Ranking the 20 Most Impactful Moves of the MLB Offseason So Far

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2018

Ranking the 20 Most Impactful Moves of the MLB Offseason So Far

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    Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press

    Snail's pace doesn't quite do this year's MLB free-agent market justice.

    That almost guarantees an exciting January on the hot stove, with guys like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Jay Bruce, Greg Holland, Addison Reed and Todd Frazier all still sitting in free agency.

    There could also be a few more blockbuster trades made before pitchers and catchers begin reporting—looking at you, Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Yet, despite the slow-moving offseason, there have still been plenty of significant transactions since the World Series concluded.

    As a status check of sorts, we've decided to rank the 20 most impactful deals of the MLB offseason.

    Expected contributions to a contender, overall acquisition cost and a team's remaining offseason plans all played a role in determining the rankings.

Best of the Rest

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    CC Sabathia
    CC SabathiaDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    20. Chicago White Sox sign C Welington Castillo: While adding Castillo might not move the win-loss needle for the rebuilding White Sox, the signing's impact could be felt for years to come. He'll be tasked with anchoring a young pitching staff still in the early stages of development, and his leadership could prove invaluable.

                      

    19. Arizona Diamondbacks acquire RP Brad Boxberger: Is Archie Bradley ready to take over the closer's role after starring as a setup man? If not, Boxberger, who is just two years removed from leading the AL with 41 saves, provides a nice safety net for the D-backs.

                           

    18. Chicago Cubs sign RP Steve Cishek: Similar situation here with the Cubs and prized free-agent signing Brandon Morrow, who has just 18 career saves. If he falters, Cishek will be waiting in the wings with 121 career saves and a pair of 30-plus-save seasons to his credit.

                           

    17. Milwaukee Brewers sign SP Jhoulys Chacin: This is not exactly the flashy signing some were predicting for the Brewers—there's still time for that, by the way—but Chacin's two-year, $15.5 million deal could wind up being one of the best bargains of the winter. The 29-year-old had a 3.89 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 180.1 innings in San Diego, and he'll be a significant upgrade over the departed Matt Garza.

                 

    16. Cleveland Indians sign 1B Yonder Alonso: The first-half version of Alonso was a worthy All-Star and a legitimate impact player. The second half saw his OPS plummet from .934 to .774 and his over-the-fence power dry up considerably. If he can land somewhere in the middle, he'll be a perfectly acceptable replacement for Carlos Santana on a loaded Indians team.

               

    15. Boston Red Sox re-sign 1B Mitch Moreland: It wasn't the splashy move Red Sox fans may have been hoping for, but Moreland is a perfectly serviceable option at first base. Over the past three seasons, he's posted a 101 OPS+ while averaging 22 home runs, 75 RBI and 1.6 WAR. He should have no problem making good on a two-year, $13 million deal, and his defense remains an underrated piece of his overall value.

                      

    14. Seattle Mariners acquire CF Dee Gordon: It's troubling that the Mariners' biggest offseason move so far has come on the offensive side of things and not in the starting rotation. That said, in a bubble, this is a terrific pickup, and the one-two punch of Gordon and Jean Segura atop the lineup will wreak havoc ahead of a powerful middle of the order.

                      

    13. Texas Rangers sign SP Mike Minor: Minor was an absolute stud in his first season as a full-time reliever, pitching to a 2.55 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 88 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. Now he'll look to return to starting for a Rangers team that's poised to utilize a six-man rotation, and he could be the biggest X-factor in that experiment's success.

                       

    12. Philadelphia Phillies sign 1B Carlos Santana: As the first major signing for the post-rebuild Phillies, Santana will be asked to be a leader both in the middle of the lineup and in the clubhouse. The young bats around him would be wise to implement his patient approach into their own game.

                   

    11. Minnesota Twins sign RP Fernando Rodney: Death, taxes and someone trusting Fernando Rodney to close games. This time around it's the Twins as they look to build off a surprise run to the AL Wild Card Game. After getting by with Brandon Kintzler and Matt Belisle in the ninth inning last season, they'll hope Rodney can spend another year walking the tightrope. He saved 39 games in 45 chances for the D-backs in 2017, despite a 4.23 ERA.

                    

    10. New York Yankees re-sign SP CC Sabathia: Sabathia closed out a five-year, $122 million deal with one of his best seasons in years, going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA over 27 starts and then posting a 2.37 ERA in four postseason outings. He's back on a one-year, $10 million deal, and he won't need to be anything more than a passable No. 4 starter for the Yankees rotation to provide value.

                       

    9. Los Angeles Angels acquire 2B Ian Kinsler: Even coming off a down year and entering his age-36 season, Kinsler will be a massive upgrade for the Angels. Second base produced an abominable .206/.274/.327 line last season, while Kinsler hit .236/.313/.412 with 22 home runs and played his usual stellar defense (6 DRS, 7.5 UZR/150) en route to a 2.1 WAR.

