2014-2015 MLB Free Agency Review

I did this for the NFL and had a lot of fun so I decided I would try it out again this year.  Check my twitter for updates.  I’ll try to throw some trade info and things like that in here also. Enjoy.

Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes and Chris Hatcher from Marlins to Dodgers
Dee Gordon, and Dan Haren traded from Dodgers to Marlins

I think the Dodgers get the better end of this deal pretty easily. Heaney was supposed to be a star, while Gordon had what will most likely be his best career season in 2014. Dan Haren is way past his prime, and the upside for the Dodgers here is huge.

The Dodgers clear some space in the infield, save some money, and really help the farm. The Marlins…get a second baseman that’s marginally better than the one they had.

Jimmy Rollins traded from Phillies to Dodgers
Phillies get ???

This makes sense for the Phillies, who finally look like they’re cleaning house as best they can. Rollins is an upgrade at short for the Dodgers, but that leaves Dee Gordon and Alex Guerrero fighting for second base again this spring, and both players probably deserve to start somewhere. Chances are one gets traded soon.

Antonio Bastardo from Phillies to Pirates
Joely Rodriguez from Pirates to Phillies

Just another salary dump for Philadelphia, and a bit of bullpen security for the Pirates.

Pat Neshek
From Cardinals to Astros
2 tears for $12 million

Luke Gregerson
From Athletics to Astros
3 years for $18.5 million

The Astros missed out on signing David Robertson and Andrew Miller, so they jumped after Gregerson and Neshek. Gregerson has been great every season he’s been in the big leagues and last year he posted his best ERA. The only blip in his game came in a limited opportunity he was given as a closer last season, and that could be enough to scare the Astros from trying him out in the ninth inning again.

I may be in the minority here, but I think Neshek is a much better value than Robertson was. He’s 34-years-old so the long-term commitment wasn’t needed and the Astros didn’t have to for saves, even though last season’s performance was actually better than Robertson’s.

By shoring up their bullpen, the Astros are making a clear statement that they think they can contend in the next year or two.

Jon Lester
From Athletics to Cubs
6 years for $155 million

The final thing the Cubs needed was a top of the rotation starter, and it seemed like it would be Lester all along. Six years is probably one year too many, but the Cubs have money and the early returns should be worth it. This team is officially a contender.

Francisco Liriano
Resigned with Pirates
3 years $39 million

Liriano is the definition of inconsistent, from start to start and season to season. He can go out and strike out 12 over six or give up 12 in two. There’s no doubt he’s been at his best in Pittsburg and he closed out 2014 with a fantastic last two months. That just seems like a lot of money.

David Robertson
From Yankees to White Sox
4 years for $46 million

That’s an unreal contract. I know the White Sox have had a putrid closing situation the last two seasons and probably felt desperate to get a guy with “closing experience,” but that’s a crazy contract for any relieve, and Robertson isn’t even one of the ten best relievers in baseball. He’s really good, but not an earth-shattering player.

Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa traded from Athletics to White Sox
Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo traded from White Sox to Athletics

I think Samardzija is an overrated player that got hot at the absolute perfect time of his career. It’s a good move for the White Sox, who really needed pitching help and just gave up second-tier prospects in bulk.

Miguel Montero traded from Diamondbacks to Cubs
Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley traded from Cubs to Diamondbacks

This was a salary dump for Arizona while the Cubs continue to add during their offseason transformation. I’m not a huge Montero guy, but he’s consistent enough at and behind the plate.

Brandon Moss traded from Athletics to Indians
Joe Wendle traded from Indians to Athletics

I’m going to be honest and say I have no idea who Joe Wendle is, but I do know Brandon Moss and that he has 30 homer power. I think it’s safe to say the Indians won this one. Moss should be a great platoon guy with Swisher, and could play more than that if needed.

Andrew Miller
From Orioles to Yankees
4 years for $36 million

This is good bullpen insurance for the Yankees just incase they can’t sign Robertson. A bullpen with the two of them and Betances would theoretically be one of the best in baseball. It’s a big contract, but bullpen arms are usually stable enough to hold their value long term.

Didi Gregorious traded from Diamondbacks to Yankees
Shane Greene traded from Yankees to Tigers
Domingo Leyba, Robbie Ray traded from Tigers to Diamondbacks

I love this trade for the Yankees. The 24-year-old can defend better than Jeter could the last few years and is a pretty strong player at the plate. And he isn’t a big name that’ll get overpayed.

