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

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2015

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

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    MLB fans are reminded time and again at the start of a new season not to put too much stock into a small sample size. It's a long season, and what a guy does over a two-week span is not always indicative of how his entire season will play out.

    Offseason additions are generally under the most scrutiny to begin the year, as they look to make a good impression with their new team and prove they were worth whatever dollar amount or traded talent it took to acquire them.

    So, with that in mind, what follows are early-season grades for the top 15 offseason acquisitions, whether through free agency or trades.

    This is not meant to be anything more than a quick rundown of how the top offseason movers are performing through the first couple of weeks of the season, so take it for what it is.

Other Notable Additions (Position Players)

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    Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    "A" Grade

    LF Nori Aoki, SF (15-for-37, 17 TB, 1 RBI, 4 R, 6/4 BB/K)
    DH Billy Butler, OAK (13-for-35, 19 TB, 6 RBI, 6 R, 3/6 BB/K)
    2B Dee Gordon, MIA (12-for-33, 16 TB, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2/3 BB/K)
    CF Anthony Gose, DET (9-for-23, 16 TB, 5 RBI, 6 R, 0/9 BB/K)
    1B Adam Lind, MIL (10-for-24, 17 TB, 5 RBI, 2 R, 5/2 BB/K)
    DH Kendrys Morales, KC (12-for-29, 21 TB, 5 RBI, 9 R, 5/6 BB/K)
    SS Marcus Semien, OAK (10-for-35, 15 TB, 7 RBI, 4 R, 2/7 BB/K)

    "B" Grade

    LF Michael Cuddyer, NYM (8-for-28, 13 TB, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2/12 BB/K)
    3B Yunel Escobar, WAS (10-for-32, 12 TB, 0 RBI, 2 R, 3/1 BB/K)
    CF Dexter Fowler, CHC (6-for-30, 14 TB, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2/8 BB/K
    )
    2B Howie Kendrick, LAD (11-for-32, 16 TB, 5 RBI, 2 R, 3/4 BB/K)
    3B Brett Lawrie, OAK (9-for-35, 14 TB, 2 RBI, 4 R, 2/9 BB/K)
    CF Wil Myers, SD (10-for-37, 14 TB, 4 RBI, 7 R, 0/8 BB/K)
    RF Alex Rios, KC (9-for-28, 13 TB, 8 RBI, 4 R, 0/4 BB/K)
    SS Jimmy Rollins, LAD (9-for-33, 17 TB, 7 RBI, 3 R, 2/5 BB/K)
    RF Seth Smith, SEA (5-for-14, 9 TB, 2 RBI, 1 R, 0/1 BB/K)

    "C" Grade

    LF Marlon Byrd, CIN (5-for-30, 6 TB, 3 RBI, 1 R, 0/9 BB/K)
    SS Asdrubal Cabrera, TB (8-for-33, 11 TB, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2/9 BB/K)
    LF Melky Cabrera, CWS (6-for-28, 6 TB, 0 RBI, 3 R, 0/2 BB/K)
    C Yasmani Grandal, LAD (3-for-17, 6 TB, 1 RBI, 3 R, 4/4 BB/K)
    DH Adam LaRoche, CWS (5-for-24, 12 TB, 4 RBI, 5 R, 2/12 BB/K)
    SS Jed Lowrie, HOU (6-for-25, 12 TB, 2 RBI, 3 R, 3/7 BB/K)
    RF Nick Markakis, ATL (8-for-30, 9 TB, 5 RBI, 3 R, 4/7 BB/K)
    1B Michael Morse, MIA (8-for-31, 10 TB, 5 RBI, 0 R, 1/9 BB/K)
    C Derek Norris, SD (9-for-33, 12 TB, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2/6 BB/K)
    3B Martin Prado, MIA (7-for-28, 8 TB, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1/3 BB/K)
    LF Colby Rasmus, HOU (5-for-21, 11 TB, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2/7 BB/K)

    "D" Grade

    SS Didi Gregorius, NYY (4-for-26, 4 TB, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1/5 BB/K)
    RF Torii Hunter, MIN (3-for-23, 3 TB, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1/5 BB/K)
    DH John Jaso, TB (0-for-1, 0 TB, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1/0 BB/K)
    IF Jung-ho Kang, PIT (1-for-9, 1 TB, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/2 BB/K)
    C Miguel Montero, CHC (1-for-15, 2 TB, 2 RBI, 0 R, 3/4 BB/K)
    DH Brandon Moss, CLE (2-for-20, 3 TB, 1 RBI, 3 R, 4/9 BB/K)

    "F" Grade

    DH Evan Gattis, HOU (2-for-28, 2 TB, 0 RBI, 0 R, 1/13 BB/K)
    LF Yasmany Tomas, ARI (demoted to minors)

