Grading Every Key Signing, Trade of the MLB Offseason Thus Far

Zak SchmollAnalyst IDecember 14, 2012

Grading Every Key Signing, Trade of the MLB Offseason Thus Far

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    It has been a busy winter so far, and many players will be wearing different uniforms next season.

    Teams have been making transactions to put themselves in a better position going into 2013, but there have definitely been some unbalanced moves.

    On the trade market, some teams got ripped off while others made amazing deals.

    Some free agents received excellent contracts, and others did not.

    This type of activity is typical, but let's take a minute to grade every significant trade or free-agent signing so far this offseason. Every trade will be graded from each perspective, and the transactions will be presented in the order that they happened.

Oct. 20: Chris Young Traded to the Oakland Athletics

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    Oakland Athletics received Chris Young

    Arizona Diamondbacks received Cliff Pennington and Yordy Cabrera

    Diamondbacks' Grade: B

    Rationale: The Arizona Diamondbacks absolutely needed a shortstop, and Pennington will fill the hole adequately. Last season, he only hit .215 with six home runs, 28 RBI and 15 stolen bases, but perhaps a change of scenery will help.

    Athletics' Grade: A+

    Rationale: Chris Young is easily capable of going 20-20, and even though his career average is low (.239) and 2012 was disappointing, trading away a shortstop who hit at about the Mendoza line is a small price to pay.

Oct. 20: Heath Bell Dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Arizona Diamondbacks received Heath Bell

    Miami Marlins received Yordy Cabrera (yes, the same one from the last slide)

    Marlins' Grade: A-

    Rationale: Signing Heath Bell ended up being a disaster for the Miami Marlins, so it is not a bad thing to trim the final two years off what was originally a three-year, $27 million contract off their payroll.

    Diamondbacks' Grade: A-

    Rationale: The Arizona Diamondbacks are taking a risk, but if Bell is able to get back even some of his former dominance, trading away a low-level prospect is not incredibly hazardous.

Oct. 31: Ervin Santana Sent to the Kansas City Royals

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    Kansas City Royals received Ervin Santana and cash

    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim received Brandon Sisk

    Angels' Grade: A+

    Rationale: The Angels had definite troubles out of the bullpen last season. Sisk should be able to help reconcile that problem if his 2.54 ERA last season in Triple-A is an indication. He averaged over a strikeout per inning as well.

    Royals' Grade: A+

    Rationale: The Kansas City Royals came into this winter looking for a better pitching staff. Adding Santana, although expensive, will help. He did win 17 games in 2010, and he could easily rise to that level again.

Nov. 5: David Ortiz Returns to the Boston Red Sox

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    Grade: A+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: David Ortiz has consistently been among the best designated hitters in baseball, and 2012 was no different.

    Despite only appearing in 90 games, he still hit .318 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI. This must have been a no-brainer for the Red Sox.

Nov. 13: Scott Baker Signs with the Chicago Cubs

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    Grade: B

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Scott Baker is a solid pitcher who can fit in the rotation behind Matt Garza and produce at a solid level.

    He did not pitch in a major league game in 2012, so there is quite a bit of risk here, but the end result could turn out well if he can replicate his 3.14 ERA from 2011.

Nov. 16: Torii Hunter Joins the Detroit Tigers

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    Grade: B-

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Torii Hunter had a strong showing in 2012 with a .313 batting average. His power production did drop off a little bit to 16 home runs, but he still drove in 92 runs.

    This was a solid move, but he is 36 this season, and it is possible that his production will begin to plummet before the end of his two-year deal.

Nov. 19: Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays Swap 12

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    Miami Marlins received Henderson Alvarez, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Anthony DeSclafani, Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino

    Toronto Blue Jays received Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes

    Blue Jays' Grade: A-

    Rationale: Obviously, the problem with this trade is that the Blue Jays had to take on an awful lot of payroll. However, they did receive one of the best shortstops in baseball, a guy with top-of-the-rotation potential and three more solid players to help round out their roster.

    Marlins' Grade: D

    Rationale: If the Marlins really wanted to trade away all five of these players, they should have at least made separate deals. That way, they may have been able to get more of a return from teams that specifically wanted help at each of these positions.

Nov. 19: Melky Cabrera Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays

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    Grade: B+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: While it is hard to tell what impact performance-enhancing drugs had on Melky Cabrera's breakout season last year in which he hit .346 through 113 games, what is not to like about this deal?

    If it doesn't work out, the risk is relatively small anyway, as he's only signed for two years.

