Grading MLB's Top Offseason Acquisitions After 1 Month of Play
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 the first month of the year is not always indicative of how his entire season will play out.
That being said, offseason additions are generally under increased scrutiny as they look to make a good first impression while fans expect them to immediately live up to the big-money contract or costly prospect packages they cost the team.
Things could certainly change in the months to come, but what follows are some early season grades for the top offseason acquisitions, be it through free agency or trade.
We kick things off with a quick grade rundown of the notable position players and pitchers who are not highlighted in the article, followed by a more in-depth look at the top 10 offseason movers.
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.
Note: Since the focus here is on offseason acquisitions, players that re-signed with their former team are not included. That means you won't see guys like Chris Davis, Alex Gordon, Dexter Fowler, Colby Rasmus or others in the following article.
Other Notable Additions (Position Players)
|1B Chris Carter, MIL||.297||1.040||9||0||5||15||12||0.6|
|1B John Jaso, PIT||.329||.829||6||1||0||6||9||0.6|
|2B Daniel Murphy, WAS||.391||1.099||7||2||2||9||10||0.9|
|1B Mark Reynolds, COL||.321||.957||6||0||2||7||10||0.5|
|C J. Saltalamacchia, DET||.229||.994||3||0||6||15||8||0.7|
|2B Jean Segura, ARI||.350||.925||4||2||4||15||11||1.0|
|RF Mark Trumbo, BAL||.359||.987||3||0||5||17||12||0.4|
|2B Neil Walker, NYM||.300||.963||0||0||9||16||12||0.4|
|RF Marlon Byrd, CLE||.271||.795||2||0||2||8||5||0.3|
|SS Asdrubal Cabrera, NYM||.301||.760||4||0||1||5||6||0.3|
|2B Starlin Castro, NYY||.289||.794||4||0||3||12||4||0.5|
|OF Corey Dickerson, TB||.227||.822||5||0||5||9||7||0.3|
|2B Jedd Gyorko, STL||.240||.816||0||1||4||8||7||0.4|
|2B Brett Lawrie, CWS||.266||.728||6||0||1||7||11||0.3|
|1B Byung Ho Park, MIN||.241||.877||4||0||5||7||8||0.4|
|OF Rajai Davis, CLE||.286||.815||3||1||2||8||7||0.0|
|LF Ian Desmond, TEX||.213||.666||2||0||3||8||17||0.5|
|3B Yunel Escobar, LAA||.281||.796||6||0||3||7||10||0.5|
|3B David Freese, PIT||.282||.771||7||0||1||8||14||0.3|
|C Chris Iannetta, SEA||.250||.775||1||0||2||5||5||0.6|
|2B Jed Lowrie, OAK||.312||.692||3||0||0||12||8||0.1|
|CF Leonys Martin, SEA||.200||.705||3||0||4||9||8||0.4|
|1B Mike Napoli, CLE||.219||.717||4||0||4||11||12||-0.1|
|SS Andrelton Simmons, LAA||.241||.584||4||0||1||5||6||0.4|
|OF Hyun Soo Kim, BAL||.500||1.083||0||0||0||1||1||0.2|
|CF Denard Span, SF||.253||.693||3||1||1||12||13||0.2|
|2B Ben Zobrist, CHC||.246||.744||4||0||1||8||11||0.4|
|OF Nori Aoki, SEA||.205||.565||3||2||0||4||10||0.0|
|C Alex Avila, CWS||.214||.583||1||0||0||0||1||0.1|
|3B/OF Chris Coghlan, OAK||.161||.599||2||0||4||10||7||-0.2|
|OF Khris Davis, OAK||.233||.679||1||1||3||8||6||0.0|
|OF Jon Jay, SD||.264||.637||4||0||0||9||8||0.0|
|1B Adam Lind, SEA||.259||.611||2||0||1||3||6||-0.1|
