Hot Stove Thoughts – Winter Meetings Begin

I’m an Orioles fan so I am going to write about the moves that pertain to my team first.

Orioles Trade Jim Johnson

I really like this move for the Orioles and Athletics. Jim Johnson is a good relief pitcher, and he makes his unorthodox closing methods work (A career K/9 below 6 is below the MLB average). He isn’t going to be worth the excessive money that he is going to get from the arbitration process. They put a large value on saves even though they are extremely team and manager based. The Athletics will be very happy to have Johnson, but they are going to be paying a lot of money.

On the Orioles’ side, I think they got a potential player that could be usable in their infield. Jemile Weeks had a breakout year in 2011, but has regressed each successive year after that, including a demotion to AAA for a majority of the 2013 season. He has a good eye at the plate, but his approach is poor. This change of scenery and coaching staff might be exactly what he needs. He should compete for the second baseman job with a variety of other folks. He can easily steal 30 bags if he can get his hitting stroke back.

Yankees sign Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann

The Jacoby Ellsbury signing to me is very interesting. I think the fact that Ellsbury was a Red Sox is a big factor here. It hurts their opponents more than it helps them. Ellsbury’s contract might be worth it for 2-3 more years, but not 7. The only issue is he has no power. Ellsbury’s value comes from his speed and defense. He might be able to play good defense as he ages, but it will definitely get worse. The only way this contract is a good contract for the Yankees after 3 years is if Ellsbury starts to hit balls out of the yard. He will need to increase his 31% career fly ball and his 8.4% home run to fly ball rate as well. The short porch in right field at Yankee stadium will naturally help this, but I still don’t think Ellsbury is in line for anything above 15 homers a season for the rest of his career.

Brian McCann at his press conference after signing with the Yankees (Photo Cred: AP)

Brian McCann at his press conference after signing with the Yankees (Photo Cred: AP)

Brian McCann was a great signing for the Yankees. They have not had a great catcher since Jorge Posada’s hitting skills started to decline in the 2009, and he could no longer catch every day. McCann finally fills that void. The switch-hitting catcher has a career .833 OPS with a .350 OBP. Those are really nice statistics to get from the catcher spot. McCann is also a serviceable catcher behind the plate that shouldn’t hurt the Yankees rotation, but won’t help like a Yadier Molina does. As an O’s fan, I fully expect McCann to hit 30 home runs in a season more than once for the Yankees.

Red Sox lose Ellsbury

The Red Sox did the right thing with Ellsbury. They have the farm system to fill in the gap. They may not be as good next year because of this, but in 2017, the Red Sox will benefit from not making this signing. It does suck for Sox fans that he went the Evil Empire though.

Robinson Cano goes to the Mariners

My opinion is that Robinson Cano for the Yankees and Ellsbury for the Mariners makes much more sense, but obviously, it didn’t happen that way. It isn’t very common for a 6 win player that has some prime years left hits the free agent market. The Yankees lose a top player at a scarce position. They won’t be able to replace him this year, or the next few. This is good for me as an O’s fan. I am pumped about this, but I think this also starts a turn around for the Mariners.

Ivan Rodriguez at his press conference after signing with the Detroit Tigers. (Photo Cred: AP)

Ivan Rodriguez at his press conference after signing with the Detroit Tigers. (Photo Cred: AP)

This signing reminds me a lot of the Tigers’ signing of Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez prior to the 2004 season (And yes, I actually remember this. I specifically remember it because I was pissed the Orioles only signed Miguel Tejada and failed to get Vladimir Guerrero or Pudge). The Tigers were coming off the 9th worst season in the history of the MLB. Yet, they were able to sign Pudge, and it started a turn around. In 2006, the Tigers made it to the World Series with Pudge behind the plate.

Watch out for the Mariners

Cano gives the Mariners the credibility they need to get players to come up to the Northwest part of the United States. They also have a good crop of pitching prospects. I expect at least 2 of them, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen, and/or Brandon Maurer, to become top of the line starters to be paired with King Felix. Cano will provide the Mariners with a lot of talent as well. I do not think he will have a severe decline like an Albert Pujols (though, I think he is in for a bounce back). All of Cano’s movements are so smooth and his swing is gorgeous, and it looks like he isn’t even trying. It might be one of the prettiest swings in baseball. Cano’s power output will decline simply because of the park. Yankees Stadium gives up 23% more home runs to left handed hitters than the average stadium, while Safeco Field gives up 2% less. His skills won’t deteriorate. I am a little skeptical of him as a first round pick in fantasy baseball now, but he will provide great baseball value to the Mariners for many years.

Watch out MLB, the Mariners are for real and will be taking the league by storm in 2016. Lets just say I am hoping on the bandwagon. Then again, I am on the 2017 Astros and Marlins bandwagon already…

West Coast – Angels, Diamondbacks, and White Sox

Tyler Skaggs pitching agains the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 (Photo Cred: David Kadlubowski/azcentral sports)

Tyler Skaggs pitching agains the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 (Photo Cred: David Kadlubowski/azcentral sports)

This trade involving Mark Trumbo, Tyler Skaggs, Adam Eaton, Hector Santiago, and others is fascinating to me. I DO NOT understand what the Diamondbacks were thinking with this deal. I can understand that they were 26th in the entire MLB with only 130 home runs. However, the NL Pennant winner happens to be 27th on that list with 125 home runs, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Diamondbacks end up with a player that will hit 30 home runs, but Trumbo will only be on base 30% of the time and will have a .250 batting average or worse. He isn’t a top defender either.

The pieces the Diamondbacks lost were Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton. Skaggs is a top left handed pitching prospect that had a rough year last year, but is projected to be a top of the line starter once he gets a handle on the big leagues. I expect him to be with the Angels all of the 2014 season. I have no idea how he will perform, but he will look awfully nice next to Jered Weaver at the top of the Angels rotation over the next couple of seasons. Nice to see him return home. Adam Eaton is a outfielder that could have provided the same value to the Diamondbacks in a different way. He is a speedy outfielder that can get on base for Paul Goldschmidt and score. Eaton would have done that for Arizona, but he will now do it for the White Sox.

The fact that White Sox were able to get a player of that caliber with the lack of talent on that roster is fascinating. Well done Rick Hahn. With the signing of Jose Abreu and the Avisail Garcia trade last year, Hahn is doing a great job of rebuilding this team. They are a lot further away from contention than the Marlins and Astros, but Hahn is doing the best with the poor talent pool he was handed.

Lastly, the Angels finally make a deal that is awesome. I think the the Pujols and Hamilton deals were good, but they may have overpaid a little bit. This trade makes a whole lot of sense for the ballclub. They lose Trumbo, who was the only player with significant value besides the untouchable one, Mr. Mike Trout (How much would it take to pry Trout away from the Angels?). However, they get a frontline starter to take Weaver’s place over the next few years in Skaggs. Hector Santiago is also a nice left handed pitcher to be getting in a deal like this. The Angels are starting to reload, but it won’t be enough. They just don’t have the tradable assets to have a total tear down. I think the Mariners contend well before the Angels do, unless the Angels have a Red Sox-esque turn around, but I think that is unlikely.

Look out for some thoughts on Shin-Soo Choo once he signs. I’ll also talk about any more trades or big signings that have happened.

Greg Danchik

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