Nov. 20: Jeremy Guthrie Returns to the Kansas City Royals

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    Grade: B-

    Contract Details

    Rationale: After being traded to the Royals last summer, Guthrie turned it on and went 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA over 14 starts.

    He is probably not top-of-the-rotation material, but this is definitely a solid move that adds depth to the rotation.

Nov. 20: Hiroki Kuroda Re-Signs with the New York Yankees

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    Grade: A

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Hiroki Kuroda is incredibly consistent. He has never posted an ERA above 4.00, and with the mighty New York Yankees offense behind him for another year, he should have no problem leading his team to a bunch of victories again.

Nov. 28: Andy Pettitte Signs on for Another Year with the New York Yankees

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    Grade: B

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Andy Pettitte had an excellent comeback late in 2012 as he posted a 2.87 ERA over 12 starts. Of course, he is going to turn 40 this June, so he comes with some risk.

    However, he's pitched well the past few seasons, and this should turn out to be a good signing.

Nov. 28: Ryan Madson Signs with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Grade: A+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim needed bullpen help, and Ryan Madson demonstrated through his time in Philadelphia that he is more than capable of filling that role.

    He will be coming off of a season lost to injury, but assuming he is able to return to form, this is a steal.

Nov. 28: Jonathan Broxton Re-Signs with the Cincinnati Reds

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    Grade: A-

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Jonathan Broxton rebounded from a difficult 2011 to post a 2.48 ERA in 2012. Opponents did hit .260 against him last year, so that is a little bit troubling.

    However, as long as he doesn't allow runs to cross the plate, the Reds will be happy.

Nov. 29: B.J. Upton Goes to the Atlanta Braves

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    Grade: C+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: B.J. Upton is a highly talented outfielder, but signing him to a long-term deal is somewhat risky. Last season, he did hit 28 home runs, but his .246 batting average suggests that he doesn't make enough solid contact to have sustained success.

    I might be wrong, but this makes me nervous.

Nov. 29: Denard Span Traded to the Washington Nationals

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    Washington Nationals received Denard Span

    Minnesota Twins received Alex Meyer

    Twins' Grade: B

    Rationale: Alex Meyer seems to have all the tools needed to succeed after going 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA in his first professional season. However, because he is still a prospect in the lower levels of the minor leagues and far from a sure thing, I had to knock down his grade a little bit.

    Nationals' Grade: B

    Rationale: Denard Span is a solid player who will fit in the top of the Washington Nationals batting order. The Nationals could have used a bat with a little more power in the lineup, especially since the return of Adam LaRoche is not guaranteed yet.

Nov. 30: Russell Martin Joins the Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Grade: A-

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Russell Martin only hit .211 last season, but he did hit 20 home runs, and his career average is a much more respectable .260.

    He is a talented defensive catcher who will be able to help the young arms that should be making their debuts with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, one of which is Gerrit Cole.

Nov. 30: Jordan Walden and Tommy Hanson Trade Places

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    Atlanta Braves received Jordan Walden

    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim received Tommy Hanson

    Braves' Grade: A-

    Rationale: The Atlanta Braves have a plethora of strong, young pitchers. Hanson has been effective at times, but it makes sense to trade from that depth.

    I could not give this trade the highest mark because the Atlanta bullpen is already pretty strong, and I think there are other holes they should have tried to fill first.

    Angels' Grade: B+

    Rationale: Hanson did win 13 games last season, but his 4.48 ERA was definitely a little bit higher than ideal.

    However, the Angels do not have the best pitching rotation to begin with, and adding another potentially strong arm who looked really good in 2010 and 2011 doesn't hurt.

Nov. 30: Mariano Rivera Remains with the New York Yankees

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    Grade: A+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: I understand that Mariano Rivera is 43 years old, but until anybody can hit his cut fastball, he is a valuable asset to any bullpen.

    He has saved 608 games over his career, and as long as he is fully healed from his injury problems last season, this was a great move.

Dec. 4: Texas Rangers Sign Joakim Soria

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    Grade: C-

    Contract Details

    Rationale: After he missed all of 2012, the Texas Rangers decided to take a chance on Joakim Soria. From 2007 to 2010, he was an excellent closer for the Kansas City Royals; so, this grade could easily go up if he returns to that form. However, 2011 was the last we saw of him, and he struggled that year.

Dec. 4: San Francisco Giants Re-Sign Marco Scutaro

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    Grade: A-

    Contract Details

    Rationale: As a journeyman utility player, Marco Scutaro is typically undervalued.

    However, given the important role that he played down the stretch for the San Francisco Giants, hitting .362 in 61 games, they wanted him back. He has a little bit of power (seven home runs in 2012); so, that is a little additional bonus.

