Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
It was a busy winter, but these eight teams did better than most with their big moves .
Here's a list of the 109 biggest signings, re-signings, and trades from the offseason. I already hate the list. I'm sure the passage of time and actual baseball games will make it look smarter and smarter because that's usually how analysis and predictions work.
There should be something of an explanation, though, for the top moves and the bottom moves. First up, the 10 best moves of the offseason and why I liked them.
10. Braves acquiring Chris Johnson and Justin Upton from Diamondbacks for Martin Prado, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury, Randall Delgado, and Zeke Spruill
Depending on which version of WAR you use, the Braves either downgraded their outfield by a little or a lot. Lost in the Uptonmania is the fact that Martin Prado and Michael Bourn were excellent last year. It would take a lot for Jason Heyward and the Uptons just to match the production the Braves got from their outfield last season.
I love what the Braves are chasing, though -- it balances the risk/reward perfectly, and the reward is something historic. The risk is that Upton isn't much better than he was last year, that he's significantly worse than Prado (say, two or three wins, at least). The reward is one of the better young outfields in recent history. Upton is 25 and just a year removed from a monster season; Heyward is 23, and he's already excellent. As is, it's a good set of corner outfielders. But when you look at the ages, it's not inconceivable that they both go nuts. Maybe at the same time. Maybe for the next several years.
The Braves are flying close to the sun on wings made of Brad Komminsk, here. And I love it.
9. Nationals acquiring Denard Span from Twins for Alex Meyer
The perfect mix of need, depth, and timing. The Nationals wanted to get a leadoff hitter and a center fielder, but they didn't want to pay Boras prices for Michael Bourn. Meyer is a former first-round pick, and he had success in the minors last season, so it's not like the Nationals got Span for pennies on the dollar.
But Span is a plus defender, under 30, and he's signed through 2015. To get that kind of player for a single A-ball arm is something of a coup. And considering where the Nationals are right now (the presumptive favorites in their division), and what they could do with the money they didn't spend on Bourn (send a wheelbarrow full of nickels to Rafael Soriano's house), the move made all sorts of sense...
8. Nationals acquiring A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen, and PTBNL from Mariners/A's for Michael Morse
… because with a center fielder on the roster, the Nats could dangle their worst defensive outfielder and get a prospect back. Meyer is ranked #59 in Baseball America's top-100 list, but I'm a big A.J. Cole fan. These two moves in tandem were the equivalent of transmogrifying a lumbering left fielder into a speedy center fielder, and the cost was switching out one talented pitching prospect for another one who is two years younger. It was a neat magic trick, and it helped the 2013 lineup out.
7. Yankees re-signing Hiroki Kuroda
Over the past five years, Kuroda has been as effective at preventing runs as Zack Greinke. I know what the peripherals and fielding-independent stats say, but when you're at the thousand-inning mark, the run-prevention record matters. Kuroda was outstanding last year, and he was exactly what the Yankees needed without any of the long-term hassles they're trying to avoid. Perfect fit, and it's more than a little surprising that Kuroda is content to go year-to-year like this.
6. Nationals signing Dan Haren
This is where I think you're expecting me to slip in a subtle link to Nationals season tickets as their paid operative. I just loved their approach this offseason, especially when it came to replacing the one-year deal to Edwin Jackson that paid off.
Dan Haren didn't miss a start for seven years before last season when, considering park effects, he was pretty bad for the Angels. The downside is a pitcher who isn't an improvement on Jackson. And if you look at the velocity trend, that downside might be all that's left.
But if Haren's back is healthy, he's one of the best starters in the game, and he's moving to an easier league in which to pitch. The velocity should tick up with a healthy back, and like the Kuroda deal, the risk is minimal -- you want veteran pitchers on one-year deals. The Nats weren't in the same position as the Royals, stumbling around for an ace, costs be damned. They already had an ace, and then they had two more. Picking up a potential ace on a one-year flier is a great complement to what they already had.
5. Dodgers signing Zack Greinke
This is the anti-Kuroda, the anti-Haren. It's all risk, maybe even enough to counteract the reward. I'm not convinced that Greinke is as good as his FIPs. And if that's not the case, the Dodgers just spent $159 million on someone who has been pretty ordinary over the last three seasons since winning the Cy Young.
