Early Winners, Losers of MLB's Biggest Offseason Trades
It often takes months, if not years, to determine the winners and losers of MLB's biggest offseason trades.
However, it's never too soon to label a team as an early winner or early loser. What follows is a look at the MLB offseason's six most noteworthy swaps and a breakdown of which teams are looking smart and which ones not so much.
Some of the supposed steals of the winter have instead turned out to be busts—at least for now. In certain cases, both sides have to be happy with the early returns. Of course, in a select few situations, there simply aren't any winners at all.
The Deal: RP Jim Johnson for 2B Jemile Weeks
Baltimore Orioles Received: 2B Jemile Weeks
Oakland Athletics Received: RP Jim Johnson
Sometimes, you get what you pay for.
That appears to be the case with the Oakland Athletics' acquisition of Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles. Oakland landed the closer, who had locked down 101 saves over the previous two seasons, in exchange for Jemile Weeks.
The No. 12 overall pick from the 2008 MLB draft had gone from Oakland's second baseman of the future to persona non grata in the space of just a couple of seasons. Sure, the trade also qualifies as something of a salary dump from Baltimore's perspective, but still, that's not exactly a steep price for an All-Star closer.
However, Johnson has so far been an utter mess for the Athletics. The right-hander lost his gig as the team's closer after just five appearances. The 30-year-old has also been booed on multiple occasions by the team's home fans, as Carl Steward of the Bay Area New Group notes.
Meanwhile, Weeks joined the Orioles at Yankee Stadium on April 9 as a precaution, but was never actually added to the roster after David Lough ended up passing his concussion test, per Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun.
Early Winner: Nobody
Early Losers: Athletics and Orioles
The Deal: 3B David Freese and RP Fernando Salas for CF Peter Bourjos
Los Angeles Angels Received: 3B David Freese and RP Fernando Salas
St. Louis Cardinals Received: CF Peter Bourjos and OF Randal Grichuk
Of the four players involved in this swap, it's been Randal Grichuk—the only one not in the big leagues—who has performed the best.
Through 10 games with the St. Louis Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate, the 22-year-old outfielder is hitting .300 with four doubles and seven RBI. Peter Bourjos, the Cardinals' new center fielder, is batting just .219 (7-for-32). However, Bourjos has hit safely in four of the last five games after an 0-for-13 drought to start off the season.
David Freese, the major piece in the deal for the Los Angeles Angels, has endured a rough start as well. The 2012 All-Star is batting .154 (6-for-39) and owns a .231 slugging percentage.
Fernando Salas is sporting a 4.76 ERA after six relief outings and definitely hasn't impressed Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Back in the opening week of the season, DiGiovanna tweeted the following: "Fernando Salas is a nice kid with some good stuff, but he's pitching his way right back to the minor leagues."
Early Winner: Cardinals
Early Losers: Angels
The Deal: UTL Steve Lombardozzi, RP Ian Krol and SP Robbie Ray for SP Doug Fister
Detroit Tigers Received: UTL Steve Lombardozzi, RP Ian Krol and SP Robbie Ray
Washington Nationals Received: SP Doug Fister
This deal was supposed to be the coup of the offseason for the Washington Nationals, but so far, that has not been the case.
Doug Fister is currently on the disabled list, as the right-hander works his way back from a lat strain he suffered at the end of spring training. Fister is still early in the recovery process, but manager Matt Williams told James Wagner of The Washington Post that the starter was "really impressive" in a 35-pitch bullpen session on April 11.
However, Williams also added that there's still "no timetable" for when he'll begin a minor league rehab assignment. As Wagner notes, Fister also dealt with elbow inflammation during the spring, which is never a good sign for a pitcher.
As for the Detroit Tigers' haul in this swap, utility man Steve Lombardozzi's career with the 2013 American League Central champs proved to be exceptionally brief. The club jettisoned Lombardozzi at the end of the spring to acquire defensive specialist Alex Gonzalez after shortstop Jose Iglesias was ruled out for four to six months.
Gonzalez's glove has proven to be problematic, though, as James Schmehl of the MLive Media Group tweets: "Alex Gonzalez's offense has been significantly better than his defense this year. That is not a good thing."
