It was another wild MLB offseason with plenty of interesting moves. Now that spring training has arrived, here's a look at the best, worst, and most puzzling moves from the 2019-20 offseason.
Starting pitching has been a problem in L.A. for several seasons. The Angels tried to address that issue by acquiring Bundy from Baltimore. His career 4.67 ERA doesn't exactly turn heads, but the former first-round pick's main issue has been keeping the ball in the park. Getting out of Camden Yards should go a long way in correcting this issue, and Bundy has been relatively durable, averaging nearly 30 starts per season over the last three years.
D'Arnaud earned his two-year, $16 million contract based just on last year's performance, but it would be foolish to judge on one year. For his career, d'Arnaud has been extremely injury-prone, playing 100-plus games only three times in seven seasons. It's also worth remembering that d'Arnaud was basically cut twice last May due to poor performance. Going from completely expendable to a lucrative two-year deal in that amount of time is a risk for Atlanta.
There's no debating the Angels needed durable innings eaters after their recent string of pitching injuries, but was Teheran the right man for all those innings? Few pitchers have seen their metrics so out of whack with their on-field performance, as Teheran's FIP has been well above 4.00 in four of the last five seasons. His control has also slipped over the last two years, and moving to the AL can't help him. The Angels are taking a risk, albeit for a relatively cheap $9 million one-year deal.
The Dodgers acquisition of Betts and Price was arguably the biggest move of the offseason, even though it didn't happen until mid-February. Betts is heading into the final year of his contract and makes the Dodgers a clear NL favorite. Price, if he stays healthy, can also go a long way in replacing the innings lost from Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Based on Ryu's last two years, a four-year, $80 million contract looks like a bargain. He's become one of MLB's most effective pitchers with a 2.21 ERA and 1.3 BB/9 during that time. However, injuries have been a theme during the lefty's career, as he missed all of 2015, made one start in 2016 and 15 starts in 2019. The Blue Jays can't be faulted for buying the upside, but the deal is a big risk for a team that's not quite ready to compete in the AL East.
Maldonado has established himself as a strong defensive catcher and supposed strong clubhouse presence, but he's extremely limited offensively with a career .219 batting average and .644 OPS. Houston will be using him as its starter behind the plate, which is a big downgrade offensively from 2019 starter Robinson Chirinos. The Astros were uncharacteristically quiet overall in the offseason with the sign-stealing scandal hanging over their heads, and perhaps settling for Maldonado is related to their clear lack of aggressiveness.
A former top prospect, Gausman is coming off a disappointing year between Atlanta and Cincinnati. However, he had a career-best 10.0 K/9 and really pitched well late in the year for the Reds. Moving to San Francisco is the most favorable pitcher's park he's every been to, and the deal brings almost no risk for the Giants on a one-year pact. San Francisco could potentially get quality prospects for Gausman at the trade deadline if the deal works out.
Bumgarner is a legendary pitcher based on his regular-season and playoff performances, but he's not the same pitcher he was early in his career. The lefty missed significant time in 2017 and 2018, and his ERA ballooned to 3.90 last year. His velocity isn't what it used to be, and Bumgarner will now be moving away from a great pitcher's park in San Francisco. The five-year, $85 million contract brings lofty expectations that Bumgarner probably can't meet at this point.
San Diego has too many capable outfielders, a situation the team started to address last year by trading Franmil Reyes. However, moving Renfroe for another outfielder this offseason doesn't really solve the problem. Pham is superior defensively and more multi-faceted offensively, but he is also a bigger risk as he enters his age 32 season.
The Mets bullpen was a huge disappointment last year between Edwin Diaz's struggles and Jeurys Familia's sudden decline. Betances made only one appearance last year due to shoulder issues, but he was one of the most dominant relievers in the game from 2014-2018. He gives New York great closer insurance on a one-year deal.
Hudson probably never has to buy a drink again in Washington after his great playoff performance as the team's closer, and he cashed in on that success with a two-year, $11 million contract. The contract isn't unreasonable, but the ERA indicators show last year as a fluke. Hudson had a 3.97 FIP during the regular season last year after posting an ERA above 4.00 in three consecutive seasons leading up to 2019. Matching last year's 2.47 ERA looks like a poor bet.
There's something to be said about depth in today's game, but Tampa Bay has taken it to a new level. The Rays traded former first-round pick Matthew Liberatore to St. Louis for what's effectively outfield and DH depth in Martinez and Arozarena. Both players are likely capable, but neither will probably make a difference for a team that already had plenty to work with in the outfield at the time. For the required investment of a recent first-round pick, it was a high price to pay.