|SS Alexei Ramirez, SD||.263||.615||2||1||0||7||9||-0.1|
|3B Juan Uribe, CLE||.229||.663||3||0||1||4||2||0.0|
|1B Yonder Alonso, OAK||.159||.387||2||0||0||3||4||-0.6|
|1B Pedro Alvarez, BAL||.186||.570||3||0||0||1||2||-0.2|
|SS Erick Aybar, ATL||.147||.353||3||0||0||1||5||-0.9|
|SS Brad Miller, TB||.148||.491||5||0||1||4||2||-0.7|
|1B Logan Morrison, TB||.107||.310||2||0||0||0||2||-0.7|
|C Dioner Navarro, CWS||.186||.629||1||1||2||8||5||-0.1|
|OF Gerardo Parra, COL||.286||.743||7||0||2||10||12||-0.5|
|OF Chris Young, BOS||.174||.544||3||0||0||1||2||0.0|
Other Notable Additions (Pitchers)
|RP Steve Cishek, SEA||1-1||5/5||0.90||0.800||2||9||10.0||0.5|
|SP Mat Latos, CWS||4-0||-||0.74||0.822||7||13||24.1||1.3|
|RP Ryan Madson, OAK||0-0||7/7||1.86||0.828||1||8||9.2||0.2|
|SP Kenta Maeda, LAD||3-0||-||0.36||0.868||5||23||25.1||1.5|
|SP Vincent Velasquez, PHI||3-1||-||1.78||0.868||6||33||25.1||0.8|
|RP Tyler Clippard, ARI||2-0||1/1||2.00||1.222||4||6||9.0||0.3|
|SP J.A. Happ, TOR||3-0||-||2.42||1.192||6||13||26.0||0.7|
|SP Rich Hill, OAK||3-2||-||2.42||1.269||9||37||26.0||0.4|
|RP Shawn Kelley, WAS||0-0||0/0||0.00||1.000||1||8||6.0||0.4|
|SP Ian Kennedy, KC||2-2||-||2.77||1.115||9||23||26.0||0.6|
|RP Seung Hwan Oh, STL||1-0||0/0||1.50||0.750||6||19||12.0||0.4|
|SP Drew Pomeranz, SD||2-2||-||2.86||1.364||12||31||22.0||0.4|
|RP Fernando Rodney, SD||0-1||3/3||0.00||1.228||3||8||7.1||0.3|
|RP Adam Warren, CHC||2-0||-||0.00||0.625||3||9||8.0||0.3|
|RP Justin Wilson, DET||0-0||0/0||0.00||0.889||1||12||9.0||0.5|
|RP Antonio Bastardo, NYM||0-0||0/1||2.89||1.286||3||15||9.1||0.2|
|SP Wei-Yin Chen, MIA||1-1||-||4.32||1.160||4||20||25.0||0.3|
|SP Jeremy Hellickson, PHI||2-1||-||3.81||1.192||6||28||26.0||0.3|
|SP Nate Karns, SEA||2-1||-||3.63||1.388||12||24||22.1||0.2|
|SP John Lackey, CHC||3-1||-||4.97||1.224||6||27||25.1||0.0|
|RP Mark Lowe, DET||0-0||0/0||3.52||0.913||1||6||7.2||0.1|
|RP Neftali Feliz, PIT||1-0||0/1||5.06||1.125||3||15||10.2||-0.1|
|SP Doug Fister, HOU||1-3||-||5.56||1.500||11||11||22.2||-0.3|
|SP Scott Kazmir, LAD||1-2||-||5.76||1.400||7||21||25.0||-0.2|
|SP Mike Leake, STL||0-2||-||5.64||1.567||7||17||22.1||-0.4|
|SP Jon Niese, PIT||3-0||-||5.08||1.483||9||22||28.1||-0.1|
|SP Mike Pelfrey, DET||0-4||-||4.64||1.922||12||9||21.1||-0.3|
|SP Yovani Gallardo, BAL||1-1||-||7.00||1.667||7||9||18.0||-0.2|
|RP Ken Giles, HOU||0-2||0/0||7.45||1.861||4||14||9.2||-0.5|
|RP Jake McGee, COL||0-1||4/5||8.10||1.799||3||3||6.2||-0.2|
|SP Wade Miley, SEA||1-2||-||7.04||1.652||6||19||23.0||-0.5|
|RP F. Rodriguez, DET||0-0||4/5||6.14||1.501||4||5||7.1||-0.1|
|RP Joakim Soria, KC||1-1||1/1||6.30||2.000||7||10||10.0||-0.4|
|RP Drew Storen, TOR||0-1||1/1||9.39||1.826||1||6||7.2||-0.5|
SP Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants
5 GS, 4-1, 2.65 ERA, 1.045 WHIP, 5 BB, 33 K, 37.1 IP, 1.1 WAR
Despite missing out on signing top target Zack Greinke, the San Francisco Giants did well to bolster their starting rotation this winter with the additions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.
