Mid-Spring Report Cards for MLB's Top 25 Offseason Acquisitions
A lot of faces are in new places this spring and it’s time to evaluate how well they’re acclimating.
Several offseason acquisitions have gotten off to strong starts, but there are a handful of stars who have struggled to get going. Others are already battling the injury bug and are in jeopardy of starting the regular season on the disabled list.
Since we’re examining the beginnings of MLB's best offseason signings and trades, a couple are partaking in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. For these players, we’ll take a glance at how well or poorly they’ve played against international competition.
For the purpose of this article, I won’t be looking at the players that re-signed with their teams from 2012 such as David Ortiz, Anibal Sanchez and Angel Pagan, among others. I will be strictly grading players that changed teams over the winter.
So let’s start taking a look. Here are the grades for the offseason’s best acquisitions.
Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox
How He Got Here: He signed a three-year, $39 million deal.
Spring Overview: The Boston Red Sox needed a versatile outfielder that could play all three positions and landed on Shane Victorino.
Victorino hasn’t made the smoothest of transitions, though. He only played in five games with Boston, trying to develop relationships with his new teammates as quickly as possible. He’s yet to get a hit with Boston in 11 at-bats, but he’s scored twice and walked four times.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian has had limited time with the Red Sox since he’s been playing for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic. In two games, playing for his country, Victorino is 1-for-6 with a trio of strikeouts.
Not the best start for either of his teams.
Joel Hanrahan, Boston Red Sox
How He Got Here: He was traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: Dissatisfied with just Andrew Bailey at the back end of the bullpen, the Boston Red Sox acquired Joel Hanrahan to be the team’s closer for the upcoming season.
But the two-time all-star hasn’t had the best start with his new team.
In five outings, Hanrahan has thrown five innings, but has allowed six earned runs—nine total—on nine hits. He’s had trouble with his command, walking four, but has been able to strike out six.
Over the last two seasons, Hanrahan has saved 76 games. In 133 games and 128.1 innings, he posted a 2.24 ERA while striking out 128 and walked 52.
If he doesn’t get his act together soon, he could find himself as the setup man while Bailey gets his job back.
Ryan Dempster, Boston Red Sox
How He Got Here: He signed a two-year, $26.5 million deal.
Spring Overview: Starting pitching has been the biggest weakness for the Boston Red Sox over the last couple of seasons. Boston brought in Ryan Dempster over the winter to lend a hand for the next two years.
Dempster, a right-handed veteran, went 12-8 between the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs last season with a 3.38 ERA across 173 innings. He tossed at least 200 innings in the four years prior and also won at least 10 games over that span.
Signing Dempster has looked good in a trio of outings this spring. In 8.2 innings of work, he’s allowed just two runs and has struck six batters out. The Red Sox need him to pitch well going forward unless it will be another disappointing season in Boston.
Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
How He Got Here: He was traded by Kansas City Royals in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: The Tampa Bay Rays looked to add a future impact bat to the organization over the offseason and felt that the pitching staff was strong enough to get rid of a few arms.
Wil Myers, one of the top prospects in all of baseball, has gotten a lot of time with his new team this spring. In 14 games, the young outfielder is 8-for-29 with three extra-base hits and a trio of runs. He currently has the second-most strikeouts on the Rays, but that shouldn’t be something to worry about.
It’s still a long shot that Myers breaks camp on the 25-man roster.
He’s going to be a star someday, but will most likely start the season in the minor leagues. The Rays can’t afford to rush him to the big leagues and waiting on him will pay off in the long run.
Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays
How He Got Here: He was traded by Miami Marlins in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: As a part of Jeffrey Loria’s master plan to rebuild the Miami Marlins from the ground up, Jose Reyes found himself traded north of the border to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The new Toronto shortstop was on fire before leaving camp to practice and play for the Dominican Republic. In five games with the Blue Jays, Reyes hit .643/.667/.929 in 14 at-bats while scoring four times.
He didn’t strike out in his short time with his new team either.
Reyes has continued his hot streak from the plate while playing for his country. In four games with the Dominican Republic, Reyes is 6-for-19 with five runs and nine total bases, the second-most on the team.
He’s certainly off to a fantastic start to the 2013 season.
Josh Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays
How He Got Here: He was traded by Miami Marlins in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: Josh Johnson was another former Marlin traded to the Toronto Blue Jays over the offseason.
Johnson, who used to pitch like an ace, has struggled recently and is looking to turn his career around outside of the United States.
Johnson has looked like his old self thus far with the Blue Jays. In three appearances, he’s allowed just one run—a home run—in 7.2 innings of work. He’s been excellent in locating his pitches, striking out eight batters without walking anyone.