The Rangers apparently had money to spend as they enter their new stadium, and they used their flexibility to take on Kluber. The two-time Cy Young winner made only seven starts last year due to injury, but he was arguably baseball's best pitcher from 2014-2018. The fact Texas gave up only Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields to acquire the right-hander could be an indication that teams were worried about Kluber's injuries and declining velocity. But the upside for the Rangers is enormous for that price.
Strasburg opted out of his contract in the offseason and was rewarded with a seven-year, $245 million deal. That contract seems reasonable after he led the NL in innings and wins last year, but Strasburg's track record shows that's unlikely to continue. Injuries have been a big issue during the right-hander's career, as he averaged only 24 starts and 145 innings per season from 2015-2018 and had Tommy John surgery earlier in his career.
Castellanos is one of the premier hitters available in free agency this offseason, but he muddles a Cincinnati outfield that was already too crowded with Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Shogo Akiyama and Aristides Aquino. Aquino could start the year in the minors after the Castellanos signing, even after taking the league by storm over the last two months of 2019. It's clear the Castellanos signing makes the Reds better, but could the team have better used the funds at another spot?
Maeda demanded a trade from the Dodgers after the team used him as a reliever late in recent seasons, and he got his wish with a move to Minnesota. The Twins gave up an excellent pitching prospect in Brusdar Graterol, but Maeda has been one of the baseball's most underrated pitchers over the last four seasons. During that time he has a solid 3.87 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, and he should fit in nicely for the Twins, effectively replacing Kyle Gibson in the rotation.
Baltimore decided in the offseason that Villar was too expensive, effectively trading him to Miami for peanuts. Certainly, the speedy infielder wasn't going to turn the O's into a contender, but there's something to be said for having players who bring excitement on a team that's completely stripped of talent. The Orioles will almost certainly lose 100-plus games for the third straight season and provide little reason for fans to care. Paying Villar, who had 24 home runs and 40 stolen bases last year, to stay around would have provided at least some intrigue for fans.
Kansas City should be in the business of buying low on players, but Franco might not have been the right risk to take. The former top Phillies prospect has been a bust in the majors, albeit one who has hit 20-plus home runs three times. He struggles to get on base (career .302 on-base percentage) and doesn't look like he can stick at third base much longer. It remains to be seen what the upside is for K.C.
The White Sox made the first big signing of the offseason, giving Grandal a huge four-year, $73 million contract. There's some risk involved for a 31-year-old catcher, but Grandal can make good on that investment offensively and defensively. He has a solid 115 OPS+ for his career and has hit at least 22 home runs in each of the last four seasons. Grandal's defense is also renowned, particularly his pitch framing.
Wheeler has revitalized his career over the last two seasons and was able to net a five-year, $118 million contract from Philly as a result. He's managed to make 60 starts over the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA and 3.37 FIP, showing the immense upside. However, there's also big risk, considering Wheeler missing 2.5 years from 2015-2017 due to arm problems. Paying for upside isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it could be with this much injury risk involved.
Boston has a trio of oft-injured starting pitchers leading their rotation, but their big offseason pitching move was the addition of Perez. He continued to struggle in Minnesota last year despite mechanical adjustments, posting an ERA above 5.00, and has had trouble staying healthy for much of his career. Perhaps the Red Sox still see room for growth from the former top prospect, but he doesn't do much to add confidence in the team's starting rotation.
Cole was the big prize of the offseason, and the Yankees had the resources to get him. As the Yankees know all too well, a nine-year deal is a risk for a pitcher, but Cole has turned into a truly elite starter, leading the AL in K/9 in back-to-back seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA. The move looks even more important now with Luis Severino set to miss all of 2020 and James Paxton starting the year on the injured list.
Keuchel signed for Atlanta well into last season after he couldn't find a long-term contract elsewhere. After posting a 3.75 ERA in 19 starts, he was able to get a three-year, $55.5 million contract from the White Sox. The groundball lefty won the AL Cy Young in 2015 and has been mostly solid since then, but he's lost significant velocity and has posted a K/9 above 8.0 only once in his career. After posting a career-worst 4.72 FIP last year, Keuchel is a curiously big investment for what's becoming a back of the rotation starter.
Schoop is a strong power hitter, but he struggles to get on base and was eventually benched by the Twins last season. His right-handed power is a poor fit for roomy Comerica Park in Detroit, and the Tigers also had some interesting infielders who could have filled the second base spot such as Dawel Lugo, Harold Castro, and Willi Castro. Schoop has some upside with 30 home run power in the past, but it's hard to see Detroit accomplishing much with this move.
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