The 10 Most Overrated Moves of the 2014 MLB Offseason
The MLB offseason is a time of over-analysis on the part of sportswriters and fans alike. Every move that is made is scrutinized, and too-early predictions are made left and right, all while we bide our time until the new season begins.
That may have sounded like a negative take on the offseason, but it really is a fun time to be a baseball fan. Hope springs eternal for all 30 teams heading into each new season, and everyone has something to talk about in the offseason, regardless of which team they root for.
Until the teams start playing actual games, it's impossible to know exactly how offseason moves will pan out. However, some acquisitions simply look better than others right now, a month or so from the start of spring training.
With that in mind, what follows is a look at the 10 most overrated moves of the 2014 MLB offseason.
Atlanta Braves Sign Gavin Floyd to a One-Year, $4 Million Deal
From 2008 to 2012, Gavin Floyd went a combined 62-56 with a 4.12 ERA (108 ERA+) while pitching for the White Sox. He fell off a bit after the 2010 season though, with a 24-28 record and 4.38 ERA (98 ERA+) from the beginning of 2011 until he was shelved with an arm injury after the first month of the 2013 season.
He underwent Tommy John surgery on May 8 of last year, and he is expected to be sidelined for at least the first month of the 2013 season, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.
His contract pays him a $4 million base salary and also includes $4.5 million in incentives. The Braves would have been better off pushing more money toward the incentive side of things, as there is no guarantee he'll be healthy.
Just last offseason, Scott Baker signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Cubs and made just three appearances, while reliever Ryan Madson signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Angels and never took the mound.
The Braves need a veteran starter to provide some depth in their young starting rotation, and while Floyd could emerge as that guy, they would have been better served spending on someone like Joe Saunders, who has proven durable if nothing else.
Toronto Blue Jays Sign Dioner Navarro to a Two-Year, $8 Million Deal
Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia hit just .194/.227/.365 last season, though he did manage 21 home runs and 55 RBI, and the team entered the offseason looking to upgrade at the position.
Arencibia was non-tendered on Dec. 2, and the team signed Dioner Navarro to a two-year, $8 million deal two days later. He will serve as the team's primary catcher for the upcoming season.
The deal marked a sizable raise for Navarro, who signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal to be the Chicago Cubs' backup last offseason and wound up playing his way into extended at-bats thanks to a surprise offensive breakout.
After hitting just .211/.279/.325 in 369 at-bats combined in the three seasons leading up to 2013, he posted a .300/.365/.492 line with 13 home runs and 34 RBI in 240 at-bats.
A former top prospect and an All-Star with the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2008, Navarro is still just 29 years old. However, he could very easily wind up exposed with expanded playing time, and with Josh Thole and Erik Kratz as his backups, the Blue Jays have no viable backup plan should he falter.
San Diego Padres Sign SP Josh Johnson to a One-Year, $8 Million Deal
As recently as 2010, Josh Johnson was among the best pitchers in all of baseball. He went 11-6 with an NL-best 2.30 ERA to finish fifth in NL Cy Young voting.
He started the following season strong, but he was lost for the year after just nine starts. That was followed by a subpar, albeit healthy, 2012 season in which he went 8-14 with a 3.81 ERA in what would be his final season with the Marlins.
Traded to the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason, many expected Johnson to be in for a big season thanks to a change of scenery. Instead, he struggled to a 6.20 ERA over 16 starts before injury struck once again. He was one of the biggest disappointments of the year.
Looking to improve their rotation, the San Diego Padres took a chance on him with a one-year, $8 million deal in a move that many have hailed as the potential steal of the offseason.
Granted, his 4.62 FIP and .356 BABIP suggest he was the victim of some bad luck, and a move to Petco Park will no doubt help his numbers as well, but he was terrible last season nonetheless. Expecting him to be a steal at $8 million looks to be overly ambitious.
San Francisco Giants Re-Sign Tim Lincecum to a Two-Year, $35 Million Deal
Tim Lincecum won back-to-back NL Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, and over his first four full seasons in the San Francisco Giants rotation he went 62-36 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
The drop-off was a sharp one in 2012. He looked like a completely different pitcher altogether. He still stayed healthy enough to make 33 stats, but he went just 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA and career-worst 1.47 WHIP.
A strong performance in the postseason made it look like he had gotten things back on track heading into 2013, but he was subpar once again. While the numbers were slightly better than 2012, he was still far from his old self, finishing the year 10-14 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.32 WHIP.
There were plenty of questions as to what the 29-year-old would be worth on the open market, but the Giants didn't wait around to find out, signing him to a two-year, $35 million extension on Oct. 23.
He'll earn $17 million this coming season and $18 million in 2015, and he has full no-trade protection over those two years. That's front-of-the-rotation money, and he's pitched like a No. 5 starter the past two years.
Philadelphia Phillies Sign RF Marlon Byrd to a Two-Year, $16 Million Deal
After a breakout season with the Texas Rangers in 2009, Marlon Byrd signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.
An All-Star in his first season with the team when he hit .293/.346/.429, he saw those numbers drop to .276/.324/.395 as injuries limited him to just 119 games in his second season on the North Side.
The struggles continued to open his third season with the team. He hit just .070/.149/.070 over his first 13 games before being shipped to the Boston Red Sox for reliever Michael Bowden. By mid-June the Red Sox had released him, and he spent the rest of the season in free agency.
