We’re finally starting to see the market pick back up and as we reach mid-January, we should expect a steady stream of moves from here until camps starting opening up. Even with this bevy of moves, the big ones are still trades as opposed to big free agents finding new teams. The Pirates have firmly declared their future by dealing two stars and the Giants get another aging superstar.
You just won the World Series, now what? Go get a big time arm, who has legitimate ace upside and slot him into your #3 spot. Oh, and do it without taking any major pieces off the title team. Musgrove and Feliz were MLB contributors, but neither was essential to winning nor did they project to be in 2018.
When the deal was first rumored, there was some interesting analysis on how this move would benefit Cole off the top. Derek Carty outlined how the ballpark is actually a nice little strikeout boost, though could further exacerbate a home run issue that came to light in 2018.
No one will look at this Gerrit Cole deal and say, "Damn, that's a nice park upgrade!" Because most only consider HR. But it is. And they should. Huge K upgrade. pic.twitter.com/dAmQ4I2NzI
— Derek Carty (@DerekCarty) January 10, 2018
Check out this tweet later in the thread for how a ballpark can help Ks as it’s definitely not something as obvious as home run and hit influence:
Lots of different ways. Biggest one is altitude. PNC has one of the higher altitudes in MLB. Also foul ground, atmospheric effects, ball-mudding, background/batter's eye, changes in approach based on fence distance, etc.
— Derek Carty (@DerekCarty) January 10, 2018
Meanwhile, Todd Zola highlighted something we’ve been seeing change a bit over the last few years – the AL/NL difference is shrinking. Facing the pitcher no doubt helps in the NL, but the overall benefits of pitching in that league have dwindled:
Difference between AL and NL ERA and WHIP the past two seasons is negligible.
AL ERA 4.21, WHIP 1.32
NL ERA 4.17, WHIP 1.33
AL ERA 4.38, WHIP 1.33
NL ERA 4.34, WHIP 1.35
— Todd Zola (@ToddZola) January 10, 2018
While PNC Park is a great place to pitch, Cole was actually a touch better over his career on the road. He had a 3.56 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 15% K-BB in 397 IP at PNC Park and 3.44, 1.23, and 18% on the road in 385 IP. His 4.26 ERA in 2017 was easily a career-high (3.23 in 579 IP prior to ’17) and seems to be very closely related to the surge in homers (1.4 HR/9 after 0.6 in 2013-16). If he keeps the ball in the yard – a task made tougher by switching to Minute Maid – then we have a chance to see elite Cole again.
Musgrove should now get a shot to start and doing so in Pittsburgh could pay immediate dividends even as he develops his arsenal. You can see the HR advantage between PNC Park and Minute Maid and Musgrove is no doubt looking forward to the move with a 1.4 HR/9 in 171 MLB innings thus far. He’ll likely become a popular late-round gamble by the time draft season peaks in March.
Feliz is a power righty (96 mph, 32% K) who is still quite raw (10% BB, 1.5 HR/9). He is unlikely to close, especially after Felipe Rivero locked down an extension. Relievers can flip on a dime with the development of a pitch or tweak of the mechanics so Feliz is a name to know with that elite strikeout rate, but not someone I’m rostering right now.
Moran hasn’t lived up to his #6 overall pick status (2013 draft by MIA), but he did have a big offensive jump in 2017 with a 133 wRC+ and career-best 18 HR before a quick taste of the majors (12 PA) with the Astros. He projects to a passable, but unspectacular MLBer with a decent hit tool, but modest power, no speed, and just decent defense at third base. If he wins the job, there’s some NL-only appeal, but only at corner infielder (CI). Martin does a bit of everything, but excels at none of it. If he can’t maintain a centerfield-worthy glove, his future looks like a bench role.
Tough week for Pirates even if you’re on board with a retooling of this team as their superstar is dealt immediately after the ace. Of course, because you’re trading the legendary superstar, he’s obviously no longer at peak and thus the returns feel underwhelming. Let’s be clear that this trade was more important to Pittsburgh than Cole because Cutch is done after this year with seemingly zero chance of a re-sign. They wanted to deal him while there was still value and his rebound 2017 instilled some intrigue back into the thought of acquiring the 31-year older centerfielder.
Going to San Francisco shouldn’t negatively impact Cutch too much as PNC and AT&T play similarly for righties. Statcorner has SF has negligibly worse on homers (75 park factor, down from 81 of PNC), but better everywhere else. I realize acquiring stars past their prime isn’t a great long term solution, but it’d be hard to argue that this SF lineup isn’t much better. They got just -1.8 WAR (30th) from 3B last year and just 5.3 since 2015 (23rd) while Longoria had 2.5 last year (17th) and 11.1 since 2015 (11th). In center, it was 1.2 last year (26th) and 4.4 since 2015 (28th) compared to Cutch at 3.7 (9th) and 10.0 (11th).