Cueto has dealt with some injuries in the past and had an up-and-down stop with the Kansas City Royals after being acquired at the deadline last year, but that didn't stop him from securing a six-year, $130 million deal.
At his best, Cueto is still one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Look no further than his 2014 season, when he went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, 0.960 WHIP and 242 strikeouts to finish second in NL Cy Young voting.
So far this season he's been exactly the workhorse the Giants were hoping for, as he leads the NL with 37.1 innings of work and has gone at least seven innings in each of his five starts.
Last time out against the San Diego Padres, he allowed seven hits and struck out 11 en route to the seventh complete game shutout of his career.
"He’s been fun to watch,” manager Bruce Bochy told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. "He’s got good stuff, but he’s a complete pitcher. I love watching a pitcher who’s an artist out there."
3B Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox
94 PA, .235/.298/.447, 20 H, 3 2B, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 10 R, 8/17 BB/K, 1.0 WAR
The third base position was an absolute black hole for the Chicago White Sox last season, as a handful of players combined to produce a .226/.277/.345 line with 13 home runs and 50 RBI.
Enter Todd Frazier.
The 30-year-old posted an .806 OPS with 43 doubles, 35 home runs, 89 RBI and 13 stolen bases en route to a 4.0 WAR last year as one of the most productive third basemen in the league.
While his overall numbers were great, he struggled through a rough second half that saw him post a .220/.274/.448 line, and those numbers are disturbingly close to what he's produced over his first 90 plate appearances in Chicago.
Frazier may lead the White Sox in home runs (5), RBI (13) and total bases (38), but he's hitting just .167 with runners in scoring position and has not yet been the steady cleanup hitter the team was hoping for behind Jose Abreu.
"I talk to him every day. He’s fine. He’s not, for me, somebody I worry about," manager Robin Ventura told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun Times.
SP Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
5 GS, 2-2, 6.16 ERA, 1.467 WHIP, 6 BB, 24 K, 30.2 IP, -0.2 WAR
It has not been a pretty start for the Arizona Diamondbacks' new $206.5 million man.
After going 19-3 and leading the NL in ERA (1.66) and WHIP (0.844), Zack Greinke opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and immediately became one of the top free agents on the market.
Despite heavy interest from the Dodgers and the rival San Francisco Giants, it was eventually another NL West team in the Diamondbacks that swooped in and signed the 32-year-old.
The D'Backs ranked second in the NL in scoring last year at 4.44 runs per game, but a 4.37 ERA from the starting rotation left them with a losing record.
Greinke was supposed to help shore up the rotation and make them a legitimate contender, but instead he currently ranks 92nd among 102 qualified starters with a 6.16 ERA.
It appeared he was turning a corner with back-to-back quality starts heading into his last outing, but instead he was shelled for 11 hits and seven earned runs against the St. Louis Cardinals.
He actually picked up the win in that game to improve to 2-2, but that's still not the kind of line you want to see out of your expensive new ace.
RF Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs
90 PA, .244/.344/.295, 4 2B, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 12 R, 11/18 BB/K, 0.3 WAR
Jason Heyward is never going to be the prototypical power-hitting right fielder.
Because of that, more than a few people will say he's not worth the eight-year, $184 million deal the Chicago Cubs handed him in free agency.
