MLB Winter Meetings Day 3: Analyzing the Impact of All the Latest Deals, Rumors
Day 3 of MLB's annual winter meetings brought a few significant signings and a host of intriguing rumors, even if none of the top-shelf free agents had fallen off the board as of this writing.
The Chicago White Sox got a third baseman who'll make A's fans think wistfully about Josh Donaldson. The New York Mets shipped out a pitcher and added a second baseman after missing on Ben Zobrist, while the Houston Astros, A's and Washington Nationals beefed up their bullpens.
The Baltimore Orioles dangled big money in front of Chris Davis, and two of the National League's All-Star sluggers generated significant trade buzz.
Ready for details on all that and much, much more? Strap on your helmet and proceed when ready.
Mets Trade Jon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker
Source: Joel Sherman, New York Post
To the New York Mets: 2B Neil Walker
After whiffing on Ben Zobrist, who opted to sign with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, the Mets netted a Plan B in Walker.
Walker put up a solid offensive line for Pittsburgh in 2015, hitting .269 with 16 home runs. He's a switch hitter, like Zobrist, but has hit righties much better in his career, which could mean right-handed Dilson Herrera will see some at-bats against southpaws.
The advanced defensive metrics ding Walker significantly for his limited range, but he's a sure-handed fielder who can reliably turn a double play.
From a contractual standpoint, the 30-year-old is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and should get a significant bump from the $8 million he made last season.
The move also, of course, reduced the chances of the Mets re-upping Daniel Murphy to essentially zero. Although, according to Newsday's Marc, New York has "stepped up" its effort to bring back veteran hurler Bartolo Colon after shipping out Niese.
To the Pittsburgh Pirates: LHP Jon Niese
With Zack Wheeler set to return from Tommy John surgery at some point next season, the Mets had a surplus of arms. The Bucs dipped into that surplus and pulled out Jon Niese, a capable left-hander who will slot into the back end of their rotation.
The 29-year-old posted a 4.13 ERA in 176.2 innings for the Mets in 2015 and was moved to the bullpen for the postseason. As a fifth starter, though, he's more than palatable. And, for what it's worth, he's 3-1 with a lifetime 3.47 ERA at PNC Park.
Niese is signed for $9 million in 2016 with a $10 million club option for 2017 and an $11 million option for 2018 with $500,000 buyouts.
The Pirates may now be in the market for a second baseman, though they could move Josh Harrison there, assuming Jung Ho Kang is ready to resume duties at third base after undergoing knee surgery in September.
Phillies Trade Ken Giles to Astros for Vincent Velazquez and Others
Source: Mark Berman, Fox 26 Houston
To the Houston Astros: RHP Ken Giles
A 25-year-old, hard-throwing closer on the rise is the kind of commodity any team would covet, so 'Stros fans should be excited about this one.
Giles posted a 1.80 ERA last season and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings and took over ninth-inning duties after Jonathan Papelbon was dealt to the Nationals.
Houston, meanwhile, needs to bolster its bullpen, which was a surprise strength for much of last season but faded down the stretch.
Giles isn't arbitration eligible and is under team control through the 2020 season.
To the Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Vincent Velasquez, LHP Brett Oberholtzer, OF Derek Fisher and a fourth player, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki
Velazquez is a 23-year-old hard-throwing right-hander who posted a 1.91 ERA at Double-A last season before cracking the big league roster.
Oberholtzer is 26 years old and has made 42 MLB starts over the past three seasons, posting a 3.94 ERA.
Fisher is just 21 and hasn't advanced past High-A, but he swiped 31 bases with an .847 OPS last season.
Giles is a big talent, but this is a decent return for Philadelphia as it tries to stock its farm and rise from the ashes of a protracted rebuild.
Milwaukee Brewers Trade Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for 3 Minor League Arms
Source: Jon Morosi, Fox Sports
To the Seattle Mariners: 1B Adam Lind
After dealing Mark Trumbo and Logan Morrison, Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto had himself a hole to plug at first base.
Enter Lind, who posted a .277/.360/.460 slash line with 20 home runs for the Brewers, prompting Milwaukee to exercise his $8 million club option for 2016.
The one caveat, and it's a biggie, is that Lind has extreme splits, as his anemic .586 career OPS against left-handers attests. That cries out for a platoon-mate. And Dipoto—who has been extremely active in his first offseason at the helm in Seattle—may well go hunting for one.