Other Notable Additions (Pitchers)

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    "A" Grade

    SP Anthony DeSclafani, CIN (1-0, 1.38 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 13.0 IP)
    SP Shane Greene, DET (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 16.0 IP)
    RP Luke Gregerson, HOU (1/1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 3.0 IP)
    RP Jason Grilli, ATL (4/4 SV, 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4.0 IP)
    SP Aaron Harang, PHI (1-1, 0.73 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 12.1 IP)
    RP Andrew Miller, NYY (2/2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 3.2 IP)
    SP Shelby Miller, ATL (1-0, 0.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.0 IP)
    RP David Robertson, CWS (2/2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 4.0 IP)
    SP Edinson Volquez, KC (1-0, 1.13 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 8.0 IP)

    "B" Grade

    SP A.J. Burnett, PIT (0-1, 2.25 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 12.0 IP)
    RP Tyler Clippard, OAK (0/0 SV, 2.25 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 4.0 IP)
    SP Jesse Hahn, OAK (0-1, 3.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 11.2 IP)
    SP Dan Haren, MIA (0-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 6.0 IP)
    SP Rick Porcello, BOS (1-1, 3.86 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 14.0 IP)
    RP Jordan Walden, STL (2 HLD, 2.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3.1 IP)

    "C" Grade"

    SP Brett Anderson, LAD (0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6.0 IP)
    SP Jason Hammel, CHC (1-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6.0 IP)
    SP Wade Miley, BOS (0-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 5.1 IP)
    RP Pat Neshek, HOU (2 HLD, 4.50 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 4.0 IP)

    "D" Grade

    SP Nathan Eovaldi, NYY (0-0, 5.06 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 5.1 IP)
    SP Yovani Gallardo, TEX (1-1, 5.59 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 9.2 IP)
    SP Kendall Graveman, OAK (1-1, 7.27 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 8.2 IP)
    SP Jeremy Hellickson, ARI (0-2, 6.55 ERA, 1.91 WHIP, 11.1 IP)
    SP Justin Masterson, BOS (1-0, 7.59 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.2 IP)
    SP Brandon McCarthy, LAD (1-0, 6.75 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 12.0 IP)
    SP Alfredo Simon, DET (1-0, 5.06 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 5.1 IP)

    "F" Grade

    SP Mat Latos, MIA (0-2, 17.36 ERA, 3.43 WHIP, 4.2 IP)
    SP Ervin Santana, MIN (Suspended, 80 games)

LF Yoenis Cespedes, Detroit Tigers

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2015 Stats

    8 G, 12-for-35, 4 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, 1 BB, 5 K

    Overview

    Sent to the Boston Red Sox at the trade deadline last season in the Jon Lester trade, Cuban-born slugger Yoenis Cespedes was on the move again this winter when the Red Sox shipped him to Detroit in exchange for right-hander Rick Porcello.

    The 29-year-old has some holes in his game, evidenced by a .265 career average and a .301 on-base percentage a year ago. He has tremendous power, though, and one of the strongest throwing arms in baseball.

    Plugged in alongside Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, he's another weapon in the middle of the Tigers' already stacked lineup.

    Grade: B

DH Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    8 G, 8-for-31, 0 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R, 3 BB, 5 K

    Overview

    Coming off a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, Nelson Cruz was forced to settle for a one-year, $8 million deal from the Baltimore Orioles prior to last season.

    That wound up being one of the biggest steals of the year, as Cruz posted an .859 OPS and led the majors with 40 home runs.

    In serious need of a right-handed power bat to slot between Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in their lineup, the Seattle Mariners handed Cruz a four-year, $57 million this offseason.

    Grade: A

3B Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    8 G, 7-for-30, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 3 BB, 6 K

    Overview

    It took him until his age-27 season to establish himself as an everyday player in the big leagues, but once he broke out, Josh Donaldson quickly proved to be worth the wait.

    Over the past two seasons playing for the Oakland Athletics, he's posted an .840 OPS and averaged 26 home runs and 96 RBI to finish in the top 10 in AL MVP voting both years.

    He's also been good for a 12.4 UZR/150 and 31 defensive runs saved over those two seasons, according to FanGraphs.

    The Blue Jays gave up a lot to acquire him, shipping third baseman Brett Lawrie, pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman and top shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto to Oakland in the deal.

    Grade: C

RF Jason Heyward, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    6 G, 7-for-29, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K

    Overview

    Looking to upgrade in right field and improve their offense as a whole, the St. Louis Cardinals pulled the trigger on the first big trade of the offseason when they acquired Jason Heyward from the Atlanta Braves.