Dec. 4: Colorado Rockies Traded for Wilton Lopez

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    Colorado Rockies received Wilton Lopez and a player to be named later

    Houston Astros received Alex White and Alex Gillingham

    Astros' Grade: B+

    Rationale: The Houston Astros received Alex White, who should be able to enter their rotation immediately, and Alex Gillingham, who had a very promising sophomore season in the minors. Neither racks up the strikeouts, but both have had minor league success so far.

    Rockies' Grade: C+

    Wilton Lopez has posted three consecutive seasons with an ERA under 3.00. The hard part is that he pitches for contact. He relies on getting people out by putting the ball in play, and that could be problematic in Coors Field. He does do well forcing ground balls, but opponents have hit .271 against him through his career, so watch out for this.

Dec. 6: Ben Revere Traded to the Philadelphia Phillies

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    Philadelphia Phillies received Ben Revere

    Minnesota Twins received Vance Worley and Trevor May

    Twins' Grade: C

    Rationale: Vance Worley is a nice middle-of-the-rotation option, and Trevor May was one of the Philadelphia Phillies' top pitching prospects. He had a difficult time last season, but he should be major league ready in the near future. If he doesn't rebound, this trade will not be nearly as attractive as many believe it is right now.

    Phillies' Grade: A

    Rationale: The Philadelphia Phillies needed a center fielder, and they went out and got one with a very team friendly contract. Ben Revere will also fit very nicely into the Philadelphia lineup by adding quite a bit of speed and a bat that hit .294 last season.

Dec. 7: Dan Haren Signs with the Washington Nationals

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    Grade: B-

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Dan Haren still has upside, but given a difficult 2012 where he posted his highest ERA since 2004 (4.33), the Washington Nationals are obviously taking a risk.

    If he is able to return to the pitcher who posted a 3.17 ERA with 16 wins in 2011, this acquisition will look substantially better.

Dec. 7: Angel Pagan Returns to the San Francisco Giants

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    Grade: A

    Contract Details

    Rationale: The San Francisco Giants won the World Series, and they seem to be trying to keep the pieces together.

    Angel Pagan led the National League in triples last season, and he actually had an all-around great year. Although other teams showed interest, it was a smart move for him to return to San Francisco.

Dec. 8: Eric Chavez Joins the Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Grade: C+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Eric Chavez had a very nice resurgence last season with the New York Yankees as he hit .281 with 16 home runs and 37 RBI.

    However, he is not getting any younger, and given his shaky injury history, the Arizona Diamondbacks are taking a decent-sized risk here.

Dec. 8: Jason Bay Signs with the Seattle Mariners

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    Grade: C-

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Jason Bay hit below the Mendoza line last season, and at 34 years old, time is starting to run out on his career. That being said, he is a former All-Star and signed a very small contract.

    If he produces well, he could be an incredible bargain.

Dec. 9: Michael Young Traded to the Philadelphia Phillies

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    Philadelphia Phillies received Michael Young

    Texas Rangers received Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla

    Rangers' Grade: A-

    Rationale: The most significant feature about this trade for the Texas Rangers is the fact that Mike Olt is now able to take over as the designated hitter on a full-time basis. Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla are solid pitchers, and that only adds to the benefit.

    Phillies' Grade: C-

    Rationale: Michael Young is not going to be very expensive for the Philadelphia Phillies, but unless he can rebound from a less-than-ideal 2012, he might not be the big bat that the Phillies want him to be. Last year, he hit .277 with eight home runs and 67 RBI.

Dec. 9: James Shields and Wil Myers Trade Places

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    Tampa Bay Rays received Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, Patrick Leonard and Jake Odorizzi

    Kansas City Royals received James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named later

    Royals' Grade: A-

    Rationale: I know that many people are upset with the Kansas City Royals and feel like they got ripped off. However, they now have an established ace at the top of their lineup. Also, Davis will be under team control for a long time as he continues to improve.

    Rays' Grade: A+

    Rationale: Myers seems to be a can't-miss prospect, and the other three are solid prospects in their own right. They did give up a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, but this process is nothing new in Tampa Bay, where young players develop and leave before they can command a huge paycheck.

Dec. 10: Jeff Keppinger Signs with the Chicago White Sox

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    Grade: A

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Jeff Keppinger is one of the most underrated players in baseball.

    He is incredibly versatile, and last year he hit .325 with nine home runs and 40 RBI. He is not a superstar, but he is an affordable signing who has gotten the job done everywhere he has gone.