                           

    8. Los Angeles Angels sign 3B Zack Cozart: It speaks to just how good Andrelton Simmons is with the glove that the slick-fielding Cozart will be moving from shortstop to third base after signing a three-year, $38 million deal. The Angels got a .238/.318/.395 line from the hot corner last year, while Cozart enjoyed a breakout season offensively with a .297/.385/.548 line and 24 home runs.

7. Chicago Cubs Sign Tyler Chatwood

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Details: Free agency (three years, $38 million)

    Stats: 107 ERA+, 8-15, 4.69 ERA (4.94 FIP), 1.44 WHIP, 120 K, 147.2 IP, 2.2 WAR

                      

    Outlook

    The numbers don't tell the whole story with Tyler Chatwood.

    Mike Petriello of MLB.com highlighted five reasons the 29-year-old could be the biggest steal of the offseason and compared him favorably to 2017 standout Charlie Morton.

    Simply put, Chatwood has the stuff to be a stud, and his away from Coors Field over the past two seasons back it up.

    • 2016 Home: 4-8, 6.12 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 78 IP
    • 2016 Away: 8-1, 1.69 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 80 IP
    • 2017 Home: 3-8, 6.01 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 70.1 IP
    • 2017 Away: 5-7, 3.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 77.1 IP

    With a rotation anchored by Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana, the Cubs don't need Chatwood to be anything more than a productive No. 4 starter for the signing to be a success.

    If he can stay healthy and everything clicks, he's capable of a lot more.

6. San Francisco Giants Acquire Evan Longoria

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Details: Trade (Acquired from TB along with $14.5 million in exchange for Denard Span, Christian Arroyo, Matt Krook and Stephen Woods)

    Stats: 100 OPS+, .261/.313/.424, 36 2B, 20 HR, 86 RBI, 71 R, 3.6 WAR

                

    Outlook

    The San Francisco Giants entered the offseason at a crossroads.

    Coming off a 98-loss season and with an aging core, no one would have blamed them if they felt the need to begin rebuilding, or at least retooling.

    Then they missed out on landing slugger Giancarlo Stanton after he was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to join them, and again, no one would have blamed them if that finally set in motion a franchise reset.

    Instead, they continued prowling the trade market, eventually swinging a deal for Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.

    The 32-year-old should have no problem improving on the brutal .216/.268/.300 line and nine home runs that were posted by Giants' third basemen this past season.

    One scout even thinks Longoria's change of scenery could lead to an offensive spike, telling Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com: "He'll probably get an adrenaline lift playing on the West Coast in front of big crowds, and he has some more protection there than he had in Tampa Bay."

    There's still work to be done if the Giants hope to bounce back in 2018, but landing Longoria was a huge first step.

5. Chicago Cubs Sign Brandon Morrow

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    Brandon Morrow
    Brandon MorrowMatt Slocum/Associated Press

    Details: Free Agency (Two years, $18 million plus $12 million option for 2020 with a $3 million buyout)

    Stats: 45 G, 10 HLD, 2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 10.3 K/9, 43.2 IP, 1.1 WAR

           

    Outlook

    Unless they pivot and make a strong late push to sign Greg Holland or Addison Reed, it looks like the Cubs will be handing closer duties over to Brandon Morrow in 2018.

    The 33-year-old managed to turn a minor league deal with a $1.25 million MLB salary last season into a hefty $21 million guaranteed over the next two years after a spectacular season setting up Kenley Jansen.

    A promising young starter during his time with the Toronto Blue Jays, Morrow ran into injury issues that limited him to just 46 total appearances over the four-year span from 2013 to 2016.

    He actually began the 2017 season in Triple-A, but from this call-up on May 29 through the conclusion of the postseason, he was an integral part of a Dodgers relief corps that led the NL with a 3.38 ERA.

    Armed with a fastball that averaged 97.8 mph and a lethal slider/cutter combination, there's no question he has the stuff to close.

    He also showed pinpoint control, issuing just nine free passes in 43.2 innings.

    Meanwhile, the Cubs bullpen tied for second-worst in the majors with a 4.25 BB/9 rate last season, and that no doubt played a role in their pursuit of Morrow.

    The decision to sign Steve Cishek gives them a fallback plan if Morrow struggles in his new role, but all the pieces are there for him to be a game-changing addition on the North Side.

4. Colorado Rockies Sign Wade Davis

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Details: Free Agency (Three years, $52 million plus $15 million vesting option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout)

    Stats: 59 G, 32/33 SV, 2.30 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 12.1 K/9, 58.2 IP, 1.9 WAR

            

    Outlook

    Wade Davis is now the highest-paid reliever in MLB history, at least in terms of annual value.

    His $17.3 million salary over the next three years surpassed the massive deals signed by Aroldis Chapman ($17.2 million), Kenley Jansen ($16 million) and Mark Melancon ($15.5 million) last offseason.

    It's hard to say he's not worth it.

