A quick peak of the off-season's biggest moves!
With pitchers and catchers set to report in two short weeks, time has come for the Baseball Town Blog to assess another busy off-season across the MLB landscape.
At press time, the two biggest fish in the 2018 free agent pond have yet to find a taker. Bryce Harper (and his valuable Rawlings glove) is rumoured to be mulling over two main contenders for his services and Manny Machado has been linked to roughly a third of all MLB teams throughout the winter months.
Their signings might change the final outlook, but for now let’s attempt to handicap the biggest movers and shakers by briefly addressing the obvious cold weather winners, the most astute “under the radar” moves and finally, a few puzzling ones that leave us guessing.
WIN BABY, WIN!
St-Louis Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt (2018 slash line: .290/.389/.533) is clearly the winter’s most influential acquisition. He instantly solidifies the Cards’ first base conundrum. The 31-year old will join leaders like Mizuno star Adam Wainwright and Matt Carpenter in a mature clubhouse. On the field, Carpenter can now move to his natural second base position and provide much more offense from that defensive spot than the team got in 2018 from Kolten Wong. Goldschmidt’s 17th ranked WAR (Wins Above Replacement, 5.4) among MLB position players will also bolster the heart of a line-up that was already very potent. Signing star left-handed reliever Andrew Miller to a 2-year, $25M contract will insulate young closer Jordan Hicks, who is still searching for better command of his devastating triple-digit fastball.
Washington Nationals: Patrick Corbin was the best starter available on the free-agent market. Coming off a career-best season (3.15 ERA, 200 IP, 246 SO), Corbin is in his prime years and has a proven track record as a top-of-the-rotation workhorse. Along with newly signed Anibal Sanchez (2 yrs/$19M), the duo will represent a significant upgrade on the departed Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark. Not to mention that new catchers’ tandem of Kurt Suzuki (2 yrs/$10M) and Yan Gomes (trade, CLE), a huge offensive improvement on the light-hitting Matt Wieters. Who knows? Maybe this new-look roster ends up swaying Harper back to his original team!
New-York Mets: The Mets were one of the many partakers in the Seattle fire sale. Robinson Cano (.303/.374/.471) is back in the Big Apple, and he now joins teammate and closer Edwin Diaz (57 SV in 61 SVO) as the Mets attempt to keep up with the Braves, Nats and Phillies in an ultra-competitive NL East. Their line-up still doesn’t measure up, but a return to full health for Noah Syndergaard and Zach Wheeler, combined with Jeurys Familia and Diaz at the back end of the bullpen might give them the best pitching staff in the division.
UNDER THE RADAR
Michael Brantley (Houston Astros): One of the most underrated stars in the game, all Brantley needs to do is stay healthy and the ‘Stros have themselves a consistent offensive force as there is in the Majors. His .309/.364/.468 line allowed the professional hitter to tie for 38th (on par with Ronald Acuna Jr, among others) in offensive WAR at 3.8. Add Brantley to a line-up that includes Wilson’s superstar spokesman Jose Altuve and Easton’s Alex Bregman and you can bet that the 2017 World Series champs will be contenders once again.
Nathan Eovaldi (Boston Red Sox): Ok, I cheated a bit here: he isn’t a new face in town. But re-signing the 28-year-old starter will have been the best off-season move so far for the defending champs, no matter what else they do before the new season gets going. His versatility alone (starter and reliever) ensures he will be a key cog of the pitching staff, whether Craig Kimbrel resigns or not. Most importantly, his sterling 1.61 ERA in 22.1 postseason innings last fall proves he won’t be intimidated by the spotlight the Sox intend to be a part of once again next October.
Cincinnati Reds: The trade with the Dodgers is a difficult one to justify. I know that they are trying to put more butts in the seats, but on a competitive level, bringing in Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood for possibly only this next season (expiring contracts) makes no sense. Matt Kemp is the other Major Leaguer coming the Reds’ way in the deal. The 13-year veteran did have a resurgent 2018 in familiar surroundings (.290/.338/.481 in L.A.), but the Reds have no rotation to speak of (no, the signing of Sonny Gray isn’t a fix) and they compete in a division that includes the Cards, the Brewers and the Cubs!
Low risk, high reward? The Atlanta Braves’ signing Josh Donaldson (1 yr/$23M) and the Minnesota Twins’ signing of Jonathan Schoop (1 yr/$7.5M) are two moves that could pay off huge for the two playoff contenders. Donaldson has been injury-prone the past two seasons, but the 33-year-old is only 3 years removed from an MVP season in Toronto. As for Schoop, coming off a bad 2018 split between Baltimore and Milwaukee, the Twins are hoping he regains some of the mojo that had him finish 5th in MVP voting in 2017, slashing .293/.338/.503 with 32 HR and 105 RBIs.
What off-season move do you see as a game changer in the MLB, and why? Feel free to voice your opinion by commenting below. Let's discuss!