Last season with Miami, Johnson went 8-14 with a 3.81 ERA, the highest of any of his previous seasons with at least five starts.
With a lot of talented players in the lineup, Johnson should get plenty of run support in the upcoming season. That should help him out on the mound for sure.
R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays
How He Got Here: He was traded by New York Mets in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: The Toronto Blue Jays made a bold move over the winter, acquiring 2012 National League Cy Young R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets in exchange for a couple of promising prospects.
Dickey, the best knuckler in the business, hasn’t been very effective since switching jerseys. He only had the opportunity to pitch in two spring games for Toronto and wasn’t impressive in either. Combined, he threw five innings and gave up five earned runs on eight hits.
Dickey left the Blue Jays’ camp early, though, to pitch for Team USA.
He’s only appeared in one World Baseball Classic, but didn’t fare well against the international competition. In four innings, he let four players score while serving up six hits.
Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians
How He Got Here: He signed a four-year, $56 million deal.
Spring Overview: Looking to compete with the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central, the Cleveland Indians brought in former New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher to play right field and hit in the heart of the lineup.
All Swisher has done this spring is hit with consistency and hit with power.
In 27 at-bats across 10 games in camp, Swisher has 12 hits, seven runs, three home runs and 10 RBI. That’s exactly the type of production the Indians are hoping to get out of him once the season begins.
A career .256/.361/.467 hitter, Swisher has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last eight seasons.
It appears that he’ll have no problem reaching that mark again in 2013 as long as his hot hitting continues throughout the remainder of the spring.
Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians
How He Got Here: He signed a four-year, $48 million deal.
Spring Overview: Continuing their hope of winning the American League Central, the Cleveland Indians made one of the biggest moves of the offseason.
They decided to forfeit another draft pick in order to bring outfielder Michael Bourn to Cleveland.
Bourn hasn’t gotten off to a positive start with the Indians at all. He’s played in 11 games and gotten 30 at-bats, but he only has seven hits. The speedy center fielder has scored just three times and he’s rarely gotten on base, walking just twice.
Bourn, who played with the Atlanta Braves last year, is coming off of a career year.
In 2012, he hit .274/.348/.391 with nine home runs, 57 RBI, 96 runs and 42 stolen bases. Cleveland hopes he can put together another impressive season, playing in the American League for the first time.
James Shields, Kansas City Royals
How He Got Here: He was traded by Tampa Bay Rays in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: The Kansas City Royals desperately needed to add quality starting pitching over the offseason and did so by trading away top prospects. The biggest name the Royals acquired was right-hander James Shields.
Shields has been hot and cold since joining the young Royals, pitching in three games so far this spring.
He went four innings across two appearances without allowing a run, but then gave up four runs on six hits in his most recent game. In total, he’s allowed four runs in 8.2 innings of work while striking out nine.
Even though Shields has given up a couple of runs, the most impressive part of his game has been his command.
He’s always been good with locating his pitches and it’s encouraging that he’s yet to walk anyone.
Tommy Hanson, Los Angeles Angels
How He Got Here: He was traded by Atlanta Braves for Jordan Walden.
Spring Overview: Looking to add some depth to the starting rotation, the Los Angeles Angels took a little bit from their bullpen.
The Halos dealt reliever Jordan Walden to the Atlanta Braves to acquire the hard-throwing right-hander.
Hanson has only pitched in two games for the Angels, but has looked somewhat lost in each of them. In his first, he allowed a run on three hits across a pair of innings. The next time out, he allowed five earned runs on seven hits in three innings.
Hanson’s spring training statistics don’t matter much, but they can affect his confidence level heading into the regular season.
Thus far, he’s been ineffective on the mound and really needs a positive outing to get his head back in the right place.
Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels
How He Got Here: He signed a five-year, $125 million deal.
Spring Overview: The Los Angeles Angels pulled off the most shocking move of the offseason, signing slugger Josh Hamilton to a monster contract when no one saw the team making a move on the MVP candidate.
Hamilton has been good but not great this spring.
He’s 6-for-19 in seven games with just one extra-base hit, a home run. He’s struck out six times without walking and has only scored twice. Hamilton is still hitting over .300 in camp, but he definitely hasn’t turned as many heads as possible yet.
The Angels are hoping that Hamilton, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols can propel them into the postseason and potentially bring home a World Series title, which would be the club’s first since 2002.
Kendrys Morales, Seattle Mariners
How He Got Here: He was traded by Los Angeles Angels for Jason Vargas.
Spring Overview: The Seattle Mariners’ offense has been horrible the last couple of seasons. In fact, the entire team hasn’t been very good.
But in order to try and improve, Seattle acquired a handful of offensive threats over the winter. One of them was Kendrys Morales.