Dec. 10: Ryan Ludwick Re-Signs with the Cincinnati Reds

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    Grade: B

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Last season, Ryan Ludwick had his best season since 2007 as he hit .275 with 26 home runs and 80 RBI.

    Batting average and strikeouts have always been his issue, but if he is able to build on last year's success, this grade could easily go up.

Dec. 10: Zack Greinke Signs with the Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Grade: C

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Zack Greinke is an outstanding pitcher, so from that perspective, this is an amazing acquisition.

    However, it was not necessarily smart for the Los Angeles Dodgers to give him the largest contract ever awarded to a right-handed pitcher. He is very good, but I'm not sure he is that good.

Dec. 11: Brandon McCarthy Signs with the Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Grade: A+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Brandon McCarthy has struggled with injuries, but he easily has top-of-the-rotation potential.

    Because of his history, the Diamondbacks were able to grab him at a bargain. If he stays healthy and posts an ERA around 3.50 like he normally does, he could easily be the bargain of the winter.

Dec. 11: Shin-Soo Choo Traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a 3-Team Deal

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    Cincinnati Reds received Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald

    Cleveland Indians received Drew Stubbs, Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw

    Arizona Diamondbacks received Didi Gregorius, Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson

    Indians' Grade: A

    Rationale: Even though the Indians gave up Choo, they were able to fill his outfield slot by acquiring Stubbs. Also, even though Bauer had a rough debut in the majors, he has quite a bit of potential and will only be 22 years old when the season begins.

    Reds' Grade: A

    Rationale: Shin-Soo Choo is always a threat to go 20-20. Anytime that you can grab a multi-talented outfielder, you have to be happy. Even though he has had some injury problems, he is a great contributor when he is healthy.

    Diamondbacks' Grade: C-

    Rationale: Gregorius is a smooth-fielding shortstop, and after the departure of Stephen Drew, filling that hole was obviously a priority. The main problem I have with this trade for Arizona is that it involved the departure of Bauer. He is incredibly advanced for a young pitcher, and I feel like he should have been worth more.

Dec. 12: Jason Grilli Returns to the Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Grade: B+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Over the past few seasons, Jason Grilli has become a strong presence out of the bullpen. In 2012, he appeared in 64 games and posted a 2.91 ERA.

    Also, he is a strikeout machine, compiling 90 of them in just under 59 innings pitched last year.

Dec. 12: Joe Blanton Signs with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Grade: C+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Joe Blanton is not a bad acquisition. He is durable and will be able to pitch a lot of innings. However, I could not rate him very high simply because this move is not Earth-shattering whatsoever.

    He will fill in a hole at the back of the Los Angeles rotation.

Dec. 13: Shane Victorino Signs with the Boston Red Sox

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    Grade: B+

    Contract Details

    Rationale: Shane Victorino is a fine player, and outside of Jacoby Ellsbury, the Boston Red Sox do not have another dynamic speed demon like Victorino.

    Last season, he stole 39 bases with a .255 average. If his average could bump up a little higher, he could easily steal more bases as well.

Unofficial: Ryan Dempster Moves to the Boston Red Sox

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    Grade: A-

    Reported Contract Details

    Rationale: Ryan Dempster had a difficult time with the Texas Rangers last season, but he is exactly what the Boston Red Sox need (signing news via Boston Globe).

    Their pitching staff struggled mightily last year, posting a combined 4.70 ERA, so quality pitchers like Dempster are always welcome.

Unofficial: Mike Napoli Signs with the Boston Red Sox

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    Grade: B-

    Reported Contract Details

    Rationale: Mike Napoli can hit 30 home runs, so he should definitely be able to do some damage in Fenway Park (although negotiations are still ongoing, according to

    That being said, even though Napoli can play catcher and first base, he still seems like more of a designated hitter. The Red Sox are pretty situated there, so if defense becomes an issue, I don't know where they will put him.

Unofficial: Anibal Sanchez Re-Signs with the Detroit Tigers

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    Grade: A+

    Reported Contract Details

    Rationale: I have to admit that this one did not seem like it would happen, but Jerry Crasnick of ESPN is reporting that Anibal Sanchez will remain in Detroit.

    Even though his career record is not attractive, he has always been able to keep runs off the board, and now that he plays for a team with a powerful offense, that record should not be a problem for much longer.

Unofficial: Josh Hamilton Signs with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Grade: B-

    Reported Contract Details

    Rationale: Josh Hamilton is one of the best hitters in baseball today, but it seems as if he is going to receive at least $25 million per year in his contract. I'm not a fan of this contract for a hitter who will be 36 when the deal is done.

    Will he be worth that much in the end?

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