MLB Offseason: 10 Boring Moves That Are More Than Meets the Eye
Every offseason features the "big" deals. The blockbusters. Whether it's Pujols and Fielder changing teams this year or Adrian Gonzalez being dealt for a package of top prospects last year, one thing baseball fans can count on is a few memorable player moves every offseason.
For every headline-grabbing, breaking news-making deal, there are a whole host of additional lesser moves. Some are minor trades. Some are free-agent signings for minimal money. Some are merely nothing more than a waiver claim. The bulk of these minor deals have an equally minor impact.
Some, however, far exceed their expectations. Some of these seemingly "low impact" deals have far greater impact than expected.
David Ortiz, the best designated hitter in baseball and one of the critical players on the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, agreed to a one-year, $14.575 million deal. Once upon a time, Ortiz was nothing more than a waiver claim by former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.
So if you're not a Tigers fan or an Angels fan and your team didn't dominate the offseason headlines by making big moves, don't give up hope. There will probably some innocent small moves made that will exceed expectations.
Did your team make one?
January 26th 2012: Red Sox Sign Cody Ross
The Red Sox are always in the news, so for them to make an "under the radar" type of signing is fairly difficult. Then again, when they signed Cody Ross in late January it wasn't really "big news."
That could change over the course of the 2012 season.
Ross is only 31 years old. That might be somewhat old in the NBA or NFL, but in Major League Baseball it's not a prohibitive age. Ross has averaged 21 home runs, 79 runs batted in and a .261 batting average per 162 games over an eight year career.
Last year, playing on one of the worst offenses in baseball in a division with some of baseball's best pitching and worst hitting ballparks—the National League West—Ross had a serious drop-off in production.
The same reasons for last year's drop-off could provide impetus for a rebound in 2012. Ross will be in a better lineup, in a better ballpark to hit in and facing some very good pitchers on Tampa and New York, but also some weaker staffs in Toronto and Baltimore.
Perhaps Ross's signing will be everything that the J.D. Drew signing was not. That addition to Boston came at a high cost and a long-term commitment that yielded barely adequate return on the investment.
Were Ross to hit .270 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI at only $3 million, that would be a nice value.
January 24th 2012: A's Sign Bartolo Colon
Bartolo Colon already provided a surprise this past season when the portly former Cy Young winner inked a one-year deal with the New York Yankees and won eight games with an earned run average of 4.00.
It was a nice return from a player who had missed all of 2010 and had been largely ineffective since his Cy Young season of 2005.
It wasn't enough to earn him another contract with the Yankees, but Billy Beane had no reservations about ponying up a little cash to sign Colon.
With the departures of both Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, the A's rotation had plenty of openings. The prospects that the A's received in the deals won't be major-league ready when the team leaves spring training, so Colon will get starts.
Colon will have to face one of the American League's best offenses in Texas as well as a much improved Angels lineup that now features Albert Pujols. He'll also get to pitch in one of the more pitcher-friendly ballparks in the American League and he still gets to square off against a fairly tepid Mariners offense.
If Colon is healthy and productive, he could be exactly what Billy Beane likes: Tradeable at the July 31st deadline. Those deals rarely fly under the radar though.
January 20th 2012: Indians Trade Zach Putnam to the Rockies for Kevin Slowey
For three seasons from 2008 through 2010, Kevin Slowey was a decent starting pitcher in the American League Central for the Minnesota Twins.
Then he got hurt and never regained that form. Eventually he got dealt to the Colorado Rockies. He never played a game in Colorado, though, and was traded back to the American League Central in January.
Now he will be given the opportunity to claim a starting job on a team that has hopes of competing with the Detroit Tigers for division supremacy. Slowey doesn't have to be an "ace." Cleveland has other starters to occupy the top of their rotation.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin will all start for Cleveland. The player formally known as "Fausto Carmona" will not. That leaves the fifth starting spot open for Slowey if he can replicate his form of a few years ago.
He's not a dominant pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, but he can be a decent back-of-the-rotation starter. If he returns to that form, then Cleveland could have a pretty good rotation one through five.
January 18th 2012: Twins Sign Joel Zumaya
Joel Zumaya was at one time one of baseball's hardest-throwing pitchers. Once clocked as high as 104 miles per hour, Zumaya was a key part of the Tigers bullpen that was instrumental in guiding the Tigers to the 2006 World Series.
Since then, a series of injuries have limited his effectiveness and appearances. Torn tendons, shoulder injuries and a gruesome elbow injury all caused him to miss large blocks of time.
The Tigers grew tired of constantly waiting for Zumaya to regain his health, so they made no effort to re-sign him after his contact expired.
Enter the division-rival Twins. The Twins, who recently bid farewell to long-time closer Joe Nathan and have plenty of openings in the bullpen.
Zumaya is signed for only $850,000 in 2012, so it's a low-risk contract even for the small-market Twins. If Zumaya gets injured again or has lost his velocity to the point where he's no longer effective, then the Twins will simply not re-sign Zumaya or even cut him.
However if Zumaya can still throw at or near 100 miles per hour, then he could be a very nice addition to the Minnesota bullpen. Could he close in Minnesota? Matt Capps has the job for now, but if Zumaya is able to wield his knuckle-curve and throw and locate his fastball, then history tells us he can be dominant.