    The price was a steep one, as they sent starter Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins to Atlanta in the deal, with the Braves also including standout setup man Jordan Walden on their end.

    The 25-year-old Heyward has not lived up to his potential offensively to this point in his career, but he's still been a bona fide star.

    Thanks to his on-base skills, base stealing and phenomenal defense in right field, he was a 6.3 WAR player last season and has been good for 24.5 WAR already over the course of his first five years in the league.

    Grade: C

RF Matt Kemp, San Diego Padres

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    9 G, 14-for-38, 3 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, 2 BB, 6 K

    Overview

    After missing a combined 145 games between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Matt Kemp entered the 2014 season looking more like a financial burden than the dynamic all-around player he was during his prime.

    He finally managed to stay healthy, playing 150 games, and the result was an .852 OPS with 25 home runs and 89 RBI, with those numbers boosted by a brilliant second half.

    Owed $108.25 million through the 2019 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers still jumped at the chance to move Kemp when the San Diego Padres came calling.

    The Dodgers chipped in $32 million and backup catcher Tim Federowicz in the deal, acquiring catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitching prospects Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin from the Padres in return.

    Grade: A

RP Craig Kimbrel, San Diego Padres

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    4 G, 0-0, 2/2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

    Overview

    A case can certainly be made for the likes of Greg Holland and Aroldis Chapman, but it's hard to say Craig Kimbrel has been anything short of the most dominant reliever in baseball since taking over as the Atlanta Braves closer in 2011.

    Over the past four seasons, he's converted 185 of 204 save chances with a 1.51 ERA, 0.880 WHIP and 436 strikeouts in 268.1 innings, leading the NL in saves each season along the way.

    A day before the start of the regular season, he became the last piece moved in the Braves' offseason purge, as he was shipped to the San Diego Padres in a six-player deal that netted Atlanta top pitching prospect Matt Wisler.

    Grade: A

SP Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    2 GS, 0-1, 7.84 ERA, 10.1 IP, 18 H, 9 ER, 2 BB, 10 K

    Overview

    In need of a proven front-line starter to anchor their rotation, the Chicago Cubs made it no secret that Jon Lester was their top target heading into the offseason.

    With the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants also heavily involved in the left-hander, the Cubs got their guy during the winter meetings, signing the 31-year-old to a six-year, $155 million contract.

    Lester was terrific during the regular season last year, going 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA and 220 strikeouts in 219.2 innings.

    It's his postseason track record that really made him such a prized target, though. He's 6-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 84 postseason innings, including 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three World Series starts.

    Grade: D

    The fact that he's managed to gut it out and not overtax the bullpen despite not having his best stuff keeps Lester from being an "F," but he's been a huge disappointment so far.

C Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    2015 Stats

    7 G, 1-for-23, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 3 BB, 10 K

    Overview

    More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Pittsburgh Pirates outbid the New York Yankees for the services of Russell Martin prior to the 2013 season, giving the veteran signal-caller a two-year, $17 million deal.

    That wound up being one of the best signings in franchise history. Martin was good for 9.8 WAR during his two seasons with the team, his game-managing abilities greatly benefited the staff and the Pirates broke a 20-year playoff drought with back-to-back postseason appearances.

    Looking to make a serious move in the AL East and break a playoff drought of their own, the Toronto Blue Jays gave Martin a huge five-year, $82 million deal this offseason.

    He'll no doubt help the team in 2015, but the backloaded nature of the deal has the team paying Martin $20 million annually for his age-34 through age-36 seasons.

    Grade: D

    The fact that a young Blue Jays staff has a 3.99 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and .225 BAA is the only thing keeping Martin from earning an "F," as he's done nothing offensively.

LF Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    2015 Stats

    7 G, 9-for-32, 0 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 3 BB, 3 K

    Overview

    When healthy and on top of his game, Hanley Ramirez remains capable of single-handedly carrying an offense.

    His 2013 season was the perfect example, as injuries limited him to 86 games, but he still managed to finish eighth in NL MVP voting with a .345/.402/.638 line that included 25 doubles and 20 home runs in 304 at-bats.

    Ramirez has never been a strong defensive shortstop, but he'd balked at the idea of switching positions in the past. That changed this offseason when the Boston Red Sox came calling with a four-year, $88 million contract that was accompanied by a full-time move to left field for the 31-year-old.

    Grade: B

SP Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    2015 Stats

    2 GS, 0-1, 6.23 ERA, 13.0 IP, 14 H, 9 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

    Overview

    Jeff Samardzija may be 30 years old, but he has less wear and tear on his arm than most pitchers his age after much of his prep focus was on football and the beginning of his big league career saw him pitching primarily out of the bullpen.