    Davis blew just one save in his first and only season closing games for the Cubs, and there's no doubt he's been one of the most dominant bullpen arms in the game since making the full-time shift away from starting in 2014:

    • 244 G, 79/87 SV, 51 HLD, 1.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 11.7 K/9 

    He also proved healthy last season after making a pair of trips to the disabled list with forearm injuries in 2016, further increasing his market value.

    Now he'll join a Colorado Rockies team on the rise, thanks in part to the recruiting efforts of fellow reliever Jake McGee.

    "I told him that this was a team that was going to win now," McGee told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. "I told him that Bud Black was awesome and I really like how he used the bullpen. I told him the team was awesome and the communication was really good. I thought he would be a good fit."

    To his credit, Davis doesn't sound the least bit intimidated by Coors Field.

    "I've pitched [at Coors Field] before and I didn't really notice any difference," he told Saunders. "The environment is different every place you go. You get different temperatures, and winds at different times of the day, so that's constantly changing. You go out there with what you have that day and you keep making pitches."

    In a tough NL West, this could prove to be a real difference-making move for the Rockies.

3. St. Louis Cardinals Acquire Marcell Ozuna

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    Details: Trade (Acquired from MIA in exchange for Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen and Daniel Castano)

    Stats: 145 OPS+, .312/.376/.548, 30 2B, 37 HR, 124 RBI, 93 R, 5.8 WAR

                

    Outlook

    Hot take: The St. Louis Cardinals missing out on Giancarlo Stanton and instead having to "settle" for acquiring Marcell Ozuna was the best thing that could have happened to the organization.

    Yes, Stanton is a superstar and acquiring him would have been a landscape-altering move.

    However, Ozuna is really, really good in his own right and comes at a fraction of the cost. The franchise has done a great job steering clear of albatross contracts while maintaining a perennial contender, and Ozuna fits in nicely.

    Not only is he projected for a very reasonable $10.9 million salary in arbitration by MLB Trade Rumors, it also didn't take any of the team's elite-level prospects to acquire him.

    Sandy Alcantara has an electric arm that might wind up in the bullpen, Magneuris Sierra was an expendable piece in a crowded outfield and Zac Gallen was a fast-rising prospect with a high floor and a low ceiling.

    Now the Cardinals have both the trade chips and the financial flexibility to make another significant move or two before the offseason is over.

    Eric Hosmer and Jake Arrieta are two free agents who have been on their radar, and there's also still a glaring hole at the back of the bullpen.

    Now they have their middle-of-the-order slugger, and they're not hamstrung in pursuits of other major additions.

2. Los Angeles Angels Sign Shohei Ohtani

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Details: International Free Agency ($20 million posting fee plus $2.315 million signing bonus)

    Pitching Stats (Japan): 5 GS, 3-2, 3.20 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 29 K, 25.1 IP

    Hitting Stats (Japan): 231 PA, .332/.403/.540, 16 2B, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 24 R

                 

    Outlook

    It looks like Mike Trout might finally have some help.

    The best player on the planet has made the playoffs just once in his seven-year career—an ALDS sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals in 2014—and the clock is ticking with just three years remaining on his contract.

    Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart should both be significant upgrades and welcome additions to the offensive attack. Healthy seasons from Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker will also make a world of difference for the starting rotation.

    And there's a good chance no one will be talking about any of those guys—or Trout for that matter—when players begin arriving to spring training.

    Instead, all eyes will be on Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.

    Will he stay healthy after it was revealed that he has a first-degree sprain in his UCL?

    If so, will he immediately step into the role of staff ace, or will there be some growing pains as he makes the stateside transition?

    How will the Angels utilize his powerful bat while still putting him in the best position to succeed on the mound?

    You get the idea.

    The 23-year-old is an enigma, and he might just be baseball's biggest X-factor in 2018.

1. New York Yankees Acquire Giancarlo Stanton

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    Willie J. Allen Jr./Associated Press

    Details: Trade (Acquired from MIA along with $30 million in exchange for Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers)

    Stats: 165 OPS+, .281/.376/.631, 32 2B, 59 HR, 132 RBI, 123 R, 7.6 WAR

                   

    Outlook

    Did you expect to see anything else occupying the No. 1 spot in these rankings?

    There should probably be a rule against adding a 59-homer, 132-RBI slugger to an offense that led the majors with 241 home runs and finished second with 5.3 runs per game the previous season.

    You know, just for the sake of fairness.

    Yes, Stanton has had trouble staying healthy in the past.

    Yes, his contract makes you squint to count the zeroes.

    But this is the New York Yankees we're talking about, and they've been gearing up for an addition like this for years now. We just figured it would be Bryce Harper or Manny Machado in free agency.

    Make no mistake, there's still a very good chance the Yankees sign one of those guys next winter.

    However, after reaching the ALCS in what many expected to be a retooling year, the timetable has changed, and the front office jumped at the chance to acquire one of the game's biggest stars.

    They're now AL East favorites and belong right alongside the Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians in talk of the AL's elite.

               

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, while contract information comes via Spotrac.