The 10 Most Underrated Moves of the 2013 MLB Offseason
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Many underrated moves of the 2013 MLB offseason will wind up impacting the pennant races. Familiarize yourself with them now to avoid being surprised later.
Transactions involving injured players often get disregarded. This what-have-you-done-for-me-lately industry is generally skeptical about anyone fully recovering. Also, small-market teams rarely capture the nation's attention, regardless of what brilliant decisions they make.
These under-the-radar activities could determine how the season unfolds.
Edwin Jackson Settles for Four-Year Deal
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No doubt, Edwin Jackson is grateful for his new $52 million deal.
However, compared to his peers, the 29-year-old looks under-appreciated.
Anibal Sanchez, for example, was on the market at the same age. Despite less MLB experience, the Chicago Cubs were reportedly willing to spend $77.5 million on him over five years (via CSNChicago.com).
The two pitchers have plenty in common, including their handedness and innings pitched per start. They'll provide comparable production.
Colorado Rockies Trade Alex White for Wilton Lopez
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Wilton Lopez is probably the best reliever that nobody has ever heard of.
The 29-year-old became a closer last season when the Houston Astros traded away Brett Myers. The new role didn't affect his pitching, as he continued to attack the plate early in the count and induce ground balls.
He'll be a perfect fit for Coors Field through at least 2015, his last year of arbitration eligibility.
Perhaps the Colorado Rockies gave up on Alex White too soon. The former first-round draft pick is still only 24 and believed to possess middle-of-the-rotation potential. But through 33 major league appearances, he has pitched below replacement level.
The full trade includes minor league right-hander Alex Gillingham (going to Houston) and a player to be named later joining Lopez on the Rockies.
Chicago Cubs Sign Scott Baker
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Scott Baker missed an entire season following Tommy John surgery, but expects to be back at 100 percent for Opening Day.
His $5.5 million deal has performance bonuses based on innings pitched. They begin to kick in at 145.0 IP, a total which Baker is unlikely to reach before the non-waiver trade deadline.
If he excels early while the team struggles, the Chicago Cubs could flip him for a promising prospect by July 31. That would accelerate the rebuilding process while saving a few dollars. Alternately, assuming Baker returns to pre-injury form and the Cubs contend, they would be getting their money's worth.
Though susceptible to home runs, the right-hander has always had terrific command of the strike zone.
Philadelphia Phillies Sign John Lannan
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John Lannan can supply a better-than-average earned run average over the course of 180 innings.
He belongs in a major league starting rotation, so his $2.5 million contract is an excellent bargain for the Philadelphia Phillies.
It won't be pretty. Lannan relies on the fielders behind him and seldom pitches complete games.
But this front office ought to laugh at the Kansas City Royals, who guaranteed Jeremy Guthrie 10 times as much.
Atlanta Braves Sign Reed Johnson
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In an offseason where free-agent platoon players lobbied for multi-year deals, Reed Johnson signed with the Atlanta Braves for just $1.75 million guaranteed.
Power guys like Jonny Gomes and Scott Hairston signed for $10 million and $5 million, respectively. Though Johnson is slightly older, he provides superior defense and a better contact rate than either of them.
Johnson should seldom start in place of any Braves outfielder, but he's very valuable off the bench against left-handed pitching.
Tampa Bay Rays Sign David Price to Deferred Deal
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David Price technically has the highest Tampa Bay Rays salary in 2013 at $10.1 million.
Upon closer examination, the team seems prepared to trade him.
Nearly 40 percent on his one-year deal is deferred until 2014. The left-hander will be arbitration eligible again entering that season and in line to earn more than the small-market Rays can afford.
At least the deferment helped Tampa Bay in the short term. As a result, the team had enough resources to sign Kyle Farnsworth, Kelly Johnson and Luke Scott.
Boston Red Sox Sign Koji Uehara
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Strikeout-to-walk ratio can be a great indicator of whether a reliever is lucky or effective. At 7.97, Koji Uehara has the best career mark in league history (min. 200 IP).
Uehara's outstanding control qualifies him to handle high-leverage situations.
The Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers all had varying levels of interest in signing him. Fortunately for the Boston Red Sox, none of them made a better offer.
Chicago White Sox Sign Jeff Keppinger
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It's unrealistic to expect Jeff Keppinger to maintain a .325 batting average for a second straight summer. The Chicago White Sox want him to be their everyday third baseman, which means an extra couple hundred plate appearances and more chances for the opposition to adjust.
Nonetheless, this was a wise yet underrated signing.
Keppinger's defensive versatility will come in handy should Chicago deal with injury elsewhere in the infield. His elite contact ability ensures plenty of productive outs even when balls don't find the gaps.
While the New York Yankees pay Kevin Youkilis $12 million in 2013, Keppinger will only cost the White Sox that much over the next three seasons.
Washington Nationals Fill out Rotation with Dan Haren
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A potential trade to the Chicago Cubs fell through because of concerns about the health of his back and hip.
Still, Dan Haren appeared to be in line for a two-year deal as a free agent.
Rather than becoming the ace of a weak franchise, he chose a "pillow contract" with the Washington Nationals. That makes him baseball's only No. 4 starter capable of pitching 225 innings. An uptick in velocity would get him back on track.
The Nats also acquired Rafael Soriano and Denard Span this winter while re-signing Adam LaRoche, but bringing Haren aboard could be the most important move of all.
Arizona Diamondbacks Lock Up Martin Prado Through 2016
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There's practically consensus that the Arizona Diamondbacks "lost" the Justin Upton trade because they didn't receive enough value in return.
Extending Martin Prado—previously an impending free agent—changes the perception of it.
According to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, Prado asked the Atlanta Braves for $12 million per year on his next contract. That seemed reasonable considering his defensive prowess, consistent hitting and selfless mindset.
The D-Backs locked him up for $10 million annually.
Though Prado obviously doesn't have the same, sky-high ceiling as Upton, he has quietly played at an elite level since becoming an MLB regular.