Forced to settle for a minor league deal from the New York Mets last offseason, he quickly played his way into everyday at-bats. When the season came to a close, he had hit .291/.336/.511 with 24 home runs and 88 RBI, finishing the season in the playoffs with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Good as those numbers were, he seems like a prime candidate for regression, and not just because he'll be 36 years old this coming season. With a .364 BABIP and 16.4% HR/FB rate, he'll have a hard time duplicating those numbers for a Phillies team that needed to get younger, not older.
Minnesota Twins Sign SP Ricky Nolasco to a Four-Year, $49 Million Deal
Ricky Nolasco entered the 2013 season all but assured of being traded at some point during the year, but that distraction did not keep him from putting up solid numbers for a bad Miami Marlins team. He was 5-8 with a 3.85 ERA in 18 starts before being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Thrust into a playoff race in LA, Nolasco stepped his game up over his first 12 starts with the team, going 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA to help shore up an injury-plagued pitching staff.
However, he stumbled big-time down the stretch, allowing 17 earned runs over 12 innings of work in his final three starts. He made just one start in the postseason, allowing three runs in four innings of work to earn the loss. He did not boost his stock with a big October as Anibal Sanchez did the previous season.
Still, the season as a whole did boost his stock, and he was firmly in the second tier of available starters. With a number of teams interested, he managed to get a fourth year from the pitching-starved Minnesota Twins.
He'll serve as the ace of the Twins' staff this coming season, despite the fact that he's a No. 3 starter on a good team at best. The Twins' desperation to get better in the starting rotation was clear with the money they shelled out for the 31-year-old Nolasco.
Seattle Mariners Acquire 1B/OF Logan Morrison from Miami Marlins
Just before the start of the winter meetings, the Seattle Mariners made the biggest splash of the offseason, signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a massive 10-year, $240 million deal.
Last offseason, the team added a trio of first base/outfield/DH types with the signing of Raul Ibanez and trade acquisitions of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales. With all three of those guys gone in free agency, the team employed a similar strategy at the meetings.
After signing injury returnee Corey Hart to a one-year deal, the team dealt hard-throwing reliever Carter Capps to the Miami Marlins for Logan Morrison, picking up two very similar players to fill out the middle of their lineup.
As a 23-year-old in his first full season in 2011, Morrison posted a .797 OPS with 23 home runs and 72 RBI. Things have not gone well for him since then though. Injuries have limited him to just 178 games the past two seasons, and he's hit just .236/.321/.387 over that span.
The team would have been better off just re-signing Morse to a one-year deal and hoping he can turn things around; he has more offensive potential than Morrison. Throw in the fact that Capps was a high-upside young arm with future closer stuff, and the deal just doesn't look good for the Mariners.
Kansas City Royals Sign SP Jason Vargas to a Four-Year, $32 Million Deal
The Kansas City Royals have addressed a pair of major needs this offseason with the additions of second baseman Omar Infante and right fielder Norichika Aoki, but their biggest question mark heading into 2014 was how they would replace Ervin Santana in the rotation.
Santana was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels last offseason in what amounted to a cost-cutting move, and he had a nice bounce-back season, posting a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 211 innings of work.
That set the 31-year-old up for what will likely be a hefty payday once he finds a new home, and the Royals inked workhorse left-hander Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million deal to replace him.
His inclusion on this list is nothing against Vargas; he is a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm capable of eating up 200 innings and posting an ERA under 4.00. However, the Royals would have been much better off signing someone like Bartolo Colon on a two-year deal rather than investing four years in Vargas.
Top prospects Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura are both expected to be in Kansas City at some point in 2014, and if both establish themselves for rotation spots in 2015, the four years the Royals gave Vargas will look even more unnecessary.
New York Mets Sign Curtis Granderson to a Four-Year, $60 Million Deal
The New York Mets got very little offensive production from their outfielders last season outside of Marlon Byrd, and their lack of options is a big reason he was able to turn a minor league contract into significant playing time.
As a result, it came as no surprise that acquiring a pair of outfielders was atop the team's offseason to-do list. The Mets worked quickly to fill one spot, signing bounce-back candidate Chris Young to a one-year, $7.25 million deal, but they were still looking to make a splash.
Then just before the winter meetings, they got their guy when they signed Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal.
Granderson was limited to just 61 games last season, suffering a right forearm and left wrist injury on a pair of separate hit by pitch incidents. As a result, he hit just .229/.317/.407 with seven home runs in 214 at-bats on the season.
In the end, the Mets are paying top dollar for the age 33-36 seasons of a player who was once a dynamic all-around offensive player but has turned into a low average/on-base guy who swings for the fences and is coming off of hand surgery.
Oakland Athletics Acquire RP Jim Johnson from Baltimore Orioles
After spending the first six seasons of his career as a middle reliever, the Baltimore Orioles moved Jim Johnson to the closer's role in 2012. He responded with a career year.
He finished the season 51-of-54 on save chances with a 2.49 ERA, and he made his first All-Star appearance and finished seventh in AL Cy Young voting, winning the AL Rolaids Relief Man award.
The right-hander led the AL in saves for a second consecutive season this past year with 50, but he also blew an MLB-high nine saves. Projected to earn $10.8 million in arbitration this winter, the Orioles dealt him to the Oakland A's for second baseman Jemile Weeks on the eve of the non-tender deadline.
For the A's, Johnson replaces Grant Balfour at the back end of a bullpen that also added Luke Gregerson to the mix and features Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle in the late innings. On the surface it's a nice addition for the A's, but for a team on a budget it's a head-scratcher.
Balfour was set to sign a two-year, $15 million deal with the Orioles in December before some controversy popped up surrounding his physical and the deal fell apart.
That begs the question, why not just re-sign Balfour, who had a much better season in 2013, as opposed to paying more for Johnson?