Except there should be a currency converter we could use. How much will Greinke's contract affect the Dodgers' roster-building in the next few seasons? There's no way to answer that rhetorical question without pulling invented numbers out of your backside, but you almost have to look at Greinke's contract as if it were a six year, $60 million deal with the Padres, or a six year, $75 million deal with the Royals. The financial risk just isn't the same for the Dodgers that it is for other teams. So as it stands, they got the best pitcher on the free-agent market, and it didn't curtail their ability to spend at all.
When a team can do that, they should. The Dodgers are the only team that can do that right now, and they used it to their advantage.
4. Mets acquiring Travis d'Arnaud, John Buck, Wulimer Becerra, and Noah Syndergaard from Blue Jays for Mike Nickeas, Josh Thole, and R.A. Dickey
When I wrote about the possibility of the Mets trading Dickey last November, it was with something of an incredulous tone:
That means the strategy with Dickey should be kinda sorta simple. Taking the best available offer because they're scared they'll get nothing if he leaves as a free agent = bad. Taking a monstrous, talent-stuffed prospects-based deal that they would be silly to reject = good.
I'm not sure if d'Arnaud, Becerra, and Syndergaard is exactly what I had in mind, but it's close. Jonathan Mayo at MLB ranks d'Arnaud as the #6 prospect in baseball; Baseball America has d'Arnaud at #23. Mayo has Syndergaard at #29; BA has him at #54. Two top-100 prospects -- maybe even top-25 prospects -- makes for a pretty good haul, considering Dickey is 38 and the Mets aren't expected to contend (or field an outfield) this year.
3. Rays acquiring Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard from Royals for James Shields and Wade Davis
In a perfect world, the Rays shouldn't have to jump on a deal like this. They covet Myers because he's cost-controllable, not because he'll help their contending team win more than the players they give up.
But considering the realities of a low-budget team looking for the extra two percent, this is an outstanding deal. My favorite part has to do with everything the Royals threw in. Odorizzi is an exciting, young pitching prospect. Montgomery is a worthwhile reclamation project going to a team that knows how to develop pitching, and Leonard showed good patience and power as a 19-year-old in the Appalachian League.
As a package for Shields, those three would have been a pretty fair return. Then you get to Myers, whose middle-of-the-road projection is probably something like Jay Bruce, and there's no way the Rays could have turned down that deal. There's no way the Nationals or Giants, teams with more money to spend, could have turned down that deal.
2. Blue Jays acquiring John Buck, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and $4M from Marlins for Jeff Mathis, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeScalfani, and Justin Nicolino
After years and years of being a lukewarm bath -- never too offensive, never exactly pleasant -- the Jays decided to spend money. But it's more than the decision to spend, it's the timing, too. Someone made an impassioned plea to the bean counters to convince them this was the right time to make a move. The Yankees are old and they weren't going to do much of anything this offseason. The Red Sox are coming off 93 losses. The Orioles likely overachieved. The Rays still have the young talent, but they were going to lose B.J. Upton and James Shields, too.
I'd like to think it was Alex Anthopolous making the speech while banging a shoe on the conference-room desk like Khrushchev.
Whatever happened, now was the time. And the Jays responded. For the first time, Rogers Communications did what they were long chided for not doing, which is spend a little.
1. Indians acquiring Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw, Drew Stubbs from Dbacks and Reds for Lars Anderson, Tony Sipp, Jason Donald and Shin-Soo Choo
Maybe this trade isn't at the top spot if it isn't the Indians. Because in the past, when the Indians have traded star players at the end of their deals, they haven't gotten a lot of value. Cliff Lee brought back very little, and CC Sabathia brought back only Michael Brantley -- a fine player, but not a centerpiece.
With this deal, though, the Indians sold off an outfielder in the last year of his deal, but they a) got back one of the best pitching prospects in the game, even if it was an open secret that his team was tired of him, and b) went out and supplemented the current roster with two free-agent outfielders. It would be like if they traded Sabathia for a much better prospect than Matt LaPorta, then signed Ryan Dempster and Randy Wolf to replace Sabathia.
Alright, maybe that isn't so exciting in retrospect, but 2008 was a rough class for free-agent starters. The Indians got better in the short term with this deal and the subsequent signings, but they also got their hands on someone who used to be an untouchable commodity just eight or nine months ago. Good for the Indians. It's about time they won an offseason.