2013 MLB Offseason Awards: Best and Worst Contracts, Signings, Trades

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

2013 MLB Offseason Awards: Best and Worst Contracts, Signings, Trades

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    With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training from Feb. 10-12, the MLB offseason is coming down the home stretch.

    Key free agents Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn remain unsigned, but the rest of the market's top players have already found new homes.

    With the bulk of the action behind us, here are my offseason awards for trades and signings. Only time will tell if I'm right about the good and bad of this winter's transactions.

Best Minor League Contract (Pitcher)

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    RP Kyle McClellan, Texas Rangers

    The Rangers have signed a ton of pitchers to minor league deals this offseason, as Kyle McClellan, Evan Meek, Yoshinori Tateyama, Randy Wells and Nate Robertson were all brought aboard.

    McClellan has the most upside to make a significant impact—not just out of that group, but of any pitcher on a minor league deal.

    Back in 2010, the right-hander was the Cardinals' primary setup man, posting a 2.27 ERA over 68 appearances.

    The team moved him to the rotation the following season, and he went 12-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 43 appearances (17 starts).

    He was back in the bullpen last season, but he hit the shelf with a shoulder injury in July and underwent surgery to end his season.

    Still only 28, McClellan has plenty of time to turn things around. The best-case scenario would be if he replaced the departed Mike Adams in the Rangers bullpen.

Best Minor League Contract (Hitter)

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    LF Austin Kearns, Miami Marlins

    Once a budding star with the Reds and Nationals, Austin Kearns is little more than a role player at this point in his career.

    On the surface, his .245/.366/.367 slash line with four home runs and 16 RBI over 147 at-bats with the Marlins last season doesn't look all that great.

    However, he was 13-for-40 with a .906 OPS as a pinch-hitter in 2012, and the Marlins will return him in the same role if he makes the roster this spring.

    If he performs well again in that role, Kearns could net a decent return at the trade deadline. Being able to flip a minor league signing for a decent prospect would be a major coup.

Best Prospect Acquisition (Pitcher)

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    SP Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians

    In a three-team trade this offseason, the Indians turned free-agent-to-be Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Donald, Tony Sipp, Lars Anderson and cash, into Drew Stubbs, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw and Trevor Bauer.

    Stubbs will be the everyday center fielder, and both Albers and Shaw should land a spot in the bullpen. But the real prize was Bauer, as he has the upside to be the team's ace of the not-too-distant future.

    In his first full pro season last year, Bauer went 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA and 10.8 K/9 between Double-A and Triple-A before earning a call-up.

    While he posted a 6.06 ERA in four starts last year, he'll have every chance to succeed in Cleveland.

Best Prospect Acquisition (Hitter)

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    RF Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

    Wil Myers was the Minor League Player of the Year last season, hitting .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A. He was the biggest prospect to move this season.

    Looking to bolster their pitching staff and land a true staff ace, the Royals moved their top prospect and a potential future star in a package of prospects for James Shields and Wade Davis.

    There are holes in Myers' game, however. He struck out 140 times last season, and he could see that number spike with the move to the majors. But Myers has all the makings of an impact middle-of-the-order bat.

    He'll open the season in the minors but could join Evan Longoria in the middle of the Rays lineup by midseason. Myers should immediately bolster the offense.

Worst Value Signing (Pitcher)

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    RP Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Dodgers spent big on pitching this offseason, led by the signings of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu to bolster their starting rotation.

    However, they also re-signed Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million deal to close games this coming season after a strong final two months with the team last year.

    In 28 games with the Dodgers, he went 6-of-6 on save chances and posted a 2.30 ERA. However, that overshadowed a rough season in Seattle where he converted just 9-of-15 save chances and actually lost the closer's role.

    Considering how volatile the closer's role can be and the short track record of success League has as a closer, it was a massive overpay and could backfire badly.

Best Value Signing (Pitcher)

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    SP John Lannan, Philadelphia Phillies

    The Nationals' Opening Day starter in 2009 and 2010, Lannan spent the majority of last season in Triple-A, despite going 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011.

    He was non-tendered to start the offseason, and the Phillies signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million deal to serve as their fifth starter this coming season.

    Still just 28 years old, Lannan has a chance to be a double-digit winner. He could set himself up for a solid payday with a good season.

Worst Value Signing (Hitter)

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    2B Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants

    Much like the two-year, $20 million deal that Aubrey Huff got after playing a key part in the Giants' 2010 title run, Scutaro was seemingly rewarded this offseason for his role in winning a championship with a contract well above his value.

    The 37-year-old Scutaro hit .362 with three home runs and 44 RBI in 61 games with the Giants after coming over at the deadline in a trade with the Rockies. He then proceeded to win NLCS MVP and drive in the winning run of the World Series clincher. 

    With little beyond Scutaro in the way of available second basemen this offseason, he had value; but something like a two-year, $10 million deal would have been far more reasonable for the aging Scutaro.

Best Value Signing (Hitter)

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    1B James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays

    A .331 BA, 15 HR, 67 RBI line over 344 at-bats as a rookie back in 2007 set expectations incredibly high for James Loney—as did the fact that he debuted around the same time as Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.