To the Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Carlos Herrera, Freddy Peralta and Daniel Missaki
For one year of Lind, the Brewers got back a trio of minor league right-handers, none of whom cracked MLB.com's list of the Mariners' top 30 prospects.
All three, however, are under age 20, and Peralta checked in as Seattle's No. 24 prospect after the 2014 season, according to Baseball America.
For a team in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, restocking the farm with young, malleable talent is the order of the day.
Athletics Trade Brett Lawrie to White Sox for 2 Prospects
To the Chicago White Sox: 3B Brett Lawrie
The White Sox needed a third baseman, and with few strong free-agent options, Brett Lawrie proved to be their man.
The 25-year-old hit .260 with 16 home runs last year for Oakland and is a plus defender. That last part should be especially attractive to the White Sox, who were the worst defensive team in baseball in 2015.
To the Oakland A's: LHP Zack Erwin, RHP J.B. Wendelken
In Billy Beane they trust, but this one leaves a bitter taste. The A's, after all, acquired Lawrie as the replacement for Josh Donaldson, who they shipped to Toronto last winter, only to watch him win AL MVP honors.
Now, they've turned Lawrie into a pair of young pitchers who didn't make the White Sox's top 30 prospects list, per MLB.com. Beane has a long track record of uncovering hidden gems. And the A's reacquired infielder Jed Lowrie from the Astros in November, meaning they've got their replacement in place.
But that Donaldson connection—man, it's tough to shake.
Athletics Sign John Axford
Contract Terms: Two years, $10 million, $4 million in incentives
Oakland has made bolstering its bullpen a priority this winter, having previously signed Ryan Madson among others.
That trend continued with the addition of John Axford, who was non-tendered by the Colorado Rockies.
The first thing that jumps off Axford's 2015 stat sheet is his unsightly 4.20 ERA. Then again, all together now: Coors Field.
In fact, if you like FIP, Axford's 3.57 mark suggests an effective pitcher, as do his 10 strikeouts per nine innings. He also walked 5.2 hitters per nine, indicting command issues, yet saved 25 games for the last-place Rockies.
Overall, he's a hard thrower with solid stuff who induced a career-best 56.1 ground-ball percentage in 2015 despite his mile-high home yard.
Angels Sign Craig Gentry
Source: Chris Cotillo, SB Nation
Contract Terms: One year, $1 million, $250,000 in incentives
Speedy, glove-first fourth outfielders don't dominate the headlines, but they can be quite useful. And the Angels got exactly that in Craig Gentry, who owns a lifetime .677 OPS in parts of seven seasons with the Texas Rangers and Oakland A's.
The 32-year-old's value, however, comes with the leather, as he's put up an impressive 47 defensive runs saved (DRS) and 41.6 ultimate zone rating (UZR) in just under 2,500 career innings.
He's also an efficient base stealer, having swiped 77 bases in 90 career attempts.
The Halos, of course, still figure to be in on the market's top outfielders, and have "reached out" to the agents for Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, per Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
Rumor: Orioles Offer Chris Davis 'About $150M'
Source: Buster Olney, ESPN
Rumor: "Orioles' offer to Chris Davis sets a significant benchmark in his talks: About $150 million over seven years."
We learn two things from this rumor: The Orioles are willing to spend money on a bat, and Chris Davis is going to be very expensive.
That second bit is no great revelation. Davis led all of baseball with 47 home runs, after all, and is a strong defensive first baseman who can also play the corner outfield spots.
The O's have never handed anyone a nine-figure contract, so this offer represents a huge leap for them, even if it ends up being short of what Davis ultimately commands.
If Davis doesn't bite soon, Baltimore may move on to other targets including Justin Upton, as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports.
If he doesn't re-up with the Orioles, Davis would be a potential fit for a number of clubs seeking offense, including the Angels and Giants.
Rumor: Reds 'Heavily' Shopping Todd Frazier
Rumor: "Word I'm hearing is Reds are shopping Frazier heavily. Makes most sense at this point."
The free-agent third base market is thin this winter, which makes Cincinnati Reds veteran Todd Frazier an especially attractive target.
No surprise, then, that the rebuilding Reds are reportedly dangling him.
Cincinnati will surely seek a significant haul for Frazier, who is entering his age-30 season and coming off an All-Star campaign that saw him bash 35 home runs.
His salary and contract status, likewise, are a plus. He's set to make $7.5 million next season, a relative bargain for a middle-of-the-order bat, and is under club control through 2017.
