanity. We had heard that the offseason would begin to take shape after Jon Lester signed with a team and boy they weren’t lying about that. Once Lester signed with the Chicago Cubs, the MLB flood gates opened wide.
Now that the meetings are coming to a close, it is time to take a good hard look at the winners and losers from this week’s wheeling and dealing. Grab your coffee (or scotch, depending on your preference), take a deep breath and stay with us as we sort through the craziness of this week.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels got younger as they made a few trades (most notably Howie Kendrick), but it is hard to say whether or not the moves truly helped this team. They are an aging team despite young superstar Mike Trout, so they do deserve props for adding some young pieces.
23-year old Heaney has a ton of upside but, like most young prospects, is still unproven. The 25-year old Rutledge is a decent player, though his defense is rough and it can be argued that Coors Field helped to inflate his offensive numbers. Needless to say, it is hard to justify either of these moves especially when you take into consideration the loss of Kendrick’s production. In 2014 Kendrick hit .293. had a .347 on base percentage, hit seven home runs and drove in 75 runs. With the questionable health of sluggers Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols at times, it is tough losing a consistent hitter who averaged 144 games per year over the last five seasons.
Kansas City Royals
Key Additions: Kendrys Morales (DH)
After losing Billy Butler to the Oakland Athletics and the increasing unlikelihood of James Shields returning, the Royals opted to sign Morales to a two-year, $17 million deal. This is the same Morales that hit just .218/.274/.338 in 401 plate appearances last season while “slugging” just eight home runs and driving in 42 runs.
For a team just coming off a World Series appearance, they have done very little to improve on last season. In fact, the losses of Butler and Shields have this team considerably worse than where they ended the season. This team already struggled to score runs, adding Morales hardly fixes that problem.
Key Additions: Ervin Santana (RHP)
Not too long after bringing back the 39-year old Torii Hunter for $10.5 million, the Twins signed 31-year old Ervin Santana to a four-year, $55 million deal. Sure, Santana has been a successful pitcher over the past 10 years (119-100, 4.17 ERA), but this move makes absolutely no sense.
After finishing 22 games under .500 and in last place of the division last season, the fact that the Twins are making the same kind of mistakes is baffling to me. Just last offseason the Twins signed a very similar pitcher to Santana, Ricky Nolasco, to the same type of contract (four-years, $49 million) and he responded by struggling mightily going 6-12 with a 5.38 ERA. Yes, this team ranked 29th in the league in terms of team ERA, but wouldn’t James Shields have been a better option if you’re going to spend big money on a free agent pitcher? It just seems like the Twins once again hitched their bet to the wrong horse on this one.
San Diego Padres
Key Additions: Matt Kemp (OF)
Look, the Padres made a trade that is sure to excite the fanbase – Matt Kemp is a big bat who has a history of producing. For a team like San Diego who seldom are on this side of these types of blockbuster trades, the optimism can be misleading. Yes, Kemp is an impressive talent when healthy. But that is the key – when healthy.
This is a team that was dead last in the league in terms of offense, and Kemp will give a boost in that area. But this is also a team that ranked dead last in on base percentage. So, expect Kemp to be hitting a lot of solo home runs. I fully expect Kemp’s time in San Diego to be an exact (yet a bit more expensive) replica of Carlos Quentin‘s tenure with the team – giving brief glimpses of stardom but ultimately falling short.
Props to the Padres on making a bold move, but they are in need of much more retooling before this acquisition would start to make any sense. This move also begs into question the true “plan” of general manager A.J. Preller – this team is more than just one piece away from contending for the NL West crown, so why go for such an expensive and immediate fix? There were a few solid pieces in the farm system worth building around for a successful future. Instead, San Diego opted to ship many of those pieces (Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland, Zach Eflin) off to the Dodgers.
Also, let’s be honest – if this trade was the move that immediately made the Padres contenders, do we really believe the Dodgers would be willing to aid into the growth of their division rival? No way in hell.
The Diamondbacks ranked 26th in team ERA last season. Sure, Miley had an ERA of 4.34 but he was coming off back to back years of posting ERAs of 3.33 and 3.55. A team that desperate for pitching most have traded Miley away for improvements within the rotation, right?
De La Rosa pitched in 30 games for the Red Sox last season and recorded 2.16 K/BB and 6.4 K/9 and a 4.54 ERA in 113 innings. Likewise, Webster has been back and forth between the majors and triple-A the last two seasons but managed to rack up a 6.25 ERA over 89 1/3 innings with the big league club.
Yasmany Tomas might be well worth the money, but he won’t fix the pitching staff – or even Mark Trumbo‘s whiffing tendencies.
If nothing at all, the possibilities of a lineup featuring Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez are incredibly exciting. The loss of Rick Porcello the same offseason that they are (presumably) losing Max Scherzer does cause a bit of concern, but it is evident that this team is “all-in” for 2015. As David Price and Cespedes inch towards free agency next offseason, the Tigers may have a few choices to make.
