Key Takeaways from Week 8 of MLB Hot Stove Moves, Chatter
Major League Baseball's hot stove has cooled considerably since the winter meetings came and went, but with a number of impact free agents still searching for a new home, there is plenty of action still on tap before the start of spring training.
While things have slowed, this past week was by no means devoid of action. Aroldis Chapman was traded, and Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda and Stephen Drew all made their free-agency decisions.
Before we look ahead to who could potentially be the next domino to fall this offseason, let's take a quick look at five key takeaways from this past week around Major League Baseball.
Aroldis Chapman the Starter?
It's been a tumultuous offseason for flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, to say the least.
He appeared to be on his way to the Los Angeles Dodgers during winter meetings, but details of an alleged domestic violence incident involving Chapman and his girlfriend put the trade on hold, and talks eventually fell apart between the two sides.
Still set on trading the free-agent-to-be, the Cincinnati Reds finally moved the 27-year-old last week when they shipped him to the New York Yankees in exchange for four prospects.
Details on the rest of the Chapman market have slowly emerged since, and the most interesting comes from the Miami Marlins.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Marlins not only had serious interest in acquiring Chapman, but they were kicking around the idea of using him to fill their need for a No. 2 starter.
Chapman has never started a game at the major league level. However, he was used primarily as a starter during his time in Cuba, and he started 16 games in the minors.
The ship has likely sailed on a move to the rotation for Chapman now that he's joined the Yankees. He'll team up with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to form an electric bullpen trio, but the fact that the idea was legitimately raised this offseason is interesting nonetheless.
Ian Desmond the Super-Utility Man?
Ian Desmond had a chance to cash in with a seven-year, $107 million extension with the Washington Nationals prior to last season, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
Instead, he opted to play out his final year of arbitration in search of even bigger money in free agency.
As an elite offensive shortstop coming off of three consecutive 20/20 seasons, it seemed entirely possible that he could find more money than that on the open market, but his 2015 season did not go according to plan.
While he did some damage control with a strong second half, he still finished with a disappointing .233/.290/.384 line that included 19 home runs and 13 stolen bases.
Despite those mediocre numbers, Desmond was still the top shortstop of this year's free-agent class, and he turned down a qualifying offer from the Nationals to begin the offseason.
His market has been slow to develop to this point, but a potential change in his defensive role could change that.
Buster Olney of ESPN offered up the following:
"The 30-year-old Desmond is coming off a season in which he struggled both defensively and offensively, and it might make sense for him to consider a one-year deal and a transition to a super-utility role."
He goes on to speculate that the San Francisco Giants could be a potential fit, with Desmond seeing the bulk of his playing time in left field but also serving as the primary backup across the infield.
After watching a number of teams clamor to sign Ben Zobrist before he eventually joined the Chicago Cubs, it stands to reason that there would be no shortage of interest in Desmond if he were willing and able to accept such a role.
Mixed Signals on the Los Angeles Angels Plans
The Los Angeles Angels began the offseason in need of an offensive boost after falling from first in the majors in runs scored in 2014 to 20th in the league this past season.
The pitching staff will appreciate having the slick-fielding Andrelton Simmons behind them, but the career .256 hitter won't do much for the offense.
Meanwhile, the likes of Yunel Escobar, Daniel Nava, Craig Gentry and Cliff Pennington are all useful pieces, but none of them come anywhere near qualifying as an impact bat.
The need for another run producer has led to plenty of speculation that the Angels could make a run at one of the big bats left on the free-agent market, but at this point there seems to be some mixed signals about their actual plans.
According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, team owner Arte Moreno said that the Angels were not in on Jason Heyward prior to his signing with the Chicago Cubs, and they are not in serious talks with Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon or Chris Davis.
However, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports seems to believe otherwise, as he wrote on Dec. 31:
Angels owner Arte Moreno recently said aloud that he didn't intend to sign one of the big outfielders remaining, but word is that the Angels are still in contact with the big guys—Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and perhaps Alex Gordon, too. It's quite likely someone over there's still thinking about it.
There's a clear need to find some viable protection for Mike Trout, especially with Albert Pujols another year older and set to begin the season on the disabled list, following offseason foot surgery.
Only time will tell what the Angels are really planning.
A New Wrinkle in the Chicago White Sox Interest in Free-Agent Outfielders
While the Los Angeles Angels status on the outfield market is still up in the air, the Chicago White Sox have made it no secret that they are looking to add a corner-outfield bat.
The White Sox were the lowest-scoring team in the American League last season, plating a paltry 3.84 runs per game to rank ahead of only the Miami Marlins (3.78) and Atlanta Braves (3.54) league wide.
A number of players fell short of expectations across the roster, but among the most disappointing was right fielder Avisail Garcia who many pegged as a potential breakout candidate.
The 24-year-old wound up hitting .257/.309/.365 with 17 doubles, 13 home runs and 59 RBI. Coupled with his poor defense in right field, that added up to a minus-0.3 WAR.
The White Sox won't give up on Garcia just yet, but at the same time they would obviously benefit from adding another impact bat to the lineup.
That said, it appears they are not willing to make a significant commitment to any of the remaining free agents, at least in terms of the length of a deal.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the team is interested in both Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes but only on three-year deals.
The market for both players—as well as the likes of Justin Upton and Chris Davis—has been slow to develop this winter, but it's hard to see any of them accepting just a three-year deal at this point.
We shall see.
Los Angeles Dodgers Finally Bolster Their Rotation
After an offseason of disappointment and relative inactivity, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally addressed the starting rotation this past week with the additions of Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda.
Let's take a quick look at how the staff now shapes up from top to bottom:
- LHP Clayton Kershaw
- LHP Scott Kazmir
- LHP Brett Anderson
- RHP Kenta Maeda
- LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
Along with those five guys, there is also some quality depth on the roster with Alex Wood and Mike Bolsinger coming off decent seasons and prospects Zach Lee, Frankie Montas and Joe Wieland all knocking on the door.
That said, there is little question Scott Kazmir is a significant downgrade from Zack Greinke in the No. 2 starter spot, and no one knows what to expect from Kenta Maeda at this point.
While some hyped the Japanese standout as a potential No. 2 starter, Eric Longenhagen of ESPN offered up a slightly less-glowing review of the 27-year-old.
Maeda's fastball will sit in the 87-92 mph range...His repertoire is deep, as is the case for most Japanese exports, featuring a heavily used slider, changeup, cutter and curveball. The slider has been front and center among those, used around 25 percent of the time...The changeup has come along lately and flashed as a plus pitch during this autumn's Premier 12 event...The cutter and low-70s curveball are fringe and below-average pitches respectively.
That's the repertoire of a fifth starter that plays up because of above-average control and good sequencing, so it's reasonable to project Maeda as a fourth starter in a big-league rotation if he stays healthy.
With the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks both getting better from a pitching standpoint this winter, the Dodgers have their work cut out for them if they hope to defend their division title and return to the postseason.
At least they've finally done something to address the rotation, though.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.