The 2013 MLB tender deadline has changed the landscape of the remaining free-agent market, enhanced a contender and left the baseball world wondering about the thought process of some general managers.
From the moment the baseball news started trickling in, a nonstop array of reports, tweets and breaking stories emerged from all corners of the baseball world. With the MLB Winter Meetings and Rule 5 draft set for next week, this was the last chance for teams to maneuver their 40-man rosters prior to the start of the offseason frenzy.
After a crazy day of rumors, one lopsided trade and the fate of many arbitration-eligible players decided, the following is a look at the winners and losers of the 2013 tender deadline in Major League Baseball.
The trade between the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers headlined the tender-deadline day, but only one contending organization came out a clear winner on Monday.
By adding the underrated Doug Fister to a rotation that already includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals have assembled one of the best units in baseball. By surrendering so little for two years of team control on Fister, Washington guarantees themselves at least two years of this quartet under contract together.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, per Justin Havens and Mark Simon of ESPN.com, Fister isn't just a good pitcher, he's in select company over the last three seasons. During that time frame, only six American League pitchers have thrown 100 innings and posted an ERA of 3.75 or below in every season. Fister, along with Jered Weaver, David Price, Justin Verlander, James Shields and Felix Hernandez, was one of those arms.
Since 2011, Fister's impeccable command has placed him among the best starting pitchers in strikeout-to-walk ratio, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Over the last three seasons, only eight pitchers have posted a better SO/BB. One of them: Fister's new teammate, Jordan Zimmermann.
Outside of the versatile Steve Lombardozzi, Washington was able to secure a top-tier arm without subtracting a major contributor from their big-league team. For a squad looking to rebound from a disappointing 2013, replacing Dan Haren's ineffective contributions with Fister's brilliance could be a springboard back to the postseason.
According to Andrew Rickli, and later confirmed by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Baltimore Orioles completed a deadline deal that sent relief pitcher Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics.
The return, second baseman Jemile Weeks, is less significant than the simple act of moving Johnson off the roster and away from the payroll in 2014. According to Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors, via Tim Dierkes, Johnson was projected to earn over $10 million in arbitration after posting 101 saves over the last two seasons.
If the #Orioles now turn around and use the Jim Johnson money and the Brian Roberts money on real help not 4A guys I'll be fine with this— Ken Weinman (@KenWeinmanSport) December 3, 2013
Considering the concern in Baltimore over retaining Chris Davis or Matt Wieters past 2015, every dollar counts in "Charm City."
It remains to be seen if Dan Duquette, Baltimore's general manager, will opt to use the savings to acquire an impact bat for 2014 (Carlos Beltran), invest in a veteran arm for the starting rotation (Ervin Santana) or to attempt early contract-extension talks with either Wieters or Davis.
Regardless of how Johnson's projected salary is used this winter, it's likely a much better allocation than spending over $10 million on a flawed closer.
Before slamming the deal that sent Fister to Washington, it's worth noting that Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski is one of the smartest executives in the sport. If Robbie Ray, Ian Krol or Steve Lombardozzi turn out to be solid contributors on a World Series winning club in Detroit, few will be shocked.
With that out of the way, trading Fister for that return simply doesn't make sense for a team that entered the offseason on the cusp of a championship. With the right moves, the Detroit Tigers were on the verge of getting over the hump and closing the deal in October.
Now, weeks after shipping Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, the Tigers are a different team than the one that bowed out of the American League Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox.
Kinsler's arrival solidified second base, opened up the return of Miguel Cabrera to the less demanding infield corner position and gave the front office financial flexibility. Now, the removal of Fister from the rotation will open up the door for Drew Smyly to shift back into a starting role.
It's clear the Tigers are different than the team that captured the AL Central in 2013. However, the jury is still out on if they are a better team. As of this moment, before any more Dombrowski splashes, they look and feel like a worse team than the group that battled Boston in the ALCS.
Hours after announcing the signing of free-agent catcher Dioner Navarro to a two-year contract, via MLB Trade Rumors, the Toronto Blue Jays parted ways with the powerful, yet free-swinging J.P. Arencibia.
Despite a 21-homer season in 2013, Arencibia profiled as one of the worst offensive players in all of baseball. After hitting .194/.227/.365, with an impossibly bad 148-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Toronto made the decision to upgrade from the offensive black hole in their lineup.
Although the projected $2.8 million arbitration number, per Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors, via Tim Dierkes, wasn't overly high for a contributor, Toronto didn't see the worth in retaining a player who makes outs at a prolific rate.
While the move is a boon for Toronto, it's Arencibia who walks out a loser on deadline day. In a game starved for power, especially within the catching position, even 21 home runs couldn't garner the 27-year-old catcher a contract.
Now, especially with the delusional Philadelphia Phillies locked into Carlos Ruiz, finding a team willing to take on his flawed bat won't be an easy task for Arencibia's agent. Sure, he can provide power, but at the cost of awful plate discipline and four straight years of a below-average OPS-plus.
If Toronto had simply retained their incumbent catcher, he may have been able to rack up another 20-plus-home-run year in Toronto's homer-friendly park. Down the line, perhaps a misguided general manager would have looked past his flaws in the name of consistent power.
Now, his career is at a crossroads.
Agree? Disagree? Who are the winners and losers of the tender deadline?
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