Early-Season Grades for MLB's Top 15 Offseason Acquisitions

Karl Buscheck@@KarlBuscheckContributor IIIApril 11, 2014

Early-Season Grades for MLB's Top 15 Offseason Acquisitions

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    Gerald Herbert

    From Jose Abreu to Masahiro Tanaka, it's time to dish out early-season grades for MLB's top 15 offseason acquisitions. 

    Of course, nobody likes to get graded—especially after less than a couple of weeks on the job. So, because the sample sizes are so small to this point in the season, 2014 performance won't be the only grading criteria.

    I will also consider how the player fits into his team's plans for the current season. Plus, the grades will take into consideration how likely a given star is to continue his strong early performance or, conversely, rebound from a poor start to 2014. 

    Now, let's take a look at the early-season report cards for MLB's top 15 offseason acquisitions. 

    Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com.

Mark Trumbo, LF, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    David Zalubowski

    Trade Details: Acquired as part of a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox; the Arizona Diamondbacks sent Tyler Skaggs to the Angels and Adam Eaton to the White Sox.

    Contract Details: One year, $4.8 million

    The Report Card

    Mark Trumbo has been exactly as advertised for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014.

    In his first 12 games, the 28-year-old has swatted an MLB-leading five home runs and has driven in 13 runs. The 2012 All-Star has also collected a couple of doubles and is batting .250, which also happens to be his career average in 472 games. 

    Trumbo's glove work is definitely still a work in progress. As John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions recently tweeted, the left fielder has already "cost" his team five runs on defense.

    Grade: A-

Ervin Santana, SP, Atlanta Braves

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    Todd Kirkland

    Contract Details: One year, $14 million

    The Report Card

    Ervin Santana has only made one start for the Atlanta Braves, but it was simply outstanding. On April 9 against the New York Mets, the veteran right-hander worked eight scoreless innings, scattering three hits while punching out six batters. 

    On the night, Santana only threw 88 pitches, and 66 of them went for strikes. As Kevin McAlpin of 680 the Fan tweets, the 31-year-old "became the first pitcher in the Majors to open a game with 20-plus consecutive strikes since 1988."

    As Mark Bowman of MLB.com put it via Twitter: "Santana's debut was one of the most impressive in recent Braves history." So far, Santana is definitely earning his $14 million paycheck.

    Grade: A

A.J. Burnett, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Tony Gutierrez

    Contract Details: Two years, $22.5 million* including a $7.5 million signing bonus

    2014 Salary: $7.5 million

    The Report Card

    On April 6 against the Chicago Cubs, A.J. Burnett's second start as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies did not go well. In an outing which Chris Branch of The News Journal dubbed "uninspiring," the veteran right-hander allowed eight runs (four earned) on five hits and six walks in 5.2 innings of work. 

    Burnett was significantly better in his first start back on April 1 against the Texas Rangers, throwing six innings and allowing one run on seven hits and two walks. Through his first 11.2 innings of work, the 37-year-old has issued eight free passes and plunked two batters. 

    In his upcoming starts, Burnett's walk rate should drop significantly and his effectiveness will rise. 

    Grade: C+

    *Note: Burnett's deal with the Phillies includes a $15 million mutual option for 2015 ($1 million buyout) or a $7.5 million player option. All the specifics can be found right here, per Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Carlos Beltran, RF, New York Yankees

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    Bill Kostroun

    Contract Details: Three years, $45 million

    2014 Salary: $15 million

    The Report Card

    On April 9 against the Baltimore Orioles, Carlos Beltran tagged his first home run as a member of the New York Yankees. The mammoth shot off Miguel Gonzalez landed in the second deck at Yankee Stadium. I suspect that will be just the first of many home runs for the eight-time All-Star in 2014. 

    In nine games, the switch-hitter is batting .273 with three doubles, one home run and four runs. After a slow start to the season, the 36-year-old is clearly rounding into form, as he's now hit safely in four straight contests. 

    Grade: B

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Gene J. Puskar

    Contract Details: Four years, $50 million

    2014 Salary: $11.25 million

    The Report Card

    Ubaldo Jimenez has endured a rough start to his career with the Baltimore Orioles.