He may not be a 30-homer threat, but what Heyward does bring to the table is a unique combination of on-base skills, speed and elite defense that makes him one of the most valuable all-around players in the game.
Since the start of the 2010 season, his 31.6 WAR ranks eighth among all position players and fourth among outfielders, and at the age of 26 he still has plenty of prime seasons ahead of him.
He's gotten off to a somewhat slow start offensively with just four extra-base hits in 90 plate appearances and a .244 average, but he's once again delivering solid on-base numbers and run production/scoring totals.
It's also worth noting, Heyward is a notoriously slow starter with a .227 average and .711 OPS in his career in April, both the worst marks of any month by a wide margin.
RP Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
11 G, 0-1, 6/7 SV, 4.50 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 5 BB, 18 K, 10.0 IP, 0.1 WAR
Looking to shore up a bullpen that ranked 26th in the league with a 4.24 ERA last year, the Boston Red Sox gave up a package of four prospects that included Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra to acquire All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
Over the past five seasons, Kimbrel converted 224-of-247 save chances with a 1.70 ERA, 0.909 WHIP and 14.4 K/9.
While he's saved six games already this year, he's turned in a pair of stinkers with a loss on April 11 (1.0 IP, 3 ER) and a blown save on April 24 (1.0 IP, 2 ER).
To his credit, Kimbrel didn't seem too worried about those messy outings while talking with Scott Lauber of ESPN:
Every player goes through a stretch where you're not very happy about your performance. We're talking about two pitches or three pitches that I've made mistakes on that have kind of hurt me so far this year. How do I go out there and get rid of those situations? Just executing. You never want to go out there and fail. I've had some pretty rough outings so far at the start of this year. I've had some really good outings as well. Just kind of trying to find the middle line and going out there and being successful.
We're still in April right now. By the end of the year, we're going to be looking back at this and talking a little differently.
That's the right mindset to have in a role that requires a short memory, and going forward it would still be wise not to bet against Kimbrel.
SP Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks
5 GS, 0-2, 8.69 ERA, 1.932 WHIP, 15 BB, 16 K, 19.2 IP, -0.6 WAR
Not content that the addition of Zack Greinke was enough to turn their rotation into a contender, the Arizona Diamondbacks also pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade to acquire Shelby Miller.
Heading the other way in the deal was 5.3 WAR outfielder Ender Inciarte and a pair of top prospects in shortstop Dansby Swanson (No. 17 prospect in MLB per Baseball America) and right-hander Aaron Blair (No. 60 prospect in MLB).
His 6-17 record wasn't pretty, but Miller was still among the best starters in the National League last year as he backed those 17 losses with a 3.02 ERA and 1.247 WHIP over a career-high 205.1 innings.
Those strong peripheral numbers, coupled with the fact he's still only 25 years old and controllable through the 2018 season, are what made Miller such a hot—and expensive—commodity.
His time in the desert has not gone well so far, though.
So far, opposing hitters have posted a .970 OPS against him. Throw in a bloated 6.9 BB/9 walk rate and a 8.69 ERA, and it's not surprising he's still seeking his first quality start of the year.
Despite all of that, Miller could finally be headed in the right direction after he was pitching well on Tuesday before running into trouble in the fifth inning.
"I was very encouraged by his velocity and his location, so that was definitely a step forward," manager Chip Hale told Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic.
SP David Price, Boston Red Sox
5 GS, 3-0, 5.76 ERA, 1.281 WHIP, 8 BB, 46 K, 29.2 IP, -0.2 WAR
That 5.76 ERA is really not indicative of how well David Price has thrown the ball through his first five starts in a Boston Red Sox uniform.
His 2.42 FIP ranks fourth in the American League, and after striking out 14 over eight innings on Thursday he is now leading the AL with 46 strikeouts and a 14.0 K/9 rate..
Prior to that impressive outing against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, he was lit up for eight earned runs over 3.2 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in his previous start.
