Top 10 Low-Risk, High-Reward Deals of the 2013-2014 MLB Offseason
Being a general manager is basically a game of taking calculated risks; you sign players or makes trades in the winter that you hope pay dividends in the summer.
Some of them work out, and some of them don’t, but the best general managers will have a better hit ratio than others.
In this article, I am going to break down the top 10 low-risk, high-reward deals of the offseason so far. I will try to provide justification for each one in their respective slides, but as a general rule, we are trying to look for moves that have relatively little risk yet the biggest potential payoff in 2014 and into the future.
10. Boston Red Sox Sign Edward Mujica
Edward Mujica stumbled with the St. Louis Cardinals at the end of last year, but he still saved 37 games and posted a 2.78 ERA. That is not the most remarkable part about him, though, as he threw 64.2 innings and only issued five walks.
That control makes him a very interesting acquisition. Most of the time, he isn’t going to hurt himself or get himself into trouble. If people want to get on base, they need to do the damage themselves.
Although he will probably not be the closer in Boston when the season starts, he can still be a very valuable piece of the bullpen and perform when Boston needs him to.
9. Texas Rangers Sign Shin-Soo Choo
Shin-Soo Choo is incredibly underrated in my opinion. He has never been voted to an All-Star team, but he consistently puts up pretty solid numbers. Last season, he hit .285 with 21 home runs, 54 RBI and 20 stolen bases. On top of that, he drew 112 walks, which brought his on-base percentage up to .423.
He is certainly a five-tool player. He can do a little bit of everything, and he does a lot of it very well. Even that RBI number, which seems a little bit low, will probably increase in the powerful Texas Rangers’ lineup.
He will probably be underrated this season as well, but Shin-Soo Choo was a very safe pick up for the Texas Rangers, who will be able to use him as a run-scorer and a run-producer.
8. Houston Astros Sign Scott Feldman
I know that the Houston Astros are, without a doubt, the worst team in baseball, and I don’t think that signing Scott Feldman will definitely move them out of the cellar.
However, I believe this was a smart move, because he can certainly be a piece for a competitive team. He might not blow anyone away, but he will do a solid job and help reinforce a rotation that desperately needs assistance.
It takes more than one player to turn around a franchise, but by making moves like this, the Houston Astros are moving into a position where they can build a solid group of players. A good team is made up of a number of players rather than one or two stars. Scott Feldman is a piece to the puzzle.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks Acquire Mark Trumbo
I know that this one has spurred a little debate, as Mark Trumbo seems to be moving in the direction of Adam Dunn. His power is continually rising, but his strikeouts are as well, and his batting average is dropping.
However, if he does develop into Adam Dunn, I think there are many worse things that could happen. The Diamondbacks basically traded two prospects for a cheap, young power hitter who seems to be hitting more home runs and driving in more runs every season.
Paul Goldschmidt needed a complimentary power bat in the lineup, and Mark Trumbo will provide that.
6. Houston Astros Acquire Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler will turn 28 a few days before the season begins, so if he progresses like a normal player, he should be entering his prime years. As I said earlier on the slide about Scott Feldman, he is another valuable piece in the Astros puzzle.
Fowler ranks higher on this list because the best has still most likely yet to come for him. Yes, he does meet a need right now for the Houston Astros because he is already a solid player who can do a little bit of everything. However, he should have several solid seasons left in front of him as well.
He is young enough to serve as a long-term asset, but he is experienced enough to have value right now. It was a smart business decision for Houston to acquire him, and they did not pay too high of a price to make it happen.
5. Kansas City Royals Sign Omar Infante
Omar Infante is an underrated second baseman, and outside of Robinson Cano, he was probably the best option at the position on the market this offseason. The Kansas City Royals needed a second baseman desperately, so they got the best one they could get without spending $240 million.
While he has largely been a utility infielder throughout his career, Infante proved last season that he could get it done at the plate as well. He hit .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBI for the Detroit Tigers in only 118 games.
I know that this move might not necessarily be the most glamorous, but he is a surprisingly strong option at a position where it is hard to find a decent player. Infante was a safe investment that will help the Kansas City Royals in 2014.
4. New York Yankees Sign Carlos Beltran
I think that Carlos Beltran will fit in well with the New York Yankees. Certainly, he has lost quite a bit of his speed and is not the defender he used to be, but he proved in 2013 that he can still hit the ball for average and power.
Last season, Beltran hit .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI. Yankee Stadium is generally a hitters’ ballpark as well, so it would not surprise me to see those numbers climb a bit.
He may be getting older, but Carlos Beltran is still one of the more consistent hitters in Major League Baseball. Obviously, there is some risk since he is getting older, but I think this was a smart decision.
3. Detroit Tigers Sign Joe Nathan
Last winter, the Detroit Tigers were expecting to go into the season with the young Bruce Rondon as the team's closer. This season, six-time All-Star Joe Nathan will be handling that job for Detroit, and that is a major step up.
He saved 43 games last season with a career-best 1.39 ERA. He also struck out over one opponent per inning, and his WHIP was an excellent 0.897. Even though he is going to be 39 this season, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all and should have another great season.
In one way, Detroit did take a big risk by sending Prince Fielder away, but I think that they will be fine. Nathan is a solid ninth-inning option.
2. Boston Red Sox Re-Sign Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli is an offensive weapon who will be happy to remain with the Boston Red Sox.
I would argue that there really is not very much risk except for the fact that he is aging, but as a first baseman, he doesn’t need as much range or agility as players at other positions. As long as he can hit, he will fulfill a major part of the duties that come along with being a first baseman.
Fenway Park is a good place to hit a baseball, and I think that this was a solid baseball decision on both sides.
1. Washington Nationals Acquire Doug Fister
Doug Fister is a great pitcher. He has pitched in the American League for his entire career, and his career ERA is 3.53. When you figure that he is moving into a pitcher-friendly ballpark in the National League, the deal gets better and better.
Another reason that this was a smart idea is because the price tag was not very high considering the fact that Fister is still young at 29 years old. The Nationals also only gave up a utility infielder, a relief pitcher and a pitching prospect.
I don’t really see many downsides to this deal, so the risk is obviously minimal. I guess any deal has the potential to go downhill, but I don’t anticipate that with this one.