    Through his first two outings, the 30-year-old is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA, as he's allowed 13 hits and eight walks in 10.2 innings of work while striking out 10. Forgettable Aprils are nothing new for Jimenez, though. As Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun notes, the starter owns a 5.02 ERA in April over the course of his career. 

    Jimenez even admitted to Encina that he considers himself a "slow starter." One major concern for Jimenez is whether he'll be able to adjust to the ridiculously competitive American League East. So far, the righty has not fared well against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in his first two starts.  

    The Grade: C-

Matt Garza, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Contract Details: Four years, $50 million plus a $13 million club/vesting option for 2018

    2014 Salary: $12.5 million

    The Report Card

    This one is tough.

    Matt Garza's debut for the Milwaukee Brewer's was sensational, despite the fact that the right-hander ended up taking the loss against the Atlanta Braves in a 1-0 defeat. 

    The club's big-money free-agent signing carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and finished the night allowing just one run on two hits over eight frames. 

    In his second outing against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 9, though, Garza was not nearly as crisp. The 30-year-old allowed four runs (three earned). However, after serving up three runs in the first frame, the starter settled down and limited the Phillies to just one run over the final five innings. 

    Grade: A-

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers

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    Paul Sancya

    Trade Details: Acquired from Texas Rangers in exchange for Prince Fielder*

    Contract Details: Five years, $75 million

    The Report Card

    After a couple of underwhelming seasons with the Texas Rangers, Ian Kinsler appears set for a bounce-back year with his new club in 2014. Through his first seven games for the Detroit Tigers, the second baseman is hitting .313 with a double, a home run and six runs.

    However, it's not just with the bat that the three-time All-Star is standing out. Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports explained via Twitter that he was "very impressed" with Kinsler's "aggressiveness on the bases" after the 31-year-old swiped two bags in the first inning of a 7-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 9.

    Grade: B+

    *Note: The Tigers also sent the Rangers $30 million as part of the trade.

Curtis Granderson, RF, New York Mets

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    David Goldman

    Contract Details: Four years, $60 million

    2014 Salary: $13 million

    The Report Card

    Curtis Granderson has not enjoyed a promising start to his tenure with the New York Mets.

    Back on April 2, in just his second game with the club, the right fielder was already hearing the boos, as Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. Through his first nine games, Granderson is batting .125 (4-for-32) with 11 strikeouts. 

    While the early returns have been extremely poor, it is worth noting that all four of Granderson's hits have gone for extra bases, as he's totaled three doubles and a home run. 

    Grade: D

Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox

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    Chris Schneider

    Contract Details: Six years, $68 million

    2014 Salary: $7 million

    The Report Card

    So far, the Chicago White Sox's new $68 million first baseman has been an absolute monster.

    In his first 10 games for the White Sox, Jose Abreu has clubbed three doubles, one triple and four home runs while driving in 14 runs. The Cuban's first two home runs came on April 8 against the Colorado Rockies after Abreu had a "calming" phone call with his mother, per Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago.

    However, as manager Robin Ventura explained via Hayes, the 27-year-old's game isn't just about power.

    "He's more than a slugger...Most of his stuff is professional-type hitting. It's not just going up there, swinging as hard as you can. He's just a good hitter."

    It's still early, and the field for the AL Rookie of the Year Award is loaded. Nonetheless, with two multi-home run games already, it's difficult to envision a scenario in which Abreu isn't right in the middle of the conversation for that honor. 

    Grade: A+

Brian McCann, C, New York Yankees

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    Kathy Willens

    Contract Details: Five years, $85 million

    2014 Salary: $17 million

    The Report Card

    Through his first eight games for the New York Yankees, Brian McCann is batting just .167 (6-for-36) and has yet to collect an extra-base hit. The backstop described the ice-cold start as "weird," via Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. Meanwhile, manager Joe Girardi told Kuty that he thinks the seven-time All-Star's "timing's a bit off."