"The most important takeaway from Price’s gem is that, while his ugly outing against the Rays justifiably raised some eyebrows, there’s no need for legitimate concern as long as Price is taking the ball every five days," wrote CBS Boston.
The Red Sox invested $217 million over seven years in the 30-year-old southpaw, and the hope is he can lead the way in another worst-to-first turnaround.
Twirling another gem his next time out could have him pushing "A" territory for his grade, and would go a long way in making that one rough start a distant memory.
SP Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants
5 GS, 3-1, 3.86 ERA, 1.255 WHIP, 10 BB, 26 K, 32.2 IP, 0.5 WAR
The 2015 season was not kind to Jeff Samardzija.
Expected to help make the Chicago White Sox contenders after coming over from Oakland in an offseason trade, he instead went 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA while leading the AL in hits allowed (228), earned runs (118) and home runs allowed (29).
Those struggles did not come at an ideal time for the 31-year-old as he reached free agency this winter, but the San Francisco Giants rolled the dice on him returning to front-line status with a five-year, $90 million deal.
A 4.23 FIP and 1.294 WHIP painted a more promising picture than his ERA last year, and the fact he was playing in front of the worst defense in baseball didn't exactly give his numbers a shot in the arm either.
So far, moving back to the National League and to a more pitcher-friendly home in At&T Park has suited him well.
In a rotation that also features Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, the Giants don't need him to be anything more than a solid No. 3 starter.
"When you have a starting rotation like this, for me, just as a fan of the game I enjoy it," Samardzija told the Associated Press during in spring training (via SF Examiner). "You can bounce ideas off each other, and for me it’s great because a lot of these guys have pitched against this division for years now."
So far, Samardzija has been a terrific addition to a Giants team once again looking to make a push in the NL West. And for someone who has traditionally been a slow starter, the best may be yet to come.
LF Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
86 PA, .195/.221/.280, 16 H, 4 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 8 R, 3/35 BB/K, -0.4 WAR
The free-agent market for outfielder Justin Upton was slow to develop this offseason, but he eventually wound up joining the Detroit Tigers on a six-year, $132.75 million deal.
That came on the heels of a .790 OPS with 26 home runs, 81 RBI and 19 stolen bases in his lone season with the San Diego Padres, good for a 4.4 WAR that was his highest since 2011.
Adding Upton to a lineup that already included the likes of Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez looked like it could potentially give the Tigers one of the best offenses in baseball.
In fact, I ranked the Tigers as the No. 4 offense in baseball heading into the season.
Instead, they're hovering around the middle of the pack at 4.45 runs per game, and Upton is off to a dreadful start with a .195 average and just five extra-base hits in 86 plate appearances despite a .319 BABIP
"It’s frustrating to go through, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for him because he’s on a new team and he wants to do well in the new uniform for his new players, for the city, for Tigers fans," manager Brad Ausmus told Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. "So I’m sure that’s a little frustrating. But still, he’s a guy who has done this for a long time."
With the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians all looking like potential contenders in the AL Central, the Tigers are counting on Upton to return to his usual level of production soon.
SP Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers
4 GS, 4-0, 0.35 ERA, 1.115 WHIP, 7 BB, 16 K, 26.0 IP, 1.6 WAR
The Justin Upton signing may not be working out for the Detroit Tigers, but their other big free-agent signing has been a home run.
Jordan Zimmermann was the first big-name starting pitcher to sign this past offseason, agreeing to a five-year, $110 million deal.
So far, that's been an absolute steal.
Zimmermann rattled off a 24.1-inning scoreless streak to begin his tenure in Detroit, and through four starts he leads the majors with a 0.35 ERA.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Tigers' rotation has been a mess.
Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey and Shane Greene have gone a combined 4-10 with a 5.92 ERA, 1.671 WHIP and five quality starts in 15 games.
That's made the Zimmermann signing that much more important for a Tigers team that sits at 9-10 on the year.
The 29-year-old was 58-32 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.133 WHIP while averaging 203 innings over his final four seasons with the Washington Nationals, and there's no reason to think he can't continue pitching like an ace here in 2016.