Morales is off to a solid start with the Mariners, hitting .321/.321/.536 through nine games. He switch-hitting slugger has hit two home runs and scored six times, but has only driven in four runs. Morales has only struck out four times in 28 at-bats, which is good considering he struck out in 22.2 percent of chances last year.
Morales has only played first base so far, but I would expect him to be the team’s designated hitter for a solid portion of the upcoming season.
Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves
How He Got Here: He was traded by Arizona Diamondbacks in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: Justin Upton and the Arizona Diamondbacks just weren’t going to work. So what happened? The Atlanta Braves proposed a trade that benefited both teams and they landed one of the most versatile players in baseball.
Upton has struggled somewhat since the deal.
He has nine hits in 35 at-bats with four extra-base hits, including a pair of home runs. The problem for Upton is that he hasn’t had many good at-bats. He’s struck out 11 times thus far and striking out nearly a third of the time just isn’t going to cut it.
There is still plenty of time for Upton to turn it up in camp as he’s only played in 14 games. With a couple of weeks before Opening Day gets here, look for Upton to focus on his approach at the plate.
B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
How He Got Here: He signed a five-year, $75 million deal.
Spring Overview: Before the Atlanta Braves traded for his brother, they signed B.J. Upton to be the immediate replacement for Michael Bourn.
Upton had played his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays before signing with the National League East contenders.
Through 14 games this spring, Upton is tied with Freddie Freeman for the most at-bats on the team. In 39 chances, he has 16 hits, four for extra bases and one that went over the fence for a home run. He’s driven in seven runs and scored four for himself.
It appears that Upton is going to continue his poor approach at the plate, though, despite the fresh start. In eight years with Tampa Bay, he struck out 25.1 percent of the time (FanGraphs).
He’s already struck out eight times in camp.
Travis d'Arnaud, New York Mets
How He Got Here: He was traded by Toronto Blue Jays in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: The New York Mets just couldn’t figure out a solution that would have R.A. Dickey playing at Citi Field for the next couple of seasons.
So the Mets decided to sell high on Dickey and cash in by obtaining some top prospects, including Travis d’Arnaud.
The young Mets catcher is one of the top prospects in baseball and looks to have a promising career ahead of him. He hasn’t hit very well this spring, though, which will likely end with a trip to the minor leagues instead of a spot on the 25-man roster.
D’Arnaud has played in 10 games for New York thus far, hitting .261/.333/.348 with just two extra-base hits and four runs. He’s walked twice and struck out six times in 23 at-bats.
Ben Revere, Philadelphia Phillies
How He Got Here: He was traded by Minnesota Twins in multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: The Philadelphia Phillies have lost a lot of outfield talent the last few seasons and needed to make some sort of move to replenish the pool of players. They did so by trading for Ben Revere, formerly with the Minnesota Twins.
Revere has been one of the best players on one of baseball’s worst teams recently.
Last season, the speedy outfielder hit .294/.333/.342 with 70 runs and 40 stolen bases. He has never hit a major league home run in 254 games, but that didn’t deter Philadelphia from acquiring him.
The Phillies’ new center fielder is off to a great start with his new team. In 14 games, Revere is hitting .340/.367/.426 with four doubles and 10 runs. He also has a team-leading four stolen bases.
Dan Haren, Washington Nationals
How He Got Here: He signed a one-year, $13 million deal.
Spring Overview: With the departure of Edwin Jackson via free agency, the Washington Nationals needed to find someone to complement their already-stacked starting rotation. They looked to veteran right-hander Dan Haren to fill the open No. 5 slot.
Haren is coming off one of his worst seasons as a professional baseball player.
He went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA, his highest since 2004, in 176.2 innings of work, his fewest since that same 2004 season. He has, however, won at least 12 games the last eight seasons.
Spring training hasn’t been too friendly with Haren, but it hasn’t been mean either.
In three outings, he’s thrown nine innings and allowed four runs. On the plus side, though, he’s struck out seven batters while walking just one. The Nationals should be fine with those results.
Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
How He Got Here: He signed a two-year, $28 million deal.
Spring Overview: The Washington Nationals already had one of the best bullpens in baseball, but for whatever reason, the front office felt the need to make it better.
This winter, they did so by bringing in Rafael Soriano, who closed for the New York Yankees in 2012.
Soriano has flip-flopped between setup man and closer over the last couple of seasons. With the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, he saved a career-high 45 games. In 2011, his first in the Bronx, he was the setup man. And then last year, he saved 42 games when Mariano Rivera got injured.
This spring, Soriano has thrown three perfect innings. He’s allowed two hits, struck out three and has yet to walk a batter. Fans should expect to see similar numbers as the year goes on.