    At any rate, the big right-hander has steadily emerged as a front-line arm over the past three seasons, peaking last year when he posted a 2.99 ERA, 1.065 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 219.2 innings. That marked the second consecutive season he had topped 200 strikeouts and innings.

    Looking to flip Samardzija after paying a steep price to acquire him from the Cubs at the deadline last year, the Oakland Athletics found a trade partner in the Chicago White Sox.

    There is still a good chance Oakland winds up severely regretting the decision to trade Addison Russell, but it landed a nice package of young talent from the White Sox in shortstop Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, right-hander Chris Bassitt and first baseman Rangel Ravelo.

    Grade: C

3B Pablo Sandoval, Boston Red Sox

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2015 Stats

    8 G, 11-for-36, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R, 2 BB, 9 K

    Overview

    A fan favorite and postseason hero for the San Francisco Giants, third baseman Pablo Sandoval jumped ship for greener pastures in the offseason, signing a five-year, $95 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.

    Concerns about his weight won't go away anytime soon, but that has not hindered his performance in the past, and a chance to DH at the back end of that contract could make it money well spent.

    Still just 28 years old, Sandoval is a career .344/.389/.545 hitter with 13 doubles, six home runs and 20 RBI in 39 postseason games.

    With Red Sox third basemen hitting just .211/.271/.308 with 10 home runs and 54 RBI last season, it was an obvious position to upgrade this offseason, and the team moved quickly to get its guy.

    Grade: B

SP Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    2015 Stats

    2 GS, 0-1, 0.66 ERA, 13.2 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 16 K

    Overview

    Talented but inconsistent over the first several seasons of his career, Max Scherzer turned a corner during the second half of the 2012 season, and he's been one of the game's best pitchers ever since.

    After posting a 4.72 ERA in the first half that season, he was a different pitcher after the break, going 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.151 WHIP over 12 starts.

    He followed that up by winning AL Cy Young honors in 2013, and he was equally dominant last season, making him the most coveted free agent on the market this past winter.

    His market was slow to develop, but the Washington Nationals eventually swooped in and signed him to a seven-year, $210 million deal.

    Grade: A

SP James Shields, San Diego Padres

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    2015 Stats

    2 GS, 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 13.0 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 15 K

    Overview

    "Big Game James" may not have lived up to his billing during the Kansas City Royals' run to the World Series last year, but that does not take away from the fact that he's been one of the game's most consistent starters for nearly a decade.

    He's pitched at least 200 innings and won at least 11 games in each of the past eight years, and he was 27-17 with a 3.18 ERA, 1.209 WHIP and 376 strikeouts in 455.2 innings during his two seasons with the Royals.

    Caught between the high-priced duo of Max Scherzer and Jon Lester and the lower-cost second tier of arms below him, Shields had to wait until the middle of February before he was finally scooped up in free agency.

    In the end, he was the icing on the cake of a busy offseason for the San Diego Padres, agreeing to a four-year, $75 million deal.

    Grade: A

LF Justin Upton, San Diego Padres

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    9 G, 10-for-33, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R, 4 BB, 11 K

    Overview

    The No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, Justin Upton made his debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks at the age of 19, and two years later, he was already an All-Star for the first time.

    While he's established himself as a solid run-producing corner outfielder, he's never quite turned into the superstar most expected him to.

    Nevertheless, the San Diego Padres were happy to add him to their revamped offensive attack this offseason.

    Pitching prospect Max Fried, infielders Jace Peterson and Dustin Peterson and outfielder Mallex Smith was the package the Atlanta Braves eventually settled on in exchange for the 27-year-old outfielder, who will hit free agency next offseason.

    Grade: A

UT Ben Zobrist, Oakland Athletics

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    2015 Stats

    9 G, 10-for-35, 5 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R, 3 BB, 2 K

    Overview

    There is undeniable value in versatility when it comes to getting the most out of a 25-man roster of players, and that's what has made Ben Zobrist such an integral piece of the puzzle for the Tampa Bay Rays during his nine seasons with the team.

    Since first becoming an everyday player in 2009, Zobrist ranks third in all of baseball with a 37.4 WAR, trailing only Robinson Cano (40.7) and Miguel Cabrera (38.5).

    As much as he's meant to their franchise, it made sense for the Rays to trade Zobrist out ahead of the final year of his contract, and they landed an impressive return.

    Outside of giving up a solid big league piece in John Jaso, Oakland also surrendered shortstop Daniel Robertson and outfielder Boog Powell. Those two now rank as the Rays' No. 2 and No. 19 prospects, respectively, according to MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

    Grade: A

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted and accurate through Tuesday, April 14.

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