As for suitors, the Cleveland Indians were linked to Frazier, though a deal "is unlikely," according to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
Other clubs with a potential need at third include the Angels, Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox, though it's unclear whether any would be willing to part with the necessary assets to acquire Frazier.
Rumor: Rockies Getting a 'Flurry' of Interest in Carlos Gonzalez
Source: Jerry Crasnick, ESPN
Rumor: "Rockies have had a flurry of Carlos Gonzalez-related talks in Nashville. Getting plenty of hits."
Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez's name has been churning through the rumor mill for quite some time, but interest in the two-time All-Star could be heating up.
CarGo is coming off a solid bounce-back season that saw him hit 40 home runs and more importantly play in 153 games after an injury-marred stretch.
With so many premier free-agent outfielders still on the market, it's worth wondering whether any team would be willing to raid the farm for Gonzalez, who is owed $37 million through 2017.
A better play might be for Colorado to try to unload him next winter, when the list of impact free-agent bats is much shorter.
Nationals Sign Shawn Kelley
Source: Jon Heyman, CBS Sports
The Nats bolstered their bullpen by inking 31-year-old right-hander Shawn Kelley, who put up a 2.45 ERA in 51.1 innings for the Padres last season.
That's considerably lower than his 3.67 career ERA, but he owns a strong 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
The Nationals might be in the middle of a major bullpen shakeup. They signed southpaw Oliver Perez, and both closer Jonathan Papelbon and setup man Drew Storen could be on the move.
Papelbon, in particular, seems like a marked man after his ugly dugout scuffle with NL MVP Bryce Harper last season.
Rumor: Nationals in 'Serious' Talks with Mike Leake
Source: Jon Heyman, CBS Sports
Rumor: "Nats' talk with Mike Leake is serious. Cards, Giants have been in mix. but heating up with Washington now."
The Nationals have remained largely on the periphery of this hot-stove season, but it makes sense that they'd be in the market for pitching.
Jordan Zimmermann already signed with the Detroit Tigers and Doug Fister may soon walk as well. A pitcher like Leake—who posted a 3.70 ERA in 192 innings for the Reds and Giants last season—would slot nicely behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
And Leake has familiarity with new Nats manager Dusty Baker, having played under him in Cincinnati.
It's unclear what, exactly, it'll take to land Leake. But the 28-year-old sinkerballer could easily meet or exceed the five-year, $90 million deal the Giants handed Jeff Samardzija, who throws harder but has a less consistent track record.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo threw a bit of wet blanket on the Leake talk, telling James Wagner of the Washington Post that he's inquired about "a lot" of free agents.
"I wouldn't describe it as any further along than any other thing that we have," Rizzo said, per Wagner.
Yankees Trade Justin Wilson to Tigers for Pitching Prospects
Source: Jennifer Hammond, Fox Sports
To the Detroit Tigers: LHP Justin Wilson
The Tigers added a solid left-handed setup man in Wilson, who posted a 3.10 ERA in 74 appearances for the Yankees. And Wilson is far from a southpaw specialist, as he's held right-handed hitters to a .209 average in his career.
The 28-year-old is entering his first season of arbitration eligibility and won't become a free agent until 2019.
To the New York Yankees: RHP Luis Cessa and Chad Green
Cessa is a 23-year-old strike-thrower who posted a 2.56 ERA in the Eastern League last year and went from the Mets' system to the Tigers' in the Yoenis Cespedes trade. Green is 24 with a solid sinker but has yet to advance past Double-A.
Blue Jays Re-Sign Darwin Barney
Source: Shi Davidi, Sportsnet
Contract Terms: major league deal
Darwin Barney hit .302 in 26 plate appearances for Toronto last season after coming over in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and now he'll get a shot to spend an entire season north of the border.
His career .246/.294/.339 slash line doesn't set off fireworks, but he did win a Gold Glove for his work at second base in 2012 with the Chicago Cubs.
With Devon Travis still recovering from September shoulder surgery, Barney will provide some insurance for the defending AL East champs.
Braves Sign Emilio Bonifacio
Source: Chris Cotillo, SB Nation
Contract Terms: One year, $1.25 million, $1.25 million in incentives
The Braves added a capable if unspectacular utility man in Emilio Bonifacio, who can play across the infield and outfield, but hit just .167 in 47 games with the Chicago White Sox last season.
Bonifacio, who had a stint with the Braves in 2014, enjoyed his best season in 2011, when he hit .296 and stole 40 bases for the then-Florida Marlins.
If the 30-year-old can rekindle even a fraction of that production, it'll be found money for Atlanta.