Denard Span, Washington Nationals
How He Got Here: He was traded by Minnesota Twins for Alex Meyer.
Spring Overview: Looking to add a bit more depth to a very talented set of outfielders, the Washington Nationals acquired Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for a pitching prospect.
The Nationals now have Span, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth as a very dangerous starting trio.
Span is best known for his slick fielding in the outfield as well as hit ability to hit and run consistently. Last year, he hit .283/.342/.395 with 71 runs and 17 stolen bases.
What’s also good about Span is that he has a great eye, only striking out 12 percent of the time in his career (FanGraphs).
Span, however, has been horrible this spring—which is a bit surprising. He has just four hits in 25 at-bats and he’s already struck out five times. Granted, he has a team-leading seven walks, but what happened to his great eye?
Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs
How He Got Here: He signed a four-year, $52 million deal.
Spring Overview: The Chicago Cubs added a bunch of pitching over the offseason, hoping to find their way out of the National League Central cellar in 2013 and potentially make some noise.
Edwin Jackson is one of the arms Chicago signed and he looks to be slated to play a significant role going forward.
Jackson signed for a bunch of money despite not pitching very well for a very good team in the Washington Nationals in 2012. He went 10-11 in 31 starts and 189.2 innings with a 4.03 ERA. That’s lower than his career ERA of 4.40, but that’s still relatively high.
The Cubs have already seen Jackson’s ability to be inconsistent this spring.
In three starts, he’s thrown nine innings and allowed three runs to score. He’s served up seven hits while striking out three and walking four. Not the greatest numbers, but they could be worse.
Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds
How He Got Here: He was traded by Cleveland Indians in multi-team, multi-player deal.
Spring Overview: The Cincinnati Reds had a very good ball club heading into the winter, but they knew that they were missing something to put them over the top.
They decided Shin-Soo Choo would be the perfect player to do just that.
Choo, a former right fielder that will play center for the Reds, is a very good hitter that is expected to hit atop the Cincinnati lineup in 2013. He’s hit at least .300 three times over the last five seasons and has the potential to hit 20-plus home runs.
Choo has been very hot this spring, which has the Reds looking smart already.
In 10 games and 23 at-bats, he has 10 hits and eight runs. He’s only gone down by way of the K once so far while walking twice. Two of his hits are for extra bases and one left the yard.
Cody Ross, Arizona Diamondbacks
How He Got Here: He signed a three-year, $26 million deal.
Spring Overview: The Arizona Diamondbacks needed to find a good outfielder this winter that would make trading Justin Upton a little easier.
That outfielder turned out to be Cody Ross, who played for the Boston Red Sox last season and had a great year.
In 130 games last season, Ross hit .267/.326/.481 with 22 home runs, 81 RBI and 70 runs. He’ll play a similar role in Arizona, hitting near the heart of the lineup while playing the outfield on a regular basis. Ross was able to stay relatively healthy throughout the entire year.
That’s notable because Ross has yet to play in a spring game for the Diamondbacks due to injury. An MRI showed that Ross has a lower left leg strain and will be out for two or three weeks, according to the official Twitter account of the Diamondbacks.
That is not good news for Ross or Arizona.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
How He Got Here: He signed a six-year, $36 million deal.
Spring Overview: The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their money flaunting this offseason with a big bid to be able to negotiate with Korean star Hyun-Jin Ryu. Los Angeles later agreed to a six-year contract with the left-hander and hoped that he’d make a smooth transition.
Matt Snyder of CBS Sports reports that in seven years in the Korean Baseball Organization, Ryu had a 2.80 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 1,238 strikeouts in 1,269 innings.
Those aren’t bad numbers at all, but it wasn’t MLB competition he was facing, which makes his statistics misleading.
Ryu has pitched in just four spring games for the Dodgers and the deal already looks like a dud.
After tossing one shutout inning in his debut, the lefty has served up a total of seven earned runs in 9.2 innings since. He has struck out 12 batters, but has also served up four walks.
Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
How He Got Here: He signed a six-year, $147 million deal.
Spring Overview: The Los Angeles Dodgers were able to attract the best pitcher on the open market this past offseason, signing Zack Greinke to a monster deal that will keep him out west for the next six seasons.
Greinke did, however, pitch in Los Angeles in 2012 with the Angels.
With the Halos and the Milwaukee Brewers last season, Greinke went 15-5 with 3.48 ERA in 212.1 innings of work. Those are impressive numbers and he certainly was expected to get paid a large sum—which he did.
The right-hander hasn’t looked too sharp this spring though, allowing two earned runs in five innings across two outings. Greinke has been having elbow problems, though, and that may prevent him from taking the mound for a little while.