For $850,000, the Twins would gladly take just a solid performance.
January 12th 2012: Tampa Bay Rays Sign Luke Scott
Luke Scott was a consistent power threat on the Baltimore Orioles for three seasons. From 2008 through 2010 he hit over 20 home runs every year. He doesn't hit for a high average but his on base percentage is solid, so he's the type of hitter that modern managers tend to like having in the lineup.
Last season as he approached free agency, Scott was dealt a series of injuries. The first was a hamstring pull he received while running around the bases following a home run and then a shoulder injury which caused him to miss more than half of the 2011 season.
That's not what anyone hopes for when their contract is on the verge of expiring. So when Scott became a free agent this past fall his 2011 numbers, which featured only nine home runs and a woeful .220 batting average, didn't cause a stampede of suitors.
That didn't faze the bargain-hunting Tampa Rays who gladly signed Scott for two years, the second of which is a team option year.
Scott flew under the radar in Baltimore but if he hits 20 to 25 home runs on a Tampa team widely expected to compete for the American League East crown a lot more people will take notice.
January 11th 2012: Astros Claim Fernando Martinez off Waivers
At one point Fernando Martinez was rated as the 20th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. That was back in 2008 and since then his star has continually fallen.
He's still only 23 years old though so when the Mets released him from their 40-man roster the Houston Astros were more than willing to take a chance on the one-time highly rated outfield prospect.
Martinez has struggled mightily in his limited major league appearances. His minor league numbers have begun to fall off as well. He hasn't shown great power or great speed but he does posses some hitting skills and power potential.
For the Astros this is a no-brainer type of move. There's little financial risk and the team has room on the 40-man roster. Maybe Martinez never develops into the player that some people once thought he would. Then again maybe a change in scenery and systems will breath new life into a still young prospect. Martinez seems unlikely to make a major impact in 2012 but the Astros can be patient with him so this could pay off down the road.
January 10th 2012: Cubs Sign Free-Agent Pitcher Paul Maholm
Theo Epstein has been hired to rebuild the Cubs. It's not going to happen overnight. Part of the Cubs' problem is that the team is saddled with a number of big-money contracts. That leaves them only a little room financially to sign new players.
For a one-year $4.75 million contract, Epstein was able to land a left handed starting pitcher under the age of 30 who pitched in the division last year and had an earned run average under 4.00 and a WHIP ratio of 1.294.
Add to that the fact that pitching in the National League Central should be a lot easier this upcoming season with the departures of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Maholm probably won't win or compete for a Cy Young Award and he also won't be striking out tons of batters, but this seemingly minor signing could make the Cubs rotation a lot better in 2012.
January 4th 2012: Tampa Bay Rays Sign Fernando Rodney
The Tampa Bay Rays seem to make a habit of acquiring hard throwing but often maligned relief pitchers and then maximizing their potential.
Kyle Farnsworth is the most recent example of this.
Could Fernando Rodney be the next hard throwing reliever to step up his game in a Rays' uniform?
We're going to find out. For only a one-year $1.75 million commitment, the Rays get a hard-throwing pitcher who can pile up strikeouts.
Rodney has had somewhat ineffective stints as a closer and his control has never been consistent enough to allow him to stay ahead in the count. Yet the Rays and manager Joe Maddon have a pretty decent track record of maximizing the potential of these types of players.
Rodney won't be closing in Tampa but he could be another in a long line of effective pitchers that Maddon can call out of the bullpen in late innings. Those are the types of pitchers that almost every team seems to want around the July 31st trade deadline but Tampa may have already found their man.
December 12th 2011: Brewers Sign Alex Gonzalez
Last season the Milwaukee Brewers advanced all the way to the National League Championship Series. They lost that series to their division rival and the eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
There were a number of reasons that Milwaukee dropped that series. Fielding or the Brewers' lack of effective fielding was a big part of it. So in spite of getting solid offensive production from shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt the Brewers allowed him to walk away as a free agent.
In his place they've signed Alex Gonzalez.
Gonzalez won't be known for his bat but his glove is undeniably solid. Improved fielding, especially at the shortstop position, can help hide a team's other shortcomings. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the loss of slugger Prince Fielder via free agency and the potential loss of reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun for 50 games with a PED suspension may be too much for the team to withstand.
That doesn't change the fact that the signing of Alex Gonzalez may become a nice little addition in Milwaukee. Fans may appreciate offense but pitchers really appreciate having a shortstop that solidifies the defense up-the-middle. Gonzalez will accomplish that.
November 29th 2011: Royals Sign Jonathan Broxton
There was a time when inking Jonathan Broxton to a contract would have constituted a fairly major signing. Not anymore though.
Broxton, who at one point appeared poised to reclaim the role of dominant closer for the Dodger last held by Eric Gagne, has fallen prey to injuries and his career has in turn taken on a decidedly different direction.
When Broxton became a free agent last fall he wasn't being talked about in the same manner as Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell.
That drove down his price and the Kansas City Royals were willing to take a one-year $4 million risk on the one-time All-Star.
With Joakim Soria poised to become a free agent following this year, Broxton could step into the closer role if Soria is dealt during the 2012 season. Soria being dealt would always elicit the question " but who's going to close now?"
Broxton might just end up providing the answer.