Helping to ease some of the pain of the losses of Porcello and Scherzer, the addition of Simon is a solid one for the back-end of the Detroit rotation. After being an impressive reliever for most of his professional, Simon stepped into the number five-spot for the Cincinnati Reds last season and was sensational – winning 15 decisions. While he may not perform quite that well this season, Simon does give Detroit stability in their rotation. While he is also a free agent after this season, Simon will be much easier (read: cheaper) to re-sign than Price and Cespedes next winter.
All in all, the Tigers are setting themselves up perfectly for a championship run next season.
Dan Haren (if he chooses to play) has been decent and will be a competent fifth starter for Miami and Rojas is destined to be a utility player that rotates between the minors and big league club. With that being said, the additions of Latos and Gordon are huge for Miami. While neither is a blockbuster move such as trading for Matt Kemp or signing Max Scherzer, both moves improve the Marlins immensely.
Latos, though coming off of an injury-plagued 2014, gives Miami an ace-caliber starter. With intensity that is second to none, Latos immediately gives the Marlins a nice one-two punch alongside Jose Fernandez. In fact, that injury-plagued season likely helped the Marlins to land Latos at a discounted price – that along with the Reds desire to shed payroll. I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see these two discuss an extension as the season progresses, as Latos is in the final year of arbitration.
Gordon impressed last season hitting .289/.326/.378 for the Dodgers. Gordon’s speed gives the Marlins even more opportunity to put men on base in front of their franchise man, Giancarlo Stanton. The combination of Gordon and Stanton could be a pleasure to watch down South.
Los Angeles Dodgers
New general manager Farhan Zaidi made a statement already in his first offseason with the Dodgers. After losing Hanley Ramirez to the Boston Red Sox in free agency, Zaidi proceeded to trade away Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon (among others) as he re-tooled the Los Angeles roster.
Rollins (36-years old) and Kendrick (31) provide veteran stability and an offensive presence from the middle infield positions. Considering both are free agents after the upcoming season, they provide a strong stopgap between now and the implementation of top prospects Corey Seager (SS) and Alexander Guerrero (2B). Not did the moves give LA a bridge to the future in the middle of the infield, but it also fixed their surplus of outfielders-problem).
Chicago White Sox
After already signing free agent Adam LaRoche this offseason to add more power to their lineup, the White Sox made it their mission this week to improve their pitching staff. By adding Samardzija, Chicago is combining the stellar Chris Sale with another capable ace in the rotation to solidify a group that is filled with much inexperience. Samardzija is one year from free agency, and while it is high unlikely that he will be unwilling to test the market, the acquisition does wonders for the 2015 improvement of the White Sox starting rotation.
Robertson fills a huge need for Chicago – a lock-down closer to insert in the backend of their makeshift bullpen. Robertson will give manager Robin Ventura more leeway when it comes to managing his relievers, something that he did not have last season. There is still work to be done with this team, but they are already younger and more talented than they were just four months ago.
Boston Red Sox
Last month the Red Sox made big moves by signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. While those were big moves to improve their offense, I loved what the Red Sox did today. Continuing the mission they started on July 31st trade deadline, Boston continued to rebuild. With Porcello, Masterson and Miley, the Red Sox grabbed three guys well-known for their ability to induce the ground ball.
Rick Porcello is the only major leaguer with a BB/9 IP rate under 3.0 and a ground ball rate of at least 50% in each of the last 6 seasons.
— Jon Shestakofsky (@Shesta_Sox) December 11, 2014
In fact, last season Miley ranked 19th (53.23 percent) and Porcello 25th (50.85 percent) among all pitchers in terms of ground ball percentage. For Cleveland in 2013, Masterson led all of baseball in the same category inducing ground balls 58.95 percent of the time. The Red Sox had a clear plan and they executed it perfectly.
The Reds did exactly what they had to this offseason – begin rebuilding the farm system by trading away starting pitchers. With Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon all set to hit free agency next winter, the Reds knew they would not be able to afford all (or even half) of them. Trading Latos and Simon before the season allowed Cincinnati to maximize their possible return in a trade. While recent injuries to Latos stunted the size of possible returns for the Reds, they were still able to acquire strong building blocks for their system. With all of that being said, the Reds are still in need of additions (hello, left field) before we can consider them improved or not this coming season.
St. Louis Cardinals
Key Additions: Mark Reynolds (1B)
The signing of Reynolds won’t stop any presses, but it does give the Cardinals a very powerful bat coming off of the bench. With Matt Adams firmly planted at first base, Reynolds gives St. Louis a formidable backup plan in case of an Adams injury or just on days he is in need of rest. Reynolds is a low cost-high reward signing for Mike Matheny and the Cardinals. After the Jason Heyward signing, the Cardinals continue to bolster a team that was already favored to win the NL Central. Perhaps they are finally sick and tired of coming up just short of winning another ring.
Key Additions: Brandon Moss (OF/1B/DH)
The Indians were in need of a power bat and they got just that with Moss from Oakland. Pairing Moss with Michael Brantley and Nick Swisher in the middle of the lineup will be a welcomed addition for manager Terry Francona. While they are still in need of a few small upgrades, this move is yet another impressive one from the organization that is continuing the strong organizational turnaround that we have been witnessing over the past two years. There is reason to be excited in Cleveland these days, and the addition of Moss is yet another one.
Cover Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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