Arizona is also making a statement that Chris Owings is their Shortstop of choice. Getting prospects for somebody who wasn’t in their long-term future isn’t a bad idea.

Detroit gets a young starting pitcher. I really don’t know why they participated in this deal but if they don’t care much for the players they traded then I don’t have a problem with it.

Torii Hunter
From Tigers to Twins
1 year for 10.5 million

I’m usually not a fan when non-contending teams sign old veteran players for a year because I think it blocks the opportunity for a young player who could develop. At 39 this is probably going to be Hunters last season as a close-to full time player, and his WAR has decreased over the last three years to the point that he is a replacement level player. He can still hit for a little power, will bat around .275 but his defense is all but gone.

With all that to consider, I like the idea of Hunter returning to the Twins, where he started his career and played 11 seasons. And they are thin at outfield and he could be moved around and fill some homes until a guy like Byron Buxton is ready to be called up.

Nick Markakis
From Orioles to Braves
4 years for $44 million

I think Markakis gets a bad rap. He’s an above average defender (only 18 errors in his 9 seasons) with a relatively consistent bat. Even if he is limited in what he can do, he’s great a making contact and has a BB/K ratio that’s always around .72.  He’s a clear improvement from BJ Upton and also helps fill a hole left from the Heyward trade.

The contract seems a little long though. $11 million this year is probably well worth what he’ll bring to the team this season. But at 31-years-old, he has very predictable and limited upside, and there’s a pretty good chance his skills at the plate start to slowly decline. While his range on defense has always been good, his arm is pretty weak already, and as he slows down his defense may become a problem. 2015 should be fine, and maybe 2016 too. It’s 2017 and 2018 that could be problems.

Colby Lewis
Resign with Rangers
1 year for $4 million

Last year was rough but Lewis has been hurt a lot lately, but was relatively good and consistent for the Rangers when healthy. The deal makes sense for both the player and the team.

Luke Hochevar
Resign with Royals
2 years for $10 million

One of the pieces of the great Royals bullpen resigned with the team, and with some of the players that are leaving this off season their bullpen may be a big reason they stay relevant.

Jim Johnson
From Detroit to Atlanta
1 year for $1.6 million

After cutting Jonny Venters and trading away Jordan Walden, the Braves needed to add bullpen help. Johnson came off a terrible season but if he can fix his sinker he could be an effective option again, especially outside of a closing role.

Justin Smoak
From Mariners to Blue Jays
1 year for $1 million

Smoak has never proved he could be an effective every day player, but he adds depth and power potential at close to no cost.

J.A. Happ Traded from Blue Jays to Mariners
Michael Saunders from Mariners to Blue Jays

Similar to the Smoak acquisition (and not just because they’re coming from the same team), Saunders gives the team depth and some more options, even if he alone isn’t an amazing player. He also has power potential that could be unlocked in Toronto.

After signing a few guys this offseason the Mariners may have felt their roster was a little crowded, and would rather an extra average pitcher than hitter.

Nelson Cruz
From Orioles to Mariners
4 years for $58 million

Last season the Mariners fell just short of the playoffs, and the main reason was their offense lacked consistency. Robinson Cano added a lot to this team in his first year, and Cruz should this year.

It would be foolish to expect a full season of work or 40 homers like last year, especially in Safeco Field, but as a fulltime DH he should make an impact. The signing alone probably won’t be enough to catapult them into the postseason though.

Josh Donaldson traded to Toronto
Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Franklin Barreto traded to A’s

Toronto got a real steal here. Donaldson is an elite defender and should be able to pump up his already impressive power numbers at the Rodgers Center. He’ll fit right in with a lineup that already included Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and now Russell Martin. You would be hard pressed to find one more intimidatingly top heavy.

For the A’s, they are clearly moving things around this offseason. Donaldson is a great player, but he is in his prime and if you’re going to trade him, this is when he’ll have the most value. When healthy, Lawrie has always had potential and is a fine defender, and one of the prospects could pan out, but the A’s current roster is for sure worse in the short term than it was.