Ian Krol is off to an encouraging start, as the 22-year-old left-hander has posted a 2.08 ERA in his first five outings. Down in Triple-A, Robbie Ray is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA after two starts.
Early Winner: Tigers
Early Loser: Nationals
The Deal: CF Brandon Barnes and SP Jordan Lyles for CF Dexter Fowler
Colorado Rockies Received: CF Brandon Barnes and SP Jordan Lyles
Houston Astros Received: CF Dexter Fowler
In the opening weeks of 2014, this trade is working out slightly better for the Colorado Rockies than for the Houston Astros.
After getting tagged for four runs in five innings of work against the Miami Marlins on April 2, Jordan Lyles dominated in his second outing for the Rockies. On April 7, the 23-year-old went 6.2 innings, allowing one run on five hits. Lyles also helped himself out at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a couple of RBI.
Brandon Barnes has also been a solid under-the-radar pickup for the Rockies. The 27-year-old outfielder received a vote of confidence from Carlos Gonzalez entering the season, per Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post:
The intensity he brings everyday, you see it, you feel it, he brings it. You talk about leading by example, you have no choice but to follow him. He can help us. Every team needs a guy like him.
With the ability to play all three outfield spots and the speed to steal bases, Barnes, who is batting .273 (6-for-22), is definitely helping the club.
The Astros certainly aren't disappointed with their return, either.
Manager Bo Porter described Dexter Fowler as a "catalyst" atop Houston's lineup, via MLB Network Radio. However, after starting the season with three straight multihit games, the 28-year-old has tumbled into an 0-for-13 rut.
Early Winner: Rockies
Early Losers: Nobody
The Deal: Three-Team Trade Between Angels, Diamondbacks and White Sox
Arizona Diamondbacks Received: LF Mark Trumbo, OF Brandon Jacobs and SP A.J. Schugel
Chicago White Sox Received: CF Adam Eaton
Los Angeles Angels Received: SP Hector Santiago and SP Tyler Skaggs
Back in December, a scout told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com that he believed Mark Trumbo could hit 40 home runs in 2014. With six homers in his first 15 games, that doesn't seem like an unreasonable target for the Arizona Diamondbacks slugger.
Of course, the 28-year-old's defense in left field has been just as bad as advertised, as Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs tweets.
As impressive as Trumbo's early-season power surge has been, Adam Eaton's all-around play has been equally as strong. The Chicago White Sox's new table-setter is hitting .327 (17-for-52) with a .419 OBP and an MLB-leading 14 runs.
For the Los Angeles Angels, the early results have been mixed. Tyler Skaggs shut down the Houston Astros over eight innings of work back on April 5. However, in his second outing on April 11, the 22-year-old did not fool the New York Mets, as he served up four runs on nine hits over seven innings.
Hector Santiago has piled up 10 strikeouts in his first 9.1 innings of work spanning two starts. In both of those outings, though, the lefty has taken the loss and has allowed 12 hits and six walks while racking up a 7.71 ERA.
Early Winners: Diamondbacks and White Sox
Early Loser: Angels
The Deal: 2B Ian Kinsler for 1B Prince Fielder and Cash
Detroit Tigers Received: Ian Kinsler
Texas Rangers Received: Prince Fielder and $30 million
After back-to-back subpar seasons with the Texas Rangers, Ian Kinsler appears to be revitalized with his new club, the Detroit Tigers. Through his first 10 games, the second baseman is hitting .302 (13-for-43) with three doubles, one home run and a couple of stolen bases.
As Kinsler explained via Steve Kornacki of Fox Sports Detroit, the veteran put in extra work in the offseason to become a "real threat on the bases." Early on that's definitely been the case, as Jon Paul Morosi dubbed the 31-year-old a "disruptive presence" on the basepaths.
Conversely, Prince Fielder has been a liability as a baserunner and a question mark at first base. The slugger has also yet to get going at the plate, as he's hitting .149 (7-for-47) in his first 13 games.
Of course, in 1,334 games in his career, the 29-year-old owns a .912 OPS. As a result, I expect that it will only be a matter of time before the five-time All-Star hits his way out of his early-season funk.
Early Winner: Tigers
Early Loser: Rangers
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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