6 Most Overrated Moves of the MLB Offseason
Change is exciting, and the MLB offseason offers plenty of it. Naturally, the baseball world has overreacted to several recent winter moves that won't end up being very significant.
Preseason and in-season contract extensions prevented many of the sport's top talents from reaching free agency. As a result, teams have needed to make generous offers to the few reputable players available.
One of the following transactions—a nine-player trade—required the cooperation of three general managers. All the time they put in will be for naught, however, because none of the clubs gained much from the swap.
Statistics, trends and roster composition explain why some moves aren't as impressive as they seem.
6. Boston Red Sox Sign Stephen Drew as Stopgap (Dec. 17)
Stephen Drew wasn't his old self in 2012. Once healthy from a gruesome ankle injury, Drew made his season debut in late June, but struggled mightily at the plate. He split time with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics, finishing with a .223/.309/.348 triple-slash line in 327 plate appearances.
The Boston Red Sox have signed him to a one-year, $9.5 million deal. They are under the impression that he'll be steadier than internal options such as Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias.
His strikeout rate since 2011 compares unfavorably to Dan Uggla's. Obviously, though, Drew doesn't walk as often or threaten opposing pitchers with the same home run potential. Moreover, he's a significantly weaker offensive player against left-handed pitching.
At least Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe recognizes that the Red Sox are overpaying:
Stephen Drew has hit .238/ .313/ .373the last two years. Scott Boras is really good at his job.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) December 17, 2012
Why didn't the team pursue Marco Scutaro this winter? The veteran told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that he would've signed with whoever presented the biggest offer. He ended up staying in the Bay Area for three years and $20 million.
The Red Sox passed on the opportunity to add a more accomplished player at a lower annual salary.
5. Los Angeles Angels Sign Josh Hamilton (Dec. 15)
The Los Angeles Angels signed Josh Hamilton to prevent the rival Texas Rangers from doing the same. This surprise move ensures that Los Angeles has the deepest projected lineup in the AL West heading into 2013.
But how often will manager Mike Scioscia actually get to use his new power threat?
Hamilton has played fewer than 123 games per year since arriving in the majors. Separate abdominal injuries in 2007, 2009 and 2010 all resulted in trips to the disabled list. He's also at a stage of his career when individuals generally become less durable.
The perennial AL All-Star is undoubtedly an elite outfielder. However, L.A. controls pre-arbitration eligible guys like Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo who also perform above replacement level.
The Angels improved by committing to Hamilton. With that said, spending his $125 million on the pitching staff instead could have made an even greater impact.
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu Gets 6 Years from Los Angeles Dodgers (Dec. 9)
Nobody is unattainable for the free-spending Los Angeles Dodgers. Just one day after agreeing to terms with proven ace Zack Greinke, they completed a six-year deal with left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu.
Ryu pitched seven seasons with the KBO's Hanwha Eagles. Overall, he maintained a 2.80 ERA and recorded nearly a strikeout per inning while winning nearly two-thirds of his decisions.
But ESPN Insider Keith Law is skeptical that he'll achieve similar success in the U.S.:
"I've received widely varying reports on Ryu's potential here in MLB, ranging from reliever to future No. 3 starter. I fall more into the former camp based on video I've seen and the specifics of his scouting report; he's a bad-bodied left-hander with an out-pitch changeup, average to above-average fastball and fringy breaking ball."
The Dodgers had to pay a hefty posting fee just to receive exclusive negotiating rights. Combining that with his guaranteed salary, this is a $61.7 million investment.
If his described repertoire is accurate, Ryu will struggle to miss bats.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks/Cincinnati Reds/Cleveland Indians Trade (Dec. 11)
None of the teams involved benefit much from this complicated trade.
Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, the most accomplished of these nine players, goes to the Cincinnati Reds along with utilityman Jason Donald and approximately $3.5 million.
Though Choo is a better offensive player than the departing Drew Stubbs, he's also a weaker defender with limited experience in center field. His impending free agency doesn't hurt the Reds because they have speedster Billy Hamilton coming through the pipe, so they seemingly come out on top.
Bob McManaman of The Arizona Republic calls Didi Gregorius "the eventual long-term starting shortstop" of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his article, GM Kevin Towers makes Derek Jeter comparisons!
Let's calm down. Gregorius—who's nearly 23 years old—split last season between Double-A and Triple-A before getting a brief call-up to Cincinnati. Though the Dutchman is strongly reviewed as a fielder, his ordinary offensive numbers in the minor leagues don't put him on an All-Star track.
Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp add depth to the bench and relief corps, respectively.
The rebuilding Cleveland Indians should have concerns about their incoming players, too.
Stubbs' strikeout rate worsens every season, according to Baseball-Reference.com, limiting his on-base percentage and the impact he can make with his legs. Bauer's awesome potential will be for naught if he doesn't find a more consistent release point. His peculiarities rub some people the wrong way. Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer lists a few of them.
Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw are decent middle relievers, but the former is an impending free agent.
2. Brandon League Re-Signs for Huge Guarantee (Oct. 30)
It's been a great offseason for MLB relievers.
Mariano Rivera (torn ACL) and Joakim Soria (Tommy John surgery) signed for $10 million and $8 million, respectively, despite their serious injuries. A solid bounce-back year from Jonathan Broxton earned him a $21 guarantee. Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Randy Choate each inked contracts for the next three years.
All of them are indebted to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They flexed their financial muscles immediately after the World Series and re-signed Brandon League for $22.5 million. That move single-handedly changed the market for bullpen arms.
His deal offers hundreds of thousands of dollars in performance bonuses. It also includes a 2016 vesting option that could be worth as much as $9 million.
But what did League do to deserve it? One All-Star selection?!
His walk rate fluctuates from decent to dangerous and he has a tendency to throw wild pitches.
League's success with L.A. late in 2012 can be attributed to the fact that opposing batters totaled zero home runs against him. That 28-game stint misrepresented his skill set.
The Dodgers will be disappointed with his mediocrity.
1. New York Yankees Sign Kevin Youkilis (Dec. 14)
Alex Rodriguez's impending hip surgery convinced the New York Yankees to pursue a veteran replacement.
Their preference was clearly to sign Jeff Keppinger. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports even reports that they made a higher offer than the Chicago White Sox. For whatever reason, he chose the Windy City.
So the Yankees settled for the best remaining option on the free-agent market—Kevin Youkilis. A strong push from the Cleveland Indians coupled with his reputation as a powerful and patient batter drove his 2013 salary up to $12 million.
This means that Youk will be the third-highest-paid AL third baseman playing on Opening Day, trailing only Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera.
Eduardo Nunez could match his .235/.336/.409 from 2012 while making the league minimum! He doesn't play the same quality of defense, but his base-running and contact ability would probably give him the edge in overall value, right?
Ultimately, the Yankees will regret spending that money on Youkilis instead of catcher Russell Martin.