Yasmany Tomas
From Cuba to Diamondbacks
6 Years for $68 million

This one is hard to judge just because I’ve never seen Tomas play, but there’s been a nice streak of Cuban players coming over the last handful of seasons, so there’s no reason to think a guy who slugged over 500 would be bad. Also, if any team needed help in the outfield and equally as much help on offense it’s Arizona. The Diamondbacks undoubtedly get better with this signing, and considered the contract they gave is friendly enough for what should be an every day player this is a signing that shows the team wants to improve.
Pablo Sandoval
From Giants to Red Sox
5 Years for $95 million
Sandoval was going to get slightly overplayed no matter where he landed because he’s been a key player in three championship runs, he’s always working at 110 percent, and the market for third basemen is extremely thin this season. For a large guy, he’s surprisingly athletic and talented in the field, however, his offensive production has varied from month-to-month and season-to-season throughout his career. Twelve to 15 homers, 70 RBI and a .275 average are fine and probably what are expected at this point, but his on base, slugging and stolen base totals have all declined over the last four seasons, while his strikeouts have been slowly climbing. Sandoval also doesn’t have a clean bill of health, missing at least 20 games in each of 2011, 12 and 13, and like many with his body type, he may start breaking down more quickly than others as the years go on. I’m probably being overly critical here. He’s a fine player, and will make the Red Sox a better team. Plus, he is only 28-years-old, which means he should have two or three more seasons in his peak form. The only real problem, and it’s what I mentioned in the Hanley post, is the Red Sox seem too have way too many players for too few spots on the field. This does give them flexibility to go for a pitcher though.

Hanley Ramirez
From Dodgers to Red Sox
4 Years for $88 million
Ramirez has injury risk and is a liability if he’s still playing short full time, but his offensive potential is so great that he’s worth the money here. The positional fit really doesn’t work here though, especially if the Red Sox can also sign Sandoval. The Red Sox already have an everyday DH in Ortiz, and what was assumed to be the future at shortstop or third in Xander Bogaerts. Unless the team was extremely turned off by Bogaerts after one subpar season and is looking to trade him and one of their three extra outfielders for maybe a starting pitcher (Cole Hamels?), they have too many guys for not enough spots. And Hanley is definitely the worst of the group on defense, no matter where he plays.

Adam LaRoche
From Nationals to White Sox
2 Years for $25 million
LaRoche is one of the best defensive first basemen in the league, so for a team to sign him as a what appears to be a DH job is a little strange, but he’ll be occupying a spot in the lineup that’s been filled by a combination of Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn for years, and he should be an instant upgrade on offense. I really like LaRoche as a player, and maybe they’ll put him in the field with Abreu as DH. Not a bad signing.

Russell Martin
From Pirates to Blue Jays
5 Years for $82 million
Martin really benefited for being the only catcher on the market. I personally don’t think he’s worth that much money because I would never sign a catcher over the age of 30 to a 5-year deal, especially one who gets nicked up as much as he has. However, Martin is an above average player on both sides of the ball and will add veteran leadership to a team of young players and guys who haven’t yet made the playoffs. The hope here is that Martin will also be able to sure up the pitching staff a bit, something the Jays have needed for the past few years. I think the Jays may have been able to develop young catcher Dioner Navarro into something down the road, and he impressed last season, but Martin is a sure upgrade and makes the team better instantly.   Look for the Jays to trade Navarro in the offseason, or possibly give him more work at first base.

Billy Butler
From Royals to Athletics
3 Years for $30 million
Going into the offseason, if there was one team in the AL that you would assume didn’t value a pure DH at all, it would have been Oakland, which made this move very uncharacteristic for the A’s. Butler really can’t play defense and has a fly ball rate that is extremely low for a typical DH. The A’s needed to add some power to the lineup, and although Butler has had a few 20 home run seasons to his name, the 28-year-old doesn’t seem to be the same player at the plate and I don’t see him making a jump at the Coliseum. He hasn’t batted over .300 for three of the past four years to go with his declining slugging percentage. I’m sure Billy Bean and Bob Melvin see something in Butler that they think they can fix, but right now it looks like an overreaction after seeing how the team’s offense crumbled when they traded away Cespedes.

Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden traded to Cardinals
Shelby Miller to Braves
This trade makes sense for both clubs. The Braves need pieces for their rotation and Miller was great two seasons ago and is still only 24-years-old. They also didn’t want to have to sign Heyward to a long-term deal because they already have a lot of money tied up to their lineup. They have enough faith in their outfield without Heyward for this to make sense, especially considering the money they’ll save this year and in the future. I also think, secretly, the Braves are in rebuilding mode, and might take a year off before becoming legitimate contenders again in 2016. The Cardinals on the other hand have a ridiculous amount of talent in their rotation, bullpen, and farm system, so replacing Miller shouldn’t really be a problem, especially when you consider Walden should be a good enough setup guy for them to move Carlos Martinez to the rotation full time. They also, unfortunately, needed a replacement for Oscar Taveras, who was supposed to be their long-term out fielding option. Matt Holliday is entering the last two years of his contract and is on the decline, so for this year and the future, Heyward can make an impact with his bat and as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. The cards also have a lot of money becoming available after the 2017 season, so signing Heyward long-term wouldn’t be too difficult as long as this first season goes well.