    On April 10, in the Yankees' 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox, McCann collected his third RBI with his new club, as he snapped an 0-for-14 skid with a single. As the owner of a career .820 OPS, it should only be a matter of time before McCann breaks out of his early-season funk. 

    Grade: C-

Shin-Soo Choo, LF, Texas Rangers

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    Tony Gutierrez

    Contract Details: Seven years, $130 million

    2014 Salary: $14 million

    The Report Card

    Through his first nine games with the Texas Rangers, Shin-Soo Choo is doing exactly what the club brought him in to do. The Rangers' new table-setter has already reached base 18 times and is hitting .355. 

    The 30-year-old, who managed just a .215 average against left-handers a season ago, is even hitting southpaws in 2013. According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Choo is batting .455 (5-for-11) off lefties in the early stages of 2014. That's an encouraging start, but it's far too small of a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions. 

    To this point, Choo is yet to crack his first home run or swipe his first base as a member of the Rangers. 

    Grade: A-

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, New York Yankees

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    Pat Sullivan

    Contract Details: Seven years, $153 million

    2014 Salary: $21.1 million

    The Report Card

    Jacoby Ellsbury is off to a flying start with the New York Yankees.

    In his first 10 games, the center fielder is batting .351 (13-for-37) with three doubles and four stolen bases. Manager Joe Girardi has been so impressed with the 30-year-old's swing that he slotted Ellsbury into the No. 3 spot in the lineup after Mark Teixeira went down with a hamstring injury, per Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger.

    On April 10, in his first matchup against his old club, the Boston Red Sox, Ellsbury scored the game's first run and delivered an RBI single in a 4-1 win. 

    Grade: A

Masahiro Tanaka, SP, New York Yankees

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    Bill Kostroun

    Contract Details: Seven years, $155 million

    2014 Salary: $22 million

    The Report Card

    Entering the 2014 season, there was no player who was more scrutinized than Masahiro Tanaka. However, through his first two outings, the right-hander has lived up to the hype. 

    In his first start against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 4, Tanaka gave up a home run to Melky Cabrera on just the third pitch of the game. However, after that early mistake, the 25-year-old settled down to deliver seven innings of work, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits while racking up eight strikeouts to earn his first MLB win.

    In his home debut on April 9, the Yankees' starter struck out 10 Baltimore Orioles in another seven-inning performance. As ESPN Stats & Info notes via Twitter, Tanaka becomes the first pitcher to begin his career with back-to back starts with eight strikeouts or more since Stephen Strasburg accomplished that feat back in 2010. That's not bad company for the rookie to be keeping. 

    Grade: A-

Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers

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    Trade Details: Acquired from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Ian Kinsler

    Contract Details: Nine years, $214 million

    The Report Card

    With a .162 average and zero home runs in his first nine games, Prince Fielder's first season with the Texas Rangers has so far definitely not gone to plan.

    Worse, the slugger has made defensive miscues in the field and has proved to be a liability on the basepaths. After a costly baserunning blunder in an 8-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on April 4, manager Ron Washington called out Fielder individually, via Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News.

    For now, there's no choice but to give the slugger a low grade. Still, I have no doubt that the 29-year-old, who owns a career .913 OPS, will turn around his season in the bandbox that is Globe Life Park. 

    Grade: D

Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners

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    Ted S. Warren

    Contract Details: 10 years, $240 million

    2014 Salary: $24 million

    The Report Card

    Robinson Cano is batting .300 and playing characteristically strong defense in his first eight games as a member of the Seattle Mariners. The club's new $240 million superstar is also making a positive impact behind the scenes, as teammate Abraham Almonte explains via Jorge Ortiz of USA Today:

    Everyone expects the Robinson who's going to get three hits and make the good play, but the person he is here in the clubhouse, the support, the advice for us young players, that desire to help those trying to make it, is one of the best things he's got. He's a leader.

    However, the leader's grade remains somewhat low, if only because Cano has yet to discover his power stroke in 2014. So far, the 31-year-old has yet to connect on a home run and owns just a .367 slugging percentage. 

    Grade: B+

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.