Re-Grading MLB's 10 Biggest Offseason Acquisitions at the 2014 Midway Point
It’s hard to believe we’re nearly halfway through the 2014 season.
But if the second half is anything like we’ve seen so far, then baseball fans are in store for an exciting summer.
Throughout the season, Bleacher Report’s MLB staff will be reflecting on this year’s biggest offseason acquisitions by evaluating each player’s performance for his new team. In mid-May, Joel Reuter shared his insight while grading many of the high-profile acquisitions. Today, we’ll do something similar with new, fresh grades for baseball's 10 biggest offseason signings or trades.
To be clear, this is not a list or ranking of the 10 best acquisitions that took place prior to the 2014 season; it’s intended to highlight high-priced players that either signed with a new team or were traded elsewhere. Therefore, you won’t find guys here like Michael Morse, Scott Kazmir or Justin Morneau, who have already offered tremendous value relative to their one- or two-year contracts.
Grades were determined based on players' performance so far this season and obviously do not reflect the potential value remaining on their respective contracts.
With that said, here are the grades for MLB’s top 10 offseason acquisitions at the midway point.
Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats: 266 PA, .270/.320/.598, 15 2B, 21 HR, 57 RBI, 7.5 BB%, 15.9 K%, .388 wOBA, 146 wRC+ (62 G)
Acquired: Free Agent (Six years, $68 million)
Jose Abreu took baseball by storm to kick off his major league career, as he was named AL Player of the Month after setting a new rookie record for home runs (10), RBI (32) and total bases (71) in April/March.
Additionally, he currently leads all rookies in home runs (21), RBI (57) and OPS (.918)—and basically every other production-based metric out there. Headed into Monday, Abreu ranked second among all qualified hitters in slugging percentage (.598), third in home runs and fourth in RBI.
He likely would rank at the top of all three categories if not for a stint on the 15-day disabled list due to ankle soreness. Despite missing 14 games, the 27-year-old slugger has batted .296/.338/.606 with four doubles, six home runs and 15 RBI in 18 contests since his activation.
Abreu isn't even halfway into his first full season in the major leagues, but it's already looking like the South Siders found a steal in Abreu at an average of $11.3 million per season.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Yankees
2014 Stats: 201 PA, .220/.279/.412, 14 2B, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 7.5% BB%, 15.9% K%, .298 wOBA, 85 wRC+ (48 G)
Acquired: Free Agent (Three years, $45 million)
37-year-old Carlos Beltran missed 22 games while on the disabled list due to a bone spur in his right elbow, and he’s batted just .185 in 15 games since being activated June 5. Furthermore, his inability to play the outfield since being activated June 5 has further complicated the New York Yankees' outfield situation, as he’s been limited to designated hitter and therefore stolen at-bats from both Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann in the role.
However, I’d be remiss not to mention Beltran’s heroics Friday night, when he smashed a walk-off, three-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees currently rank 11th in the American League with a .676 OPS from their right fielders, and they rank 14th at designated hitter with a dismal .599 OPS. So it goes without saying that they’ll need Beltran healthy and producing from the middle of the lineup if they plan to stay in the mix for a playoff berth in the ultra-competitive AL East.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats: 310 PA, .329/.390/.437, 16 2B, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 5 SB, 9.0% BB%, 11.6% K%, .358 wOBA, 129 wRC+ (72 G)
Acquired: Free Agent (10 years, $240 million)
The Seattle Mariners have featured one of the worst offenses in the game in recent years, which is why the organization broke the bank this offseason to sign free agent Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal.
While no player can offer the production necessary to justify such an obscene contract, Cano has continued to put up great numbers with his new club. The 31-year-old currently leads all second basemen with an .825 OPS while also ranking second in batting average (.336) and RBI (36).
The only area where Cano hasn’t met expectations is in the power department, as his two home runs in 310 plate appearances currently have him on pace for a season total of 14, per ZIPS via FanGraphs.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats: 300 PA, .248/.377/.386, 11 2B, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 3 SB, 14% BB%, 21.3% BB%, .345 wOBA, 114 wRC+ (70 G)
Acquired: Free Agent (Seven years, $130 million)
With Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Jurickson Profar likely out for the rest of the year, the Texas Rangers offense is and will continue to be a shell of what it was expected to be headed into the season. One of the few bright spots has been Shin-Soo Choo, who’s been able to stay healthy despite a track record of injuries and serve as a consistent presence in the top third of the batting order.
But after posting a .907 OPS with eight extra-base hits in April/March, followed by an .846 OPS and 20 runs scored in May, Choo has struggled mightily in 19 games this month, with a .136/.278/.197 batting line and only six runs scored.
Unfortunately, the Rangers will be forced to rely on him (as they already have) for the remainder of the season if they want to avoid a last-place finish in the AL West.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees
2014 Stats: 312 PA, .280/.350/.396, 16 2B, 4 HR, 37 R, 21 SB, 9.9% BB%, 16.7% K%, .330 wOBA, 106 wRC+ (72 G)
Acquired: Free Agent (Seven years, $153 million)
Jacoby Ellsbury has been the most productive of the three high-profile hitters signed by the Yankees this offseason, as he currently leads the team in extra-base hits (22) and stolen bases (21) and ranks second in batting average (.280) and runs scored (37).