    Over the next four seasons, Loney would average a line of .281 BA, 12 HR, 83 RBI. Solid numbers, but largely disappointing given what type of player many expected him to be.

    Much like the Rays' signing of Casey Kotchman back in 2011 when he hit .306 on a minor league deal, Loney has a chance to be a huge steal.

Worst All-Around Trade Acquisition (Pitcher)

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    RP Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks

    When Heath Bell signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Marlins last offseason after three consecutive 40-plus-save seasons, it looked like a relative bargain.

    Instead, he imploded with eight blown saves and a 5.09 ERA. He lost the closer's job by season's end and looked like a shell of his former self.

    The Diamondbacks landed him in a three-team trade at the beginning of this offseason along with $8 million cash. The team will be paying him $5 million each of the next two seasons, and if he can't bounce back, he'll be a really expensive mop-up reliever.

Best All-Around Trade Acquisition (Pitcher)

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    SP R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays

    The Blue Jays landed a big haul in their trade with the Marlins, including a pair of impact pitchers in Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. But the team's biggest offseason acquisition from a rotation standpoint is undoubtedly R.A. Dickey.

    It cost them four players, including top prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. But the Blue Jays landed reigning Cy Young winner Dickey and gave themselves a bona fide staff ace for what should be a legitimate postseason push.

    What's more, they locked the free-agent-to-be up with a two-year, $25 million deal with a club option for 2016 in what was a relative bargain.

Worst All-Around Trade Acquisition (Hitter)

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    CF Ben Revere, Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies entered the offseason in need of a replacement center fielder. While he was likely not their first option, they found their man in Twins center fielder Ben Revere.

    The 24-year-old has solid value, as he is under team control until 2017 and hit .294 with 40 steals last season. 

    However, Revere is essentially Juan Pierre lite, with zero home runs and a .642 career OPS over 989 big league at-bats over three seasons.

    He's a plus-defender, thanks to his speed, but he'll need to hit over .300 to be a viable option offensively. He does not get on base at a high enough clip (.319 career OBP) to justify hitting near the top of the order otherwise.

    What's more, he cost the Phillies a big league starter in Vance Worley and one of their top pitching prospects in Trevor May.


Best All-Around Trade Acquisition (Hitter)

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    LF Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

    Long rumored to be on the move, the Diamondbacks finally found a trade package they liked and dealt Justin Upton to the Braves.

    It cost Atlanta a package of Martin Prado, Randall Delgado and three other prospects, but they got the impact bat they needed to play left field.

    Upton is signed for the next three years for a very reasonable $38.5 million. He could be more motivated than ever playing alongside his brother B.J., who was signed as a free agent this offseason.

Worst All-Around Signing (Pitcher)

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    SP Jeremy Guthrie, Kansas City Royals

    Looking strictly at his time in Kansas City last season, Guthrie, 33, is worth the $25 million that the Royals gave him over three seasons.

    In 14 starts with the Royals after coming over from the Rockies at the deadline, he went 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.132 WHIP.

    However, that masked a disastrous first half in Colorado. He went 3-9 with a 6.35 ERA and ranked among the worst starters in all of baseball, statistically.

    Always an innings-eater, Guthrie's track record suggests he'll land somewhere between his Colorado numbers and his Kansas City numbers. 

    He'll could be a solid value this coming season at $5 million, but the way his deal is back-loaded, he'll have a hard time living up to his contract when he reaches 35 and 36 years old. 

Best All-Around Signing (Pitcher)

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    SP Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox

    After three straight injury-plagued seasons, Jake Peavy finally stayed healthy last year and turned in an All-Star season.

    He went 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA and struck out 194 batters over 219 innings of work. He also won the first Gold Glove of his career.

    Despite all that, the White Sox declined their $22 million option on Peavy at the start of the offseason. However, they quickly re-signed him to a two-year, $29 million deal.

    Considering the contracts that some of the lesser pitchers on the market got, this was a steal if he can repeat last season's performance.

Worst All-Around Signing (Hitter)

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    RF Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox

    With the money they freed up in their August trade with the Dodgers, the Red Sox have gone on a spending spree this offseason.

    Among the handful of veterans they've added so far this offseason, the biggest overspend was, without a question, Shane Victorino on a three-year, $39 million deal.

    One of the game's more dynamic offensive players entering the 2012 season, Victorino saw his numbers fall across the board last year.

    His .255/.321/.382 line was rewarded with a $13 million annual salary. At 32 years old, his best years may very well be behind him.

Best All-Around Signing (Hitter)

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    RF Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels

    It cost them $125 million over five years, but the Angels landed the market's top hitter in Josh Hamilton. He will now join Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo in a scary Angels lineup.

    Hamilton will likely miss some time due to injury at some point during the season, but there is no denying the type of impact he can make at the plate.

    Last season, he launched a career-high 43 home runs and drove in 128 runs for the Rangers to finish fifth in AL MVP voting. Now, he'll be doing it for the division rival Angels, and they should have a real shot at title contention if their pitching can match their offense.