Ranking the Most Underrated Moves of the 2012-13 MLB Offseason

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2012

Ranking the Most Underrated Moves of the 2012-13 MLB Offseason

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    The signings of Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, as well as a trio of blockbuster trades, have headlined the 2012-13 MLB offseason. 

    However, it is often the under-the-radar transactions that can push a team over the top, as they present minimal risk with the chance for big rewards. 

    Here is a look at the most underrated moves of the 2013 MLB offseason: a mixture of trades, free-agent signings and even a Rule 5 draft pick.

7. White Sox Sign Jeff Keppinger

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    After watching Kevin Youkilis sign a one-year, $12 million deal with the Yankees, the White Sox shored up the hot corner by inking Jeff Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million contract (h/t ESPN).

    Youkilis was acquired by the White Sox in June and hit for a .236 batting average with 15 home runs and 46 RBI in 80 games on the South Side.

    Meanwhile, Keppinger enjoyed the best season of his career with the Rays, hitting for a .325 batting average with nine home runs and 40 RBI in over 385 at bats. A utility player much of his career, Keppinger saw the bulk of his playing time last season at third base with Evan Longoria injured.

    He brings a different dynamic to the lineup than Youkilis did, as 10 home runs is likely his ceiling, but he is a prototypical No. 2 hitter and should set the table nicely for a powerful White Sox lineup. 

    Keppinger will have to beat out Brent Morel for the starting job, but because the youngster struggled at the plate last season with a .177 average, the veteran has to be the front-runner at this point.

6. Blue Jays Sign Melky Cabrera

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    Lost in the blockbuster trade with the Marlins and recent acquisition of NL Cy Young R.A. Dickey was the Blue Jays signing left fielder Melky Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million contract (h/t ESPN).

    A positive PED test and subsequent suspension brought what was a breakout 2012 season to a screeching halt, as Cabrera was hitting .346 at the time.

    There is certainly a chance that his numbers drop off dramatically from last year, but Cabrera was a serviceable player even before last season. If he can hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .280/.350/.450, he would be an asset hitting second in a loaded Blue Jays order and a relative bargain at $8 million.

    However, if he is able to even come close to last season's numbers, he could wind up being the biggest steal of the offseason.  

5. Rays Acquire Yunel Escobar

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    Originally dealt to the Marlins as part of the blockbuster package that sent five veterans to Toronto, Escobar was later flipped to the Rays for infield prospect Derek Dietrich.

    The 30-year-old had a down year this last season, hitting just .253/.300/.344, and dealt with some backlash for writing a homophobic slur on his eye black (h/t Yahoo! Sports). Needless to say, it was far from a banner season for Escobar.

    However, over the previous three seasons, he ranked among the best offensive shortstops in baseball with a .284/.363/.393 line and an average of 10 home runs and 55 RBI.

    Escobar is also a relative bargain at $5 million per season for the next three years. For a Rays team looking for an offensive boost, he could be a key addition if he returns to form. 

4. Indians Select Chris McGuiness in Rule 5 Draft

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    With an eye toward rebuilding for the future, the Indians selected first baseman Chris McGuiness in the Rule 5 draft (h/t MLB.com).

    Though Rule 5 picks don't typically register very high on the Richter scale, McGuiness appears to have a real chance of not only sticking with the team, but getting everyday at-bats.

    The 24-year-old hit .268/.366/.474 with 23 home runs and 77 RBI in Double-A for the Rangers last season—his first season above the Single-A level.

    He followed that up with an MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .283/.370/.467 with four home runs and a league-high 27 RBI in 25 games.

    As of now, McGuiness slated to be the team's starting DH, and if he can hold down the job for the entire season, he would definitely be an offseason steal. 

3. Mets Acquire Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard

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    Most of the attention from the Mets-Blue Jays blockbuster centered around Toronto's acquisition of R.A. Dickey, and rightfully so. It's not everyday a reigning Cy Young winner is dealt.

    However, looking to strengthen their young core with eyes on future success, the Mets did well to secure an impressive haul of prospects in exchange for the 38-year-old starter.

    Travis d'Arnaud is the top catching prospect in all of baseball, and likely would have made his MLB debut last season had it not been for an injury. In 67 games at Triple-A, he hit for a .333 batting average, 16 home runs and 52 RBI.

    In all likelihood, he will be the Mets' everyday catcher at some point in 2013 and for years to come.

    New York also landed 20-year-old right-hander Noah Syndergaard, who went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA and 10.6 K/9 last season at Single-A. He has tremendous upside, and could climb the ladder quickly if he enjoys the same level of success in his first taste of Double-A this coming season. 

    The team also got a raw 18-year-old outfield prospect in Venezuelan import Wuilmer Becerra and a stopgap option behind the plate until d'Arnaud is ready in John Buck.

    It's never easy to pull the trigger on dealing someone like Dickey, but the Mets made the most of it and could end up being big winners in this one a few years down the road.

2. Red Sox Sign Koji Uehara

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    The signings of Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Ryan Dempster have gotten the headlines in Boston, but their best dollar-for-dollar move may very well have been the addition of reliever Koji Uehara.

    After signing a one-year, $4.25 million deal (h/t ESPN), Uehara will bring some much needed experience and stability to the setup role. 

    In four big league seasons since coming over from Japan, the 37-year-old has made 157 appearances and posted a 2.89 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 9.8 K/9.

    Last season, he lost some time to injury, but flourished with a 1.75 ERA and minuscule 0.64 WHIP while pitching for the Rangers.

1. Twins Acquire Vance Worley and Trevor May

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    The Twins shipped out a pair of outfielders when they dealt Denard Span to the Nationals and Ben Revere to the Phillies. While they got a solid pitching prospect for Span in Alex Meyer, they seemingly got an even better return on Revere.

    Not only did they acquire a proven starter to front their rotation in Vance Worley, but they also got one of the Phillies' top prospects in right-hander Trevor May.

    Worley is 18-13 with a 3.50 ERA in two-plus big league seasons, while May entered last season as the No. 69 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.

    May is still a raw talent, but he profiles to be a top-of-the-rotation guy if he continues his ascent through the minors. 

    Meanwhile, Revere has a .278/.319/.323 career line and has never homered in 989 career at-bats. He has plus speed and is a great defender, but it looks like the Twins got the better of this deal.