The center fielder’s numbers also compare favorably to those of his AL peers who qualify at the position, ranking first in steals, third in on-base percentage (.350) and fourth in batting average, runs scored and OPS (.746).
While he’s proved to be a nice addition thus far, it’ll be interesting to see how the 30-year-old performs during the remaining years of his contract, both given his injury history and the natural attrition rate for up-the-middle players.
Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers
2014 Stats: 178 PA, .247/.360/.360, 8 2B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 14.0% BB%, 13.5% K%, .305 wOBA, .86 wRC+ (42 G)
Acquired: Trade (from Detroit for Ian Kinsler plus $30 million)
The Rangers expected big things from Price Fielder this season after acquiring him from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, ignoring the fact that his power numbers had declined during his two years in Detroit. However, the last thing anyone imagined was that the 30-year-old slugger, who had played in at least 161 games in each of the last five seasons, would end up injured.
After struggling through the first two months of the season with a .247/.360/.360 batting line, three home runs and 16 RBI in 42 games, the Rangers announced that their prized acquisition would require season-ending neck surgery to have two cervical discs fused.
While the Rangers aren’t to blame for the situation, Fielder still has been a huge disappointment given the organization’s outlook headed into the season.
Brian McCann, C, New York Yankees
2014 Stats: 260 PA, .222/.285/.360, 7 2B, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 6.9% BB%, 13.5% K%, .287 wOBA, 77 wRC+ (68 G)
Acquired: Free Agent (Five years, $85 million)
Similar to the Rangers-Fielder situation, the Yankees expected Brian McCann (along with Ellsbury and Beltran) to infuse their lineup with much-needed left-handed power—in addition to everything else he offers on the other side of the ball.
While McCann has continued to pad his already sterling defensive resume, his lack of production from the middle of the order this season has been major disappointment. Specifically, the left-handed batter is yet to adjust to the number of defensive shifts against him this year; an examination of McCann’s heat map (via MLBFarm.com) highlights an inconsistent approach in which he, seemingly frustrated from repeatedly hitting into the shift, has intentionally strayed from his strength as a pull hitter in order to utilize the opposite field.
Earlier in the season, I expressed concern about the impact of the increasing number of shifts against McCann but still believed that he’d break out of the funk to offer his usual production. While I still think he’ll heat up, it’s hard to see the 30-year-old living up to his $17 million salary this season.
Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets
2014 Stats: 302 PA, .234/.358/.399, 12 2B, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 5 SB, 15.6% BB%, 24.2% K%, .339 wOBA, 119 wRC+ (73 G)
Acquired: Free Agent (Four years, $60 million)
The New York Mets were proactive this offseason in addressing their lack of outfield production, signing Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal. He was reported (via Joel Sherman of the New York Post) to have three-year offers from other teams, but the Mets were desperate for power and ultimately landed him with the additional year.
The 33-year-old got off to a horrendous start with a .136 batting average and one home run in the season’s first month. Since then, however, his production has been more in line with what the Mets expected, as he’s batted .288 with eight home runs and 25 RBI since the beginning of the May.
Given his age, injury history and declining contact rate, Granderson’s contract will surely be scrutinized during his time with the Mets. Right now, though, it doesn’t look too bad compared to the performance of last offseason’s other high-profile free-agent signings.
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York Yankees
2014 Stats: 11-2. 106.2 IP, 2.11 ERA, 2.75 FIP, 0.93 HR/9, 1.43 BB/9, 10.04 K/9 (15 GS)
Acquired: Free Agent (Seven years, $155 million plus $20 million posting fee)
Back in February, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman attempted to temper the expectations for Masahiro Tanaka, via ESPN's Andrew Marchand:
We view him to be a really solid, consistent No. 3 starter... There is definitely some unknown because of the transition. We scouted him extensively. Certainly, we look forward to adding him into the mix with the rest of our rotation. That's what we look at him as: A solid, potential No. 3 starter in the big leagues.
Well, so much for that.
Besides being the best pitcher on the planet this season, Tanaka has served as the ace of an injury-plagued Yankees staff and has gotten the best out of his teammates whenever he takes the mound.
We all knew he’d be good, but what he’s done so far is flat-out ridiculous.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Detroit Tigers
2014 Stats: 323 PA, .294/.326/.462, 50 R, 23 2B, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 8 SB, 4.3% BB%, 9.9% K%, .344 wOBA, 116 wRC+ (71 G)
Acquired: Free Agent (from Texas for Prince Fielder plus $30 million)
It’s still too early to declare either the Tigers or Rangers long-term winners in the offseason Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler swap, but there’s no questioning that Detroit has had the better end of the deal in 2014.
While Fielder struggled through 42 games and will miss the rest of the season following neck surgery, Kinsler has been perfect in the Tigers lineup, as he currently ranks second in the AL in doubles, fifth in runs scored and eighth in hits (89).
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