Jeremy Hellickson traded to Diamondbacks
Andrew Velazquez and Justin Williams traded to Rays.
Arizona needed pitching and Hellickson just hasn’t worked out in Tampa the way people expected. The Rays love adding pieces to the farm, and considering this season might be lost already after their management has changed it’s probably a good swap.

A.J. Burnett
From Phillies to Pirates
1 Year for $8.5 million
The Burnett-Pirates connection worked two years ago, so there’s no reason not to try it again. The Pirates need a few consistent arms, and if the 37-year-old can give one more 200-inning season the one year contract will have paid off, regardless of the numbers behind them.

Tommy La Stella traded to Cubs
Arodys Vizcaino traded to Braves
As if the Cubs needed any more young, infield prospects. La Stella seems like the perfect type of player for Joe Madden: consistent at the plate with low strike out numbers and good enough defensively. He probably won’t be an everyday impact player, but off the bench he should be able to contribute nicely. I’m not sure why the Braves wanted to get rid of a guy who played 93 games for them last season, but I’m not usually sure why the Braves do anything that they do.

Michael Cuddyer
From Rockies to Mets
2 Years for $21 million
I think Cuddyer is an underrated asset when he’s in a team’s lineup, and his numbers shouldn’t take too much of a turn moving from Coors to City Field. The problem is he can’t play anywhere but first base anymore, and even that’s a stretch. Lucas Duda proved that he could be an every day player in 2014 so I’m really not sure where Cuddyer or Duda will fit in here. You don’t give $20 million to a guy that comes off the bench or only plays twice a week. If you play either of them in the outfield the defense struggles and you block a young guy from getting experience. Maybe Duda can play some third base when David Wright inevitable misses time, opening up a spot a first, but that makes the infield extremely vulnerable on the defensive end, especially if they haven’t shipped away Daniel Murphy by spring training. I also haven’t mentioned that Cuddyer is 35 and has missed a ton of time over the last four seasons (236 games total to be exact), so the chance of getting even 130 games from him at this point seems pretty low. I really like Cuddyer as a player, but he may have landed in a really bad spot for his production. Then again, I would take $20 million too.

Victor Martinez
Resigned with Tigers
4 Years for $68 million
$68 million is a lot for a 35-year-old DH but Martinez put up MVP-caliber numbers in 2014 and is as consistent as they come on offense. He’s relegated to DH and occasional first base work, but the Tigers couldn’t afford to lose his bat in the lineup. He was definitely the top offensive weapon in free agency this year.

Francisco Cervelli traded to Pirates
Justin Wilson traded to Yankees
In what now seems like a tradition, the Pirates again acquired a Yankees catcher. They needed a replacement for the inevitable departure of Russel Martin, while the Yankees were fed up with Cervelli and would rather rely on a young option to back up Brian McCann. Plus, they get a young arm. Nothing special, but the Yankees didn’t get any worse.

Zach Duke
From Brewers to White Sox
3 Years for $15 million
WHATTT?? A 31-year-old journeyman with a 4.68 career ERA somehow found himself a three-year contract for $15 million. After putting up lackluster numbers as a started over his first six seasons in the league, he’s been converted into a very average (possibly below average) arm out of the bullpen. Last season in Milwaukee was clearly the best of his career, 74 strikeouts verses 17 walks in 85.2 inning. Over the two years prior he had only thrown 42 innings for 28 strikeouts and 14 walks. The White Sox clearly saw something last year they think isn’t a fluke or that they can fix, but I can’t imagine any other team was willing to offering him close to a three-year deal.

Kevin Frandsen
Resigned with Nationals
1 Year for $1 million
Not much to say here. His role with the team should stay the same.

Adam Lind traded to Brewers
Marco Estrada traded to Blue Jays
The Brewers first base last year was a joke, so while Adam Lind isn’t anything special, he can help a lot when he’s healthy. The Jays need pitching help, and Estrada was a good asset before last season, so this works for them too.

Chris Young
Resigned with Yankees
1 Year for $2.5 million
For the month he was on the Yankees last season, Chris Young pretty much played like people expected him to early in his career. Now, at 31-years-old, he’s a low risk, high upside play. The team will know what to expect out of him pretty early in the season.

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