Cutch’s arrival might be a net positive for him with that lineup and slight park boost and it certainly helps his teammates to install a strong OBP atop the lineup. He was at .363 last year and has a .379 career mark. Some extra RBIs could help Buster Posey close the gap between him and Gary Sanchez for the game’s top fantasy catcher.
Crick’s a hard-throwing righty who showed some things out of the bullpen in a 32-inning debut (11% SwStr, .190 AVG, 0.6 HR/9, 96 mph fastball), but doesn’t have the command to really push into a prominent role. He had a 13% BB rate in his time with the Giants and carried a 15% mark through 479 minor league innings.
Outside of knowing Bryan Reynolds was an early-ish draft pick from Vanderbilt, I had nothing so I looked him up. He looks like a collection of 45-50 grades whose solid .312 AVG in the minors is due more to his being a college product in the low minors than any sort of standout skills. Looks like a prototypical 4th OF from the stats and write ups. In fact, BA says just that. Jeff also likes the switch hitter’s chances of at least being a big league. It wasn’t a great return for the franchise player of the past generation, but two big leaguers – even in the 20-25 range of your roster – is at least something.
- Jay Bruce to NYM (3 yr/$39 mil deal)
I feel like we talk about this happening with at least one player per trade deadline and now the Mets pulled it off: trade a guy in his walk year and then just get him back in the offseason. Getting Ryder Ryan from Cleveland didn’t exactly revolutionize their farm system (or have any discernible impact on it whatsoever), but they certainly didn’t need Bruce last summer so it’s all surplus, even if Ryan just knocks the minors for another 4-5 seasons. Meanwhile, Bruce returns to Queens eyeing a third straight 30+ HR season.
He sputtered as a trade acquisition for NY in 2016, posting just an 82 wRC+ in 50 games, but then settled in last year with a 120 over 103 games before jumping to Cleveland for a bit (and posting a solid 111 with them). Bruce carries an appealing 164 average draft position (ADP) right now. He’s well behind teammate Michael Conforto (140) which doesn’t make too much sense to me given that he won’t even be ready for Opening Day.
I can’t really see why he’s behind Adam Duvall and Steven Souza, too. Duvall is just a lesser Bruce. Duvall has a .245 AVG and 64 HR the last two years while Bruce is at .252 with a very nice 69 HR. Souza had his first 30 HR season ever in 2017 with a .239 AVG, though he also added 16 SB. Home runs are more widely available, but don’t let that make you lose sight of the fact that you it also means you need more per roster spot, too. There were still only 16 OF with at least 30 HR last year and Bruce is one of just 12 players at any position with two straight 30+ HR seasons.
- Addison Reed to MIN (2 yr/$17 mil deal)
Fernando Rodney is still expected to open the season at the Twins closer, but Reed is now a formidable backup and will definitely find himself drafted as a save spec late in drafts. Reed allowed more homers in each of his stops last year (6 with NYM, 5 with BOS) than he did in all of 2016 (4 with NYM) which added nearly a run to his ERA (+0.87 to 2.84). He still had a strong 1.05 WHIP (-0.11) and 25% K rate (-5% from ’16). His 251 ADP in NFBC will probably jump some, but he’s an especially strong target in AL-only.
- Curtis Granderson to TOR (1 yr/$5 mil deal)
The world’s best player found a new home! For those unfamiliar, Granderson is my favorite player dating back to his Tigers days and the 37-year old isn’t too far from his old stomping grounds after signing a one-year pact with the Blue Jays. Last year was tough with the .212 AVG, but he still carried an OBP 110 points higher as well as a .240 ISO so his bottom line was still a positive at 105 wRC+.
By staying afloat against lefties, he’s remained an everyday player in his late-30s. His .700 OPS against lefties the last two years puts him 36th among 68 left-handed batters with at least 150 PA vs. southpaws. He’s a draft afterthought at 560 ADP, but part of that could’ve been fears that he’d land somewhere in a minimal role. He will at least be on the strong side of a corner outfield platoon and should move upward throughout the rest of draft season.
- Howie Kendrick to WAS (2 yr/$7 mil deal)
I tabbed Kendrick as a small sample season of note back in September. Batting average remains his calling card, but with only OF eligibility in leagues that require 20+ games (he did have 15 at 2B for those with looser restrictions), he’s a tough sell beyond maybe an OF5. He is still running with 22 SB in 29 tries over the last two seasons and his 12 last year came in just 91 games. The only thing is that he might not play many more than that this year as he’s a true bench bat who will spot-start in here and there.
- Adrian Gonzalez to NYM (1 yr/$12 dollars in crisp $2 bills)
Unless the power returns, this just won’t wind up as a fantasy-relevant move. The 36-year old 1B has just a .139 ISO the last two seasons and only played 71 games last year. As his power has dwindled, the league has seen a surge of rosterable 1B, only making it a taller task for Gonzalez to recapture relevance.