Burning Questions: What Has Been the Best Move of the MLB Offseason?
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And now, our answers to the initial burning question: What has been the best move of the MLB offseason thus far?
Red Sox Sign A.J. PierzynskiDaniel Lindsey's Thoughts:
The Red Sox made the best move of the offseason by signing troublesome catcher A.J. Pierzynski. While Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are great catchers, the Sox were still able to stay competitive while thinking of the future.
With Pierzynski, the Sox could easily carry three catchers on their major league roster including David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway. Ross is the true backup while Lavarnaway is still honing his craft. He will have to prove he is more than just a part-time catcher, especially defensively, to stick with the Red Sox organization.
Lavarnaway will feel the pressure from Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez over the course of the season as both will be playing catcher at AAA Pawtucket. Butler projects as another part-time catcher, but is strong defensively as well. Vazquez is the better prospect of the two though and has a good chance of making the major league roster this year if Lavaranway falters, and Butler isn't up to the task due to being better offensively. Vazquez is not used to AAA ball yet, but the Sox have the luxury of being patient at the backstop position if necessary.
But while Vasquez has a more immediate future, the best prospect at catcher for the Sox lies is their High A club in Salem. Between those on the major league roster and the prospects still in AAA, Blake Swihart has the chance to fully develop while staying under the radar. Since he got a non-roster invite to spring training, Swihart will likely start the season at AA Portland, but he is the best catching prospect the Sox have. He is as good (if not better) as Vazquez defensively and has a lot of offensive strength and athleticism as well. Swihart is an efficient switch hitter that gives him a leg up on the competition. With the prospects that are running out of chances and the short-term contracts in the Sox's favor, Swihart could be competing for a roster spot in 2015 as the catcher of the future.
Tigers Trade Prince Fielder and $30 Million for Ian KinslerChris Kay's Thoughts:
The Detroit Tigers made the best offseason move when they dealt away Prince Fielder and $30 million for Ian Kinsler. This move saves the Tigers a great deal of money, as Fielder was under contract for $168 million for seven more seasons while Kinsler only has $62 million over four seasons left on his. With all of this being said, the Tigers save $48 million over the next two seasons and $78 million overall.
Saving $48 million for the 2014 and 2015 seasons created a domino effect of moves by Dave Dombrowski. Almost two weeks after this Fielder/Kinsler trade, the Tigers shipped off Doug Fister for Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray. A day after the mysterious Fister deal, Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers' GM, pulled the trigger and signed Joe Nathan for $20 million over two years.
Within a week of the Nathan signing, the Tigers signed Rajai Davis for $10 million over two years. A few days later, Dombrowski kept at it and signed Joba Chaimberlain to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. Does anyone else here think Dombrowski would break the game Let’s Make a Deal?
So what does this all mean for Detroit and its fans? Well, they don’t have to worry about guarding their hot dogs along the first base line anymore. Fielder’s departure allows Miguel Cabrera to move back to first base and allows top prospect Nick Castellanos to play third base. This new infield is an improvement defensively and will ease Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly into their new roles in the rotation.
Detroit can also look forward to a reliable closer (Nathan) and two relievers in Chamberlain and Krol who can replace the newly departed Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit. While the bullpen isn’t perfect, Tigers’ fans have to be happy about Nathan in the ninth and Chamberlain/Krol as high upside relievers.
All of these moves were to improve on the Tigers’ weaknesses over the last few seasons, and the addition of Rajai Davis was no different. Davis possesses one plus quality and it’s his speed. He stole 45 bags in 108 games last season compared to the Tigers’ leader in steals, Austin Jackson's eight.
The addition of Ian Kinsler wasn’t just about adding a .275 hitter with 30 home run potential. It was about saving money and using it to improve on the other needs of the Detroit Tigers.
Dodgers Extend Clayton KershawJim Sannes' Thoughts:
The best transaction of the year didn't involve a player changing teams. All it involved was Clayton Kershaw and some fat stacks of cash. Yeah, a seven-year, $215-million deal is a big commitment, but this man is worth it.
Over the last three years, Kershaw has led the NL in ERA three times, WHIP three times, ERA+ twice, strikeouts twice and hits per nine innings twice. And he just wrapped up his year 25 season. Call up Kendrick and get this man some money trees.
Kershaw's deal will end after his age 32 season. The Dodgers have locked up the best pitcher in the league - and possibly the best pitcher since Pedro Martinez - for the entirety of his prime. There aren't a lot of offseason deals that can compare to that.
Phillies Hire A Stats GuyDan Weigel's Thoughts:
The Phillies have been notorious for ignoring advanced statistics that are useful for a baseball operations department, though things might be changing for General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and Co with the recent hire of stats guy Scott Freedman. Freedman will be faced with a broad range of tasks, from arbitration cases to player valuation to explaining the value of wOBA to Amaro.
Amaro has stated that he expects his club to remain primarily a scouting and player development organization, and really didn't sound too thrilled about the hiring of Freedman. Instead, he seems to view Freedman as a resource for understanding how other teams value players, which could be beneficial in trade talks.
If both of these statements are true, that the Phillies will not change the way they do business and Freedman’s purpose is to understand other teams, the Phillies could be really good at understanding the differences between traditional scouting and Sabermetric analysis but continue to favor the old way rather than the new way.
This also could just be a public relations ploy to show critics that the Phillies are up to date with the latest and greatest player valuation methods, when really Amaro and Co. will continue to hand out multiyear deals to old guys with declining skills.
Between an aging roster and a poor farm system, Philadelphia could be looking at a good old fashioned rebuild in the next few years but having Freedman and his data available ought to make the process much smoother for the Phillies.
Josh Johnson Signs With the PadresScott Barrett's Thoughts:
I think the best move of the offseason will end up being one we didn't expect. It won't be Cano, who will have a hard time generating production at a level that would justify his $24-million contract. It won't be Fielder, though his stats will surely go up in Arlington. It won't be a fat, old PED-using Bartolo Colon because, well, he's not good.
The best move is going to be someone whose production level far exceeds the value of his contract. And perhaps it's the one-year, $8-million one the Padres signed Josh Johnson to.
When Josh Johnson's healthy, he's always one of the top pitchers in baseball. Before last year, he had a career 3.15 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.17 K/9. However, that was indeed before last year - a season where he was disastrously bad.
In 81.1 innings, Johnson went 2-8 putting up a 6.20 ERA. Many believe his arm is 'shot' and that he will never return to his prior form. It's been two years since he looked like his former self, but I still don't know if that's true. Wishful thinking of course, but perhaps the bone spur surgery he had in October was all he needed.
And returning to the NL and playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game should help a great deal as well.
The contract itself was also a terrific move. Johnson will earn an additional $1.25 million if he makes more than 26 starts, and if he makes fewer than seven, the Padres can bring him back in 2015 for only $4 million. Considering the upside is an All-Star caliber pitcher, this deal looks really good.